Wednesday, November 2, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, moves for semi-autonomy continues among provinces in Iraq, Camp Ashraf residents fear a new assault, the US supplies Turkey with military hardware, and more.
Starting with violence, let's look at the past month. October 1st 6 were reported dead and five injured; October 2nd 1 was reported dead; October 3rd 6 were dead and eleven injured; October 4th 3 were reported dead and fifteen injured; October 5th 9 were reported dead and thirty-six injured; October 6th 1 was reported dead and ten injured; October 7th 10 were reported dead and twenty-seven injured; October 8th were reported 2 dead and 16 wounded, October 9th two were reported dead, October 10th 15were reported dead and thirteen injured; October 11th 4 were reported dead and four injured; October 12 were 28 reported dead and eighty-three injured; October 13th 27 dead and forty-five injured; October 14th 3 were reported dead and eight injured; October 15th 2 were reported dead and one injured; October 19th 1 was reported dead and four injured; October 21st 2 were reported dead and fourteen injured, October 23rd 6 were reported dead and twelve injured; October 24th 5 were reported dead and twenty-four injured; October 25th 6 were reported dead and twenty-eight injured; October 27th 24 were reported dead and fifty-three injured; October 28th 21 were reported dead and one injured; October 29th 4 were reported dead and eleven injured; October 30th 7 were reported dead and eight injured; and October 31st 5 were reported dead and two injured. That's 197 dead and 424 injured. Those were the reported dead and wounded we caught here. That's not, by any means, all the dead or wounded. Iraq Body Count 356 Iraqis were killed. Ali al-Saadi (AFP) reports that the official numbers from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense was 258 killed. As usual, the 'official' number is an undercount. From the start of the month to the end, the number of US military personnel who died serving in the Iraq War increased by 4.
Violence continued today. Aref Mohammed (Reuters) reports 3 bombings "outside three cafes" in Basra today resulted in 8 deaths with dozens more injured. AFP notes they were all motorcycle bombings. Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and a second Mosul roadside bombing left a child injured. Mazin Yahya (AP) notes a Kirkuk bombing claimed the lives of a 12-year-old male and the boy's father.
Al Mada reports that negotiations continue for US military forces to remain in Iraq beyond 2011 and that both the Iraqi government and the US government agree that some US presence is needed for training Iraqi forces. The report also notes that 'trainers' could get immunity via either the arrangement with the State Dept or NATO.
Last month, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Iraq was continuing to negotiate the details of the post-2011 U.S. training mission in his country. Bowen said the Iraqi army has some important bright spots. "The military and police are better equipped and trained than they have ever been before in modern Iraqi history, but they have a significant way to go before the military is capable of external defense, defending its borders," he said, singling out Iraq's special operations forces in particular. "They are among the best in the Middle East, if not the best." In the latest report from Bowen's office, released Friday, Gen. Babakir Zibari said Iraq is not capable of providing for the country's external defense now, though he added that the country may be able to suppress internal strife. He also said in an interview published in the report that Iraq's air force will not be capable defending the country's air space until 2020. "The Iraqi air force is still at a very rudimentary phase," Bowen said. "They have no jet aircraft -- they rely on rotary wing aircraft."
The last time we corrected Joel Wing it was not pretty on his end so prepare to cue up Jackson Browne's "Here Come Those Tears Again." Wing writes, "The 2008 Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed between Washington and Baghdad allows for a police training mission past the December 31, 2011 withdrawal date."
How did the SOFA get so screwed up in the coverage? Because people don't know what the hell they're talking about but continue yapping away. Several e-mails came in asking if Joel Wing is correct? Of course not.
Before we get into anything else, let's deal with a basic of contract law. Remember this and you'll never have to wonder when someone makes an idiotic statement whether they're right or wrong: When a contract expires, it expires. If you sign a contract to star in one film for Paramount and also sign a contract to star in one film for Universal and you finishing filming the Paramount picture and begin shooting the Universal one, no one would be stupid -- hopefully, no one would be stupid enough to say -- "The Paramount contract allows for ___ to make the film with Universal." A contract's only good for what a contract's good for. And when a contract's done -- as it appears the SOFA is -- then it's done. The SOFA appears to expire December 31, 2011. Something could change tomorrow and the US and Iraq could decide to extend it. Barring that, the SOFA is set to expire December 31, 2011.
An expired contract is an expired contract. That's so basic that if you can't grasp that, you really need to be checking legal issues with others before writing about them. So now that we've established that the SOFA -- unless it's renewed or extended -- has no say beyond December 31, 2011 when it is currently set to expire, what is the governing document? As we've noted repeatedly, it's the Strategic Framework Agreement. And we could offer many State Department officials testifying to Congress on this topic as reported in earlier snapshots. But to make it real easy for cry babies, we'll instead link to this State Dept page of the Ambassador Iraq Transition Coordinator Patricia Haslach, testifying to Congress (link is text and video) on June 1st of this year and we'll offer this excerpt:
The Strategic Framework Agreement sends a strong signal that our relationship with Iraq extends far beyond miltary support alone. The agreement focuses on seven areas of cooperation: political and diplomatic; defense and security; cultural; economic and energy; health and environment; information technology and communications; and law enforcement and judicial. In 2009, Secretary Clinton hosted Prime Minister Maliki for a Higher Coordinating Committee meeting to lay out our shared vision for this reinvigorated partnership. Ambassador Jeffrey, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, and other U.S. officials in Iraq work to implement this vision on a daily basis. Our partners in the interagency -- including Commerce, Energy, Justice, Transporation, and Treasury -- play a crucial role in sharing expertise. The SFA is the cornerstone of U.S. diplomatic efforts in Iraq, and its vision of parternship pervades all of our efforts and steers our future goals.
I hope we're clear on that now. It's no sin to be wrong. We're all wrong at some point and I'm more wrong than anyone else. It's a mistake to pretend you're not wrong. And while we're talking about the Strategic Framework Agreement, there's a reason we've emphasized it so much this year and last: We didn't cover it.
In real time, it's a sentence here, a sentence there. In November 2008, we weren't interested. If you leave out the shoe tossing incident -- that occured when Bully Boy Bush and Nouri al-Maliki were signing both the Strategic Framework Agreement and the SOFA -- you'll find very little of it in 2008 or 2009.
And that's my mistake. I focused on the SOFA because that's what hearings were held on that's what Senators and Representatives -- of both parties -- were objecting to. I never foresaw the possibility that diplomacy would be militarized and the SFA would be used in any way other than it had been in the past. That was my mistake and don't I look like a fool today over that? Absolutely. I was wrong, I was stupid and I was foolish. And copping to all of that? Didn't make the sky fall in. Didn't mean my life ended or I collapsed in tears. It's a fact of life, if you're going to try to cover something, you're going to make mistakes. When you do, the smartest thing is to admit to it.
I don't play on the SOFA and the reason for that is because enough lies were given on that already. Here we told the truth about the SOFA. And those who think the illegal war is really over should grasp that their belief system needs to include praise that Iraq balked at immunity. Because the SOFA didn't mean the war ended ever. And as we always stated it could expire, it could be renewed it could be replaced. If others had bothered to be truthful, the Iraq War might really be ending or it might have ended a long time ago. Instead a number of serial liars provided non-stop spin and declared the Iraq War over. Leslie Cagan, that means you and the leadership or 'leadership' of United For Peace & Justice.
By the same token, the same serial liars -- we were dealing Tom Hayden just yesterday -- are backing spinning again. They're lying and they need to stop. A friend at State explains the announcement Barack made last month as giving him and Nouri a 'victory' for their domestic audiences and then when 'trainers' go in (the friend believes that the negotiations will be successful and trainers will go in), Barack and Nouri will both still insist they ended the war and occupation. I don't know. What I do know is that negotiations are ongoing. What I do know is the Iraqi press is very interested in those negotiations. What I do know is Moqtada al-Sadr is concerned enough that he's called an emergency session of Parliament and stated that Nouri needs to call of his visit to DC next month.
I'm not a psychic. I can't tell you what's going to happen. I can provide a list of possibilities. And we did that with the SOFA and we were attacked for doing that. People who whore themselves to the Democratic Party were really interested in attacking us. And now there's a small group -- including this site -- who are interested in trying to get across that the negotiations have not ended, that the 'lovely' speech was spin. Do I get some great thrill in doing this?
No, I'm damn tired of it and I wish to hell people would start doing the jobs they say they hold -- whether that's reporter or leader of the left.
Here is what we know about the US and Iraq after December 31, 2011. 1) The CIA will maintain its presence. 2) Special-Ops will maintain their presence. 3) The Iraqi Air Force is not trained and cannot patrol its own airspace and really doesn't have the equipment for that at present. 4) The US Embassy in Baghdad will have Marines (as all US embassies do) and they will have soldiers as well. The Iraqi press is concerned with how many. The American press likes to keep repeating the 'all' lie. 5) The US Embassy in Baghdad will oversee 'security' contractors. 6) Negotiations are ongoing between DC and Baghdad on the issue of 'trainers.' 7) Kuwait and others will be used -- as Barack noted they would in 2007 -- as a staging platform for US troops.
That's what we know. There are rumors -- the big one in the Iraqi press today was whispers that Nouri had approved 200 "trainers" -- granted them immunity. But in terms of what is known, that's not what people think they heard in the speech. And on number seven, Lolita C. Baldor (AP) is reporting, "While all but a small number of U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by the end of the year, they won't all be home for the holidays as President Barack Obama promised last month. The Pentagon is poised to move at least 4,000 soldiers from Iraq to Kuwait at the end of the year, pending a final decision expected soon by Pentagon and Kuwaiti leaders, U.S. officials said Wednesday." Somewhere Tom Hayden's clutching the pearls and calling for the smelling salts.
If you don't like those seven realities -- and I don't (although I can live with the Marine half of number four) -- then you need to be objecting now. Not in January, not a year from now. Gallup published a poll today -- they did a random sample of 992 American adults and the survey has a 4% plus/minus margin of error. Asked if they approve of Barack's decision, 75% of "All Americans" say they approve. 21% say they disapprove. But do they know what's going on because the media's done a very poor job of explaining what was going on and so-called voices of peace like Tom Hayden have ignored reality and, when forced to address any of the seven realities we noted two paragraphs up, dismiss it as fantasy. Well Tom used to take joy in the killing of Palestinians as well, I do remember. I'm not really sure he's who we need to go to for ethical advice.
Joel Wing mentions the Interior Ministry, how the US State Dept will be helping to strengthen it. He should do a piece on why?
Why should the US waste their time on the Ministry of Interior? Or the US tax payers money? Nouri was named prime minister-designate in November 2010. He was supposed to name a Cabinet -- not a partial one, a Cabinet -- in order to move to prime minister (per the Constitution). He didn't. It's now one year later.
The Ministry of Interior, that the US government is going to spend millions of tax payer dollars to 'assist' and 'train,' still has no Minister. An 'acting minister' isn't a minister. An acting minister is a puppet. Without him or her going through the Constitutional process, they have no protection and serve only as long as Nouri wants them to. They are his puppets. If you've forgotten our 'brilliant' US press assured us as December came to a close that Nouri would name ministers for Interior, Defense and National Security in a matter of weeks.
He still hasn't. Does anyone know what March is? Yeah, it's the anniversary start of the Iraq War. But it will also be two years after Iraq held elections. Those elections were to determine the national government (citizens voted on members in the Parliament). In four months, it will be two years after those elections and Iraq still doesn't have ministers for the three security ministries. But the US government is willing to throw away tax payer dollars -- during The Great Recession -- on training a department that's so unimportant to Nouri, he won't even nominate a head for it and take that nomination to Parliament for a confirmation (or denial). We'll pick up there tomorrow. Let's stay with the New Saddam.
Nouri's crackdown on 'Ba'athists' has taken a lot of attention off the continued targeting of Sahwa also known as "Sons Of Iraq" and "Awakenings." These are largely Sunni fighters who were paid by the US government to stop attacking US military equipment and US troops. (That's Gen David Petraeus explanation from April 2008.) Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) speaks with Sahwa leader Abu Azzam al-Tamimi who states there are 50,000 Sahwa left in Iraq, 30,000 of which are in Baghdad. (At their height, there were approximately 98,000 according to Petraeus' 2008 Congressional testimony.) When the US turned control of the Sahwa over to Nouri, there were promises of bringing them into the process via government jobs. That never really happened and al-Tamimi notes it is unlikely to happen by year's end when the program is supposed to end. What happens when these Sahwa, who've struggled for pay and have waited not just for checks but also for government jobs, get nothing? Does that increase security in Iraq or does dismissing and ignoring one time armed rebels mean that they rejoin the resistance?
Nouri's never going to be mistaken for a smart person. Back to his crackdown on political enemies. Dar Addustour reports politicians are calling on Nouri to release the over 600 Iraqis he's had arrested recently. And they report that more were arrested yesterday in Basra -- two journalists working for Basra radio: Mohammad Matouk and Zia Albzona. Al Rafidayn carries an article on the "Sons of the General Command of Jihad and Liberation" which is supposedly a Ba'athist group and supposedly distributing pamphlets throughout Nasiriyah demanding people joing them in a coup attempt against Dhi Qar Province. Last week Reidar Visser (Gulf Analysis) pointed out, "Suffice to say in this context that the Iraqi constitution actually offers pro-active protection of former members of the Baath. Article 135-5 explicitly says 'mere membership of the Baath party is not a sufficient basis for transfer to the court'. Article 7 of the constitution outlaws propagation of a number of political ideologies where Baathism is mentioned alongside racism, terrorism and ethnic cleansing, but stipulates the passage of a law by parliament to codify this more precisely, which has yet to be done. In other words, there is no basis whatsoever for prosecuting anyone for simply having been a Baathist member -- and arguably, at the current time, not even for propagation of Baathism since this is not covered by any specific form of legislation."
Dar Addustour also reports that Sheikh Ali Hatem Suleiman states he was at his office last night when the government attempted to harm him either by arrest or by killing him. The government states that they raided his home yesterday and that this was over a property dispute.
Moqtada al-Sadr has called for an emergency session of Parliament to discuss what the US is doing in Iraq and what the plans are. That session is scheduled for tomorrow. (He's also called for Nouri al-Maliki not to go to DC next month.) Dar Addustour reports that a meeting is to be held at Jalal Talabani's home and there's some indication the meeting may take place today, ahead of the emergency session. It's also noted that when the meeting does take place the topics will include US Vice President Joe Biden's scheduled trip to Iraq this month.
Iran borders Iraq and Iranian dissidents came to Iraq, on the invitation of Saddam Hussein, after the fall of the Shah of Iran and the rise of the Ayatollah. Less than 4,000 remain and reside in Camp Ashraf. The US invaded Iraq in 2003 and entered into negotiations (the government and the military -- more so the military but the government oversaw those negotiations and could have stepped in at any minute). In exchange for disarming, certain guarantees were made and, most importantly, international law kicked in making the resident "protected persons." At the start of 2009, the US turned responsibilities over to Nouri al-Maliki who swore the residents would be protected. He has now ordered two assaults on the Camp. He has announced that the camp will be shut by year's end. He has floated publicly sending them back to Iran. He and his government have also spoken of breaking them up and dispersing them throughout the country -- because Iraq's so very good and safe for minorities apparently.
UK Progressive post a transcript of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifying before the US House Foreign Affairs Committee. (The transcript focuses solely on her remarks about Camp Ashraf.) The date of the hearing isn't noted. Presumably this is from her October 27th appearance before the Committee. But this is a typical exchange and it also goes to misreporting that some may remember.
Rep. (Judge) Ted Poe (R-TX): Thank you Madam Secretary, thank you Madam Chair. I will try to make this to the point. Last time you and I talked in this very room, we talked about the safety of camp Ashraf. That was in March and then later in April, Iraqi soldiers came in and killed people in Camp Ashraf. People disagree on how that occurred but people did that. Right now, on 31st [December] United States is leaving, I am not discussing that, but also on 31st, Maleki has made it clear that the camp is going to close. When we were in Iraq this summer, Chairman Rohrabacher, myself and others on this committee, we met with Maleki on the issue of Camp Ashraf. It got very heated. We wanted to go see the camp, he refused to let us see it. And later, we learned when we were flying around in a Black Hawk, that we have been invited to leave the country based upon that discussion with him. But the number one thing he said about the way Iraq treated Camp Ashraf was the US designation of the MEK. He spent all of his time saying this is the reason they are treated the way they are because you, the United States, have designated them as a foreign terrorist organization. My concern, first of all, is the safety of the people in Camp Ashraf when that 31st comes. They are in fear. 85 of those people some are Americans and the others of that 85 that are there among the 2000, are permanent residents of the US. So, my question is, what are we doing through the end to make sure they extend the deadline so the people can do what necessary through the UN to get out of Iraq and go somewhere in the world. And second, the long term issue of the MEK designation. I am encouraged by your words last night that you made regarding that. So, those are my two issues and my two questions to you Madam Secretary.
Secretary Clinton: Well, congressman, I can assure you that I am personally very focused on trying to make sure that we protect the safety of the residents of the camp. I, and our department and our administration strongly condemned the violence that led to the deaths. Regardless of how that happened, the fact is, you are right, 36 residents died because of the violence on April the 8th. We are monitoring the situation as closely as we can. We see no evidence suggesting that there is any other imminent attack on Ashraf and we continue to urge the government of Iraq to show restraint. As I said earlier, we do have written assurances from the government of Iraq to treat the Ashraf residents humanely, to follow their international obligations which they have, as long as the residents remain in the country, and not to transfer anyone to any country where that person could be persecuted as a result of their political or religious beliefs. And so, we are trying to nail down as much as we can to provide some protective screen for the residents. We know that they have approached; that we have also pushed the UNHCR to have even more of a presence, to do more, to try to move as many of the status determinations as they can. So this is an area of deep concern to us and we are moving on many fronts and we are also going to move as expeditiously as possible to a final resolution on the designation.
If you've forgotten the misreporting, it had the US House members kicked out of Iraq. That was not what happened. As usual Nouri presented a fake front. He waited until after the delegation was on its way out of the country to thump his chest and play the big man for his domestic audience. Poe's remarks are consistent with others on the trip.
James Morrison (Washington Times) notes claims that Nouri's forces are gearing up for another assault on the camp. I have no idea whether that's true or not (nor does Morrison present himself as knowing whether it's true or not). But what is known is that Nouri gave assurances to both the previous and the current US Administrations. And he still assaulted the Camp twice. Certain members of the British Parliament have publicly accused the US government of complicity in the attacks noting that then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq both times when the assaults took place.
Another nation borders Iraq from the north as well, Turkey. Since August 17th, the latest wave of attacks on northern Iraq by the Turkish military have taken place. The military states its targeting PKK -- a group of Kurdish rebels. In the process, they are terrorizing the villagers and damaging the Iraq countryside with their bombing raids. They could attempt to address the reason the PKK has power -- injustice to Kurds in Turkey -- but instead they just 'know' that tomorrow will be peaceful if they just drop enough bombs today. And, of course, if they continue to target Kurds and Kurdish sympathizers within Turkey. Yeah, that'll work out great. Sebnem Arsu (New York Times) reports a crackdown on "pro-Kurdish political activists" in Turkey including over 20 ordered held in confinement by a court yesterday. This comes as the Turkish military continues its assault on northern Iraq. And as it tries to tout its own reputation as a leader in the region. Suppressing freedom domestically won't help its image but refusing to bring to justice the police officer who shot 17-year-old Ferhat Gercek four years ago and left him paralyzed hasn't demonstrated the Turkish government's overly concerned with how they're seen abroad. Nor will blaming European governments for their own problems. Anna Reimann (Der Spiegel) reports as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan prepares to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel:
Yet another problem between the two countries is the PKK conflict, with Turkish politicians repeatedly attacking the German government and accusing Berlin of indirectly protecting the Kurdish terrorists. "Twice as many PKK members live in Germany as in the Qandil mountains in northern Iraq," claimed Cemil Cecik -- speaker of the Turkish parliament and a party colleague of Erdogan -- according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The prime minister himself has criticized German foundations and accused them of funding the PKK. One thing is certain: As a regional power, Turkey is starting to flex its muscles. Erdogan was hailed during a visit to the region following the Arab revolts in Tunisia and Egypt and became the symbolic head of the freedom movement. The moderate Islamists who were victorious in the recent Tunisian elections model their Islamic political framework on that of his governing Justice and Development Party (AKP). Erdogan recently made his country's opinion of its own power unmistakeably clear: "Our interests range from the Suez Canal to the Indian Ocean," he said.
One country rushing in to give the Turkish government a stamp of approval and then some is the US. Craig Whitlock (Washington Post) reports, "The Pentagon has agreed to sell three attack helicopters to Turkey and is trying to persuade Congress to sell highly coveted Predator or Reaper drones to its increasingly influential ally in the Middle East, defense officials said Tuesday." Press TV adds, "Turkey's Mynet news website reported on Tuesday that it has taken a year to build the radar base, which is totally under US control, according to the Press TV correspondent in Ankara." AFP notes that the US is selling Turkey 3 AH-1 Super Cobra helicoptersand that US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta met with Turkey's Defense Secretary Ismet Yildiz yesterday for talks on "maintaining strong security ties."
Iraq War veteran Leroy Torres and his wife Rosie Torres have never stopped fighting on behalf of veterans exposed to burn pits and contiuned to educate the nation on the issue. The Torres have a website entitled BURNPITS 360. They are also on Facebook. It's a personal issue, Capt Leroy Torres was exposed to the burn pit on Balad Airbase. KZTV 10 reports on their trip to DC "to hopefully gain support from lawmakers. They're pushing for health care for victims of burn pits, and asking the government to establish a national registry similar to the Agent Orange registry from the Vietnam War." Rosie Torres explains, "This registry will allow people to start recognizing the association between the toxic exposure from the burn pits and the illnesses that are surfacing now and have claimed the lives of many soldiers." The Torres note that a member of Congress is working hard on the issue.
From: The Honorable W. Todd Akin
Please sign on to be an original cosponsor to legislation that is important to our veterans. Numerous veterans have suffered serious health problems after exposure to open burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. This legislation will establish a registry, similar to the Agent Orange Registry and the Gulf War Syndrome Registry. This is the first step toward providing better care for veterans who have been affected by open burn pits.
This bill will also be introduced in a bipartisan/bicameral fashion with companion legislation being introduced by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM)
This bill is scheduled to be introduced on November 3rd, so please contact my office soon to become an original cosponsor.
W. Todd Akin
Member of Congress
Rep. W. Todd Akin
Open Burn Pit Registry Act of 2011
Department of Veterans Affairs
Based on recent accounts of health maladies of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and a possible link to toxic fumes released in open burn pits it has become necessary to voluntarily track and account for these individuals.
This registry will ensure that members of the Armed Forces who may have been exposed to toxic chemicals and fumes while serving overseas can be better informed regarding exposure and possible effects. This legislation
is modeled after legislation that created the Agent Orange Registry and the Gulf War Syndrome Registry.
• Establish and maintain an open burn pit registry for those individuals who
may have been exposed during their military service;
• Include information in this registry that the Secretary of the VA determines applicable to possible health effects of this exposure;
• Develop a public information campaign to inform individuals about the
• Periodically notify members of the registry of significant developments associated with burn pit exposure.
In order to ensure that the Veterans Administration conducts the registry in the most effective manner, the legislation:
• Requires an assessment and report to Congress by an independent
• This report contains an assessment of the effectiveness of the Secretary
of the VA to collect and maintain information as well as recommendations
to improve the collection and maintenance of this information;
• The report will also include recommendations regarding the most effective
means of addressing medical needs due to exposure;
• This report will be due to Congress no later than 18 months after the date
which the registry is established.
• CBO states that this registry would cost $2 million over 5 years
We learned from this country's issues with Agent Orange that the need to get
ahead of this issue is of paramount importance.
The establishment of a burn pit registry will help the VA determine not only to what extent the ramifications of burn pits may have on service members but can also be of great use in information dissemination.
If you have any questions please contact Rep. Akin's office at 5-2561 and speak