Monday, April 21, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Monday, April 21, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, campaign season heat up in Iraq, rumors swirl that Nouri's SWAT forces are robbing citizens of electronic voting cards, the need for international observers is noted, rumors repeat of Jalal Talabani's alleged recovery and that he's allegedly returning 'soon,' Nouri continues to attack Falluja civlians, and much more.

April 30th, Iraq is supposed to hold parliamentary elections.  Osama al-Khafaji and Ghassan Hamid (Alsumaria) report that there are 9032 candidates competing for 328 seats. Some of those candidates are female.  Prashant Rao (AFP) notes:

Despite a constitutional requirement that a quarter of all MPs be women, Iraq lags on key indicators such as female employment and literacy, and there is a bill before parliament that opponents say dramatically curtails women’s rights.
Also at issue ahead of 30 April elections are high levels of violence against women, discrimination at the workplace and poor school attendance.
“I did not expect that we will fight for women’s rights in this country,” said Inam Abdul Majed, a television news presenter and an election hopeful running in Baghdad. “I wanted to fight for better education, better services, better life conditions… But we are in this big trouble now, and it is a primary problem to be solved.”

Omar al-Jaffal (Al-Monitor) also covers the topic of female candidates and he notes:

Iraq’s Electoral Law requires the blocs participating in the elections to have at least one woman candidate for every three male candidates, which means at least 25% of all candidates should be women. The blocs usually have to search for women to fill this quota. However, the current electoral session stands out, due to the participation of several women academics, journalists and civil society activists. Most of them have a vision for change, unlike most participating male candidates who do not even have an electoral program.
Contrary to the previous parliamentary terms, the current term is characterized by the candidacy of many women expressing more tolerance, openness and social and political awareness, be it through their clothing, topics or agenda. Many Iraqis have been talking about this on social media sites, and the current electoral session is bound to witness a unique parliamentary presence for Iraqi women.

Iraqi women are strong and have to be because of the way their country is attacked and, especially sadly, because of the way so many people -- some men as well as some women -- work overtime to strip Iraqi women of their rights.  That includes Nouri al-Maliki.  It is astounding that he is not called out for being the man who refused to name a woman to his Cabinet in January 2011 (he even had Hoshyar Zebari briefly hold the spot as Minister of the Ministry of Women's Affairs -- that would Mr. Hoshyar Zebari for those unfamiliar with the Minister of Foreign Affairs).  From the December 22, 2010 snapshot:

Turning to Iraq, Liz Sly and Aaron Davis (Washington Post) note, "A special gathering of the nation's parliament endorsed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for a second term in office, with lawmakers then voting one by one for 31 of the eventual 42 ministers who will be in his cabinet." AFP notes that all but one is a man, Bushra Hussein Saleh being the sole woman in the Cabinet. And they quote Kurdish MP Ala Talabani stating, "We congratulate the government, whose birth required eight months, but at the same time we are very depressed when we see the number of women chosen to head the ministries. Today, democracy was decapitated by sexism. The absence of women is a mark of disdain and is contrary to several articles of the constitution. I suggest to Mr Maliki to even choose a man for the ministry of women's rights, as you do not have confidence in women." Ala Talabani is the niece of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Imran Ali (Womens Views On News) reminds, "The new constitution stipulates that a quarter of the members of parliament be women and prohibits gender discrimination." Apparently concern about representation doesn't apply to the Cabinet (and, no, Nouri's attempts at offering excuses for the huge gender imbalance do not fly).

Zainab Salbi (CNN) made this point again last year, "On the political front, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has not appointed a single woman to a senior cabinet position, despite the fact women are guaranteed 25% of the seats in parliament by the constitution. The Ministry of Women's Affairs, a poorly-funded and mostly ceremonial department, is the lone ministry headed up by a woman."  When Nouri nominated his cabinet members he had 42 slots to fill (because he increased it from 31 in order to bribe people into supporting him).  He didn't fill all of them and we'll come back to that later in the snapshot.  But he couldn't think of one woman.

And when he finally found a woman he could approve of and nominate to head the Ministry of Women's Affairs?  She was a gender traitor:  Dr. Ibtihal Kassid.  Al Mada reported on her in 2012.  She was the lovely lass, you may remember, who attacked equality, stated it was wrong and it "harms women."  So instead of defending the rights women in Iraq have by law, she spent her time trying to devise and then enforce a dress code for women -- until Iraqi women took to the streets to let her know just how insulting her actions were.  She also gave interviews defending Nouri's Cabinet composition -- never noting that his 2006 Cabinet had four women.  She gave interviews expressing alarm over women's rights in the KRG -- it was more trash from the trashy Kassid as she (a) tried to deflect from what she and Nouri were doing and (b) joined him in his 2012 efforts to demonize the KRG (the Kurdistan Regional Government is the four -- they upped it to four -- provinces in northern Iraq -- they are semi-autonomous, their president is Massoud Barzani).  

A great deal of what Ibithal Kassid did in the last three years can be seen as prepping the public for an offensive bill.  Nouri forwarded it to Parliament.  There is confusion over its been withdrawn or not.  (Last week, different articles said different things.) On Wednesday's KPFA broadcast of Voices of the Middle East and North Africa, the controversial bill was discussed and it was stated that it had been pulled for now.  What's the bill?

Shahram Aghamir: Last month the Iraqi Cabinet approved a new personal status legislation called the Ja'fari law which is named after the sixth Shi'ite Imam, Ja'far al-Sadiq who established a school of jurisprudence in Medina in the 8th century.  This legislation has created an uproar among Iraqi women's rights and the civil rights community.  If approved, the Ja'fari law will abolish the current Personal Status Law 188 which is considered one of the most progressive in the Arab world.  The new law will roll back the rights of women in marriage, divorce and child custody as well as inheritance.  It will lower the age of marriage for girls from 18 to 9 and boys to 15.  Who has initially proposed the law and what are the implications of this law for Iraqi women?  Malihe spoke with Iraqi women's rights activist Basma al-Khateeb who volunteers with Iraq's 1st Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Shadow Report Coalition as an expert and a trainer.

(We included an excerpt of the discussion in last Thursday's snapshot, FYI,)

Of the proposed law, Kevin Li (Latin Post) writes, "Women aren't the only Iraqis whose rights would be curtailed under the proposed law. Under article 63 of the law,  marry non-Muslims; those relationships would only be allowed for a temporary marriage for sexual pleasure."  Temporary marriage for sexual pleasure?  Yeah, I kind of think that's really more about discriminating against women still.

Hanaa Edwar is an Iraqi activist who we frequently note.  Women, Peace and Security offers this bio of Hanaa:

Hanaa Edwar is the General Secretary of the Iraqi Al-Amal Association (IAA)-a non-governmental organization, established in 1992, dedicated to improving the socioeconomic conditions of the Iraqi people. She is a founder of the Iraqi Women’s Network and serves on its Coordination Committee and is also a member of the High Preparatory Committee for National Congress of Iraq and the Presidential Committee of “The Iraqi Council for Peace & Solidarity.”
Ms. Edwar participated in and led two successful campaigns in Iraq: the first demanding a repealing of order 137, aimed at nullifying the Family Law, issued by the Iraqi Governing Council and the second working to ensure a quota for women in decision-making positions. She has worked to organize several workshops for capacity building for Iraqi civil society groups, including the workshop on Women’s Political Electoral Participation in Iraq. Ms. Edwar has been working for many years on issues of violence against women. She was one of the founders of Arab Women’s Court in Beirut in 1996, with the aim of combating violence against women. In 2002, she founded “Beit Khanzad”, a shelter in Erbil for women victims of violence.

Ms. Edwar currently serves on the board of “ASUDA”, an NGO based in Sulaimaniya City Iraq that acts against violence against women. She was a member of the Secretariat of the Iraqi Woman’s League (IWL), the oldest Iraqi women’s organization, founded in 1952. She is also a member of the Advisory Committee for Woman’s Affairs in Iraq. Ms. Edwar has participated in many international conferences and gatherings such as International Women’s Conference in Mexico 1975, International Women’s Forums Copenhagen 1980 and Nairobi 1985 and the World Conference Against Racism in Durban 2001.

The Institute for Inclusive Security adds, "Ms. Edwar received a degree in law from Baghdad University in 1967."  Australian Arab Women's Dialogue explains, "In December 2011, the UN Mission in Iraq awarded her the appreciation certificate of Human Rights Defender for her work in promoting human rights in Iraq." International Civil Society Action Network notes she won the International Peace Bureau's Sean McBride Peace Prize in 2011 and was "named a Takreem Laureate on November 14, 2013."

Hanaa Edwar's work and accomplishments have made her a keen observer of Iraqi politics.  Dexter Filkins (The New Yorker) notes:

The recent violence, along with Maliki’s growing authoritarianism, has prompted many to imagine the future in the darkest terms. Hanaa Edwar, who runs a nonprofit called Al-Amal (Hope), told me over tea at her home that she had opposed the American invasion, even though she loathed Saddam Hussein. “I thought it was an Iraqi issue, not an American one,” she said. Still, the Americans could not have dreamed of a better friend. Threatened by insurgents and harassed by the government, Edwar built an organization that, among other things, trains women to campaign for elected office. She is proud of her work but ashamed of the Iraq that Maliki and his American sponsors have made. She recited a list of woes: “Divisions among people. The failure of public services. The corruption. The human-rights abuses. The judicial system? There is no judicial system, really. We are losing everything.”
Three years ago, four pro-democracy demonstrators were arrested in Baghdad, and Maliki publicly described them as “criminals and killers.” Edwar strode up to him at a conference and unfurled a large photograph of the group. “Criminals and killers?” she said. “We have sacrificed thousands of people.”
Wakhrooha,” Maliki barked to his aides: Take her away.
I asked Edwar about the elections, whether change might save the country. She looked at me with tired eyes. “We are going into—how do you say it?” she said.
“The abyss?” a colleague offered.

“Yes—the abyss,” Edwar said. “Yes, yes, yes.”

The abyss?

Duraid Salman and Tarek Ammar (Alsumaria) report that the Independent High Electoral Commission notes that 85% of the new electronic cards that will be required for voting have been distributed.  85% and the elections are nine days away?  That doesn't impress.  And that's before we factor in Duraid Salman's report for Alsumaria about allegations that Nouri's SWAT forces are forcing voters in Diyala Province to hand over their election cards.  Meanwhile, the PUK stands accused of misleading voters.  Kirkuk Now reports, "The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the head of their list gave false information to the voters. The other parties reacted by claiming that the PUK is only trying to collect votes even under false pretenses."

PUK?  That's a political party.  If it were last August, we'd be saying it's one of the two main political parties in the Kurdistan Region -- the way, in the US, you have the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. September 30th, that all changed with provincial elections:

In other news, the KRG held provincial elections Saturday, September 21st.  Iraq has 18 provinces.  Three of them are in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government.  As of last week 17 of the provinces had voted.  Only disputed Kirkuk was prevented from voting.   The exit polling for last week's elections predicted an upset for second place.  Early counts indicate that is correct.  Kamal Chomani (Foreign Policy) notes:

On September 21, Iraqi Kurdistan held [provincial] elections, which for the first time in 22 years, have fundamentally altered the region's political landscape. Almost 3 million voters participated in the elections, with a total of 1,129 candidates competing for 111 parliamentary seats. While official results have been delayed by allegations of fraud, what the elections have made abundantly clear is the sweeping dissatisfaction with the Kurdistan Regional Government.
From its emergence in 1991, the Kurdish autonomous region in Iraq has been ruled by an alliance of two parties: the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), led by Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), headed by Iraq's ailing President Jalal Talabani. This duopoly was broken on September 21, when Talabani's party appeared to hemmorage votes to the Gorran (Change) Movement, which split from the PUK in 2009. Preliminary results announced by the Independent High Electoral Commission on Sunday in which the KDP got 71,9004 votes, Gorran 44,6095 votes, PUK 33,2386 votes, Islamic Union 17,8681 votes, and Islamic Group 11,3260 votes. Eleven seats are reserved for minorities and religious sects. Gorran's jump to the second-biggest party in the parliament marks a new era in Kurdish politics. 

Isabel Coles and Sonya Hepinstall (Reuters) observed Saturday, "With 95 percent of the votes from the September 21 election counted, the KDP had 719,004 votes, Gorran had 446,095 and the PUK was in third place with 323,827.  Two Islamic parties placed fourth and fifth, with nearly 300,000 votes between them, followed by more than a dozen smaller groups."

That was apparently shocking.  Use the September 30th link and go through the snapshot for some of the shocked reaction.

Not everyone was shocked to see the PUK go down in flames.  The day before the elections, in the September 20th snapshot, we noted:

If the PUK does less well than in 2009, there will be complaining.  If the PUK does really bad, there will be outrage.   The one who will face the most criticism may be First Lady of Iraq Hero Ibrahim Ahmed who has been reluctant to heed the advice of PUK leaders and assume the presidency in her husband's absence.  Could she?  Yes.  In the plan they outlined, Hero would not be "President Hero," she would be carrying out the will of her husband while he remains in Germany.  She would be voting by proxy.  She has refused that (just as she refused to take over the position outright) arguing that to do so would leave the impression that Jalal was unable to do his job.
She's correct people would assume that.  But Jalal has now been out of the country for nine months.  Iraq's been without a president for nine months.  Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi's recent revelation that he was refused when he attempted to visit Jalal in the hospital last April does not bode well for Jalal's health or his stature.  And it really makes the point for the posters in Arabic social media who compared the
May 18th photos of 'healthy' Jalal to Weekend At Bernies. (In Weekend At Bernies, two men use Bernie's corpse to pretend Bernie's still alive.)
If  Hero has the most to lose in tomorrow's vote, the one with the most to gain from the PUK suffering a big loss is Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari who has wanted to grab the Iraqi presidency for some time and attempted a move right after Jalal's stroke but was rebuffed by those in party leadership loyal to Jalal and Hero.
Credit to Prashant Rao for covering the fact that Jalal's absence may negatively impact the PUK vote tomorrow but is no one going to run through what that means?  Probably not.  It appears AFP is the only western media outlet that's going to report on the KRG elections from inside the Kurdistan Region.

And as we expected, it was Hero who paid the price.  She was the one who was criticized, she was the one who was forced to resign.

They should have ousted her husband.  But he'd avoided them the entire year.  Why?

December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 following Jalal's argument with Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot).  Jalal was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.

He was the head of the PUK (he still is) and they had provincial elections and needed to meet with him for strategy but they were prevented from visiting him, they were refused.  His family ordered his image be used in campaign material.  That apparently didn't go over well with voters.

Having suffered that humiliating defeat just months ago, being sidelined by Goran, how will they do in parliamentary elections?

Last week were the rumors of mass defections from the PUK.

They were true, the rumors.  Ghassan Hamid and Mohammed Shafiq (Alsumaria) report that the Governor of Kirkuk (he's been very busy today) acknowledged there have been defections but lower-level ones, no one in leadership, the governor states, has withdrawn. And, he offers, Jalal remains the leader of the party.

So don't expect PUK to get the most votes of the Kurdish parties running in the parliamentary elections nine days from now.

Tarek Ammar (Alsumaria) reports that Kirkuk Governor Najmiddin Karim notes that he is in contact with Jalal's medical team and Jalal is recovering and will be home soon.  Soon?  They've been making this claim since December 2012.  However, if they could Jalal into the country on April 29th, it might give them a little bump at the polls.  (If Jalal could actually speak -- many don't believe he can due to the stroke -- and could do so on camera, they might get a sizable bump.)

What is known is that Alsumaria reports Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi met today with the US Ambassador to Iraq Robert Beecroft and the two discussed the need for transparency in the upcoming elections and the need for international observers."

Alsumaria notes Iraqiya head Ayad Allawi told Sky News that Iran needs to stop interfering in Iraq's elections.

Chief thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki is seeking a third term.  Othman Ali (Daily Sabah) explains:

Both Sunni Arabs leaders and Kurds have already signaled that they do not trust Maliki and are unwilling to submit to his centralist and authoritarian tendencies. If Maliki's re-election scenario exists, he will continue his marginalization of Sunni Arabs and even intensify the ongoing sectarian cleansing in Baghdad and several other provinces. This will drive Sunni Arabs into the arms of militant Sunni groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and will greatly weaken pro-Turkey moderate Arab leaders. Besides, the already deadlocked relations with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over the export of oil will take a turn for the worst; the KRG will drift further away from Iraq.
Recently, Masud Barzani stated to al-Hayat daily that he feels the political process has reached a dead end and he sees no hope for democracy with Maliki returning to power. His statement that "Kurds may resort to a referendum to redefine the relations with Baghdad and might take other options" is an implicit threat to declare independence. Barzani was also quoted as saying that Kurds feel Iraq's federalist constitution has been seriously compromised by Maliki. Therefore, the KRG wants to redefine relations with Baghdad on the basis of a confederation.

Alsumaria reports KRG President Massoud Barzani met in Erbil with a delegation from the US Embassy in Baghdad today and declared that the security crisis in Iraq has reached a critical stage and that the security crisis stems from the ongoing political process.  NINA notes:

A statement by the presidency of the Region, today said that Barzani met with a delegation from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, headed by an official Office of Security Cooperation Gen. Bednarek , which included the U.S. Consul in Erbil and a number of officials and military advisers at the U.S. embassy .
The statement quoted Barzani as saying that the security situation in Iraq has reached a serious stage, and expressed hope that the election results will contribute in putting an end to the security problems in Iraq.

Barzani is correct.  In as few words as possible, let's review.  The 2010 parliamentary elections saw Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya beat Nouri's State of Law.  The US government made the decision to back the Bully Boy Bush-installed Nouri al-Maliki (despite his participation, while an exile in Iran, in attacks on US facilities) for a second term.  The voters had spoken.  How to give Nouri a second term?  Go around the Constitution with a contract.  The Erbil Agreement ended the 8-month stalemate in November 2010 and gave Nouri a second term in a contract the political leaders signed off on only because it guaranteed them certain things.  Nouri used the contract to get his second term and then stalled on implementing his parts of the deal.  By the summer of 2011, the Kurds, Iraqiya and movement leader and cleric Moqtada al-Sadr were publicly calling for him to hold up his end of the bargain.  The White House looked the other way and pretended they hadn't backed the contract, they hadn't brokered it and that they hadn't promised it had the full backing of the US government.

This is where it all falls apart -- actually, it fell apart when the US government refused to back the Iraqi people and democracy.

But Nouri used the contract to get a second term.

This meant wasn't bound by the conditions of the Constitution.

The way it's supposed to work is that the President of Iraq names someone a prime minister-designate and that person then has 30 days to form a Cabinet.

Not a partial.

It is the only thing the designate has to accomplish to become prime minister: create his or her Cabinet (which means nominating people to head the ministries and get Parliament to vote in approval of those nominations).

Nouri didn't do that.

Back in July of 2012, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "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."   And he never did.

He never did.

Violence has increased in Iraq and Nouri's been without a Minister of Defense, a Minister of Interior (the position is over the national police) and a Minister of National Security.

As violence rocks Iraq daily, don't you think Iraq could have used people in those posts?

Let's review what Iraqi journalist Laith Hammoudi pointed out last month at the Institute For War & Peace Reporting:

The bloodshed peaked in 2007-08. Many analysts cite the 2006 attack on the Shia shrine at Samarra as a start-date for this wave of violence. Thousands of people were killed and “disappeared” during this period, while tens of thousands counted themselves lucky just to have lost money and property rather than their lives.
From the end of 2007, the level of violence dropped significantly as Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki sent in the military to crush insurgent groups, starting with Basra in the south and moving up to Nineveh in the north.

After a lull, the bloodshed took off again in 2011. The rate of attacks spiraled especially in the last five months of 2013, with a spate of car bombings that killed hundreds. These attacks have taken place in every province, but are most concentrated in Shia-majority urban centres.

Laith Hammoudi knows what he's writing about.  And if you do the timeline, you're left with the reality that maybe the violence wouldn't have increased in 2011 (and continued to increase since) if the country had a prime minister who could get off his lazy and paranoid ass and nominate people to be the Minister of Defense, the Minister of Interior and the Minister of National Security.

Violence increased with those positions empty.  Nouri should be called out for that.  He should also be called out for an entire term where those positions have remained vacant.  He is a complete failure.

To ensure that this isn't the topic, he attacks Sunnis.  His favorite things is to bomb residential neighborhoods in Falluja -- War Crimes as he utilizes collective punishment.  These attacks continue. Alsumaria notes his bombing of Falluja's residential areas today has left 1 civilian dead and five more injured.

Nouri's War Crimes are only part of the portrait of violence today.  National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 taxi driver was shot dead in Hamrin, a Latifya shooting left 1 person dead and another injured, a roadside bombing in a "village north of Baquba" left two people injured, a Shirqat battle left 1 soldier and 5 rebels dead, a suicide bomber "at the northern entrance of Wasit province" took his own life and the lives of 21 other people ("police and civilians"), security sources say they killed 7 suspects in Jorfis-Sakhar, 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Mosul and another was left injured, security sources say they shot dead 6 suspects in Ramadi, security sources say they shot dead 20 suspects in all of Anbar Province today, a Mahalbiya car bombing killed 1 Iraqi soldier and left two more injured, Baghdad Operations Command state they killed 9 suspects, 1 person was shot dead in Basra, a Qadisiyah roadside bombing left 1 teacher dead and four people injured, a Karrada Dakhel suicide bomber targeted a cafe and took his own life and the lives of 3 other people (twelve more were left injured), and a suicide car bomber took his own life and the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers at an Almadain military checkpoint (five more people were injured).  All Iraq News adds a Dijail bombing left two farmers injured, and 1 corpse was discover in Beiji, dumped in the Tigris River, "shot in head."  Alsumaria reports that one security officer who works for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (the party of KRG President Massoud Barzani) was injured when assailants shot up his moving car, a Qadisiyah roadside bombing left two police members injured, and a Sadr City bombing left 4 dead and eleven injured. NINA notes the tolls increased on the Sadr City bombing: 5 dead and fourteen injured.

Margaret Griffis ( counts 79 dead and 112 injured on Sunday.  Yesterday was the Christian holiday of Easter. The Latin American Herald Tribune notes that Pope Francis issued a call, "The 77-year-old pope urged people to work toward reconciliation to end conflicts such as the ones in Syria, Ukraine, Iraq, the Central African Republic and Venezuela."  All Iraq News adds that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi issued a statement, "I would like to congratulate the Christians on Easter and wish them to be safe and live in prosperity.  We assure to our Christian brothers that they are an important part of the Iraqi people and active in preserving its unity and they also represent real partners in sustaining security and stability in Iraq."

Al Jazeera notes Sunday's "attacks included a coordinated assault on a private Shia college in Baghdad in which a suicide bomber with an explosives belt attacked the main gate while three militants attacked the back gate of the college. Four policemen and one teacher were killed and 18 other people were wounded."  Belfast Telegraph explains, "The dramatic assault on the college happened in Baghdad's eastern district of Ur."  The United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq issued the following:

Baghdad, April 21, 2014 – The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG), Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, denounced the suicide attack on the Imam Kadhim University which took place yesterday in Baghdad. 
“This is yet another example of sectarian based violence that the people of this country need to fight in order to bring this country to tranquility, and it is happening at a time when the Iraqi people are preparing to go to the polls in a few days”, Mr. Mladenov said. 
"The target has been selected to incite sectarian hatred, with utter disregard for human life and religious values", added Mladenov. 
“What happened today can only be described as a vicious and cowardly attack on innocent civilians”, the SRSG added. 

“I would like to offer my condolences to the families of those who died and wish the injured a speedy recovery”, the UN Envoy said. 

Let's move over to the US and drop back to the March 6th snapshot:

Tom Brune (Newsday) reports, "Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's bill to fundamentally revamp the military justice system for sexual assault victims hit a wall Thursday when it failed to advance in a procedural vote.  An unusually bipartisan majority in the Senate voted 55-45 to break a filibuster of her bill, but that fell short of the 60 votes needed to clear it for a final vote. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) lost two co-sponsors and couldn't win over undecided senators."  Donna Cassata (AP) points out, "Conservative Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky backed her effort, while the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, opposed the measure."

And let's note the statement Senator Gillibrand's office issued:

March 6, 2014

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand delivered the following remarks Thursday following the vote on the bipartisan Military Justice Improvement Act, which despite having the support of a bipartisan majority of the Senate, fell five votes shy of breaking a filibuster.

Senator Gillibrand’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

I want to first thank my colleagues who stood so strong and united in this effort from the very beginning. Your leadership truly made the difference to gain the support of a majority of the Senate.

From the very beginning – this was never about being a Democratic idea or a Republican idea. It was just the right thing to do – that people of good faith from both parties could unite around.

And I want to thank the retired Generals, former commanders and veterans of every rank for making their voices heard – to make the military they love so dear as strong as it can be.

And I want to especially thank all the survivors. We owe our gratitude to the brave survivors who, despite being betrayed by their chain of command, continue to serve their country by fighting for a justice system that will help make sure no one else suffers the same tragedy they did. Their struggles, sacrifice and courage inspire me every day.

They may not wear the uniform anymore, but they believe so strongly in these reforms that for a full year now, they marched the halls of this Congress, reliving the horror they endured, telling their stories, in hopes that no one else who serves our country has to suffer as they did.

Tragically, today the Senate failed them. Despite earning the support of the majority of the Senate, we fell five votes short of overcoming the 60-vote filibuster threshold. But we will not walk away, we will continue to work harder than ever in the coming year to strengthen our military.

Without a doubt, with the National Defense bill we passed, and Senator McCaskill’s Victims Protection Act, we have taken good steps to stand up for victims, and hold offenders accountable.

But we have not taken a step far enough. We know the deck is stacked against victims of sexual assault in the military, and today, we saw the same in the halls of Congress.

For two full decades, since Dick Cheney served as the Defense Secretary during the Tailhook scandal that shook the military and shocked the nation, we’ve heard the same thing: “zero tolerance” to sexual assault in the military.

But the truth is in the results, and that’s “zero accountability.”

I always hoped we could do the right thing here – and deliver a military justice system that is free from bias and conflict of interest – a military justice system that is worthy of the brave men and women who fight for us.

But today the Senate turned its back on a majority of its members.

As painful as today’s vote is, our struggle on behalf of the brave men and women who serve in our military will go on. We owe so much to those who bravely serve our country, and I will never quit on them.

For the men and women who sign up to serve our country for all the right reasons – only to be twice betrayed by their chain of command – if they can find the courage to make their voices heard to strengthen the military they hold so dear– we have to keep up this fight.

We will continue to the fight for justice and accountability. That is our duty.

There are some developments with Gillbrand's bill.  Sarah Blum (OpEd News) reports:

 Senator Gillibrand plans to bring her Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) back to the floor of the Senate this month. She currently has 53 co-sponsors and is looking for seven more. With the confirmation of Senator Max Baucus of Montana as our new Ambassador to China, we may see John Walsh, the Lt. Governor of Montana, appointed to the vacant Baucus seat. John Walsh is an Iraq veteran with 33 years experience in the Montana National Guard and is running for that seat, since Baucus announced his retirement from the Senate. In an Op Ed published by The Hill, Lt. Governor Walsh spoke out in support of Gillibrand's MJIA and said, "For generations, too many military leaders have believed that removing these responsibilities from commanders would somehow undermine their authority on other matters. I'm confident that is not the case."
Our military and members of the Senate have been fighting against the very thing that can end this culture of abuse-- taking these cases out of the chain of command. Sexual assault cases are complicated, messy, and pose a serious conflict of interest for commanders. That conflict is evident in the Garry Trudeau's cartoon and in the military's own surveys which state that commanders were more interested in their own careers than the best interests of their soldiers. It is clear, from what I learned and wrote in my book Women Under Fire: Abuse in the Military , that commanders career self interests and the protection and promotion of perpetrators are far more important to them than justice for women in the military. [ here; The Secretary Of The Army's Senior Review Panel Report On Sexual Harassment (Vol. 2) Pages 1 - Annex ]

Commanders have a big job to do in the military and dealing with sexual assault cases is not only unnecessary, but also undesirable.   Let them do the job they do best--command their troops unhindered by conflict of interest. Why are they holding onto authority in sexual assault cases? I vehemently urge them to stop clinging to this level of control, let it go and instead be a positive model for courage, honor, and accountability. Have the courage to stand up for justice rather than fight to maintain an ugly culture that serves no one. Restore honor to a military that has been plagued with sexual assault scandals and whose image was irreparably tarnished. And most important of all-- be accountable for what you have created and fostered--demonstrate that you as an institution, can be as accountable as the soldiers you command and expect accountability from.    

Lastly, this from Eric Zuesse (OpEd News):

On April 20th, Sabrina Siddiqui headlined at Huffington Post,  "Bob Corker: 'Assad Was Wise' To Kill 1,200 With Chemical Weapons And 'Embarrass' The U.S." She didn't challenge the veracity of the Obama Administration's (and Republican Senator Corker's) charge that the sarin gas attack came from Assad's forces instead of from jihadist rebels who were trying to oust Assad. But, evil though Assad is, that charge against him is a lie, which was definitively nailed down as such, by Seymour Hersh, on April 4th headlining at the London Review of Books"The Red Line and the Rat Line:  Seymour Hersh on Obama, Erdogan, and the Syrian Rebels." The gas attack was perpetrated by Turkish Prime Minister Recip Erdogan's allies the jihadist al-Nusra rebels, who are allied in Syria with Al Qaeda, against Assad.
Earlier reports that had raised questions about Obama's lies on this matter were "George Washington" headlining 17 January 2014 at his blog, "Weapons Inspectors: Syrian Chemical Weapons Fired from Rebel-Held Territory"; [. . .]  and, even earlier, Matthew Schofield at McClatchy Newspapers on 21 August 2013, headlining, "New Analysis of Rocket Used in Syria Chemical Attack Undercuts U.S. Claims." The U.S. major "news" media have played along with the Obama lies on this (as on some other matters), just as they did with George W. Bush's lies about "Saddam's WMD" that didn't even exist, and that hadn't existed since 1998 when they were all destroyed (as I documented in my 2004 book, Iraq War: The Truth).

I've pulled a link and credit.  It's to the man Mike refers to as "nutless" and that's because the man can't call out Barack so Zuesse's claim that "nutless" has "raised questions about Obama's lies" are actually incorrect. What "nutless" has done is blame everyone but Barack and he's done that for years now.  I'm sure Mike will write about it tonight at his site.