Friday, May 09, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Friday, May 9, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri tries to storm Falluja and fails, a US general is supposed to visit Iraq next week to talk about US forces and weapons, there's a call for the Iraqi elections to be declared fraudulent, and much more.

December 2011 saw the drawdown in Iraq.  The Pentagon used the term and only that term.  The media ran with "withdrawal."  All US troops never left.  Some were transitioned to Kuwait -- where thousands remain.  Some stayed in the country.  Ted Koppell was reporting on this -- for NBC News and NPR -- in December 2011 but it was apparently too much for most to handle.

While thousands remained inside Iraq -- those who would be 'trainers' on weapons purchases, CIA, FBI, Special-Ops, etc -- there's been movement on bringing more in -- in fact more have come but that's been too much for a whorish 'progressive' community to handle, cope with or even recognize.

Let's drop back to yesterday's snapshot for the following:

Gordon Lubold has long covered the Iraq War -- including for the Christian Science Monitor.  He has a post with disturbing news at Foreign Policy -- on the discussions of sending (more) US troops into Iraq:

But the nature of the fight the Maliki government confronts in western Iraq is such that officials say Baghdad is looking not only for better reconnaissance and surveillance capability, but also for more robust, lethal platforms. Iraq has been unwilling to accept American military personnel in the country in any operational form, but the willingness to revisit that policy appears now to be shifting. A spokesman for the Iraqi Embassy declined to comment on the issue of allowing American military personnel into the country to conduct drone operations, but acknowledged that the U.S. and Iraq share a "common enemy" in al Qaeda.
"Iraq's view is that all available tools must be utilized to defeat this threat, and we welcome America's help in enhancing the capabilities we are able to bring to bear," the spokesman said.  

You need to put that with other news because Lubold isn't smart enough to.  There's the fact that all US troops never left Iraq.  There's the fact that Barack sent a brigade of Special-Ops in during the fall of 2012. Tim Arango (New York Times) reported, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."  And let's include the news from the April 25th snapshot:

Mark Hosenball, Warren Strobel, Phil Stewart, Ned Parker, Jason Szep and Ross Colvin (Reuters) report, "The United States is quietly expanding the number of intelligence officers in Iraq and holding urgent meetings in Washington and Baghdad to find ways to counter growing violence by Islamic militants, U.S. government sources said."  It was 1961 when US President John F. Kennedy sent 1364 "advisors" into Vietnam.  The next year, the number was just short of 10,000.  In 1963, the number hit 15,500.  You remember how this ends, right?

If we're all up to speed, at today's State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Jen Psaki, the issue of Iraq came up.

QUESTION: Talking about the drones, Foreign Policy has reported today that Iraqi Government is actively seeking armed drones from the U.S. to combat al-Qaida in Anbar, and it would welcome American military drone operators back in the country to target those militants. Are you in discussions with the Iraqi about having American troops going back to Iraq with the drones?

MS. PSAKI: We are – we have seen, of course, this report. It does not reflect discussions we are having with the Government of Iraq. We are not in discussion with the Iraqi Government about the use of armed, unmanned aerial systems, nor are we considering such options. So it sounds like they need some better sources on that one.

QUESTION: Are you ready to discuss this option in case the Government of Iraq asked for?

MS. PSAKI: We’re not in discussion with it, so I’m not going to – about it, and I’m not going to predict or answer a hypothetical.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. discussing the return of any troops to Iraq to help with its ongoing security challenges?

MS. PSAKI: You’re familiar with the steps we’ve taken. That’s what we’re continuing to implement. As you know, we remain deeply concerned about the increased levels of violence in Iraq and the situation in Anbar. Our assistance has not been limited to the security sphere; we’ve worked on a consistent basis to develop a holistic approach and – with a focus on recruiting local tribal fighters, insuring resources are reaching areas that need them.
We also acknowledge that Iraq will not succeed unless its security forces are well supplied, trained, and equipped. And as you know in here, because we’ve talked about it a bit, we’ve also provided additional assistance, including the delivery of 300 Hellfire missiles, thousands of rounds of tank ammunition, helicopter-fired rockets, machine guns, grenades, flares, sniper rifles, M-16s and M-4 rifles. We also delivered additional Bell IA-407 helicopters late last year, and 10 ScanEagle surveillance platforms. So obviously, our assistance is expansive. I don’t have anything else to predict for you about the future, but that’s not something we’re considering, no.

QUESTION: Has the U.S. expedited the delivery of F-16 to Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: We have talked about that a little bit in here in the past. I don’t think I have any additional specific update for you today.

Who's doing this talking?  One person is said to be gearing up for talks.  Dar Addustour reports that US Gen Lloyd Austin is expected to visit Iraq next week and meet with Nouri to discuss weapons and US forces.

The article also notes Stuart Jones.  The White House has yet to announce US Ambassador to Iraq Robert S. Beecroft is going to become the new Ambassador to Egypt.  That has been reported and Laura Rozen was the first on it (weeks ago) and it's pretty much a given.  Stuart Jones is who Barack would like to replace Beecroft with.

Some in the Iraqi press are confused on this and I don't mean that as a slam.  There are many process issues I get wrong on Iraq and people kindly call and e-mail to let me know that.  US President Barack Obama may name Stuart Jones as the nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq.  That doesn't mean Jones becomes it.  Just as Nouri can only nominate people to serve in his Cabinet and requires Parliament to actually make someone a Cabinet Minister, Barack requires the US Senate's support.  They did not give it -- and would not -- to Brett McGurk which is why Barack had to find a different nominee (Beecroft).  All Iraq News offers a bio of Stuart Jones here.

Kitabat reports the proposed nomination comes a dangerous time for Iraq, when people speak of civil war as a real possibility in Iraq's near future and reminds that in their last meeting (November 1, 2013), Barack told Nouri al-Maliki that Iraq needed the participation of all the blocs in the decision-making process and that the attempts to marginalize the Sunnis and the Kurds needed to cease.

Wednesday, April 30th, Iraqis voted in parliamentary elections. "For the first time, the Iraqis utilized an electronic voting system," Iraq's Ambassador to the US Lukman Faily in a NCUSAR podcast.

He also bragged, "There was not a single security incident in Baghdad."  Why would there be?  Not only were the usual checkpoints maintained, additionals ones were added in Baghdad.  Traffic was banned.  Stores were forced to close.  Baghdad was a ghost town.

That there were no security incidents there?

Why are you bragging?

And why are you boasting of Baghdad?

Baghdad isn't Iraq.  It's just where the failed leaders hide out.

Across Iraq on election day?  Let's go Iraq Body Count:

Wednesday 30 April: 22 killed

Khanaqin: 3 killed by suicide bomber at polling station.
Baiji: 5 by suicide bombers.
Dibis: 4 by IEDs.
Falluja: 2 by shelling.
Muqdadiya: 3 by IED.
Udheim: 2 by IED.
Ramadi: 3 by mortars. 

Is Lukman the Ambassador of Baghdad or is he supposed to represent the country of Iraq?

If it's Iraq, he damn well should have -- but didn't -- note what happened throughout the country.

But, hey, he's a puppet from thug Nouri's party so it's not like we can expect anything but propaganda from him.

Ahead of the elections, Ayad Allawi Tweeted the following:

It's 10 days since the elections and people continue to wait for the results.  The Financial Times of London's correspondent Borzou Daragahi Tweeted the following this week:

election commission says 20% of ballots counted so far; at this rate, two weeks before fully counted 

Supposedly, the Independent High Electoral Commission will announce results May 25th (though they've noted the vast amount of complaints regarding irregularities and alleged violations could push the announcement back).  We're not interested in covering leaks or alleged leaks on vote totals.  The leaks of 2010?  They were false.  There's no reason to believe that the leaks four years later aren't false as well.

For those who just can't seem to let these illusions go, we'll note Ned Parker's Tweet from earlier this week (Ned Parker is now with Reuters):

  • False is also supposed to be rumors that Nouri al-Maliki has made a secret visit to Tehran to plead with Iranian officials for them to back him for a third term as Iraq's prime minister.  Trend News Agency quotes Iran's Deputy Foriegn Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian stating, "Mr. Maliki . . . is the highest-ranking official in Iraq.  His visits to the Islamic Republic of Iran have always been official and public.  No confidential visit has been made to Tehran by Mr. Maliki and any [future] visit will take place within official and legal framework."

    Kitabat reports that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi met with US Ambassador to Iraq Robert Stephen Beecroft today in Baghdad and complained about what is being seen as fraudlent ballot boxes.  The two are said to have discussed the large number of reported violations and that some voting centers did not open their doors.  (On the latter, there have been reports that voting centers in Sunni majority districts turned away all voters for over half the day -- often with the orders coming from Nouri's military -- and when this was reported to the IHEC, the centers that were supposed to open in the morning managed to open by mid-day. al-Nujaifi has been among those making that complaint publicly so it is likely that he would bring that issue up to Beecroft in a face-to-face.)  Struan Stevenson is the President of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq and he writes at The Hill about the elections:

    Now Ayad Allawi, leader of al Iraqiya, has said that 2 million ballot papers are missing, raising deep suspicions that major electoral fraud has taken place. News that all Iraqi police and army personnel were issued with two ballot papers each, one in their camps and the other sent to their homes, has compounded fears that the election was rigged.
    [. . .]
    The UN, US and EU should intervene and declare that this was not a free and fair election. They must not stand back and wash their hands of this affair. The people of Iraq have suffered enough. They need a democratic election that will provide them with a government that can restore freedom, democracy, justice, human rights and women's rights to Iraq. Four more years of corrupt dictatorship by Maliki will be in no-one's interest.

    May 2nd, Kurdish News Network carried accounts of fraud in the voting in northern Iraq.  We'll note journalist Muhammed A. Ahmed and elections observer Chya Khdir's comments:

    “I was attacked by a group of PUK supporters who were in a public uniform and stood in front of Gojar School polling station in Ranya. I had the official IHEC badge and was officially allowed to cover the voting process for Iraq Oil Report, a leading foreign organization that provides business, political and security news and analysis on Iraq‌." Muhammed A. Ahmed, a freelance journalist who covered the elections for Iraq Oil Report.
    “I took my camera out to take a picture of the school when I heard someone say, "take him; he is recording." Around 30 to 40 people came to me and violently grabbed my camera. One of them had a knife. Many of them were recognized PUK intelligence members and Peshmarga. Asaysh intervened. However, instead of detaining these people who were unlawfully stood there to threaten people, Asaysh detained me and deleted my photos.” Ahmed charged. 
    “We were taking food and drink to the staff and observers but the PUK forces hit my head with a revolver,” a Gorran‌'s observer who is badly wounded told KNNC correspondent on the scene. 
    “We as the observers of the political entities having been allowed officially by the IHEC, took food and drink to the staff and workers, but the PUK forces wearing casual clothes harassed and attacked us” Chya Khdir, observer of the election, told KNNC. 

    Iraq Times reports MP Hussein Sharifi, with the Sadr bloc, declared again today that the Sadr position is no on a third term as prime minister for Nouri al-Maliki.  State of Law is Nouri's coalition.  Iraq Times reports State of Law MP Ihsan al-Awadi insisted today that State of Law will not allow Speaker of Parliament al-Nujaifi to hold any position in the next government.

    Mohammed Sabah (Al Mada) reports that the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Ammar al-Hakim met today with cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr and how they state that the prime minister is not shielded from the rule of law and that they oppose Nouri being given a third term.  They dismiss Nouri's claims of forming a government and note that no one bloc or party is expected to have won enough seats in the Parliament to form a government on its own so Iraq will need a power-sharing government and the prime minister will be selected by Shi'ites, by Sunnis and by Kurds.  Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) explains that "the movements of Sadr and Hakim have been clearly trying, since the provincial elections in 2013, to find a balance among the Shiite forces’ alliance to face Maliki’s rise that is happening at their expense in the Shiite street."  And Hamza Mustafa (Asharq Al-Awsat) adds, "Both the Sadrist Movement and the ISCI were highly critical of the prime minister during his second term in office, particularly over his security record. They are now trying to block the coalition endorsing his premiership."

    Dar Addustour columnist As Sheikh notes today his belief that beyond this discussion and others, the need is for Iraq to build and become a nation of citizens.

    Imran Khan (Al Jazeera) offers today:

    By 2006 the SCIRI had morphed into ISCI and then Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim died ‎of cancer in 2009. Ammar al-Hakim took on the leadership of ISCI and a new chapter was born. Hakim the younger had seen the influence of the party wane and sought to reverse that trend. He reached out to all political players and began to change the image of ISCI and build alliances with other religious Shia groups, including traditional rivals like the Sadrists led by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
    In many ways Hakim has the perfect credentials. He has a religious law background and studied in seminaries in Iran where he became a Sayyid or cleric. It's a powerful title which gives him religious authority. He's also from a well-known family. Generations of Hakims have been involved in politics and religion.
    Hakim also has an almost mythical status among his supporters. ‎One Iraqi I asked, Mahmoud, who lives in Baghdad, said: "Hakim is a man who commands respect. He isn't a dirty politician, he is a man of God and he shows us the right path for Iraq. He is our bridge, our guiding light."
    Hakim's style of leadership is also winning him support in the international arena. One Western diplomatic source said: "Hakim is inclusive. He reached out to the youth, to women and that's impressed us. He isn't just talk."
    Others agree. I asked one European diplomat what her embassy thought of Hakim. "We love him" was her reply. Clearly it was meant as a light-hearted comment but in all seriousness it's very difficult to find open critics of Hakim who aren't political rivals or driven by sectarian rage.
    Hakim is a smart operator and under his leadership he has rebuilt ISCI into a very influential and powerful organisation. Before last month's elections he launched the citizen coalition with a simple and clear message that Iraq needs reform, both country-wide and throughout government. Many politicians flocked to his call and his bloc is very powerful. So then, why is this young, charismatic and well respected ‎man not the leader of Iraq?

    Nouri al-Maliki's four months of killing civilians in Falluja in what is collective punishment (a legally defined War Crime) gets far less attention.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes the assault today increased as Nouri attempts to 'retake' Falluja (when was Nouri ever in charge of Falluja?).  Tawfeeq notes, "About 700,000 people live in Falluja, a Sunni city in Anbar province west of Baghdad. More than 300 people, most of whom are civilians, have been killed in Falluja since the beginning of the year."  NINA notes the military's shelling of residential neighborhoods today left 7 civilians dead and thirteen more injured.  Wael Grace (Al Mada) speaks to Falluja General Hospital's Dr. Ahmed Chami who states 310 civilians have been killed and 1322 injured in the last months from the military shelling residential neighborhoods.

    Friday began with news of an assault.  Press TV reported, "Iraqi army and tribal fighters have launched an operation to retake militant-held areas in the city of Fallujah in Anbar province."  JC Finley (UPI) puts it this way, "Iraq's Ministry of Defense announced Friday that a full-scale military operation is underway in the embattled Sunni city of Fallujah."  How'd that turn out for Nouri?

  • Nouri always gets excited when he can wound or kill a Sunni child.

    So maybe the day's a success for that?

    Maybe.  But even Nouri may have a difficult time clutching to that alone.

    World Tribune reports, "The sources said ISIL led tribal forces in expelling the last bastion of Iraq Army troops and pro-government militias from the city, located in the Anbar province." Kitabat notes it was a failed military operation.

    Another failure for Nouri.  His list of failures continues to grow.  He began his assault on Anbar Province December 30th.  He kept avoiding Falluja.  His forces would surround it.  But actually entering it?

    Nouri was a coward.  But a smart coward because he couldn't win by storming the city.  As Kitabat notes, he tried to storm it today.  Nouri pretended for weeks and weeks that he was seeking other means.  He wasn't.  But he was too chicken to call for the attack until today.  And he was too chicken to go to Falluja.  Remember when he attacked Basra in 2008?  He went there. He said, as commander in chief, it was his duty to be there.

    But it's not his duty to be in Falluja for this attack?

    Well it's different.

    See, in 2008, he went to Basra with US forces to protect him.  That's not a possibility right now for Falluja (though maybe he and Gen Lloyd Austin can work out something with regards to that).

    In other violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports 4 Yezidis were shot dead in Karanah Village, an al-Qayyarah roadside bombing left 3 police members dead and two more injured, a Tammooz roadside bombing left three police members injured, a Tikrit roadside bombing and armed attack left 3 police members dead and one police officer injured, and Joint Operations Command announced they killed 2 suspects.

    Iraq War veteran Matt Maupin who was captured April 9, 2004. In a briefs roundup, March 30th, 2008, in a briefs round up of various news, the Washington Post noted:

    The father of a soldier listed as missing-captured in Iraq since 2004 says the military has informed him that his son's remains were found in Iraq.
    Keith Maupin said that an Army general told him Sunday that DNA was used to identify the remains of his son, Sgt. Keith Matthew Maupin, who went by "Matt."
    Matt Maupin was a 20-year-old private first class when he was captured April 9, 2004, after his fuel convoy was ambushed west of Baghdad. Arabic television network al-Jazeera aired a videotape a week later showing Maupin sitting on the floor surrounded by five masked men holding automatic rifles.

    Today, Amanda Lee Myers (AP) reports that a trial date has been set in Iraq for next Tuesday for an Iraqi whom Lt Col Alayne Conway states has "confessed to killing Maupin."  An unnamed Iraqi judge states the confession took place in 2009 and led to a conviction and sentence of death; however, the conviction's set aside or reversed as a result of some paperwork issue resulting in the need for a new trial.

    Central Illinois' 31 News (link is video and text) reports Matt's father Keith Maupin "is traveling to the Pentagon on Monday to learn more about the confession." Jessica Jerreat (Daily Mail) adds this will involve Keith Maupin speaking "to the [Iraqi] judge through a translator."

    Lastly, I like Hilda Solis, former Secretary of Labor.  That means when you're in hot water, we don't look the other way.  I like Sandy Berger and called him out over his stuffing classified documents into his pants to smuggle them out of a secure room.  Hilda has stepped down as Secretary of Labor and is now running to be elected a Los Angeles County supervisor.  She's also the subject of a criminal investigation.  Paul Pringle and Abby Sewell (Los Angeles Times) report:

    A letter sent last year to Solis by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency that investigates allegations of administrative violations of fundraising rules by federal officials, said it began an inquiry after receiving a complaint that Solis had solicited a donation from a Labor Department employee. According to the letter, the complaint alleged that in March 2012, Solis "left a voicemail message on a subordinate employee's government-issued Blackberry in which you asked the employee to contribute toward and assist with organizing others to attend a fundraiser for the President's reelection campaign."
    Solis has declined to comment on the investigation, but a spokesman reiterated Friday that she believes she has done nothing wrong.

    I hope Solis did nothing wrong.

    mushreq abbas