Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, November 13, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, another mayor is assassinated in Iraq, Congress holds a hearing on Iraq, Brett McGurk attempts to lie about a 'discussion,' Iraq War vet Mike Prysner reflects on the war, and more.

Due to his own texts, we know that Gina Chon gave Brett McGurk blue balls before they both decided to cheat on their spouses in Iraq, the question is: Who stuffed Brett full of crap?

Judging by his demeanor and statements to the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, Brett stuffed himself and goodness how the nonsense poured out of him.

US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is the Subcommittee Chair and US House Rep Ted Deutch is the Ranking Member.  In addition to those two, US House Reps David Cicilline, Steve Chabot, Juan Vargas, Joe Wilson, Grace Meng, Brad Schneider, and Dana Rohrabacher were present.  I hope I didn't miss anyone.

The way this is going to play out is that we're going to focus on some of the hearing today and some of it tomorrow.  I also attended a VA hearing today and would like to work that in but with two snapshots being needed for Subcommittee hearing (and that may go into three), it may be next week before we get to the VA hearing.

Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:  Before we begin this afternoon's hearing I will hand Deputy Assistant Secretary McGurk an envelope and ask that he please deliver it to Secretary [of State John] Kerry.  These are my previous letters to Kerry pleading for the United States to help the residents of Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty and to prevent another deadly attack like the one from September at Camp Ashraf which left 52 dead and 7 hostages who are still missing. There's also a video taken by the residents of Camp Ashraf during the last assault that I urge Secretary Kerry and all members of this Subcommittee to view.  And finally, a letter to Secretary Kerry regarding the return of Iraqi-Jewish community artifacts that are now on display at The National Archives.  In 2003, US and coalition forces found a  trove of Iraqi-Jewish cultural artifacts being warehoused in the basement of Saddam Hussein's secret police headquarters.  And the US subsequently brought them here, to The National Archives, for restoration, preservation and display; however, these artifacts are scheduled to be returned to Iraq where the government will claim possession of these artifacts which were unjustly taken from the Iraqi-Jewish community.  The US government must not return those stolen treasures to the Iraqi government but instead should facilitate their return to their rightful owners or descendants.  Therefore, on behalf of me, Congressman Steve Israel and over 40 of our House colleagues, we ask you, Deputy Secretary McGurk, to personally deliver this letter to Secretary Kerry and the Dept of State ensures that the Iraqi-Jewish community does not get robbed again of its collective memory and treasures. 

That was the Chair speaking at the start of the hearing.  After opening statements, Chair Ileanna Ros-Lehtinen started by noting the contents of the envelope she was asking McGurk to pass on to Kerry and asked about the issues she'd noted above.

McGurk elected to go with the issue of the Jewish archives.

Brett McGurk:  I'll start with the Jewish archives.  As you know, the archives are on display at The National Archives. I went to see them last week.  It is a really remarkable display -- both about the Jewish heritage and the tragic history of this community in Iraq.  Uhm, we are also in a daily conversation with the government of Iraq, uhm, and with the Jewish community here in Iraq -- uh, this morning, I was in communication with Rabbi Baker from the American Jewish Council.  I've also been in regular conversation with Ambassador Fahly who's here, uh, representing the Iraqi government.  Uh, as you know, we have a commitment from an agreement in 2003 to return, uh, the archives to Iraq, uh, next summer -- by the end of next summer.  Uh, we have paid for Iraqi archivists who are here now training with The National Archives to make sure uh that these archives are preserved -- and protected.

At this point, the Chair noted that her time was brief and she needed him to touch on her other topics and that she was sure others present would ask about the archives.

Brett McGurk:  I'll say just briefly on the archives, we're open to discussions on discussing this position of the archives and I know the ambassador agrees with that.  And I'm happy to discuss this further. 

What was Brett McGurk saying?

He was lying.

He was lying plain and simple.


Doesn't it sound like, from his words, that the State Dept is reconsidering their pact?

Because they should be.  The artifacts were stolen property, stolen by the government of Iraq (Saddam Hussein's government).  So they don't belong to Iraq or the Iraqi government.  In fact, if they're turned over to the Iraqi government, the government will be in possession of stolen property.

There is no legal binding contract despite the nonsense from the State Dept and the White House.  Only the owner of the property can enter into a contract regarding the property.

A thief cannot steal property and legally sell it.  A thief has no ownership rights to property they stole.

But McGurk thought he could lie.  He wasn't expecting so many members of the Subcommittee to be interested in this topic.  Let's note this exchange.

Ranking Member Ted Deutch:  I'd actually like to get back to the issue of the archives.  And you said that you're "open to discussions."  And these are just a couple of observations -- and I appreciate the attention that you've paid to this issue already.  Iraq, Babylon, was the center of Judaism for a thousand years and-and these documents, tattered as they were, found a decade ago are -- according to the agreement that was reached with the -- with the Coalition Provisional Authority were supposed to be sent -- were supposed to be sent back to a place where the number of Jews, the number is perhaps in the single digits.  The documents -- many of the documents are very personal in nature, records of the community, things that are of real value to the members of the community and their descendants who simply aren't there.  So help me.   I understand what the agreement was.  You've also said you're now open to discussions. And can we explore that a little bit?  Can we explore that a little bit?  And if you could just continue where you left off?   What discussion can we have?  And what can we do?  What -- what would be the hold up to ensure that these items are so, so personal to the community that is no longer living in the country can actually reside with the community?

Brett McGurk:  All I can say is that is that everybody should go see the exhibit and if you meet the technicians who actually traveled to Baghdad in the heart of the worst -- one of the worst periods of the war in 2003 to preserve these materials, it's really a remarkable effort by The National Archives.  The State Dept's proud to be a partner with them in that -- in that effort.  They will be on display at the archives.  They will -- they will then be on display in New York.  The commitment that we made in 2003 is a legal agreement to get them out of Iraq to preserve this important material.  Without that agreement, the material never would have been preserved.  Uhm, they will be on display in New York and then under this commitment, they will -- they will transfer to Baghdad in the late summer of next year.  All I can say is that, uh, we have an agreement with the, uh, Iraqi ambassador here to begin a conversation about, uh, long-term loans here in the United States to make sure that people can --  can view them, but that will be an ongoing discussion.  It's November now.  We have until the end of the summer, so we do have some time to discuss this.  We have heard very loudly and clearly the concerns of the community.  We've listened to them, we've taken them to heart and we'll see what we can do.

Ranking Member Ted Deutch:  And I would -- I would just add to that there are, as I understand it, some 2700 books, tens of thousands of documents.  It certainly seems that -- that it would be possible to be able to have the ability to highlight the-the community that existed in Iraq in some fashion while still ensuring that the bulk of these records continue to stay with-with those who are the most closely affiliated with them and presumably whose lives they effect. 

And there we find out that Brett McGurk lied.

Are we surprised?

So there are no discussions currently about this most important topic: Legal ownership.

The Iraqi government has no legal ownership.

And that's actually the first thing you establish.

Try to get just how crooked and corrupt the State Dept is on this.

I swipe your emerald necklace.

The US government sees that the stones need polishing.  They take it to polish the stones and tell me they'll get it back to me.  You show up and say, "That necklace is stolen property!  It belongs to me!"  Brett McGurk hears you "very loudly and clearly."

Brett shows up at my door to tell me . . .

that I should probably let the necklace be displayed in New York.

Why is he negotiating with me about possible showings of property I've stolen?

That's so insulting and it's so stupid.  You establish ownership first and foremost.

And the US should have done that in 2003 before entering into any agreement.

But the law's the law.  And the law is not 'the US must honor the contract!'  No, the law is the contract is invalid if the property was stolen.  That does not mean ownership goes to the US -- it does mean the US has to hand it over to the rightful owners.

As it is, the US government has wasted a ton of a tax dollars -- US tax dollars -- making the property more valuable and it's about to hand this increased worth over to thieves.

And that's what the Iraqi government is -- not Saddam, the current one -- if they're trying to grab stolen property which they have no claim to.

Can you imagine if all the Shi'ites had been run out of Iraq in 1993 and Saddam was holding items he stole from them in 1984?  Can you imagine the outrage?

And it would be justifiable outrage.

I'm honestly surprised the clerics, like the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, have not spoken on the matter since we are talking religious artifacts and heritage.  You'd think the Shi'ite  religious elders, who knew what it was to suffer under Saddam Hussein, would be the first to speak up and say, "Stolen Jewish artifacts do not belong to our country, they belong to the Jewish people."

The lies of Brett McGurk never ended.  It was as though everyone of us in that room were his first wife and he was all insincere charm insisting to us that he wasn't sleeping with some crazy reporter with the Wall St. Journal.

The lies started immediately.  Even though the Chair said his  full written statement would be entered into the record, he attempted to read all ten pages.

He lied at the start about Baghdad and Erbil, but we'll come back to that.

It was offensive to hear him go on and on about Shi'ite victims of violence.  Violence is awful no matter who is harmed.  But there are levels of violence.

It's awful when anyone goes on a mad tear to destroy and harm.  But when it's the government?  That's even worse.

Brett did not want to acknowledge, for example, the April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija which resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.
AFP  reported  the death toll rose to 53. UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

The 52 dead are not more dead than, for example, a Shi'ite pilgrim.  But the fact that the killers were tools of a government which is supposed to protect the population, which exists for that reason first and foremost?  That makes the violence worse.

Brett McGurk kept blustering about al Qaeda in Iraq and 2011 and 2012 and how the US sent al Qaeda in Iraq running and blah, blah, blah.

But just as he refused to note the Hawija massacre, he didn't want to note that Nouri's responsibilities.  His failures.

Chief among them?

Back in July 2012, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."   That's still true.

And it's not a minor point at any time but it's especially not a minor point that you've got no Minister/Secretary of Defense, Interior and National Security as your country's security unravels.

I have yet to hear -- during all this time those spots have been empty -- one member of Congress challenge a witness as to whether or not Nouri's refusal to fill those seats may have helped violence increase in Iraq.

It was so irritating to hear Brett McGurk babble on endlessly.

Brett McGurk:  In short, Iraq's hydrocarbon sector is vital to U.S. interests in the region, and its development is essential to Iraq's long - term stability. These shared interests have led to a close and ongoing partnership as to how Iraq can best manage its abundant resources to generate increasing revenues and align the interests of disparate groups in a unified and federal Iraq. For example, four export platforms that came on line south of Basra in 2012 -- each with capacity to export 900,000 barrels per day -- were the result of joint efforts beginning in 2007 to address serious deficiencies in Iraq's infrastructure. Today, U.S. policy is focused on a similarly ambitious -- and achievable -- vision: a strategic pipeline from the super giant oil fields in Basra (with 80 percent of Iraq's proven reserves) to the Haditha refinery in Anbar province; south west through Jordan to the Red Sea; and connected to the north , Turkey and the Mediterranean. These three export routes -- the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, and Mediterranean  -- will build redundancy into Iraq's national export infrastructure, facilitate prosperity to all parts of the country, and align the interests of regional partners in a stable and prosperous Iraq. Coupled with this vision is a revenue sharing agreement to ensure that revenues are shared equitably, and, longer term, new legislation to manage the hydrocarbon sector and ensure legal predictability to market entrants . The United States wants to see Iraqi oil from all parts of the country  --  north to south -- reaching global markets as soon as possible, and in a manner that reinforces stability. Iraq today is producing 3 million barrels-per-day, but the IEA projects under its central scenario potential increases to 6 million barrels-per-day by 2020 , and 8 million barrels-per-day by 2035 , with revenues over this period approaching $5 trillion.

Ignore the numbers and Brett McGurk was saying this same crap in 2006 and 2007 and 2008 and . . . (McGurk was an Iraq War cheerleader in the administration of Bully Boy Bush.)

There is no hydrocarbons law.

For those who've forgotten, the hydrocarbons law was in the 2007 benchmarks.  The White House made that a benchmark and Congress would see success on it and not cut off funds!

There was never any progress on it but a spineless Congress refused to follow up.

That's not fair.  An uncaring Congress.  By 2008, there was only one member of the House who was asking where the progress was on the benchmarks: US House Rep Lloyd Doggett.

We have heard over and over that a hydrocarbon law is on its way.

It has never, ever happened.

Why does that matter?

It's at the heart of the problems between Baghdad and Erbil to hear Brett tell it.  (He skipped over Kirkuk.  He skipped over so much.)

Not only that, he had the nerve to insist, "The United States does not take sides in the internal disputes regarding the distribution of revenues and management of oil resources."

The how about someone explain this statement issued by Victoria Nuland November 23, 2011, "We have always advised and continue to advise all oil companies, including Exxon-Mobil, that they incur significant political and legal risks by signing any contracts with the Kurdistan Regional Government before national agreement is reached on the legal framework for the hydrocarbon sector."

The US government has been taking sides on the oil issue from day one of the illegal war.

They led Nouri to believe they could get the ExxonMobil contracts cancelled.  I noted in passing here that they couldn't which led the State of Law MP that reads this site to deluge the public account with e-mails about how this works.

That's when I realized that many Iraqis -- at least Nouri's State of Law -- were living under the misguided assumption that the US government owned oil companies.  In Iraq, they had state-controlled oil and the government could dictate. That was not the case in the US.  In fact, if anything, the multi-national oil conglomerates control the US government.

Brett McGurk offered testimony that things were improved between the Baghdad and Erbil due to US "diplomatic engagement."

Brett McGurk:  Due to a series of disagreements over the Iraqi budget, and in the disputed boundary areas of northern Iraq, Kurdish ministers and parliamentarians were boycotting the central government, and its Peshmerga forces faced off against Iraqi Army units -- with both sides daring the other to open fire. Fortunately, intensive diplomatic engagement led to a detente , with both sides pulling back and disputes returning to the political arena where they belong. On June 10 , Prime Minister Maliki visited Erbil for the first time in tw o years; then, on July 7 , IKR President Barzani visited Baghdad, for the first time since late 2010 . As a result of these visits, the IKR and the central government established seven joint committees with mandates to address the most difficult issues of federalism : security cooperation, revenue sharing, and balancing powers between the central and regional governments. Since then, there has been progress in the area of security cooperation, and we are working to facilitate serious discussions on revenue sharing, to help ensure that all Iraqis -- in all parts of Iraq -- benefit equitably from Iraq's national patrimony. 

Hmm.  The US brokered peace between Baghdad and Erbil?  Set aside that it's no lasting peace as last week demonstrated.  Brett claimed other US victories.

Brett McGurk:  Beginning in March, the United States launched a quiet but active campaign to ease tensions with Turkey, settle accounts with Kuwait, strengthen ties to Jordan, and accelerate efforts to reintegrate Iraq with its Gulf neighbors. These efforts are important to bolstering Iraq's independence, and, when combined with economic and security initiatives, aligning its long -- term interests to ours. These efforts have seen some success . Iraq and Kuwait settled key accounts dating to the 1991 Gulf War, and in June the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to finalize a process to normalize relations between both countries. Two weeks ago, the Iraqi cabinet voted to open Kuwaiti consulates in Erbil and Basra. In April, the United States began a trilateral process with Iraq and Turkey, focused on mutual interests . This week , Turkey’s Foreign Minister visited Baghdad for the first time in [. . .]

I'm sorry, this makes no sense.  And maybe that's why Nouri's government is so screwed up.

Nouri created the problems with Turkey -- as he has with all neighbors except Iran.  He's attacked everyone, dubbed foreign leaders terrorists, accused them of upsetting the balance n Iraq and said the most rude and threatening remarks imaginable.

And Brett McGurk wants to tell the Congress that the State Dept is wasting over a billion US tax payer dollars in Iraq each year to go around smoothing things over for Nouri?

At what point does Nouri put on his big boy pants and solve his own damn problems?  Ones that he created?

Bully Boy Bush installed Nouri as prime minister in 2006.  The 2010 elections saw Nouri's State of Law come in second to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya.  That meant Nouri was out.  But he refused to step down and brought the government to a stand still for eight months.  Barack had Brett McGurk and others negotiate The Erbil Agreement (the Kurds don't like McGurk, Iraqiya doesn't like McGurk) which gave Nouri a second term in spite of the votes of the people.

So get ready to laugh as we quote Brett's election wisdoms.

Brett McGurk:  Shortly after Prime Minister Maliki’s return to Iraq last week, the parliament broke a deadlock to enact the law to govern national elections in 2014. These elections are now set for April 30, 2014. This will be the third election for a full - term national parliament, but the first since the departure of U.S. forces in 2011. Thus, it is a critical test of Iraq’s democratic process, and we have made clear to all Iraqi contacts that the elections must be on time, well prepared, and designed to produce a genuine and credible result. Our Embassy team is working closely with the United Nation s Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) to ensure preparations remain on track.

The US has not supported democracy in Iraq.  Not under Bully Bush, not under Barack Obama.

Iraqis don't get to decide who their leaders are.  So far the US government has made the choices.

In the hearing, US House Rep Steve Chabot noted, "Iraq may very well be on the verge of a civil war." Ranking Member Ted Deutch noted there have been over 7,000 violent deaths in Iraq so far this year.
He pointed out,  "Many believe that the rise in sectarian violence to be a result of the efforts by Prime Minister Maliki to consolidate political power at the expense of Sunni and Kurdish opponents."

And violence in Iraq was on the grand scale today.  AP reported an attack on "Shiites marking Ashoura in the eastern city of Baqouba, a former al-Qaida stronghold, 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad. That attack killed eight people, including two children, and wounded 35, a police officer said."  Reuters emphasized, "10 people were killed when a suicide bomber drove a truck packed with explosives into a police checkpoint in the town of al-Alam near Tikrit, police said."

National Iraqi News Agency notes that Falluja Mayor Adnan Hussein was shot dead.  Alsumaria adds a bodyguard of the mayor's and an engineer who was traveling with the mayor were also injured.  Last month, at least 5 mayors were assassinated in Iraq.  Much more fortunate, NINA notes, was Baghdad Mayor Ali Timimi who survived an assassination attempt today (five bystanders were left injured).

National Iraqi News Agency also reports an eastern Mosul attack left 2 police members dead, a Mosul roadside bombing left one police officer injured, an armed clash in Imam Village left 5 militants dead and one Iraqi soldier injured, a western Mosul roadside bombing claimed the lives of 3 police officers and left two more injured, 2 Baquba bombings claim 3 lives and leave thirty injured, 2 police homes in Qarma were blown up killing 4 people and leaving seven more injured, an armed clash in Dujail left 2 militants dead and five police officers injured, and a Baghdad roadside bombing left three police officers injured.  Xinhau adds, "In northern Iraq, a soldier was killed and four others wounded in a roadside bomb explosion near their patrol in the town of Riyadh near the city of Kirkuk, about 250 km north of Baghdad, a local police source said."  By nightfall, more violence had been reported.  NINA notes a Baghdad attack that left 2 brothers dead, a Baghdad attack that left a military colonel dead, a Mosul attack left 2 police members dead and a third injured, and an Abu Ghraib bombing claimed 2 lives and left four people injured.

That's  46 reported dead and  ninety-eight injured. Iraq Body Count counts 241 violent deaths for the month so far through Monday.

Still on violence, Jomana Karadsheh and Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) report:

A Western security contractor was brutally assaulted in southern Iraq this week by a Shiite mob after he reportedly insulted their sect of Islam.
A 10-minute video circulating on social media sites showed an angry mob of men carrying metal rods, a pickax and other sharp objects attacking the car the man was in, smashing the glass and dragging him out.

Yesterday, the White House issued the following:

The White House
Office of the Vice President

Readout of Vice President Biden's Call with Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani

Vice President Biden spoke today with President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani.  The two discussed Iraq’s security challenges and the need for close coordination between Erbil and Baghdad to isolate terrorist networks.  The Vice President affirmed the United States’ commitment to partner with Iraq against al Qaeda.  Vice President Biden congratulated President Barzani on the recent passage of a law to govern Iraq’s upcoming parliamentary elections.   The two also discussed Iraq’s important progress in building relations with its neighbors, including Turkey.

Alsumaria notes it here, National Iraqi News Agency notes it here.

Campaigning continues in Iraq in expectation of parliamentary elections on April 30th.  All Iraq News notes Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq's leader Ammar al-Hakin declared today that the next big fight in Iraq will be defeating corruption. Corruption's a seriously problem but the inability of the Nouri-led government to address the security issues don't speak well for the ability of the government to address much these days.

Yet again, the optics are not good for Nouri's own campaigning -- All Iraq News notes Sadr City is flooded for the sixth day in a row.  That's due to Nouri's refusal to spend any of oil billions pouring into Iraq each month to give Iraq a decent sewage system -- Nouri's refusal to do that for seven years now.  All Iraq News notes Iraqiya MP Qais al-Shathar states the streets flooded with water demonstrate the failurs of the government:

The services provided to the citizens cannot be compared with the allocated funds for the services sector.  The specified budgets for the services must be spent and be reflected on the services level.  There should be an investigation over the spent funds for the services sector.

Bill Dores wrote the following:

Contradicting peace gestures by the Obama administration, U.S. warplanes attacked Syria. U.S.-made F16s fired U.S.-made missiles at two bases of the Syrian Arab Army on Oct. 31, allegedly causing large explosions. On the same day U.S. planes also fired missiles into the besieged Palestinian enclave of Gaza, killing two young men.
The U.S. government announced the attack on Syria, saying it was carried out by Israel. But the only difference between a U.S. air strike and an Israeli air strike are the colors painted on the fuselage of the airplanes. Israel’s warplanes and air-to-ground missiles are made in the U.S. Israeli pilots train in the USA and may be U.S. citizens. Israel’s military machine runs on U.S. dollars.
The very evening of the attack, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told a Zionist dinner in New York City that Israel would be the first state to receive the Marine Corps’ new V22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and that production was being sped up to get them there quickly. “The Israeli and American defense relationship is stronger than ever, and it will continue to strengthen,” Hagel said.

That's his opening to his piece for Workers World which is our way of noting that Workers World has new content up after a week or so of being in frozen mode.

Iraq War veteran Mike Prysner is a co-founder of March Forward.  At his Twitter feed today, he reflected on lessons from the war.

  • I was told we had to invade cuz they had "no freedom to protest." Since been in countless peaceful protests violently attacked by cops
  • I was told we had to invade cuz they "kill their own people." Came home to a place where cops kill innocent ppl daily.
  • I was told we had to invade b/c they had no freedom of speech. Since then I've been arrested 5 times for exercising free speech.

  • cnn

    jomana karadsheh