Friday, December 2, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri appears to want a third term as prime minister, a rumor's presented that Nouri was the target of an assassination attempt, NATO negotiations with Iraq continue, Senator Patty Murray expresses serious concerns about the way the VA is handling mental health care, and more.
Starting with veterans issues.
Chair Patty Murray: Dr. Zeiss, I wanted to ask you, when you testified before a hearing for this Committee May 25th, I asked you whether VA had enough resources to meet OEF OIF veterans needs for health care and you said the resources weren't the problem. In light of what you've learned from last May, especially from your own providers do you stand by that statement from me?
Antonette Zeiss: I believe that we have unprecedented resources and that we have gotten them out to the field and that we have hired an enormous amount of staff. And at the time, I believed that they were adequate if used in the most effective ways possible. We continue to have an increasing number of mental health patients. We have looked at the FY'11 data and the numbers have again jumped from FY'10 and we are proactively predicting what kinds of increases there will be in FY 12 and we're working with the Office of Policy and Planning to ensure that those projection are embedded into the actuary model that drives the budget predictions so that I can say that we will be aggressively following all the data that we have available to ensure that we can make effective predictions at the policy level about what level of funding and level of staffing will be essential and we will be partnering very closely with Dr. Schohn's office who are responsible for ensuring that those resources are are used most effectively are used in the field to deliver the kinds of care that we have.
Chair Patty Murray: So you still today do not believe that it's resources that's the issue?
Antonette Zeiss: I believe that we're at a juncture where we need to be looking absolutely at resources because of the greatly increased number of mental health patients that we are serving. And some of that is because of very aggressive efforts we've made to outreach and ensure that people are aware of the care that VA can provide. The more we succeed in getting that word across and serving increasing number of veterans, the more you're absolutely right, we have to look at what's the level of resources to keep -- to be able to sustain the level of care that we believe is essential.
Chair Patty Murray: You're looking at it, we're asking. We need to have this information upfront now if you need more resources. You just look at the stories out there, the thousands of people coming home, the people that aren't getting served, the people are reaching out to. It just feels to me that this is something we should know now. We've been ten years into this.
Anonette Zeiss: We . . . Uhm. We believe that people are receiving an enormous amount of service from VA and we agree -- as Dr. Schohn has said -- that we need to focus on some specific aspects of care, particularly the evidence based therapies. And we are working with Dr.Schohn who will be developing a very specific staffing model so that we can identify what are the levels of staffing that are available at specific sites and how does that --
Chair Patty Murray: Well let me ask a specific question then. Dr. Schohn according to the mental health wait data provided to the Committee by the VA, Veterans at Spokane VA, my own home state, wait an average of 12 days with a psychiatrist, with a maximum wait for a psychiatrist being 87 days. Now I've been told that all of the psychiatrists in VA in Spokane are booked solid for several months and that there are other places in the country that are far worse than that. You mentioned that the VA is working to fill those vacancies but the hiring process is very slow. What can the Dept do now to make sure that we are shortening these wait times?
Mary Schohn: In fact there is efforts already underway in Spokane to improve the hiring. The waiting time has decreased. There is a shortage and there is variability in our system in terms of ability to, for example, hire a psychiatrist in Spokane. One of the efforts that's being made is to use tele-psychiatry. Essentially to use -- to provide service from a site where there's a greater ability to recruit psychiatrists and to use their services at the site where they are at and to then be able to provide resources to Spokane, for example. The chief medical officer in Spokane has worked to ensure that coverage can come from other facilities within VSN 20, to where the needs of the veterans in Spokane are met. Those are the kinds of things that we're working on as we come across evidence that we're short in some areas. We know that in some other areas, there are not shortages and there may be some surpluses that can be used in those sites.
Chair Patty Murray: Well let me ask you another question. There was a provision on using community providers for mental health services in the Caregivers Omnibus that was passed by Congress earlier this year. It included peer-to-peer services and we heard from our first panel how important peer-to-peer services are. I am told that the Department is making very little progress on implementing that. Can you tell me what's holding up that?
Mary Schohn: We have made some progress. I'm going to ask Dr. Kemp to talk specifically on that.
Janet Kemp: As you're aware most of our peer-to-peer services -- Or a lot of our peer-to-peer services are provided by the vet centers which is an exceptional program that you are all very familiar with which we endorse and support. We've grown the number of vet centers. By the end of the year, we will have three hundred vet centers across the country open and running in addition to the 70 mobile vet centers that will be up and traveling across the country. So I think that we have made huge strides in providing those services to combat veterans and their families across the country. We also have a contract which has been let out and is in the process of being filled to provide training to train more peer type support counselors. We're looking forward to that being completed and we will get those people up and going as soon as we're able to get them on board.
Chair Patty Murray: Okay --
Janet Kemp: We agree with the intent of that legislation for lots of good reasons and we will continue to implement those services.
Chair Patty Murray: Okay, well this Committee will be following that very closely. And before I turn it over to Senator Burr, I just want to say that I'm really disturbed by the disconnect between the provider data and your testimony on the wait time issue. And I am going to be asking the Inspector General for a review of that issue. I assume, Senator Burr, you will join me in that. [Senator Burr nods] And I would like all of your [VA witnesses on the panel] commitment to work with them on that.
The three Witnesses replied "Absolutely" in unison, no doubt hoping they came off like the charites when in fact they more closely resembled the beastly cerberus. We'll come back to the beast.
It was Wednesday morning and Committee Chair Senator Patty Murray was calling to order the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee for a hearing, "Today's hearing builds upon our July hearing on the same subject. At that hearing, the Committee heard about two service members who, even after attempting to take their own lives, had their appointments postponed and difficulties getting through red tape in order to access the care that they needed. I know that, like me, many on this Committee were angered and frustrated by their stories and I'm glad that today we are going to have the opportunity to get more information and answers on why these delays persist. [. . .] At our hearing in July, I requested that the VA survey their frontline professionals about whether they have sufficient resources in order to get veterans into treatment. The results that came back to me shortly after that were not good. Of the VA providers surveyed, nearly 40% said they cannot schedule an appointment in their own clinic within the VA mandated 14 day window, 70% said they did not have adequate staff or space to meet the mental health care needs of the veterans they serve, and 46% said the lack of off-hour appointments prevented veterans from accessing care. The survey not only showed that our veterans are being forced to wait for care -- it also captured the tremendous frustration of those who are tasked with healing veterans. It showed wide discrepancies between facilities in different parts of the country -- including the difference between access in urban and rural areas. And it provided a glimpse at a VA system that, 10 years into war, is still not fully equipped for the influx of veterans seeking mental health care."
10 years into war, the VA is still not fully equipped to deal with the influx of veterans seeking mental health care. That's what the hearing was about.
The Committee heard from two panels of witnesses. The first panel was composed of retired Col Charles W. Hoge (who is a medical doctor), Barbara Van Dahlen, Michelle Washington and John Roberts. They shared important experiences within the VA system. We'll skip the panel to focus on the VA's incompentence and we're able to do that because we'll include questioning from Ranking Member Richard Burr which includes him asking about the testimony from the first panel.
The second panel? We're back to the ceberus -- a multi-headed beast in Greeky mythology that guards the entrance to the Underworld: the VA's Mary Schohn, Janet Kemp and, especially, Antonette Zeiss.
Zeiss is a lousy witness. She's such a lousy witness that you doubt she can do her job properly. There's an issue of being professional. This is the fourth or fifth time, I've registered her outfits. When you appear before Congress as a witness, you need to look professional. Now were I to wear my hair a color of gray with garish off-yellow waxy streaks in it and it was down inches below my shoulder, I'd put some color on it or have the yellow waxy streaks removed. [Looking at her hair, one is forever reminded of Mary Hartman (Louise Lasser) discussing yellow waxy build up on kitchen floors.] Were I not to cut it (and I would cut it), I would at the very least pin it up to try to look professional instead of showing up with a rat's nest spilling down my shoulders thereby revealing to the world that I can't afford either a comb or a brush. But,okay, maybe I'm a little too focused on hair. (I don't think so. And, again, she could and should pin it up if she's not going to cut it. She's supposed to be appearing before Congress not chatting with Hugh Hefner on Playboy After Dark.) There is the issue of your professional uniform. And the first time I noticed this with her, I thought, "Well, sure, we can all forget an appointment and then have no time to change. And just have to pull together something to show up in." Either she's always forgetting or no one ever taught her what constitutes professional dress. Here's your first hint, an ugly blazer that needs to be dry cleaned (that sorely needs to be dry cleaned) and pressed to get all the wrinkles out doesn't qualify as professional. Not even when quickly put it on top of a dress that doesn't qualify as professional but might qualify as a house dress. (Did she buy it on her way into DC, from a vendor on the side of the road?) That's before you get to her putting that ratty blazer with every dress regardless of whether they match or not. (Thus far, I haven't seen her match it with anything when testifying before Congress. If she' suffers from color blindness, she should ask for help.)
Then there's her condescending way of answering questions. She speaks slowler and in the tone of a voice that you'd use when speaking to a very young child. It's patronizing and off-putting.
Now let's get to her profession's issues. She's working for the VA. Has been promoted throughout the VA. There are problems in the VA and as Chair Murray noted, things are going to get more hectic with the huge influx of veterans about to be added to the system. So Zeiss might either need to agree to earn that salary or turn in her resignation to continue her on-the-side work on geropsychology.
She's paid a salary by the tax payer and her little sidelines could be justified in the past with the claim (illusion or reality) that the VA was doing just great. It's doing a lousy job and, specifically, her own areas need improvement. So she can earn her salary by devoting her full attention to this issue or she can leave and do her geropscyhology work. Or how about her more recent work on marriage? So let's not pretend she's giving her all to the administrative role she's paid to perform. And, after 29 years with the VA, she really shouldn't need anyone else pointing out that obvious fact. Of that, when you're salary, and not hourly, and things go wrong, you have to put in more than 40 hours.
Meanwhile the VA should be explaining why she and others oversee a psychiatry program. Meaning? That's a medical program. Do you see me calling her "Dr. Zeiss"? No. Nor do I call anyone in these snapshots "doctor" unless they're a medical doctor. (Or unless they're a veterinarian.) Zeiss appears before the Congress and wants to be called "Doctor" and wants to talk about medical issues including psychiatry which is a medical license. I have nothing against psychology (I have many friends who are psychologists including one of my best friends) but why is a psychologist over the VA's pyschiatry program?
Would we put a gastroenterologist over a cardiac ward?
Well, we wouldn't. But the US government might.
And they have. Outside of Lousiana, I don't believe a psychologist can prescribe medicine in the US. (Correct me if I'm wrong on that.) Now when I hear the testimony of Schohn and Zeiss -- neither of whom is a psychiatrist -- that psychiatrist from one VA will be providing medical care to VA patients at another VA via the telephone, my first question is about meds. That's what psyhaiatrists do that draws the line between them and psychologists. So let's pretend I'm a veteran. You're telling me I'm going to get the same level of care from a VA psychiatrist whether I'm on the phone with her or face to face?
Is she able to prescribe for me over the phone?
These are questions that should be asked.
Ranking Member Burr had questions about flexibility and Schohn insisted they had flexible off hours and then tossed to Zeiss who needed a definition from Burr of "flexible." Again, this is someone in charge of oversight? We'll pick up right after that in the exchange.
Antonette Zeiss: Well I believe, as Dr. Schohn has been saying, we do have flexibility in hours of service. What we've discovered, in looking at the data, is that the initial requirement was for evening clinic -- one evening clinic at least once a week and others as needed. And what we're finding is that the data suggests is what works much better for veterans is early morning hours and weekend hours. And so the policy group is looking very carefully at that in terms of changing and creating even more flexibility than the original after hours policy. The Uniform Mental Health Services Handbook that Dr. Schohn referenced also has an incredible array of flexible programs and defines a very broad range and flexible range of mental health services.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: Let me stop you there if I can. Let me just say, I have a tremendous amount of respect for all of you. I mirror what you've heard from other colleagues. I thank all the VA employees for what they do. But the fact that you've got something written in a book or you've put out a guideline and believe that you can still come in front of this Committee and say, "We've got it written! It's right there!" What we hear time and time again, and I heard from Mr. Roberts, in his testimony. There is no evening options in areas. It doesn't exist. Whether your data shows that it's preferred to be in the morning or the afternoon. In his particular case, your guideline shows the evening and he said, testified, it doesn't exist. So I hope you understand our frustration and, Dr. Schohn, I'm going to ask you if you would provide, for the Committee, a detailed audit of how the $5.7 billion has been spent. And I'm not talking about breaking it down in 403 million dollar categories. I'm talking about, for the Committee, a detailed description of how we spent that $5.7 billion in additional mental health money. Now let me just ask you, is Dr. Washington correct when she said a majority of the patients seen in the 14 day window are there for the purpose of information gathering, not necessarily treatment and many are not seen by a health care professional, they are seen by a staffer there to collect data.
Mary Schohn: That was -- That is not how the policy was written. And if that is happening --
Ranking Member RIchard Burr: Well let me ask it again: Is she right or is she wrong?
Mary Schohn: I -- I don't know about Wilmington. I will admit. That is something I would certainly want to follow up on because that is not the expectation of how services are to be measured.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: Let me, let me read you some comments that have been made today, Dr. Schohn, and you just tell me whether these are acceptable. "Veterans have little access to follow up care."
Mary Schohn: That is not acceptable.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: "VA-- VA focuses on medication management."
Mary Schohn: That is not acceptable and we have a huge policy and training program to ensure, in fact, that veterans have access to evidenced-based psycho-therapy.
Ranking Member RIchard Burr: "Can't fill appointments for the proscribed amount of time."
Mary Schohn: That -- I'm not totally clear what that means.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: I would take for granted that an attending has said somebody with PTSD needs to have X amount -- a frequency of consults, a frequency of treatments and it should extend for X amount of time. Would you find it unacceptable if, in fact, the system was not providing what the health care professional prescribed them to have.
Mary Schohn: Absolutely. We do have a system set up in place to actually monitor if in fact this is not happening, we are concerned by reports that it's not happening in places, we have many evidences of places where it is happening, but as we hear these reports, we are as concerned as you are and have developed a plan to go out and visit sites to ensure that these things are happening and to make corrections when they're not.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: The inability to get appointments.
Mary Schohn: Same thing. We -- The VA is available to veterans. We want to assure that any veteran needing medical health care has access to health care in the timeliness standards that we think are important.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: "Mental health treatment is trumped by new entries into the system."
Mary Schohn: Again, not acceptable.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: These are all issues that exist with the current mental health plan at VA.
Again, Burr covers many of the issues raised by the first panel. Now we're going back to the issue I was raising. All three heads of the beastly cerbeus lack a medical degree. And yet they're evaluating mental health care treatment being carried out by doctors with medical degrees. Okay. Well an administrator with a degree in administration can be very effective. But yet again not one of them has that either.
Part of the problem -- a very big part of the problem -- is that they're not qualifed. A large number at the VA shares that quality. They were basically grandfathered in -- often during the eighties -- some were psychologists, some were social workers. It's past time that when this class that's graduated to management repeatedly fails that their qualifications for the position they hold are examined. And when their qualifications are found lacking, they need to be reassigned to an area they are qualified for. And those who would argue experience is a qualification, I don't doubt that it is and can be. Except when there are the same repeat problems. At which point, clearly the experience or alleged experience is not making up for the lack of formal education in the required field.
Further evience of failure can be found in, as Senator Burr noted, the fact that there has been a 136% increase in the VA's mental health services budget since 2006 and yet when the VA's Inspector General surveyed the VA centers, it was discovered "only 16% of the sites they visited met the staffing requirements for mental health care." That's something good adminstrators are aware of and on top of before an IG researches the issue.
In the excerpt of the exchange with Ranking Member Burr, Zeiss brags about flexible hours -- but they clearly aren't flexible or VA centers would have changed them on their own. Mary Schohn talks about how when she hears of a problem it makes her think they should check out a VA center. I'm sorry, I thought their job did require supervision. In fact, it does. They're really not paid the big salaries they are to write manuals every other year. They're paid to be administrators who supervise and ensure a quality of care. This is the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal only because the wounds are mental and/or emotional and not solely physical, the press appears little skittish to really sink their teeth into this story.
If a veteran lost a limb would it be acceptable for them to wait 14 days for care? Then why is it acceptable for that time limit to be considered a good time limit for someone with mental or emotional wounds?
It is unacceptable.
And it is unacceptable that Mary Schohn appears to think she never needs to check out the facilities unless there's a complaint to Congress. It would never get to that level if Mary and the other two heads of the cerberus were doing their job.
It was a strong hearing. Senator Jon Tester had a very strong exchange. The first panel had witnesses who were really honest. Senator Daniel Akaka, who used to Chair the Committee, showed up and underscored with Chair Murray and Ranking Member Burr just how important these issues were and how unacceptable the VA's problems are.
From VA spin, let's go to Iraqi spin. Want to try to build sympathy for Nouri? Take an assassination attempt and declare he was the target -- even though it makes no sense. Fortunately, the press will play along with you and your flunky -- a flunky only AP doesn't feel the need to use a military title -- "Major General" insists AFP and Reuters. AP's correct, spokespeople -- no matter how masterful of word craft and covert propaganda -- really don't need military titles. Yes, those titles give weight to their claims but that is why they're given the titles in the first place. So military spokesperson Qassim Atta insists that Monday's attack on Parliament was, in fact, an assassination attempt on Nouri. This is how, Atta claims, it was supposed to go down: The car filled with bombs would (and did) enter the Green Zone, it would then park near the Parliament. On Thursday, it would go off taking out Nouri who was in the Parliament.
What a bunch of lies. First, the bombs weren't enough to blow up Parliament -- as evidenced by the minimal physical damage done on Monday. So to target Nouri, they would need to park as close as possible to where he would be. How would they know where he would be?
And where did they get the idea that he would be in Parliament on Thursday? It wasn't announced Monday or prior that he'd be in Parliament Thursday. Dropping back to Wednesday's snapshot:
In major news on violence today, Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers via the San Francisco Chronicle) reports that the Monday attack on Parliament was a suicide car bomber and Issa observes, "The admission that a suicide car bomber had penetrated the fortified Green Zone, the first suicide attack there since April 2007, sent a wave of concern across the capital about the abilities, and loyalties, of Iraq's security agencies." As Sheikah (Dar Addustour) notes the questions about the attack in terms of how heavily protected the Green Zone is and how a "strange car with unknown identities" was able to penetrate the Green Zone. Al Rafidayn notes the need for permits to carry explosives in the Green Zone and indicates that some aspect of the attack was caught on cameras "deployed" in the area. This is major news and has been treated as such in the Iraqi press for two news cycles. As part of Monday's violence, it was noted as an aside in the small number of US outlets that cover Iraq. And a large number of that small number treated the notion that it could be a suicide bomber as some sort of Iraqi delusion. But it was a suicide bomber (not a mortar or a rocket) and the US press is strangely silent.
That may or may not be who was targeted. But it is believable. And it would go to how the car entered the Green Zone in the first place. (Osama al-Nujaifi was already a target of Nouri's ire before he began speaking out in favor of the Constitution -- specifically Article 119.) Some press accounts are insisting that the story changed on Monday with claims that al-Nujaifi was targeted and then claims that he wasn't. Nouri's people (employees and supporters) are the ones who were saying on Monday that it was a mortar or a rocket. Parliament sources and the spokesperson for Parliament were saying on Monday that it was a car bombing and that Osama al-Nujaifi was the target. From Tuesday's snapshot, here's a small sample of the way the bombing was being covered:
However, Iraqi papers are more focused this morning on yesterday's Parliament attack. Al Sabaah notes that Osama Nujaifi's office has stated that bombing was an attempted assassination (Nujaifi is the Speaker of Parliament) and that he was the target. They also maintain it was a suicide bomber and not mortars. The article notes a National Alliance insists it was a mortar while a police source states it was a suicide bomber. Sources tell Dar Addustour it was a suicide bomber in a car (black GMC) and that al-Nujaifi was the target. In addition, Dar Addustour reminds that following the April 16, 2007 attack on Parliament, security measures were beefed up. Dar Addustour's report indicates that had the man not raised suspicion by his actions, he would have gotten closer to the Parliament. Alsumaria TV picks up that thread as well, quoting al-Nujaifi's spokesperson Aidan Helmi stating, "The suicide bomber tried to join Parliament Speaker's convoy but Green Zone's guards suspected him and stopped his car. The driver changed his direction and slammed into a high sidewalk before the explosion." Aswat al-Iraq adds, "Northern Iraq's Kurdistan Alliance has expressed surprise towards a booby-trapped car being snuck into west Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, calling for an investigation to uncover 'those responsible' among the security bodies inside the Green Zone, according to a statement made by the Alliance and received by Aswat al-Iraq news agency on Tuesday."
Why would Nouri need the sympathy "aaaahhhh" of "He was almost assassinated!"? Because of a development that AFP, Reuters and AP don't seem at all interested in.
Al Mada reports Nouri al-Maliki's legal advisor Fadhil Mohammad Jawad is informing the press that there is no law barring Nouri from a third term as prime minister. Remember in January, as protests began in Iraq, there were complaints about the do-nothing government, about how elections had taken place (March 7, 2010) and nothing had changed -- the prime minister was the same, the president was the same, even the two vice presidents were them same (at that point, there were two vice presidents, shortly afterwards, there would be three until one resigned in July)? This happened despite the fact that Nouri's political slate, State of Law, came in second in the elections, Iraqiya, headed by Ayad Allawi, came in first. By the end of February, Iraq no longer saw scattered protests around the country but major protests throughout Iraq and the people were demanding a functioning and a responsive government (and jobs and that justice system be reformed and other things).
In this climate, as regimes in the MidEast were either falling, thought to be about to fall or trembling, Nouri attempted to garner support and made a string of announcements, ones that the press ran with as gospel. He claimed salaries would be cut, for example. And then he made his really big claim. For those who've forgotten, we're dropping back to the February 7th snapshot:
Of course no one does easy, meaningless words like Nouri. Saturday, his words included the announcement that he wouldn't seek a third term. His spokesperson discussed the 'decision' and Nouri himself announced the decision to Sammy Ketz of AFP in an interview. Ketz reported him stating he won't seek a third term, that 8 years is enough and that he supports a measure to the Constitution limiting prime ministers to two terms. Well Jalal Talabani declared he wouldn't seek a second term as President of Iraq in an interview and then . . . took a second term. Point, if you're speaking to a single journalist, it really doesn't seem to matter what you say. Did Nouri announce his decision to the people? No, Iraqhurr.org is quite clear that an advisor made an announcement and that Malliki made no "public statement" today. In other words, a statement in an interview is the US political equivalent of "I have no plans to run for the presidency" uttered more than two years before a presidential election. That's Iraqi politicians in general. Nouri? This is the man who's never kept a promise and who is still denying the existence of secret prisons in Iraq. Deyaar Bamami (Iraqhurr.org) notes the Human Rights Watch report on the secret prisons and that they are run by forces Nouri commands.
And Nouri couldn't even make it 24 hours with his latest 'big promise.' Sunday, Ben Lando and Munaf Ammar (Wall St. Journal) reported that Nouri's spokesperson, Ali al-Mousawi, declared today, "We would like to correct this article. Maliki said, 'I think that the period of eight years is adequate for the application of a successful program to the prime minister, and if he is not successful, he must vacate his place'." Of course he's not announcing that. He's a thug. His previous four year term was an utter failure. That's not speculation, that's not opinion. He agreed to the benchmarks that the White House set. He was supposed to achieve those in 2007. Those benchmarks, supposedly, were what would determine whether or not the US tax payer continued to foot the bill for the illegal war. But he didn't meet those benchmarks and apologists rushed forward to pretend like they weren't a year long thing and that, in fact, he had 2008 as well. Well 2008 came and went and the benchmarks were still not met. Nor were they in 2009. Nor were they in his last year in 2010. That's failure. When you agree you will meet certain things -- such as resolving the Kirkuk issue -- and you do not, you are a failure. Not only did he fail at the benchmarks, he failed in providing Iraqis with basic services. He failed in providing them with security. There is no grading system by which Nouri can be seen as a success. But just as he will not admit to or own his failures from his first term as prime minister, do not expect to own or admit to his failures in his second term. In other words, Little Saddam wants to be around, and heading the Iraqi government, for a long, long time.
Credit to the Wall St. Journal and Lando and Ammar; however, even when they reported Nouri was going back on his word, the US press continued to breathlessly repeat 'Nouri al-Maliki, for the good of Iraq, will not seek a third term! He's putting the needs of the country first!'
In today's reported violence, Reuters notes 2 Tuz Khurmato roadside bombings claimed the life of 1 police officer and left four more injured and an attack last night on a Shirqat Sahwa checkpoint resulted in 3 Sahwa being killed and two more injured. Aswat al-Iraq reports a Sharta bombing left three people injured.
Earlier this week, Al Sabaah reported that the Iraqi Parliament's Security and Defense Committee has declared it was close to making an agreement which will put NATO forces on the ground in Iraq, according to a statement read by the Security and Defense Committee Chair Hassan Sinead. Sinead states it will be a one-year agreement and that it can be renewed. Yesterday AP reported that the issue of immunity was causing problems in the negotiations. Today Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) reports:
Here we go again. Only months after the United States and Iraq failed to come to an agreement on a post-2011 troop presence, NATO is now scrambling to negotiate an extension of its own training mission in Iraq, and the prospects don't look good.
"Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has repeatedly asked NATO to stay," Ivo Daalder, the U.S. Ambassador to NATO, said at a Friday morning breakfast meeting of the Defense Writers Group, an organization that brings reporters together with senior officials to discuss world affairs over greasy eggs and bacon.
"We are trying to make that desire for the NATO training mission to stay a reality," said Daalder, explaining that intense negotiations are underway but that, without an agreement by Dec. 31, all NATO trainers will have to leave Iraq.
Meanwhile Al Rafidayn reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani stated Wednesday that the US reposturing in Iraq may mean that the unresolved issue of Kirkuk remains undecided for a longer length of time. He vowed that the KRG will continue to call for a vote on the issue of Kirkuk. Per the Constitution (Article 140), the issue was supposed to have already been resolved. The 2005 Constitution explained that a census would be taken and then a referendum would be held. It was expected that the next prime minister (selected after the December 2005 elections) would oversee this since Article 140 mandated that these steps be taken no later than the end oof 2007. Nouri al-Maliki was installed in the spring of 2006 after the US rejected the Iraqi poltiical blocs' choice. Throughout his first term, Nouri ignored the Constitution. In 2010, during the long political stalemate, a desperate to hold onto the position of prime minister Nouri, swore the census would take place in December. In November he was named prime minister-designate. Weeks later, he called off the census. And we'll close with this from the Great Iraqi Revolution:
Iraqi community in America have organized a demonstration on the day of the visit of the Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki to the U.S. . The demonstration will be held in December 12th 2011 at 10 am in front of the White House.. Please support us in this demonstration against the crimes of Al-Maliki regime in Iraq..