Saturday, October 15, 2011

US leaving Iraq?


The photo above is by the Great Iraqi Revolution's Rami Al-Hyali. That is one of the activists who took part in the Baghdad Friday action. Why did she? Dan Zak didn't think to ask, he was too busy thinking up an insulting Tweet for the protest to actually speak to the woman or attempt to convey any of the reasons that "hundreds" (according to Dar Addustour) turned out to protest.

Dan Zak
Went to Iraq
and found boredom.

Don't pretend that wasn't his own issue.

Lara Jakes and Rebecca Santana (AP) report that they were told the White House has given up attempts to keep US soldiers in Iraq (beyond those which will fall under the State Dept umbrella) after 2011. I was happy and began dialing to confirm. Santana and Jakes were told this. The whispers to them began out of the US Embassy in Iraq and was done with not only James Jeffrey's approval (Jeffrey is the US Ambassador to Iraq) but also with the White House approval.

The point was to plant the story and to ensure that Iraqis got the message that the White House was willing to walk away from the table. Someone thought it would be a manageable scoop. Only after it was in play did others at the White House learn what was taking place and argue that this was a nightmare waiting to happen (domestically, in the US). That's what I've been told in a series of phone calls tonight. That's several White House, several State and one Defense Dept friend. And I'm not slapping Jakes and Santana down because they reported what they were told and confirmed it as well. They did what they were supposed to do.

The Pentagon was the first out with a denial and the White House quickly followed.

Today the new Iraqi movement issued a longer statement. Al Mada reports on it and, at present, they've made a series of generic statements which sound pleasing but really don't promise much. They're a new movement just getting off the ground and they may show more promise in the future.

More attention should be paid to what's taking place regarding Kirkuk. Aswat al-Iraq notes that Speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament, Karmal Karkuki today lodged a public protest in a press conference today over the plan to removed the Kurdish flag from Khaniquin. Tensions are already high over other issues such as Kirkuk which is claimed by both the central government out of Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government. Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution (passed in 2005) outlined how the issue of Kirkuk and other disputed territories would be resolved: by the end of 2007, a census and referendum would be held. Despite becoming prime minister in 2006, Nouri al-Maliki refused to follow the Constitution. He has continued to refuse to follow it. This week, he ordered that the Kurdish flag be removed from government buildings in Khaniquin. Of Khanaqin, Global Security notes:

Khanaqin (khän´äkn) [Khaniqin / Khanqin / Khanaqeen City / Alsadia / Saadia-Khanaqueen] is a town in NE Iraq, near the Iranian border on a tributary of the Diyala. It is located in an oil-producing region and has an oil refinery. Khanaquin was severely affected by the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. Khanaqin is situated in the south part of Kurdistan.
In 1997, Baghdad intensified its systematic efforts to "Arabize" the predominantly Kurdish cities of Kirkuk, Khanaqin, and Douz at the edge of government-controlled Iraq near the Kurdish-controlled zone. To solidify control of this strategically and economically vital oil-rich region, the government expelled Kurds, Assyrians, and Turkomans -- at times, entire communities -- from these cities and surrounding areas. At the same time, it offered financial and housing incentives to Sunni Arabs to persuade them to move to Kirkuk and other cities targeted for Arabization.
Forcible relocations continue to take place in the context of a policy aimed at changing the demography of the oil-rich sectors of Kirkuk and Khanaqin by deporting ethnic Kurds and Turkoman families. Although the practice of forced relocation and deportation by the government of Iraq to decrease the presence of the Kurdish and Turkoman population living in that area and to strengthen their hold on the important economic and strategic governate of Kirkuk is not new, the scale of these activities increased in 1997.
The Iraqi government's plan to build a dam near Khanaqin will cause flooding of some Kurdish and Turkmen villages near Kalar, in Kirkuk Governorate, as well as the contact lines between Iraqi government forces and the Kurdistan Regional Government.

In September 2008, Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera) discussed the dispute over Khanaqin and noted it was "an oil-rich territory similar to Kirkuk" and noted, "Recently Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered the Iraqi army to enter Khanaqin to replacethe pesh merga forces. It was an attempt to check the influence of the Kurdish forces. This was soon followed by orders to force Kurdish political parties out of government owned buildings in the city. In response, Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, threatened to withdraw his support for the al-Maliki government. " The RAND Corporation's recent report, "Managing Arab-Kurd Tensions in Northern Iraq After the Withdrawal of U.S. Troops" (see the July 26th snapshot) noted that tensions will increase between Arabs and Kurds without someone to fill the role currently filled by the US military and noted that joint-patrols could not take place without the US military joining the Arab military and the Kurdish military. These joint-patrols, 'confidence building measures,' started due to Khanaqin: "During an August 2008 Iraqi Army operation targeting insurgents in the vicinity of the town of Khanaqin (which is outside the Green Line in Diyala governorate), ISF commanders ordered peshmerga troops to withdraw, a demand they refused. A confrontation was avoided only because KRG President Massoud Barzani and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki personally reached an agreement to withdraw both forces from the city and leave security to local police. Similarly, when Iraqi Army units tried to move through the largely Kurdish town of Makhmur en route to Mosul in June 2009, Kurdish troops -- concerned that the army was trying to take the town -- blocked their progress, and violence was only averted with the help of U.S. intervention."

Al Rafidayn reports
that Karkuki declared this is a deliberate attempt by Nouri to create problems for the Kurds and that they would fight this issue, that the Kurdish political leadership will defend the Kurdish flag "even if it costs us our lives." Dar Addustour reports a protest is being planned for Sunday.

In reported violence, Reuters notes 1 police major was shot dead in Baghdad, 1 Iraqi intelligence officer was shot dead in Baghdad and, dropping back to last night, a Kirkuk roadside bombing injured one person.

The following community sites -- plus, Cindy Sheehan, NPR, Dissident Voice and the Center for Constitutional Rights -- updated last night and today:

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