Thursday, February 20, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, February 20, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the assault on Anbar Province continues, Moqtada al-Sadr's retirement continues to gather attention, we drop back to a US Congressional hearing this month where it became clear how little human rights and women's rights matter, and much more.

Before the month ends, I'm going to try to work in a few of the hearings we attended this month there hasn't been room for.  That includes the February 11th House Armed Services Committee.  The witnesses were the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Anne Patterson, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Elissa Slotkin and Vice Admiral Frank Pandolfe, the Director for Strategic Plans and Policy (J-5), Joint Staff.

This hearing was appalling.  Reflecting on it in the weeks since, the strong words I wrote in the margins of my notes -- all 'four' letter type words, regardless of the actual letter count -- still seem appropriate.

We got the message from the US government, for example, that women don't matter in the Middle East, don't matter to the US government.  We got the lying on everything.  As usual the US government says, for example, "the Iraqis" when they don't mean the people, they just mean the (US-installed) leader.

We got just how hypocritical they are and, as I wrote at one point, "And that's why I won't be supporting Joe Biden if he runs in 2016."  And I won't.  I'm sorry, I love Joe, but the US government loathes the Iraqi people so Joe's not getting my support.  Well get to it.

First, let's not the laughable opening remarks of Anne Patterson and wonder if she believes her own lies?

Anne Patterson: Iraq has, regrettably, been experiencing escalating levels of violence. The two-way flow of Sunni extremists between Syria and Iraq has had a direct bearing on high-profile attacks in Iraq. In 2011 and 2012, about 4,400 Iraqis civilians and members of the security forces were killed each year -- many in attacks led by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, formerly known as al Qaeda in Iraq . Last year, ISIL began shifting resources from Syria to Iraq in search of new opportunities consistent with their broader ambitions. By the summer of 2013, the number of suicide attacks in Iraq had climbed from an average of 5 to 10 per month to approximately 30 to 40 per month. These attacks were calculated, coordinated and unfortunately, increasingly effective and were directed not only at Shia civilian targets but also Sunni and Kurdish targets. On January 1st, ISIL launched its most brazen attack yet, and occupied portions of the Anbar cities of Ramadi and Fallujah. The Iraqi government, working together with local leaders in Anbar and with important U.S. support has pushed back; Ramadi now faces isolated pockets of resistance from anti-government fighters , and the government hopes to clear 4 terrorists from Fallujah predominately by using local tribal forces . But this violence has had a devastating effect on the people of Iraq. The United Nations reports at least 8,800 civilians and members of the security forces were killed in violent attacks across Iraq in 2013. The need for political leaders to overcome mistrust and reach compromises on essential political reforms is urgent. We continue to press upon Iraq’s government the importance of working with local Sunni leaders to draw the nation together in the fight against ISIL. The United States will continue to support the people of Iraq and their government to secure the city of Fallujah. We also continue to work closely with Iraq's leaders to help them build a longterm political, economic and security strategy and to support the national election scheduled for April 30, 2014. I would like to thank the Congress for its support for the much needed military equipment we have been able to provide to Iraq. To combat the very real extremist threats, Iraq needs a professional and well equipped army that can provide the capability for the government to engage extremist groups proactively long before they enter the cities.

As any honest observer of Iraq well knows, not all the violence -- not even half the violence -- of last year was done by 'al Qaeda'; however, all the violence is attributable to the thug Nouri al-Maliki who took a process that was supposed to bring all the blocs together in a power-sharing government but instead found Nouri practicing one power grab after another while using the tools his office possesses (or that he's assumed) to destroy rivals.

He has lied and he has attacked.  In that regard, he was well trained by his US masters.

But this is why Iraq is where it is right now.

In 2010, the White House demanded a second term for Nouri despite Nouri losing those elections.  The White House used the Kurds to front this agreement, the legal contract known as The Erbil Agreeement.  Both Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Kurdistan Regional Government Massoud Barzani stood behind the agreement because they believed the White House that this contract was not only going to be legal but it would be enforced because it had the full backing of the US President.

So the Kurds went about selling it to the other political blocs and convincing them this was a genuine agreement and one the US government would ensure was enforced.

The contract gave Nouri a second term in exchange for various demands (such as his implementing Article 140 of the Constitution, putting Ayad Allawi in charge of an independent national security body, etc.) and Nouri used The Erbil Agreement to get that second term and then he wiped his ass with it and refused to honor it.

And the Kurds and others waited for the White House.  In November of 2010, Allawi walked out of the Parliament in its first session and only returned that day after Barack Obama asked him to do so over the phone and swore to him -- swore to him -- that The Erbil Agreement would be honored.  (Nouri was already, in that first session of Parliament, declaring that he would have to wait to implement The Erbil Agreement, that's why Allawi walked out.)

The Kurds and the others waited and waited.

And neither Nouri nor the US government honored the agreement.  By the summer of 2011, the Kurds, Allawi's Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr joined in public calls for Nouri to implement The Erbil Agreement.

The deceit and backstabbing of the White House didn't end there.

As Nouri refused to honor the contract, Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, joined Moqtada, the Kurds and Allawi in exploring a no-confidence vote on Nouri.  They did what the Iraqi Constitution told them to.  And they got the signatures needed to call for the vote in Parliament.

What did the White House do?

Pressured Jalal Talabani (it never takes much pressure, he's always had a collapsible spine) and Jalal folded like a cheap suit.  He refused to allow the vote to take place.  He made up excuses and lies and then insisted he had to leave the country because chicken ass could do what the US government told him to do but couldn't hang around for the fall out.

The betrayal has been intense.

Grasp what took place in 2010, the voters unseated Nouri.  But Barack wouldn't allow that to happen. And that's why Barack's hands are just as bloody as Nouri al-Maliki's are.  He ensured the tyrant stayed in power and he refused to demand that the power-sharing contract (one he ordered negotiated) be honored.

When a people have voted out a violent dictator but he stays in office?  When their other political leaders go through legal procedures to remove him from office but the Constitutional measure are not honored?  When the people take to the streets to protest and they're ignored?

What the hell is left but violence?

If you need something more than my take, in August the International Crisis Group issued "Make or Break: Iraq’s Sunnis and the State" and this was their take on Hawija:

As events in Syria nurtured their hopes for a political comeback, Sunni Arabs launched an unprecedented, peaceful protest movement in late 2012 in response to the arrest of bodyguards of Rafea al-Issawi, a prominent Iraqiya member. It too failed to provide answers to accumulated grievances. Instead, the demonstrations and the repression to which they gave rise further exacerbated the sense of exclusion and persecution among Sunnis.
The government initially chose a lacklustre, technical response, forming committees to unilaterally address protesters’ demands, shunning direct negotiations and tightening security measures in Sunni-populated areas. Half-hearted, belated concessions exacerbated distrust and empowered more radical factions. After a four-month stalemate, the crisis escalated. On 23 April, government forces raided a protest camp in the city of Hawija, in Kirkuk province, killing over 50 and injuring 110. This sparked a wave of violence exceeding anything witnessed for five years. Attacks against security forces and, more ominously, civilians have revived fears of a return to all-out civil strife. The Islamic State of Iraq, al-Qaeda’s local expression, is resurgent. Shiite militias have responded against Sunnis. The government’s seeming intent to address a chiefly political issue – Sunni Arab representation in Baghdad – through tougher security measures has every chance of worsening the situation.
Belittled, demonised and increasingly subject to a central government crackdown, the popular movement is slowly mutating into an armed struggle. In this respect, the absence of a unified Sunni leadership – to which Baghdad’s policies contributed and which Maliki might have perceived as an asset – has turned out to be a serious liability. In a showdown that is acquiring increasing sectarian undertones, the movement’s proponents look westward to Syria as the arena in which the fight against the Iraqi government and its Shiite allies will play out and eastward toward Iran as the source of all their ills.
Under intensifying pressure from government forces and with dwindling faith in a political solution, many Sunni Arabs have concluded their only realistic option is a violent conflict increasingly framed in confessional terms. In turn, the government conveniently dismisses all opposition as a sectarian insurgency that warrants ever more stringent security measures. In the absence of a dramatic shift in approach, Iraq’s fragile polity risks breaking down, a victim of the combustible mix of its long­standing flaws and growing regional tensions.

Why is it that US officials never want to talk reality?  Because doing so would mean taking accountability.

Need another source?  Here's Anthony H. Cordesman and Sam Khazi (CSIS) from two days ago:

Iraq’s main threats, however, are self-inflicted wounds caused by its political leaders. The 2010 Iraqi elections and the ensuing political crisis divided the nation. Rather than create any form of stable democracy, the fallout pushed Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki to consolidate power and become steadily more authoritarian. Other Shi’ite leaders contributed to Iraq’s increasing sectarian and ethnic polarization – as did key Sunni and Kurdish leaders.
Since that time, a brutal power struggle has taken place between Maliki and senior Sunni leaders, and ethnic tensions have grown between the Arab dominated central government and senior Kurdish leaders in the Kurdish Regional government (KRG). The actions of Iraq’s top political leaders have led to a steady rise in Sunni and Shi’ite violence accelerated by the spillover of the extremism caused by the Syrian civil war. This has led to a level of Shi’ite and Sunni violence that now threatens to explode into a level of civil conflict equal to – or higher than – the one that existed during the worst period of the U.S. occupation.

This struggle has been fueled by actions of the Iraqi government that many reliable sources indicate have included broad national abuses of human rights and the misuse of Iraqi forces and the Iraqi security services in ways where the resulting repression and discrimination has empowered al-Qaeda and other extremist groups. As a result, the very forces that should help bring security and stability have become part of the threat further destabilized Iraq.

Their votes were rendered meaningless by US President Barack Obama, their Constitution was rendered meaningless by US President Barack Obama.  And their protests?

In March of last year, activists in Samarra put their message on display.

From Samarra من سامراء

"Obama, If you Cannot Hear Us Can you Not See Us?"

That's a pretty clear message.

Barack is not an inspirational world figure.  He has betrayed freedom and democracy in Iraq and continues that even to this day.

"It's important for people to remember that this didn't happen in a vacuum," the always ridiculous  US House Rep Joe Courtney declared.  Ridiculous because real history -- like what we just went over -- doesn't matter to him.

He made that comment wasting everyone's time on a fantasy recap of the failed 2011 SOFA -- fantasy events that he couched with maybe he had it wrong and that Slotkin tried so hard to help him get right but he ignored the many life preservers she tossed him because he preferred to drown in a sea of ignorance.

The SOFA, the obsession never dies.

Committee Chair Buck McKeon:  Last week, we received testimony that al Qaeda is a growing threat particularly in Iraq and Syria. And you've referred to that.  Given the failure to achieve a Status Of Forces Agreement with Iraq which could have provided for residual US presence in the region, the rise of al Qaeda and the associated instability in that region, what lessons can we learn from the experience and how we should transition in Afghanistan

Elissa Slotkin:  Okay.  Uhm.  Well.  Obviously, we watched the, uhm, events going on in Iraq right now very closely.  Anyone like myself who served there feels -- The only reaction is to feel emotionally when you see what's going on in Anbar.  Uhm, I do think that, uhm, the idea that if we negotiated a follow on settlement with the Iraqis and had a SOFA and  a remaining force, the idea that that force would be able to prevent what is going on is, uh -- I'm not sure that that would be possible.  You know, at the height of the American presence in Iraq, at the height of the surge, 170,000 troops, we had levels of violence that we are seeing right now in Anbar.  So I'm not sure that uh-uh a remaining force of 10,000 would be able to prevent this.  More importantly, I do think that our overall goals in the region are to support partners and allies as they manage their own threats -- manage threats within their own borders.  That is our goal in many states in the regions and Iraq being one of them.  That's why some of the accelerated weapons transfers that you have been seeing have been going on.  We've been pushing very hard to get the Iraqis what they need to take on those threats, learn the lessons they need to learn to manage those issues within their own territory.  Uhm, uh, in terms of what it teaches us for Afghanistan, uhm, I'm not sure the situation is analogous.

If it's not analogous, we don't have room for it.

The hearing made clear that trash and lying rule in the United States.

Right now, there's a lot of pompous remarks from US President Barack Obama, decrying human rights abuses in this or that area.  But he doesn't call out Iraq.  He never does.

Human rights abuses are legendary now in Iraq.

But it's a US client-state ruled over by a US installed puppet (first installed by Bully Boy Bush who demanded Nouri be named prime minister in 2006 and then by Barack who demanded that, despite Nouri losing the 2010 parliamentary election, Nouri get a second term).

Human rights don't mean a damn thing to this presidency.  They rarely do matter to any US presidency.  The occupant of the White House will bellow and finger point at enemy countries while looking the other way when it comes to allies and client states.

And women should especially pay attention because women's rights don't mean a damn thing to the US government.  Doubt it?  Note this exchange, note it real good.

US House Rep Thornberry:  Ambassador, I want to get back to this subject of credibility that the Chairman raised earlier.  And part of what really bothers me is Ms. Slotkin's answer to the Chairman's first question, she said essentially, 'Well there was a lot of violence in Anbar before the surge, so there's really no lesson to be -- to be learned there because our troops wouldn't have made any difference any way.'  But what -- Well, first, of course, there was a tremendous amount of sacrifice for our folks as well as Iraqis required to change the situation in Anbar.  Secondly, the hope was that some sort of a continued engagement and advisory would increase their capability and keep them focused on the real enemy, the terrorists, not devolve into sectarian struggles.  And so I want to get  -- And the fact that we're not there?  I kind of wonder does that not effect the way other countries see us?  As whether we're a reliable partner or not? [. . .]

Anne Patterson:  Uh, I -- I do think -- Let me say, I do think we're a reliable partner and I think our presence is-is very extensive.  Let me take the example of Iraq and what we've done recently.  Uh, we have made an extraordinary effort with the help of this Committee and other, uh, Committees in the Congress to give them the  weaponry and the, frankly, the intelligence support that they need to meet this, uh, this-this renewed threat, uh, from ISIL.  And it was critically important that we supply Hellfire Missiles, uh, because they had attempted to go after these camps in the dessert with thin-skinned helicopters and, uh, by ground and had been unable to do so.  So our arming them came at a critical point to enable them to go after the terrorists.  We also have, uh, tried to step up training.  We're planning to step up training.  We have an enormous foreign military sales and foreign military financing program with Iraq.  So I think it's very difficult to say that we've abandoned the Iraqis because I think we're very, uh, intensely engaged there.  And as to your broader question, sir, yes, I think we're going to need to be involved in these countries -- whether it's Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iraq or Egypt for decades to come -- and not just in the military sense.  The key element in all these countries is going to be job creation for the enormous number of young men that are coming into the labor force and basically have no prospects or are in a built-in element of instability.

Job creation for men.

Clearly, the Middle East needs more female suicide bombers.  They already exist.  But they clearly need to increase their numbers or they're not getting the focus of the US government.

Anne Patterson, a woman in the Anne Slaughter sense of the word -- meaning she remembers her gender when she has a book to sell or is in trouble -- is happy to pimp the need for jobs for men.  Only for men.  If that was the policy in the United States, Anne Patterson wouldn't have a job, let alone "my forty year career."

There is something truly sick about Anne Patterson and the glee with which she spoke of weapons and a weapons financial aid program.

Anne Patterson keeps saying "they."

It's not "they," it's Nouri.  The Iraqi people aren't being helped by the US government.

The always impotent Richard Becker of A.N.S.W.E.R. recently sent out a group  e-mail:

March 19, 2014, marks the 11th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. During the next six weeks the [A.N.S.W.E.R.] newsletter will feature key articles from the ANSWER Coalition archives that ANSWER and associated groups published before and during the invasion, and throughout the U.S. occupation of Iraq. This is a critical period of U.S. history and the voices of those who led the mass anti-war and anti-occupation movement during this period are largely erased from the U.S. mainstream media. Please read and share this important article originally published in April 2006 about a key moment in the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Share it with young people who were not yet teenagers when the Bush administration invaded Iraq in one of the greatest war crimes in modern history.

The War Crimes didn't stop.  They don't stop just because an impotent coward by the name of Richard Becker can't call them out.

It's the ultimate in political masturbation to whine today about Iraq in 2006 when the Iraqi people are suffering right now and suffering despite the fact that they voted out Nouri al-Maliki in 2010 only to have the US government demand that Nouri get a second term.

The people suffer and A.N.S.W.E.R. doesn't do a damn thing except whine about how the peace movement isn't getting credit for past work.

Want to know why that is?

Because it's in the past and the rest of us are desperately dealing with today.

We don't have the time or the inclination to masturbate over 2006 the way Richard Becker does.

And if A.N.S.W.E.R. really wants recognition, they might try standing up for the Iraqi people who are suffering in Iraq.

Nouri's being armed.

Despite the fact that Nouri is the one killing people and destroying Iraq.

There is, for example, the April 23rd massacre of the sit-in in Hawija which resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll rose to 53.  UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

A.N.S.W.E.R. had no outrage over that.  Maybe that's why it and other so-called peace organizations are seen as ridiculous today?  Because they refuse to speak up.  If Bully Boy Bush were still occupying the White House, they'd be all over it. But Barack?  They're too busy nuzzling at his crotch to call him out.

And that's why no one takes them seriously.

No one smart takes Hank Johnson seriously.  Any intelligent person is aware that Cynthia McKinney held that seat and argued for peace and justice from it.

Johnson felt the need to (briefly) speak in that stoned manner of his about Iraq at the Feb. 11th hearing, "The extraction of our forces from the unfortunate war in Iraq, uh, and unfortunately for them and for us they did not, uh, enable us to sign a Status Of Forces Agreement over there, uh, so we had to come on out and the same thing will happen to Afghanistan if we don't, uh, agree to the, uh, very reasonable terms of the Status Of Forces Agreement."

Cynthia would never have argued for US troops to stay in Afghanistan or lamented the departure of the bulk of them from Iraq.

Hank Johnson, like Richard Becker, wastes everyone's time.  Neither man will address the reality of Iraq today.

Iraqis don't have that luxury of pretense.  Take a survivor of the Hawija massacre.  The BRussells Tribunal carried a translation of one activist who was an eye-witness to what went down:


I am Thamer Hussein Mousa from the village of Mansuriya in the district of Hawija. I am disabled. My left arm was amputated from the shoulder and my left leg amputated from the hip, my right leg is paralyzed due to a sciatic nerve injury, and I have lost sight in my left eye.
I have five daughters and one son. My son’s name is Mohammed Thamer. I am no different to any other Iraqi citizen. I love what is good for my people and would like to see an end to the injustice in my country.

When we heard about the peaceful protests in Al-Hawija, taking place at ‘dignity and honor square’, I began attending with my son to reclaim our usurped rights. We attended the protests every day, but last Friday the area of protest was besieged before my son and I could leave; just like all the other protestors there.

Food and drink were forbidden to be brought into the area….

On the day of the massacre (Tuesday 23 April 2013) we were caught by surprise when Al-Maliki forces started to raid the area. They began by spraying boiling water on the protestors, followed by heavy helicopter shelling. My little son stood beside me. We were both injured due to the shelling.

My son, who stood next to my wheelchair, refused to leave me alone. He told me that he was afraid and that we needed to get out of the area. We tried to leave. My son pushed my wheelchair and all around us, people were falling to the ground.

Shortly after that, two men dressed in military uniforms approached us. One of them spoke to us in Persian; therefore we didn’t understand what he said. His partner then translated. It was nothing but insults and curses. He then asked me “Handicapped, what do you want?” I did not reply. Finally I said to him, “Kill me, but please spare my son”. My son interrupted me and said, “No, kill me but spare my father”. Again I told him “Please, spare my son. His mother is waiting for him and I am just a tired, disabled man. Kill me, but please leave my son”. The man replied “No, I will kill your son first and then you. This will serve you as a lesson.” He then took my son and killed him right in front of my eyes. He fired bullets into his chest and then fired more rounds. I can’t recall anything after that. I lost consciousness and only woke up in the hospital, where I underwent surgery as my intestines were hanging out of my body as a result of the shot.

After all of what has happened to me and my little son – my only son, the son who I was waiting for to grow up so he could help me – after all that, I was surprised to hear Ali Ghaidan (Lieutenant General, Commander of all Iraqi Army Ground Forces) saying on television, “We killed terrorists” and displaying a list of names, among them my name: Thamer Hussein Mousa.

I ask you by the name of God, I appeal to everyone who has a shred of humanity. Is it reasonable to label me a terrorist while I am in this situation, with this arm, and with this paralyzed leg and a blind eye?

I ask you by the name of God, is it reasonable to label me a terrorist? I appeal to all civil society and human rights organizations, the League of Arab States and the Conference of Islamic States to consider my situation; all alone with my five baby daughters, with no one to support us but God. I was waiting for my son to grow up and he was killed in this horrifying way.
I hold Obama responsible for this act because he is the one who gave them these weapons. The weapons and aircrafts they used and fired upon us were American weapons. I also hold the United States of America responsible for this criminal act, above all, Obama.

He does what Richard Becker cowardly ass can't, he holds Barack responsible.

It's 2014.  If the American peace movement wants to be taken seriously, it should be active today, not planning a p.r. blitz for next month about what they did eight years ago.

And let's move back to Joe.  I like Joe Biden.  He is a nice person, he is a caring person.  He's a bad Vice President, a very bad one.  But note, my expectations are probably too high.  With the US government electing to arm Nouri with more weapons, I think Joe should resign in protest over that. 

His failure to do so, for me, means he shouldn't be president.  Because he knows better but chooses to go along, I don't think he has the strength to be president.

Back on April 10, 2008, we attended the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing and reported on it here including this:

"Just understand my frustration," Biden explained.  "We want to normalize a government that really doesn't exist."  Senator Russ Feingold wanted to know if there were "any conditions that the Iraq government must meet?"  No, that thought never occurred to the White House.  "Given the fact that the Maliki government doesn't represent a true coalition," Feingold asked, "won't this agreement [make it appear] we are taking sides in the civil war especially when most Iraqi Parliamentarians have called for the withdrawal of troops?"

The only thing that's changed since then is that Biden is not Senator Biden, he's Vice President Joe Biden.

Nouri's government still doesn't represent a true coalition.  In fact, that's more true in his second term than it was in his first term.

The US government is now taking sides in a civil war -- Nouri's war on the Iraqi people.

Joe might have a shot at the presidency if he had the strength to resign in protest.  He doesn't have that strength which means it's very likely he would lose the election if he were the Democratic nominee.  Democratic Party Vice Presidents, over the last decades, have lost because they either looked weak or were weak.  (Include Al Gore in that, he won the election but was too weak to fight for it.)

The only way Democratic Vice Presidents have been sworn in as president in the last 70 or so years is because the sitting president died (FDR died allowing Truman to become president and then run for re-election as a sitting president; the same with JFK's assassination elevating LBJ to president).  In my opinion, when you're too weak to stand up for your publicly voiced beliefs, you're too weak to be president.

Nouri is terrorizing the Iraqi people.  He is committing War Crimes which include collective punishment and attacking Falluja hospitals with bombs and mortars.

Maliki’s use of the army against the civilian population of Anbar constitutes the defeat of the policies Iraq has been following since 2003 and cements the divorce between the people of Iraq and the current sectarian government.
This new round of bombing has already produced 300,000 displaced, adding to the tragedy of the millions of Iraqi citizens already displaced by the failed and brutal US occupation.
While states are legally obliged to refrain from assisting other states to undertake internationally criminal acts, the United States is upping its supply of arms and military advisors to Iraq, along with intelligence cooperation. A new US “Surge” is in the making and will only bring more death and destruction.
Maliki’s government cannot wantonly kill civilians and claim a “State of Law”:
— Collective punishment is illegal under international law.
— Shelling water and electricity facilities, religious buildings, and hospitals are war crimes and crimes against humanity.
— The scale and target of the Maliki military strikes and shelling is utterly disproportionate and illegal and criminal in the face of the legitimate demands of the Anbar tribes.
— The lack of proportionality itself constitutes a war crime and crime against humanity.
— It is paramount for people everywhere to mobilise now to save Fallujah’s and Anbar’s civilians, understanding that their suffering mirrors the impact of the fascist sectarian regime that the US occupation created.

We appeal to all individuals of conscience, to all those who support human rights, to all progressives who believe in democracy and the right to self-determination, to the UN Security Council, to the president of the UN General Assembly, to members of the UN General Assembly, to the European Commission and member states, to the European Parliament and peoples, to Islamic and Arab states and people and their organisations, and to all human rights, anti-war and civil society organisations to:
1. Order the Iraqi government to stop its use of wanton shelling, air force attacks, and heavy artillery against the civilian population in keeping with the responsibility of states to protect civilians under the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention and its additional protocols.
2. Constitute an independent investigative committee to document the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Anbar and submit its findings to the International Criminal Court.

Abdul Ilah Albayaty
Hana Al Bayaty
Ian Douglas
Eman Ahmed Khamas

We call on all to join us, sign and spread this appeal. To endorse, email to:
Abdul Ilah Albayaty is an Iraqi political analyst. Hana Al Bayaty is an author and political activist. Ian Douglas is an independent political writer who has taught politics at universities in the US, UK, Egypt and Palestine.

Nouri's assault on Anbar has not ended violence in Iraq.

Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 629 violent deaths so far this month.



National Iraqi News Agency reports a mortar attack on an al-Musaiyiab (Babylon Province) market has left 17 people dead and sixty-five more injured, and an al-Dujail roadside bombing left 4 Sahwa dead and three more injured.  This afternoon, KPFA's Mark Mericle noted on the newsbreak before Doug Henwood's Behind The News that the death toll in the al-Musaiyiab mortar attack had risen to 22  (click here to stream that newsbreak).



Cleric and movement Moqtada al-Sadr announced his political retirement Saturday.  Tuesday, he delivered a speech which  CounterPunch has posted in full. Of the speech, Mustafa Habib (Niqash) explains:

In order to clarify his decision, al-Sadr then made a televised speech on Tuesday in which he said his decision was irreversible.
Besides criticizing the current government and judiciary in that 11-minute speech, al-Sadr also stressed the importance of participating in the upcoming elections, in order to bring about the change that Iraq needed.
Al-Sadr’s decision was unexpected – most political observers were waiting for a showdown at Iraq’s general elections in April, between the Shiite Muslim Prime Minister, al-Maliki, and other Shiite Muslim leaders like al-Sadr.
And almost immediately various parties gave different reasons as to why al-Sadr might be retiring.
At first some thought it was a tactical move, designed to show how bad things had become. After all, al-Sadr has said he would retire from politics before but then changed his mind.
Some said that al-Sadr was disappointed with those close to him, including politicians in his own party who had recently voted for a law giving local MPs various financial privileges – al-Sadr has always been an advocate of social welfare and has had many supporters from lower income areas like Sadr city, and he was opposed to this law. As was the leading Shiite Muslim authority in the land, the Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who told Iraqis not to vote for those MPs that supported the law.
However this hardly seems enough to make al-Sadr retire: he is powerful enough within his movement that he could dismiss anyone in his party he chose, if they behaved inappropriately.
Others felt it was a good move by al-Sadr, in that he was moving toward a separation of church and state and allowing new political leaders to come forward.

 Sami Moubayed (Gulf News) notes:

Arabs are not used to early retirement. Moqtada’s decision was shocking — to say the least — and has opened a Pandora’s Box for war-torn Iraq. The announcement took the Iraqi political scene by storm. Moqtada is king of the patron-client system in Iraq. Thousands rely on his protection in the complex world of Iraqi politics. Hundreds of his supporters dot the landscape as civil servants, soldiers, officers, teachers, MPs and cabinet ministers. They feel orphaned and vulnerable without him. They are now an easy target for the wide assortment of enemies that Moqtada has made since 2003, ranging from Al Qaida and the Baathists onto current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, who is glad to see the end of Moqtada. Although originally marketed as a prime opponent of Iraqi Sunnis, back in 2005-2006, Moqtada has since evolved rapidly, positioning himself as champion of moderation, coexistence and Sunni rights, in addition to being an ally of secular figures like the former Iraqi premiere, Ayad Allawi.

In the piece, Moubayed wonders what if this resignation is a bluff?  He offers Moqtada might be wanting people to beg him to return.  Moubayed seems unaware that there have been many requests from politicians -- including Ayad Allawi -- for Moqtada to rethink retiring.  In addition, Tuesday,  NINA reported:

The officer of public relations and ceremonies at the office of the leader of the Sadrist movement, Amer al-Husseini stressed that the decision of Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr is irreversible and his followers have to obey this matter without discussion or demonstration .
Al-Husseini statement came after he received dozens of protesters who came from Sadr City to ask their leader to reverse his decision, showing their support.
Husseini told the demonstrators outside the home of cleric Muqtada al- Sadr, "Muqtada al-Sadr appreciates you for coming and values your position and confirms that the decisions made must obey and he insists on it, for the benefit of the people and the nation, and you should not discuss or protest ."

If he was looking to be wooed to return, I don't think it makes a lot of sense for him to order the disperstion of his followers who are beseeching him to return.  Joel Wing (Musings On Iraq) weighs in on Moqtada today and seems to feel similar to Moubayed:

Rather than being an act of disgust at Iraq’s political system, this latest move by Moqtada al-Sadr appears to be a calculated move to prepare his party of this year’s election. Various members of his list have showed their devotion by symbolically retiring with Sadr. Hundreds of his followers have gone out into the streets to display their loyalty. Sadr has told them that they should all vote this year. If he doesn’t reconstitute his list before the April balloting he will most likely tell his movement who to vote for as he did in 2009 when the Sadrists did not run as an official party. He has also made it clear that this year’s election is all about the prime minister. In his speech he made it clear that Maliki is to blame for all of Iraq’s problems. While in 2010 Sadr threw his weight behind the prime minister, which assured him of a second term, this year Moqtada believes that he can make a real challenge to his rule. This was shown after the 2013 provincial vote when Ahrar worked with other parties to shut out Maliki’s State of Law from several of the new local governments. Finally, Sadr’s announcement and subsequent speech has gained all the headlines not only in Iraq, but in the region and internationally. This has given him far more attention than a regular campaign could have. Two months from now observers can see whether this decision paid off or not.