Friday, July 27, 2012. Chaos and
violence continue, the US has wasted over 20 billion tax payer dollars on
training Iraq security forces, as they refuse to address that the press and
pundits push and push for more war, Hilton Worldwide's building a hotel in Iraq,
Hilton Worldwide today announced expansion plans in Iraqi
Kurdistan, Northern Iraq, with the signing of a management agreement with the
Mihtab Group to develop the first Hilton Hotels & Resorts property in the
rapidly growing city of Erbil, Iraq.
The 300-room Hilton Erbil Hotel & Spa, which is expected to
open in 2016, will be the second Hilton Worldwide property in Erbil following
the 2011 announcement to develop a DoubleTree Suites by Hilton in the city.
Hilton Erbil Hotel & Spa will be set in extensive, landscaped
grounds in an upscale residential and commercial district just North of Erbil,
an area famous for its picturesque, mountainous landscape as well as its close
proximity to the city's main access road. These key location benefits are
attracting many new businesses to the area, including a number of foreign
embassies planned within the next two years.
The KRG is not hurting for hotels. Already it has a ton including the
Erbil Tower Hotel, Divan Erbil, Van Royal Hotel, Erbil Rotana (where this
year's Miss Kurdistan competition was held), Yadi Hotel, Abu-Sana Hotel, etc.
The KRG has 22 operating, internationally recognized hotels with more being
built. Baghdad? Five operating and internationally recognized hotels --
including the Palestine International Hotel (where reporters stayed and where
the US military infamously fired upon). No big construction going on. No big
foreign investment rushing into the capitol. But the KRG? Hilton Worldwide
becomes the latest to want to do business.
As we've noted repeatedly, Nouri's crazy scares them off. Nouri's tirades
against Turkey, all the accusations and smears add in to the view of him as
unhinged. His attacks on ExxonMobil and Chevron and so many others and his
inability, as prime minister, to bring cohesion to Iraq, to provide real
leadership to the region, hurts the country and harms the way others view the
section of Iraq he has jurisdiction over. (The KRG -- Kurdistan Regional
Government -- three northern provinces -- is semi-autonomous.)
After all this time, an argument could be made that Baghdad 'security' --
such as it is -- is as good as it's going to get and that the business community
has taken note of that. Making that argument requires acknowleging how very
little Nouri al-Maliki has accomplished in his six years as prime minister.
Acknowledging that requires confronting how little Nouri has achieved as prime
minister and how much the people continue to suffer.
Ahmed Hussein (Al Mada) reports that
along with the continued lack of electritiy, you can add to that the scarcity of
potable water in Baghdad -- specifically east Baghdad and South Baghdad. The
situation has gotten so bad that Parliament will be questioning the governor of
the province and the secretary of the city of Baghdad. The newspaper notes
that, July 7th, officials pleaded "technical problems." That was 20 days ago.
The delivery of basic goods and services is a political issue and the
potable water appears to have entered the same crisis level the political
stalemate has. Al Mada reports on Ayad Allawi's statements yesterday.
Allawi is the head of Iraqiya (the political slate that came in first in the
elections, Nouri's State of Law came in second). Allawi notes that there is no
need for a Reform Committee or for people to think up or adopt new reforms. The
answer is to return to the Erbil Agreement which was already agreed
Following the March 2010 elections, Political Stalemate I lasted
for a little over eight months and this was the period where Nouri refused to
allow things to move forward because he wanted a second term as prime minister;
however, State of Law's showing didn't allow him -- per the law -- to be made
prime minister-designate and given 30 days to assmble a Cabinet. So he pouted
and threw his tantrum and the White House nursed him and refused to pull him off
Barack's nipple. With the White House backing, Nouri was able to bring things
in Iraq to a complete standstill. The White House then brokered the Erbil
Agreement which was the way around the Constitution (it was
extra-Constitutional, not unconstitutional) for Nouri to get his
That's not how the US government presented it. The political blocs
were told to figure out what they wanted and this items were written into the
agreement with the understanding that, in exchange for those, Nouri would get a
second term. The agreement is a binding contract and was signed off on by all
parties. Plus the US government assured the political blocs that the US was
backing this agreement. That was November 2010. The next day, Parliament
finally held a real session and Nouri was named prime minister-designate. When
he became prime minister, he trashed the agreement and, since summer 2011,
Moqtada al-Sadr, the Kurds and Iraqiya have been calling for him to return to
the Erbil Agreement.
He has refused.
That's what the current
political stalemate is about. He is not only doing a power-grab, he is refusing
to honor the contract he signed onto and used to get a second term as prime
minister. He has further alarmed rival politicians by going back on his
'pledge' not to seek a third term.
So Allawi is calling for a return to
the Erbil Agreement. He sees Nouri's silly Reform Commission as a waste of time
-- which it is. Why do they need weeks of meetings to figure out what to
Have we forgotten the months of meetings for the national conference
that then fell apart as Nouri wanted it to? Before that fell apart in April,
there had been months of meetings about this issue. So the Reform Commission
shouldn't need a ton of meetings to figure out what to do.
reality is it exists solely to buy more time for Nouri. This is what he always
does, stall, stall and stall. And hope people either get tired of waiting or
Due to backing from the Bush White House and then the Barack
White House, this strategy has been highly effective for Nouri
It's helped tear the country of Iraq further apart but, for
Nouri, it's all about what Nouri al-Maliki wants. Further proof is in reporting today by Rod Nordland (New York
Times) about 15 Baquba officials quitting their jobs because they state
the government has failed to protect them from al Qaeda. Threat have made them
fear for the safety of their families. This lack of security despite all the US
tax dollars wasted in training Iraq's security forces.
"Status of Fixcal Years 2011-2012
Iraq Security Forces Fund (SIGIR 12-018)" [PDF format warning, click here] was released today by the Office of the Special
Inspector General on Iraq Reconstruction and is a letter to Secretary of
Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillar Clinton which notes the money
given (wasted) by US taxpayers for Iraq's security forces to be trained: "To
date, Congress has appropriated $20.54 billion in ISFF. This includes $1.50
billion Congress appropriated in April 2011 for use in fiscal years (FY) 2011
Over $20.54 billion US tax dollars sent out of the US to pay for the
training of Iraq's security forces. You learn about how freely the government spent the
taxpayer money. So freely, that they gave more than even they thought could be
spent which is why: "Congress specified the period of time each ISFF
appropriation could be used. In each case, Congress made the funds available
for periods between 12 and 19 months, during which time funds would have to be
obligated. Any funds not obligated with their designated period of availability
would be considered expired and, therefore, not available for new
Nancy Pelosi kept
using the "blank check" metaphor even after many of us thought the then-Speaker
sounded ancient and ourselves were referring to it as the administration using
Congress as its own personal ATM. But Pelosi ends up right and we (including
me) end up wrong because it was indeed a blank check. And it was blank check
under Bush and a blank check under Barack.
While Americans domestically struggled with historic
levels of unemployment, with losing their houses and so much more, the Congress
and the White House were so eager to give Iraq billions for 'security forces'
that they realized they might be giving more than was needed so they tacked on
that if the funds were not "obligated" within X number of months, the US would
get them back.
And some may wrongly think that means, "Well, Iraq
didn't spend X so we're getting that back. Yea!" Wrong. "Spent" is not
"Obligated" means they say it will be spent on, for
example, "forensic training."
Will be. Not has been spent.
This is made clear in the letter: "However, un-obligated funds can be used for up to
five years after they expire to pay for authorized increases to existing
obligations made from the same appropriation. Any un-obligated funds remaining
after the five-year period must be returned to the U.S.
So the White House and the Congress (then
Democratically controlled, both houses) made the decision not only to give Iraq
more money than was needed, they also said, "Hey, screw the American taxpayers
and their needs, if you can't spend this money in the Fiscal Year, just say you
will someday spend it on something and we'll let you have it for up to five
years, interest free."
$20.54 billion US tax dollars
What do you see in Iraq in terms of security that
justifies spending 20 billion dollars -- $20,000,000,000?
The CIA estimates the Iraqi population to be 31.1 million. (Iraq
hasn't had a census since the 90s.) When the US government refers to Iraq's
"security forces," they are only speaking of the number employed by the central
government out of Baghdad. So all of this money has just spent on the national
forces. In a country with an estimate population of 30 million, how many
security forces are there?
By September 2007, according to Brookings, they had 359,700. In the same month,
Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post noted
that then-top US commander in Iraq Gen David Petraeus was using a higher figure
of 445,000 at that same time and that this "suggest[s] he was including every
person employed by the ministries in an effort to promote the size and
capability of security forces that many experts say are plagued by absenteeism,
attrition and sectarianism." Last December 7th, Luis Martinez (ABC News)
reported US Lt Gen Frank Helmick had stated in the US military's "last
briefing from Iraq" that Iraq's security forces number 700,000.
30 million population, nearly a million police officers. Iraq is not
Malaysia. It's an oil rich country generating billions each year. How very
fortunate for the US-installed puppet Nouri that these forces he's put under his
own command -- not really how the Iraqi Constitution set it out -- were trained
on the US tax payer dollar.
Please grasp that this figure doesn't include
the $850 million that the US State Dept requested (and received) for Fiscal Year
2012 to, yes, train Iraq's security forces. And the 'good' news on that money?
The letter explains that, after allocation, "the funds will be deposited into an
Iraq FMF account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York where the GOI
[Government Of Iraq] will decide how to use the funds."
And when you look
over how that money's being allocated, you'll see that the US tax payer foots
the bill for everything from night vision goggles to "training ammunition."
Again, Iraq is not a struggling economy. It's not Ethiopia. It's an oil rich
country that make billions every month in oil revenue.
But Nouri can't provide security and can't even pick up the bill for
the security forces he has placed under his control. Who's safe in Iraq besides
Nouri? Who's benefitted from all those billions spent on security?
On efforts to end -- or pretend to end -- the crisis Nouri started,
Al Mada reports that the National Alliance
is warning that the Reform Committee lacks "a magic wand." No one expected them
to have a magic wand. People are more upset that they (a) have no teeth, (b)
have no power and (c) are a for-show group. This evening, Alsumaria reported that State of Law was stating
Deputy Prime Minister and Iraqiya member Saleh al-Mutlaq was supporting the
Reform Commission. If true, this could be the most serious fracture Iraqiya has
faced. They've written off the loss of members since the elections. This would
be a high ranking member betraying them. Saleh al-Mutlaq, it should be
remembered was tarred and feathered by Nouri's Justic and Accountability
Commission in 2010 as a "Ba'athist." As such, he wasn't allowed to run in the
elections. Iraqiya stood by him throughout that. In the second-half of
December of last year, Nouri was attempting to strip al-Mutlaq of his position
as a result of an interview al-Mutlaq gave CNN where he comapred Nouri to a
dictator. Iraqiya stood behind him collectively and that was among the reasons
he retained his office. So a defection like this -- even if he remained in
Iraqiya -- would be a major turn -- and a major betrayal.
International leaders and the press betrayed Iraq and the citizens of the
world by building a false case for the illegal war. Some of those international
leaders never really leave the daily buzz. Take George W. Bush. PTI reports that the Dalai Lama has declared he and George W.
Bush ad BFFs and, "Personally I love Bush but I have reservation on his policy
towards Iraq." Personally, I was neutral on the Dalai Lama until a few years
ago when he decided to let his homophobia run wild. After that, very little
about the 'peaceful' Dalai Lama can surprise me -- not even his desire to be
best friends with a War Criminal.
From Bush, who occupied the White House from January 2001 through January
2009. In England, the chief War Criminal was then-prime minister Tony
Blair. Former British diplomat Craig Murray observes at his site, "Blair's
latest attempt at rehabilitation is a discussion tomorrow at Westminister
Central Hall with the Archbishop of Canterbury on the place of religion in
society. A vexed question, but give that Blair believes God OK'd the invasion
of Iraq and the resulting millions deaths, not one that can usefully be
discussed by this charlatan." Meanwhile in England, Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian)
reports, efforts continue to hide evidence from the public about how Blair
and Bush planned or 'planned' the illegal war:
The Foreign Office (FCO) is appealing against a judge's ruling that
extracts of a conversation between Tony Blair and George Bush days before the invasion
of Iraq must be
It argues that revealing Blair's comments to Bush on the telephone
on 12 March 2003 would present a "significant danger" to UK-US relations. It
would lead to the US withholding information from Britain in the future,
damaging Britain's security and diplomatic interests, the FCO
First: Think about it for a second. Strategically and militarily,
it made no sense for Saddam to transfer his weapons of mass destruction to
Syria. Saddam worked on acquiring WMD for a reason: to stave off an invasion and
hold on to power.
Just listen to a defeated Saddam for a second. In a post-invasion
interview, Saddam admitted that he had been
bluffing about his WMD. This is actually case-closed for
the conspiracy theories about his weapons transfers.
But for a moment, let’s suppose that Saddam circumvented the
most intrusive sanction regime
the world has ever known and rebuilt his WMD programs after
inspectors (and Israeli jets) destroyed them. His reasoning would have been
deterrence — as Thomas Schelling put it, Saddam would have given his enemies a
“threat that leaves something to
chance.” That’s why the Assad regime threatens on and off to use WMD: It keeps
the foreign hordes at bay. So why, with U.S. massing forces on his border, would
Saddam give up the one thing he had to raise the cost of invading to the
At Antiwar.com, John Glaser takes on the
idiot and evil Seth Jones (evil? he taught counter-insurgency at the university
level) and Jones' ridiculous attempts to build support for a Syrian War.
Well then genius, it might have been good not to have initiated
regime change, no? US support for the rebel militias has emboldened the
opposition, deepened the conflict, and allowed extremist insurgents to
destabilize the Assad regime. Jones admits that one thing explaining al-Qaeda’s
rise in Syria is “the draw of a new jihad—smack in the middle of the Arab
world.” Like in Iraq, the US has helped create an al-Qaeda presence in Syria,
which is now justifying even more military intervention.
Jones’s position is pitifully confused. Which policy is the US
supposed to pursue in Syria – supporting the rebels in a proxy war against
Assad, or fighting the rebels and eliminating the main threat to Assad’s regime?
This isn’t quantum mechanics; we can’t exist in two different realities at once.
Or are we just supposed to take any excuse to intervene at face
Jones is also contradictory: He admits al-Qaeda fighters are
swarming to Syria because of the draw of jihad. Yet, he wants to “launch a
covert campaign to ramp up intelligence-collection efforts against al Qaeda,
capture or kill its senior leaders, and undermine its legitimacy.” Right,
because nothing snuffs out al-Qaeda like an unprovoked US war in the Middle
Counter-insurgency is war on a native population through intimidation and
deceit -- the US generally mixes in violence as well. So the question to ask is
someone trained in deception should really be allowed to write opinion columns?
Do we really need domestic psyops on the op-ed pages of our daily newspapers in
Syria’s citizens are now another nation reduced to tragic turmoil
resultant from being targeted in the post 11 September 2001 Pentagon plan to
“take out seven countries in five years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia,
Sudan and finishing off with Iran”, as described by General
US planned carnage in sovereign Syria was a bit behind schedule,
but now back on track -- if out of predicted sequence — with another wannabe
Crusader in the White House, this one with a Nobel Peace Prize. Fact mirrors
fiction’s wildest darknesses, and from the “Nile to the Euphrates” the regions’
residents increasingly have only the most uncertain and tenuous places to
Syria, with population of under 23 million, is also host to nearly
half a million Palestinian refugees and the largest influx of Iraqi refugees in
the world, a minimum of 1.2 million, who fled the US-UK’s liberating bombs,
bullets, kidnappings, rapes, murders, ethnic cleansing, looting and
The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that “Syria has been a
generous host to Iraqi refugees.”
As the War Hawks get their jollies, life is forever destroyed for the
people on the ground -- the ones that an alleged humanitarian impulse is
screaming must be saved. From IRIN:
Thousands of Iraqi refugees returning from Syria will face huge
challenges reintegrating into a country with high rates of unemployment, dismal
basic services and ongoing sectarian strife. “I think we will face a
humanitarian crisis regarding this issue,” said Yaseen Ahmed Abbas, the
president of the Iraq Red Crescent (IRC). “You should expect pressure on
everything in Iraq by having such a large number of people in a short time. It’s
More than 15,000 Iraqis have returned to Iraq in the past nine
days, after unprecedented fighting in the Syrian capital Damascus, according to
Deputy Minister of Displacement and Migration Salam Dawod Al Khafagy. The
government evacuated 4,000 by air, he said; the rest crossed by land. Tens of
thousands of others have returned since the Syrian conflict started in March
Elham was one of them. After seven years in Syria, she and her son
returned on 3 July to Iraq, where she says she has nothing: “I am like a
After a few nights in a hotel, her money has run out and she is now
staying with friends, she told IRIN. Her family home, abandoned years ago, then
occupied, and now empty, is “not fit for living”, she says, and she has no
capital to rebuild it. Her parents have since died and transferring the home
into her name is another hurdle, she said.
Rami Ruhayem (BBC News -- link is video) reports,
"The Iraqi authorities crammed them together in local schools and government
buildings and imposed strict restrictions on their movement. A Syrian refugee
tells BBC, "Our main demand is to leave this prison and go to our relatives. If
they don't let us out, we will return to our houses in Syria, whether they like
it or not." Of the Syrian refugees, UNICEF notes:
Some people have taken displaced families into their own homes. One
woman I know, Manal, who has two children of her own, has been hosting her
extended family from Homs in her house for the past three months. Recently they
all had to relocate, and took refuge in a school. Such generosity is becoming
harder to sustain. Many shops are closed, so it is difficult for local residents
to buy enough food and other basics to meet their own needs, let alone those of
Conditions in the schools are not easy, either. In one school in
Masaken Barzeh, around 600 people are using just seven small toilets. The new
residents do their best to keep the school clean. But they need cleaning
supplies and awareness-raising about the importance of good hygiene. UNICEF is helping by
supplying hygiene kits that contain detergents, shampoos, sanitary napkins,
soap, towels and other personal hygiene items.
Sometimes the children themselves step up to help. I came across
14-year-old Maya who, along with seven other family members, had been relocated
twice. She calls herself a “hygiene expert.” Volunteers were so impressed with
her knowledge that it was agreed that Naya would be the school’s focal point for
hygiene awareness. Naya promised to spend her free time going around telling
other children about proper hygiene. “Younger kids listen to me, but I’m not
sure about the grown-ups,” Naya laughed.
Another problem is keeping the children occupied. It is too hot to
run around in the yard, and there is nothing to play with. UNICEF is providing
the schools with recreational kits and sports kits through its local
Violence continues in Iraq. With only a few days remaining in the month,
Count notes that at least 376 people have been killed from violence in Iraq
through yesterday. The United Nations counted 401 deaths last month. Iraq is
on track to meet that figure or even surpass it. (The official Iraqi government
numbers -- which the press ran with -- were much lower.) Today Alsumaria reports a Baghdad sticky bombing has
claimed 1 life. It has been a very violent month in Iraq. Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) adds, "Twelve more militants were killed in clashes in Hadid.
Yesterday, gunmen had managed to kill 12 security members, including one person
on a helicopter that was forced to make a hard landing. " Rudaw notes, "On
Friday the ministry of Peshmerga said that the Iraqi government had
sent troops to the border strip between Syria and the Kurdistan Region
and that 3,000 Peshmerga fighters stationed in the area had stopped
There was serious concern about armed clashes between both sides."
Intelligence sources say the Islamic
State of Iraq terror network is in dire financial straits and that attacks are
increasingly become contract killings. "Terror in Iraq is politically
motivated," says Yonadam Kanna, one of the few Christian members of the Iraqi
parliament. The government has been in a perpetual state of crisis since the US
withdrew its troops at the end of 2011. In vain, the opposition has for months
tried to enforce a vote of no-confidence against Shiite Prime Minister Nuri
al-Maliki. They accuse him of assuming too much power while trying to keep Sunni
Muslims at bay. Maliki's State of Law party is the second-strongest party in
parliament; the bloc headed by his opponent Iyad Allawi has one seat more but
failed to form a governing majority. Two years ago, Maliki signed a
coalition treaty for a "government of national unity" with various Shiite
parties and Kurds. The agreement promised key ministries to Allawi, who was also
to head a new security and surveillance agency. But none of the above ever
materialized. Maliki is acting head of the interior and defense ministries and
talk of a new security agency has ceased. Like Maliki, Allawi is a Shiite, but
he enjoys the support of most Sunni parties. Tensions between the two
politicians have for months paralyzed development in Iraq - everything but the
oil sector has ground to a halt. The country has reached an economic and
political standstill spelling disaster for the population.
Notice how the topic circles back to the stalemate. It has to because
Nouri's inability to honor his agreements has left many in Iraq feeling
disenfranchised and not willing to trust him anymore. That goes a long way
towards explaining the present violence.