Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, November 27, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri tries to spin a business success, the KRG upstages Nouri, Jen Psaki throws a hissy fit, the State Dept makes clear just how little they value Sunni lives, corpses in the streets of Iraq, and more.

The Press Association reports, "The opening of the first branch of a British bank in Iraq has been hailed by its prime minister as a sign of new international trust in the country, and a testament to the ongoing friendship between the new nations. Speaking at the opening of the branch of Standard Chartered in Baghdad, prime minister Nouri Al-Maliki paid tribute to Britain for its support as the two countries continue to work to help Iraq rebuild itself after years of conflict."

Oh, that's so cute.

For Iraq and Standard.  In 2012, Jonathan Stempel and Carrick Mollenkamp (Reuters) reported:

In a rare move, New York's top bank regulator threatened to strip the state banking license of Standard Chartered Plc, saying it was a "rogue institution" that hid $250 billion in transactions tied to Iran, in violation of U.S. law.

The New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) on Monday said the British bank "schemed" with the Iranian government and hid from law-enforcement officials some 60,000 secret transactions to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in fees over nearly 10 years.

In other words, what really happened today is that a rogue bank opened a branch in a rogue state.

And it's not really a British bank, is it?  As Standard Charted notes, "We operate in some of the world's most dynamic markets and have been for over 150 years.  More than 90 per cent of our income and profits are derived from Asia, Africa and the Middle East."

They already operate in Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

So the customers aren't primarily British.  But the bank, the bank itself is British!

No, you can't be a "multi-national" -- which Standard Charted is -- and belong to one country.  Or did we forget the meaning of "multi" in "multi-national"?  It was founded in South Africa.  It only 'divested' itself of South Africa (where it was part of the blood diamond trade) in 1987 -- at the point when everyone else with integrity had long ago left.  Scan Wikipedia and you'll see quickly that "no integrity" really sums up Standard Charted which is forever in trouble in India and which attempted bribery in the Philippins and Malaysia.  They got into trouble for inflating claims -- trouble with the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission.

In other words, they should be perfectly at home in Nouri's corrupt Iraq.

Poor Nouri, this was his big moment and so much of nothing.

This month Hyatt announced a new Hyatt Regency . . . in Iraq.  But Nouri can't get excited, the hotel will be in semi-autonomous northern region governed by the KRG.  And Kelly Clarke (Khaleej Times) reported two weeks ago:

During a conference unveiling a new multi-billion dollar development to go up in the Kurdistan region’s capital, Erbil, last month, Emaar chairman Mohamed Alabbar said it hopes to ‘close similar deals with the country’s government in the future’, building on its already growing economy.
[. . .]
“To have such an international brand like Emaar coming in is a big step up for the development of the area and it will surely create confidence,” he (real estate agent and CEO for Elite Homes Ali Asad] told Khaleej Times.
Asked why he thinks one of the world’s biggest property developers has chosen to develop in Erbil, rather than Baghdad, where property prices are higher, he said it was simple.
“If they want a footstep into Iraq, Erbil is the perfect place, because it’s secure,” however Asad did mention the Downtown Erbil development will undoubtedly create inflation in the area, as listed prices are already considerably higher than similar developments in the area.

Not everything's in the KRG.

For example, today the KRG Prime Minister wasn't.  He was in Ankara.

National Iraqi News Agency reports that Nijervan Barzani met with Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the two discussed "the issue of oil exporting from Kurdistan region to Turkey."  All Iraq News quotes "Turkish sources" stating, "Erdogan signed many conventions with Barzani in oil and gas sectors and after the three hour meeting he announced his intention to visit Baghdad and Erbil to assure the desire of Turkey in promoting relations with all Iraqi components."

The pipeline could assist with the oil exports that are already taking place between the KRG and Turkey.  Seyfettin Gursel (Al-Monitor) reports:

Oil production in the region controlled by the KRG is 300,000 barrels per day. About two-thirds of this amount is exported to Turkey in tanker trucks. This is a tedious and expensive method. Nevertheless, the KRG revenues — which were at $150 million seven years ago — have risen to $12 billion, and per capita income has climbed to $5,000 from $300. It is possible to boost the daily production to 1 million barrels with the operating wells. With proven and estimated oil reserves, this production will increase multifold in coming years. According to Celebi, yet-untapped natural gas reserves are estimated at 40 billion cubic meters. The KRG has already signed deals with international oil companies for production and to build the pipelines that would cross Turkey.
Even limited oil-production revenues have raised Turkey’s exports to Iraq to above $10 billion, which comes after Germany in Turkey’s primary export markets. It is, however, likely to occupy the top slot soon. According to Celebi, 90% of exports to Iraq go to Northern Iraq, with the rest going to the south of the country. Imagine how these numbers are going to multiply when the pipelines are completed and oil and natural gas starts to flow.

Of today's meet-up, Asharq al-Awsat notes, "Speaking to CNNTurk television on Wednesday, Barzani confirmed that Iraq's Kurds are hoping to start pumping oil to Turkey before the end of the year via the Baghdad-controlled pipeline." AFP reports that Barzani declared before the meeting that the oil could be flowing, via the pipeline, to Turkey "before Christmas" (December 25th).

Guess which cranky boy forgot Santa Claus was making a list of who was naughty and who was nice?
Nouri al-Maliki.  AFP quotes Nouri's mouth piece Ali al-Mussawi conveying Nouri's fury, "The Iraqi government informed the Turkish ambassador in Baghdad of its strong opposition to signing the pipeline deal with KRG."  And if that's got Nouri stomping his feet, whatever will he do in December?  That's when, Rudaw reports, a major commerce event takes place in the KRG:

More than 100 international energy companies and 800 political and diplomatic figures are expected to attend the Kurdistan-Iraq Oil &  Gas Conference 2013 in Erbil next month, notably coinciding with historic oil exports by the Kurds. 
The four-day conference opens Sunday, just as the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq begins to export oil directly to Turkey through its newly-extended pipeline.

Maybe he'll have time to adjust?  But today, Nouri thought it was his day.  He'd dominate the news cycle by announcing a one-time tool of the British empire was invading Iraq.  Instead, all anyone cares about right now is what Barzani and Erdogan agreed to.

How important is today's news?

Nouri's not the only one throwing a hissy fit.  At the US State Dept press briefing today, spokesperson Jen Psaki took sides and acted like an idiot.  What a proud moment for the State Dept.

QUESTION: About the energy deal between Turkey and KRG: The KRG Prime Minister Barzani, Nechirvan Barzani, was in Turkey yesterday and he told to the Turkish reporters there that the pipeline between Irbil and Turkey will start to carry all the oil next month, before the Christmas. So I know that you raised this – your concern on this issue with the Turks when Mr. Davutoglu was here, but what is the latest situation and what is your view on the latest arrangement of this --

MS. PSAKI: Our view has not changed. We don’t support oil exports from any part of Iraq without approval of the Iraqi federal government. We continue to urge the federal government of Iraq and Kurdistan Regional Government to reach a constitutional solution, and that has consistently been our position. And it also has not changed.

QUESTION: There is a plan on the table that Turks are arguing that they’re going to accumulate the revenue, oil revenue, in a Turkish bank in Turkey, and then they gonna split the spoils arising from this energy resources between KRG and Baghdad. So 70 percent will be going to the Kurds, and the rest will be Baghdad. Are you okay with that plan?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything on that for you. Our position remains the same on this specific issue.

QUESTION: Did you raise this issue with Mr. Davutoglu when was in town?

MS. PSAKI: I will check and see if there’s more to report on our meeting with Foreign Minister Davutoglu.

QUESTION: So, just so I understand correctly, you do stick to the principle that the central governments was responsible for the export of oil from Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: That’s right, without approval of the Iraqi federal government.

'We stay out of it! We stay out of it!  We support the Iraqi Constitution and the laws! It's not for us to decide!'

Did I forget any of the lies that have been told from the State Dept podium?

The State Dept doesn't give a damn about the Constitution of Iraq.  They don't give a damn about the Iraqi people.

If you give a damn, you have something to say.

Let's drop back to yesterday snapshot to underscore how damn little the State Dept cares about Iraq:

National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 person shot dead in Khalis, preacher and Iman Rakan Hussein al-Naimi was injured by gunfire in a Rilkaif assassination attempt. Sheikh Ghadanfar al-Mahdawi survived (without injury) an attempted assassination "between Baqbua and Muqdadiyah," a Falluja sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer, 1 police officer was shot dead in Baghdad, a Falluja roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left two more injured, and the corpses of Sheikh Adnan al-Ghanem and Sheikh Kadhim al-Jubouri were discovered in Basra.  All Iraq News adds that the Mayor of Shuqiara Sufla Village, Jasim Mohammed al-Jubouri, was assassinated.

Where's the statement from the State Dept.  On mayors?  That's at least the eighth one assassinated since October 1st. Where's the statement decrying that?

Where's the State Dept on the assassinations of Sheikh Adnan al-Ghanem and Sheikh Kadhim al-Jubrouri?

Two religious leaders are killed.  Jen Psaki didn't give a damn. She and the Dept she speaks for could care less.

By contrast, All Iraq News reports:

The Iraqi Scholars Assembly condemned the crimes of assassinations that targeted Sheikhs, Adnan al-Ghanim, and Kadhim al-Jobouri, in Basra province.
The head of the Assembly stated to AIN "These crimes aim at arousing sectarianism."

"The outlaw armed groups are behind these ugly crimes," he added.

Please let it register in Iraq that when Sunni religious leaders are assassinated, the US government doesn't bat an eye and remains silent.

Let's stop pretending that this White House is any different than the last.  They don't give a damn about the Sunni people.

The White House is nothing but a maxipad for Nouri, to help prevent spotting.  When the maxipad is fully stained (Bully Boy Bush) a new one is applied (Barack Obama).

The US Embassy in Baghdad is also silent as two Sunni Imams are assassinated.

Silence is what Jen Psaki should have offered today.

The State Dept may not like what the KRG does but (a) why should the KRG give a damn what the US government thinks or wants (seriously, after being stabbed in the back in November 2010, why should the KRG give a damn?) and (b) the KRG's actions are legal.

Little Psaki was apparently unable to speak the truth but there's no oil law.

Nouri was installed (by Bully Boy Bush) as prime minister to pass an oil law.  When Democrats were saying (pretending) they'd end the Iraq War if they got control of even one house of Congress in the 2006 mid-terms?  Well they got control of both houses of Congress and the White House quickly came up with a set of benchmarks that would prove 'progress' in Iraq -- so Congress wouldn't cut off funds. That was six years ago so let's cite a source for any who might be new to the topic.  From Gail Russell Chaddock (Christian Science Monitor, May 14, 2007):

It's almost 100 days after President Bush requested emergency funds for the Iraq war, and Congress and the White House are converging on a deal that includes benchmarks for progress for the Iraqi government, including a national oil law and provincial elections.
For Democrats now controlling Congress, these benchmarks – plucked right from the president's 2007 State of the Union address – are a way to avoid giving the White House "a blank check" on a war that a majority of Americans now oppose.

Nouri agreed to meet the benchmarks.  Where's the oil law?

Nouri couldn't get it through in his first term and he's failed in his second term.  Nouri introduces bills to the Parliament -- it's not like the US Congress.  Nouri's failed over and over.

And it's no longer just an issue of the KRG.  As Abdullah Salem (Niqash) reported last week, Nineveh Province is making moves to handle the sale of their own oil:

But the head of Ninawa's provincial legal committee, Nofal Hammadi al-Akoub, said that Baghdad was relying on out dated oil and gas laws – federal Iraq still doesn't have a national oil and gas law, even though Iraqi Kurdistan has passed it's own.

Those older laws relate to the preservation of oil wealth by preventing illegal extraction of oil. However, as Hammadi al-Akoub points out, “the provincial council didn't authorise the extraction of oil. Rather they authorised investment in oil. In taking this decision they were relating back to a 2008 law that gives provincial councils this authority – so the Ministry can't actually object.”

If there is any contesting of the council's decision to be done, “parliament is the only entity that has the right to do this and the Supreme Federal Court will make the final decision,” al-Akoub told NIQASH.

But it is not only the Iraqi government that is upset by the invitation for tenders. Some of the critics of the local government move come from within the council itself. Different factions within the council are concerned that the move will open the door for more Iraqi Kurdish companies to enter the disputed territory, and put the Iraqi Kurds ahead in the battle over disputed territories within Ninawa. 

With no national oil law what does that mean?

It means there's nothing to prohibit the KRG from doing what they're doing.

Jen Psaki can scream and rip out her own hair.  She can set herself on fire if she wants.

None of that will change the fact that the KRG is acting within the law.

Nor will it change the reality, the ugly truth, that the State Dept is not backing Iraq or the Iraqi people. It's nothing but a bloody maxipad kept in place to protect Nouri.

The bleeding from violence never ends in Iraq.

Duraid Adnan (New York Times) reports, "But on Wednesday, the daily tally of violence took on an air of pinpoint deliberation with the execution-style killings of several groups of civilians, a grim reminder of the worst days of sectarian warfare in the country. While major bombings have become common, the killings reintroduced the prospect of a resurgence in the type of violence that rattled Iraq in 2006 and 2007."   Salam Faraj (AFP) reminds:, "At the peak of sectarian fighting, Sunni and Shiite militiamen would regularly carry out tit-for-tat kidnappings and assassinations and leave scores of corpses littering the streets, many of them bound, blindfolded and showing signs of torture."  Sinan Salaheddin (AP) also makes that point today, "Bodies were frequently found dumped during the height of Iraq's sectarian violence in 2006 and 2007, when the country was at the edge of civil war."

Such as the never ending violence.  National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 suicide car bomber took his own life at a Habbaniyah police station entrance and he was followed by a suicide bomber wearing a belt with both bombings claimed the lives of 3 police officers with five more injured, an Albu Assaf suicide bomber  "blew himseful up at the gate of the police station," 1 "suicide car bomber blew himself up at the entrance of the headquarters of Peshmerga forces in Jabarah county of Khanqin" leaving 3 Peshmerga dead and ten more injured, an Abu Ghraib suicide bomber took his own life at a Baghdad funeral and killed 9 other people with twenty more left injured, an armed attack on a Mosul police station left one police officer and one detainee injured, a Qa'im roadside bombing left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and two more injured, 1 real estate worker was shot dead in Mosul, Hussein Sameer Malalah (Dept of Compensation employee) was shot dead in Mosul and Homam Adnan Ahmed (Dept of Energy employee) was shot dead in Mosul.  BBC News adds that "five members of the same family were shot dead in the mainly Shia district of Hurriya. The victims were reportedly Sunnis."

Multiple attacks on police stations and assassinations but that's not the focus of the non-Iraqi press.  Check my math but I think that's 35 reported dead and 39 injured (13 of the dead will be noted in a second.)

There was to have been a protest tomorrow.  Nasiriyah Network News reported earlier today that Dhi Qar journalists planned to protest the French Consulate over the lawsuits against two reporters in the province.  The invitation to the protest noted that Iraqi journalists must protest all efforts to curtail freedom of the press in Iraq and that failure to do so could lead to not just corruption but also dictatorship.  In an update, the outlet notes that the two French companies who were suiing the two journalists have dropped their lawsuits and the protest has been called off.  All Iraq News notes cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr met in Baghdad with the French Ambassador to Iraq Denys Gauer today and the two discussed a number of issues including parliamentary elections in Iraq.

Moqatada is a Shi'ite cleric so staying with religion, let's note Patriarch Krill I of Moscow, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia.  The Voice of Russia (link is text and audio) reports he met with Iraq's Ambassador to Russia Ismieal Shafiq Muhsin today and quotes him stating, "We know that Christian communities have been subjected to violence.  Very many people were killed just for being Christians.  Many people have left Iraq under the threat of death.  That, of course, changed the cultural landscape of your country.  We believe it is in a way a catastrophe for civilization because Christians and Muslims have always lived in peace on the territory of your country." Last week, Prashant Rao (AFP) reported on Iraqi Christians noting:

Before 2003 more than a million Christians lived in Iraq. Now there are around 400,000, according to Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako, head of one of the world's oldest Christian communities.
Baghdad has seen a dramatic fall in its own Christian population, which at one point numbered 600,000.
According to Archdeacon Temathius Esha, an Assyrian priest in Dura, the neighbourhood's Christian population has all but disappeared, from around 150,000 shortly after the 2003 US-led invasion to about 2,000 now.
Though home to seven churches -- Assyrian, Chaldean and Syriac -- Dura now has only two priests.
Esha's 500-capacity St. Shmooni Church attracted just 20 people for a recent Friday service, and he said only about 150 show up for Christmas or Easter.

The priest's own family lives in the town of Ainkawa in Iraq's northern Kurdish region, which has been mostly spared from the violence plaguing the rest of the country.

Religious minorities throughout Iraq are targeted -- including Yazidis, Mandaeans, Caldo-Assyrians, Shabaks and others.  One group that has been repeatedly targeted is the Iraqi Jewish community.

In 2012, on World Refugee Day, Ron Posner, Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations, wrote of the climate in the Middle East immediately after WWII and observed of Iraq, "In Iraq Jewish businessman Shafiq Adas, then the country's wealthiest citizen, was immediately arrested on trumped-up charges and publicly lynched. This was followed by bombings targeting Jewish institutions, arbitrary arrests of Jewish leaders, and massive government seizures of property. Within years virtually all of Iraq's 2,500-year-old Jewish community had fled, emptying the country of many of its greatest artists, musicians, and businessmen."  Last week the United Nations held a conference in New York entitled The Untold Story of the Middle East:  Justice for Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries.  Jacob Kamaras (Jewish News Service) reports:

The story of Jews expelled from Iraq has recently drawn significant attention due to the current exhibition in Washington, DC of 24 artifacts from the “Iraqi Jewish Archive,” a collection of 2,700 Jewish books and documents recovered in 2003 in the basement of the Iraqi intelligence ministry and restored by the National Archives and Records Administration. The U.S. has said it plans to return the archive to the Iraqi government following the exhibition, in line with a written agreement between the two countries, but Iraqi Jews say Saddam Hussein’s government confiscated the materials from them.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, at the U.N. conference reiterated a recent statement issued by 42 groups, addressed to Secretary of State John Kerry, that the archive should be protected and remain continually accessible to Jews.
“We urge our government not to send them back to an uncertain fate in Iraq, where hundreds of holy Torah scrolls remain in disuse and decay,” Hoenlein said.
Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Ron Prosor told regarding the Iraqi archive, “There were a lot of resources and assets put together in order to compile it the way it is; it was saved, and we don’t want it to be lost again.” Robert Singer, CEO of the World Jewish Congress, told that the fact that 42 groups signed the statement to Kerry shows “a unified position of the Jewish community on this issue.”

Ruth covered the issue yesterday and noted Rory Cohen's O.C. Register column:

Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and one of the initial members of the Muslim Brotherhood, became a Nazi agent after meeting Adolf Eichmann, an architect of the Holocaust, in 1937. With Nazi funds, al-Husseini organized the Arab Revolt of 1936-39. In 1941, the mufti orchestrated a short-lived, Nazi-backed generals' coup in Iraq. The coup was followed by the Farhud, a vicious pogrom.
It's an event that is indelibly imprinted in the consciousness of Iraq's Jews.
The Mufti obtained Hitler's assurance in November 1941 that, after dealing with the Jews of Europe, Hitler would treat the Jews of the Middle East similarly. In a two-day period, mobs rampaged in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. At least 150 Jews were killed and more than 2,000 injured; some 900 Jewish homes were destroyed and looted; and hundreds of Jewish-owned shops were robbed and destroyed.
My older family members recall witnessing how soldiers pulled small children away from their parents and ripped the arms off young girls to steal their bracelets; pregnant women were raped and their stomachs cut open. My grandfather rescued his little brother when the violence began. My great-grandfather claimed to be a Muslim when Iraqi troops stormed their home. That was how he saved himself and his daughters, including my grandmother. Many of his neighbors weren't so lucky.

Turning to veterans issues,  Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Her office issued the following:

FOR PLANNING PURPOSES                        CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Wednesday, November 27th, 2013                                       (202) 224-2834

MONDAY EVENTS: Murray to Tour JBLM Sexual Assault Response Center, Keynote Ceremony for Military Grads of Microsoft Training Program
12:30, JBLM: Murray will tour sexual assault response center
2:00, Saint Martin’s University: Murray will keynote graduation ceremony for military graduates of Microsoft IT training program

(Washington, D.C.) – On Monday, December 2nd, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, will be in Tacoma and Lacey, WA for two events. 

First, at 12:30 PM PT, Senator Murray will visit the newly opened sexual assault response center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.  The center is a first-for-the-military facility that brings together law enforcement, medical support and victims’ advocates in a single space. 

Second, at 2:00 PM PT, Senator Murray will be the keynote speaker at a graduation ceremony to honor the first graduating class of military students from Microsoft’s Software & Systems Academy pilot program at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, WA.  The 22 graduates, currently active duty service members from JBLM, will be hired into entry-level roles as software testers at Microsoft or Launch Consulting.  The Microsoft Academy was inspired by Senator Murray’s “VOW to Hire Heroes Act.”

To RSVP for either event, contact the Murray Press Office ( or the JBLM Public Affairs Office (253-967-0152)

Event 1:

WHO:          U.S. Senator Patty Murray
                                Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, Deputy Commanding General, I Corps
        Col. Charles “Chuck” Hodges, Commander, Joint Base Lewis McChord
        Lt. Col. Robert Stelle, JBLM Sexual Assault Response Team Director

WHAT:        Senator Murray will tour JBLM’s new, first-for-the-military sexual assault response center, which brings together law enforcement, medical support, and victims’ advocates in a single space.

WHEN:        Monday, December 2nd, 2013     
        12:30 PM PT

WHERE:     Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Resource Center
        Bldg 2027
                     Joint Base Lewis McChord,
                                   Dupont Gate, I-5 Exit 119
                                   Escort required – please RSVP in advance              

Event 2:

WHO:          U.S. Senator Patty Murray
                                   JBLM-based service members graduating from Microsoft’s Software & Systems Academy
                     Col. Charles Hodges, Jr., Base Commander, JBLM
                     Dr. Roy Heynderickx, President, Saint Martin’s University
                     Officials from Microsoft, Launch Consulting

WHAT:        Murray will be the keynote speaker at a graduation ceremony to honor the first graduating class of military students from Microsoft’s Software & Systems Academy pilot program at Saint Martin’s University

WHEN:        Monday, December 2nd, 2013     
        2:00 PM PT

WHERE:     Saint Martin’s University
                     Norman Worthington Conference Center
                     Lacey, WA


Sean Coit
Press Secretary
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray

RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office