Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, February 12, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the assault on Anbar continues, Nouri declares 'success,' Nouri also notes the damage the military shelling has done to hospitals (War Crimes), preparations take place for the planned April 30th elections, and much more.

Reporters Without Borders has released their World Press Freedom Index 2014.  We'll note Iraq in a moment, but first what the report says of the United States:

Countries that pride themselves on being democracies and respecting the rule of law have not set an example, far from it. Freedom of information is too often sacrificed to an overly broad and abusive interpretation of national security needs, marking a disturbing retreat from democratic practices. Investigative journalism often suffers as a result.
This has been the case in the United States (46th), which fell 13 places, one of the most significant declines, amid increased efforts to track down whistleblowers and the sources of leaks. The trial and conviction of Private Bradley Manning and the pursuit of NSA analyst Edward Snowden were warnings to all those thinking of assisting in the disclosure of sensitive information that would clearly be in the public interest.
US journalists were stunned by the Department of Justice’s seizure of Associated Press phone records without warning in order to identify the source of a CIA leak. It served as a reminder of the urgent need for a “shield law” to protect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources at the federal level. The revival of the legislative process is little consolation for James Risen of The New York Times, who is subject to a court order to testify against a former CIA employee accused of leaking classified information. And less still for Barrett Brown, a young freelance journalist facing 105 years in prison in connection with the posting of information that hackers obtained from Statfor, a private intelligence company with close ties to the federal government. 

Ed Hightower (WSWS) reported yesterday on the administration's attack on journalist James Rosen -- an attack not noted above:

The story of this illegal spying on a journalist working for a major news outlet broke last May in the wake of a broader scandal where it was revealed that the DoJ had secretly subpoenaed phone records for 21 lines registered to the Associated Press in an effort to learn the identity of an FBI explosives expert who leaked information on the “underwear bomber” in 2012, during Obama’s reelection campaign.
The affidavit supporting the subpoena request for Rosen’s email and phone records specifically alleged that “there is probable cause to believe that the reporter [James Rosen] has committed or is committing a violation [of the law] at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator,” in part by “employing flattery and playing to Mr. Kim’s vanity and ego.”

In light of this blatant attack on the freedom of the press, attorney general Eric Holder initially tried to distance himself from the warrant affidavit. When it was later revealed that Holder in fact personally approved of the warrant application, with all its bad faith, he confessed that the media probe got “a little out of whack” in a television interview that aired early last June. In that same interview, Holder told interviewer Pete Williams that he had no intention of resigning, saying tepidly “there are some things that I want to do, some things I want to get done that I have discussed with the president and once I have finished that, I’ll sit down with him and we’ll determine when it’s time to make a transition to a new attorney general.”

Now for what the report says about Iraq:

Since 2012, Iraq has been sinking into a new cycle of violence that is an aftereffect of the chaos and civil war following the US-led intervention of 2003. Religious tension between Sunnis and Shiites is being exacerbated by the Syrian crisis and, like the constant obstructiveness of the authorities and security forces, is having a negative impact on the safety of journalists and the independence of the media. In late 2013, for example, ISIS attacked the headquarters of Salaheddin TV in the northern city of Tikrit, killing five of its journalists. 

The Committee to Protect Journalists offers "Attacks on the Press: Journalism on the Front Lines in 2013."

In a 2006 book, the late New York Times correspondent Anthony Shadid summed up the future of Iraq as ghamidh, meaning “unclear” or “ambiguous” in Arabic. Seven years later, uncertainty continued to exacerbate the threats that journalists faced. Newspaper offices were attacked by unknown assailants, and journalists were threatened, assaulted, and detained. At least 10 journalists were killed in 2013, but the assailants and their motives were frequently unclear. For all the uncertainty and ambiguity, one truth remained clear: Central government officials and Kurdish regional authorities repeatedly attempted to silence critical voices through a combination of detentions, the denial of credentials, the suspension of television licenses, and raids of stations. Iraqi journalists continued to call for revisions to the Journalist Protection Law, which CPJ criticized for its ambiguous and restrictive provisions. In a sign of hope, the Iraqi parliament withdrew a draft Information Crimes bill that would have restricted online journalism. Still, with so much uncertainty and so little security, journalists continue to flee into exile, amid fears that Iraq could slide back into the dark days of civil war.

CPJ also notes, "With not a single conviction in the 100 journalist murders of the past decade, Iraq remains the worst country in the world for impunity."

Let's move over to twisted and sick people.

That lunatic is trusted with children?  (She's the Director of Coptic Orphans.)  She's not only crazy, she's stupid beyond belief.  If 'God' is responsible for that bombing, 'God' is also responsible for all the others including the bombings that kill people she might like.  Is 'God' being funny and showing "a great sense of humor" then too?

Or, Nermien Riad, are you just a stupid asshole that wants to find glee in death so you'll couch your blood thirst on someone else?

Twitter, more and more, appears to exist solely so people can show just how damn stupid they are.

Back to the crazy train.

  • You shouldn't be laughing at it, but you can't help it?

    Could you have maybe helped yourself by not Tweeting about it.  Or is really important for someone with such an ugly face wearing such ridiculous clothes to draw attention to himself?

    There are sadly many more.  Glee in the face of death is tacky enough.  As we've noted Monday and Tuesday, even worse is this notion that, because the Iraqi government says something, it must be true.  All that is known is a number of people died in bombing.  That's nothing to be gleeful about -- not even if you believe the unverified assertion that the dead are 'terrorists.'  And to bring 'God' into it?  I'm sorry, I don't know the religion that has a higher power commanding you take delight in the deaths of others.

    The prayer offered below?  I think that prayer and sentiment is recognizable to many religions.
  • O Allah Make It Easy On The Peopleof Iraq Syria Libya Egypt Sudan Yemen Lebanon Pakistan Palestine Afghanistan

  • One of the few journalists showing any sense is David Kenner:

    That's basic common sense.  Kenner has it, his peers should acquire it.

    Yesterday, the Council on Foreign Relations had an event with Gen Ray Odierno moderated by CNN's James Sciutto.  Odierno was the top-US commander in Iraq

    SCIUTTO: If I can, not surprisingly, would like to start tonight on the topic of Iraq. It's been a bad couple of weeks, couple of months there. You have the Al Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq, ISIS, taking over Fallujah. A thousand killed last month, 9,000 in 2013. I just want to ask your view, in light of your time there, do you think Iraq at this stage is recoverable? And do you think a U.S. force presence there, had the administration and Iraqi leadership managed to reach agreement, would have made a measurable difference?

    ODIERNO: Well, first, I don't know if it's -- I mean, it's recoverable, but how long it would take to recover, I don't know. 2010, '11, we really bought time and space for the Iraqi people and the government to move forward. Security and violence was at, you know, really significant lows. But we always knew in the end, following the 2010 election, which was a very close election in Iraq, where, really, Maliki's party, who was the one that was in power, actually came in a very close second.
    And so as they went through the process of the parliamentary system of building the government to take over, there was hope that there'd be great cooperation, but we realized then, as it took six to eight months to form the government, that there was going to be problems in forming the government.
    So what happened is, although they had the time and space to continue -- because security was good -- to build the economy, to increase oil flow -- really, they were never able to reconcile between the different groups. And so what you saw is a continuing mistrust of the political entities within Iraq.
    And as that mistrust grew, you saw other factions begin over time -- after about a two-year period -- to start to take advantage of that governmental mistrust and exploit the situation, which then created more violence. And some say Maliki came down too hard on the Sunnis, had to move more towards Iran. All of those are potential possibilities, but the bottom line is that the government in place was not able to come together in order to represent all of the Iraqi people. And when that didn't happen, they then started to revert back to violence.
    And so what it's going to take is the politicians to come back together. They have an election coming up this year. And how that turns out will really probably dictate how well they move forward in Iraq.
    We do know that the oil is -- that oil exports have increased significantly, so economically, actually, they're doing very well. But the violence now is driving them to separate each other. So for us, it's disappointing, because we believe we had them in a place where they could move forward.
    And I believe Iraq is in such a strategic place in the Middle East -- just look at where it is on a map. It's right in the center. It's -- you know, it borders Iran, it borders Kuwait, it borders Jordan, it borders Turkey, it borders Syria. It's in such a key place in the Middle East, I thought it was very important that we would have them move forward as a stable government that is friendly to the United States. They're still friendly towards the United States, but right now, the instability in the country is very concerning to all of us as we move forward.

    SCIUTTO: It sounds like you say the key is political agreement. How much of a difference would it make if there was a modest force left for...

    ODIERNO: Well, I mean, I think -- the bottom line is, I think it depends on how long you were willing to leave that force there. The security forces were capable and able to do what they needed to do. Again, with political disagreement, I'm not sure how much it would matter, how much -- unless we had a significant amount of U.S. force, which was not going to happen, it was time for the Iraqis to take control of their own fate. It was time for them to provide the security. We had built a security force that had the capability to do that.

    So in my mind, I'm not sure it would have made much difference if we had a small force on the ground. What it would provide is confidence. Maybe it would have allowed us to put a bit more pressure on the political entities in order for them to maybe reconcile a bit more than they did. Maybe that would have made a difference, but it's hard to say.

    File Odierno's comment ("But we always knew in the end, following the 2010 election, which was a very close election in Iraq, where, really, Maliki's party, who was the one that was in power, actually came in a very close second.") under understatement of the year.  And note that Odierno, ahead of the March 2010 elections, tried to get the White House to focus on what happens if Nouri loses the election but refuses to step down -- exactly what happened.  Odierno's very modest but he deserves credit for seeing what could happen when idiots like then-US Ambassador Chris Stevens could see in front of him, let alone possibilities. We'll come back to the topic of elections.

    As the assault on Anbar province continues,  Sheldon Richman (MWC) offers this take, "Violence is flaring in Iraq, as Sunni Muslims, fed up with the oppressive, corrupt, U.S.-installed and Iran-leaning Shi’a government, have mounted new resistance."  Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) offers:

    Last month, however, a completely different hypothesis was proven. The Iraqi government seemed to be in dire need of support from figures within the Sunni sit-in movements to disperse battles and impose the prestige of the state, which had disappeared from the cities of Anbar in various forms. They also needed these figures to expel ISIS, which had gained unexpected strength in Anbar.
    Since the first day of the crisis, the government resorted to elders and figures participating in the sit-ins to settle the crisis. Chief among these was Ahmed al-Dulaimi, the governor of Anbar and one of the former leaders of the sit-ins; Ahmed Abu Risha, a Sahwa forces commander of Sahwa who was isolated months ago; and Albu Fahd Rafi Abd al-Karim, a tribal leader. Many of these names and leaders of other clans have declared their willingness to fight for the liberation of Anbar from ISIS, and they formed new Sahwa forces for this purpose. However, they failed to put an end to the crisis. The truth of the matter is that the many tribal leaders in Fallujah, including the tribe of al-Dalim Ali Hatem, among other well-known leaders supported by a wide population, have come to realize after weeks of fighting that the Sahwa will not succeed this time, as was the case in 2006, when the forces were recruited by the US forces under the command of Gen. David Petraeus.
    Back then, the objective conditions were different from today, even the form of the crisis is now quite different. Demonstrations were back then an indication of an unsettled political conflict.

    Another take this week was offered by Ross Caputi in an open letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry (Global Research):

    Fallujah is currently under siege once again. You have stated that US troops will not be sent back to Iraq to assist in the current siege, but you have agreed that the US should send weapons to the Iraqi government. I am writing to implore that you do everything within your ability to stop shipments of US weapons to Iraq, whether they are sold, gifted, or loaned. Arming an oppressive regime so that they may better crush a popular uprising is not in the best interest of Americans or Iraqis.
    During that 2nd siege of Fallujah we killed thousands of civilians, displaced hundreds of thousands, destroyed nearly the entire city, and brought immeasurable loss and hardship upon those poor people. Since then I have devoted my life to raising awareness about the suffering I helped create in Fallujah, and to assisting Fallujans in their struggle with a public health disaster and ongoing repression.
    I feel a moral obligation to do whatever is within my power to help these people who I once hurt. But I was not a lone actor in Iraq. I had the support of a nation behind me and I was taking orders from the world’s most powerful military. The 2nd siege of Fallujah was not exceptional; rather it was symbolic of our military’s conduct in Iraq and the way that our mission impacted the lives of Iraqis. Our war and occupation took so much from them. It resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions displaced, permanent environmental contamination, and a new repressive regime that most Iraqis regard as begin more brutal than that of Saddam Hussein. This is the legacy of America’s involvement in Iraq. The least that we can do at this point is to end our complicity in their suffering.
    The current violence in Fallujah has been misrepresented in the media. The Iraqi Ministry of Interior asserted earlier in the month that al Qaeda had taken over half of Fallujah and the media parroted this assertion. However, journalists who have done serious investigations into this assertion found it to be false. The uprising in Fallujah is a popular uprising, not one lead by an international jihadist group. The Iraqi government has not been attacking al Qaeda in Fallujah. Their assault has been indiscriminate, killing dozens of civilians and wounding even more. Many of these deaths have been documented by human rights organizations within Fallujah.

    On the assault,  Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports MPs are expressing surprise at prime minister and chief thug of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki announcing victory in Anbar -- despite the fact that after six weeks of fighting, Nouri's assault continues.  MP Hamid al-Mutlaq calls out the claims that the military operations have ended in Ramadi and notes that clashes continue.

    Meanwhile Alsumaria reports Nouri is declaring that the government will inventory all the damage his assault did to private and public property and pursue reconstruction.  Property, he notes, includes bridges, hospitals . . .  Did you catch that because the American press won't.  Nouri's acknowledging -- publicly -- that his forces attacked hospitals.

    In the last few weeks, we've noted here that they attacked Falluja General Hospital and Falluja Educational Hospital.  We've also noted these are War Crimes.  The western press wasn't interested.

    Now that Nouri's spoken publicly about it, will they suddenly show interest now?

    NINA notes Iraqiya MP Leaq Wardi stated, "The continuation of indiscriminate shelling and concentrated, the past few days, on the health institutions, especially the Falluja General Hospital, confirms the existence of a deliberate intention not to resolve the crisis, despite the announcement of continuous initiatives to solve the crisis."  National Iraqi News Agency reports that Sheikh Ali Hatem al-Suleiman states Nouri should withdraw the military within 72 hours in order to end the Anbar crisis.

    Instead the violence continues in Anbar and elsewhere.  Iraq Body Count counts 313  violent deaths for the month so far through yesterday.


    National Iraqi News Agency reports 2 Baghdad car bombings and 1 roadside bombing left either people injured,   2 Jorfi-ssakhar roadside bombing left 6 Iraqi soldiers dead, an al-Qosat bombing left three police memebers injured,  military shelling in Falluja left 3 civilians dead and seven more injured,  Alsumaria reports a Tuz Khurmato roadside bombing left 4 people dead and nine injured, and a Sab'Qsoor roadside bombing (northeast of Baghdad) killed 1 child.  All Iraq News adds a Tikrit bombing left two Sahwa and one civilian injured.  Iraq Times reports that military shelling in Ramadi left 1 elderly woman dead and eight other people injured. Xinhua notes "a civilian was killed when a mortar round crashed on his house in the same area of Jurf al-Sakhar, the source said."


    National Iraqi News Agency reports  1 person was shot dead in southwest Baghdad (Saidiya area),  security forces killed 6 suspects (including one man from Saudi Arabia) to the "east of Ramadi," and "a security force killed a gunman and blew up two oil tankers in al-Qayyarah south of Mosul, and killed their drivers."

    Changing topics, Asharq al-Awsat reports on Ayad Allawi:

    Former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, head of the Iraqi National Accord party, has confirmed he has no intention to retire from politics, saying he will lead the new Wataniya bloc in the parliamentary elections scheduled to take place on April 30, 2014.
    [. . .]

    Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat from Baghdad on Tuesday, Allawi said: “We came into politics to serve our people, not in search of personal gains. The course of the elections must be corrected and the elections and parties law must be ratified. We insist that the next elections must be transparent and fair in order to allow the Iraqi people to have their say through the ballot box.”

    Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya won the 2010 elections.  He was prevented from becoming prime minister as a result of the US-brokered Erbil Agrement which went around the Iraq Constitution, the voters and democracy.  Iraqi.

    If the US government does not try to fix the results, the April 30th elections would be the first parliamentary elections where Iraqis decided who their prime minister would be.  Following the December 2005 parliamentary elections, the Iraqi Parliament thought they'd have Ibrahim al-Jufaari as the prime minister.  The White House overruled them and insisted on Nouri al-Maliki.  And in 2010, the White House overruled Ayad Allawi, demanding that Nouri get a second term.  From Bush to Barack, there has been a refusal to allow the Iraqi people to chart their own course.  From Bush to Barack, the Iraqis have had a prime minister imposed on them.

    Now Nouri wants a third term -- despite the fact that he promised in early 2011 that he wouldn't seek a third term.  Nouri's a liar, he's a crook.  Iraq cannot move forward with Nouri as prime minister.  This was proven in his first term and proven in his second.  To award him a third term would be to doom Iraq.

    The Oman Tribune editorial board observes, "Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki must be hoping for that the elections will put Iraq back on the road to peace. Nursing such hopes is a big mistake and shows that the prime minister is out of touch with reality. The increasing flow of American arms and other steps will not help. On the other hand they will only create more mayhem.  And it is strange that Maliki has not realised that the key to peace and stability lies in one of his pockets. A number of people have said the same thing. So, before it’s late, Maliki must heed the advice of those saying that he must reach out to sections of Iraqis alienated by his high-handed behaviour of the recent past. Or else, the violence will spread and more parts of Iraq could fall into the hands of the militants. "

    National Iraqi News Agency reports: "Speaker Osama Nujaifi, emphasized the need to take measures to accomplish the exact timing for the upcoming elections and making plans for elections in Anbar province, to get real results."  Alsumaria notes that al-Nujaif met today with a delegation of the Independent High Electoral Commission.  Al-Shorfa notes that electronic cards will be used in the planned April 30th elections and quotes IHEC's Chair Sarbast Mustafa stating,  "Electronic cards will contain the data of each Iraqi citizen older than 18 years of age who is eligible to vote in the next general parliamentary election in the country."  Earlier this month, the IHEC issued the following:


    The IHEC Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Mr. Mukdad al Sharify confirmed on 28 January that the IHEC will begin a considerable media campaign to urge and educate voters to take over their electronic cards which will be used in the voting process in the upcoming Iraqi parliamentary elections (IPE) scheduled on 30 April 2014.

    Mr. al Sharify said that the IHEC will start this media campaign to educate voters on the importance of the e-cards and measures of work adopted during the next few days. The campaign will be conducted in several stages until polling day on 30 April. He added that the media campaigns to be implemented by the IHEC would vary between urging voters to participate in the upcoming electoral process and how to take over their cards by reviewing the voter registration centers (VRCs) opened out across the country. The media campaign also included a detailed explanation on the available data saved in these e-cards, in addition to the security features that prevent manipulations or re-using the card more than one time in the polling day. 

    Mr. al Sharify indicated that the IHEC will reveal important information to motivate the voters to receive their e-cards and it has contracted with many media outlets and TV channels to publish and broadcast the media campaign of the e-cards in order to reach to all categories of Iraqi society. Mr. al Sharify called on again the partners of electoral process, civil society organization, religious scholars and media to support the IHEC' campaign by urging voters to visit the VRCs to take over their cards to cast their ballots in upcoming IPE. He stressed that the e-cards would consider as an important document and there will be impossible for voters to vote in the polling day without this card.   

    On the IHEC, Harith Hasan (Al-Monitor) explains:

    The IHEC was founded to be an independent and impartial commission with the credibility to manage electoral processes. The United Nations supported the IHEC, and an international expert was a member of the first Board of Commissioners that was established under the authority of the Coalition Provincial Authority. However, the role of the UN dwindled after the commission developed its capacities and skills, expanded its institutions and gained electoral experience. Meanwhile, the Iraqi parliament assigned new commissioners by following the new habit of sectarian, ethnic and factional apportionment, just like most public positions.
    Gradually, the Board of Commissioners, which today includes nine members, became more factional, and some observers, independent politicians and small parties complain that its members are affiliated with the major parties. Still, this did not undermine the commission’s credibility. An expert who worked with the international team supporting the commission confirmed to Al-Monitor that the current council enjoys good degree of professionalism and experience. The impartiality of the commission was prioritized over the independence of its members, and this impartiality was guaranteed by the quasi-partisan representation in the commission. However, this arrangement was to the detriment of the small parties that were not represented and, as a result, cannot exert direct pressure on the commission’s members, when needed.
    The Council of Commissioners issued, in February 2014, a statement in which it announced its decision to ban Shams Network from monitoring the elections. Shams is a major network that was founded to ensure the safety and impartiality of the electoral process. It has worked in the past alongside the commission. The commission announced that its decision came after the said network breached the code of conduct. The commission specifically referred to the statements of the head of the network, Hoger Jato, regarding the electronic voter cards system that the commission intends to implement in the upcoming elections.

    mushreq abbas