Friday, January 31, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Friday, January 31, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's assault on Anbar continues, the White House tries to charm the KRG into giving Nouri his way, Nouri's forces appear to have a Sunni man on fire today, Secretary of State John Kerry's friend -- now being paid by taxpayers -- really wasn't suited for the job Kerry gave him, and much more.

Tweet of the Day:

There’s a lot of killing in Darfur. On the other hand, it isn't a fraction of the dead in Iraq, let's say, and it isn't even a tiny fraction

On a day when even Iraq's ministries have to admit over 1,000 violent deaths this month of January, let's start with thoughts and opinions.  Dave Johnson (Seeing The Forrest) notes there's still no publicly provided answer from the US government to the question: "So why DID we invade iraq, anyway"?

No answer given, just silence, and the hope that, at some point, everyone will just forget.

Thursday on All Things Considered (NPR -- link is audio and text). host Robert Siegel spoke with professor Imad Shaheen and NPR's  Michele Kelemen and Deborah Amos about the Middle East.  Siegel used the segment to work in comments from an interview he did with Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq.  And presumably, we're supposed to overlook the fact that an interview was conducted and a segment not provided to showcase the interview -- and overlook that this week, the 'news' program, made time for segments on how to fix "beefy butternut squash chili," luge stories, Superbowl stories, Superbowl related stories, "funny video" stories, "a new look at George Eliot," movie reviews, book reviews, music reviews and a woman who spays animals.  Due to all of that and so much more, All Things Considered didn't have time to air an interview with Saleh al-Mutlaq who met with US President Barack Obama this month.  Below we'll excerpt the opinions of al-Mutlaq that made the broadcast segment.

SIEGEL: And some players in the region see something else receding: American power and American influence. For example, in Iraq, the deputy prime minister, Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni Muslim, says the U.S. should've done more to create a government that Sunnis could trust. He told me Washington should have and could have.

SALEH AL-MUTLAQ: America is America. America is the biggest and most important country in the world. If they are really serious in trying to enforce reconstruction(ph) of the country, they will be able to do that.

[. . .]

SIEGEL: Now, you mentioned the Iraqis. I want to play something that Saleh al-Mutlaq, the Iraqi deputy prime minister, told me. He is a Sunni Muslim from Anbar Province and I put it to him that President Obama's harshest critics say that the U.S. is not just leaving behind a void that Iran might be filling, but that the U.S. is about to tilt to Tehran, become friendly with Iran.
And here's what the Iraqi deputy prime minister said.

AL-MUTLAQ: Well, I mean this is the question of everybody in the region, that something is happening which is strange, that from all that conflict between Iran and America and after America has given the region, especially Iraq, to the Iranian, now they are getting on in dialogue in order to improve their relation. And this is not only my concern. It's the concern of everybody in the region. And it's the worry of everybody in the region, because if you strengthen Iran to that extent, then Iran is going to be the policeman of the region.

SIEGEL: You feel that Iraq has been handed over to Iran.

SALEH EL-MUTLAQ: Definitely.

Tuesday, January14th,  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. MP Nada al-Juburi was part of the delegation from Iraq and we noted some of her remarks at the Institute of Peace in the January 16th snapshot.  Joel Wing (Musings On Iraq) has posted the video of her discussion with MP Ezzat al-Shebander that the Institute of Peace's  Sarhanq Hamasaeed moderated.

Senator Joe Biden, in the years before becoming US Vice President, advocated that Iraq be a federation.  James Kitfeld (National Journal) argues today

Biden, then a senator, championed a more federal system explicitly allowed by the Iraqi constitution (at the insistence of the Kurds), devolving power from the central government in Baghdad to the provinces. Although Biden denied it at the time, his proposal would almost certainly have led to the de facto soft partition of Iraq into three autonomous regions dominated by Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds. A similar approach in the 1990s patched together Bosnia out of the detritus of the Balkans civil war between Serbs, Croats, and Muslims. In a 2007 op-ed, Biden warned, "If the United States can't put this federalism idea on track, we will have no chance for a political settlement in Iraq and, without that, no chance for leaving Iraq without leaving chaos behind."

He was ahead of his time. "Biden got it dead right, and I still think transitioning to a federal power-sharing arrangement is the only way to stop the killing and hold Iraq together," says Leslie Gelb, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, who wrote the op-ed with Biden.

No, Joe Biden didn't get it right -- dead right or otherwise -- because Joe Biden is an American citizen.  It is not for him, or any other American, to determine what sort of nation-state or country Iraq should be.   Self-determination is not a passing fancy, it's a cornerstone of democracy.

He was more than welcome to float the idea to the Iraqi people but he had no right to impose it.  The Senate agreed with that which is why his proposal never found traction there but was instead repeatedly rejected.  Had the US split Iraq into three regions, the issue would have been "The US destroyed our country further by breaking us apart in a Balkanization scheme."  Though Biden did popularize the idea, he can't claim credit for it nor even just credit for applying it to Iraq.  War Hawk Edward P. Joseph teamed with Brookings' Michael O'Hanlon to promote the idea in 2007.  But they were basing it on the proposal of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Which would bring us back to Leslie Gelb, wouldn't it?  Gelb backed the Iraq War -- and did so, he said, "to retain political and professional credibility."  I don't know how much "professional credibility" there is in applauding someone for promoting your idea when you refuse to acknowledge that it was your idea.  But I do know it's unethical.  

I also know that if the Iraqi people had decided to split their country into a federation, it might have worked and it might not have.  In other words, I know that Geld lacks the gift of premonition.

He supports the split so he thinks it would work.  That doesn't mean it would work.

Since he's not an Iraqi, his continued obsession with a concept that Iraq refused to entertain is a bit of waste of time.

There's been a lot of deceit, stupidity and silence since media attention in the west returned to Iraq.  Not a lot of bravery, however.  Few have stepped up to the plate to offer anything of real value -- especially as Nouri al-Maliki's assault on Anbar is one War Crime after another.  What happened to all the voices that spoke out when Bully Boy Bush was in offie?  One of them speaks loudly today.   Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark shares (at Pravda):

However, the US and UK are seemingly remarkably selective when it comes to tyrants who "kill their own people", and not only have failed to censure their tyrannical Iraqi puppet, Nuri al-Maliki, but are arming him to the teeth with the same weapons which are linked to the horrific birth defects, and cancers throughout Iraq, which he is now using on "his own people." Moreover, if allegations from very well informed sources that he holds an Iranian passport are correct, to say that US-UK's despot of choice appears in a whole new political light would be to massively understate.To facilitate Al-Maliki's assault on Iraq's citizens, the US "rushed" seventy five Hellfire missiles to Baghdad in mid-December. On 23rd January Iraq requested a further five hundred Hellfires, costing $82 million - small change compared to the $14 Billion in weapons provided by America since 2005.The AGM-114R Hellfire II, nauseatingly named "Romeo", clocked in at: $94,000 each - in 2012. Such spending on weaponry in a country where electricity, clean water, education and health services have all but collapsed since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Last week an "American cargo jet loaded with weapons" including 2,400 rockets to arm Iraqi attack helicopters also arrived in Baghdad.(iii)
This week a contract was agreed to sell a further twenty four AH-64E attack helicopters to Iraq "along with spare parts and maintenance, in a massive $6.2 Billion deal." With them comes the reinvasion of Iraq, with: "hundreds of Americans" to be shipped out "to oversee the training and fielding of equipment", some are "US government employees", read military, plus a plethora of "contractors", read mercenaries. (iv)
According to Jane's Defence Weekly, on November 15th 2013 Iraq also took delivery of: " its first shipment of highly advanced Mi-35 attack helicopters as part of a $4.3 Billion arms purchase from Russia", of an order of: "about 40 Mi-35 and 40 Mi-28 Havoc attack helicopters." 
The all to "attack his own people" in the guise of defeating "Al Qaida" in Anbar province and elsewhere where the people have been peacefully protesting a near one man regime of torture, sectarianism, kangaroo courts which sentence victims who have also had confessions extracted under torture.

Along with being a former US Attorney General (and the son of a Supreme Court justice), Clark founded the International Action Center.  Ramsey Clark used his voice to call out the Iraq War, even before it started.  It's a shame so many others can't find their voices. CORRECTION: My apologies to Felicity Aruthnot.  She wrote the article I wrongly credited to Ramsey Clark.  Pravada's byline isn't clear (use the link), I was reading her piece at Dissident Voice this morning -- 2-1-2014 -- and the byline is very clear.  My apologies to her and we'll note this in Monday's Iraq snapshot. 

The State Dept has continued to ignore Iraq.  Which really just makes people wonder where Jonathan Winer is?  Remember last September when State Dept spokesperson Marie Harf declared, "The State Department has appointed a Senior Advisor for MEK Resettlement, Jonathan Winer, to oversee our efforts to help resettle the residents of Camp Hurriya to safe, permanent, and secure locations outside of Iraq, in addition to those countries, such as Albania, that have admirably assisted the United Nations in this important humanitarian mission."

The US taxpayers are paying Winer's salary.  At what point does he start giving reports on his progress or lack of it?

Maybe at the same time that the press starts why a lobbyist got this post to begin with?

Does he have special language skills?


Does Winer have a history of working on problems like these?

In recent years, he's been a lobbyist for APCO Worldwide and Alston & Bird.

During the Clinton administration, he was in the State Dept.  From 1994 to 2000, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Law Enforcement.  While that is State Dept experience, it's really not experience that's going to help resettle the Ashraf community.  

And it's not just me who notices that he lacks the skills for this posting, he apparently does at well.

Expert field of competence:
AML/CFT policy, legal regimes, regulation, design, assessment, compliance, remediation.

(AML/CFT is Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism.)

Anyone see anything there about refugees or resettling?


Because he has no experience.  

So why was he picked?

Oh, that's right -- because of who he knows.  From 1985 to 1994, he was Senator John Kerry's chief legal counsel.  Well it's good that John's able to find employment for his friends but at what point does the American people see results for the salary they're paying Jonathan Winer?

But what's Winer's salary -- even if he's unable to produce results -- when you compare it to all the other US tax dollars the US government can't account for?

  • $6.6 billion of U.S. taxpayers' money earmarked for Iraq reconstruction has been lost, stolen or 'misplaced'.

  • Dropping back to  Tuesday's snapshot:

    Turning to the topic of the Ashraf community,  Iraq's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the following today:

     The Cabinet approved today January 28, 2014 on Iraq's contribution with the amount of half a million dollars to a trust fund proposed by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on October 23, 2014 to cover costs related to transporting the residents of Camp Liberty (formerly known as Ashraf) to a third country.
    Iraq fulfilled its international and humanitarian obligations to transport Ashraf residents to Camp Liberty, waiting for the implementation of international commitments to resettle the Camp Liberty residents outside Iraq.
    The government's decision reaffirms its position on the need to resettle the residents of Camp Liberty in third countries outside Iraq according to the commitments and understandings between Iraq and the United Nations.

    Why has the State Dept had nothing to say about this?  Since the western press hasn't reported on it, it's possible the State Dept doesn't know about it.  But when you've appointed someone to be over this issue for the State Dept and they're taking taxpayer dollars for this job, there's need to be a little more visibility.

    Especially when nasty rumors are swirling that Jonathan Winer's not doing any work but is using the post to enrich his pockets outside the government.

    While the State Dept is silent on all things Iraq, the US Embassy in Baghdad issued the following yesterday:

    U.S. Embassy Baghdad
    Office of the Spokesman
    For Immediate Release
    The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad strongly condemns the January 30 terrorist attack in Baghdad on Iraq’s Ministry of Transportation.  We extend our sincere condolences to the families of the victims and hope for a rapid recovery for those who were injured.
    The United States stands with the Iraqi people and will continue its robust support of the Government of Iraq in its fight against terrorism.

    AFP reports that the Iraqi ministries released their figure for January death tolls today (apparently before the day was over) and they found 1,013 people had died in violence.  The move resulted in this Tweet from Jon Williams.

  • endures bloodiest month since April 2008. Ministries of health, interior & defence say 1013 dead in January, including 795 civilians.

  • Press TV offers this breakdown, "According to the figures, compiled by the ministries of health, interior and defense and released on Friday, 1,013 people were killed in January, including 795 civilians, 122 soldiers and 96 policemen."

    Historically, the ministries -- two of which remain headless and controlled by Nouri (Ministry of Defnese and Ministry of Interior) -- have provided an undercount.  Iraq Body Count hasn't yet posted their toll for January.  Jason Ditz notes's count is 1,840.  Ditz also notes that Iraq's toll is 1,202.

    B-b-but, it says 1,013 above!!!!!  AFP says so!!!!  Press TV says so!!!!

    They lie, they whore.  What are we supposed to say here but the obvious?

    Jason Ditz reveals that 1,013 is one number but the Iraqi government also noted 189 "militants" were killed for a total of 1,202.

    Prashant Rao is really acting like Piss Ant Rao -- Mike's name for him.

    How many violent deaths?


    When Nouri's forces announce they've killed "terrorists" -- usually in the midst of mass arrests -- we don't call them "terrorists."  We call them "suspects" because that's what they are.  There was no judicial finding.  How dare AFP leave out the group the Iraqi government calls "militants."

    I hope we all get that Nelson Mandela was a "militant" and a "terrorist" in the eyes of the now disgraced South African government.

    AFP acts like a tool of the Iraqi government and not like a news outlet.

    1,202 deaths from violence is what the Iraqi government announced -- but AFP couldn't report that, could they.

    Good for Jason Ditz for catching that.  We'll return to the death toll for January in Monday's snapshot when we'll have two other outlets to note.

    Despite the huge death toll and the increased violence,  Iraqi Spring MC notes protests took place today in Samarra, Tikrit, RawaAnbar and, below, in Baiji.

    الجمعة الموحدة في قضاء بيجي بمحافظة صلاح الدين .

    Since December 21, 2012, protests have been ongoing in Iraq. Nouri's earlier efforts to stop the protests haven't stopped them.  His threats, his attacks, none of it has worked.  Now if he'd actually listened to the grievances and addressed those?  Things might be a lot different right now.

    This week, the Center for Strategic & International Studies published a report by Anthony H. Cordesman and Sam Khazi entitled [PDF format warning] "Iraq in Crisis."

    It's a lenghthy report with a lot of important passages.  But let's focus on the protests.  The report notes:

    Maliki's increasing repression and centralization of power over the course of 2010 - 2013 fueled the growth of Al Qaeda and other Sunni extremist movements in spite of what appeared to be Al Qaida's defeat in fighting from 2005 to 2008. The US military reported in July 2010 there were only approximately 200 "hard core" fighters left. 


    At the same time, AQI/ISIS increased its presence in Anbar in Western Iraq, and made use o f its new facilities in Syria. It evidently did reach out to Sunni tribal leaders in the West, and fighters in the Sons of Iraq. It also formed cadres of trained fighters that had trucks with heavy machine guns and mortars, gaining a level of armed mobility it not demonstrated in combat even during the peak fighting in 2005 -- 2008. 
    It was these shifts that allowed it to invade Fallujah and Ramadi in late December 2013, and exploit the power vacuum Maliki left when he removed the army as a result of popular anger against is use against Sunni protest camps. Maliki effectively empowered AQI/ISIS by arresting Ahmed al-Alwani and killing his brother on December 28, 2013, and by using a large-scale military operation to shut down the large anti- government protest camp near Ramadi two days later. Many of the Sunni tribes then mobilized their fighters, and the resulting fighting that persuaded Maliki to withdraw the army from Anbar’s cities and to try to rely on a weak and corrupt Iraqi police force. As a result, Al Qaeda was able to occupy key parts of Fallujah and Ramadi a force of some 75 to 100 armed trucks and less than 1000 fighters

    At some point, the White House is going to have to start seriously confronting Nouri al-Maliki.

    For the record, acting as Nouri tough-guy to get Nouri's way on the oil?  That's not standing up to Nouri.  That's cowering before the tyrant.

    And the White House did that again today.

    The White House
    Office of the Vice President

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

    Vice President Biden spoke today with President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani. The Vice President emphasized the importance of the relationship between the United States and the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, and stressed the United States’ commitment to strengthening its partnership with Iraq. The Vice President and President Barzani both confirmed the need for close cooperation between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqi government to reach agreement on a way forward on the matter of energy exports and revenue sharing. The Vice President and President Barzani are committed to supporting efforts to confront the ongoing challenge of terrorism in Iraq.

    It's a shame that they have more concern over pleasing Nouri than they do over the safety of the Iraqi citizens.  Sunnis took to the streets to protest over a year ago for serious reasons.  The issues are numerous.  Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) has summed up the primary issues motivating the protesters as follows:

    - 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.

    Iraqi prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki's assault on Anbar Province continues and is, in part, his effort to stop the ongoing protests -- the Constitutionally protected ongoing protests.

    His assault has been a 'success' -- he's lost parts of Baghdad, he's lost Falluja and Ramadi, he's seen two government ministries attacked in Baghdad, over 1062 people killed this month, Nouri's forces arrested police elements in Ramadi who refused to take arms against the rebels,  Euronews notes "reports from rebel media sources in Fallujah claim that an army barracks south of the city was captured and razed to the ground earlier this week." and now an attack on Baghdad International.

    National Iraqi News Agency reports three rockets attacked the airport today.   Arab News points out, "Air traffic was not disrupted, but the ability of militants to strike such a site is likely to heighten concerns about the vulnerability of Iraq’s vital infrastructure as security deteriorates across the country."

    Nouri's assault on Anbar has only demonstrated (a) how weak security actually is and (b) how inept Nouri is.

     Al Arabiya News reports the Iraqi military announced they'd killed 40 suspects in Falluja this week.  In some of the other violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports 3 corpses were discovered "dumped in a river near Alsabtiya bridge northeast of Baquba today," a Mosul armed attack left 1 Iraqi soldier dead, and a home invasion in Badush left 1 woman dead.

    Nouri's assault is a long string of War Crimes.  From Geneva International Centre for Justice's "Stop al-Maliki brutality against civilians" (BRussells Tribunal):

    On behalf of a coalition of NGOs Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) has sent an urgent appeal to the International community and UN bodies following its appeal from 13 January 2014 in view of the horribly deteriorating human rights situation and the continuous brutal attacks against civilians in the province of al-Anbar/ Iraq.
    Since 22 December 2013, an operation led by Iraqi government forces is under way in the al-Anbar province, which, although initially under the pretext to combat terrorists hiding in the desert, quickly turned into a full scale military attack against residential areas with  heavy artillery, tanks and air force. Residential neighbourhoods came under shelling; hospitals and schools were damaged, over hundred civilians killed so far and even injured fired upon.

    Symbolic for the atrocities committed by the army was a video published on several Iraqi satellite TVs on 22 January 2014, showing how al-Maliki forces drag the dead body of a young Tribesman by tying his leg to a military vehicle. 
    Until this day government forces are surrounding the cities in the province of al-Anbar, the biggest of them Ramadi, Fallujah, Karma and Khalidiya, cutting of all vital supplies. This happens under the pretext that these cities have been infiltrated by Al-Qaeda, although the citizens themselves have repeatedly and clearly refuted such claims. Countless people have already fled in fear of the government forces, who are known for their indiscriminate brutality against civilians. The international community must immediately call for a halt of this highly disproportionate use of force.

    On YouTube video has surfaced of Nouri's forces today . . . next to a man being burned alive.  Did they set the Sunni male on fire?  It appears they're not concerned with putting out the fire so it's fair to conclude they started it.   It's the sort of government cruelty that's led Iraqis to protest in the first place.

    jason ditz