Monday, June 16, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Monday, June 16, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, another city in Iraq falls to rebels, whores come out to pretend like The Erbil Agreement never happened (they're trying to cover for Barack), John Kerry floats the US and Iranian governments working together, and much more.

It wasn't that long ago, Marc A. Thiessen (Washington Post) reminds, that the White House was hailing the 'success' of Iraq, "In 2011, the situation in Iraq was so good that the Obama administration was actually trying to take credit for it, with Vice President Joe Biden declaring that Iraq 'could be one of the great achievements of this administration'.”

Why stop with Joe Biden?  It was US President Barack Obama who spoke at Fort Bragg December 14, 2011 and declared, "Now, Iraq is not a perfect place.  It has many challenges ahead.  But we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people."

Or how about we go more current?

Remember this?


Remember that?

Maybe this will jog memories.  After the meet-up above took place,  Former US Ambassador Marc Ginsberg pointed out at The Huffington Post:

By most accounts Iraq is heading toward an unchecked meltdown, and Maliki would like us to believe he deserves a red carpet welcome as the innocent plaintiff in the upheavals he created, not as the felonious defendant he should be adjudged.
And to top off his disastrous management of Iraq, he wants Washington to legitimate his charade by endorsing his bid for re-election in Iraq's crucial 2014 elections.

Ginsberg served in the Carter administration and the Clinton administration.  Grasp that when Barack had his last face-to-face with Nouri al-Maliki, November 1, 2013, seven months ago, Nouri's actions were well known.  Ahead of that meet-up, Human Rights Watch issued a press release which noted:

Iraq’s crackdown on peaceful government critics and an epidemic of executions should be top agenda items during the prime minister’s state visit to Washington, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to President Barack Obama. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is scheduled to meet with Obama on November 1, 2013.
Iraqi officials say that Maliki’s priority will be to accelerate US provision of arms, intelligence, and other counterterrorism support, including the immediate delivery of drones and F-16 fighter jets. But Obama should make clear that his administration will prohibit security aid, especially arms, equipment, and training for security forces, unless the Iraqi government ends its widespread use of torture.
“Iraq is plagued by terrorist attacks that are killing civilians in record numbers, but relying on torture and executions after unfair trials only makes the situation worse,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director. “Obama needs to send a clear message to Maliki that the US will not support his assault on human rights.”

There was all of that and so much more going on.

And yet Barack met with Nouri and made nice.

Let's note some of what Barack said after the meeting:

And we appreciate Prime Minister Maliki’s commitment to honoring that sacrifice by ensuring a strong, prosperous, inclusive and democratic Iraq.
[. . .]
I emphasized the ambition of continuing counterterrorism support and partnership, that we were encouraged by the work that Prime Minister Maliki has done in the past to ensure that all people inside of Iraq -- Sunni, Shia and Kurd -- feel that they have a voice in their government.  And one of the most important expressions of that will be elections next year.  I encouraged that Iraq pass an election law and that that moves forward so that people understand that when they have differences they can express them politically, as opposed to through violence.

What a bunch of lies.  Nouri was attacking Sunni protesters, Iraqiya had walked out of the government, Nouri was at war with the Kurds and yet Barack lied.

A strong, prosperous, inclusive and democratic Iraq?

Yes, it's an obvious lie now.  It was an obvious lie then if you were paying attention.

Days before the meet-up, US Senators Carl Levin, John McCain, Robert Menendez, Lindsey Graham, Bob Corker and James M. Inhofe released an open letter to President Barack Obama which noted:

It is essential that you urge Prime Minister Maliki to adopt a strategy to address Iraq’s serious problems of governance. Such a strategy should unite Iraqis of every sect and ethnicity in a reformed constitutional order, based on the rule of law, which can give Iraqis a real stake in their nation’s progress, marginalize Al-Qaeda in Iraq and other violent extremists, and bring lasting peace to the country. To be effective, an Iraqi political strategy should involve sharing greater national power and revenue with Sunni Iraqis, reconciling with Sunni leaders, and ending de-Baathification and other policies of blanket retribution. It should include agreements with the Kurdistan Regional Government to share hydrocarbon revenues and resolve territorial disputes. And it requires a clear commitment that the elections scheduled for next year will happen freely, fairly, and inclusively in all parts of Iraq, and that the necessary preparations will be taken.
If Prime Minister Maliki were to take actions such as these, he could cement his legacy as the leader who safeguarded his country's sovereignty and laid the foundation for the new Iraq. In this endeavor, Prime Minister Maliki and our other Iraqi partners would have our support, including appropriate security assistance, and we would encourage you to provide U.S. diplomatic support at the highest levels to help Iraqis reach the necessary political agreements before the 2014 elections. However, if Prime Minister Maliki continues to marginalize the Kurds, alienate many Shia, and treat large numbers of Sunnis as terrorists, no amount of security assistance will be able to bring stability and security to Iraq. That is not a legacy we want for Prime Minister Maliki, and that is not an outcome that would serve America’s national interests.

Nouri met, that week, with members of the US Congress.  On The NewsHour (PBS -- link is video, audio and text), Margaret Warner reported that meet-up did not go well:

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Maliki did spend time on the Hill?


JUDY WOODRUFF: And how much progress did he make there? What happened?

MARGARET WARNER: It went very badly.

The key meetings yesterday were with Senator McCain and -- excuse me -- Wednesday -- and then with Corker and Menendez. And I'm told that that latter meeting was particularly contentious. They laid out all their concerns. He sort of sat impassively and, according to the aides present, he simply repeated platitudes about how he's governing by the constitution.
And, finally, Menendez got so -- I don't know if it's angry, but certainly peeved, that he looked at him and he said: Look, I feel you're just glossing over our concerns. And you need to know you're not getting any of this without our OK.
And Senator Corker came out afterwards and said: We felt he was completely dismissive of our concerns.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And it's known that one of the things they feel strongly about is he needs to share power.

Yeah, that was a known.

And he didn't.

And look where things stand today.

It's cute to watch partisan whores try to spin this.  'It's Bully Boy Bush's fault' a lot of stooges insist.

Fareed Zakaria (Washington Post) agrees Nouri's problematic but wants to distract and deceive:

But how did Maliki come to be prime minister of Iraq? He was the product of a series of momentous decisions made by the Bush administration. 

I'm not in the mood for damn liars.

Nouri got a first term (2006) because Bully Boy Bush insisted on it.

But he got a second term -- despite losing to Ayad Allawi in the March 2010 elections -- because of Barack.  What the Iraqi Constitution couldn't give Nouri, what the Iraqi people refused to give Nouri, Barack did.  He ordered US officials to negotiate a contract (The Erbil Agreement) to give Nouri a second term.  This contract -- signed by Nouri and the heads of all of Iraq's major political blocs -- found the leaders agreeing to a second term for Nouri in exchange for things they wanted (the Kurds wanted Nouri to implement Article 140 of the Constitution -- which resolves disputed Kirkuk, Iraqiya wanted an independent security council to be headed by Ayad Allawi, etc).

Fareed, stop lying, stop whoring.

If you think it was bad for the Iraqi MPs in 2006 to agree to giving Nouri a term as prime minister, it was even worse in 2010 when voters rejected Nouri and Barack spat on the most basic principle in a democracy (voting) to keep Nouri on for a second term.

November 10, 2010 a power sharing deal resulted in the Parliament meeting for the second time since the March 2010 vote and this was only possible due to The Erbil Agreement.  At that meeting,  Iraqiya felt double crossed on the deal and the bulk of their members stormed out of the Parliament. David Ignatius (Washington Post) explained, "The fragility of the coalition was dramatically obvious Thursday as members of the Iraqiya party, which represents Sunnis, walked out of Parliament, claiming that they were already being double-crossed by Maliki. Iraqi politics is always an exercise in brinkmanship, and the compromises unfortunately remain of the save-your-neck variety, rather than reflecting a deeper accord. "

How long does Fareed intend to lie and whore?

In November 2010,  Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) reported:

Vice President Biden made numerous calls to senior Iraqi leaders over the past several months and U.S. officials directly participated in top-level negotiating sessions that lasted until just moments before the Iraqi parliament finally convened to approve a new power-sharing government Thursday, a senior Obama administration official said Friday.
Hoping to rebut criticism that it had lost influence in Iraq and was too passive over the eight months since the March election there, or that its efforts were designed to keep Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in power, the administration offered a detailed written account of previously unreported meetings, visits and calls it said Biden and others had made.

The negotiated power-sharing deal DeYoung is writing about is The Erbil Agreement.  Back then, Michael Jansen (Gulf Today) observed, "The deal making that produced last Thursday’s session of parliament is nothing to boast about." She then goes on to note:

It is not clear why Iraqiya thought Maliki -- a sectarian Shiite whose Dawa party was a bitter enemy of the Baath -- would implement this pledge. Maliki has also failed to carry out solemn promises to recruit into the security forces or find civil service jobs for fighters of the Sunni Awakening Councils -- or Sons of Iraq movement -- who helped US and government forces curb Al Qaeda in 2007-08. Maliki has shown himself to have absolutely no intention of sharing power with Sunnis and certainly not with secular politicians like Allawi who represents the "old Iraq" where politics was non-sectarian.
In spite of Obama's declaration that an "inclusive" government formula had been found after months of wrangling, Maliki is not interested in including Sunnis, secularists, former Baathists and others who do not subscribe to the ethno-sectarian system imposed on Iraq by the previous Bush administration.

And Farred wants to whore and lie?

What Fareed hides, The Erbil Agreement, Barack made a statement about Novemeber 12, 2010:

Before I discuss the G20, I want to briefly comment on the agreement in Iraq that's taken place on the framework for a new government.  There's still challenges to overcome, but all indications are that the government will be representative, inclusive, and reflect the will of the Iraqi people who cast their ballots in the last election. This agreement marks another milestone in the history of modern Iraq.  Once again, Iraqis are showing their determination to unify Iraq and build its future and that those impulses are far stronger than those who want Iraq to descend into sectarian war and terror. For the last several months, the United States has worked closely with our Iraqi partners to promote a broad-based government -- one whose leaders share a commitment to serving all Iraqis as equal citizens.  Now, Iraq's leaders must finish the job of forming their government so that they can meet the challenges that a diverse coalition will inevitably face.  And going forward, we will support the Iraqi people as they strengthen their democracy, resolve political disputes, resettle those displaced by war, and build ties of commerce and cooperation with the United States, the region and the world.

And Barack did far more than make a statement that week.  Let's drop back to the November 11, 2010 snapshot to note what happened when The Erbil Agreement wasn't being implemented right away (in fact, it never would be) and Iraqiya walked out of Parliament in protest:

Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports one hiccup in the process today involved Ayad Allawi who US President Barack Obama phoned asking/pleading that he accept the deal because "his rejection of post would be a vote of no confidence". Ben Lando, Sam Dagher and Margaret Coker (Wall St. Journal) confirm the phone call via two sources and state Allawi will take the post -- newly created -- of chair of the National Council On Higher Policy: "Mr. Obama, in his phone call to Mr. Allawi on Thursday, promised to throw U.S. weight behind the process and guarantee that the council would retain meaningful and legal power, according to the two officials with knowledge of the phone call." 

But Fareed wants to whore and lie and pretend he can get away with it, that he can rewrite history and tell lies and no one will be the wiser.  Patrick Martin (WSWS) notes it was Bully Boy Bush and Barack both who installed and kept Nouri the prime minister of Iraq:

Who installed Maliki? His regime was the culmination of the supposed transformation of Iraq into a “democracy.” His election was hailed as a great success, first by George W. Bush, who launched the war, and then by Obama, who completed it on the schedule laid down by his predecessor.

In 2006, the Parliament wanted to give Ibrahim al-Jafaari a second term as prime minister.  The Bully Boy Bush White House did not trust al-Jafaari for a number of reasons and one of their fears was a second term for anyone so early in Iraq's new 'democracy' stage would risk setting up a new dictator.  They insisted on Nouri and got their way.

That was bad.

But in 2010, the voters made clear that they preferred Iraqiya over Nouri's State of Law.  That should have been the end of it.  But Barack ensured that Nouri got a second term he didn't earn.

Fareed damn well knows that the second term to Nouri was far worse for Iraq than the first term.

Fareed needs to stop lying and stop whoring.

And, hopefully, he will.  Too many others have nothing to offer but lying and whoring.  So we'll just ignore them for today.

The Erbil Agreement is not minor. Ann, in the comments, rightly notes in a comment on James Coogan's WSWS 'analysis' which ignores The Erbil Agreement, "I'm sorry but I don't take seriously any 'analysis' that doesn't point out the 2010 elections were decided by The Erbil Agreement, a legal contract the US pushed to give Nouri a second term."

David Ignatius (Washington Post via Real Clear Politics) points out:

Maliki's failure has been increasingly obvious since the elections of 2010, when the Iraqi people in their wisdom elected a broader, less-sectarian coalition. But the Obama administration, bizarrely working in tandem with Iran, brokered a deal that allowed Maliki to continue and has worked with him as an ally against al-Qaeda. Maliki's coalition triumphed in April's elections, but the balloting was boycotted by Sunnis.
Given Maliki's sectarian and authoritarian style, a growing number of Iraq experts are questioning why the Obama administration continues to provide him billions in military aid -- and is said to be weighing his plea for lethal Predator drones. The skeptics include some who were once among Maliki's champions.

Iraq's on fire today because Nouri didn't honor The Erbil Agreement and instead attacked Sunni politicians and protesters, because he refused to nominate people to head the Ministries of Defense, Interior and National Security in order to steal control of those ministries.  As the head of the Minister of the Interior, he was responsible for sending the MoI employees into schools to demonize Iraqi gays and lesbians, to encourage students to attack and kill those they suspected of being gay, to lie and state that they sucked blood as vampires did, that they deserved to be killed and much more.  Nouri, of course, denied such claims were made.  However, Alsumaria and Al Mada got ahold of handouts MoI employees passed out at their school presentations proving that they were making these smears in an attempt to incite violence against Iraq's gay and lesbian population (and those who might be perceived as such).  Gay men (and men thought to be gay) were killed with bricks, they were killed via torture, they were killed in so many ways and this took place on Nouri's orders.

So for those dirty, nasty whores -- Katrina vanden Heuvel, step up -- who cover for Nouri today?  You're homophobic trash and you threaten the safety of not just gays and lesbians but of minorities around the world.  You should be ashamed of yourselves and, honestly, shut your mouths and hang your heads in shame.  [If you're interested in some of the people who got it wrong and some of the people who got it right last week, see "The media rediscovers Iraq (Ava and C.I.)."]

Today, Iraq is in crisis.

Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports, "The northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar is in the hands of jihadists after a two-day battle with security forces – the third major centre to fall to the insurgents in less than a week.  The loss of the mixed Sunni and Shia town is another setback to the Iraqi government's attempts to establish control over the country's north and centre, which is now a centre of gravity for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) and a potential launching pad for its plans to push south to Baghdad."  Patrick Cockburn (Independent via ICH) notes, "Early on Monday the mayor of the northern town of Tal Afar said it had become the latest landmark settlement to fall to Sunni militants.  Abdulal Abdoul told reporters his town of some 200,000 people, 260 miles (420 kilometres) northwest of Baghdad, was taken just before dawn."  Aryn Baker (Time) offers, "But ISIS's blitzkreig to Baghdad isn't based on military prowess alone.  Many of the Sunni tribes in the areas around Mosul and Tikrit, which ISIS captured a day after taking Mosul, backed the militants out of a deep-seated resentment for the Shi'ite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki.  In fact, many Iraqis say that ISIS played a relatively minor role, and that without Sunni support they wouldn't have been able to gain any traction at all."  Falah Alwan (ICH) offers this:

The media, especially that which is allied with the Iraqi government and western states, has been focusing on the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Syria (ISIS) and its control over several Iraqi cities, provoking its audiences against the militant group. Indeed, ISIS terrorist groupings do exist among armed groups there and its influence in the recent events is clear. However, it is also true that Iraqis generally reject ISIS, whether in the central or southern regions of Iraq or in parts of the country that are no longer under government control: the so-called “Sunni” areas or the “Sunni Triangle”, a term that intelligence services, particularly the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), devised as part of a plan to engineer sectarianism in Iraq. At the same time, Iraqis generally reject Maliki’s regime and its policies, built as they are on an ethno-sectarian basis. This is especially the case in urban areas where sectarian discrimination is most concentrated, wherein the government treats ordinary people as political enemies.

The fall of several Iraqi cities in the hands of armed groups does not represent the dreams of the people who live there. Their demands to be rid of sectarianism are clear and direct. They expressed them through nonviolent sit-ins, but armed terrorist groups took advantage of this environment to take power. The people’s demands against discrimination and sectarianism are just and fair, whereas Maliki’s policies are reactionary and discriminatory, and are therefore rejected. In the meantime, ISIS’ control of cities and people poses a serious threat to everyday life and to society.

Patrick Cockburn (Independent via CounterPunch) frets, "One unverified statement from Isis militants on Twitter says that it has executed 1,700 prisoners. Pictures show killings at half a dozen places. Isis has posted pictures that appear to show prisoners being loaded on to flatbed trucks by masked gunmen and later forced to lie face down in a shallow ditch with their arms tied behind their backs."  Oh goodness.  The horror.  Like CNN, Cockburn's failed to report  when Nouri started killing civilians in Falluja.

Never forget that.

At the start of the year, Nouri began bombing residential areas of Falluja -- a legally defined War Crime -- killing and wounding civilians.

It has gone on for six months.

Where's the CNN anchor expressing outrage over those actions?  When does Cockburn intend to note the War Crimes?

نموذج لأهداف جيش المالكي الارهابي في حربه على الشعب: .

That's one of the many children who've been wounded from the War Crimes of thug Nouri al-Maliki.

And CNN (on American airwaves) and Patrick Cockburn in his many 'reports' have never bothered to express horror over the many dead and wounded.

But they're both bothered -- CNN and Cockburn -- that the rebels aren't practicing some Catch & Release program but are instead killing Iraqi soldiers.

A) This is a war.

B) For months now, Nouri's forces have been killing suspects.  Not arresting people and putting them on trial but killing them.  And often, as you can see all over YouTube and have been able to see for months, they're not shooting them dead.  They're not beheading them either.  They are burning suspects to death.  Setting them on fire and burning them to death.

We've covered that here but Patrick Cockburn and CNN Television haven't been interested in the topic.

Now I'm sorry that anyone anywhere is killed (unless they're a War Criminal) but I'm not going to play stupid like Cockburn and CNN.  These same Iraqi forces are guilty of murder and rape.  There was a huge issue about rapes in the provinces and governors insisting on the right to prosecute Iraqi soldiers who raped in their provinces.  Nouri wouldn't even turn over a rapist from his forces.  These same Iraqi forces are guilty of killing innocent people.

I'm not going to play stupid and act like recent history didn't take place.

The Pacifica Evening News is an hourly newscast (Monday through Friday) produced by Pacifica Radio's KPFA, KCFC and KPFK.  This evening, Maryam Labib explored recent history with a number of people including McClatchy Newspapers' Mohammed Al Dulaimy and Reuters' Ned Parker.

Maryam Labib: Mohammed Al Dulaimy, an Iraqi journalist who reported for  Iraq for years and is now seeking US asylum, and now he fears for his safety when he returns says that the Shi'ite Iraqi government, put in place by the US, has fueled the Sunni extremist groups.

Mohammed Al Dulaimy: Mister Maliki has failed to build an Iraqi military that will respect human rights.  Fanatics, Islamists, feed on such human rights breaches.  It helps them to further their cause and to win more recruits.  This is what is happening in Iraq.  And you can see the videos of how the Iraqi army dealt with demonstrators in Hawija, how they killed men carrying sticks -- only iron sticks -- or sometimes nothing.  All of us should speaking loudly to stop pushing ordinary people towards fanatics -- to join their lines just to defend themselves against an army that is willing to kill them all. 

Maryam Labib: Al Dulaimy also says that Maliki refused to disarm Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias like Asaib Ahl al-Haq [League of Righteous].  Ned Parker, the Reuters bureau chief in Baghdad, says factions of sectearian militais  are playing a significant role in pushing Iraq towards extremism.

Ned Parker: Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq which is a breakaway faction from the Sadr movement that is supported by Iran, that has been active, that has been fighting outside of Baghdad for months now since the fighting started in January.  So we have seen militia style fighting and killings and fighting.  Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq and another group called Kata'ib Hezbollah, they have had their fighters alongside Iraqi forces they actually follow under an Iraqi government  chain  command now.  It shows the power of sectarian passions right now and the danger that the more you see Sunni extremism, it breeds Shi'ite extremism and it cancels out the space for moderation and it impels Iraq towards the  danger of a new sectarian conflict. 

In other news, Barack moves towards aiding Nouri.  Zack Beauchamp (Vox!) declares, "It's official: President Barack Obama is sending American troops back to Iraq." What's he talking about?  Well not just the fact that the USS George H.W. Bush now floats just off the coast of Iraq and more US personnel are arriving in Iraq.  Not the fact that Mohammed Tawfeeq, Yousif Basil, Ashley Fantz and Mark Morgenstein (CNN) report, "Between 50 and 100 U.S. Marines and U.S. Army personnel have arrived at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, a U.S. official told CNN on Sunday.  A U.S official acknowledged to CNN that the additional embassy security personnel being added include U.S. Marines who specialize in embassy protection during high-threat conditions."  Mitchell Prothero (McClatchy Newspapers) calls the move "a tacit acknowledgment that the situation in the Iraqi capital had become unpredictable and that violence seemed likely."

But what  Beauchamp is talking about the announcement the White House made today:

Statement by the Press Secretary on the War Powers Resolution Report for Iraq

Today, consistent with the War Powers Resolution, the President transmitted a report notifying the Congress that up to approximately 275 U.S. military personnel are deploying to Iraq to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.  The personnel will provide assistance to the Department of State in connection with the temporary relocation of some staff from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to the U.S. Consulates General in Basra and Erbil and to the Iraq Support Unit in Amman.  These U.S. military personnel are entering Iraq with the consent of the Government of Iraq.  The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad remains open, and a substantial majority of the U.S. Embassy presence in Iraq will remain in place and the embassy will be fully equipped to carry out its national security mission. 

Yes, last week Barack insisted no boots on the ground.  That was last week.

Jennifer Collins, Gilgamesh Nabeel, Ammar Al Shamary and Oren Dorell (USA Today) report,  "President Obama notified Congress on Monday that about 275 U.S. military personnel are deploying to Iraq to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Obama also said the troops are equipped for combat and will remain in Iraq until the security situation becomes such that they are no longer needed."   Zaid al-Sanjary and Arshad Mohammed (Reuters) add, "Obama, who was being presented with recommendations from his top national security advisers on Monday evening, has made U.S. action contingent on Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's taking steps to broaden his Shi'ite-dominated government."

When does Nouri have to take those steps?

Apparently after Barack provides Nouri with US military cover.  And this despite objections from members of Congress and many others.  Mohamed Salman (McClatchy Newspapers) reports:

A former Qatari ambassador to the United States offered up a warning to the Obama administration Monday that any military intervention on behalf of the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki would be seen as an act of “war” on the entire community of Sunni Arabs.
Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad al Khalifa also warned against the United States working with Iran to repulse the advance by the radical Sunni group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, something that Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday the United States would be willing to consider.

Read more here:

Matthew Lee (AP) notes US Secretary of State John Kerry has been tasked with floating the trial balloon on talks between the governments of the US and Iran.

The trial balloon needs to be floated because (a) the US government has repeatedly portrayed the Iranian government as terrorists, devils and a world wide threat, (b) Barack's tanking in the polls, (c) the lack of trial balloon on the recent Taliban swap caught the American people off guard and is part of the reason for the anger and/or shock over the surrendering of five Talbian and (d) it's important that it come from Kerry and not Barack who's already a lame duck president and who, with any further erosion of public support, will be weaker than any recent US president in his final two years of his last term.

There are those in the US who will rejoice because of their desire for improved relations between the two governments.  They might want to temper that long enough to ask themselves if the answer for Iraq is to have Iranian troops on the ground?

The Iraq - Iran war may be nothing to many Americans -- some of whom will not even be aware it took place.  But it's still known in Iraq and why any ruler of Iraq has to a dance between showing warmth towards the Iranian government -- a neighbor which shares a border -- while also demonstrating public independence from that government.  That show of independence?  It's why Nouri's National Security Advisor Falih al-Fayadh held a press conference -- held a press conference -- yesterday to insist that the government was denying entry to any and all Iranian forces and insisted that reports otherwise were "groundless."

So what is Kerry floating?

He sat down this morning with Katie Couric (Yahoo News with Katie Couric) and she raised the issue of Iran.

Katie Couric:  Will you reach out to Iran and how can that country be helpful?  Or is that like entering into a hornet's nest because --

Secretary John Kerry: Well we're open to -- Look, we're open to discussions if there's something constructive that can be contributed by Iran, if Iran is prepared to do something that is going to respect the integrity and sovereignty of Iraq and the ability of the government to reform, uh,  --

Katie Couric:  Can you see cooperating with Iran militarily?

Secretary John Kerry:  I, uh, at this moment, I think we need to step-by-step and see what, in fact, might be a reality.  But I wouldn't rule out anything that would be constructive to providing real stability, a respect for the Constitution, a respect for the election process and a respect for the ability of the Iraqi people to form a government that represents all of the interests of Iraq -- not one sectarian group over another.  It has to be inclusive.  And that has been one of the great problems of the last few years.

Katie Couric: If Iran recognizes that, would you be willing to work with that country?

Secretary John Kerry:  Let's see what Iran might or might not be willing to do before we start making any pronouncements.  I think we are open to any constructive process here that could minimize the violence, hold Iraq together -- the integrity of the country, and eliminate the presence of outside terrorist forces that are ripping it apart.

On violence, 2610 is the number of Iraqis who've been killed in violence so far this month (through yesterday) according to Iraq Body Count.

That makes it the deadliest month in Iraq since July 2007 when IBC counted 2690 deaths.  But 2690 is the number killed in the full month of July 2007 -- right now, we're only at the half-way point of June.

martin chulov
david ignatius