July 9, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Camp Ashraf is back in the news, Kurds export crude oil to Turkey, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi weighs in on provincial elections, and more.
I'd wrongly thought Tom Hayden would be wearing the dunce cap in today's snapshot. Though he made a fool of himself, ABC News surpassed him. Matt Negrin may have written the article (I was told he did but only by one friend at ABC News so we'll say "may have"). Whomever wrote it needs to be tested for drugs and have their resume checked. The piece is entitled, "The Troops in Iraq: Sent Home, as Promised."
You really have to wonder about these whores for government who write this crap with no concern for the families of the Marines or Special-Ops and others still in Iraq. You really have to wonder. And today it's not just me explaining that's b.s. and the various people who e-mail the public e-mail account about their loved ones still being in Iraq.
No. Today it's Rita Cook (Waxahachie Daily Light) reporting on Tim Vansyckle just returning home to Ovilla, Texas from Iraq and the joy his parents Bill and Martha Vansyckle has this weekend when they and other "family and friends gathered to cut the [yellow] ribbon on a tree that Bill says has grown during the year his son has been serving his country overseas." From Cook's report:
This past year was his second time in Iraq and he explains that his brigade was always there, despite the President's announcement the war in Iraq was over and U.S. troops would be returning home.
"There were a lot of reports that every soldier left or that the last of 1st Cavalry had left," he says. "It was pretty weird seeing stories about us being home for good when we were literally walking around Iraq."
It is beyond "whorish" to lie the way the media repeatedly has, it is trashy and every other term to repeatedly say "all US troops came home." No, they damn well didn't. And even now, US troops are in Iraq.
Matt Negrin or whatever stupid moron ABC was idiot enough to hire concludes their fact-free fantasy with this:
In December, the last troops left, officially ending the American military presence in Iraq. However, while most of the troops returned to the United States in time for Christmas as Obama promised, about 4,000 troops in a brigade were reassigned to nearby Kuwait to complete a tour involving security and training, Stars and Stripes reported.
Today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee released [PDF format warning] "The Gulf Security Architecture: Partnership With The Gulf Co-Operation Council." On page v., Senator John Kerry, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, notes, "Home to more than half of the world's oil reserves and over a third of its natural gas, the stability of the Persian Gulf is critical to the global economy." Chair John Kerry has stated of the report, "The Gulf Region is strategically important to the United States economically, politically, and for security reasons. This is a period of historic, but turbulent change in the Middle East. We need to be clear-eyed about what these interests are and how best to promote them. This report provides a thoughtful set of recommendations designed to do exactly that."
The report may well map out that for many. That's not what stood out to me. The takeaway for me is US troops remain in the region, right next to Iraq in Kuwait and the Committee's recommendation is that they remain present. (For those who don't want to read the report in full or operating systems are not PDF friendly, click here for the Committee's one page explanation of the report.)
[. . .]
Further into the report, we get the point AP' was emphasizing this morning. AP: "The United States is planning a significant military presence of 13,500 troops in Kuwait to give it the flexibility to respond to sudden conflicts in the region as Iraq adjusts to the withdrawal of American combat forces and the world nervously eyes Iran, according to a congressional report." Page nine of the report:
A residual American military presence in the Gulf and increased burden-sharing with GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] states are fundamental components of such a framework. However, the United States must also carefully shape its military footprint to protect the free-flow of critical natural resources and promote regional stability while not creating a popular backlash.
Kuwait is especially keen to maintain a significant U.S. military presence. In fact, the Kuwaiti public perception of the United States is more positive than any other Gulf country, dating back to the U.S.-led liberation of Kuwait in 1991. Kuwait paid over $16 billion to compensate coalition efforts for costs incurred during Desert Shield and Desert Storm and $350 million for Operation Southern Watch. In 2004, the Bush Administration designated Kuwait a major non-NATO ally.
* U.S. Military Presence: A U.S.-Kuwaiti defense agreement signed in 1991 and extended in 2001 provides a framework that guards the legal rights of American troops and promotes military cooperation. When U.S. troops departed Iraq at the end of 2011, Kuwait welcomed a more enduring American footprint. Currently, there are approximately 15,000 U.S. forces in Kuwait, but the number is likely to decrease to 13,500. Kuwaiti bases such as Camp Arifjan, Ali Al Salem Air Field, and Camp Buehring offer the United States major staging hubs, training rages, and logistical support for regional operations. U.S. forces also operate Patriot missile batteries in Kuwait, which are vital to theater missile defense.
Get it? ABC News doesn't seem to. And Kuwait's not the only US military staging area surrounding Iraq. ABC News has turned in campaigning, they haven't turned in reporting. That 'report' is misleading at best and the network should be embarrassed to have posted it regardless of who wrote it. I don't know what's more shocking, that someone was paid to write that garbage or that a professional news outlet posted it.
Uh, LaRouche Zombie, what was Iraq's deadliest month?
The United Nations counts over 400 dead in the month of June. Are you aware of that? Apparently not and aren't we all lucky that you and The Nation decided to advertise your disinterest in All Things Iraq yet again. He agrees that violence is a problem and that there's a political crisis. This is his conclusion:
And here's what the Obama administration ought to do about violence in Iraq: Nothing.
You have to marvel over the intellectual decay at The Nation.
The Obama administration ought to do nothing?
I guess in LaRouche Land there is only dualities and no complexities. I thought The Nation -- the country's oldest opinion journal -- had a little bit more on the ball than that.
What should the administration do? There are a host of things they should immediately be doing. We'll throw out two.
1) The F-16 deal is off. The Iraqi press in the last two weeks has been reporting that Nouri actually wants more F-16s than the deal calls for. And, of course, they've also reported that US Vice President Joe Biden called him and told him that the ExxonMobil deal needs to go through or the F-16 deal is off.
If the US government can threaten to pull the F-16 deal to help our a multi-national corporation, it can damn well use it as leverage with regards to the ongoing political crisis.
2) Then there is the UN issue of Chapter VII. Though little reported in the US press, Chapter VII is a big deal in Iraq and each year they plead with the UN to remove them from it. Each year they just know it will happen but it hasn't so far. The US government can ensure that it doesn't and should be doing that right now.
There are a host of things that the US government can do to influence the political crisis and the violence. And the two are related, which Dreyfuss probably doesn't grasp either. The US could pressure Nouri to follow the Erbil Agreement -- that alone would immediately effect life in Iraq.
How screwed up is The Nation magazine today that they publish an article that claims the US should do nothing? I guess I shouldn't be surprised, they've never once written a single article during any of the waves of attacks on Iraq's LGBT community. But the reality is that there a ton of things the US government can do besides declare war or send soldiers. How awful that The Nation now sees the US government's only power as whether or not to declare war -- how awful and how telling.
Violence continued in Iraq today. AFP reports 2 Sahwa were shot dead in Samarra and a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Brigadier General while leaving one major general and three bystanders injured. Alsumaria reports a Diyala Province sticky bombing injured one person while a roadside bombing in Diyala Province claimed 1 life and left another person injured. All Iraqi News reports two bodies were pulled out of the Eurphrates in Dhi Qar province while police in Nasiriyah prevented an elderly man from taking his own life. IANS notes, "At least one person was killed and nine wounded in separate bomb attacks in Iraq's Kirkuk province Sunday, Xinhua reported." On the topic of violence, Al Mada reports that independent MP Hassan al-Alawi has noted Iraq is now Shi'ite-led -- civilian, military, government -- and he wonders what does it say with the daily bloodshed of Shi'ite blood and when the Shi'ite regime is unable to protect the Shi'ites, how will it be able to protect any of the other communities?
As Nouri and company continue to flounder and flail with regards to security, Alsumaria reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani announced today the formation of the National Security Council of Kurdistan which will work to protect the people in the Kurdistan Regional Government and their property. Barzani hailed it as a major step in serving the people of Kurdistan. Space permitting, we'll note the KRG in today's snapshot. There's news out of the KRG in regards to a recent Congressional hearing we covered here. The National Security Council of Kurdistan had just been announced when, Alsumaria reports, Nouri's State of Law began attacking it. MP Mohammed Chihod insists that the creation of the body is an abuse of the Constitution and that the KRG is attempting to play a dual role. I'm sure the residents of Iraq would love it if Nouri could play any role in nominating people to head the security ministries. He was supposed to have done that in 2010. It's 2012. Is he just stupid or incompetent? Possibly both but what he's been attempting is a power grab.
At Moqtada's website, MP Bahaa al-Araji calls out the paper the Reform Commission is currently floating and states that they have already made proposals -- the Sadr bloc, Iraqiya and the Kurds jointly -- in Erbil and Najaf. Al Mada reports that the KRG's Parliament stated yesterday that the ExxonMobil deal remains part of the conflict between Erbil and Baghdad and that this is the main part of their move to withdraw confidence in Nouri -- his refusal to follow the law.
Tomorrow, Dar Addustour reports, the Parliament is set to resume session and will be looking at a number of bills including one on telecommunications. Adnan Hussein (Rudaw) reports, "A number of lawmakers have forwarded a draft law to the speaker of Iraqi Parliament regarding the Kurdish language in education system. A lack of teachers specializing in the Kurdish language to fill position in more than 21,000 schools is the main obstacle to implementing the law. The draft law, which stipulates that the Kurdish language be studied from the fourth grade through college in all of Iraq, has been signed by 30 MPs." The Speaker of Parliament is Osama al-Nujaifi and All Iraqi News notes al-Nujaifi states that the election date for provincial elections early next year must be respected and that the Independent High Electoral Commission needs to have the new appointments and that women and other minorities need to be represented in the body. He discussed these issues today with the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy in Iraq Martin Kobler. KUNA adds, "A statement by the Speaker office said that Al-Nujaifi expressed pleasure for the keeness of the UN representative to engage in the formation process, noting on the ongoing discussion inside experts committee members concerning a collective meeting with all political parties involved."
On Friday, Moqtada al-Sadr gave a major, televised speech. The full text of the speech is up at Moqtada's website. We covered the bulk of it in Friday's snapshot but there are some other points to pick up on. It was a ten point speech. The most poetic portion of the speech was when he spoke of Iraq being a lovely moasic of Shias, Sunnis, Christians, Sabians, Alayazdihs, Torkomen, Failis, Shabaks, etc. and how this moasic was Iraq and needed to be protected and maintained with an air of democracy and a spirit of tolerance. The issue of Iraqi's finances was discussed in terms of looting by the government (needs to stop) and in terms of distributing this to the people. We noted the corruption issue on Friday -- he called for government corruption to be addressed via a vareity of forums including judicial and parliamentary committees and he added that the corrupt must be held accountable regardless of political bloc, ideology or ethnicity and that those government officials engaging in corruption should be put to death because this would be pleasing (to the people and to God) and because this would act as a deterrent to prevent others from engaging in corruption. On corruption, Omar Sattar (Al-Monitor) reported Saturday, "Iraq's Integrity Committee pledged to launch a full-scale investigation into major "corruption" cases involving the ministries of defense, interior and electricity and billions of dollars that were squandered from the public budget."
Of the ten points, only one received traction in the media and, even then, it was just one aspect of the third point. Saturday, Al Rafidayn reported on Moqtada's call for a law limiting the three presidencies (President of Iraq, Prime Minister of Iraq and Speaker of Iraq) to two terms. This call alarmed State of Law. Alsumaria reports State of Law MP Haitham al-Jubouri insisted this must be done by a Constitutional amendment and not by a law. Alsumaria notes that Kurdish MP Mohsan Saadoun insists that this is a measure that would be done by law, through Parliament. State of Law opposes the measure (it would mean this would be Nouri al-Maliki's final term as prime minister) and they insist on a Constitutional Amendment because that's much more difficult than passing a law in Parliament.
He couldn't provide security and he's refused to implement Article 140 of the Constitution, but, AKnews reports, Nouri al-Maliki has ordered a census, a country-wide census . . .
of animals. If they count jack asses, presumable, Nouri will be tallied in that category.
AMBASSADOR BENJAMIN: Yes. Thank you very much. I wanted to talk today a bit about the situation in Iraq, where there is an impasse between the Iraqi Government and the Mujahedin-e Khalq, the MEK, over the relocation of residents from the group's paramilitary Camp Ashraf to the temporary transit facility at Camp Hurriya. The Iraqi Government and the United Nations continue to encourage the secure, humane relocation of residents to Hurriya for refugee status determinations by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. Almost 2,000 individuals have already relocated, but the remaining 1,200 to 1,300 are holding at Ashraf until various MEK demands are met by the Iraqi Government. The last convoy of individuals, about 400 people, was on May 5th. And the patience of the Iraqi Government is wearing thin.
The MEK seems to have misinterpreted the June 1 order by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. MEK leaders appear to believe that the Secretary has no choice now but to delist them. That conclusion is quite plainly wrong. In short, the court did not order the Secretary of State to revoke the MEK designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. As the Secretary has made clear, the MEK's cooperation in the successful and peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf will be a key factor in her decision regarding the MEK's FTO status. The court has told the State Department that it must act by October 1, but it did not mandate a particular result. I think that's very important to underscore. The Secretary thus retains the discretion to either maintain or revoke the designation in accordance with the law. It is past time for the MEK to recognize that Ashraf is not going to remain an MEK base in Iraq. The Iraqi Government is committed to closing it, and any plan to wait out the government in the hope that something will change is irresponsible and dangerous.
The MEK is a group whose violent history against the United States includes the bombing of U.S. companies in Iran, the assassination of seven U.S. citizens, and the provision of support for the attack, occupation, and hostage-taking at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The MEK is also one of the few foreign groups to attempt an attack on U.S. soil when, in 1992, it launched near simultaneous attacks in 13 countries, including against the Iranian mission to the UN in New York. Even the MEK itself has admitted to continuing violent attacks until 2001.
With such a history, cooperating fully with the UN's efforts in Iraq would be a tangible demonstration that the MEK has left its violent past behind and that it no longer retains the capability and intent to engage in acts of terrorism. This is the MEK's moment to show that it has taken on a fundamentally different character. It should act quickly and complete the relocation and close Camp Ashraf.
Kindness has it limits so we stop there. What a bunch of collective idiots. The State Dept? No, the press or 'press.' The State Dept's intent is to distort and misdirect. That's what they do. The press is supposed to be interested in truth and, on every level, they failed at that repeatedly.
The times they failed are too numerous so we'll note only one example. CNN's Jill Dougherty wants to know, with Nouri's government saying the residents will be evicted after July 20th, what they can "legally" do if the residents are still at Camp Ashraf? And Daniel Fried opens with, "I'm not a lawyer at all, much less an expert on Iraqi law." The State Dept's Special Advisor on Camp Ashraf can't answer a basic legal question? And Jill Dougherty let him get away with that. How embarrassing. What a cowed media we have. On something as banal as a call-in, the media can't even do their job.
On July 6th, the State Dept's Special Advisor on Camp Ashraf has no clue what options are open in less than 14 days?
Jill Dougherty can at least assert that she did a better job in her reporting than she did in her questioning -- reading over the reports by her collegues, she's the only one who can make that claim. Why are the remaining residents (approximately 1,400 remain at Camp Ashraf, approximately 2,000 have already moved to Camp Liberty) refusing to go? These are there demands.
Transfer of 300 air conditioners from Ashraf to Liberty.
Transfer of all the power generators that are currently in Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty. If there is any dispute about the ownership of the generators, they can be resolved in the future, under supervision of UN.
Transfer of 25 trucks, containing the belongings left over from the fourth and fifth convoys, and six utility vehicles about which there had already been an agreement.
Transfer of five forklifts from Ashraf to Liberty for the purpose of moving the residents' belongings.
Transfer of three specially-designed vehicles and six specially-designed trailers for the disabled.
Transfer of 50 passenger cars from Ashraf to Liberty. It means one car for every 40 residents, which is absolutely necessary in the hot weather and for wounded and disabled residents.
Permission for construction, including the building of pavements, porches, canopies, ramps, special facilities for the disabled and green areas.
Connecting Liberty to Baghdad's water network. Alternatively, the residents should be permitted to hire Iraqi contractors to pump the water into Liberty from a nearby water canal and bringing their own water purification system from Ashraf.
Allowing merchants or bidders access to Ashraf to negotiate and buy the movable properties as soon as possible and to make advanced payment and start making partial payments to the residents before the resumption of the relocation of the next convoy.
Start of negotiations between the residents and their financial representatives and the Iraqi Government to sell the immovable assets and properties, or negotiations with third parties (Iraqi Government should provide permission) to sign the necessary agreements. Partial payments should be made before the relocation. At least 200 residents would remain at Ashraf to maintain and upkeep the properties until they are sold in their entirety.
I don't have a link for those ten, it's from a press release by The International Solidarity for Democratic Change in Iraq (press release sent to the public e-mail account for The Common Ills). From the same press release:
Making the delisting of the MeK conditional on relocation of the remaining residents of Ashraf to Liberty is in effect blackmailing the defenseless residents to give up their basic human rights and willingly go to a prison, ironically called Liberty, which could turn into a killing field for them. The PMOI must be delisted because there is no evidence to suggest otherwise. The safety and well-being of the Ashraf residents are much more important and must be given priority.
This is getting ridiculous and the Obama administration is looking inept. I'm not saying delist or don't delist the MEK here. I'm saying whether or not a group moves from point A to point B physically does not determine whether or not they're a terrorist. Saturday, AFP reported, "The United States on Friday again urged members of an exiled Iranian opposition group to leave their long-time base in Iraq, saying a move could facilitate their removal from a US terror blacklist." Regardless of your feelings on this issue and the residents, you should be offended that the US government -- and they're revealing this publicly -- assigns someone to the terrorist list or not on something other than whether or not the group is a terrorist. The US goverment is saying, 'Move to Camp Liberty and the group you belong to, MEK, can be taken off the terrorist list.'
The US government currently has 51 groups (counting the MEK) on their designated terrorist list. (If you've never seen the list, click here.) I'm sure others on the list -- say the Palestine Liberation Front -- would be happy to move a few miles to the east or west if it meant the US would take it off the terrorist list.
If the list has any meaning at all, any integrity, than whether the residents of Camp Ashraf stay at Ashraf or move to Camp Liberty should have no bearing on their designation as terrorist or not terrorist.
Everyone should be offended by the line the State Dept is taking. If the MEK is a terrorist organization (I have no idea if they are or not), then they need to be on the list. If they're not a terrorist organization, they need to be off it. Whether Camp Ashraf residents leave it or not should have no bearing on a terrorist designation by the US government.
In Friday's press conference, BBC's Bahman Kalbasi asked about the rumors of the Camp Ashraf residents being "involved with the assassination of scientists in Iran" as reported on NBC and Benjamin replied, "I can assure you that I have never said that they were involved in current assassinations in Iran. That was a story that ran, and I have no information to confirm that, so I certainly wouldn't have said it. What I have given you is the established record, and nothing more and nothing less." Camp Ashraf is not on the border with Iran. It is on the Tigris River, to the north of Baghdad. While Iraq's border patrol is lax, Iran's able to grab three US hikers but unable to protect their borders from Camp Ashraf residents running back and forth? Doesn't make a lot of sense.
But the reporters never made any sense at the press conference. They yammered away about the 'rights' of the government of Iraq. I'm sorry, did I go into a coma and miss the Amnesty International alert on Camp Ashraf residents mistreating the government of Iraq? I don't think I was in a coma. And as I remember it, it's Nouri's goons that have twice alarmed the world as they've attacked the residents of Camp Ashraf. Dropping back to the Feburary 23rd snapshot for the details the reporters 'forgot' in the press conference and in their write-ups -- and that does include Jill's write-up as well:
July 28, 2009Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike."April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place).Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observesthat "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."
If you're wondering, the 'protected persons' aspect didn't come up in the press conference or the write-ups. It's a one-sided kind of 'reporting.' They did make time to insist, in their write-ups, that advocates for Camp Ashraf had been paid to be advocates. That's a baseless lie and the press needs to drop it. If they were doing their job to begin with, they'd know damn well that the leadership on this issue isn't coming from 'former government officials' as the State Dept attempted to spin in Friday's conference.
November 15, 2011, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on Iraq. Appearing before the Committee was Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and the then-Chair of the Joint-Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsy. It was an important hearing and we covered it in several snapshot. The November 17th snapshot emphasized the Camp Ashraf remarks:
"The status of the residents at Camp Ashraf from the Iranian dissident group MEK remains unresolved," Senator Carl Levin declared Tuesday. "As the December 2011 deadline approaches, the administration needs to remain vigilant that the government of Iraq lives up to its commitments to provide for the safety of the Camp Ashraf residents until a resolution of their status can be reached. We need to make it clear to the government of Iraq that there cannot be a repeat of the deadly confrontation began last April by Iraqi security forces against Camp Ashraf residents."
He was speaking Tuesday morning at the Senate Armed Services Comittee hearing while delivering his opening remarks as Chair of the Committee. Senator John McCain is Ranking Member on the Committee. The first panel the Committee heard testimony from was composed of US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and the Chair of the Joint-Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsy. Camp Ashraf came up in Chair Levin's opening remarks and it came up later during the first panel.
Senator Lindsey Graham: Do you think -- do you think the people in Camp Ashraf, do you think they're going to get killed? What's going to happen to them?
General Martin Dempsey: The, uh, as you know, Senator, the State Department is leading an effort to ensure that -- work with the Iraqi government ---
Senator Lindsey Graham: Can you tell the people back here that the likelihood of their friends and family being killed has gone up greatly if there are no American forces up there policing the problem?
General Martin Dempsey: I won't say anything to those people because I'm not involved in the outcome.
Senator Lindsey Graham: Fair enough.
In what was now the second round, John McCain went on to laugh with Leon Panetta and to thank him for appearing before the Comittee and putting up with pointed questions. He brought up a request that Panetta had made to him and Senator Graham (formally, in a letter) and noted they were working on that issue (defense funding). We're not going to excerpt that but since so much was made of the first round of questioning between Panetta and McCain, we will note that both laughed with one another in an exchange in the second round. (The hysterical gossip corps portrayed McCain being testy as new or novel and may have left many with images of poor Leon struggling for the vapors. Neither person was harmed by the exchange in the first round nor appeared to hold a grudge or ill will towards the other.) Near the end of his second round, McCain did bring up the issue of Camp Ashraf.
Ranking Member John McCain: Could I just say finally on the Camp Ashraf issue, I know the Secretary of Defense -- I mean, Secretary of State is addressing this issue, but it is American troops that are protecting them now. I hope that you can give us some idea of what disposition is going to be because I think it's -- I think it's very clear that the lives of these people are at risk and I thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta: I appreciate that.
Chair Carl Levin: Well, just on that, to turn it into a question -- and, maybe, General, this needs to be addressed to you too -- what -- There's obviously a greater risk to folks there unless the Iraqis keep a commitment. What's going to be done to make sure, to the best of our ability, that they keep that committment and what about the question of removing them from the list of -- not them, the organization from the terrorist list?
General Martin Dempsey: Well, Senator --
Senator Carl Levin: We're all concerned about this --
General Martin Dempsey: And we share your concern. [General] Lloyd Austin shares your concern. And I know that Ambassador Jeffreys shares the concern and there is no -- we're not sparing any diplomatic effort to encourage the Iraqis to do what we think is right in this regard to ensure the protection of those folks in Camp Ashraf. But right now, actually, the Iraqi security forces guard Camp Ashraf with our advisory and assistance group with them. And so the concern, when we do leave that capacity, is a real one. And But I actually think we've got to put the pressure on the Iraqi government diplomatically to have the outcome that we think is correct.
Senator Carl Levin: Just assure them if you would that there's a real strong feeling around here that if they -- if they violate a committment to protect those people -- assuming that they're still there and that they haven't been removed from the terrorist list so that they can find other locations -- that if they violate that committment to us, that is going to have a severely negative impact on the relationship with the -- I think I can speak here -- the Congress although I'm reluctant to ever say this. I think there's a lot of concern in the Congress about it and this will, I believe, in my opinion, will severely negatively impact their relationship with the Congress. Let me leave it at that.
Secretary Leon Panetta: Senator, I want to assure you that Ambassador Jeffrey has made that point loud and clear, loud and clear the Iraqis.
Senator Carl Levin: Senator Lieberman?
Senator Joe Lieberman: Thanks, Mr. Chairman. And add my voice and I think you can speak for Congress members of both parties in both houses in expressing our concern about the safety of the people in Camp Ashraf.
Senators Carl Levin, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman. And, in fact, the full Senate Armed Services Committee. Know your facts or find something else to cover. If you're wondering why the above is not more widely known, that's because while we spent days reporting the hearing in snapshots, the press -- and Antiwar.com -- reduced the hearing to 'John McCain got testy with Leon Panetta!' They played Gossip Girl because reporting was too damn hard for them. It's like the recent Senate Foreign Affairs Committee report about the number of US servicemembers in Kuwait. That created a mini-stir last month but, point of fact, Senator Kay Hagan was raising that issue in the hearing.
On the subject of Congressional hearings, the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations held a hearing June 28th (we cover it in the June 29th snapshot). From the snapshot:
Acting Chair Blake Farenthold: I just have one more question so we'll just do a quick second round of questions. Ambassador Kennedy, you mentioned the Baghdad police college annex facility as one of the facilities. It's my understanding that the United States' taxpayers have invested more than $100 million in improvements on that site. It was intended to house the police department program -- a multi-billion dollar effort that's currently being downsized. And as a result of the State Dept's failure to secure land use rights the entire facility is being turned over to the Iraqis at no cost. The GAO reports Mission Iraq has land use agreements or leases for only 5 out of all of the sites that it operates. Can you say with confidence that those sites now operating without leases or agreements will not be turned over to Iraq for free as was the case with the police development program? And what would the cost to the US taxpayer be if they were to lose without compensation all of those facilities?
[State Dept] Patrick Kennedy: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. First of all, the statement that has been -- that you were reading from about we are closing the Baghdad police development center because of a failure to have land use rights is simply factually incorrect. We have a land use agreement for that site. As part of the program -- the police development program -- there are periodic reviews that are underway and my colleagues who do that -- it's not part of my general responsibility on the operating side of the house -- engage in reviews on a six month basis both internally and with the government of Iraq. It was always our plan to make adjustments to the police development program over time. But the statement that somehow we have wasted or had everything pulled out from under us because of lack of a land use agreement is very simply false. For our other properties in Iraq we have -- we have agreements for every single property we have in Iraq except for one which is our interim facility in -- in Basra which is simply a reincarnation of a former US military there. But even in that regard we have a longterm agreement that was signed with the government of Iraq by Ambassador Negroponte in 2005 in which we swapped properties with the government of Iraq and they are committed to provide us with a ten acre facility in-in Basra of our mutal choosing. And so we are covered, sir.
He said it. Too bad it wasn't accurate or, for that matter, truthful. We'll jump over to the second panel.
Acting Chair Blake Farenthold: Mr. Courts, Ambassador Kennedy and I got into a discussion about the absence of or presence of land use agreements for the facilities we have in Iraq do you have the current status for that information from your latest report as to what facilities we do and do not have land use agreements for?
[Government Accountability Office] Michael Courts: What Ambassador Kennedy may have been referring to that for 13 of the 14 facilities the Iraqis have acknowledged a presence through diplomatic notes. But there's still only 5 of the 14 for which we actually have explicit title land use agreements or leases.
Acting Chair Blake Farenthold: Alright so I'm not -- I'm not a diplomat. So what does that mean? They say, "Oh, you can use it until we change our minds" -- is that basically what those are? Or is there some force of law to those notes?
Michael Courts: Well the notes are definitely not the same thing as having an explicit agreement. And as a matter of fact, there's already been one case where the Iraqis required us to reconfigure, downsize one of our sites. And that was at one of the sites where we did not have a land use agreement and so obviously we're in a much more vulnerable position when there's not an explicit agreement.
The Kurdistan Regional Government really wasn't the concern there. But Sunday the KRG announced that Foreign Relations Minister Falah Mustafa met with outgoing US Consul General Alexander Laskaris: "As his last official act in the Region, prior to the meeting Consul General Laskaris signed an agreement regarding the allocation of land for the permanent premises of the US Consulate to be built on. Commenting on this agreement, Mr Laskaris said, 'We thank the government of Kurdistan for allocating this land as part of enhancing our permanent diplomatic presence in Iraq including Baghdad, Basra and Erbil. We look forward to breaking ground and thank the leadership of the KRG for their continuing support and partnership'."
On the subject of the KRG, AFP reports, "Iraqi Kurdistan has begun sending oil produced in its three-province autonomous region out of the country without the express permission of the central government, an official said on Sunday." Hassan Hafidh (Dow Jones) notes, Iraq's government Monday said crude-oil exports from the semi-autonomous northern region of Kurdistan to neighboring Turkey are 'illegal' and threatened to take 'appropriate action,' in a continuation of recent of tensions between the two." Turkey's Minister of Energey Taner Yildiz tells Hurriyet Daily News, "The main issue here is the fact that both the Iraqi central government and the Iraqi Kurdish regional administration need these revenues. Thus, we are conducting operations [with Baghdad and Arbil] similar to those we conduct with all neighboring countries in order to meet these demands. There is not any violation of the law." And if it's anything like the ExxonMobil deal, it will be no clearer months from now.