Thursday, August 23, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, a former US Ambassador to Iraq is arrested, either a Syrian plane or another country's plane en route to Syria violated Iraqi airspace today . . . or it didn't, the secretive Erbil Agreement gets some attention, a member of the National Alliance has an arrest warrant issued against him, Veterans for Peace announce their plans for the next few weeks, Ian Wilder calls for Gallup to include Jill Stein's campaign in the presidential polling and more.
Former US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker is in the news today. It's not good news. January 15, 2009, Crocker was at the White House being presented with the Medal of Freedom by Bully Boy Bush. Condi Rice, John Negroponte and Laura Bush among the one watching.
Members of the Foreign Service bring this valor and professionalism to their work every single day. And there is one man who embodies these qualities above all: Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Over the years, Ryan has earned many honors, including the Presidential Meritorious Service Award and the rank of Career Ambassador. Today I have the privilege of honoring Ambassador Crocker with the highest civil award I can bestow: the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It has not been bestowed yet. The son of an Air Force officer, Ryan Crocker has never been your typical diplomat. For social engagements, he likes to tell guests, "no socks required." For language training, he once spent time herding sheep with a desert tribe in Jordan. For sport, he has jogged through war zones, and run marathons on four continents. And for assignments, his preference has always been anywhere but Washington. During his nearly four decades in the Foreign Service, Ryan Crocker has become known as America's Lawrence of Arabia. His career has taken him to every corner of the Middle East. His understanding of the region is unmatched. His exploits are legendary. He has served as ambassador to five countries. He has repeatedly taken on the most challenging assignments. The man has never run from danger. As a young officer during the late 1970s, Ryan catalogued Saddam Hussein's murderous rise to power. In 1983, he survived the terrorist attack on the American embassy in Lebanon. In 1998, as the Ambassador to Syria, he witnessed an angry mob plunder his residence. After any one of these brushes with danger, most people would have lost their appetite for adventure. Not Ryan Crocker. In the years since September the 11th, 2001, I have asked Ryan to hold numerous posts on the front lines of the war on terror, and he has stepped forward enthusiastically every time.
on August 14 by the Washington State Patrol for hit-and-run and DUI in Spokane Valley." The driver of the other vehicle (a semi) was not harmed in the accident that Crocker is charged with. In addition, he is alleged to have then fled the scene. When police found apprehended him, his low score on the breathalyzer was .152 (he blew twice).
When he was awarded the honor in January 2009, then-White House spokesperson Dana Perino declared, "It was a surprise for Ryan Crocker, that he was getting the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- a surprise, I think, for everybody. But we kept that a secret because he is a very humble person, Ambassador Crocker. And I can't think of anybody more deserving." And today, the humble person is in the news for reasons no one wants to be in the news. He continued as Ambassador to Iraq under President Barack Obama until Barack nominated Chris Hill and, in 2011, Barack nominated him and the Senate confirmed as US Ambassador to Baghdad -- a post he held until last July. Hopefully, if this is an alcohol problem, he'll get the help he needs. If this was less of a disease and more of bad jugment, hopefully, he'll learn a lesson from it. Regardless, I take no joy in his arrest for drunk driving and hope he addresses whatever took him to this point.
From what is known to what is unknown at this time: Did fighter jets fly over Iraq into Syria and did they do so with Nouri al-Maliki's approval?
Alsumaria also reports that Iraqiya MP Hamid al-Mutlaq states that military aircraft breached Iraqi airspace to fly into Syria and drop bombs. All Iraq News adds that a warplane was seen over Husaybah and that it went into Syria and bombed Abu Kamal repeatedly. Alsumaria also notes that Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Moussawi is denying that any warplane entered Iraqi air space to bomb Syria. However, AFP reports that an unnamed Iraqi official tells them the plane was Syrian and that it did enter Iraqi air space.
Husaybah is a city in Anbar Province on the Euphrates River right next to the Syrian border. Syria is one of the countries that Iraq shares a border with, the others being Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iran.
The alleged plane and its nationality are still in doubt (again, an unnamed official told AFP it was a Syrian airplane which would have left Syria's air space to fly briefly in Iraqi airspace before doing a u-turn). If it wasn't a Syrian plane and it didn't enter Iraq from Syria?
With 15,000 US troops in Kuwait it might be a natural conclusion that the plane launched from Kuwait. However, Kuwait is on the south east corner of Iraq and Syria is on the north west. If the plane came from Kuwait, Basra and Najaf, among other major cities, should have spotted it unless it did a major climb from Kuwait over Muthanna Province and became more visible (decreased altitude) as it passed over Anbar Province. Saudi Arabia is the south and southwest and a plane could have flown over Iraq from Saudi Arabia to Husaybah (and then to Syria) in much the way a plane would have flown from Kuwait. Jordan is right below Syria and borders Iraq on the west (slightly south) and a plane from there would have to make a half circle to enter Syria through Husaybah as would a plane from Turkeky which is directly above Syria and shares a northwest border with Iraq.
It is possible that a war plane, even a US war plane, could have flown from Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. If it originated in Jordan or Turkey and flew that path into Syria, it would have done so to conceal that it was originating from Jordan and Turkey. The most likely explanation would be that it was a Syrian plane that, for whatever reason, flew out of Syria and then right back in. After that, the most likely explanation would be that it was a US war plane that flew from Kuwait. If the flight originated from Iraq, it would have to be a foreign plane (due to Iraq's lack of air power) and would have best originated its flight from Al Asad Air Base which is in Anbar Province and near the Euphrates River. The Wall St. Journal's Sam Dagher Tweeted:
From the unknown to the know, All Iraq News reports that MP Kazam al-Sayadi survived a sniper's assassination attempt on his motorcade today in Kut (Wasit Province). In addition, Alsumaria reports that a Syrian artillery shell landed on a Anbar home and two Yazidis were kidnappend in Mosul. Clashes also took place in nothern Iraq. Reuters notes that the Turkish government is claiming that "Turkish troops have killed 16 Kurdish guerrillas in an operation in southeast Turkey targeting militants who launched a bomb attack on a military convoy that killed five soldiers, the local governor's office said on Thursday." Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described the PKK in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk." Press TV states, "At least 21 people have lost their lives in fresh clashes between Turkish army and militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in the volatile southeastern Turkey." Al Jazeera notes that the Turkish government states their actions were "in response to a bomb attack [by the PKK] on a military convoy that killed five soldiers."
What are we to make of the increase in violent deaths in Iraq during June and July? Is it a sign of a long-term upsurge in violence since the U.S. troop withdrawal? Who are the culprits?To begin with, it should be noted that violence in Iraq often follows cyclical patterns. That is, insurgent groups normally step up their operations as summer begins, and around the time of religious festivals, when pilgrims (frequently traveling on foot) are easily exposed to attacks. Thus, in June, there were waves of bomb attacks targeting Shiite pilgrims who were commemorating the death of Moussa al-Kadhim, the great-grandson of the Prophet Mohammad.
That is why one should be careful in extrapolating from short-term trends to warn of growing sectarian tensions and a return to civil war in the near future. Today, the insurgent groups responsible for attacks on civilians and a large number of attacks on government officials are entirely Sunni, since Shiite militant groups such as Kataeb Hizbullah have disbanded following the pullout of U.S. forces.
The two main organizations are Al-Qaeda in Iraq, now virtually a native force, and the Baathist Naqshibandia, which is led by Ezzat Ibrahim al-Douri, who is still at large. He appeared in a video last April to denounce the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad and complain of an Iranian-American-Israeli conspiracy to take over Iraq.
Today AP reported that the Islamic State of Iraq had issued a statement proclaiming they were behind violent incidents "from late June until the second half of July." Meanwhile Alsumaria reports that the Iraqi judiciary has issued an arrest warrant for Anbar Salvation Council president Hamid al-Hayes accusing him of terrorism. The outlet notes that Haydes had condemned the recent waves of attacks, including as late as the start of the week. Hamid al-Hayes is Sheikh Hamid al-Hayes and a member of the Iraqi National Alliance (Nouri's State of Law, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc and others make up the National Alliance). In 2009, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace noted:
Anbar Salvation Council
Date of Founding & Notable Moments
Seats in Parliament
None, at the time of the 2005 elections the founders of the movement were still cooperating with al-Qaeda.
Seats in 2009 Provincial Elections
One of the three groups to grow out of the Awakening councils in Anbar province, the Anbar Salvation Council is the first major Sunni organization to join the INA.
Al-Hayes' position is very close to that of Hatem al-Suleiman and his Anbar National Salvation Front, who joined the State of Law coalition. The two share a strong opposition to the Iraqi Islamic Party. The division between them appears to be mostly the result of a struggle for leadership and a different tactical decision about which alliance to join.
Sheikh al-Hayes told Alsumaria today that he was prepared to "accept and respect" the arrest warrant and surrender himself, stating that the gates to his houe are open. He calls the charges frivilous and say they result from police chief being angry at him.
Back to the issue of the Kurds, Hemm Hadi (AKnews) reports, "British MP Nadhim Zahawi has created an e-petition in the British government in a bid to get recognition of the genocide against Kurds in Iraq." The petition reads:
We urge the Government to recognise formally the Genocide against the people of Iraqi Kurdistan and to encourage the EU and UN to do likewise. This will enable Kurdish people, many in the UK, to achieve justice for their considerable loss. It would also enable Britain, the home of democracy and freedom, to send out a message of support for international conventions and human rights. The Genocide perpetrated over decades, known collectively as the Anfal, began with the arabisation of villages around Kirkuk in 1963. It involved the deportation and disappearances of Faylee Kurds in the 1970s-80s, the murder of 8,000 male Barzanis in 1983, the use of chemical weapons in the late 1980s, most notably against Halabja, and finally the Anfal campaign of 1987-88. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people perished, families were torn apart, with continuing health problems, and 4,500 villages were destroyed between 1976 and 1988 undermining the potential of Iraqi Kurdistan's agricultural resources.
The petition currently has 2,373 signatures.
Tuesday, Gen Martin Dempsey, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, traveled to Baghdad. With all the problems in Iraq, you might think Dempsey was there to use 'soft power' and press for aims that involved something other than murder. You would be wrong.
A great deal of that success [in Iraq] has been undone, alas, by two bad decisions made by President Obama: First the decision to back a coalition headed by Nouri al Maliki in forming a government even after Maliki finished second in the 2010 election. If the U.S. had gone all out to support the winning slate, led by Ayad Allawi, the result might well have been a government in Baghdad far less amenable to Iranian influence than the current one.
This initial mistake was made much worse by Obama's failure to negotiate an accord to allow U.S. troops to remain in Iraq past 2011.
And the whole point of Dempsey's visit was the Syrian war. Despite the increasingly loud whispers at the State Dept grow about another secret prison in Baghdad run by Nouri's forces, you might think Dempsey explored that issue but you would be wrong there too. Nor were the rights of prisoners -- many of whom have been held for years without trial -- addressed.
Though Gen Ray Odierno frequently had to address the political situation with Nouri when Odierno was the top US commander in Iraq and though Iraq is in the midst of a political crisis initiated by Nouri's refusal to honor the Erbil Agreement (after he used it to get his second term as prime minister), Dempsey had no interest in raising that issue either.
Following Iraq's March 2010 elections, the country entered a political stalemate due to Nouri al-Maliki. He wanted another term as prime minister yet his State of Law slate had come in second to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya. Per the Constutiton, per the will of the voters, Ayad's group should have had first crack at forming a government (one of them -- most likely Allawi -- should have been named prime minister-designate and given 30 days to form a Cabinet -- form a Cabinet means full Cabinet, not partial, not I'll-do-it-later -- you transfer from prime minister-designate to prime minister based on whether or not you're able to form a Cabinet). Nouri refused to let it happen, Nouri dug in his heels and pouted. The White House backed Nouri (this is Barack's administration -- and that's what Max Boot is talking about above). They didn't back the Iraqi people or the Iraqi Constitution. After eight months, they went to the political blocs and basically asked, "What do you want in exchange for allowing Nouri a second term as prime minister?" And from this was drawn up the US-brokered Erbil Agreement which was then signed of on by the leaders of the political bloc in November 2010. But Nouri got named prime minister-designate (and a month later moved to prime minister -- despite not having named a full Cabinet -- nearly two years later, he's still never nominated people to head the security ministries) and then tossed aside the Erbil Agreement. Since the summer of 2011, the Kurds, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr's group have been calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement.
Question: To date, Iraqi citizens do not know the content of the first convention of Arbil, and I do not think they will know it. The question is why is there a blackout regarding this issue?
A: The convention in Arbil has really turned into a mystery baffling the Iraqis. It seems that the convention has terms, which the signing parties do not want to reveal either because these provisions are inconsistent with the constitution or contradictory to what some parties say to the media. I hold all signing parties responsible. It seems to me that there is a tacit agreement, imposed by the interests, that no party shall reveal the real text of terms that have been agreed upon.
Why Veterans For Peace will protest the RNC and the DNC
Veterans For Peace will have members protesting at both the Republican National Convention in Tampa and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. VFP President Leah Bolger explained why:
"Social change, including the abolition of war, does not come from supporting one political party over another, but from changing the culture and influencing all major parties. Women did not vote themselves the right to vote. The civil rights movement did not trade in nonviolent action, education, and mobilization for electoral campaigns. The labor movement was not built by what the labor movement spends its money on today. And when our grandparents passed the Kellogg-Briand Pact banning war, they did so by placing the criminalization of war in the platforms of the four largest parties in the country.
"A peace movement that only opposes wars when the president belongs to one party is not a peace movement. It's a partisan campaign that uses the pretended desire for peace as bait and activists as props. What we need far more than campaigning is movement building. We need to organize people to bring our popular demands to the government as a whole. The government is no longer divided into the three traditional branches. The two branches are the two major parties. Congress members and even Supreme Court Justices are loyal to their parties. We must demand that both parties adopt platforms for peace. Our economy cannot withstand further war preparation any more than our consciences can bear the consequences.
"We also need to help the public abandon the pretense that one of the parties is already peaceful. President Obama in the past three-and-a-half years has escalated war in Afghanistan and continued it in the face of overwhelming public opposition. He's invented a new kind of war using drones and launched such wars in numerous nations, building intense hostility toward the United States. He keeps a list of "nominees" for murder. On the list are adults and children, Americans and non-Americans. He holds meetings with his staff on Tuesdays to decide whom to kill next, and then kills them.
"President Obama launched a war on Libya against the will of Congress. The military is larger and more expensive now than it ever was under President Bush. It's more secretive, with the CIA fighting some of the wars. It's more privatized. It's more profitable. It's in more nations. And it's swallowing a greater share of government spending. President Obama has forbidden the prosecution of CIA torturers. He has created a legal and bipartisan acceptance of what we recently protested as scandalous outrages, including imprisonment without trial. And now he has announced that the United States, without Congressional authorization or public approval, is engaged in assisting one side in a civil war in Syria -- even while continuing to threaten war on Iran.
"Veterans For Peace knows that both parties are responsible for the deaths of millions of people. Military spending is the sacred cow that neither party will touch. It matters little which party is in power. The Congressional-Military-Industrial-Media Machine just keeps humming along.
"Veterans For Peace will be in Tampa not to protest the Republican Party, but to protest our government's grotesque military spending. We will be in Charlotte not to protest the Democratic Party, but to protest the abominable killing and destruction being done in our name. VFP will continue to point an accusing finger at the military monster that is our government, and to protest its illegal actions and misplaced priorities in every way we can."
Veterans For Peace was founded in 1985 and has approximately 5,000 members in 150 chapters located in every U.S. state and several countries. It is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by the United Nations, and is the only national veterans' organization calling for the abolishment of war.
Tweet them: Hey @gallupnews! Don't be so biased! Include @JillStein2012 in your #Election2012 polling!
AP reports today that the Stein - Honkala ticket will be on the ballot in Pennsylvania. Candidates who are not part of the Democratic-Republican duopoly have to fight for ballot access at election time -- just to be on the ballot they have to fight. Roseanne Barr and Cindy Sheehan are right now attempting to get on the ballot in Hawaii, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Lousiana, Montana and Michigan: