Saturday, June 22, 2013

35 dead, 59 injured


Violence slammed Iraq today.  National Iraqi News Agency reports a Qai'm car bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers and left three more injured, a Baghdad suicide bomber attacked a mosque killing 11 people and injuring thirty more, an armed Tikrit attack using grenades left 4 truck drivers dead and four more injured, an east Tikrit attack involving grenades claimed the life of 1 truck driver and 1 porter and left three people injured, a Tirkit bombings claimed the life of 1 police officer and left three more injuredNouri's forces killed 5 people in Diyala Province as they went about executing mass arrests (55 were arrested), a Tikrit armed attack left 4 police officers dead from gunfire,  a Mosul suicide car bomber claimed the life of 1 police officer and 3 civilians, and, late last night, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and left sixteen people injured.  That's 35 reported deaths (more if you count suicide bombers) and 59 injured. 

Last Saturday (June 15th), Camp Ashraf refugees now at Camp Liberty were attacked.   Today, the United Nations announced:




22 June 2013 – The top United Nations official in Iraq today welcomed the relocation to Albania of 27 residents from an exile camp near western Baghdad.
“A total of 71 men and women now have safely arrived in Albania and have benefited from the Government of Albania's offer to accept 210 of the Camp's residents,” said the UN Special Representative for the Secretary-General and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), Martin Kobler.
Some 3,000 residents, most of them members of a group known as the People's Mojahedeen of Iran, are temporarily housed in a transit facility called Camp Liberty – also know as Camp Hurriya – while the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) carries out a process to determine their refugee status.
Mr. Kobler said in addition to Albania, Germany has offered to relocate some 100 residents. The departure of the group from Iraq is in accordance with the memorandum of understanding of 25 December 2011, which foresees the relocation of the residents to third countries.

Kobler is preparing to leave Iraq.  He did meet with Nouri earlier this week and Nouri did repeat that he wanted the Ashraf refugees out of Iraq.

Kimberly Kagan is a right-wing, neocon academic.  We've noted her from time to time -- usually to disagree -- and she has a column that has some insight near the end.  Via AINA, here's Kagan's suggestions for how the US government could be using influence:

There are, however, ways that the United States could use its leverage to influence the behavior of the Maliki government, although not to arrest the violence entirely. First and foremost, the United States needs to condition the provision of arms, equipment, and training to the Iraqi Security Forces on Maliki's respect for the representative political system, humanitarian treaties Iraq has signed, and inclusive political solutions. These include dropping his legal charges against the cabinet members and protest leaders, meeting the reasonable demands of the protesters for transparency and de-Baathification measures, and implementing the promised terms of the 2010 Erbil Agreement by which he achieved the premiership. It is also vital that Maliki not tolerate Shia militant groups.
Second, the United States can block the United Nations from lifting Iraq's onerous Chapter VII status, even though Kuwait has at long last agreed to support the change, until Maliki makes those concessions. Those who argue that conditioning aid is difficult must note that our failure to condition our aid has empowered Maliki disproportionately. His deliberate disenfranchisement of the Sunni population is the main accelerant to insurgency in Iraq.


I'm not insulting Kagan by saying this, but it should go without mentioning that all weapons the US supplies various rulers with should only be provided if the ruler promises not to use them against their own people.   I agree with Kagan on that 100%.  And she's not saying it because she's nuts.  She's saying it because apparently the US government doesn't grasp something that basic. 

On Chapter VII, see you can write about Chapter VII and survive.  I don't know what the aversion has been on the part of the western press -- especially the US -- about discussing Chapter VII.  I don't know on that.  It seems like the ship has sailed.  Not only has Kobler declared it's happening but US Secretary of State John Kerry has publicly embraced the notion.

I don't think it's smart.  I don't know what's left in the diplomatic toolbox after you do away with Chapter VII.


The following community sites -- plus Adam Kokesh, Jody Watley, Tavis Smiley, Pacifica Evening News and Antiwar.com -- updated last night and today:









The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.






iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq

I Hate The War

 As Trina noted last night, the same administration that's working overtime to reduce the sentence of felon and corporate crook Jeffrey Skilling is going full out on the latest whistle-blower Ed Snoweden.  Today on NPR's hourly news summaries, Louis Schiavone noted the latest developments.


Louise Schiavone: US officials say bilateral relations between the US and Hong Kong are at stake in the case of a former contractor facing federal espionage charges.  The US wants to prosecute Edward Snowden for leaking national security secrets to the media.  Snowden is believed to be in Hong Kong.

Alan Gomez (USA Today) reports:

A one-page criminal complaint against Snowden was unsealed Friday in federal court in Alexandria, Va., part of the Eastern District of Virginia where his former employer, government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, is headquartered, in McLean. He is charged with unauthorized communication of national defense information, willful communication of classified communications intelligence information and theft of government property. The first two are under the Espionage Act and each of the three crimes carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on conviction.
The complaint is dated June 14, five days after Snowden's name first surfaced as the person who had leaked to the news media that the NSA, in two highly classified surveillance programs, gathered telephone and Internet records to ferret out terror plots.

While the White House may be  in caterwauling wail mode, Conal Urquhart (Guardian) cautions,  "Any attempt by the US to extradite the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden from Hong Kong for espionage could take years and be blocked by China, legal experts have said."

This is how Barack metes out justice.  Screw over the country and, infamously, Grandma Millie and Barack will get your sentence reduced.  Tell the truth about an important program the American people need to know about Barack will come after you with ever thing his office and the Justice Dept have to hang you.

That's the real Barack.

Meanwhile, an e-mail asked about the Elaine May and Mike Nichols routine quoted in a snapshot this week.  Specifically, the e-mailer noted that NYT has the words different than I do.

Thanks for writing and I could have been wrong. 

Here's how I presented it:


Mike Nichols: It's a moral issue.

Elaine May: Yes!

Mike Nichols: A moral issue.

Elaine May: Yes! Yes! Yes! It is a moral issue.  

Mike Nichols:  A moral issue.

Elaine May:  And to me that's always so much more interesting than a real issue

That is different from the way the e-mailer says the New York Times has  looked around and a clip of them performing the skit (introduced by Henry Fonda) can be found in that posted video.  The exchange starts at about 2 minutes and 14 seconds.


As I read over what I wrote and what they said, it tracks. 


Now this was a popular sketch and the New York Times (or others) may be thinking of a different version of the skit, I don't know.


But I do know it's a classic sketch and Elaine's last line quoted above is often repeated -- in one form or another -- because it really nails it.


And, as we noted, the 'morality' debate allowed the War Hawk to ignore the legality of the Iraq War itself -- which was his whole point.












It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
There's a war going on
So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
And I'm writing a song about war
And it goes
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Oh oh oh oh
-- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)


The number of US service members the Dept of Defense states died in the Iraq War is [PDF format warning] 4488.



The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.




Friday, June 21, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Friday, June 21, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Baghdad's voter turnout was beaten by Anbar and by Nineveh (though so sad folks can't navigate reality well enough to report it), today is the sixth month anniversary of ongoing protests in Iraq and we're happy to note it but just wish we weren't the only ones doing so, the KRG continues to attract the companies and businesses that the central government can't, Iraq's on the receiving end of a cultural insult that someone in the US government should be explaining, and more.




Let's start with the elections because I'm so tired of the garbage from the press. 

Anbar and Nineveh, they tell us, weren't allowed to vote in April because it was too violent.  They leave out that that was Nouri's claims or that Nouri offered two other excuses for calling off the vote after it was pointed out that Baghdad was just as violent.

Oh how the whores love to whore.



Yesterday, Anbar Province and Diyala province were finally allowed to vote (after being prevented by Nouri al-Maliki from voting in April).  Today we get outlets telling us that 'good for Anbar' but Nineveh's below the national average.  No, no, no.  Quit being a liar, quit making false comparisons.  Baghdad is the only comparison due to levels of violence.  From yesterday's snapshot:

Despite all of that and much more, it appears the voting in Anbar and Nineveh was successful today.  Alsumaria reports that the Independent High Electoral Commission states 37.5% of registered voters turned out in Nineveh and that 49.5% turned out in Anbar.  Alsumaria notes that UNHCR assisted with the elections and were at polling places.  At five o'clock, when voting was scheduled to end, UNHCR checked to make sure that all voters were out of the polling stations and then locked the doors and, with IHEC, secured the ballot boxes.  All Iraq News notes that IHEC's Electoral Office head Muqdad al-Shiriefi declared in a Baghdad press conference this evening, "There are no violations in the PCs elections of the provinces."  NINA reports that the Mottahidoon Coalition issued a statement declaring the high rate of turnout in the two provinces was an indication that the protesters, who "have suffered various severe conditions in order to get their demands and recover their usurped rights," believe in their democratic rights.


No violations, no accusations. How different it is in Anbar and Nineveh -- another detail the 'working' press forgot to note.  Now what was the turnout in the province of Baghdad -- the only comparable province in terms of violence?  After the elections in April,  Matt Bradley (Wall St. Journal) reported:

Only slightly more than 50% of eligible Iraqi voters participated in provincial elections on Saturday, a far cry from the 72% turnout for the latest such elections, in 2009, according to Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission. In Iraq's capital, turnout slipped to 33%, the commission said.

 Only 33% of voters turned out in Baghdad.  I don't know -- problem with the official numbers -- what's going on but just FYI, we're sticking to percentages and will stay with that.  What's the problem?  IHEC's statements don't add up.  Not when they're dealing with solid numbers of voters.  Run the numbers, I just did after I stopped and thought about what IHEC said of the 12 provinces total for the April 20th election.  (That was 50% so double it.)  When you add that, the KRG population (I'm using CIA population figures -- which are estimates and I'm even using the 2012 which is lower than this year's) and include the numbers for Anbar and Nineveh and then add estimates for Kirkuk (CIA), the CIA population in Iraq is not matching IHEC numbers, IHEC is grossly undercounting or the CIA has been wildly off the mark for years now.  So we're sticking to percentages but if someone ever adds the numbers (supplied by IHEC) and tries to figure out the population, don't complain to me, I just ran the numbers and I see the problem too.

So Baghdad had 33% turnout.  But let's explain that further because the press didn't use Baghad or bother to explain April 20th turnout.  Again, from yesterday's snapshot:

  Apparently there was no concern over refugees who fled the provinces being able to vote. When the 12 provinces were allowed to vote in April, there were polling stations set up in Anbar and Nineveh -- but just for refugees from the 12 provinces who had moved in to Anbar and Nineveh to vote.  The Independent High Electoral Commission announced that there were "special polling centers" set up for displaced persons from Nineveh and Anbar . . . if they were in the KRG.  Only, if they were in the KRG.  Now if you were a member of the armed services and resided in Anbar or Nineveh in your downtime but were deployed to other provinces, IHED had 266 polling stations in 15 of the other provinces for you to vote.  But if you were a resident of Anbar or Nineveh who had been displaced and went to any province other than the three in the KRG, you were out of luck on voting.



So, for example, Sunni refugees who fled Baghdad (due to violence) and went to Anbar were able to vote April 20th at an Anbar polling center and their voted counted -- because they are IDPs -- as being a Baghdad vote.  By the same token, Iraqi Christians who fled to the KRG due to violence were able to vote April 20th at polling stations as residents of Baghdad.


Baghdad's April vote includes all Baghdad Province residents in Iraq -- anywhere in Iraq.  On April 20th, they even had polling centers in Kirkuk which was real middle finger if you think about since official residents of Kirkuk never get to vote in provincial elections.  But in April, Baghdad residents -- whether in Baghdad, deployed outside of Baghdad in the security forces or IDPs who fled Baghdad Province due to violence -- were all able to vote if they wanted to.  And only 33% wanted to.


Anbar and Nineveh didn't get that.  Their residents who are in the security forces and out of Anbar and Nineveh were able to vote.  In addition, their IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) were able to vote . . . if they were in the KRG (three provinces).  If they were anywhere else, they weren't allowed to vote.  While Anbar's 95% Sunni, Nineveh is more mixed demographically.   Why would you assume, for example, that Turkmen would choose to go to the KRG?

Baghdad had better weather in April while Anbar and Nineveh were both over 100 degrees yesterday when voting took place.  Baghdad residents (in Baghdad or IDPs) could vote across Iraq.  That wasn't the case for Anbar and Nineveh.  But a larger percentage of voters in Anbar turned out than in Baghdad and a larger percentage of voters in Nineveh turned out than in Baghdad.

This isn't noted in the nonsense that's being passed off today as 'reporting.'

As an Iraqi community member who voted in yesterday's elections notes of today's western media coverage, "They will not give us credit for anything."  No, they certainly will not.

Since December 21st, Anbar and Nineveh have been the leading provinces when it came to protests.  But if the press can't portray the protesters as 'out of control,' they're just not interested in them.  Some reporters need it so badly that they lie about it -- as one US outlet did today: "Often violent protests in the Sunni-majority provinces of Anbar and Ninevah are motivated as much by low unemployment and spotty electricity during the sweltering summer months as they are by sectarian grievances."  Want to explain that one?

Didn't think so.

No, the protests have not been violent in Anbar and Nineveh and to suggest that they have really makes you a questionable reporter.  If protests -- which have taken place since December 21st -- were violent, we'd be seeing mass deaths and destroyed property and all these things that just don't exist.  Seems like the reporter feel for Kelly McEvers' propaganda that we called out earlier this week (here).  That's too bad because the rest of the article (which is on another topic) looks very strong.  But how can anyone trust you when you falsely characterize six months of peaceful protests as "violent."  If they were violent -- even in just those two provinces -- I'd assume they'd have a body count of 30 dead per month.  They don't even have a body count of 1 dead per month by protesters. 

Now Nouri's forces have killed protesters during this time.  Most infamously, the April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija when Nouri's federal forces stormed it. 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 increased to 53.   UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

It is the six months today, by the way, six months since the ongoing protests started.  Another detail the media 'forgot.'

Today is the sixth month anniversary of the ongoing, peaceful protests that kicked off December 21st.  In February, Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) wrote:


Protests are raging throughout Iraq...thousands upon thousands are demanding the following :
- End of Sectarian Shia rule
- the re-writing of the Iraqi constitution (drafted by the Americans and Iranians)
- the end to arbitrary killings and detention, rape and torture of all detainees on basis of sect alone and their release
- the end of discriminatory policies in employment, education, etc based on sect
- the provision of government services to all
- the end of corruption
- no division between Shias and Sunnis, a one Islam for all Iraqi Muslims and a one Iraq for all Iraqis.

The protests in Anbar, Fallujah, Sammara, Baquba,  Tikrit, Kirkuk, Mosul...and in different parts of Baghdad stress over and over 1) the spontaneous nature of the "popular revolution against oppression and injustice" 2) its peaceful nature  i.e unarmed  3) the welcoming of ALL to join the protests regardless of sect or ethnicity as ONE Iraqi people and 4) and the March to Baghdad.



In six months of ongoing protests, most western outlets have never offered as much on it as Layla Anwar did that day (and the above's an excerpt, click on the link to read her full post).  And when the western media has bothered to note it, they've ignored so much.

With the exception of the Guardian, no one's wanted to touch the issue of women and girls raped and tortured in Iraqi prisons.  When Jane Arraf 'touched' on it, she did so by nothing that this was happening -- per Amnesty International [see this March 11th entry aptly titled "Iraqi women and girls (and the silence on this topic)" and snapshots for March 11th, March 12th, and March 13th] -- and then went on to share a report about the abuse of . . . a male prisoner. 

Only the Guardian -- among western media -- has shown any bravery.  AFP won't even acknowledge that this is the underpinning of the protests.  Haifa Zangana (Guardian) was one of the people covering reality:



The plight of women detainees was the starting point for the mass protests that have spread through many Iraqi provinces since 25 December 2012. Their treatment by the security forces has been a bleeding wound – and one shrouded in secrecy, especially since 2003. Women have been routinely detained as hostages – a tactic to force their male loved ones to surrender to security forces, or confess to crimes ascribed to them. Banners and placards carried by hundreds of thousands of protesters portray images of women behind bars pleading for justice.

[. . .]

No wonder, ten years after the invasion, the Iraqi authorities are accused by US-based Human Rights Watch of "violating with impunity the rights of Iraq's most vulnerable citizens, especially women and detainees". HRW's account is echoed by a report by the Iraqi parliament's own human rights and women, family and children's committees, which found that there are 1,030 women detainees suffering from widespread abuse, including threats of rape.
Responding to these findings, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki threatened to "arrest those members of parliament who had discussed the violence against women detainees". Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani has acknowledged that there are 13,000 prisoners in custody accused of terror offences, but he only mentioned women detainees in passing [. . .]



Another person able to cover reality was Dahr Jamail (Al Jazeera) who reported:


Heba al-Shamary (name changed for security reasons) was released last week from an Iraqi prison where she spent the last four years.
“I was tortured and raped repeatedly by the Iraqi security forces,” she told Al Jazeera. “I want to tell the world what I and other Iraqi women in prison have had to go through these last years. It has been a hell.”
Heba was charged with terrorism, as so many Iraqis who are detained by the Iraqi security apparatus are charged.
“I now want to explain to people what is occurring in the prisons that [Prime Minister Nouri al-] Maliki and his gangs are running,” Heba added. “I was raped over and over again, I was kicked and beaten and insulted and spit upon.”
Heba’s story, horrific as it is, unfortunately is but one example of what a recent report from Amnesty International refers to as “a grim cycle of human rights abuses” in Iraq today.



Six months worth of protests and what has the bulk of the western media done with it?  Nothing.

Protests continued today.  Demonstrators turned out in Jalawla, in Falluja, in Ramadi,  in Kirkuk and in BaghdadThey're declaring Monday "The Day of the Detainee."  In the Iraq 'legal' system, people charged with crimes but not convicted disappear for years in jail as do people who have never been charged with a crime but were rounded up and tossed in a prison.  National Iraqi News Agency notes that the security was beefed up throughout Anbar Province around sit-in areas.  They did this in Diyala Province as well and "Shahab-Badri, Vice-Chairman of the Committee of Religious Scholars of Iraq, demanded security forces to take responsibility by ensuring access to worshipers to prayers yards , calling on the Iraqi government to meet the constitutional and legitimate usurped rights that the demonstrators claimed since more than six months."

NINA also reports, "A security source in Kirkuk province, said that rapid intervention special forces of Dijlah Operations Command arrested the coordinator of the Popular Committees for the mass movement in the province Sheikh Khaled Mafraji."  Alsumaria notes that the Kurdish movement -- both in Kirkuk and nationally -- is calling for the Sheikh's immediate release.




He was not the only one arrested.  Al Mada reports that "SWAT" forces arrested him and that activists were also arrested in Ramadi and Kirkuk.  Rafie al-Issawi declares that Nouri al-Maliki is underestimating the strength and the will of the protesters.  al-Issawi is identified as that outgoing Minister of Finance.  (December 20th, his staff and bodyguards were seized by Nouri's force.  One of the things that has prompted the ongoing protests.  He announced he was resigning.  I have no idea where that stands.  Where it stands with Ayad Allawi is that al-Issawi has resigned.  Both are members of Iraqiya -- Allawi is the head of Iraqiya -- and Allawi considers al-Issawi out of the Cabinet.)



Turning to a different protest,  Alsumaria notes "hundreds" (probably thousands) have turned out in Kut today to protest.  This is not a part of the ongoing protests.  This is a protest that cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr called yesterday and they are demonstrating against the proposed conference in Qatar that the Taliban will be attending.  Judging by the photo with that Alsumaria report and the photo with this report on Kufa, a lot more followers of Moqtada al-Sadr turned out in Kufa to protest the Taliban being included on the Qatar Conference.



All Iraq News notes a Baghdad bombing has claimed 1 life and left seven more people injured. NINA reports the Khour Bridge near Qa'im has been blown up and that armed clashes are taking place around it with "military helicopters . . . providing support to the military forces" -- at least 3 Iraqi soldiers are dead and two more injured.  On the topic of violence, Ian Johnston (NBC News) offers a very strong examination of violence in Iraq.   Brookings Institution's Kenneth Pollack states, "By any defintion, what's going on in Iraq is a civil war."  From the report:

Hamit Dardagan, principal analyst with Iraq Body Count, which has been documenting civilian casualties since the war began, said the death toll was alarming, but still some way off the mass slaughter of 2006-07 when several thousand people died on a monthly basis.
He said the death toll had dropped dramatically from mid-2008 to a plateau of a few hundred a month.
“This year is the first time we’ve seen a really steady trend that’s reversed the direction on 2008,” Dardagan said. “It’s been a steady, low-level war. It’s just that recently … it’s actually started to worsen in a way that’s not just a single-month blip. It seems to be a continuous trend."


Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 354 violent deaths so far this month.




Today, Iraqi News reports, "The Presidential Staff of Iraq congratulated the citizens of Anbar and Nineveh Provicnes for holding local elections."  Why the presidential staff and not the president?  Last December,  Iraqi President Jalal 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.   The fact that a statement wasn't issued in his name will lead some to question (or more loudly question) whether or not Jalal can even speak -- despite the optimistic 'reports' by his doctors.  He's now missed an eight of his term due to the stroke.

On other rumors, will Iraq ever hold a census?  Mustafa Habib (Niqash) reports that Nouri al-Maliki has been making noises about it -- but those noises were when he visited Erbil this month to try to sway Kurdistan Regional President Massoud Barzani over to his side.  As with so many of Nouri's promises, there just aren't any facts that back them up.  He's claiming that a census will be held this year.  From Habib's report:




However al-Allaq didn’t think a census would be held in 2013. "The federal government didn’t allocate any funds to hold a census in this year’s budget so we won’t be holding one until next year,” he explained.

There are other reasons why holding a census may not be the most desirable step at present. Many of Iraq’s political and economic problems are very connected with demographic issues like ethnicity and sectarianism. A census would impact on things like the distribution of resources to different parts of the country and accurate electoral rolls.


There has also been plenty of criticism of the electoral process in Iraq. After all, because there’s been no census it is hard to know exactly how many voters there should be or how old they are.


As Faraj al-Haydari, former head of Iraq's all important Independent High Electoral Commission, or IHEC, told NIQASH, “a census is fundamental for the success of any election. Unfortunately the lack of census has disadvantaged the democratic system in this country. Since 2004, IHEC has used the Ministry of Commerce’s figures which are obviously not accurate.”

The lack of accurate figures has also meant that it’s not been possible to hold district elections – after all, nobody knows how many people are living in each district.

Guillaume Decamme (AFP) reports on the sense that, in the KRG, things are moving along at a good pace:

Abdul-Karim is not the only one who feels that way – the economy of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, with Irbil as its capital, is growing faster than the rest of the country and sees none of the violence that has raged across Arab areas. In Irbil, crowded cafes overflow onto sidewalks, customers pack out restaurants with no fear of attack and, perhaps most importantly for the three-province region’s future prospects, foreign investors appear keen to plant their flag.
“It is really easy to set up shop here,” said Jorge Restrepo, an American of Colombian origin who runs a consultancy business in Kurdistan targeting Spanish and Canadian energy companies.
“The government of Kurdistan is very open to foreigners,” he said.

The low level of violence does help.  But equally true, the KRG government has not been led by a paranoid who makes promises and signs contracts and then breaks them.  If you can't trust someone, you aren't inclined to do business with them.  Foreign companies going into Iraq require a commitment that their deals are legal and will stand up in court and will be honored.  Nouri's failure to project that image goes a long, long way towards explaining why 15 other provinces in Iraq can't come remotely close to the business investments that the KRG is seeing.
 
No one but Nouri al-Maliki is responsible for his bad image.  He refuses to honor his word, to honor contracts.  He is not to be trusted and that is the message he's projected on the world's stage.  For example,  Ali Abedl Sadah (Al-Monitor) reports today on a new deal between Iraq (Nouri) and Russia for military helicopters.  To report on that, Ali Abedl Sadah has to, of course, note what came most recently:
This statement came one day after a Russian news agency published information on the completion of a purchase agreement between the Iraqi Ministry of Defense and the Russian government, dating back to 2011.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had visited Moscow to hold negotiations for an arms deal. Yet, it was immediately halted after suspicions of corruption against officials close to Maliki.
These officials included members of his office. Maliki later decided to dismiss Ali al-Dabbagh, the Iraqi government’s spokesman, for being involved in receiving kickbacks to facilitate the procedures to conclude the agreement between the Iraqi and Russian parties.



October 9th, with much fanfare, Nouri signed a $4.2 billion dollar weapons deal with Russia.  After taking his bows on the world stage and with Parliament and others raising objections, Nouri quickly announced the deal was off.  The scandal, however, refuses to go away.  And it among the broken promises that has harmed central Iraq's standing. The problem most likely doesn't go away until Nouri stops being Prime Minister.


Turning to the topic of Iraq, Chevron and Abednego.  As UPI noted earlier this week, "Iraq's Kurds have consolidated their growing energy sector with Chevron Corp. securing a third exploration block in the semiautonomous northern region and France's Total buying a majority stake in another." At the Christian Science Monitor, Jen Alec wonders "Can Baghdad stop exports of Kurdish oil?" and concludes:

The Kurds have the advantage, even more so not that the rest of Iraq is engulfed in a sectarian conflict as it becomes the definitive second front in the war in Syria. Last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki flew to Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, to hold high-level talks. This hasn’t happened since 2003, and it indicates that the talks were on the Kurds’ terms, as well as their terrain.
Will Baghdad be able to stop the Kurdish oil and gas momentum? Not at this point. Once the pipeline is up and running, the game is over and Baghdad doesn’t have the resources to turn it into a conflict.
Jen Alec also writes at Oil Price.  It's also true that, despite Nouri al-Maliki promising to deliver one in 2007 (the White House benchmarks for 'progress' in Iraq), Iraq still has no national gas and oil law.  When that happens, provinces can do what they like -- especially if they are the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government.

Nerdun Hac─▒oglu (Hurriyet Daily News) notes that KRG President Massoud Barzani met with Turkey's Minister of Energy Taner Yildiz in Russia yesterday at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum and they discussed the proposed pipeline further.   On oil in general, Peg Mackey and Alex Lawler (Reuters) explain, "Iraq's oil output target for 2013 is still within reach, even with flows stuck at 3 million barrels a day during the first half of the year, but a lofty goal for 2014 will be far more difficult to meet, oil executives and officials say." What's the big stand out this month? That exports "have fallen by about 200,000 barrels per day."

From oil to another divisive topic, cultural artifacts.  Last month (May 16th), the National Archives (in the US) issued the following:


Washington, DC…On Friday, October 11, 2013, the National Archives will unveil a new exhibition, “Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage.” The exhibit details the dramatic recovery of historic materials relating to the Jewish community in Iraq from a flooded basement in Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters, and the National Archives’ ongoing work in support of U.S. Government efforts to preserve these materials. Located in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, “Discovery and Recovery” is free and open to the public and runs through January 5, 2014.
In both English and Arabic, the 2,000 square foot exhibit features 24 recovered items and a “behind the scenes” video of the fascinating yet painstaking preservation process. This exhibit marks the first time these items have been on public display.

Background

On May 6, 2003, just days after the Coalition forces took over Baghdad, 16 American soldiers from Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha, a group assigned to search for nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, entered Saddam Hussein’s flooded intelligence building. In the basement, under four feet of water, they found thousands of books and documents relating to the Jewish community of Iraq – materials that had belonged to synagogues and Jewish organizations in Baghdad.
The water-logged materials quickly became moldy in Baghdad’s intense heat and humidity. Seeking guidance, the Coalition Provisional Authority placed an urgent call to the nation’s foremost conservation experts at the National Archives. Just a week later, National Archives Director of Preservation Programs Doris Hamburg and Conservation Chief Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler arrived in Baghdad via military transport to assess the damage and make recommendations for preservation of the materials. Both experts share this extraordinary story and take you “behind the scenes” in this brief video [http://tinyurl.com/IraqiJA]. This video is in the public domain and not subject to any copyright restrictions. The National Archives encourages its use and free distribution.
Given limited treatment options in Baghdad, and with the agreement of Iraqi representatives, the materials were shipped to the United States for preservation and exhibition. Since then, these materials have been vacuum freeze-dried, preserved and photographed under the direction of the National Archives. The collection includes more than 2,700 Jewish books and tens of thousands of documents in Hebrew, Arabic, Judeo-Arabic and English, dating from 1540 to the 1970s. A special website to launch this fall will make these historic materials freely available to all online as they are digitized and catalogued. This work was made possible through the assistance of the Department of State, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Center for Jewish History.
The Jews of Iraq have a rich past, extending back to Babylonia. These materials provide a tangible link to this community that flourished there, but in the second half of the twentieth century dispersed throughout the world. Today, fewer than five Jews remain.

Display highlights include:

  • A Hebrew Bible with Commentaries from 1568 – one of the oldest books in the trove;
  • A Babylonian Talmud from 1793;
  • A Torah scroll fragment from Genesis - one of the 48 Torah scroll fragments found;
  • A Zohar from 1815 – a text for the mystical and spiritual Jewish movement known as “Kabbalah”;
  • An official 1918 letter to the Chief Rabbi regarding the allotment of sheep for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year);
  • Materials from Jewish schools in Baghdad, including exam grades and a letter to the College Entrance Examination Board in Princeton regarding SAT scores;
  • A Haggadah (Passover script) from 1902, hand lettered and decorated by an Iraqi Jewish youth ; and
  • A lunar calendar in both Hebrew and Arabic from the Jewish year 5732 (1972-1973) - one of the last examples of Hebrew printed items produced in Baghdad.
“Discovery and Recovery” is divided into six sections:
Discovery: The dramatic story of how these materials were found, rescued and preserved is one worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster. A short film captures these heroic efforts. The section includes actual metal foot lockers used to ship the documents to the United States.
Text and Heritage: This section explores Iraqi Jewish history and tradition through recovered texts, including a Torah scroll fragment, a Hebrew Bible with Commentaries from 1568, and a Babylonian Talmud from 1793.
Iraqi Jewish Life: Constancy and Change: Using recovered texts, this section explores the pattern of Jewish life in Iraq. Highlights include a Haggadah (Passover script), siddur (prayer book) and an illustrated lunar calendar in both Hebrew and Arabic (one of about 20 found, dating from 1959-1973).
Personal and Communal Life: Selected correspondence and publications illustrate the range and complexity of Iraqi Jewish life in the 19th and 20th centuries. Original documents and facsimiles in flipbooks range from school primers to international business correspondence from the Sassoon family.
After the Millennia: Iraqi Jewish life unraveled in the mid-20th century, with the rise of Nazism and proliferation of anti-Jewish propaganda. In June 1941, 180 Jews were killed and hundreds injured in an anti-Jewish attack in Baghdad. Persecution increased when Iraq entered the war against the new State of Israel in 1948. In 1950 and 1951, many Iraqi Jews were stripped of their citizenship and assets and the community fled the county en masse. This section includes the 1951 law freezing assets of Iraqi Jews.
Preserving the Past: It is not surprising that the Coalition Forces turned to National Archives conservators for help. Learn about transformation of these materials from moldy, water-logged masses to a carefully preserved, enduring historic legacy. View the National Archives’ state-of-the-art treatment, preservation, and digitization of these materials.
The Fall issue of Prologue Magazine, the Archives’ flagship publication, will feature two articles on “Discovery and Recovery.” Prologue is available in the Archives Shop.

National Archives Preservation and Conservation

The Conservation Department cares for the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and other founding documents, as well as billions of other records. In state-of-the-art preservation labs, staff assess the condition of records and identify their composition. Experts stabilize and treat documents to prepare them for digitization, exhibition, and use by researchers. A “conservator-on-call” team is ready to provide guidance for any records emergency at National Archives facilities nationwide. National Archives conservation experts also serve as “first preservers” and provide aid to other agencies and offices following disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.
The National Archives is located on the National Mall on Constitution Avenue at 9th Street, NW. Hours are 10 AM-5 PM.
# # #
For more information on or to obtain images of items included in the exhibition, call the National Archives Public Affairs staff at 202-357-5300.


There is no Jewish community in Iraq anymore.  What the illegal Iraq War unleashed destroyed it.  I fully support the artifacts being handed over to the government of  Israel -- Israel is where most Iraqi Jews have gone in the last decades. Cultural artifacts belong to the people, not to a land.  If tomorrow all the Yazidis or Shabaks or Armenians were out of Iraq and a week later a discovery was made about their cultural artificats?  Those would belong to the people of that culture. 

While I support the Jewish people in Israel being over these historical Jewish records, I do not support them being shown in the United States as described above.  For those who don't know, this is a very big issue to some in Iraq.  Some in Iraq are very vocal in their belief that these Jewish records and artifacts belong to Iraq.  They want them returned.  I'm not really grasping how disputed artifacts belong on display in the United States. I'm failing to see how this helpful to anyone -- especially since the United States government started the illegal war.  To me this plays as taunting, as insulting and as humiliating to the people of Iraq -- and it plays like the US government meant for it to cause ill will.  (I personally don't believe that but it does play out as if the US government is attempting to humiliate Iraq and I have no idea what US government idiot gave approval for a US exhibition.)


Iraq was briefly mentioned in today's US State Dept press briefing:

QUESTION: At a time when Iraq is really suffering a great deal of turmoil, it seems that volunteers or militias are crossing the borders into Syria to aid the Syrian regime. Are you having any kind of special talks with the Iraqi Government to stop them from doing that or to prevent people from going to answer the calls of the Sunni jihadist side?



MR. VENTRELL: So we do – we have seen reports of a limited number of Iraqi Shia and Sunni militants fighting in Syria. These movements stoke the violence in Syria and contribute to the suffering of the Syrian people. So we continue to call on all of Syria’s neighbors to take all possible steps to prevent the flow of militant fighters into Syria in order to prevent exacerbating the sectarian aspects of the conflict. And so I would also note that the Iraqi Foreign Minister himself has made a statement – going back, I believe this is a week or so ago, June 11th -- discouraging Iraqis from joining the fight in Syria. So it’s something that we’ve discussed with the Iraqis in the past and they’ve made public statements about.


Iraq War reporter Michael Hastings passed away this week, as we've already noted.  I just want to make a few quick comments.  I do not and did not know his widow Elise Jordan.  I was appalled to read that she was rebuffed when she attempted to have a correction made to the obituary of her husband (the online one was wrong, she contacted Jill Abramson to ask that the error not appear in the print).  There's no excuse for that in the world.  There is a thing called professional courtesy that at the very least should have kicked in. Jill should remember that and I think she will, this sort of thing is not forgotten or unnoticed and it has a way of coming back.

 It's called payback, Jill.  You should have heeded the request of Elise Jordan, the request of a grieving widow who just wanted to make sure her husband was remembered correctly.  Think about that, Jill, Elise Jordan was crying over her fresh loss that felt so raw and all it would have required for you to have helped her in her pain was removing one damn sentence.  It wouldn't have hurt you in the least but that's the kind of woman you really are, Jill, just a dirty piece of trash.  And, yeah, as Isaiah noted in his comic, you do have a mustache and it's very unattractive, Jill.


Michael Hastings was an investigative reporter.  In my remarks here earlier this week, I said his luck ran out.  I was not referring to anything other than he had gone into difficult areas (war zones) and managed to survive when others didn't.  Since that went up, there are two rumors circulating.  One that he was targeted by the  FBI and two that he was pursuing the Petraeus affair-ouster. Either may be true, both may be true, both may be false.  We don't traffic in rumors about how someone died here because I'm just not interested in adding to anyone's grief.  If Elise Jordan wants to weigh in on those things, we will cover them.  Until then, the following is all I have to say on the matter.  The FBI denied they were investigating Michael Hastings.

Attorney General Eric Holder is over the Justice Dept (that includes the FBI).  I saw him testify to Congress about targeting reporters only weeks ago.  It was just AP, he explained.  And then, a few days later, it was learned that James Rosen of Fox News had also been targeted.  I have no idea if Michael Hastings was targeted by anyone but a denial doesn't really mean anything with that track record.  Also true, we have an alphabet soup of agencies operating in the US.  Anyone of those could have been tracking Michael Hastings (and might have even led him to believe they were FBI -- especially true if they were military intelligence which loved to pose as FBI during Vietnam).  I have no idea how or why he died.  What I do know is he was an important reporter, a credit to his profession and he will be missed by those who knew him and by those who just knew his work. 





Finally, tomorrow in NYC, there will be an action against Barack's ongoing Drone War:



PRESS RELEASE:
THE DRONE ZONE: CODE PINK SIMULATION OF LIFE UNDER 24-HOUR DRONE SURVEILLANCE
when: Saturday, June 22, 11 to 1:00 p.m.
where:  the Cube at Astor Place


contact: Jill Godmilow (212) 226-2462, jgodmilo@nd.edu, or Jonathan Langer (716) 544-8237, jonathan.a.langer@gmail.com


(video documentation available) 



On Saturday, June 22, at Astor Place, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., a group of men and women will create a Drone Zone similar to those where the U.S. is terrorizing small villages in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, etc.



"Crossing Guards", 15 or so (women and men), each with a white, crossing guard diagonal sash, will be staged about 10 paces apart around a small area of Astor Place at Lafayette, next to The Cube... to produce "the zone." They stand silent, as cautionary figures... looking much like crossing guards might if so instructed. The guards are holding upright and steady 8 foot PVC poles. On each pole is a sign that reads: "DRONE ALERT!  YOU HAVE ENTERED A DRONE ZONE. PLEASE BE PREPARED TO TAKE SHELTER QUICKLY."  On top of each pole is mounted a mini-speaker emitting a low audio track of a drone continuously buzzing (as drones do flying over a Pakistani village), sourced from iPods or smart phones in their pockets.



If questioned by citizens, each crossing guard will have pink 4 x 6 cards to hand out. On one side is a brief description of life in Yemeni, Pakistani, Somali, Afghani village that suffers the tremendous stress and trauma from 24-hour drone surveillance, as well as potential strikes or crashes. On the other side of the card is a brief description of the CODE PINK Drone Theatre Project itself. Also, a list of on-line sites for more information about armed drone surveillance, targeted killings, and drone proliferation.



This action will be repeated again and again in New York City and elsewhere throughout the summer



NB: There will be video documentation of the project for use for television and online sites and other press locations..



Joan Wile, leader of Grandmothers Against the War, has stated "This project – silent street theatre – asks passersby to reflect on the condition of drone tormented and threatened populations. Perhaps it will also project the blowback of drones ultimately aimed at us."


when: Saturday, June 22, 11 to 1:00 p.m.


where: the Cube at Astor Place



contact: Jill Godmilow (212) 226-2462, jgodmilo@nd.edu, or Jonathan Langer (716) 544-8237, jonathan.a.langer@gmail.com



admission: none






 





 

 











Iraq: Protests, arrests, violence, broken promises

It's Friday in Iraq which means protests.   Demonstrators turned out in Jalawla, in Falluja, in Ramadi,  in Kirkuk and in BaghdadThey're declaring Monday "The Day of the Detainee."  In the Iraq 'legal' system, people charged with crimes but not convicted disappear for years in jail as do people who have never been charged with a crime but were rounded up and tossed in a prison.  National Iraqi News Agency notes that the security was beefed up throughout Anbar Province around sit-in areas.  They did this in Diyala Province as well and "Shahab-Badri, Vice-Chairman of the Committee of Religious Scholars of Iraq, demanded security forces to take responsibility by ensuring access to worshipers to prayers yards , calling on the Iraqi government to meet the constitutional and legitimate usurped rights that the demonstrators claimed since more than six months."

NINA also reports, "A security source in Kirkuk province, said that rapid intervention special forces of Dijlah Operations Command arrested the coordinator of the Popular Committees for the mass movement in the province Sheikh Khaled Mafraji."  Alsumaria notes that the Kurdish movement -- both in Kirkuk and nationally -- is calling for the Sheikh's immediate release.

Alsumaria notes "hundreds" (probably thousands) have turned out in Kut today to protest.  This is not a part of the ongoing protests.  This is a protest that cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr called yesterday and they are demonstrating against the proposed conference in Qatar that the Taliban will be attending.  Judging by the photo with that Alsumaria report and the photo with this report on Kufa, a lot more followers of Moqtada al-Sadr turned out in Kufa to protest the Taliban being included on the Qatar Conference.

Yesterday, Anbar Province and Diyala province were finally allowed to vote (after being prevented by Nouri al-Maliki from voting in April).  Today, Iraqi News reports, "The Presidential Staff of Iraq congratulated the citizens of Anbar and Nineveh Provicnes for holding local elections."  Why the presidential staff and not the president?  Last December,  Iraqi President Jalal 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.   The fact that a statement wasn't issued in his name will lead some to question (or more loudly question) whether or not Jalal can even speak -- despite the optimistic 'reports' by his doctors.  He's now missed an eight of his term due to the stroke.

On other rumors, will Iraq ever hold a census?  Mustafa Habib (Niqash) reports that Nouri al-Maliki has been making noises about it -- but those noises were when he visited Erbil this month to try to sway Kurdistan Regional President Massoud Barzani over to his side.  As with so many of Nouri's promises, there just aren't any facts that back them up.  He's claiming that a census will be held this year.  From Habib's report:



However al-Allaq didn’t think a census would be held in 2013. "The federal government didn’t allocate any funds to hold a census in this year’s budget so we won’t be holding one until next year,” he explained.

There are other reasons why holding a census may not be the most desirable step at present. Many of Iraq’s political and economic problems are very connected with demographic issues like ethnicity and sectarianism. A census would impact on things like the distribution of resources to different parts of the country and accurate electoral rolls.


There has also been plenty of criticism of the electoral process in Iraq. After all, because there’s been no census it is hard to know exactly how many voters there should be or how old they are.


As Faraj al-Haydari, former head of Iraq's all important Independent High Electoral Commission, or IHEC, told NIQASH, “a census is fundamental for the success of any election. Unfortunately the lack of census has disadvantaged the democratic system in this country. Since 2004, IHEC has used the Ministry of Commerce’s figures which are obviously not accurate.”

The lack of accurate figures has also meant that it’s not been possible to hold district elections – after all, nobody knows how many people are living in each district.


In other news, All Iraq News notes a Baghdad bombing has claimed 1 life and left seven more people injured.  On the topic of violence, Ian Johnston (NBC News) has a very strong report about what's been happening in Iraq.  Excerpt:


Ken Pollack, a former military analyst with the CIA who specialized on Iraq and Iran, said there was a real danger that a full-scale, Syria-style civil war would break out along that fault line in the next year.
“I think anyone would be a fool to bet against it,” he said. “What’s interesting to me is Iraq hasn’t gone down that route already or isn’t further along. By any definition, what’s going on in Iraq is a civil war.”
Pollack, now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, said the country might “go off a cliff” or suffer a “longer period of more gradual security decline.”
“The one sure thing is Iraq is not going to get better,” he added.
Hamit Dardagan, principal analyst with Iraq Body Count, which has been documenting civilian casualties since the war began, said the death toll was alarming, but still some way off the mass slaughter of 2006-07 when several thousand people died on a monthly basis.
He said the death toll had dropped dramatically from mid-2008 to a plateau of a few hundred a month.
“This year is the first time we’ve seen a really steady trend that’s reversed the direction on 2008,” Dardagan said. “It’s been a steady, low-level war. It’s just that recently … it’s actually started to worsen in a way that’s not just a single-month blip. It seems to be a continuous trend."


Lastly, tomorrow in NYC, there will be an action against Barack's ongoing Drone War:


PRESS RELEASE:
THE DRONE ZONE: CODE PINK SIMULATION OF LIFE UNDER 24-HOUR DRONE SURVEILLANCE
when: Saturday, June 22, 11 to 1:00 p.m.
where:  the Cube at Astor Place


contact: Jill Godmilow (212) 226-2462, jgodmilo@nd.edu, or Jonathan Langer (716) 544-8237, jonathan.a.langer@gmail.com


(video documentation available) 



On Saturday, June 22, at Astor Place, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., a group of men and women will create a Drone Zone similar to those where the U.S. is terrorizing small villages in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, etc.



"Crossing Guards", 15 or so (women and men), each with a white, crossing guard diagonal sash, will be staged about 10 paces apart around a small area of Astor Place at Lafayette, next to The Cube... to produce "the zone." They stand silent, as cautionary figures... looking much like crossing guards might if so instructed. The guards are holding upright and steady 8 foot PVC poles. On each pole is a sign that reads: "DRONE ALERT!  YOU HAVE ENTERED A DRONE ZONE. PLEASE BE PREPARED TO TAKE SHELTER QUICKLY."  On top of each pole is mounted a mini-speaker emitting a low audio track of a drone continuously buzzing (as drones do flying over a Pakistani village), sourced from iPods or smart phones in their pockets.



If questioned by citizens, each crossing guard will have pink 4 x 6 cards to hand out. On one side is a brief description of life in Yemeni, Pakistani, Somali, Afghani village that suffers the tremendous stress and trauma from 24-hour drone surveillance, as well as potential strikes or crashes. On the other side of the card is a brief description of the CODE PINK Drone Theatre Project itself. Also, a list of on-line sites for more information about armed drone surveillance, targeted killings, and drone proliferation.



This action will be repeated again and again in New York City and elsewhere throughout the summer



NB: There will be video documentation of the project for use for television and online sites and other press locations..



Joan Wile, leader of Grandmothers Against the War, has stated "This project – silent street theatre – asks passersby to reflect on the condition of drone tormented and threatened populations. Perhaps it will also project the blowback of drones ultimately aimed at us."


when: Saturday, June 22, 11 to 1:00 p.m.


where: the Cube at Astor Place



contact: Jill Godmilow (212) 226-2462, jgodmilo@nd.edu, or Jonathan Langer (716) 544-8237, jonathan.a.langer@gmail.com



admission: none



The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.






 





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