Monday, November 28, 2011

Iraq snapshot

Monday, November 28, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, Parliament is attacked, Nouri al-Maliki wants a wall around Baghdad, Jalal Talabaini wants US troops to remain in Iraq, discovery motions by David Coombs (Bradley Manning's attorney) reveal just how much the US federal government has ignored the law, and more.
In Iraq today, a suicide bombing attack on a prison resulted in multiple deaths.  AGI notes today's bombing was "a suicide attack on Hout prison in Taji". Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports the assailant "slammed a car packed with explosives into" the prison's gate and RTT adds, "The attack took place at about 8:00 a.m. local time (0500 GMT)". The spokesperson for Baghdad Operations Command, Quassem Ata, told Alsumaria TV, "Ambulances rushed to the explosion site and transported the wounded to a nearby hospital for treatment and the corpses to the Department of FOrensic medicine." AFP observes, "It was not immediately clear if the attack was part of a prison escape attempt, which are fairly common in Iraq." Citing an unnamed security source, Aswat al-Iraq reports, "He said that among the victims were visitors to their imprisoned relatives and prison guards." Adnkronos Security notes that the bombing also "killed and maimed guards, police and other staff while they were arriving for work." Sky News reveals, "Police officials said the death toll increased after cleanup crews found more bodies while removing debris at the site."  BBC News reports 19 dead and twenty two injured in the attack. Kareem Raheem (Reuters) notes the last reported attack on the city: "The town of Taji, the site of a major Iraqi military base, was hit by bombers in July, when two blasts in the parking lot of a municipal government building killed at least 28 people and wounded scores of others." Al Jazzera provides this context, "Monday's bombing comes amid a surge of violence across the country." Al Rafidayn words it this way, "Despite toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein eighty years ago, Iraq continues to be plagud by near daily violence leaving tens of thousands dead."
The attack hit the US morning news cycle.  It wasn't the end of attacks today in Iraq.  In the one that will probably have the most impact the Baghdad-based government, Parliament was attacked.  Confusion remains as to what it was attacked with.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) puts it this way, "Also Monday, a mortar round landed inside the heavily fortified Green Zone, killing at least two people, police said. The round landed on the outdoor car park that belongs to the Iraqi Parliament compound and hit a car. " Citing the news channel Al-Arabiya, Adnkronos Security maintains it was  a rocket. KUNA states mortars and that it "hit a parking lot near the parliament" leaving at least four injured.  Aswat al-Iraq notes Parliament's Mohammed al-Khalidi states it was a car and a suicide bombing, "the car exploded outside the parliament building, where the driver was trying enter, but blocked by a military hummer, which obliged him to commit suicide."  AFP emphasizes the confusion over details, "The explosion in the parking lot of the Iraqi parliament was caused by a mortar round, said Baghdad security spokesman Qassem al-Moussawi and several other sources. However, at least two sources at parliament said it was a car bomb." Parliament's spokesperson Aidan Helmi declares the attack was an attempted assassination of Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and states the car involved was similar to the cars used in Nujaifi's security detail and that when asked to display a security badge, the car slammed into anothe car, the driver got out and detonated a bomb on his personJack Healy, Yasir Ghazi, Andrew E. Kramer and Zaid Thaker (New York Times) observe, "An attempted bombing steps outside Parliament would represent a serious security breach inside one of the capital's most heavily guarded sectors, raising questions about the competence -- or complicity -- of security forces. Parliament sits inside the Green Zone, the locked-down expanse along the Tigris River that houses many Iraqi governmetn buildings and the American Embassy."
"In the one that will probably have the most impact the Baghdad-based government, Parliament was attacked"?  That's a statement based on past precedent.  In the rush-rush effort to forever pimp the newest cause (OWS currently) and ingore actual news in favor of what you wish was news, many things get forgotten.  The Bremer walls?  Does anyone remember why they went up?  Because of attacks in Baghdad.  Yeah, but it was one attack in particular that got them up real quick.
Dropping back to the June 23, 2006 snapshot:

The ten day old "crackdown" in Baghdad, which has had little measurable impact on stopping violence, sprouted a new development today: "State of emergency." As Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted this morning, "Earlier today, insurgents set up roadblocks and opened fire on U.S. and Iraqi troops close to the US-run Green Zone." The Associated Press reports this was done as fighting forces seemed intent on breaching "the heavily fortified Green Zone." As Sandra Lupien noted on KPFA's The Morning Show, amidst the violence, US troops "rushed to the area." Current prime minister Nouri al-Maliki has "ordered everyone off the streets" of Baghdad, provided "broader arrest powers" and placed "a ban on carrying weapons."
last declared a state of emergency (or martial law) in November of 2004 for the entire country (exempting only Kurdish areas in the north).Then prime minister Iyad Allawi declared it when violence broke out through much of the country as US forces geared up for their attack on/slaughter of Falluja. Current prime minister al-Maliki has declared a state of emergency for Baghdad only. A state of emergency was declared for the city of Basra in May of this year. Euronews notes that the Basra state of emergency "has not deterred militants." Omar al-Ibadi and Haider Salahaddin (Reuters) report that today in Basra a car bomb went off (police say ten killed, hospital says five).
Sam Knight (Times of London) reports that "the 5 million inhabitants of the Iraqi capital [were] given just two hours notice of a curfew" (started at 2:00 pm in Baghdad, as Knight notes, but it was set to end at 5:00 pm and not, as Knight reports, on Saturday -- since Knight filed, al-Maliki shortened the curfew). Knight notes the paper's Baghdad correspondent Ned Parker terming the "extended gun battle . . . just north of the fortified Green Zone" a "free-for-all." Along with gunfire and mortars, Reuters reports that two US troops died today "when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb southeast of Baghdad."
What followed were mutliple bombings in Baghdad for mutliple days and Nouri floating that there could be 'forgiveness' for 'insurgents' and then the wallas and walls and walls throughout Baghdad.
When the Green Zone was almost breached, when that safe area for Iraq's rulers was in danger, suddenly there was no tolerance for violence.  When it was outside the Green Zone, when it remains outside, the tolerance is high and little is done by the Baghdad-based central government.  So it is very likely that today's attack on Parliament will be taken more seriously than other recent attacks.
Before we get to the pattern of recent attacks, let's note the Baghdad government's 'new' plans for protection.  Saturday Al Mada also reported that Major General Qassim Atta, head of the Baghdad operations command, declared that they will be putting up cameras to monitor the streets of Baghdad. And there's more.  Remember after the walls started going up, Nouri also wanted to put a moat around Baghdad?  Edward Wong reported on that with "Iraqis Plan to Ring Baghdad With Trenches" on September 16, 2006:

The Iraqi government plans to seal off Baghdad within weeks by ringing it with a series of trenches and setting up dozens of traffic checkpoints to control movement in and out of the violent city of seven million people, an Interior Ministry spokesman said Friday.
The effort is one of the most ambitious security projects this year, with cars expected to be funneled through 28 checkpoints along the main arteries snaking out from the capital. Smaller roads would be closed. The trenches would run across farmland or other open areas to prevent cars from evading checkpoints, said the ministry spokesman, Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf.
"We're going to build a trench around Baghdad so we can control the exits and entrances so people will be searched properly," he said in a telephone interview. "The idea is to get the cars to go through the 28 checkpoints that we set up."

Well they never got the moat. But let's drop back to the May 4, 2010 snapshot:

Occupied Iraq, ruled over by a US puppet whose fighting like crazy to hold on to the position. If US service members leave the Green Zone, Nouri falls. He knows that. The US military knows it, the US government knows it. So he's proposed madcap schemes to ensure his reign since he became prime minister in April of 2006. Two Circles Net reports, "Iraqi authorities have started the construction of a security wall around the capital Baghdad, reports the country's Al-Iraqiya TV citing a Baghdad security spokesperson. The concrete wall with eight checkpoints is to be completed in mid-2011." Once upon a time, Nouri proposed building a moat around Baghdad. A moat. Stagnant water. Just what Baghdad needs more of. Especially with all the cholera outbreaks. Nouri never got his moat but he will apparently get his walled-in-city.

But he didn't get that either. Yet he still hasn't give up on it. Dar Addustour quotes Atta from the same press conference today declaring that Nouri has ordered a security wall be constructed around Baghdad in early 2012. If there's anything sadder than having run out of ideas it would have to be repeatedly promising you're about to implement one of your tired ideas.  At what point do those ruled note that you promise and promise but fail to deliver?  It's not just that he can't stop the violence, it's also that Nouri can't follow up on his own announcements to increase security.

The most current pattern of violence is every two days for a major attack.  So Basra is slammed with bombs on Thursday (Saturday Andrew E. Kramer noted the death toll for the Basra attacks had risen to 25).  Two days later, Saturday, it was Baghdad.  Al Mada reported Baghdad awoke to bombings Saturday. Laith Hammoudi (Miami Herald, McClatchy Newspapers) explained, "Some analysts fear that this year will mark a return to that bloodshed after the last two months, when the Shiite-led Iraqi government has undertaken a nationwide crackdown on former members of Saddam Hussein's Baathist party, especially in the country's southern provinces, where Shiites are the majority. The arrests have been criticized by Sunni Muslim leaders as illegal, but the government has defended them, claiming those arrested have ties to terrorist activities and are based on warrants issued by courts."  And some analysts feel that point has already arrived and you're seeing the slow awakening of a renewal of that fissure (which never went away).

Andrew E. Kramer (New York Times) reported the bombings "shattered the stillness of a crystalline autumn day in the desert". Zhang Xiang (Xinhua) provided a walk through, "In the morning, eight construction workers were killed and 13 others wounded when two roadside bombs went off almost simultaneously near their bus while travelling in the Abu Ghraib area, some 20 km west of Baghdad, a local police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity. [. . .] Separately, up to seven people were killed and 28 wounded before midday when three bombs went off successively at the crowded commercial area of Bab al-Sharji, where dozens of stalls scatter at the popular open market, an Interior Ministry source anonymously told Xinhua." Press TV quoted an eye witness, "Three bombs exploded one after the other. I saw a woman serving tea to customers, lose a leg in one of the explosions." Of the construction workers, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) quoted police officer Ahmed Salman, "The victims were traveling every day in a minibus from Abu Ghraib to Falluja to work in a number of reconstruction sites."

Thursday, Saturday, Monday.  And there was other violence on those days and there was violence on Friday and Saturday.  The violence has not gone away.
And as it has increased in the last eighteen or so months, it's been very obvious that Iraq's security ministries remain headless.  There is no one heading them.  And no one's supposed to note Nouri's failure with regards to that.  Al Mada reports that Iraqi officials are a twitter over 'news' (rumors) that Nouri al-Maliki will fill the posts to head the security ministries before the end of the year (Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of National Security). These are the posts that have been vacant all along. When Nouri was named prime minister-designate, he had 30 days to name nominees for these posts and to get the nominees approved by Parliament. Instead of following the Constitution, and with the US government strong-arming everyone, the Parliament and the presidency looked the other way and allowed Nouri to move from prime minister-designate to prime minister despite his inability to meet the only Constitutional requirement for being named prime minister.

When that happened in December 2010, the US newspapers which are supposed to be skeptical -- because the nature of journalism -- and independent and watchdog proved to be toothless and cowardly. Instead of barking, they assured readers that, by January (2011), Nouri would have filled those three posts. That didn't happen. Sadly their continued failure to predict the future hasn't steered any of them away from playing amateur prophet. They continue to ignore facts -- such as ALL US troops are not coming HOME at the end of the year from Iraq -- and instead offer fantasies served up as 'reporting.'

Equally delusional is Iraqi President Jalal Talabani who insists that Nouri al-Maliki cannot be replaced, that no one else in Iraq -- with a population of 26 million within the country -- no one else can do the job.  With a population of 26 million, including two who have been prime minister before Nouri al-Maliki -- the National Alliance backed Ibrahim al-Jaafari and head of Iraqiya Ayad Allawi.  No one else, Jalal insists, can do Nouri's job.  Maybe he meant to say that no one else can do it as poorly as Nouri does?  Saturday Al Sabaah noted Iraqi President Jalal Talabani gave an interview to Iraqi Satellite TV in which he bemoaned the state of Iraq but insisted that the answer was not a vote to withdraw confidence in Nouri al-Maliki because, he claims, there is no alternative to Nouri.  Not everyone agrees.  The same day Jalal was insisting Nouri was the sole path of salvation for Iraq, Aswat al-Iraq reported:

A Legislature of al-Iraqiya Alliance, led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, has said on Saturday that Iraq's current problem lies in the political programing, followed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, to steer the State.
"The current problem in Iraq is not linked to the Presidency or the Legislative authorities, but to the political programs of the Prime Minister, especially as regards to the security dossier, being the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces," Legislature, Haider al-Mulla told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.

How many more bombings, how many more shootings, how many more kidnappings have to take place before the Parliament demands Nouri nominate ministers to head the three security ministers or steps down as prime minister?  Or will the pennies tossed their way buy their silence?   Dar Addustour notes that Parliment agreed to provide the families of the Basra dead with 500,000 dinars ($427.53 in US currency) and the wounded with 250,000 dinars ($213.77 in US currency).

Over the weekend, Jalal wasn't just pretending he was Deniece Williams singing "Let's Hear It For The Boy" (while actually sounding like the character Deniece sketches in "Silly"), he was also insisting Iraq needs US troops on the ground in Iraq.  W.G. Dunlop (AFP) reports, "Iraqi forces need an American troop presence or at least US training forces, President Jalal Talabani has said, according to a Saturday statement on the Iraqi presidency's website." As noted earlier this week, negotiations between the US and Iraq are ongoing, the Kurds are pressing for US troops, and the numbers that political blocs are throwing around currently: 8,000 to 15,000.

Al Sabaah reports that Kurdistan Alliance MP Chuan Taha, who serves on Parliament's Security and Defense Committee notes that Iraq cannot defend their own skies and states they should sign an agreement with a foreign power such as the United States (the US is mentioned twice by Taha, no other country is named) to patrol the skies and this would be fine because the US bases in Qatar and other countries could be used preventing the building of a new US base on Iraqi soil. Kurdistan Alliance's Fuad Masum is quoted on what he sees as the need for Iraq keeping "a small number of trainers and American experts" in Iraq because, he says, Iraqi forces will not be fully ready to protect the country until 2020 and he states he awaits the results of the negotiations he expects to conclude with Nouri's DC visit next month. Ministry of Defense spokesperson Major General Mohammed al-Askari is quoted stating trainers will be needed and this does not mean Iraq's forces are "defective" just that they need additional coaching and assistance. This follows Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's remarks this weekend. Alsumaria TV notes, "Iraq needs an American presence after 2011, Talabani said in a TV interview arguing that Iraqi security forces are still facing difficulties in air and marine defense as well as in the use of new weapons. Reports of Air, marine, Armored and Infantry Forces' commanders reveal that Iraq needs an efficient US presence in Iraq or at least American trainers' presence, Talabani said." Dar Addustour notes US Vice President Joe Biden's upcoming Iraq visit to discuss these issues.
Regardless of whether anything additional is agreed to, Jason Ditz ( notes that the supposed 'end' doesn't mean billions of US tax payer dollars won't still be headed to Iraq, $6.5 billion for 2012 alone, "And most of that is going to be military spending, with the operational budget some $6.2 billion and another $300 million going to 'refugee programs'."  Since the US has not lived up to the set goals for Iraqi refugees being admitted into the US -- a detail the US press has intentionally ignored to cover for the White House -- Congress should be asking for a detailed accounting of that $300 million request.  Most likely "refugee" is a cover and we're looking at more walking around, CERP-type funds. 
One of the few reporters who hasn't forgotten Iraqi refugees is the Philadelphia Inquirer's Trudy Rubin.  This is from her latest column "An Iraqi regrets helping United States:"

Salam Hamrani is safe -- for now. My Iraqi fixer and friend endured two years in a Baghdad jail. His crime: helping American troops nab Shiite militants who were killing his Sunni neighbors. He was finally freed and escaped with his family to Greek Cyprus.
Our reunion in Larnaca, Cyprus, was emotional and full of laughter. But Salam's story is a sad tale of U.S. failures and betrayals in Iraq.
A Shiite whose uncle was hung by Saddam Hussein, Salam was thrilled when U.S. troops ousted the dictator. As Iraq collapsed into civil war, he was furious when the militant Shiite Mahdi army moved into his mixed neighborhood and started killing Sunnis. So he started tipping U.S. officers at a forward operating base in his district about the worst of these killers.
When U.S. troops withdrew, family members of one of these thugs got friends in the Iraqi army to arrest him, along with his two sons. A Shiite army general who was chummy with the killer's mother and sister made sure Salam stayed in prison.

Turning to the US and the topic of  Bradley Manning who is finally headed for a military courtroom and an Article 32 hearing on December 16th at Fort Meade, Maryland.  
 Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning has been at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key, for months. In March, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. David E. Coombs is Bradley's attorney and he provided a walk through on Article 104.   Last week, Coombs noted:
Recent accounts in the media regarding defense tactics, strategy, or intended courses of action at the Article 32 hearing are inaccurate. A pretrial hearing is not the appropriate venue for the defense to reveal its case. Instead, this hearing provides the defense with an opportunity to test the relative strengths and weaknesses of the government's case and to obtain needed pretrial discovery.
The defense appreciates those who choose to support PFC Manning. However, these individuals or organizations should not be treated as official sources of information regarding his legal defense. All official statements will come through public releases from this office.
As part of the discovery process, Coombs filed [PDF format warning] a request last week and it includes asking the government to provide the evidence they will be presenting.  It also includes:
2. On 18 January 2011, the defense was notified that PFC Manning, at the direction of [redacted], was placed in suicide risk.  This decision was made over the recoomendations of [redacted] and the defense appointed expert [redacted].  When PFC Manning was being ordered to surrender his clothes as part of the unnecessary suicide risk, the Brig made the decision to videotape this event along with an interrogation of PFC Manning by [redacted] and others. On 19 January 2011, the defense filed a preservation of evidence request with the government and a request for production of the video. The defense believes the video will support PFC Manning's claim of unlawful pretrial punishment.  The government has yet to respond to the defense request.  See R.C.M.405(e)  Discussing (stating that inquiry into other issues such as legality of searches or the admissibility of evidence is proper by an Article 32 Investigating Officer).
3. The defense has previously requested a copy of all adverse administrative or UCMJ action, all supporting documentation, and any rebuttal materials to such action based upon the 15-6 investigation conducted by [redacted] or any other governmental investigation with regards to any individual that was subject of such an adverse action in relation to the alleged leak of classified information in this case.  The previous requests included, but was not limted to, the following individuals: [redacted].  The government has so far only provided information in relation to [redacted].
The filing mainly underscores how the government has refused to follow the law.  Not only has Bradley been held all this time, making a mockery of the Sixth Amendment, but the government has repeatedly refused to produce evidence -- whether it be on the computers allegedly involved and who had access to them or something as basic as an internal report.  For example:
White House: [redacted] was tasked to lead a comprehensive effort to review the alleged leaks in this case.  He has completed a report detailing the rather benign nature of the leaks and the lack of any real damage to national security.  The defense requests a copy of this review and any assessment given, or discussions concering, the WikiLeaks disclosures by any member of the government to [redacted]. The defense requests any e-mail, report, assessment, directive, or discussion by [redacted] to the Department of Defense concering this case in order to determine the presence of unlawful command influence. See R.C.M. 405(e). Additionally, defense requests any e-mail, report, assessment, directive, or discussion by [redacted] to the Department of State or Department of Justice concerning this case;
For those who are confused, in the US, this is news.  No, it's not being treated as such as we hear indulgent interviews with OWS-s who want to talk about their camp outs.  But it's actual news.  It has tremendous value both today and in the future.  Bradley Manning is not a sidebar for you to rush over to the topic of Julian Assange with.  You can beat off to Julian on your own time.  In a few weeks, Bradley has his Article 32 hearing.  While they are almost always a rubber stamp, it's also true that enough public attention could make the White House call off their witch hunt.  Unless Barack's attempting to celebrate the government's treating of the Rosenbergs and wants that to be his historical legacy.  Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were executed in 1953 and I'm not implying Bradley could be (the prosecution insists they're not after the death penalty -- however, that doesn't mean, in a military trial, not an Article 32 hearing, the judge might rule otherwise).  But the railroading of the Rosenbergs by the US government has been a stain on the nation that does not and will not wash away.  As Barack frets more and more that he might be a one-term president, would he really want a similar miscarriage of justice on his small record?  Show trials rarely deliver justice and Barack could step in and halt the proceedings at any time but only if he was pressured by the public to do so.