Monday, January 06, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Monday, January 6, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri demands the residents of Falluja fight his battles, Nouri uses collective punishment against the residents, John Kerry goes blood thirsty again, and more.

At Slate, Iraq War veteran, Paul Szoldra, wondered why the friends he served with died in Iraq?

I think he's answered his own question just by asking it.

The way I see it he said
You just can't win it
Everybody's in it for their own gain
You can't please 'em all
There's always somebody calling you down
I do my best
And I do good business
There's a lot of people asking for my time
They're trying to get ahead
They're trying to be a good friend of mine

-- "Free Man In Paris," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Court & Spark

If you want to know why something happened, you're going to have to leave your limited vision that says life begins and ends with you.  That would include acknowledgement that the dead and wounded includes a great deal more Iraqis than it does foreign fighters.

Elise Labbott (CNN) offers a better run through which includes, "Well, actually last year was the deadliest since 2008. The number of dead reached its worst levels since the height of the Iraq war, when sectarian fighting between the country's Shiite majority and its Sunni minority pushed it to the brink of civil war. Those tensions continue to be fueled by widespread discontent among the Sunnis, who say they are marginalized by the Shiite-led government and unfairly targeted by heavy-handed security tactics."

Yesterday in Israel, US Secretary of State John Kerry was asked about Anbar by the New York Times' Michael R. Gordon:

Michael R. Godon: On another Middle East subject, Mr. Secretary. A significant number of American military personnel died to take Fallujah from al-Qaida in Iraq, and now two years after the American forces were withdrawn from Iraq, much of that city has been taken back by an al-Qaida affiliate.  The 75 Hellfire missiles that the Administration is selling to Iraq and the ScanEagle drones it plans to deliver by March don’t appear to be sufficient to prevent this al-Qaida affiliate from controlling much of Anbar and other parts of Iraq. And yesterday, your State Department issued a statement saying that American officials had been in touch with Iraqi tribal leaders and that the U.S. was working with the Iraqi Government to “support those tribes in every possible way.”  My question is: What specific steps is the Administration prepared to take to help the Iraqi tribes or the Iraqi Government roll back the al-Qaida advance in western and northern Iraq? Nobody is suggesting the U.S. send ground troops, but would the United States be willing to carry out drone strikes from bases outside Iraq? Would you provide arms to the tribes? The leader of this al-Qaida affiliate has been designed a global terrorist by the State Department. What specific steps are you prepared to take?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Michael, I’m not going to go into all of the specifics. Let me just say in general terms a couple of things. First of all, we are following the events in Anbar province very, very closely, obviously. We’re very, very concerned by the efforts of al-Qaida and the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant, which is affiliated with al-Qaida, who are trying to assert their authority not just in Iraq but in Syria.  These are the most dangerous players in that region. Their barbarism against the civilians of Ramadi and Fallujah and against Iraqi security forces is on display for everybody in the world to see. Their brutality is something we have seen before. And we will stand with the Government of Iraq and with others who will push back against their efforts to destabilize and to bring back, to wreak havoc on the region and on the democratic process that is taking hold in Iraq.  Now, we’re going to do everything that is possible to help them, and I will not go into the details except to say that we’re in contact with tribal leaders from Anbar province whom we know who are showing great courage in standing up against this as they reject terrorist groups from their cities. And this is a fight that belongs to the Iraqis. That is exactly what the President and the world decided some time ago when we left Iraq. So we are not, obviously, contemplating returning. We’re not contemplating putting boots on the ground. This is their fight, but we’re going to help them in their fight.  And yes, we have an interest. We have an interest in helping the legitimate and elected government be able to push back against the terrorists. This is a fight that is bigger than just Iraq. This is part of the reason why the Geneva conference is so critical, because the rise of these terrorists in the region and particularly in Syria and through the fighting in Syria is part of what is unleashing this instability in the rest of the region. That’s why everybody has a stake. All of the Gulf states, all of the regional actors, Russia, the United States, and a lot of players elsewhere in the world have a stake in pushing back against violent extremist terrorists who respect no law, who have no goal other than to take over power and disrupt lives by force.  And the United States intends to continue to remain in close contact with all of the Iraq political leaders to see how we can continue to support their efforts in the days ahead. But it is their fight; that is what we determined some time ago, that we can’t want peace and we can’t want democracy and we can’t want an orderly government and stability more than the people in a particular area, in a particular country or a particular region. And so we will help them in their fight; but this fight, in the end they will have to win, and I am confident they can.

Somebody really needs to tell Kerry to dial it down. This is just like Syria where he embarrassed himself repeatedly and nearly boxed the administration in.

But don't expect any news outlet to do their job.

Here's Elisha Fieldstadt and F. Brinley Bruton (NBC News) pretending to be reporters, "The United States will help Iraq fight an al Qaeda-linked group that seized the city of Fallujah in the west of the country — but will not send American troops to do so, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday."  CBS News runs with, "Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the U.S. would offer assistance to the Iraqi government -- but he made it clear Washington isn't about to jump back into the conflict."  Arthur Bright (Christian Science Monitor) goes with:

The situation in Fallujah has drawn offers of support for Baghdad from both the US and Iran. The Washington Post reported yesterday that Secretary of State John Kerry said the US would do “everything that is possible" to support Iraqi forces against ISIL, though he said that did not include US troops on the ground.
“This is a fight that belongs to the Iraqis,” Kerry said toward the end of a visit to Jerusalem. “We are not, obviously, contemplating returning. We are not contemplating putting boots on the ground. ["]

You could believe them.

Though why you should bother is beyond me.

In September 2012, Tim Arango (New York Times) reported:

Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.
CBS, NBC and the Christian Science Monitor have had 16 months now to note that but never bothered to.  Why anyone would trust them now is a puzzle.

The White House pushed back hard on Monday against allegations that the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq is partly to blame for a surge in deadly sectarian violence there.
“I've heard members of Congress suggest this, but if members were suggesting that there should be American troops fighting and dying in Fallujah today, they should say so,” spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. “The president doesn't believe that.”

Talking Points Memo runs with Carney to smear Republicans.  That only surprises you if you didn't know Josh Micah Moron was an Iraq War cheerleaders.  

As the innocents of Anbar are terrorized and slaughtered, John Kerry spins and lies and the White House supplies more weapons in direct violation of the Leahy Amendment.

QUESTION: Can we go to Iraq?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: The situation in Iraq is getting completely out of control. The government forces are prepared to assault Fallujah as we speak now, and there is talk that the U.S. may be relenting on the issue of drones to assist the Iraqi Government with drones in targeting the al-Qaida in Iraq, which is dire – in Iraq. Could you comment on all these issues?

MS. HARF: Well, yeah, let me just give you a couple quick updates on Iraq. It will, I think, answer some of your questions and I’m sure there are many more.
Obviously, we’re continuing to follow events in Anbar province very closely. We would note that a number of tribal leaders in Iraq have declared an open revolt against ISIL. Iraqi tribes, with support from Iraqi security forces, continue to successfully confront ISIL fighters in and around the city of Ramadi and to prepare to confront extremists in the city of Fallujah, as you mentioned. They have had some success, early success along these lines in Ramadi in repelling some of the extremists.
Yesterday, I think the White House provided a readout of a call between Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken and Iraqi National Security Advisor Fayyad. Just a couple quick words about some of the things we’re providing them. Obviously, we have an ongoing close partnership on counterterrorism issues, are absolutely standing by them to help them in this fight. We are continuing to accelerate our foreign military deliveries – FMS deliveries to Iraq, are looking to provide an additional shipment of Hellfire missiles as early as this spring. These missiles are only one small element of a wholistic strategy here, but they have proven effective at denying ISIL safe haven zones it’s sought to establish in western Iraq. This is on top of the 75 Hellfires we delivered in December.
In addition to these, we will also be providing 10 ScanEagle surveillance UAVs in the upcoming weeks and 48 Raven surveillance UAVs later this year. So these are, for lack of a better term, surveillance drones. These will help the Iraqis track terrorist elements who are operating within the countries. We also obviously have another – a bunch of other things we’re providing to them. But we’re also continuing to advise and assist the Iraqis in developing strategies with the understanding that security operations only work in the long term if used with political initiatives and outreach to all of Iraq’s political leaders.
That’s kind of where things stand, but I’m sure you have many follow-ups.

QUESTION: Okay, yeah, a very quick follow-up. These – you said UAVs, but do you have anything on drones or that the U.S. might --

MS. HARF: Are you talking about armed drones? Because these are surveillance --

QUESTION: Yeah, armed drones. I mean --

MS. HARF: UAVs are, for lack of a better term, drones.

QUESTION: I understand. I understand it. Unmanned --

MS. HARF: Colloquially speaking.

QUESTION: Yes, I understand. But much as we have seen, let’s say, in Yemen or Pakistan, where drones can’t target terrorist camps or terrorist individuals and so on, there is talk that the U.S. may be taking that step in Iraq. Is that – was that something that the Secretary would support, for instance?

MS. HARF: Well, each country is very different. Fighting terrorists in each place is very different. I know there’s been a lot of rumors out there about this. Like I said, you can – people tend to focus on one type of assistance or another, but what we’re really focused on is providing assistance, working with the Iraqis to continue building their capacity, indeed, because this is the fight – a fight that they are going to have to have and that they are having right now, and we are certainly standing by to support them.

QUESTION: But certainly after so much investment in Iraq and so on, why not use such methods if they are proven to be effective in the past?

MS. HARF: Said, every --

QUESTION: Because you said --

MS. HARF: No, I think we should stop focusing on this --

QUESTION: You talked about so far this --

MS. HARF: -- because I’ve repeatedly answered that every country is different --

QUESTION: Okay, I understand.

MS. HARF: -- and that we’re not providing these.

QUESTION: Okay, fine.

QUESTION: The Secretary was rather emphatic in saying that U.S. forces would not be going back in --

MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: -- to help the Iraqi Government because there is no status of forces agreement that would allow any such deployment.

MS. HARF: For a whole host of reasons.

QUESTION: Right. Is he making this comment because of domestic political pressure for the U.S. to do something about Iraq, or was he making these comments because of any behind-the-scenes overtures from Maliki’s government about the need for robust assistance beyond what’s already spelled out in the SFA?

MS. HARF: I think he was making them, quite frankly, in response to a question. I don’t think there’s any sort of back story behind what led him to make these comments. I think he was making the point that what we’re seeing in Iraq is really longstanding sectarian tensions that we all are very familiar with, and they’re being exploited, quite frankly, by terrorists operating in Syria. These are the same groups. These are the same folks that are operating across the border. So obviously, there’s no long-term counterterrorism strategy that evolves – involves, excuse me – U.S. troops in Iraq. This is – when we left Iraq at the end of 2011, Iraq had an opportunity and they still have an opportunity to move away from violence, to choose their future. As they do, we will be a partner with them. But I think he was, quite frankly, just answering a question, a factual question about whether or not that’s under consideration.

QUESTION: And when you talk about sectarian tensions, are you talking about community versus community, Sunni versus Shia? Or are you talking about --

MS. HARF: All of the above.

QUESTION: Or about the political tensions that many have accused the Maliki government of aggravating in order to remain in power.

MS. HARF: Well, I’d say all of the above. It’s not black and white. It’s not as easy as just saying A versus B. There’s a lot of different groups, different factions, different parties on the ground. It’s very complicated. And that’s why we’ve said we’re encouraging moderates within
all of these different groups to step up, as we’ve seen them do in the past, take control of Iraq’s future. As they do, we will stand by them and help them in this fight, certainly. But it’s up to them to make these choices.

QUESTION: Well, what about --

QUESTION: Marie, there’s --

QUESTION: -- encouraging the government to end its heavy-handed tactics against Sunnis, which seem to be fueling a lot of these sectarian tensions which these extremists from al-Qaida are exploiting?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve certainly, throughout many months, encouraged the Iraqi Government and all of Iraq’s political leaders from all parties to not do things that inflame sectarian tensions. That’s certainly an ongoing conversation.

QUESTION: Just to --

QUESTION: Well, but, I mean, what about more political inclusion of Sunnis in the government? Do you think that that would help kind of curb – well, at its very heart, this is a sectarian conflict that al-Qaida is exploiting. I mean, it might be an al-Qaida problem that’s your biggest threat and your biggest concern, but Iraq has a lot bigger problems, and a lot of people worry that it’s descending back into civil war. So, I mean, what can this government do to have more political inclusion to end these sectarian tensions?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have any specifics to lay out for you. I’m happy to see if there are specific things we’re encouraging the government or other parties to do. But broadly speaking, from the beginning we’ve encouraged everyone to govern in an inclusive manner, to not take steps that would inflame sectarian tensions. We know there are incredible challenges that were there long before the United States was, and will remain long after. And that’s why we’re committed to being a partner with the Iraqi people and the government going forward.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, there’s been strong criticism of the performance of president – or Prime Minister Maliki towards the uprising in Anbar long before ISIS showed up. How do you guarantee that all these weapons that you’re giving to him to fight ISIS is not going to be used against his political opponent?

MS. HARF: In terms of what we’re selling to the Iraqi Government?

QUESTION: Yeah. All the assistance that he’s been asking them to combat ISIS --

MS. HARF: Well, it’s to the Iraqi Government. It’s not to any one person in the Iraqi Government. I should be clear about that. Obviously, we’re close partners with them. We work together on all these issues. I have no indication that anything we have given them is being used in any nefarious way. I’m happy to check with our folks.

QUESTION: But there’s no strings attached to it when you give them the --

MS. HARF: I’m not – oh, I’m not saying that at all. I don’t have all the details of the foreign military sales.


MS. HARF: I know that I would definitely disagree with the notion that there are no strings attached. I’m happy to get some more details about those strings.

QUESTION: I just want to make sure I – without wanting to go back into Friday’s discussion --

MS. HARF: Oh, why? It was so fun.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) The Secretary’s comments about no troops on the ground – it does certainly 
seem as though he was just answering a question, but I just want to make sure --

MS. HARF: Which he does, as you know.

QUESTION: Yes, exactly. But he said there’s no consideration of that. Was there any – was this ever an option that you’re aware of that was discussed at any – among --

MS. HARF: Like since we withdrew?

QUESTION: Yeah, exactly.


QUESTION: No, I mean, since this got really, really bad.


QUESTION: There has never – so is it correct that there is no interest from the Administration side in trying to go back to the Iraqis and negotiate a SOFA? Is that --

MS. HARF: No interest. I mean, look, we were clear – going back to our discussion on Friday – throughout 2011 that under certain circumstances, we would consider maybe leaving some troops. The Iraqis were clear they had some certain circumstances that they cared about as well. But I would highlight that at the end of the day – and I think this is some of what you were getting at – we both agreed that it was in both of our countries’ best interests not to have U.S. troops there. So no – nothing I’ve heard at all, period, about going back and looking at that again.

QUESTION: And you would still argue that it is a – your statement that both sides agreed that it was in Iraq’s best interests --

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- is it still your contention that --

MS. HARF: And we still stand by that.

QUESTION: -- right – that – well --

MS. HARF: That it was in our interest to withdraw all of our troops.

QUESTION: Right. But it – but so it was a – so it is a hypothetical question as far as you’re concerned, and one, really, that has no – there is no answer to that the situation would have been different had a SOFA been concluded now, the situation right now?

MS. HARF: The security situation?


MS. HARF: Well, I may --

QUESTION: There’s no way to know.

MS. HARF: Well, there’s no way, but I would make a few points. We have some historical points to point to. When we had 160,000 troops in the country, it didn’t negate sectarian tensions, it didn’t negate terrorist violence, certainly. So I think that’s point A. When we had 160,000 troops in Iraq, the border with Syria was still incredibly porous. There were still terrorists going back and forth on both sides. So I do think we have some historical precedent to point to here. And ultimately, we can’t impose outcomes here, right? So there’s no long-term CT strategy that says, okay, if we maybe had folks there today, we could have limited success, but for what, 10 years, 20 years, 30 years? Where does it end? That’s not a long-term solution. The long-term solution --

QUESTION: Well, I don’t know, 30 years is pretty good, no?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: The long-term solution --

QUESTION: Hell, 10 years would be nice, right? It’s been less than three --

MS. HARF: The long-term solution wasn’t to keep American troops there. It was to give the Iraqis the opportunity and help them build their capabilities to fight this fight themselves.

QUESTION: Okay. So – all right. That’s it. Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Despite the current volatility, I mean, the country’s about to break up. There’s --

MS. HARF: You always have such --

QUESTION: No, no, but that’s exactly what is happening.

MS. HARF: -- like, sky-is-falling predictions about the world, Said.

QUESTION: It is – for the Iraqis, it probably is.

MS. HARF: Well, I just --

QUESTION: I mean, it’s – the north is about to break up. The south is the same way.

MS. HARF: I think you’re our most pessimistic reporter.

QUESTION: No, I’m saying that perhaps the time warrants reconsideration of a new SOFA. Don’t you think?

MS. HARF: No. Well, there’s no discussion of that underway. But let’s all take a step back. We don’t define our – as I said on Friday with Matt, we don’t define our relationship based on boots on the ground. We have an incredibly broad partnership. Just because there’s not a SOFA in place and there aren’t troops on the ground doesn’t mean we’re not actively working to help them fight al-Qaida today. In fact, the opposite’s true. And it’s not in our interest to have troops there litigating their internal sectarian strife and terrorist activity. What is in our interest is to engage diplomatically with assistance like I talked about to help them fight this fight and build their capability. That’s exactly what we’re doing right now.

We will hopefully examine some of that tomorrow.  I'm sick with a nasty cold and can barely keep my head up.  Sorry.

Today Saad Abedine and Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) note that Nouri has publicly told his thugs not to attack the residential neighborhoods.

Really?  Shame he couldn't have made that last week when his thugs were attacking homes with mortars and bombs.

For example, this AFP report.

There's a pushback taking place and all the whoring from Joshy and others can't change it.

Some of the criticism the White House  is facing?
  • Reuters: "al Qaeda bursts back to life in Iraq". Too many American lives and hundreds of billions of $'s later, this is what we get??

  • Obama in 2007: "my plan would maintain sufficient forces in the region to target al Qaeda within Iraq." Never mind.

  • Maybe it's time for the White House and its cheerleaders to acknowledge Barack sent Special-Ops in during the fall of 2012 and it didn't do any good?

    Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) reports, "Iraq's prime minister urged people in the besieged city of Falluja on Monday to drive out al Qaeda-linked insurgents to preempt a military offensive that officials said could be launched within days."  Nouri couldn't drive them out so he insists the people of Falluja do his work?  Carol J. Williams (Los Angeles Times) adds, "Civilians were reportedly fleeing in droves from Fallouja, a city of 300,000 that witnessed some of the worst violence of the 2003-2011 U.S. occupation of Iraq when Al Qaeda-backed militants sought to drive out the foreign forces.

    Mick Krever (CNN) reports:

    The Iraqi government’s “increasingly authoritarian” policies that have “marginalized Sunnis” have contributed to the worst violence in that country in years, Former U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser for Iraq Meghan O'Sullivan told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.
    “There needs to be a lot of changes in the policies of the government of Iraq in order for this threat to be neutralized,” she said.

    Violence in Iraq is the worst in years, and part of the city of Falluja may have already fallen into the control of an al-Qaeda affiliated group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

    What Nouri's unleashed on Anbar Province is collective punishment and that's a War Crime.  Only Nineveh Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi seems to grasp that.  All Iraq News quotes him stating:

    The military leaders must know that the mass punishment is one type of crimes. These crimes cannot be neglected and can be seen anywhere in the world, despite the number of terrorists in Fallujah where shelling the city is a mass punishment for the citizens in Fallujah.

    Nouri terrorizing Anbar did nto stop the violence today.   National Iraqi News Agency reports a Shirqat bombing left seven people injured, an attack on an Abu Ghraib checkpoint left 2 Iraqi soldiers dead and three more injured, 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Balad, Sheikh Hussein Rakan Hussein al-Niami died in Tikrit today from wounds he received a few weeks ago,  a Samarra roadside bombing claimed the life of 2 people and left four more injured, security forces killed 8 fighters in Jurf al-Sakhar, a Tuz-Khormato car bombing claimed 3 lives and left thirteen people injured,  a Mosul roadside bombing left two police members and one civilian injured, a Jorfissakhar mortar attack left nine people injured,  2 fighters were shot dead in Abu Ghraib and a third injured, 1 fighter was shot dead at an Udhaim checkpoint, an armed clash east of Ramadia left 3 fighters dead and seven more injured, "The security force killed in a security operation carried out today in south of Mosul, two leading members of Daish in Qayyarah, and Shurah areas , and arrested 42 wanted in the same areas," and "The Army Aviation in coordination with the operations of Baghdad , killed ( Bashir Alewi Markab) in Garma area northeast of Fallujah."  All Iraq News adds 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul.