Friday, August 24, 2012

Iraq snapshot

Friday, August 24, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Moqtada's followers are attacked in Sadr City, refugees in Iraq and outside continues to need asylum, the PKK and Turks boast of their 'kills,' US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen wants the answers to some questions, and more.
With Iraq, the temptation for some news outlets is to make 'good news.' You can't manufacture good news and you look ridiculous when you try -- and if you're a US official trying to manufacture good news, your latest wave of Operation Happy Talk usually slaps you in the face -- meaning within 24 hours of your remarks being published, a large wave of violence hits Iraq.
But one Iraqi family did get some good news, real good news, genuine good news. Chris Thompson (Windsor Star) reported this week on the Putrus family. They left Iraq in 2009 and were fortunate in that their refugee applications were processed. They ended up in Canada and it was there that they bought one of the two winning Lotto tickets for a $3 million jackpot which means they won $1.5 million:
The family celebrated with a dinner at Mandarin restaurant, a Chinese buffet.
Faiz plans to continue working as a granite designer at Granite Design Works for now but plans to start his own small business in the future, Faraj said.
"He told his boss he won that kind of money and he took a vacation," Faraj said.
The family is also planning to buy a new larger house and possibly rent out the modest bungalow they currently own.
The family, who are Christian Chaldean, lived in Baghdad in 2008 when they travelled to Syria to say goodbye to an aunt who was leaving to claim refugee status in Canada.
The situation in Baghdad was chaotic and violent.
"Killing, robbing, and our house got on fire," said Faraj.
While the family was in Syria, they received word from Baghdad that the family home had burned to the ground, and everything was lost. It was then they decided not to return, and would follow the aunt to Canada.
"We didn't stop our life," Faraj said.
Again, that would be actual good news. Canada's goal is 2,500 Iraqi refugees admitted each year. That goal is one less than the US has admitted this year. Yes, Canada is much smaller than the United States. As of their most recent tally, FY2012 has seen only 2,501 Iraqi refugees admitted to the US. FY2010 was the first year the current administration, President Barack Obama, was solely responsible. (FY2010 started October 1, 2009 and ran through September 30, 2010.) That year, the number was 24,021 -- a drop of over a thousand and each year since has seen a bigger drop (in FY2011, only 9,388 Iraqi refugees were admitted). Anybody remember this:
We would pursue a diplomatic offensive with every nation in the region on behalf of Iraq’s stability, and commit $2 billion to a new international effort to support Iraq’s refugees.
That's from a July 14, 2008 column in the New York Times entitled "My Plan for Iraq." Barack Obama wrote that column (or his name was put on the byline). Lot of talk for very little action. Iraqi refugees continue to suffer and the United Nations counts 29,453 Iraqis who fled for Iraq for safety that have been forced to return as a result of actions in Syria.
Syria and Iraq share a border, it's Iraq's neighbor on the north-west side. Earlier this week, Patrick Markey and Alistair Lyon (Reuters) reported, "Syrian government forces fought rebels on Wednesday for control of a military base and an airfield near the eastern town of Albu Kamal on the Iraqi border, a local Iraqi official and a Syrian rebel commander said."
The conflict in Syria continues with fears that it might impact Iraq in terms of violence. For now, it's only impact on Iraq has been the refugees who have left Syria. Today UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards addressed the issue of Syrian refugees seeking Iraq:
Meanwhile in Iraq, Syrian refugees staying in schools are being relocated to Al Qaem camp. Seven schools have so far been vacated with a further nine schools still occupied by some 1,760 refugees. The school year resumes in Iraq in early October. 1,691 people are now residing in the Al Qaem camp, while some 100 Syrians have left the camp and returned to Syria. During the last week, 24 left the camp to live with relatives. UNHCR will shortly begin to expand the camp by 230 tents in anticipation of new arrivals. The number of Syrians crossing into Iraq has slowed over the past week, although the refugee population increased slightly in the Kurdistan region. Across Iraq the total number of refugees stands at 15,898. The number of Iraqi refugees returning from Syria to Iraq has continued despite fewer people returning over Eid due to a shortage of buses from Damascus. Most of those returning home are heading to Baghdad. Several of those returning told UNHCR protection staff at the border they had been attacked or robbed on the road between Damascus and Al-tanf on the Syrian border, losing all their money, telephones and some documents. Some returnees say they are assessing the security situation in Iraq before deciding to stay.
This is part of regional issue. IRIN noted Monday, "From April to August, the number of Syrians registered with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq nearly quadrupled, from 40,000 to more than 155,000, with recent marked increases in Jordan and Iraq. About 75 percent are believed to be women and children." For UNICEF, Salam Abdulmunem reports on an Iraqi refugee camp:
Recently, the local Department of Education, with assistance from UNHCR and UNICEF, started a summer school to help the children make up for lost time. Almost 150 boys and girls are registered in this school. But with the new academic year quickly approaching, a shortage in space is anticipated for almost 500 children who have already been registered to join the regular school.
Later, when I visit the nearby UNICEF-supported Child Friendly Space (CFS), I meet Perween Abdulaziz, a social worker who works with the NGO Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED) and runs the CFS. Ms. Abdulaziz tells me that, while some of the children have seen violence, most of the children’s fears come from hearing their parents talk about an uncertain future. The structure and activities provided to them through the school and CFS are essential to bring back some sense of stability to their lives, she tells me.
That's Dohuk which is in the Kurdistan Region Government. The KGR's received positive reports as a result of UN inspections of their refugee camp. Sadly, that is not true of all of Iraq.  For example, last week Rudaw reported on a camp in Anbar Province (which Nouri's Baghdad-based government is over):
Iranian Kurdish refugees residing in Waleed camp suffer from lack of services such as drinking water, electricity and a medical center. In addition, Iraq’s Ministry of Interior is pressuring them to leave.
Waleed is located in Anbar province in the west, near the Syrian border. The camp -- which accommodates 120 Palestinian families, 24 Kurdish families and 19 Arab families from Ahwaz, Iran -- was established in June 2009.
For the past three months, the Iraqi government has been using various tactics to force the families to leave the camp, such as removing basic services like electricity and water. However, residents of the camp have been defying the government’s decision.
Nouri's never shown any respect for refugees. As the waves of refugees fleeing Iraq reached record levels and became the largest refugee crisis in the Middle East since 1948, Nouri made noises about giving some of the oil millions to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon to help cover the costs but Nouri never forked over the money. When the Syrian refugees need somewhere to go, Nouri's original response was to insist that Iraq couldn't handle refugees. Only after he was shamed on the world stage did he take the refugees in and then he shoved them into either abandoned or unused buildings. Now he's trying to force them out because the unused buildings were often schools and Iraqi children are resuming their school year.
On the subject of refugees, one of the persecuted groups in Iraq that has often elected to leave the country for safety reasons is the LGBT community. Last month Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project had some success with regards to Iraq's LGBT refugees:
IRAP’s advocacy on behalf of LGBT Iraqis with the Dutch government has led the Netherlands to change their policy toward LGBT asylum seekers from Iraq, who now have a presumption of asylum. The reform also includes the creation of a set allocation for the admission of LGBT Iraqi refugees, along with a new expedited process. Around two weeks ago, we led a private fact-finding tour for a representative from the Dutch Office of the Asylum Minister. This was in addition to significant research conducted about the plight of LGBT refugees in the are and the resultant news coverage we received in conjunction with two other NGOs.
For IRAP talking about the issue on Dutch National News: buitenland/39940/ doodseskaders_op_homojacht_in_ irak
Sunday's New York Times featured James Risen and Duraid Adnan's "U.S. Says Iraqis Are Helping Iran to Skirt Sanctions" on the front page, an article about the White House's knowledge that Iraq is helping Iran "skirt economic sanctions" and how Barack was "not eager for a public showdown with Nouri." Today the editorial board for the Detroit Free Press weighs in on the issues -- and notes the Times' article -- observing:

On the bright side, some American taxpayers may be relieved to learn that Iraq's sanction-busting activities signal nothing more than the vitality of public corruption; sound strategic arguments support Iraq's continuing official hostility toward Iran.
But the practical impact of that corruption is essentially the same. The likelihood that at least some of the billions the U.S. and its allies have supplied to Iraq is being used to systematically undermine allied strategic objectives in the Middle East is enough to sour any U.S. taxpayer on continued support for the Malaki government.

This morning I praised the editorial but didn't see anything changing and provided several examples of 2008 when the corruption and waste was regularly noted in Congress and nothing ever changed. I said I'd love to be wrong. Maybe I am wrong and maybe that's already apparent.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee released the following today:



In Letter to Secretary Panetta, Secretary Geithner, Ros-Lehtinen Requests Details of Iran's Involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan

Asks What Obama Administration, Iraqi and Afghan Governments are Doing to Counter Tehran's Efforts

Friday, August 24, 2012
(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner requesting details on Iran’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Chairman Ros-Lehtinen also is asking the Administration for information on the Iraqi and Afghan governments’ actions in addressing the Iranian regime’s attempts to gain influence within these countries. For a signed copy of the letter, please click here. Text of the letter follows:
Dear Secretary Panetta and Secretary Geithner:
I am writing to raise concerns about Iranian attempts to circumvent U.S., European Union, and other bilateral and multilateral sanctions through use of the financial sectors of Iraq and Afghanistan, and about what the Administration is doing or considering doing to counter these efforts effectively.
As described in two New York Times articles over the past week, and on the heels of the recent Treasury designation of the Elaf Islamic Bank in Baghdad, the Iranian regime is trying to access the financial sectors of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the energy sector of Iraq, to provide Tehran with crucial foreign currency reserves at a time when sanctions are having an effect.
Reports indicate that the Elaf Islamic Bank is still allowed to participate in the Iraq Central Bank’s daily auction, at which commercial banks can sell Iraqi dinars and buy United States dollars. These auctions are a crucial pathway for Iranian access to the international financial system. As Iran seeks to bolster its reserves of dollars and other convertible foreign currency to stabilize its exchange rates and pay for imports, the Iraqi government reportedly not only allows companies and individuals to circumvent the sanctions but also does not enforce penalties for non-compliance.
Further, the status of joint Iraqi-Iranian oil fields raises potential sanctionable upstream activities, which are particularly concerning given reports that some Iranian oil is finding its way to Iraqi ports for export.
A similar potential challenge to sanctions implementation and enforcement exists with Afghanistan. Kabul and Kandahar are now reportedly being utilized as financial centers through which the Iranian regime can circumvent sanctions. According to press reports, Afghan money traders said they were told this month by American officials not to conduct business with Arian Bank, an Afghan bank owned by two Iranian banks, because the Iranian regime was using Arian to move cash in and out of Afghanistan. Given longstanding difficulties encountered by the U.S. and other responsible nations with Afghanistan’s widespread corruption and lack of financial controls, I am concerned not only that Afghanistan could be transformed into a mechanism used by the Iranian regime to circumvent sanctions, but that such an arrangement could inadvertently provide Tehran greater leverage over the Afghan government.
Accordingly, I would appreciate if you would provide the following information (which, given its potential sensitivity, may be transmitted in classified form):
  • the overarching U.S. strategy to address these Iranian efforts to evade sanctions;
  • what actions the U.S., our allies, and the Iraqi and Afghan governments are taking to counter such sanctions evasion;
  • whether the Administration will condition security cooperation with Iraq and Afghanistan on such activities with the Iranian regime;
  • which Iraqi and Afghan banks, or other financial institutions, maintain correspondent accounts with designated Iranian banks or their affiliates;
  • a determination as to whether joint Iranian-Iraqi oil fields are sanctionable under the Iran Sanctions Act; and
  • an analysis of the impact of Iran’s use of Iraqi and Afghan financial institutions on the effectiveness of bilateral and multilateral sanctions regimes.
Given the U.S. investment of blood and treasure in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is vital that the Iraqi and Afghan governments cooperate with the U.S. and other responsible nations to address the Iranian threat. Failure to cooperate should be met with a reconsideration of bilateral security arrangements.
Thank you in advance for your assistance. I look forward to receiving your response.
US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was not Chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee until January 2011. Past examples of Congressional leadership on Committees really don't apply to her so possibly, for once, something actually will come out of this. I hope so and would love for the Detroit Free Press editorial board to be 100% correct and myself 100% wrong.

Today Moqtada al-Sadr's Baghdad office was targeted with a bombing which, Baghdad Operations Command tells Alsumaria, resulted in the deaths of 2 people with "several" more left injured. There are conflicting reports with two bombs placed uner the speaker's podium for Friday prayers or with the attack being done via mortar.. All Iraq News reports 3 dead and eleven injured with two bombs -- one near a booth by the podium. UPI notes the death toll from the bombings has climbed to two. In addition, a Baquba roadside bombing has left two police officers injured. All Iraq News notes 4 corpses discovered dumped in Mosul (all had gunshots to the head). AFP adds a Khan Beni Saad bombing targeted a Shi'ite family and claimed 1 life with three more injured. All Iraq News notes a fire broke out in a nightclub near Baghdad's National Theatre killing six people. AP reports that the fire was "set off" by assailants with a bomb and grenades and that, along with the 6 dead, twelve  were injured.
Turkey and the PKK continue to add up 'wins.' Alsumaria notes that the PKK announced today that they have killed 22 Turkish soldiers (from August 22nd to the present) and that they have injured twelve others while kidnapping an official of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Reuters reports Turkey announced 16 PKK were killed by Turkish forces by Thursday and UPI adds that, on Friday, Turkey's government boasted "at least 21 members" of the PKK had been killed. (See the earlier "Turkey and the PKK" from this morning. Again, we've attended this dance before.) Late today, Dogan News Agency reported the PKK released Hayrullah Tanis, the official they had kidnapped on Thursday.
Turning to the US, where the presidential election is underway, Chris McGuire (Schlepp Films) has made a series of humorous ads calling out GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Chris McGuire created something, he gets a link. I make an exception for creativity. McGuire gets a link otherwise I'm not interested in your columns -- that you all know are funny -- 'taking on Mitt.' Your columns are embarrassing because you're so ill informed about the man you're whoring for. Again, McGuire was creative and he got a link. Respect the arts. We're more interested in covering the two campaigns made up of four women, two presidential tickets. The four: Jill Stein has the Green Party's presidential nomination and her running mate is Cheri Honkala and Roseanne Barr has the nomination of the Peace and Freedom Party and her running mate is Cindy Sheehan. Click here to sign a petition calling on Ms. magazine and Women's Media Center to cover her campaign and the other female candidate for president Roseanne Barr's campaign
conspiracyanalyst (WTF RLY?) reports on the Chemtrails confrence and notes:
Roseanne Barr and Cyn­thia McK­in­ney were spe­cial guests, they were not in the orig­i­nal line-up. Hav­ing them there increased the sense of activism that this con­fer­ence was more than just about gain­ing knowl­edge about the lat­est advance­ments of the NWO, it was in fact about a move­ment. It was the chance to make a dif­fer­ence in our world through both tra­di­tional and non-traditional chan­nels, and it was of course about get­ting the word out to as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble. If Roseanne Barr can draw atten­tion to this issue, then bless her for her celebrity. If we can laugh at the ridicu­lous cir­cus of pol­i­tics, and stand up in the front row for truth then the pres­ence of politi­cians are more than wel­come, they are nec­es­sary.


If people in this country had any brains in their head, they'd vote 3rd party. Ron Paul, Jill Stein, Roseanne Barr, someone who isn't a total moron with their head so far up big business' collective ass that they can't see cars coming when they try crossing the street. Even ALF would be better.
We need to start branding politicians with the companies that own them. You know: "Property of:" then list the company names. The more you saw & the types you saw would determine whether you should bother voting for them. I'd also like to see fist fights in the Senate & House like they have in other government meetings in other countries. I've said it before but it would make things more interesting & some reality TV company could make money from it. It's practically Jerry Springer anyway; we may as well be honest about it.
So, why would Roseanne Barr be the best president ever:
1. She wasn't born to money. She came from lower income so she knows what that's like. Her entire TV show concept was based off that experience. That's better than the mainstream politicians you see who generally came from money or are part of some political dynasty. I feel she's more "of the people" than most folk in politics.
2. She conquered Hollywood. When she started out, she actually took command on her show. Most people in her shoes would be all docile & meek. She wasn't. People probably call me a bitch; I feel if people are calling a woman a "bitch" and saying she's "difficult," she's probably doing something right.
If she did this in Hollywood, do you honestly think she'd let some s[**]thead career politician push her around? Or some high power lobbyist? I can't see that happening. I'd hope she'd tell the prick just where to go; we need more people willing to do that sort of thing. If she told Hollywood execs where to go early in her career, I could see her doing the same thing to some Washington insider.
We leave Roseanne's campaign to move over to Jill's.  Bart Gruzalski (CounterPunch) weighs in on why he's supporting Jill Stein's campaign:
Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for President of the United States, promises a Manhattan-project jobs program that would ignite our economy, repair our crumbling infrastructure, and put the US in the lead at the forefront of the world’s newest and hottest technologies. She will put forward the health care policy most of us wanted in 2009: the public option, effectively Medicare for everyone. She will withdraw our troops out of Afghanistan and implement the advice George Washington gave in his farewell address: “The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.” Jill Stein will bring to the table a demand for an equitable tax system, not one in which the wealthy pay too little and we the 99% have to close schools, fire police, and shutter fire stations to make up the difference. Climate change and food security are at the top of her agenda, as is getting the money out of politics. A Jill Stein presidency will herald the liberation of a democracy currently hijacked by wealthy Americans like the Koch brothers and by corporate banksters like Lloyd Blankfein the CEO of Goldman Sachs. From the perspective of those of us in the 99%, the only plausible reason to fail to vote for Jill Stein is that voting for her will take votes away from Obama who would be better for the 99% than Romney. Let me explain why this fails to show that we should not vote for Jill Stein.
My explanation requires we distinguish the significant issues that affect all of us in the 99% from those issues that divide us. Some of the issues that unite us include the need for jobs, a vibrant economy, accessible health care for all, a fair tax policy, a democracy in which we have a voice, security from foreign threats, and an environment that will allow us to live healthily as well as allow our children and grandchildren to live healthily after us. The emotionally inflammatory issues that divide us are promulgated by the media, politicians, and even some religious leaders. These red herring issues draw us away from the basic issues that unite us: our economy and a vibrant democracy.
And Janelle Sorensen with the Stein campaign notes 3 ways to show your support for the Stein-Honkala ticket:
First of all, thanks to everyone who has volunteered, donated, and helped spread the word up to this point! We’re definitely gaining momentum!

As you know, this battle is far from over and we need all hands on deck every single day to make a dent in the corporate machine known as the United States presidential campaign.

So, let’s dive in with three easy ways to help today:
1. Make sure you’re connected to us! Since we don’t have a multi-million dollar budget for paid advertising like our competitors, social media is one of our best options for raising awareness. And, if you saw the impact it had for the Howard Dean campaign, the revolution in Egypt, and even the protests in Madison - you know it’s an imperative force for advocacy. We need all of you with us everywhere you can be!
(FYI - There’s not much happening on those latter two platforms yet, but we’re hoping to ramp things up in the coming months!)
2. Help us get media coverage on three target outlets: The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, and The Rachel Maddow Show. These three sources could help us reach millions of sympathetic voters!
On Facebook - Leave a message on their walls, privately message them, comment on their posts - whatever it takes to get their attention (respectfully please!):
On Twitter (copy and paste - or create your own tweet!):
  • PLEASE @StephenAtHome - have #Green Party #POTUS candidate @jillstein2012 on the @Colbertreport!
  • Hey @TheDailyShow - how about having #Green Party #POTUS candidate @JillStein2012 on the show?
  • Hey @maddow - how about having #Green Party #POTUS candidate @JillStein2012 on the show?
3. Donate! The Green Party is the only one that doesn't accept corporate donations. It makes these campaigns all the more challenging, but it also ensures we are only beholden to the people - you. Not Wall Street. Not the 1%. Every donation helps!
Thanks so much for your continued support! Together, we can reclaim democracy!!