Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, July 17, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue,rumors swirl that Nouri's hold on power is slipping, Barzani speaks of his two-year extension, Ayad Allawi calls for the government to protect the citizens of Diyala Province, the US House Judiciary Committee discusses spying, and more. 



This morning, US House Rep Ted Deutch noted he worries "about the balance between legitimate security needs and the constituationally protected rights of all Americans" and declared, "I believe it's time to rexemine the Patriot Act, insert greater accountability into the FISA court and ensure our laws cannot be interpreted behind the backs of the American public." 

He was speaking at the House Judiciary Committee hearing on FISA.  The Committee Chair is Bob Goodlatte and the Ranking Member is John Conyers.  The first panel was made up of DoJ's James Cole, NSA's John C. Inglis, Office of Director of National Intelligence's Robert S. Litt and the FBI's Stephanie Douglas.  The second panel was Steptoe & Johnson, LLP's Stewart Baker, the ACLU's Jameel Jaffer and CNSS' Kate Martin.

Storyteller Stewart Baker  babbled before the House Judiciary Committee and made the claim that FISA was 'constrained' under Bill Clinton and this resulted in the "wall" between intelligence and law enforcement which prevented the capture of the 9-11 hijackers.  Jamie Gorelick, tear down this wall!  Are we really back to that nonsense?  (If there was a wall, it dates back to the Reagan era.)  Baker loves fairy tales.  Let's deal with how the so-called wall allegedly caused 9-11.  From SourceWatch:


Coleen Rowley, who served as chief counsel of the FBI's Minneapolis field office, "in a 13-page memo, outlined how FBI headquarters thwarted agents' attempts to investigate Zacarias Moussaoui, the alleged 20th hijacker. The 'bombshell memo' led bureau chief Robert Mueller to reorganize the agency. Rowley testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in June about the FBI bureaucracy that frustrates agents' attempts at innovative investigation and mires them in paperwork." [1]

 From Rowley's May 21, 2002 letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller:

1) The Minneapolis agents who responded to the call about Moussaoui's flight training identified him as a terrorist threat from a very early point. The decision to take him into custody on August 15, 2001, on the INS "overstay" charge was a deliberate one to counter that threat and was based on the agents' reasonable suspicions. While it can be said that Moussaoui's overstay status was fortuitous, because it allowed for him to be taken into immediate custody and prevented him receiving any more flight training, it was certainly not something the INS coincidentally undertook of their own volition. I base this on the conversation I had when the agents called me at home late on the evening Moussaoui was taken into custody to confer and ask for legal advice about their next course of action. The INS agent was assigned to the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force and was therefore working in tandem with FBI agents.
2) As the Minneapolis agents' reasonable suspicions quickly ripened into probable cause, which, at the latest, occurred within days of Moussaoui's arrest when the French Intelligence Service confirmed his affiliations with radical fundamentalist Islamic groups and activities connected to Osama Bin Laden, they became desperate to search the computer lap top that had been taken from Moussaoui as well as conduct a more thorough search of his personal effects. The agents in particular believed that Moussaoui signaled he had something to hide in the way he refused to allow them to search his computer.
3) The Minneapolis agents' initial thought was to obtain a criminal search warrant, but in order to do so, they needed to get FBI Headquarters' (FBIHQ's) approval in order to ask for DOJ OIPR's approval to contact the United States Attorney's Office in Minnesota. Prior to and even after receipt of information provided by the French, FBIHQ personnel disputed with the Minneapolis agents the existence of probable cause to believe that a criminal violation had occurred/was occurring. As such, FBIHQ personnel refused to contact OIPR to attempt to get the authority. While reasonable minds may differ as to whether probable cause existed prior to receipt of the French intelligence information, it was certainly established after that point and became even greater with successive, more detailed information from the French and other intelligence sources. The two possible criminal violations initially identified by Minneapolis Agents were violations of Title 18 United States Code Section 2332b (Acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, which, notably, includes "creating a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to any other person by destroying or damaging any structure, conveyance, or other real or personal property within the United States or by attempting or conspiring to destroy or damage any structure, conveyance, or other real or personal property within the United States") and Section 32 (Destruction of aircraft or aircraft facilities). It is important to note that the actual search warrant obtained on September 11th was based on probable cause of a violation of Section 32.1 Notably also, the actual search warrant obtained on September 11th did not include the French intelligence information. Therefore, the only main difference between the information being submitted to FBIHQ from an early date which HQ personnel continued to deem insufficient and the actual criminal search warrant which a federal district judge signed and approved on September 11th, was the fact that, by the time the actual warrant was obtained, suspected terrorists were known to have highjacked planes which they then deliberately crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. To say then, as has been iterated numerous times, that probable cause did not exist until after the disasterous event occurred, is really to acknowledge that the missing piece of probable cause was only the FBI's (FBIHQ's) failure to appreciate that such an event could occur. The probable cause did not otherwise improve or change. When we went to the United States Attorney's Office that morning of September 11th, in the first hour after the attack, we used a disk containing the same information that had already been provided to FBIHQ; then we quickly added Paragraph 19 which was the little we knew from news reports of the actual attacks that morning. The problem with chalking this all up to the "20-20 hindsight is perfect" problem, (which I, as all attorneys who have been involved in deadly force training or the defense of various lawsuits are fully appreciative of), is that this is not a case of everyone in the FBI failing to appreciate the potential consequences. It is obvious, from my firsthand knowledge of the events and the detailed documentation that exists, that the agents in Minneapolis who were closest to the action and in the best position to gauge the situation locally, did fully appreciate the terrorist risk/danger posed by Moussaoui and his possible co-conspirators even prior to September 11th. Even without knowledge of the Phoenix communication (and any number of other additional intelligence communications that FBIHQ personnel were privy to in their central coordination roles), the Minneapolis agents appreciated the risk. So I think it's very hard for the FBI to offer the "20-20 hindsight" justification for its failure to act! Also intertwined with my reluctance in this case to accept the "20-20 hindsight" rationale is first-hand knowledge that I have of statements made on September 11th, after the first attacks on the World Trade Center had already occurred, made telephonically by the FBI Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) who was the one most involved in the Moussaoui matter and who, up to that point, seemed to have been consistently, almost deliberately thwarting the Minneapolis FBI agents' efforts (see number 5). Even after the attacks had begun, the SSA in question was still attempting to block the search of Moussaoui's computer, characterizing the World Trade Center attacks as a mere coincidence with Misseapolis' prior suspicions about Moussaoui.2

That's some of the letter.  It is not about a 'wall,' it is about people not doing their jobs.  That was too much reality for someone who chose to tell a fairy tale. 


Ranking Members John Conyers was a rare bright spot on the hearing.  He noted, for example, of the secret spaying, "If it weren't for a couple of people leaking, we wouldn't know any of this, as far as I'm concerned."


His concerns included the legality of the collecting of data, more so than "the uses to which it is put."  He declared tracking everyone in the country "for at least six years" was "probably the most disturbing aspect."


As noted Jameel Jaffer (ACLU) testified.  He has posted his prepared testimony (opening remarks) and we'll note it:

Over the last six weeks it has become clear that the NSA is engaged in far-reaching, intrusive, and unconstitutional surveillance of Americans' communications.
  • Under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the NSA is tracking every single phone call made by a resident of the United States—who they called, when they called them, for how long they spoke. Until recently it was tracking ordinary Americans' Internet activity as well.
  • Under Section 702 of FISA, and on the pretext of monitoring people outside the United States, the NSA is using Section 702 of FISA to build massive databases of Americans' domestic and international communications—not just so-called metadata, but content as well.
These programs have been made possible by huge advances in the technology of surveillance, but in many respects they resemble the generalized surveillance programs that led to the adoption of the Fourth Amendment more than two hundred years ago. The FISA court orders resemble general warrants, albeit general warrants for the digital age.
That the NSA is engaged in this unconstitutional surveillance is the result of defects both in the law itself and in the current oversight system.
  • The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act affords the government sweeping power to monitor the communications of innocent people.
  • Excessive secrecy has made congressional oversight difficult and public oversight impossible.
  • Intelligence officials have repeatedly misled the public, Congress, and the courts about the nature and scope of the government's surveillance activities.
  • Structural features of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court have prevented that court from serving as an effective guardian of constitutional rights.
  • And the ordinary federal courts have improperly used the "state secrets" and "standing" doctrines to place the NSA's activities beyond the reach of judicial review.
To say that the NSA's activities present a grave danger to American democracy is not an overstatement. Thirty-six years ago, after conducting a comprehensive investigation into the intelligence abuses of the previous decades, the Church Committee warned that inadequate regulations on government surveillance "threaten[ed] to undermine our democratic society and fundamentally alter its nature." This warning should have even more resonance today than it did in 1976, because in recent decades the NSA's resources have grown, statutory and constitutional limitations have been steadily eroded, and the technology of surveillance has become exponentially more powerful.
Because the problem Congress confronts today has many roots, there is no single solution to it. But there are a number of things that Congress should do right away:
  • It should amend Sections 215 and 702 to expressly prohibit suspicionless or "dragnet" monitoring or tracking of Americans' communications.
  • It should require the executive to release basic information about the government's use of foreign-intelligence-surveillance authorities, including those relating to pen registers and national security letters. The executive should be required to disclose, for each year:
    • How many times each of these provisions was used
    • How many individuals' privacy was implicated by the government's use of each provision
    • And, with respect to any dragnet, generalized, or bulk surveillance program, the types of information that were collected.
  • Congress should also require the publication of FISA court opinions that evaluate the meaning, scope, or constitutionality of the foreign-intelligence laws. The ACLU recently filed a motion before the FISA court arguing that the publication of these opinions is required by the First Amendment, but Congress need not wait for the FISA court to act. Congress has the authority and the obligation to ensure that Americans are not governed by a system of secret law.
  • Finally, Congress—and this Committee in particular—should hold additional hearings to consider further amendments to FISA, including amendments to make FISC proceedings more transparent.
Congress should not be indifferent to the government's accumulation of vast quantities of sensitive information about American's lives. This Committee in particular has a crucial role to play in ensuring that the government's efforts to protect the country do not compromise the freedoms that make the country worth protecting.
Thank you.


Many, like Chair  Gooelatte, didn't grasp why the officials continued to insist that thei was a foreign affairs matter when it came to spying on Americans making phone calls or sending e-mails to other Americans, and both parties being inside the United States?  Many words were used to justify that, none of which made sense.

What's the take away?  US House Rep Blake Farenthold noted that the Fourth Amendment was seen as not being violated by the spying and the First Amendment was not seen as being violated by the spying so possibly the only time he has a reasonable expectation of privacy is with "a letter i hand deliver to my wife in a schiff,"


The Glens Falls Post-Star reports  on Lt Gen Robert Caslen Jr becoming the "59th superintendent" at West Point in a recent ceremony  and notes, "Caslen is a 1975 West Point graduate who has commanded at every level from company through division. Most recently, he was the Chief of the Office of Security Cooperation for Iraq."

Yes, he was.

And what should he have been most famous for in that role?

For revealing that, in the fall of 2012, more US troops were being sent back into Iraq. September 25th, Tim Arango (New York Times) reported:

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 [US] General [Robert L.] Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.


It should have caused outrage, it should have led to outcries.

Tom Hayden did call it out.  Otherwise?

Nobody.  They were happier, apparently, to call us out for repeatedly noting it or for taking writers to task -- left writers for left websites -- when they repeated the lie of all US troops being out of Iraq. Paraphrasing one e-mailer (who is with an 'organization' supposedly against war), "You know you're not really being helpful by attacking [name deleted].  And Iraq is not the only issue in the world."

Really?  It was the issue that put your laughable organization on the map.  And I guess you think it's helpful to ignore the fact that US troops are being sent back into Iraq?  That would explain your silence and that of your organization's as well, right?

We're half way through July.  Do you realize that in two months, we'll be at the one year anniversary of Arango's report and no one wants to deal with it on the left, no one wants to acknowledge it.

It's far more important to cover for Barack than it is to tell the truth, apparently.

Arango noted a new deal was expected. 

It went through December 6, 2012, the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department Defense of the United States of America -- signed by both the US and Iraq.  We noted it that day and returned to the topic for the  December 10th and December 11th snapshots.  Among other things, it provides for joint-patrols (US and Iraq) in Iraq.

It would be nice if any of the above could be discussed.  Instead, our left 'independent' media that always wants you to send it money can't be bothered with covering these truths.  When it comes to Iraq, so much never gets covered.  For example, a new World Health Organization study side-steps a great deal.  IPS reports:

A long-awaited study on congenital birth defects by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Iraq is expected to be very extensive in nature. 
[. . .]
The report will not examine the link between the prevalence of birth defects and use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions used during the war and occupation in Iraq, according to WHO. A by-product of the uranium enrichment process, DU is prized by the military for its use in ammunition that can punch through walls and armoured tanks. The main problem, experts say, is that DU munitions vaporise on contact, generating dust that is easily inhaled into the lungs.
The WHO study will also not consider pollutants such as lead and mercury as factors or variables, Syed Jaffar Hussain, representative and head of mission for the WHO in Iraq, told IPS.
According to WHO, establishing a link between the prevalence of congenital birth defects and exposure to DU would require further research by competent agencies or institutions.
Discussion and preparation for the study that started in mid-2011 was conducted in the wake of reports and individual studies conducted in Iraq which found a significant increase in the prevalence of congenital birth defects, says WHO.
Previous studies also pointed at some kind of correlation between metal pollutants, possibly DU used in 2003 and 2004 during the U.S. military attacks in Fallujah, with congenital birth defects in the region.
However, the causes will not be part of the MOH and WHO study. And this is what has invited criticism from some health experts and scientists.


 Caslen had previously served as West Point's commandant, a top academy position in charge of day-to-day operations of the cadets.

Also under-covered has been the prostitution.  For years, the mainstream press insisted there were no brothels in Iraq, certainly not in Baghdad.  No brothels in a war zone?  That would be a modern first.  Of course, Off Our Backs wasn't afraid to report the truth and did report it.  There were brothels in Iraq, including Baghdad.   Wassim Bassem (Al-Monitor) reports:



Raed Qais, a worker in a nightclub, confirmed to Al-Monitor that the number of brothels in Baghdad has increased after being limited to certain areas such as Midan, Kamaliyah and Abu Ghraib. They have become active today in other areas in private homes that hold semi-discreet socializing and sex parties, frequented by clients via a network of relationships of “confidants,” their money and their entourage.
Karima Hatem admitted to Al-Monitor that she has "worked in the sex trade in Baghdad for around six years,” after a slump in demand for goods in Diwaniyah forced her to move to the capital.
Heifa Hamid also moved around five years ago from the Fawar area of Diwaniyah to Baghdad, where she works in a secret brothel in the Midan area as part of a “work team” with Hatem.
 
 

National Iraqi News Agency reports that the Kirkuk home of Ministry of Defense official Talib Mohammed was attacked leaving one of his bodyguards injured, a Baquba bombing left 3 people dead and three more injured, an armed clash in Tikrit left 3 police officers and 1 rebel dead (and one police officer injured), a bombing near a Mosul cafe left 3 people dead and twenty-one more injured, an armed attack in Ramadi left 3 rebels dead, a Ramadi atack left 2 Iraqi soldiers dead, a Mosul bombing claimed the lives of 2 police officers and left a third injured, an armed attack in Aljazeerah left 3 rebels dead and 2 Iraqi soldiers dead, and an attack on Sheikh Qadhban al-Jumanili's car left his wife dead and his son and another relative injured. Prensa Latina reports that the Sheik was also killed in the attack that claimed his wife and they report "three children died when a bomb exploded near the Al Suedi River, northeast of the city of Baqubah, in an attack that wounded five other children."  All Iraq News adds that a Muqdadiya bombing claimed 3 lives and left four more people injured.  Through Tuesday, Iraq Body Count counts 460 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.

As Adam Schreck (AP) notes the violence is taking place during the holy month of Ramadan and that you have to drop back to 2007 to find more violent deaths during this month.  Deutsche Welle notes the violence aimed at religious minorities:

Churches are now regular recipients of bomb attacks - as they have been for years. When Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako became head of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq in March 2013, security authorities in parts of Baghdad were on high alert. The patriarch, however, is the leader of a congregation in decline.
In addition to many Catholics, Christians of other denominations are leaving Iraq. From what was once a group of roughly 1 million Christians in the biblical land of Babylon, a few hundred thousand remain. Iraq's other religious minorities have suffered a similar fate.
Day-to-day life is particularly difficult for Mandeans, whose religion accepts certain Old and New Testament figures - Adam, Noah, John the Baptist, for example - but rejects Abraham, Moses, and Jesus Christ. The religious community is based in southern Iraq, whence it traces its origins for over 2,000 years to John the Baptist. Mandeans argue that the Koran itself would define them as a "people of the book" - that is, as adhering to a religion worthy of protection. Many Iraqi Muslims see things otherwise.

Alsumaria reports that Thursday begins a three day Alkrsh, a holy time for Mandaeans which requires remaining indoors for 36 hours.  Behrooz Berenji (Mandaean in Chicago) offers more:


When it comes to the last day of the year Mandaean (Kinsa and Zhli), which means the meeting and cleansing, starting procedures and preparations are not familiar by those around sons of this community despite the fact that everyone living with each other within the unity of Iraqi society, you see their different reactions between the critic does not understand and collaborator or neutral, remains Alkrsh a mystery worthy of respect and clarity .. is the concept of social comes from the meaning of detention or i'tikaaf an Arabic term came from i'tikaaf Mandaeans in their homes 36 hours starting from sunset on the end of the year Mandaean (Kinsa and Zhli) until sunrise of the second day of the year Mandaean new, on any two nights, either the concept Mandean (Dhva Lord) Menda├║aan of the great feast that bears the stamp worldly and socially mean big event where the statement is contained (Dhva) with all the major events Mandaean (k Dhva Ed always, Dhva Hnina .... etc. ) denote the divine events make up the panel configuration and creation, and the word came specifically with the Lord on this occasion the sense of the great and great is attributed to the Lord Almighty. What is this event important to the Lord? Why is this i'tikaaf which is a feature of that event is very old, and why is a holiday for Menda├║aan? We will try to answer briefly by inference, religious texts in this regard, as stated in the Court (and two thousand Tersr Asvaks,, a thousand and twelve questions) of the preserves itself through thirty-six hours would be attributed to me I am Abu archaeologist.

As Deutsche Welle notes, many of Iraq's religious minorities flee to northern Iraq or flee Iraq period.  The refugee crisis has not disappeared just because the world's press has lost interest.  All Iraq News reports today that 1,000 Iraqi refugees arrived in Hanover, Germany today.  All Iraq News quotes Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi stating:


The return of the extremism and displacing the citizens in Diyala province will result in the sectarian conflict and destroying the social texture in Iraq.  The weak governmental performance and the accurate mechanism of the Ministry of Interior to deal with the situation in addition to the lack of the national accord and the real partnership, are the main reasons behind the unstable security situation and the increase of the terrorist attacks in Ramadan. While condemning displacing the citizens in Diyala and the other provinces, we call the government to show its stance over this dangerous issue and to exert efforts to improve it.




NINA reports, "Speaker Osama Najafi called for holding a public hearing on Thursday in parliament in order to deter violators and terrorists in Diyala province and easing tensions to overcome the crisis and stop the forced displacement of citizens in a number of areas of the province."  Alsumaria adds that the Free Patriotic Movement is joining the call as explained by their leader Massoud Zangana who states that the citizens of Diyala are in need of help.


Laith Hammoudi is an Iraqi journalist who has long reported in Iraq.  He has worked for McClatchy Newspapers and AFP, among other outlets.  He also works with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.  This is from his latest report:

The losses which Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki’s party suffered in the recent provincial elections stand as an indictment both of failed political alliances at national level, and also of poor economic and welfare delivery at local level, according to commentators interviewed by IWPR.
Elections were held in 12 governorates on April 20, while two more in Anbar and Nineveh were delayed to June 20 because of instability. No elections were held in the three Kurdish provinces or in disputed Kirkuk.
What really mattered to Maliki’s State of Law party was winning the nine mainly Shia governorates that constitute its power-base.
But in the event, its dominance was eroded by two other Shia parties – the Muwatin Coalition and the Sadrist Movement – plus a number of smaller groups. From a position where it controlled all nine councils through strong relative majorities – thus ensuring that its candidate was selected as provincial governor – Maliki’s party lost five and had a much reduced lead in the other four.

Nouri's power does appear to be slipping.  From yesterday's snapshot:

Nouri lives in denial and apparently cultivates it within State of Law.  All Iraq News quotes State of Law MP Sadiq al-Labban declaring that there will not be another crisis between Baghdad and Erbil.  Not only have the for-show meetings not ended the current crises between Baghdad and Erbil, but there are emerging problems.  NINA notes that Kurdistan Alliance MP Vian Dekeel is objecting to the push to pass "important and disputed laws in the House of Representatives in one basket deal." That puts them in direct opposition to State of Law.


Hurriyet reports:


The instability stems mainly from the sectarian and ethnic divides engulfing the country. The disputes between Sunnis and Shiites, as well as the Shiite-dominated central government and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), have been particularly tense over the last year. Yet, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited northern Iraq on June 10 for the first time in more than two years, and Masoud Barzani, president of the KRG, reciprocated on July 7 by visiting Baghdad. These are not just symbolic visits.
While al-Maliki’s move was considered a first step toward resolving a long-running dispute over oil and land as well as an attempt to secure Kurdish support to relieve some of the pressure his Shiite-led government is feeling from the Sunnis and the surge in sectarian violence spilling over from Syria, Barzani’s visit aimed at a much larger goal of “national reconciliation,” with an underlying strategy to move to Baghdad replacing Celal Talabani as president. Talabani’s term is finishing in April 2014, and he has been in intensive care in Germany since he suffered a stroke in December 2012.
The fact that the al-Maliki government lost its popularity after the provincial elections in April 2013 forces him to form new coalitions before the forthcoming elections in 2014. While Sunni groups accuse him because of his policies marginalizing Sunnis, mending ties with the Kurds would become the best alternative for al-Maliki.
Barzani’s term as the president of the KRG was extended two more years on June 30, with the cooperation of his Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), despite others opposed the extension. The future of this cooperation between the KDP and the PUK will depend on the result of upcoming parliamentary elections in September 2013 and the health of Talabani. Thus Barzani is focusing on working with the central government to strengthen his position.


Alsumaria reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani declared yesterday that he would continue on as president on a temporary basis while waiting for the KRG Parliament to vote on the amendments to the Constitution -- those amendments include adding two years on to Barzani's current term.  He states that the KRG will not permit a lifetime president.

 There are several issues at play here including the current instability of Iraq.  In addition, there is the issue of disputed Kirkuk (claimed by both the KRG and the central government out of Baghdad) and the issue of oil and gas.  There is also the matter of stature.  The KRG needs a prominent voice and Barzani's stature on the world stage has only grown in the last years.


The KRG's two main political parties are the PUK and KDP.  Barzani is a member of the KDP., the most prominent member of the PUK is Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq.  Last December,   Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.  His medical status is unclear and many are concerned that Kurdish power in Iraq hangs in the balance.

At a time like this, it's not a surprise that over 60% of Kurds are in favor of Jalal serving another term.  Another term is not what is being proposed.  The Constitution limits the presidents to two terms and Massoud Barzani is in his second term.  However, that was passed after he was elected to his first term and, in an attempt at fairness, the proposed amendment would give him two more years with the understanding that there will be no third term.  Al Mada notes that the PUK has called this a "reasonable move" and that Barzani will not seek a third term.




The issue of Iraq was raised today at the US State Dept press briefing which spokesperson Marie Harf handled.

QUESTION: Iraq?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: The departing UN envoy, Martin Kobler, made a very sobering statement – that Iraq is sliding fast toward a civil war, and furthermore that the Iraq and Syria wars are merging together with combatants on both sides along sectarian lines taken. Do you have a comment on that?

MS. HARF: Well, we remain deeply concerned about the rise of violent extremism and how it further endangers the future of Iraq and all of Syria’s neighbors. We’ve spoken to that many times. The Government of Iraq has itself also expressed its deep concern about the level of violence in Syria and violent extremist elements who might seek to capitalize on the situation in Syria to foment violence in Iraq. So we would also like to make the point that the vast majorities of Iraqis – of the Iraqi people continue to reject this violence, that we are encouraged that many political and religious leaders have taken a strong stance against this violence, and that we have continued to explore ways to address these ongoing security issues going forward.


On Kobler, All Iraq News notes:

Iraq Permanent envoy to the UN, the Ambassador, Mohamed al-Hakim, said during the UNSC session held on last Tuesday to follow up the Secretary General's report on the UNAMI "I would like to convey the Iraqi government's request to prolong the UNAMI's mandate for one year according to the terms adopted in the Security Council's resolution No.1770 for 2007."  
"The Iraqi government called on the UNAMI to provide the logistic needs required to secure the adequate number of the observers to ensure transparent parliament elections scheduled in 2014," he added.
I stated this morning that we'd cover Kobler but we'll wait until either tomorrow or Friday.  There's not room today.  Back to the press conference, NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden was briefly noted.


 QUESTION: New topic? Snowden?

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Quick one. News reports allege that Mr. Snowden’s getting very close to getting asylum in Russia. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: Our position on Mr. Snowden has not changed --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: -- that he is a wanted felon of the United States, that he needs to be returned as quickly as possible. I don’t have any updates for you on any of those reports.

QUESTION: Have the Russians told you that they are getting close to granting him asylum?

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything for you on that. We continue to discuss with the Russian authorities our concerns about Mr. Snowden. We continue to say that he needs to be returned to the United States.


As US House Rep John Conyers noted today, were it not for the whistle-blowers like Ed Snowden, the spying on Americans would be unknown.  Secretly, without public discussion, the White House decides to override the First and Fourth Amendments and does so via a secret court ensuring further secrecy.  This was (and is) spying on Americans.  There's no 'foreign' aspect to it.  This is domestic spying, plain and simple.  












 
 the associated press