Let's start with today's State Dept press briefing with spokesperson Jen Psaki:
QUESTION: Can we go to Iraq real quick?
MS. PSAKI: I have to go up to the bilat in a moment, so --
MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes, yeah. I mean, yesterday the Vice President, or last night the Vice President spoke with Maliki --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and Nujaifi and so on, and reassured both of them that of U.S. support and so on. But also Iran said that it is willing to send in help and support to sort of – to bolster Maliki’s government and the fight against terrorists. Do you support such a thing? Would you look sort of negatively at Iran intervening against the terrorists?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me be very clear here. We are not working with, we are not coordinating with Iran on any of these efforts. Obviously, we’ve seen their comments. We have long rejected violent extremism and advocated a stable security environment, an inclusive political process, and a determined focus on economic development for Iraq to achieve its full potential. Our goals have not changed. I don’t think we view them as the same goals that Iran may have. So we’re focused on our own efforts, which, as you mentioned – let me just give you a little more on the call you mentioned.
Vice President Biden spoke with both Prime Minister Maliki and Speaker Nujaifi yesterday. He pressed for a unified effort in combatting the ISIL threat in Anbar. We have made clear and we believe Iraq’s leaders agree the only way to fight ISIL is through strong coordination with local officials and tribes against our common enemy. That was a conversation that he had and we’re continuing to press on our end.
QUESTION: Apart from the political posturing over on the Hill about whether the U.S. should be sending in any troops in addition to the missiles and drones that have already been promised, has there been any indication from Baghdad that any such personnel assistance would be warranted or desired?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’d be surprised or interested if you have a particular member of Congress who said that, because I haven’t seen that. I don’t think anyone is arguing for more troops and going back to put more troops in Iraq at this point.
QUESTION: But, I mean, one thing that I think the Iraqis have asked for that Congress has held up --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- were the Apache helicopters and the F-16’s, and that’s something that the Administration wanted to provide but that Congress has held up. It looks like Congress, at least Senator Menendez, has said that he might be willing to lift his objection because of the increased need. Is that something that you would be – now would be willing to revisit? Because it did look as if you wanted to do it when the prime minister --
MS. PSAKI: Sure, at the time. Let me talk to our team and see where we are with that. Obviously, I know Marie outlined a number of resources that we were expediting and putting forward with FMS funds, and obviously that’s underway. I don’t have any update on the Apaches, but I’ll check on that for all of you.
QUESTION: Sorry, Jen, but you’re giving 95 Hellfire missiles. These are air-to-surface missiles, but the Israeli – the – I’m sorry, the Iraqis have no need to deliver those missiles. How will they be delivered? They don’t have the combat aircraft, they don’t have the combat helicopters to fire those missiles.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details on it for you. I would have you – suggest you talk to DOD about that.
QUESTION: Change topic?
MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.
QUESTION: I just want to know, on Iraq, do you have confidence in the Iraqi Army? Because you were basically saying that Prime Minister Maliki’s forces is unable to tackle the situation in both Ramadi and in Fallujah, while the Americans tried before in 2004 --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and they couldn’t even succeed, or succeed with a very high price. So how do you expect Prime Minister Maliki’s government to deal with the insurgency, especially with the existence of ISIL on the border?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there has been an effort – as you know, because we’ve talked about it in this briefing room or my colleague talked about it – underway to work with the local tribes on the ground to fight and confront ISIL fighters. We’ve seen some success with that in Ramadi. Fallujah, is, as you know, more challenging. But it would be accurate to assume that that effort has been underway by the central government for some time. It’s not something that comes up overnight or they’ve just been working on overnight.
So our effort is to – our focus is on continuing to work with them on that. We know the challenges on the ground. We’ve seen some success. We mentioned some efforts we’re undertaking to provide more resources. I don’t have anything new on that right now, but we’re taking this day by day.
QUESTION: But would you consider arming the tribal leaders in Anbar like they did before?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any prediction of that. I don’t have anything new beyond what we announced yesterday.
QUESTION: Or paying them?
MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: Or paying them --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
Should have been an interesting conversation, much more interesting than Jen Psaki made it out to be. This wave of violence was kicked off by Nouri's forces storming the home of an MP in Anbar and when Osama al-Nujaifi attempted to lead an investigation into Nouri's actions that left six people dead, al-Nuajifi was prevented from leaving Baghdad.
This and so much more really going on in Falluja gets ignored. Kieran Kelly (Dissident Voice) reports:
Behind the scenes, however, Shafaq News reports that some government sources admit that the claims are a deliberate deception. One source describes the government stance as: “Deliberate confusion in the information and attempts to create a dangerous atmosphere in the city to be dealt with in a militarily way in every way,” but in reality, “Fallujah and even other cities are still experiencing quieter days than before”. By citing Al Qaeda and linking it to the brutal terrorist mass-murder campaign as well as alleged ambitions to create an entire state, the Iraqi government may be working towards justifying unleashing high levels of military violence on Fallujah, but who really is controlling Fallujah?
Instead of focusing on real issues like Kieran Kelly, everyone seems to be defocusing.
NewsBusters is a right wing media watchdog. They often do good work. They often are outright stupid. Kyle Dreenen's worship of Bully Boy Bush is as embarrassing as Media Matters worship of Barack Obama. If Dreenen focused less on rescuing his heart throb and more on doing media criticism, he could have nailed Brian Williams. The first quote he offers from Williams is, "US fighting forces are gone from Iraq. But as so many predicted when President Bush chose to go to war there after 9/11, the fighting has started up again." Well, they're not gone, US forces remain in Iraq and Barack's too damn stupid to make that a talking point which allows the right-wing to clobber him with 'you pulled all the forces out of Iraq!'
But the important sentence is that second sentence.
If you were opposed to the Iraq War and speaking out before it started -- I was -- then that second sentence is startling: "But as so many predicted when President Bush chose to go to war there after 9/11, the fighting has started up again." We were the voices that were silenced by NBC, by ABC, by CBS, by CNN, and by MSNBC -- though screamed at and derided, we got a better hearing on Fox than anywhere else. We were the voices Cokie Roberts dubbed "none that mattered."
Yet now Brian Williams wants to note us? (And NewsBusters, you're right-wing critique of Williams is that if all these voices were saying it ahead of the war, why weren't they on the media. You should be accusing Williams of attempting to re-write history.)
Bully Boy Bush started the illegal war (with the help of his powder puff gal squad Tony Blair and John Howard). In 2006, the Iraqi Parliament wanted to name Ibrahim al-Jaafari to a second term as prime minister. The White House refused to allow that to happen. Nouri had no militia and, most importantly, he had an intelligence dossier that insisted he was easily manipulated and controlled. So he was installed as the US puppet. The paranoia that made him so easy to trick also made him prone to attacks on the Iraqi people. In 2010, the Iraqi people voted and Nouri's State of Law lost to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya. Iraq should have been free of the despot. But Samantha Power and Susan Nuclear Rice argued that Nouri must have a second term. Barack idiotically agreed.
So the Iraqi people watched as the US government created a legal contract, The Erbil Agreement, that gave Nouri a second term despite the votes.
Then came the end of the SOFA and Barack bungled that as well. Because, let's be honest, he's so damn stupid. I'm glad he is, I'm glad the bulk of US troops are out of Iraq. But the SOFA fell apart because Barack didn't understand the difference between rule and letter of the law. Exiting Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had attempted to educate Barack on SOFAs but to no use. New Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta thought he had conveyed the realities to Barack but he hadn't. Then again, maybe Barack wasn't stupid, maybe he just didn't want a large number of troops in Iraq either?
Regardless what was agreed to and could have been implemented to keep around 9,000 to 15,000 US troops in the country was set aside. A number of forces remained in Iraq after the drawdown (which the press billed as a "withdrawal" and of course he sent in Special-Ops in the fall of 2012. Today, only Ewen MacAskill (Guardian) can note, "The CIA, which retained a presence in Iraq after the 2011 US troop withdrawal, is reported to be involved in helping with co-ordination of intelligence as well as targeting Hellfire missiles. In addition, there are 200 US military advisers left after the withdrawal."
As long as he continues to lie about that, he'll continue to be attacked for it.
Michael Crowley (Time magazine) leads the attack today by noting candidate Barack's promises:
“We will need to retain some forces in Iraq and the region,” Obama said. “We’ll continue to strike at al-Qaeda in Iraq.”
Obama made the point repeatedly: “In ending the war, we must act with more wisdom than we started it,” he said a month earlier. “That is why my plan would maintain sufficient forces in the region to target al-Qaeda within Iraq.”
And in a February 2008 primary debate, moderator Tim Russert pressed Obama on whether there were any circumstances that would lead him to re-escalate in Iraq: “Do you reserve a right as American president to go back into Iraq, once you have withdrawn?” Russert asked.
“If al-Qaeda is forming a base in Iraq, then we will have to act in a way that secures the American homeland and our interests abroad,” Obama responded.
Six years later, even with al-Qaeda showing alarming strength in Iraq — and across the border in Syria — nobody thinks Obama will “go back into Iraq” anytime soon. As Secretary of State John Kerry put it Sunday: “This is a fight that belongs to the Iraqis.”
There are two huge mistakes the US government made with Iraq beginning in 2003. The first was Bully Boy Bush's decision to invade. The second was Barack Obama overruling the votes of the Iraqi people to give Nouri a second term.
Violence continues with a stun bomb in Basra, the Iraqi Air Force bombing Anbar, military helicopters bombing Ramadi, and more. And what may be most appalling is how little any of this is understood. The editorial board of the Journal Democrat offers "Editorial: Let Iraqi fight this war" and while their conclusion may make sense, their reasoning doesn't.
Are we retroactively stupid?
The editorial board is: al Qaeda!!!!
In real time it was called "insurgents." It's as though their minds have turned to mush. And if we could acknowledge the reality that Anbar has always been a zone of resistance, we might be able to better understand what is taking place right now instead of reducing it to the comic book nature of 'al Qaeda.'
What's going on in Iraq?
Here's how the Libertarian Ed Krayewski (Reason) describes it:
You’d be forgiven if, while looking at recent headlines about Iraq, you thought it was the aughts again. Fallujah, the site of some of the most intense fighting during the U.S. war in Iraq, is again at the center of political violence in that country. Over the weekend, the city fell to Al Qaeda-linked fighters who declared an independent Islamist state there. Iraq’s prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, in power since 2006, has urged residents in Fallujah to fight back. Neighboring Iran, meanwhile, has offered to help expel Al Qaeda from the city while last month Iraq turned to the United States, requesting it send drones and missiles to help battle the Al Qaeda-linked Islamists. Seventy-five Hellfire missiles reportedly arrived in Iraq on December 19, and drones were supposed to be on their way, too. The fighting in Fallujah was a culmination of a year of increasing political violence in Iraq.
The periodical is called Reason so is it really too much to suppose they might use reason?
Nouri picked a fight last week and -- at least initially -- he's lost. He's now demanding that the people of Falluja do what he could not. In what world is that acceptable?
Do they have Hellfire missiles, these residents of Falluja?
He's already made the residents victims of collective punishment -- collective punishment is a War Crime -- and now he's not saying, "We will rescue you," he's screaming, "Fix my mess!!!"
ABC News Radio adds:
Ross Caputi, a former Marine who fought in the second battle for the city and is now an outspoken critic of U.S. intervention in Iraq, told ABC News recently that he’d watched his friends die there “for the purposes of regime change and furthering business interests friendly to the Bush administration.”
“[Now] Iraqis will die there to further the interests of [Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki’s government,” he said.
Caputi's is a lone voice of honesty. More often we get the likes of NPR's Larry Kaplow:
Yet again, Iraqi civilians are fleeing violence in Iraq's sprawling western province of Anbar. Years of under-the-radar daily tension and bloodshed has erupted into another al-Qaida surge and retaliatory Iraqi government airstrikes.
I'm sorry, are you a liar or an idiot, Kaplow? Over 100,000 were fleeing on Friday and they were fleeing the government attacks. Fighters had not then seized control of Falluja (that would come Saturday). Kaplow had his head up his ass as usual and missed that reality.
Lauren Hood (ITV News) offers a video report on the battle in Ramadi including footage the Iraqi government released of them attacking 'al Qaeda' -- two lone pick up truck. Not even enough for a tailgate party but that qualifies for a terrorist cell? Right-winger Jonathan S. Tobin (Commentary) is convinced that Americans are getting too friendly with Iran and appears to be laying the preliminary groundwork for show trials to come. Left-wing aymaan30 (allvoices) accepts the ready made construct but at least has the sense of mind to note:
Iraq needs a representative democracy and it won’t be realized unless Nouri al-Maliki stops Shia-appeasement and Sunni marginalization.
Moreover, if the United States continues to support a Shia-controlled Iraq and ignores the Sunni marginalization, the march of Iraq into the pit of religious theocracy and sectarian bloodshed would continue.
Simply developing a holistic strategy to isolate the al-Qaeda would be a palliative gesture. At the same time, Hellfire missiles and drones are not going to solve this problem. In fact, these moves will make it worse.
But it's weapons and weapons, billions of dollars worth of weapons. Amaani Lyle (DoD's American Forces Press Service) quotes Army Col Steven Warren declaring today, "We're expediting delivery of 10 operational ScanEagles for part of the original purchase, as well as an additional four nonoperational ScanEagles, which will be sent to help facilitate maintenance of the original 10." Yes, that must be the answer. After all, the US government has only provided Iraq with $14 billion in weaponry and training since 2005. You might think, "$14 billion? Doesn't the country just have something like 32 million people? What the heck?" Indeed. The problem isn't a lack of weapons or not enough weapons, the problem is a non-inclusive government which continues to penalize and terrorize Sunnis.
In yesterday's snapshot, I noted we'd come back to Monday's State Dept press briefing by spokesperson Marie Harf:
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.
No, it's not 'to the Iraqi Government.' It's too Nouri al-Maliki.
The US government brokered The Erbil Agreement to give Nouri a second term as prime minister. In that contract, the other political blocs went along with a second term in exchange for a power-sharing government. That did not happen. Nouri didn't keep his word and the US government did not demand that he keep his word. In addition, failure to nominate people to head the security posts were a power grab on Nouri's part. Add in that the country's without a president. For 13 months now, Jalal Talabani has been in Germany. He's not well enough to hold office and the Constitution has yet again been ignored.
This all goes to the fact that there is no Iraqi government, there is only a despot named Nouri who has been put in charge.
As has too often been the case in the last few years, The Economist has a better grasp of the issues than most outlets:
But the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham has also flourished because there has been passive acceptance by Iraqi Sunnis who believe their government and security forces are against them. The Iraqi army is so unpopular in Anbar that in the summer it withdrew to the outskirts of the cities, adding to the lack of security that allowed extremists to regroup.
Mr Maliki, a Shia, has largely marginalised Iraq’s Sunni minority, ignoring the demands of protests over the past year. Iraqi prisons full of young Sunni men, in some cases arrested along with their wives and children, political exclusion and lack of economy opportunities have fuelled ongoing protests in Anbar and other Sunni areas. The final straw came on December 30th when the Iraqi army tore down a protest camp in Ramadi, later arresting a prominent Sunni parliamentarian.
Mike Dorning and Margaret Talev (Bloomberg News) note:
Control of tracts of Iraqi territory by Sunni extremists would pose “a serious long-term threat” to U.S. interests if the groups maintain their hold, said Daniel Benjamin, who was State Department counterterrorism coordinator under Obama.
“Once safe havens are created, they can pretty quickly become hardened, and it becomes difficult to dislodge the militants without a major effort,” said Benjamin, now director of the Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth College. “These areas become conduits for men, money and materiel, and they give extremists a place to plot, which is dangerous for the neighborhood and, ultimately, for us.”
Nouri's latest assault on the Iraqi people is part of a series of attacks from an illegitimate leader who was not chosen by the people and who has refused to follow the country's Constitution. How in the world can someone like Nouri be planning to run for a third term when throughout his second term he has failed to nominate people to head the security ministries?
And how in the world can the press cover the collapse of security in Iraq today without noting what Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed back in July 2012, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."? That remains true today. As Iraq sees the worst violence since 2008, it has no Minister of Defense, no Minister of Interior and no Minister of National Security. Xinhua notes today, "Iraq is witnessing its worst violence in recent years. According to the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, a total of 8,868 Iraqis were killed in 2013, including 7,818 civilians and civilian police personnel, which is the highest annual death toll for years."
How can you talk about the violence today and not note how Nouri's power grab has hurt the country's security?
Or how al Qaeda is not the root.
al Qaeda didn't exist in Iraq before the start of the illegal war. Elements came in -- not a large number -- as a result of the Iraq War, it drew them in. Similarly, Nouri's attacks on the Sunni population are drawing them in today.
This was made clear by US General Ray Odierno today.
But you wouldn't know it to read the reports, would you?
I'm sick as a dog but I drug my ass to the National Press Club today because I knew the press whores would get it wrong.
No troops to Iraq!!!! Odierno said so!!!!
That's what you've got from his Q&A?
I was sick as a dog, what's your excuse -- besides being press whores incapable of telling the truth?
That's not even what he said but the AP, Stars and Stripes and others rush the lie out across the wires.
This is the question Odeirno was asked, "Can the US keep al Qaeda's expansion there at bay without having troops on the ground?"
Gen Ray Odierno: Well we have to wait and see. We have trained security forces to do that. I think the first alternative is for the forces that are there that we have trained to execute that strategy. You know, one of the things that we did in Iraq -- as well as we're doing in Afghanistan today -- is train about counter-insurgency and how you fight insurgencies. And I think what we have to continue to do is work with the Iraqi army and others to ensure they understand the basic techniques of counter-insurgency. And so I think we continue to do that. We have a very small element on the ground that works in the Embassy that has some expertise that can continue to help in these areas. And I think it's important that we do that. It's also important that we continue to ensure that we stay involved diplomatically, which we are, as we work through so -- We got to wait and see. I would say this is certainly not the time to put American troops on the ground. I think it's time for them to step up and see what they can do. We have to just wait to see and see if it becomes part of our national security issue to put people on the ground. But I think right now our goal is to let them take control of this problem.
Wait and see. Read that entire response -- which, you'll note, the outlets don't provide you with. Wait and see. At this moment, he doesn't think troops on the ground would help.
I'd love it if Odierno said, "No more US troops should be sent into Iraq ever." But that's not what he said and I'm not going to act like a cheap hustler and lie.
While they focus on that non-issue, the press ignores the bigger issues raised.
Odierno was quite clear regarding the chicken-or-the-egg, "And it's this sectarain potential, building of sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shia and then the exploitation of that by non-state actors such as al Qaeda."
That's what draws in any al Qaeda or al Qaeda-linked or foreign fighters of any nature -- this conflict which Nouri has pursued.
Credit to James Rosen (McClatchy Newspaper) who may be the only adult member of the press who attended the Odierno event judging by the fact that only he can report on it accurately.
Here's something else Odierno noted:
It's disappointing to all of us to see the deterioration of security inside Iraq. I spent a lot of my life over there. From the end of 2006 to September 2010, I was there as we continued to reduce the level of violence, and the sectarian violence was going on. I believe we left it in a place where it was capable to move forward. We've now seen it because of political issues internal to Iraq, that security situation has now devolved to something that to my mind is disconcerting .
What's he talking about? Internal issues?
Wait, help me out here, ahead of the 2010 parliamentary elections, one US official saw Nouri coming in second and refusing to step down and said the White House needed to have a plan in place to force him out if that happened.
Who was that official?
Oh, that's right, it was Gen Ray Odierno.
He's always known what a thug Nouri is.
Among today's violence? National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 Egyptian was shot dead in Baghdad, a Samarra car bombing left two people injured, 2 fighters were shot dead in Baghdad by the Iraqi military, police in Hilla shot dead a suicide bomber, a Kirkuk car bombing left 2 dead and fifty-two injured, 3 Daash snipers were shot dead outside Ramadi, 2 Daash were shot dead by police and tribal forces east of Ramadi, a Baquba attack left two police members injured, Abu Tufail Cauasian, supposed Islamic State of Iraq leader, was killed in Falluja, 4 people were shot dead in Diyala Province, 7 police officers were killed outside of Tikrit, a Baquba attack left 2 police officers dead and four more injured, a Baiji attack left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and three more injured, a Mosul bombing killed 2 Iraqi soldiers and 1 civilian, 1 fighter was shot dead in Latifya,
Human Rights First issued the following today:
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today praised the Obama Administration for supporting the repeal of the Iraq Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that led to the war in Iraq after 9/11. The support for the repeal came in an announcement made by National Security spokesperson Caitlin Hayden.“While the move is mostly symbolic because the United States is not in an armed conflict in Iraq, it signals the reluctance of the administration to leave endless war authority on the books,” said Human Rights First’s Michael Quigley.
The administration’s call for repeal of the Iraq AUMF comes amid an uptick in violence in Iraq, and serves as a reminder that the most effective responses to extremist violence will rarely require the status of war, and counterterrorism efforts may even be hindered by a war footing. The administration’s statement also precedes a likely in debate in Congress on the status of the Afghanistan AUMF as the Obama Administration ends combat operations in the country later this year. At the National Defense University last May, President Obama said he would work with Congress to revise or repeal the Afghanistan AUMF.
Most Americans are reluctant with good reason to extend the war to dozens of countries simply on the grounds of an al Qaeda-affiliated presence,” Quigley said. “The debate this year should focus on strategic counterterrorism measures that assure U.S. security with resort to war only as a last step.”
For more information or to speak with Quigley, contact Corinne Duffy at DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319.
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