Tuesday, July 5, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, already July has seen 88 violent deaths, Nouri continues his Diyala Province crackdown, the Iraqi Communist Party leadership rushes to demonstrate why they've been ineffective for so many years, a mother wants the UK government to answer to the circumstances of her son's death, and more.
Yesterday, Alsumaria reported that Nouri has ordered raids and arrests in Diyala Province. Baquba is the capital and it borders Iran in the north. It is predominately Sunni with a signficiant number of Shi'ites Kurds and Turkmen. "Home to every major sect and ethnicity of Iraq," the Institute for the Study of War has noted. The organization also noted:
Shia and Kurdish power blocs saw the organization of the Sunnis into legitimized security forces in Diyala as a threat to their strategic interests within a critical province. In response to the IIPs growing power, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki created the Diyala Support Council (DSC) in mid-2007 in an attempt to influence Diyala from Baghdad. Further, Maliki employed the ISF to reduce the strength of Sunni power bloc in Diyala by arresting hundreds of Sunni fighters and ejecting Popular Committee leaders from their offices. Lastly, in February of 2008, Prime Minister Maliki won the approval of the Government of Iraq to form Tribal Support Councils (TSC) throughout Iraq. The Diyala TSCs allowed Maliki to check growing Sunni influence within the province and play one Sunni group off another, effectively preventing the Sunnis from creating a single, consolidated political bloc.
With at least 13 arrested in Diyala Wednesday and security sources telling Alsumaria that 20 more have been arrested in Diyala already this month, chances are the arrests will be seen as part of Nouri al-Maliki's continued attack on Iraq's Sunni population. Today, Bryar Mohammed (AK News) reports Iraqiya's Suhad al-Hayali is stating that police are stating, "You are Sunnis and are behind the terrorist attacks. The Security forces coming from Baghdad to Baquba attack people in violation of the human rights and speak sectarian slogans and remarks."
In addition, Iraq's Journalists Freedom Observatory noted yesterday that when journalists attempted to cover Minister of Electricity Abdul Karim Aftan's appearance at the opening of a new power plant in Baghdad July 2nd (Monday) they witnessed the minister's security guards begin beating people -- including journalists -- to clear a route for the minister's departure.
But just as Iraqi politics heats up, the United States is rapidly losing its ability to decipher events in the country. "Half of our situational awareness is gone," an unnamed U.S. official told the Wall Street Journal in June. "More than half," a serving U.S. military officer told me when I asked about the accuracy of that statement.
To Iraq experts, these statements ring true: At the height of the "surge," the United States collected fine-grain data from the 166,000 U.S. troops and 700 CIA personnel in Iraq, as well as a network of 31 Provincial Reconstruction Teams. Now, U.S. embassy staff enjoy very limited freedom of movement -- hemmed in by a suspicious government in Baghdad and a still-dangerous security situation. According to the Journal, the CIA station in Iraq may be reduced to 40 percent of its peak levels because the Iraqi government is extremely sensitive about its intelligence work with the Iraqi security forces.
The concerns come at a time when the US government continues to spend massive amounts of taxpayer money in Iraq despite the decreased US oversight. Joshua Altman (The Hill -- link has text and video) reports US House Rep Jason Chaffetz was on CNN's Situation Room with Wolf Blitzter Tuesday and declared, "The degree in which our assets are being treated in very troublesome. There's some 50 billion dollars worth of projects that the American taxpayers have footed ... yet when we try to go through checkpoints and try to travel through the country and do other types of things we're having a very difficult time."
Chair Jason Chaffetz: The State Dept has greatly expanded its footprint in Iraq. There are approximately 2,000 direct-hire personnel and 14,000 support contractors -- roughly a seven-to-one ratio. This includes 7,000 private security contractors to guard our facilities and move personnel throughout Iraq. Leading up to the withdrawal, the State Dept's mission seemed clear. Ambassador Patrick Kennedy testified that the diplomatic mission was "designed to maximize influence in key locations." And later said, "State will continue the police development programs moving beyond basic policing skills to provide police forces with the capabilities to uphold the rule of law. The Office of Security Cooperation will help close gaps in Iraq's security forces capabilities through security assistance and cooperation." This is an unprecedented mission for the State Dept. Nonetheless, our diplomatic corps has functioned without the protections of a typical host nation. It's also carried on without troop support that many believed it would have. As a result, the Embassy spends roughly 93% of its budget on security alone. Without a doubt, this is an enormously complex and difficult mission. Six months into the transition, the Congress must assess whether the administration is accomplishing its mission? While the State Dept has made progress, it appears to be facing difficult challenges in a number of areas. The Oversight Committee has offered some criticism based on their testimony today. Including the Government Accountability Office noting that the State and Defense Dept's security capabilities are not finalized. The Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction states that, "Thousands of projects completed by the United States and transferred to the government of Iraq will not be sustained and thus will fail to meet their intended purposes." The Defense Dept's Inspector General's Office explains that the lack of Status of Forces Agreement has impacted land use agreements, force protection, passport visa requirements, air and ground movement and our foreign military sales program. And the US AID Inspector General's office testifies, "According to US AID mission, the security situation has hampered its ability to monitor programs. Mission personnel are only occassionally able to travel to the field for site visits." Embassy personnel have also told Committee staff that the United States government has difficulty registering its vehicles with the Iraqi government and Iraqis have stood up checkpoints along supply lines. According to one embassy official, the team must dispatch a liason to "have tea and figure out how we're going to get our trucks through." These are just some of the challenges the State Dept is facing in Iraq today. Perhaps as a result of these conditions, Mission Iraq appears to be evolving. In an effort to be more efficient, the State Dept is evaluating its footprint, reducing personnel and identifying possible reductions. This rapid change in strategy, however, raises a number of questions. Are we on the right track? Are we redefining the mission? What should we expect in the coming months? And, in hindsight, was this a well managed withdrawal?
The Subcommittee heard about it being impossible for Americans to check on the various costly projects the US taxpayers continue paying for (so there is no direct US supervision) and that there was a failure to get lease agreements so that most of the facilities could be lost. (Only 5 of 14 have land lease agreements, as the US Government Accountability Office's Michael Courts testified.)) This matters because? It matters because of the money the US government is spending -- taxpayer money -- in Iraq. US House Rep Blake Farenthold conveyed his displeasure to the State Dept's Patrick Kennedy over the fact that the Police College Annex in Baghdad was a US facility that cost US taxpayers "more than $100 million in improvements to the site" only to "be turned over to Iraq for free" as a result of the US not securing a land lease. And don't forget that last week, Walter Pincus (Washington Post via Stars and Stripes) reported, "The State Department is planning to spend as much as $115 million to upgrade the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad, already its biggest and most expensive in the world, according to pre-solicitation notices published this month. Remember, it has been 3 1/2 years since American diplomats moved into the 104-acre, $700 million facility and only four months after State Department officials in February talked about trying to cut back the U.S. presence there."
US officials had no trouble visiting the KRG today. All Iraqi News reports they met with KRG President Massoud Barzani and discussed the ongoing political crisis as well as the US relationship with the KRG. The article notes that Barzani also attended the July 4th celebration held by the US Consulate in Erbil and spoke there with remarks which included a reminder to the "US leadership" of the obligations they have to the Kurds as a result of promises and he noted the Kurds aren't a threat to unity, that the Kurds support unity and freedom and that they do not and will not support a dictatorship. The article gets the titles wrong of the two US officials. One is Alex Laskaris is the Counsul General for the Erbil consulate and he is expected to leave shortly (US President Barack Obama has nominated Laskaris to be the US Ambassador to Guinea). The other official is Robert Stephen Beecroft who is the Charge d'affaires and running the US mission in Iraq since the US Ambassador James Jeffrey stepped down from his post last month. If you click here (KRG official government website), you can see a photo of President Massoud Barzani receiving the US officials. At a time when the US government has less and less eyes in Iraq, it's worth nothing that among the 'missing' eyes is a US Ambassador to Iraq. Laura Rozen scooped everyone (by weeks) with the news that Brett McGurk would be Barack Obama's third nominee for the post. Unlike the other two (Jeffrey and, before him, Chris Hill), McGurk did not make it through the confirmation process. Last week at Al-Monitor, Laura Rozen shared:
In the wake of Obama's nominee for Iraq ambassador withdrawing his name from consideration last week after an unusually bruising ordeal, it's a fair bet the Obama administration is inclined to go with a safe, more easily confirm-able pick for its next nominee for the post.
Washington Iraq experts say they expect the new nominee to be announced in the next couple weeks, and have offered a somewhat lengthy list of diplomats they have heard are in the mix for the post overseeing the largest US embassy in the world.
She goes on to note the names she's hearing for the post including Robert Stephen Beecroft, Stuart Jones (US Ambassador to Jordan) and Robert Ford (former US Ambassador to Syria). As with Barack's previous three nominees for US Ambassador to Iraq -- and all the ones under Bush -- they're all male.
"If the issue is collecting signatures, we can now collect enough. But when it comes to voting, I don't know who will vote in favor of the case or not. Therefore, until the actual voting takes place, we won't have a clear view on the issue," Hussein added.
Abdul Sattar Bayati, a senior official from Sadr's faction in Iraqi Parliament, confirms their stance on the issue, saying they have not given up on the attempt to unseat Maliki.
"Maliki must be removed from office. Whenever 124 votes in favor of withdrawing confidence are collected, we will add the other 40 votes needed. His Excellency Muqtada Sadr has already said this." Bayati said.
The campaign to oust current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki from his job by having a majority in Parliament vote him out seems to have failed. But the campaign against al-Maliki continues.
Currently the alliance of political parties ranged against him - the Iraqiya Bloc, headed by former Prime Minister Ayed Allawi, the Kurdish politicians and the Sadrist bloc - are working on a second plan and that is to bring al-Maliki before Parliament for questioning about legal and constitutional violations. If they succeed Parliament could then dismiss their Prime Minister. According to local analysts though, this process could take months.
And it seems that al-Maliki is now responding to attempts to oust him with some serious moves of his own. He has threatened early elections and now says he will also work on some political reforms.
"Those calling for a withdrawal of confidence have retreated," MP Ali al-Shalalah, who belongs to al-Maliki's State of Law bloc, says. "Recently there have more calls to start a dialogue with al-Maliki instead. This option is seen as more relevant."
Especially because al-Maliki announced that his political alliance was creating a committee to reform the political process in Iraq. This week senior politician Ibrahim al-Jaafari announced that a special committee had been formed to review differences between the political blocs in Iraq and look at problems related to legislative, executive and judicial authorities.
Dar Addustour reports that he's declaring all these grand accomplishments that the Reform Commission will be responsible for including the appointment of a Minister of Defense and a Minister of Interior. Maybe that will happen, maybe it won't. Probably not a good idea to be promising it will or to declare that the Reform Commission is a replacement to the no-confidence vote on Nouri. al-Jaafari was never part of that movement and can't speak for it with any degree of accuracy.
But some people appear to be buying it. (The opinion on Moqtada al-Sadr currently in diplomatic circles -- US and France -- is that he's taking a leadership role that will assist him in two years. He is portraying himself -- and this may be genuine but it is the image he's trying to convey -- as someone more interested in Iraq than in any individuals or parties. Should a vote of no-confidence take place in the Parliament, the expected outcome is that Moqtada would slide his forty seats over if they would allow for the no-confidence outcome.)
Remember when Judy Collins sang "Of the sons of the ass licking dying regime" ("Marat/Sade")? Is there a better description of the Iraqi Communist Party? Despite one alrm sounded after another over and over about how Nouri's doing this to them or that to their headquarters, they can't stop slobbering over Nouri. Today they announced their love for the Reform Commission and met with Nouri. No wonder they never got anywhere in Iraq. And they won't get anywhere until their leaders stop rushing to side with power at the expense of the people. "Sons of the ass licking dying regime," indeed.
First off, Nouri al-Maliki is not bound to any of the decisions (or, more aptly worded, "recommendations") the Reform Commission makes. Second, concessions were already promised even if the Iraqi Communist Party chooses to be willfully ignorant of that fact.
In March 2010, Iraq held parliamentary elections. Nouri's State of Law came in second. Iraqiya came in first. Per the Constitution, Iraqiya should have had first crack at forming a government. Nouri refused to let that happen. For eight months he refused. He got away with it because he had Barack Obama's backing. Then the US further subverted democracy and the will of the people by approaching the leaders of the political blocs and insisting that the only way to end the Political Stalemate was for them to agree to let Nouri have a second term as prime minister and that, in exchange, Nouri would make concessions. Nouri's word was dirt as a result of his first term. What made what the US government was proposing believable was the fact that US officials swore this would be a legal, binding contract and that the US would back it and ensure it was carried out.
In November 2010, the political blocs signed on to the Erbil Agreement. Nouri used it to get his second term as prime minister.
He tossed the contract. And the US played dumb by first insisting that Nouri would get around to it, give him a month or two; then they'd play like they never heard of the contract that they, in fact, drew up. (Some say "wrote.")
Those concessions were not honored. Nouri stabbed everyone in the back. Now maybe this time he won't do it. But there's no indication that he's going to honor his word this time and at least you'd expect alleged independent radicals like the Communist Party to stop slobbering in public and provide a little reality.
Such as the many violations of the Constitution resulting from Nouri currently. We're not just talking about his refusal to follow the Constitution and implement Article 140 (he was supposed to do so in his first term but refused then too). We're also talking about his refusing to appear before Parliament for questioning. That's not really an option he has, per the Constitution.
We haven't covered this but, as usual, State of Law tries to distract. So they've got a 'movement' to question Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi who they have spread rumors about (specifically he allegedly has millions -- over 20 million dollars -- and they want to know where it came from). That they want to distract with. And they may succeed. Nouri has a lot of enablers in the press and certainly in the United States. But you really don't expect to see the always screaming-their-heads-off-about-what-Nouri-just-did-to-them Communist Party rush to prop up Nouri. This is truly a very sad moment but it does explain why the Communist Party is and has been meaningless in Iraqi politics. 'They opposed Saddam Hussein!' Yes, they did. With the same sort of weak-spined opposition they've offered Nouri. They apparently exist solely to mislead the Iraqi people into believing there is a token of opposition in the country.
They're about as real as the CIA-created and backed Gorran Party ("Change") in the KRG. Press TV reports, "The general coordiantor of the Kurdistan Region's Movement for Change opposition party met with Iranian officials this week to discuss the ongoing political disputes between Iraq and the Kurdistan Region. For the first time, Nawshirwan Mustafa met with Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, parliament speaker Ali Larijani and Saeed Jalili, head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council." If they weren't gathering data, the CIA sure wasted a lot of taxpayer money funding and 'developing' them.
It is with very deep regret that the Ministry of Defence has to confirm that Corporal Paul Graham Long was killed in action in southern Iraq on 24 June 2003 whilst serving with 156 Provost Company, Royal Military Police.
Aged 24, he came from Colchester in Essex. Born in Portsmouth, Paul Long attended Blackmoor CofE Primary School and All Hallows RC Comprehensive in Aldershot, before moving to South Shields where he attended Hebburn College. He joined the Regular Army in April 1999, having served two years with the Territorial Army, and was posted to 156 Provost Company in March 2000. A member of the Parachute Provost Platoon, he was a qualified radio operator. This was his first operational deployment. Paul was a dedicated soldier who loved his work. His mother Patricia Long, supported by her other two children and other family members, said that, "the Army was his life." A requiem was held at a Roman Catholic church in South Shields on 4 July, after which his brother and sister, Byron and Maria, paid the following tribute:
"Our brother, Paul Graham Long, known affectionately by all his family, friends and Army colleagues as Paul, joined the Royal Military Police in 1999. He wanted only to help others less fortunate than himself. "Paul leaves behind a loving wife Gemma and a baby son of 11 months, Benjamin David, and our devoted mother Patricia. "We would really appreciate it if there were no further visits from the press and other media, so that we can be left to mourn Paul in peace. Paul, who was loved dearly and will be sadly missed, died doing what he did best: helping others. "Our hearts and prayers go out to the families and friends of all the Royal Military Police killed in Iraq."
The media are asked to respect the family's privacy at this very difficult time.
The Jarrow & Hebburn Gazette reports Pat Long, Paul Long's mother, is petitioning the court "for a fresh independent inquiry into her son's death "by a mob of Iraqis at a police station in Majar-al-Kabir." The British troops had "little ammunition" and an out of date radio/walkie talkie that "was completely useless in a built-up area and could only be used in open fileds." ITV explains the Secretary of Defence Philip Hammond has thus far refused to grant a fresh inquest and so Pat Long has taken the issue to the High Court.