Monday, November 26, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, tensions continue between Baghdad and Erbil, the most superficial of agreements today is portrayed (falsely) by some as a resolution, charges continues that Iraqi female prisoners are being mistreated, abused and, in some cases, raped, corruption charges attach themselves to Nouri's son, the continued Petraeus scandal, and more.
The tensions between Erbil and Baghdad continue. Nouri al-Maliki turned a tense situation into a crisis by sending forces (Tigris Operation Command) into the disputed areas in northern Iraq. The Kurds see this as an attempt by Nouri to seize control of the areas. Due to Nouri's past record and his refusal to honor the Constitution he took an oath to (specifically to implement Article 140 of the Constitution to resolve disputed areas), they're wise to see this as yet another power grab on Nouri's part. The World Tribune observes today, "Over the last 10 days, KRG and the Iraq Army have been in a standoff for control of a disputed town of Tuz Khurmatu."
Zaydan al-Rabii (Al-Monitor translating Al-Khallej) reported this morning that despite the fact that "a Kurdish military delegation is arriving in Baghdad on Monday [Nov. 26] to meet officials from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, news indicates that additional Kurdish soldiers and armored vehicles are moving towards disputed areas."
In a development everyone is trumpeting, representatives from the KRG and the central Iraqi government met in Baghdad today. KUNA notes, "Iraq's federal government and provincial government of Iraq's Kurdistan region reached an agreement in principle stipulating return of all military foces to their previous locations." In principal? And that's the more upbeat version. Isabel Coles and Alison Williams (Reuters) lead with, "Iraqi military leaders agreed on Monday with commanders from the Kurdistan region to defuse tension and discuss pulling their troops back from an area over which they both claim jurisdiction." That's not quite the same thing and when you include a quote from Iraq's "commander in chief of the Iraqi armed forces" (that would be Nouri) that states the two sides will "discuss a mechanism to return the forces which were deployed after the crisis to their previous positions." So they're going to discuss that. And even less has been accomplished according to Almanar, "Top federal and Kurdish security officials agreed in Baghdad on Monday to 'activate' coordinating committees between their forces and work to calm the situation in northern Iraq, a statement said." Almanar also notes that those attending the meeting including US Lt Gen Robert Caslen.
Let's take a little side trip since a US military officer is attending meetings in Iraq. Last night, Xinhua reported on US efforts to beef up their presence in Iraq, US military efforts. They note Independent Press Agency has quoted an Iraqi government source stating, "Dozens of giant U.S. airplanes C-130 Hercules had carried out successive flights to the once second largest U.S. military airbase al-Asad in Iraq's western province of Anbar." They include the official government denial. While Buratha News Agency has noted a Special Ops unit has come into Iraq in recent weeks and that there are negotiations going on to send more in. Then the report notes: On Sept. 24, the New York Times newspaper quoted Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr., an American commander in charge of speeding up weapons sales to Iraq, as saying that Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. According to Caslen, "A unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence," the newspaper.
Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.
That's the New York Times report Xinhua is referring to. And please note, 'fact checker' and corpulent TV personality Candy Crowley felt no need to tell debate watchers that very real fact. But China's Xinhua can note what NBC News, CBS News and ABC News all ignored. But it wasn't just television news that was ignorant of Tim Arango's report. Mere weeks ago the editorial board of the New York Times wrote an editorial on Iraq that made clear they hadn't read what one of their own reporters had written. And when 'fact checking' the presidential debates, the New York Times team repeatedly came up stupid when it had to do with the US government in negotiations to send more US troops into Iraq.
The Chinese may end up better informed about what the US is working on in Iraq than the American people. Back to the current standoff in Iraq.
Kelly McEvers: Kurdish and Arab military leaders tentatively agreed today to pull their troops back to previous positions but the restaurant owner back in Tuz Khormato is not optimstic. "It's not the politicians in high place who suffer from this war of words," he told us. "It's us. The people on the ground."
Things are now so tense between the Kurdistan Regional Government out of Erbil and the Baghdad-based central government of Iraq that rumors usually used to justify the start of open war are flying around. Al Rafidayn reports rumors being spread that the Kurds are sending shooters into Kirkuk in plain clothes to kill people. This is the sort of thing the US government has repeatedly used to justify moving on the Syrian government. While rumors fly, Kitabat notes that efforts to de-escalate the situation and prevent armed conflict continue with talks continue.
But Nouri never plays fair. Alsumaria reports that Nouri has announced the issue is one for the federal courts. That would be the federal courts he controls. All Iraq News notes that Jabbar Yawar, Secretary General of the Ministry of Peshmerga (Kurdish elite forces) has stated that their demand is that Nouri's forces leave the disputed areas. Alsumaria adds that Nouri has sent in six more additional military helicopters to the area.
This isn't surprising. This has been building for years and there were many red flags raised in the process.
KRG President Massoud Barzani: Iraq is facing a serious crisis today. Yesterday, we have discussed that very frankly with the President [Barack Obama], the Vice President [Joe Biden] and it's going to one-man rule. It's going towards control of all the establishments of state. So we have got a situation or we ended up having a situation in Baghdad where one individual is the Prime Minister and at the same time he's the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, he's the Minister of Defense, he's the Minister of the Interior and the Chief of the Intelligence and lately he has sent a correspondence to the president of the Central Bank in Iraq that that establishment would also come under the Prime Minister. Where in the world would you find such an example? We as the people of Kurdistan, we believe that this government has come to be as a result of the blood that we have shed and as a result of the sacrifices that we have contributed. We are eager to see the situation reformed. Therefore, we will not leave Baghdad for others. So, therefore, we see the situation in Iraq that it requires to be ruled in partnership -- for that power-sharing and partnership to consist of the Kurds and the Arabs -- both the Shia Arabs and the Sunni Arabs.
After increased tensions between the Iraqi and the Kurdish governments, Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani told Alhurra TV last Thursday that Baghdad is considering the use of F-16 fighter planes against the Kurds. In the interview, Barzani says the issue with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is not personal, but it is about his dictatorial policies. "I still consider him a brother and a friend," he said. According to Barzani, division commanders in the Iraqi army are supposed to be approved by parliament, but this hasn't happened. Barzani told Alhurra that he has confronted the Iraqi PM many times and been told by Maliki that he will act, but he hasn't, and suggested there is talk of a "military solution" to confront the Kurds in Baghdad. Barzani said that in an official meeting with Iraqi military commanders, it was stated that they should wait for F-16s to arrive to help push back the Kurds.
"Given the fact that the Maliki government doesn't represent a true coalition, won't this agreement [make it appear] we are taking sides in the civil war especially when most Iraqi Parliamentarians have called for the withdrawal of troops?"
That's an important question. Then-Senator Russ Feingold asked it in the April 10, 2008 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing when the US was attempting to hand Nouri the moon and stars in contract form with the Status Of Forces Agreement. He wasn't the only senator bothered by the US government getting into bed with Nouri and the issue of a civil war in Iraq. Another senator pointed out that this arrangement raised "many red flags with me and other Americans. We've pledged we're not only going to consult when there is an outside threat, but also when there is an inside threat. We've just witnessed when Mr. Maliki engaged in the use of force against another Shia group in the south, is this an inside threat?"
Good questions. They deserved answers.
The person asking that question, like Russ Feingold, is no longer in the Senate. The person asking that question is Joe Biden, now the US Vice President.
It's a shame those questions weren't answered before Joe left the Senate.
Of greater interest to us (and something's no one's reported on) is the RAND Corporation's report entitled "Managing Arab-Kurd Tensions in Northern Iraq After the Withdrawal of U.S. Troops." The 22-page report, authored by Larry Hanauer, Jeffrey Martini and Omar al-Shahery, markets "CBMs" -- "confidence-building measures" -- while arguing this is the answer. If it strikes you as dangerously simplistic and requiring the the Kurdish region exist in a vacuum where nothing else happens, you may have read the already read the report.
[. . .]
The authors acknowledge:
["] Continuing to contain Arab-Kurd tensions will require a neutral third-party arbitrator that can facilitate local CMBs, push for national-level negotiations, and prevent armed conflict between Iraqi and Kurdish troops. While U.S. civilian entities could help implement CMBs and mediate political talks, the continued presence of U.S. military forces within the disputed internal boundaries would be the most effective way to prevent violent conflict between Arabs and Kurds. ["]
[. . .]
The report notes that, in late 2009, Gen Ray Odierno (top US commander in Iraq at that point) had declared the tensions between Arabs and Kurds to be "the greatest single driver of instability in Iraq." It doesn't note how the US Ambassador to Iraq when Odierno made those remarks was Chris Hill who dismissed talk of tensions as well as the issue of the oil rich and disputed Kirkuk.
It's a real shame the White House ignored Odierno, sidelined him, told him couldn't give interviews all to appease and please Chris Hill who didn't know the first thing he was talking about. As Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor note in their new book The Endgame, for the White House to realize what a mistake they'd made, it would take Odierno speaking to then-Secretary of Defense Robert
Turning to the topic of the death penalty, last week US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice helped kill the UN General Assembly resolution which would have placed a moratorium on the death penalty worldwide. Susan apparently needs blood flowing in the street to wake up feeling safe each morning. This week? Kitabat reports that Iraq's Foreign Affairs Minister Hoshyar Zebari met with Fadh Abdul Mohsen al-Zaid. al-Zaid is based in Jordan and acts as Saudi Arabi's Ambassador to Jordan as well as being Saudi Arabia's non-resident Ambassador to Iraq. Zebari and al-Zaid discussed attempts to normalize relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia and the issue of Saudi prisoners in Iraq and of Iraqis in the Saudi Kingdom and the need to ratify the agreement on the exchange of prisoners. Thamer Qamqoun (Saudi Gazette) reports Saudi national Ali Hassan Ali Fadel is in an Iraqi prison and has been sentenced to death, "Sources in Iraq said Fadel was tortured and his confessions were extracted from under duress while he had proved to the court that he had entered Iraq to visit his friends in Al-Mosul" and not for 'terrorism.' Most of Iraq's 'confessions' are derived from torture.
Staying with violence, as noted in the October 15th snapshot, Iraq had already executed 119 people in 2012. Time to add more to that total. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported last night that 10 more people were executed on Sunday ("nine Iraqis and one Egyptian"). Tawfeeq notes the Ministry of Justice's statement on the executions includes, "The Iraqi Justice Ministry carried out the executions by hanging 10 inmates after it was approved by the presidential council." And, not noted in the report, that number's only going to climb. A number of Saudi prisoners have been moved into Baghdad over the last weeks in anticipation of the prisoners being executed. Hou Qiang (Xinhua) observes, "Increasing executions in Iraq sparked calls by the UN mission in the country, the European Union and human rights groups on Baghdad to abolish the capital punishment, criticizing the lack of transparency in the proceedings of the country's courts."
At least 129 executions so far this year. Iraq is on the verge of setting another record. Sadly, not one to be proud of but there aren't many records the government's set that anyone can be proud of since Nouri al-Maliki was installed by the US government to be prime minister.
Weeks ago, Nouri traveled with a delegation to Russia and, while there, signed a $4.2 billion weapons deal. The deal was a surprise and it involved so much money that it garnered huge press. Russia took bows on the world stage as did Nouri. As with all other weapons deals, Nouri insisted that it was to protect Iraq from external forces. Nouri then went to Prague, signed another weapons deal, then returned to Iraq and, shortly after, announced the Russian deal was off.
Long before he made that announcement, there was calls for him to appear before the Parliament to explain the deal. There were accusations of corruption and graft. These accusations have not vanished. Ali al-Dabbagh, Nouri's spokesperson until this week, felt the need to publicly announce this week that he was not part of the deal. Saturday, All Iraq News reported that Nouri's son is now accused of being part of the alleged corruption. Ahmed al-Maliki has long been accused of benefitting from nepotism but now the Sadr bloc has accused him of being in on the corruption. Sunday morning, Kitabat reported on it. Both also noted that Ali al-Dabbagh's public denial last week of being involved in the deal has not cleared him of charges of corruption.
Still on the Iraqi Parliament, Saturday All Iraq News reported that the Women, Family and Children's Committee is calling for the Ministry of Justice to make prisons and detention centers open to legislative committees so they can see what the conditions are. In addition,All Iraq News noted MP Safia al-Suhail is calling on the Ministry of Women to focus on eliminating violence against women in prison. Today Alsumaria reports that Iraqiya MP Hamid al-Mutlaq accused security forces of raping and torturing women prison and he traces the culture back to the torture of Iraqis by Americans at Abu Ghraib prison. On Sautrday, the article notes, Iraqiya MP Ahmed al-Alwani discussed the large number of women who have been raped in Iraqi prisons and are in fear of further assaults.
Moving to the US and the Petraeus scandal. For those who don't know, David Petraeus was the CIA Director. That was his last position. He stepped down, this month, with the title of Director. I'm sorry if you're so stupid that this confuses you. He was not "General David Petraeus the CIA Director." That did not happen. Petraeus was following in Michael Hayden's footsteps. That CIA Director (2005-2009) chose to use the title of his position "Director." He could have insisted on General. But we don't militarize other branches of government. Hayden actually grasped that and corrected the press when they attemtped to call him "General" after he assumed the position. Good for Michael Hayden. (And we said that in real time when he corrected a member of the press on that.)
So all this worship of a person -- which is how it plays out -- is pretty sad. Ava and I already took on the ultimate military whore Sunday in "TV: The 10 Most Disgraceful People" in which we imagined Barbara Walters hosting a needed program:
"Thank you very much, General Woodward," Barbara Walters said. "Six commanding officers received some form of a disciplinary actions and two more were removed, according to the Air Force. My next guest chose to remove himself. He flew from obscurity to national prominence with the help of media admirers like Thomas E. Ricks. Interestingly, Ricks has a book that insists that generals should be fired when they don't win wars but Ricks has spent the last weeks defending this man. Former general David Petraeus, at one point, the top US commander in Iraq. Oversaw a failed war and what some call an unethical policy of counter-insurgency. Despite those realities, President Barack Obama would go on to put Petraeus over the war in Afghanistan and then to make the military retired Petraeus the CIA Director. It was a sensitive post and one that must be free of any potential scandal out of concerns over blackmail. Mr. Petraeus has resigned over an affair which, he insists, did not start until after he left the military in 2011. Director, how do you explain this affair? And why did you decide to resign not when the FBI learned of the affair but when you learned the affair was going to be made public?" We were as shocked as Walters when David Petraeus' knees parted and Thomas Ricks crawled out from between them and began speaking. "We now seem to care more about the sex lives of our leaders than the real lives of our soldiers." As Ricks attempted to filibuster and brought up President Dwight D. Eisenhower's alleged affair when he was a general, Walters cut him off. "You are a disgrace but not enough of one to be on this show. Why do you prattle on about this general and that general and the military and all the other crap? He is not a general who was forced to resign because of the military code of ethics. He was a CIA Director. As usual, your stupidity has confused the issue. As I was saying before, the Director could live with the feds knowing of the affair but could not handle it going public. Which would indicate that if a foreign government discovered the affair and attempted to blackmail him with it, he would be very open to blackmail because he so clearly did not want the affair to go public."
Barbara Walters will host her annual Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People of the Year Wednesday, December 12th on ABC. That's the special Ava and I were re-imagining. And the quote from Ricks with a link? That's Thomas E. Ricks' own stupid words. "General David Petraeus" did not step down. Director David Petraeus did.
I cannot stand the hypocrisy of my country. We have presidents, presidential candidates and corporate executives who fornicate and adulterate with impunity, some when their wives were stricken with cancer, yet this one man who has given his entire life to America errs one time and the media and hacks like Michael Hastings attack him with impunity. There should be no mass audience for a situation should remain a private issue between General Petraeus and his wife.
Oh, grow up, you little man. Let's examine your stupidity in that paragraph sentence by sentence.
I cannot stand the hypocrisy of my country.
Can't you? You served in an illegal war but a news cycle has you on edge? I didn't realize they grew 'em so weak these days. Let's call Cokie Roberts and see if she can loan Blake Hall her pearls so he can wear them when he's doing these clutch-the-pearls moments. And doesn't Hall offer his own hypocrisy in his next sentence?
We have presidents, presidential candidates and corporate executives who fornicate and adulterate with impunity, some when their wives were stricken with cancer, yet this one man who has given his entire life to America errs one time and the media and hacks like Michael Hastings attack him with impunity.
Well, clearly, if someone has a spouse and they also have an extra-marital partner, they're not giving their ENTIRE life to the country. That's just a factual. But maybe John Edwards -- I don't care for John Edwards and have felt that way since I was planning on being a donor to his first presidential campaign but instead got groped by Scummy Edwards and I lfet, but not before telling told Elizabeth to put her husband on a leash (and then instead donated to John Kerry's campaign -- but for one brief moment, John Edwards could have had me as a donor until he thought he could 'have me' in another way) -- feels he gave a lot to his country? Maybe he feels that some of his legal cases and his Senate service and even running for president in two primaries and running for the vice presidency in one were giving his "entire life" to the country?
He may feel that way. He may not.
But it's strange, Blake Hall wants to draw a cone of silence around Petraeus' extra-martial affair(s) but still feels he can trash John Edwards for the same thing? For someone who, just the sentence before, was decrying hypocrisy, Hall certainly seems willing to embrace it with a 'logic' that appears to be: "Don't talk about Petraeus sex life! Let's talk about John Edwards sex life instead!"
Hall feels Michael Hastings is a "media hack." That's Hall's opinion. Many others feel differently.
Hall also insist that Petraeus "errs one time" and is punished which confuses me?
Is the argument that Petraeus only slept around once or that he only had one mistress?
Long before Rielle Hunter entered the picture, John Edwards was trolling. Because that's what cheaters tend to do. Now maybe people serving a lot closer with Petraeus in Iraq than Hall did, maybe these two people told me wrong and maybe a certain reporter who confessed to me that she had an affair with Petraeus during that period was just looking for another notch on her lipstick case (to be Pat Benatar about it) but even though those things I've been told never happened, human nature really doesn't allow for a person to be married for over 30 years and then, suddenly, out of the blue, decide to cheat.
Add to that the fact that Petraeus is sixty-years-old which really isn't the age for a man to either be in his sexual prime or facing a mid-life crisis (two 'triggers' for sleeping around).
I bring that up because Hall's the one who's defending Petraeus and basing it on his belief that Petraeus is someone who "errs one time." If you're going to make an argument with any attempt at logic and you're going to acknowledge that Petraeus did cheat, I really wouldn't rush to shore up an argument for a cheater based on how few times the cheater says he cheated.
Because most people lie about sex. That's why I never supported the impeachment of Bill Clinton. I liked Bill (I still do) and I think he did a good job as president. But, no, I wouldn't impeach someone because they said they hadn't had a sexual relationship with someone when indeed they had.
There should be no mass audience for a situation should remain a private issue between General Petraeus and his wife.
He is not a general. At best he is "retired General Petraeus." At best. I don't know why your bring his wife into it. We're not naming her. I have nothing to say about her on this topic. She has done much good with regards to veterans and we will surely note her again in relation to that.
But grasp that I am damn tired of an innocent spouse -- wife or husband -- being dragged through the smutty river because of a cheating spouse. The David Petraeus scandal is about many things but the wife is not a part of that scandal and that's why -- check the archives -- since this story broke I have not mentioned her name here. No spouse should be dragged into this nonsense.
She's not doing a thing to bring disgrace to herself. Leave her out of it. And that includes those of you who want to offer crocodile tears for her to try to cover for Petraeus. The secret is out. She has to live with it publicly and privately and that is not fair but neither is life. She's always conducted herself in a professional and caring manner and I assume she will continue to do so.
Hall's biggest mistake is he doesn't seem to grasp what actually happened. Petraeus -- according to the offficial record -- retired from the military (Hall doesn't even grasp that), became Director of the CIA, slept with what appears to be an unbalanced person, ended the affair after several months at which point the person began creating problems leading one woman feeling unsafe, that woman contacts authorities about the possibly unbalanced person, an investigation ensues, during the investigation it comes out that Petraeus has slept with the person. Do we follow those events so far?
A CIA Director is put into a compromising position. This is where people have to start exploring national security issues -- that go far beyond, "Did he tell the woman classified information!" The primary concern here is are you open to blackmail. When gay men and lesbians had to live in the closet, they were considered security risks with the official justification being that they were open to blackmail. In those witch hunt days (funny how people never want to talk about the sexuality witch hunt of that period despite the fact that it was a big deal in real time and among the reasons a former general, Frank McCarthy, left the State Dept and relocated to California where he'd go on to live with longterm love Rupert Allan while producing a number of films including Patton).
Petraeus admitted to the affair and planned to continue in the post. The official story states that and states that he only decided to step down when he learned that the affair was going to become public.
If Petraeus was prepared to stay on as CIA Director if the affair was private but took the dramatic option of stepping down when he found out that the affair would go public, you need to grasp what that says.
It says he didn't feel he did anything worth resigning over. It also says he was, indeed, a potential blackmail target. He was prepared to stay on with the Justice Dept knowing but the whole world? That freaked him out. Which means a foreign power, if the affair had been kept quiet, could have discovered it and could have attempted to blackmail him with it.
I'm not saying they would have succeeded. I am saying his actions in stepping down indicate that there was reason to be concerned that he was a blackmail risk.
That's the official story.
If Blake Hall knows differently, if he knows or even suspects, that the official story isn't correct, many of us would appreciate him stating so. Unless/until that happens, Petraeus chose to step down, he was not forced out and he chose to step down not when the government learned of his affair but when the public was about to.
That's not really "Poor Petraeus."
Michael Hastings and others like him are really responsible for ensuring freedom and accountability. They are not the only ones. And if Michael Hastings is involved in a sex scandal or drug scandal tomorrow, you better believe it will be in the news cycle.
Blake Hall wants Petraues to have privacy and, again illogically, seems to think that the best way for that to happen is for Hall to write a piece about it.
I have two friends who have been the tabloids for sometime because they both got caught cheating. I haven't said a word about it publicly. I've said, for Third, "You can all write about it but I have nothing to say on the matter and will not be participating." I don't even discuss it with friends who I love but I know are prone to gossip. Because the best way I can help the two cheaters who are embarrassed (and more importantly,the two innocent spouses who didn't do a damn thing to warrant their marriages being held up to ridicule) is by not saying anything. It's a tactic that Hall might want to explore if he truly wants people to stop talking about David Petraeus. It doesn't mean they'll stop, but he'll know he hasn't helped fuel the discussion.
And Hall's not helped by using terms he's doesn't grasp the defintion of. Fornicate with impunity? Seriously? That's a real grasp-the-pearl moment. Fornication is not cheating. Fornication is sex outside of marriage. In America, a huge portion of people have 'fornicated.' And most of us? We've done it "with impunity" -- gasp. I'm sure there's a CEO fornicating somewhere without impunity right now. But "fornicate" doesn't mean that said CEO is cheating on a spouse -- only that the CEO and whomever they are sleeping with are not married. Maybe Hall does grasp that. Maybe he's arguing for everyone to be a virgin until marriage? If so, he'll probably have about the same luck with that as with getting people to stop writing about Petraeus.