Thursday, January 16, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, January 16, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the assault on Anbar continues, Nouri hands the White House a weapons wish list, the Council of Ministers announce they'll sue the UN World Food Program, KRG President Massoud Barazni prepares for a Davos visit, and more.

Iraq is in so many crises that even the US can't ignore it (continue to ignore it) these days.  It was an issue raised repeatedly yesterday in the House of Representatives' Homeland Security Committee.  We covered the hearing in yesterday's snapshot, Ruth covered it in "Benghazi addressed in Congress," Kat in "Homeland Security Committee hearing," Wally in "Beto O'Rourke talks about Iraq" and Ava in "US Rep Brian Higgins weighs in on Iraq."   US House Rep Michael McCaul is Committee Chair and US House Rep Bennie G. Thompson is the Ranking Member.  The Committee heard testimony from former US Senator Joe Lieberman, former US House Rep Jane Harman, retired General Jack Keane and the RAND Corporation's Dr. Seth Jones.  We're going to drop back to the hearing for these remarks from Keane during US House Rep Sheila Jackson-Lee.

Retired General Jack Keane:  I disagree with you, Congresswoman, on Iraq.  The fact of the matter is that the immunity issue was not a serious issue, it was a false issue presented by Maliki as face saving because the United States envoy came in after the military had recommended 24,000 soldiers stay in Iraq.  The president's envoy put 10,000 on the table.  Maliki knew that was not a serious proposal and it eventually got down to nothing.  The immunity issue got brought up at the end.  And was more face saving for him inside Iraq than anything else.  The fact of the matter is that is a significant strategic blunder -- not leaving forces there -- much as we did post-WWII, not for security reasons but for influence.  And we lost this influence over Maliki.  And even further than that, it's more than just the troops.  We disengaged geo-politically with Iraq in terms of partnering with them which they wanted very much so.  They forced a Strategic Framework Agreement on us.  We wanted to have a Status Of Forces Agreement on the troops and they said no.  Maliki said we're not doing that until we agree to have a strategic partnership that will last twenty years. That was their idea.  We walked away from that as well.  And now we have this debacle on our hands. 

We're including that because a simplistic memory has replaced actual history.  Just last week, The National Interest was mocking Senator John McCain over accurate remarks that McCain was making.  The idiot at National Interest wasn't even aware that McCain had been making those accurate remarks publicly since November 2011.  McCain knows a great deal about the political mood in Iraq during the negotiations for a new SOFA.

I didn't support another SOFA.  I also don't think the lack of one is what's responsible for Iraq's problems today.  Those are my strongly held opinions.  My opinions do not allow me to lie about McCain or anyone else.  It's a shame The National Interest has standards lower than mine.

Keane's facts on the negotiations are solid.  His interpretation of the facts you can agree with or not.

But the notion that has taken hold has been a huge lie.  On the 'left,' for some (the ya'll drawling radio host for one -- whose Libertarian, not left) the lie was Nouri defeated the US!!!! WE LOVE NOURI!

Which is why Antiwar Radio has been the biggest joke for years -- unable to call out Nouri al-Maliki because the host was too busy sucking his knob.  Nouri didn't do anything wonderful to end a war.

Nouri's plan was to renew the SOFA, that is known.  It became more difficult due to political considerations on the ground.  When the numbers dropped from what he wanted (at one point, the US State Dept was aware Nouri wanted 36,000 US troops to remain in the country), it became, for Nouri, not worth the risk of the SOFA.  But he was saying for that time and planning to pick the topic back up.  This was testified to Congress by Leon Panetta.

A lot of people who have heard none of the Congressional testimony on this issue have weighed in with half-baked b.s. So much so that The National Interest thought they could mock John McCain for telling the truth.  There are a lot of times I have mocked John McCain in the past -- and I'm sure will do so in the future -- but I've never mocked for speaking the truth.

We may come back to the hearing tomorrow, we may not.  But for the record, my belief is and has been that the current crises in Iraq stem from the White House's refusal in 2010 to support Iraqi voters and instead back Nouri for a second term as prime minister even though his State of Law came in second to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya.  From Ned Parker's "Who Lost Iraq?" (POLITICO):

It was the April 2010 national election and its tortured aftermath that sewed the seeds of today’s crisis in Iraq. Beforehand, U.S. state and military officials had prepared for any scenario, including the possibility that Maliki might refuse to leave office for another Shiite Islamist candidate. No one imagined that the secular Iraqiya list, backed by Sunni Arabs, would win the largest number of seats in parliament. Suddenly the Sunnis’ candidate, secular Shiite Ayad Allawi, was poised to be prime minister. But Maliki refused and dug in.
And it is here where America found its standing wounded. Anxious about midterm elections in November and worried about the status of U.S. forces slated to be drawn down to 50,000 by August, the White House decided to pick winners. According to multiple officials in Baghdad at time, Vice President Joseph Biden and then-Ambassador Chris Hill decided in July 2010 to support Maliki for prime minister, but Maliki had to bring the Sunnis and Allawi onboard. Hill and his staff then made America’s support for Maliki clear in meetings with Iraqi political figures.
The stalemate would drag on for months, and in the end both the United States and its arch-foe Iran proved would take credit for forming the government. But Washington would be damaged in the process. It would be forever linked with endorsing Maliki. One U.S. Embassy official I spoke with just months before the government was formed privately expressed regret at how the Americans had played kingmaker.

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke with Piers Morgan (CNN -- link is text and video) last night and declared of Iraq, "I think that we succeeded in the mission in 2008 and 2009 in terms of being able to turn over to the Iraqis a fragile, but real, democratic government . . . as well as security and stability in the country.  We basically handed them their future on a silver platter . . . I think we accomplished our mission, and we withdrew in a way that was not a strategic defeat with global consequences for us."  So if Iraq was, in Gates' opinion, handed "a fragile, but real, democratic government," what changed that?  Maybe in 2010, the White House refusing to endorse the election results and demand that the voters and the country's Constitution be followed?

Tuesday, Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq spoke in DC at the US Institute of Peace.  We noted it in that day's snapshot.  We also noted some of the small coverage the event got.  I said we'd come back to the event.

MP Nada al-Juburi: It is very important when we talk about violence and sectarianism and corruption, I think there is a relationship between the three.  And these three topics came together in Iraq and effected the work of these institutions. I'm not here pointing at one certain institution but all the institutions.  At the end of the day, the citizen is not satisfied generally speaking.  And this is a very important issue especially at this stage.  And what is going on right now, during the two terms of Parliament and the political blocs that are inside the Parliament played many roles and played important roles.  I think there are two terms of the Parliament are considered to be very important to the history of Iraq when we talk about democracy because it established and worked in a very difficult time, there is no doubt about it.  But, on the other hand, when we look into the political divisions and differences impeded the stability.  And some of the political elements, I say a few, they might have a direct link to the violence.  Bu they are not representing a huge sector.  But when you look into the discourse that sometimes comes out that could also lead to violence in the street.  So I say it is very important the quality of the political discourse.  The message inside the political discourse will direct the street to a certain direction.  And also the terrorists will exploit these occasions when there is inflamatory political speech, these terrorists will exploit the chance to conduct terrorist actions everywhere and it increases.  When we talk in Mosul but in Mosul suffering a lot oof killing of people and journalists.  So when we look into 2012 it was a tragedy compared to any place in the world. So, again, the political blocs will play an indirect role to increase the violence through its political discourse.  So if we have a rash now -- political discourse -- and supporting national reconciliation, especially after the withdrawal and where all the politicians were all elected.  And so I think again that national reconciliation, if it took place clearly and transparently and will give high assurance to the people -- especially at this time where we are witnessing new elections parallel to combating terrorism.

I said we'd come back because the coverage we noted sometimes noted a male MP but no one noted female MP Nada al-Juburi.  We'll note her here.  All the Iraqi participants spoke through an interpreter (and a bad interpreter at that, yeah, I said it). Also Zuber Hewrami (Rudaw) reports today on al-Mutlaq's speech.

al-Juburi spoke of corruption which brings us to the next topic.  In 2009, IRIN noted food insecurity was increasing in Iraq.  Food insecurity continues today.  The UN's World Food Program notes:

The situation in Iraq remains volatile due to long years of ongoing instability. Since 1990, both accessibility and the quality of essential services have deteriorated significantly in a country where one quarter of the population lives below the poverty line of US$2 per day. 
According to the Iraq Knowledge Network (IKN) survey conducted in 2011, food deprivation in Iraq decreased from 7 percent in 2007 to 6 percent in 2011. Vulnerability to food deprivation also decreased from 20 percent to 14 percent during the same period. Food deprivation in Iraq is transforming from a rural to an urban phenomenon due to improved government investment in agriculture and improvement in rural incomes due to rising food prices. 
However, substantial regional differences persist. Districts suffering from the highest levels of food deprivation are concentrated in the south and north-west of the country. Limited income and lack of access to enough food remains the main cause of food insecurity in Iraq. Although Iraqis’ dependency on the Public Distribution System (PDS) has decreased from 67 percent in 2007 to 57 percent in 2011, it remains the main source of food for the poorest Iraqis.

More than 1.7 million Iraqis – of which 49 percent are women and 51 percent men – have been internally displaced since February 2006. Recent studies show that internally displaced people’s (IDPs) access to food has drastically decreased as a result of irregular PDS distributions. In some governorates, up to 92 percent of IDPs claim food to be their most pressing need.  

Food's been an issue for some time.  Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi regularly called for Iraq to diversify its economy and to revive the farming industry.  Mike Tharp (McClatchy Newspapers) noted in 2009, of the the country that was once the bread basket of the Middle East,  "Iraq now imports nearly all the food its people eat: California rice, Washington apples, Australian wheat, fruits and vegetables from its neighbors. All are staples in Iraqi groceries and on the dinner table. The decline of the farming sector creates other problems. Agriculture accounts for half or more of Iraqi jobs and is the second-largest contributor to the gross domestic product. The prices that people and the government pay for shortfalls in what they used to grow weaken the country's economy."  Also in 2009, Jack Dolan and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reported Iraq's Minister of Trade, Abed Falah al-Sudani, was leaving his office:

All of Baghdad seemed to watch last weekend when Sudany appeared on state TV to answer questions about his two brothers allegedly skimming millions from a national food program as ordinary Iraqis went without staples such as rice, wheat and cooking oil.
Sudany also struggled to answer charges that when government investigators arrived at the Trade Ministry, his guards had fired into the air, allowing his brothers to escape out a back door, and about why an inspector general was transferred to Beijing after he asked about shipments of spoiled food.

The corruption has never gone away.  Equally true, a number of food providers have seen Iraq as the place to unload anything.  Alsumaria reports today 7 people have been arrested in Maysan suspected of planning to sell expired food.  They also report that the Parliament's Integrity Committee is questioning a Ministry of Commerce sugar contract.   These food issues follow another one from earlier this week -- the issue of bisquits.

National Iraqi News Agency reports:

Allawi said in a statement on Wednesday 15, Jan. that the government and the concerned parties are responsible for the case of forgery and corruption about the deal for importing invalid biscuits for the Ministry of Education within the school feeding program, and the manipulation of mafias from abroad in the duration of the validity of the biscuits sent to Iraq by the World Food Program.

He called for stopping the import of the biscuits from the World Food Programme, and to stop supplying the schools with all kinds of biscuits existing in the warehouses of the Ministry of Education.

Allawi stressed the need to fight financial and administrative corruption that is eating away the body of the Iraqi state, blaming the Iraqi government responsible for exacerbating this phenomenon, which increased from the tragic situation in the country, represented by the deterioration of security, infrastructure, environmental services, social, educational, and the absence of professional and genuine partnership in the management of all state institutions

Ghassan Hamid (Alsumaria) reported yesterday that 139 tons of these biscuits had been distributed to schools in Dhi Qar Province.  Alsumaria reports today that the UN World Food Program has expressed regrets over the concerns regarding the "high-energy biscuits" and their "validity" (UN Representative Jane Pearce's word) and called on the Iraqi media to mitigate negative publicity.  Pearce is also the country director for the WFP on Iraq. Iraq Times notes this UN  scandal follows the UN's earlier oil-for-food scandal.  Al Rafidayn reports that Minister of Education Mohammad Tamim has announced that the Council of Ministers has decided to sue the World Food Program over the biscuits.  Saturday, Iraq Times reported that the biscuits spoiled in the heat after having been stored in rented warehouses in Jordan prior to being transported and that the expiration dates on the biscuits were changed in Jordan.  Majid al-Khafaji (Kitabat) feels the biscuit issue is a crime but feels the government should be focused on larger crimes like the lack of public services and the lack of security.

Iraq Body Count counts 94 violent deaths yesterday and 604 for the month so far.

And the violence continues.  BBC News reports, "The bodies of 14 Sunni Muslim men have been found in an orchard near Baghdad, say Iraqi authorities.  The bodies were found with gunshot wounds near the Sunni Arab town of Mishahda, about 30km (20 miles) north of the capital." AP adds the 14 were kidnapped by assailants "in military uniforms."  Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) reports 8 of the fourteen were family members.  National Iraqi News Agency reports a Madain roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and left eight more people injured, a western Baghdad roadside bombing (Ghazaliya district) left 2 people dead and nine more injured, a Tikrit armed attack left 1 Sahwa and his brother dead, a Falluja mortar attack killed 2 people and left four more injured, a northern Baghdad sticky bombing (Morocco Street) left one person injured, a Baghdad armed attack left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and another injured, 2 Baquba home bombings claimed 3 lives and left three more people injured, a central Baghdad bombing claimed the life of 1 Department of Justice employee, "the Ministry of Interior announced the killing of three gunmen . . . in west and south of Baghdad,"a Mosul roadside bombing left two people injured, "on the road link between Baquba and Muqdadiyah" a car was attacked leaving 1 person inside dead and the other injured, Baghdad Operations Command announced they shot dead 2 suspects, 4 fighters were killed east of Ramadi with the assistance of military helicopters, a south Baghdad roadside bombing (Madain area) left 2 people dead and eight more injured, a western Baghdad bombing (Aliskan area) left 1 military officer dead and another injured, and  Joint Operations Command announced they had killed 3 suspects near the Syrian border.

Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq is currently on a visit to the United States.  Alsumaria reports today he met with US politicians.  With Senator John McCain, he discussed relations between Iraq and the US, terrorism and political reconciliation.  Senator McCain's office issued the following statement on the meet-up:

Jan 15 2014

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) released the following statement on his meeting yesterday with Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Saleh Mutlaq:
“I had an excellent meeting yesterday with Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Saleh Mutlaq. We discussed the tragic developments in Anbar province, and he offered great insights into how our two governments can work together in addressing Iraq’s current crisis. We both agreed that strengthening and improving the capabilities of Iraq’s armed forces is essential at this difficult time, but we also agreed that there is no purely military solution to Iraq’s problems.
“The only way to halt Iraq’s slide into instability and achieve lasting peace and prosperity is through greater democracy, power sharing, and reconciliation. All Iraqi citizens should be empowered through the political system, and all Iraqis have an obligation to reject violence and extremism and take steps to further political reconciliation. In particular, both members of Congress and the Obama Administration should continue to urge Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his government to reach out to all Iraqis, to govern more inclusively, and to pursue the necessary political reforms that can strengthen national unity and marginalize Al-Qaeda and other violent extremists.”


Nouri al-Maliki's assault on Anbar Province continues.  Safaa Abdel Hamid (Alsumaria) reports that Hussain al-Shahristani, Deputy Prime Minister for Energy, today called for a political solution stating he doesn't believe the problems can be solved via a military operation in Anbar.  This as the Ministry of Defense announces it has "conducted 235 air-raids" in Anbar since the start of the assault at the end of December.  That's nothing to be proud of but it does argue that, no, Iraq is not in immediate need of F-16s from the United States -- unless US President Barack Obama's point is to aid Nouri in the killing of the Iraqi people. Loveday Morris (Washington Post via Arizona Star) reports, "Iraq has provided Washington with a list of weapons it needs to wrest back control from anti-government and al-Qaida-linked militants in restive Anbar province, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Thursday, and soon plans to request counterterrorism training from U.S. forces."

Safaa Abdel Hamid (Alsumaria) reports the Iraqi military is shelling Falluja's residential neighborhoods and, citing a police source, that 13 homes have been damaged.  A police source also reveals to Alsumaria that the military's bombing campaign killed 16 civilians ("including women and children").  Amjad Salah and Mohammad Shafiq (Alsumaria) reports the bombings is forcing dozens more families to flee.  January 9th, Human Rights Watch noted that 13,000 Anbar residents had fled to Erbil.  Thousands of families have been displaced and Iraq already has a serious IDP problem before Nouri launched his latest assault.

National Iraqi News Agency reports:

Speaker Osama Najafi discussed by phone call conversation with the Minister of Finance by interim Safaa al-Safi how to overcome the difficult ordeal suffered by the people of Anbar population and urged to pay state staff salaries , food , living supplies to end the humanitarian crisis resulting from the ongoing military operations which caused the displacement of thousands of families and severe lack of food and fuel.

Though many are calling on dialogue and for an end to military operations in Anbar, that's not happening.  Alsumaria reports that the Iraqi military this morning cut off all communications -- cellular and internet -- in Khalidiya, east of Ramadi.  This was done in preparation of an assault on Khalidiya.  There was some hope that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's visit would help end the assaults.  That hope vanished quickly.   Not only, in their joint-press conference on Monday, did Nouri publicly rebuke Ban Ki-moon's call for reconciliation but, as All Iraq News reported Tuesday, Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi called the visit a failure, "Ki-moon is failed because he was supposed to meet the chieftains in Anbar instead of the government officials."

On the topic of visits, Missy Ryan (Reuters) reports Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is scheduled to visit DC next week.   Amjad Salah (Alsumaria) reports KRG President Massoud Barazani is off to Europe where he will participate in the World Economic Forum (Davos, Switzerland, January 22-25th).  He's leading a delegation from Erbil -- a KRG delegation.  Bad news for Nouri, he's not apparently going to be heading a delegation out of Baghdad.  Well, it's a World Economic Forum and Nouri's a joke on the international stage, better he stay home in his kennel and let Barzani represent Iraq.

Meanwhile, Iraq's budget has gone to Parliament.  National Iraqi News Agency reports that Kurdish MP Mahmoud Othman calls the forwarding of the budget -- which led the Kurds to walk out of the Cabinet -- "unwise."  NINA also notes Kurdish MP Ashwaq al-Jaf notes the Kurds plan to use Constitutional steps in Parliament to address the issue.  Steve LeVine (Quartz) explains:

The Iraqi government has raised the stakes yet again in its brinksmanship with Kurdistan—unable so far to halt the Kurds’s headlong push as an independent oil exporter, Baghdad has prepared a 2014 budget that entirely cuts off the northern region.
Baghdad’s move on Jan. 15 is a response to Kurdish plans to sell their first piped oil at the end of this month at Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, the first stage in an apparent strategy for wholesale economic independence from Iraq proper. With it, Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki raises the temperature not only on the Kurds, but also the foreign oil companies on which Kurdistan is relying—ExxonMobil, Chevron, France’s Total, Gazprom and a group of wildcatters.
Maliki said there will be no restoration of the Kurds’s $12 billion-a-year budget allocation until they produce 400,000 barrels of oil a day—worth about $14.6 billion a year at today’s prices. But the oil companies’ current plans do not yield that scale of production until well into next year. So to stave off economic mayhem this year, the Kurds will be lobbying both Maliki to see reason and the oil companies to up their game. 

UPI notes, "Genel Energy, led by former BP boss Tony Hayward, said Wednesday it expects oil from a pipeline in the Kurdish north of Iraq to be exported from Turkey soon."

And finally,  David Swanson's War Is A Crime carries the announcement from the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence (SAAII):

The Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence (SAAII) have voted overwhelmingly to present the 2014 Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence to Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning.
A Nobel Peace Prize nominee, U.S. Army Pvt. Manning is the 25 year-old intelligence analyst who in 2010 provided to WikiLeaks the "Collateral Murder" video – gun barrel footage from a U.S. Apache helicopter, exposing the reckless murder of 12 unarmed civilians, including two Reuters journalists, during the “surge” in Iraq.   The Pentagon had repeatedly denied the existence of the "Collateral Murder" video and declined to release it despite a request under the Freedom of Information Act by Reuters, which had sought clarity on the circumstances of its journalists' deaths.
Release of this video and other documents sparked a worldwide dialogue about the importance of government accountability for human rights abuses as well as the dangers of excessive secrecy and over-classification of documents. 
On February 19, 2014 Pvt. Manning -  currently incarcerated at Leavenworth Prison - will be recognized at a ceremony in absentia at Oxford University's prestigious Oxford Union Society for casting much-needed daylight on the true toll and cause of civilian casualties in Iraq; human rights abuses by U.S. and “coalition” forces, mercenaries, and contractors; and the roles that spying and bribery play in international diplomacy.
The Oxford Union ceremony will include the presentation of the traditional SAAII Corner-Brightener Candlestick and will feature statements of support from former SAAII awardees and prominent whistleblowers.  Members of the press are invited to attend.
On August 21, 2013 Pvt. Manning received an unusually harsh sentence of 35 years in prison for exposing the truth -- a chilling message to those who would call attention to wrongdoing by U.S. and “coalition” forces.
Under the 1989 Official Secrets Act in the United Kingdom, Pvt. Manning, whose mother is British, would have faced just two years in prison for whistleblowing or 14 years if convicted under the old 1911 Official Secrets Act for espionage.
Former senior NSA executive and SAAII Awardee Emeritus Thomas Drake has written that Manning "exposed the dark side shadows of our national security regime and foreign policy follies .. [her] acts of civil disobedience … strike at the very core of the critical issues surrounding our national security, public and foreign policy, openness and transparency, as well as the unprecedented and relentless campaign by this Administration to snuff out and silence truth tellers and whistleblowers in a deliberate and premeditated assault on the 1st Amendment."
Previous winners of the Sam Adams Award include Coleen Rowley (FBI); Katharine Gun (formerly of GCHQ, the National Security Agency’s equivalent in the UK); former UK Ambassador Craig Murray; Larry Wilkerson (Col., US Army, ret.; chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell); Julian Assange (WikiLeaks); Thomas Drake (NSA); Jesselyn Radack (former ethics attorney for the Department of Justice, now National Security & Human Right Director of the Government Accountability Project); Thomas Fingar (former Deputy Director of National Intelligence, who managed the key National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 that concluded Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon four years earlier); and Edward Snowden (former NSA contractor and systems administrator, currently residing in Russia under temporary asylum).
The Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence are very proud to add Pvt.  Manning to this list of distinguished awardees.
David Swanson's wants you to declare peace at  His new book is War No More: The Case for Abolition. He blogs at and and works for He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.  

For the record, Chelsea Manning has asked not to be called "Pvt Manning" and prefers "Ms. Chelsea Manning" if a title is to be used.

mike tharp

jomana karadsheh

al rafidayn
missy ryan