Friday, June 20, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Friday, June 20, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, skepticism over the US plan, whispers Nouri's going, and so much more.

First up, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office issued the following today:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                             CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Friday, June 20, 2014                                                                                  (202) 224-2834
LGBT/VETERANS: Murray Statement on LGBT Benefits Expansion
Despite expansion, gaps still remain for those seeking Social Security benefits
Murray’s SAME Act named by administration as legislative fix
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), author of the Social Security and Marriage Equality (SAME) Act, released the following statement after the Obama administration announced the expansion of several federal benefits and obligations to married, same-sex couples. The announcement comes after the Department of Justice completed their year-long review of potential legal barriers to these benefits after the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
However, the report indicates that obstacles still remain for certain couples seeking benefits from the Veterans or Social Security Administration.  In a memo to President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder noted the need for Congress to pass Senator Murray’s SAME Act in order to extend full Social Security benefits to married, same-sex couples.
“As we near the one-year anniversary of the historic Supreme Court ruling striking down DOMA, today’s news is one of relief and celebration for many of the committed, same-sex couples across America whose lives have been put on hold waiting for this report. These couples, many of them our nation’s heroes, will no longer have to face uncertainty while caring for or mourning the loss of a loved one.
“However, I am disappointed there are still many couples seeking Social Security benefits who will continue to be viewed as second-class citizens in the eyes of the law. Your zip code should not determine whether or not your family will have the means to survive after the death of a spouse, and it shouldn’t prevent your family from getting the benefits you have earned.
“While I believe the administration had the ability to include these benefits in today’s announcement, my SAME Act now provides a legislative roadmap to finally provide these benefits to all couples, regardless of where they live. This seemingly subjective denial spousal benefit claims places an economic and emotional burden on the families of legally married same-sex couples, and it is inconsistent with the practice of other federal departments and agencies.
“In the coming days I will be working with my colleagues in the House and the Senate to get this job done. I also urge the administration to continue holding the applications of those who have applied for Social Security benefits until Congress or the courts act to fix this unfortunate gap in benefits.”
In May, Senators Murray and Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced the SAME Act to amend the Social Security Act in order to provide full benefits to married, same-sex couples regardless of where they live. Eligibility for spousal benefits provided under the Social Security Act are determined by a place of residence standard. This standard has resulted in applications for Social Security benefits for legally married same-sex spouses living in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage being placed on hold. Representative Ron Kind (D-WI) introduced the companion legislation in the House of Representatives. 
In March of last year, Senator Murray, a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, led a letter to Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki calling for an expedited waiver process granting same-sex veterans and their spouses burial rights in national cemeteries. Today’s announcement also included directive that the VA Acting Secretary will “exercise his broad statutory discretion in the area of burial benefits to designate any individual in a committed relationship for burial in a national cemetery, which will allow for the inclusion of same-sex spouses where the domicile provision would otherwise govern.”
Meghan Roh
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834

RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office

On veterans, yesterday Matthew Daly (AP) reported the latest VA audit had found "tens of thousands" of veterans are waiting 30 days or more for medical appointments.  The same day the news broke, the VA issued a press release quoting Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson stating:

In many communities across the country, Veterans wait too long for the high quality care they’ve earned and deserve.  As of today, we’ve reached out to 70,000 Veterans to get them off wait lists and into clinics, but there is still much more work to be done. As we continue to address systemic challenges in accessing care, these regular data updates will enhance transparency and provide the most immediate information to Veterans and the public on Veterans’ access to quality health care. Trust is the foundation for everything we do. VA must be an organization built on transparency and accountability, and we will do everything we can to earn that trust one Veteran at a time.

Now let's move to Gwen Ifill who insists in her latest column that Montana's former governor Brian Schweitzer has gone too far.  He said his gaydar went off when he saw Eric Cantor, that Dianne Feinstein was a hooker (he did not use the term "hooker," "streetwalker" or "whore") under a streetlight and that southern men "are a little effeminate."

Gwen's in a tizzy.  There's no problem with criticizing Cantor (who should fire back with a comical response about Schweitzer study him so closely).  Being gay is not a crime in the US and it's not anything to be ashamed of.  Cantor isn't gay.  He shouldn't take offense to it and should instead try to make light of the remark.  Dianne?  She's too close to the intelligence community, to put it mildly.  That's what his critique was about -- which Gwen doesn't want to note.

Southern men?  If that's how he feels, he can say it.  That was stupid though because he is testing a run for the presidency and southern men are all over the country -- not just in the south.  The US is a mobile population and that comment could hurt him.

But I bring up Gwen's column for a reason beyond the remarks Brian Schweitzer made.

Gwen's going to write about civility and taste?

The woman who turned the Blackwater massacre of Iraqi citizens into a joke?  A televised joke?  She's going to determine taste and civility?

Moving to Iraq where things are heating up for prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki, National Iraqi News Agency notes:

Head of the Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani stressed on Friday, during a telephone conversation with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden that the acts of some people in power in Baghdad, is the cause of the events and problems between the components of the Iraqi people, and eventually became the biggest crises of those problems. 
A statement by the presidency of the Region said that Biden telephoned Barzani and discussed with him security and political developments in Iraq and the failure of the army and the control of the armed groups on the city of Mosul.

This comes following other calls for Nouri to step aside.  AFP notes, "US Vice President Joe Biden, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey and David Petraeus, the former top US commander in Iraq, have all either called for Maliki to be more inclusive, or outright criticised him.."  Last night, Ann pointed out internal objections to Nouri:

Here are facts, Ayad Allawi doesn't want Nouri to have a third term.  Moqtada al-Sadr does not want Nouri to have a third term.  Ammar al-Hakim does not want Nouri to have a third term.  All three men, like Nouri, are Shi'ite political leaders.
Here are facts, Osama al-Nujaifi (outgoing Speaker of Parliament) does not want Nouri to have a third term. Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq does not want Nouri to have a third term.  Both men are Sunni political leaders.
Here are facts, the Kurds have declared that if Nouri gets a third term the Kurdish region will break off, go from semi-autonomy to full autonomy.

Today brought an even bigger objection to a third term for Nouri from within Iraq.  The Associated Press reports today that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani had issued a call for a new and "effective" government -- a "thinly veiled criticism that Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in office since 2006, was to blame for the nation’s crisis over the blitz by the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant."  This may (or may not) mean the US audience with al-Sistani was a success.  What is obvious is that the requests of Moqtada al-Sadr and Ayad Allawi did not fall on deaf ears.  The two lobbied Al-Sistani last month.

National Iraqi News Agency notes that Italy's Foreign Minister Federica Mogerena declared today, "What Iraq needs at this moment is to seek a path [which] guarantees the unity of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds." This may be the start of international prodding.  Yesterday, the calls for Nouri to step aside were noted on Morning Edition (NPR -- link is text and audio) when host Rneee Montagne spoke with reporter Leila Fadel:

MONTAGNE: Now, there has been, as I've just mentioned, a drumbeat of calls for Prime Minister Maliki to step down. What about where you are in the Kurdish region? What are people saying there? And what have you heard in your reporting?

FADEL: We spoke to the former minister of interior of Iraq, from 2004, Falah al-Naqib. And he said, you know, what I'm doing here is trying to reach out to former officers in the Iraq Army, under Suddam Hussein, and see what type of solution we can provide that will stop the fighting. And he's saying that first step has to be that Maliki goes. He's seen as a really corrupt and sectarian figure, that has marginalized so much of the Sunni population. And they're frustrated.

How bad is it?  Longtime Nouri enabler and minimizer Patrick Cockburn (Indpendent) writes today, "Isolated and discredited by humiliating military defeat, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is likely to go soon, battered as he is by only slightly veiled demands for his immediate departure from powerful figures who once supported him."  Dave Zweifel (Madison Cap Times) offers, "If al-Maliki can't reach -- or more likely, refuses to reach -- an agreement with other factions to share in Iraq's government, then we need to walk away."

Why is he right?  Dave Zweifel is right.  You can argue he's right because Nouri has committed War Crimes, had journalists arrested and beaten, beaten and killed protesters and bred violence and division in the country.

I would certainly agree with all those reasons.

But there's another reason and it's one the press hasn't paid attention to.

Dropping back to yesterday's snapshot:

Wednesday night on The NewsHour (PBS -- link is text, audio and video), Judy Woodruff moderated a discussion between Senator Tim Kaine and Senator John McCain.  We'll note this:
JUDY WOODRUFF: Should the U.S. be providing military — more military assistance to Iraq right now?

SEN. TIM KAINE: Judy, the question is a little bit premature, because what we really need — and there is a process — the way this is supposed to work is the president will come to us and lay out what he thinks is the preferred option.
And then, after consulting with Congress, we will go forward. I expect that he will do that soon. He’s already been in significant consultation, not only with leadership, but with others like me, but when he does come, there’s going to be some hard questions.
Maliki — we had the opportunity. The U.S. wanted the stay in Iraq and Maliki basically kicked us out. He didn’t want us to stay. Then he ignored all the advice that we and others gave him about how to govern Iraq, to try to do it in a way that brought Kurds and Sunnis and Shias together. Instead, he’s run Iraq for Shias and marginalized, even oppressing Sunni and Kurds.
And so this extremism, the Sunni extremism, has been a predictable consequence of that, in my view. They’re horrible people doing horrible things, but he’s given them an opening by governing in such an autocratic way.
So, if it’s just a matter of, do we come in now to back up Maliki with military force after he kicked us out and after he’s governed the wrong way, that would be foolish. What we should be first talking about is, are there reforms that the Iraqis are willing to make to try to demonstrate to all in the country that they are all going to be treated equally?
Those kind of reforms really are the things that have to happen before we decide what kind of assistance we should provide.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you have had raised a couple of things. And let me just pick them one by one.
In terms of the reforms, Prime Minister Maliki says he has reached out, for example, to Sunnis. He’s brought them — he’s given them a role in his government. He says, in essence, that it’s just wrong to say that he has not reached out.

SEN. TIM KAINE: Virtually every objective account that we have heard from Iraq experts here, not only folks connected with the administration, State Department, DOD, but NGOs and others, suggest just the contrary, that he has ignored that advice and that he has run this government for Shias with the strong support of the Shia-based government in Iran, and he has done it in a way that has marginalized Sunnis and marginalized Kurds.
And that’s why they’re not coming to his aid right now.

We'll note McCain now publicly favors "boots on the ground" but we're not interested in his comments.  Not because he's a Republican but because Kaine came close to something, circled around it -- like Cher with a note she never quite hits -- but never got to it.  We'll cover it in Friday's snapshot.  We are by no means done with this topic.

We keep hearing various voices saying 'Maliki kicked us out.'

There's actually much worse than no SOFA, there's wasted billions.  Yes, some of it was supposedly brought back in, some of the US taxpayer millions were not wasted, supposedly.

I mean "supposedly" because it's the State Dept which operated without any oversight during Barack's first term -- something that reporters should be hitting Hillary Clinton on hard.  John Kerry wasn't Secretary of State for more than nine months when he made good on his promise to have an IG for the State Dept -- a position that was empty for Hillary's entire four years as Secretary of State.

It matters and reporters should be asking her why she felt she was above oversight.

Because she felt that way, the country still doesn't know what was done with all the money, there are several ongoing investigations trying to determine whether the State Dept lost money, had it stolen or what.

But, at it's most basic, Barack's plan for Iraq is to provide assistance and training.

Let's speak very slowly because some people don't get other governments.

In the United States, Barack Obama is president.  He nominates people to be in the Cabinet.  For example, he nominated Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense.  The Senate confirmed that nomination, voted for Hagel.  Hagel is now Secretary of State.  If Barack is unhappy with Hagel's performance, he will ask for Hagel's resignation.  By custom -- though not by law -- Hagel would then resign.

It's different in Iraq.  The president is not the head of their country and not elected in a general election.  The head of their country is the prime minister -- also not elected in a general election.  Parliament elects a prime minister-designate.  The prime minister -- if he or she abides by the Constitution -- has 30 days to name a Cabinet -- that's a full Cabinet.  It's the only rule for moving from prime minister-designate to prime minister.  In 2010, Nouri got a second term via the extra-constitutional and US-brokered Erbil Agreement so he didn't have to abide by the Constitution.

He refused to nominate people to head the three security ministries.  That includes the Ministry of the Interior which is over the federal police.  Let's say Nouri had wanted Chuck Hagel for that spot and Hagel had wanted that spot and taken Iraqi citizenship.  If Nouri had nominated him and Parliament had approved him, Chuck Hagel would be Minister of the Interior.  If Nouri decided he didn't want Chuck after the vote, Nouri had no say.

Hagel could stay on.  Hagel is not required to step down.  The only one who can remove Hagel from office is the Parliament.  So if Nouri nominates someone and the Parliament votes them into that office, they basically own that office for the full term.

Nouri staged a power grab -- unconstitutional and no one wanted to call it out and very few even wanted to mention it.  One exception would be CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq.  Another would be Nussaibah Younis whose October 2012 "Time to Get Tough on Iraq" (New York Times) offered a number of important observations including:

Even apart from the Syrian crisis, the United States should be getting tough on the Maliki regime to prevent Iraq's descent into authoritarianism. Although Prime Minister Maliki's first term had its successes, including the "Charge of the Knights" attack against Shiite militias in Basra in 2008, Prime Minister Maliki has become increasingly consumed by his own dictatorial ambitions. And a number of his actions have heightened sectarian tensions in Iraq. He cut a deal with the extremist Shiite party led by Moktada al-Sadr. He reneged on a promise to meaningfully include the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya list in government. He presided over what's being seen as a witch hunt against leading Sunni politicians, culminating in the sentencing to death in absentia of Iraq's vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi.
In addition, Mr. Maliki's government is plagued by incompetence, corruption and a contempt for human rights; ordinary citizens are fast losing confidence in the power of the democratic system. Mr. Maliki has further undermined Iraq's independent institutions, such as the electoral commission and the Iraqi central bank, by bringing them under his direct custodianship. And, most dangerously of all, he is concentrating power over Iraq's entire security apparatus in his hands by refusing to appoint permanent ministers to lead the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of the Interior and National Security Council. 

Nouri put puppets in as 'acting' ministers.  They're not ministers.  They do what he tells them or he pulls them out of the post.  They've never been voted on by Parliament so they can't act independently.  They have no real power.

They are the voice of Nouri.

Hopefully, we're all on the same page now and we can get to why that matters in terms of Barack's plan.

He declared, "Number one, does the government of Iraq -- whose personnel we intend to train -- support the [police training] program? Interviews with senior Iraqi officials by the Special Inspector General show utter disdain for the program. When the Iraqis suggest that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States. I think that might be a clue." 

The State Dept's Brooke Darby faced that Subcommittee. Ranking Member Gary Ackerman noted that the US had already spent 8 years training the Iraq police force and wanted Darby to answer as to whether it would take another 8 years before that training was complete? 

 Her reply was, "I'm not prepared to put a time limit on it." She could and did talk up Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Interior Adnan al-Asadi as a great friend to the US government. 

But Ackerman and Subcommittee Chair Steve Chabot had already noted Adnan al-Asadi, but not by name. That's the Iraqi official, for example, Ackerman was referring to who made the suggestion "that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States." He made that remark to SIGIR Stuart Bowen.
8 years. 8 years of training last November. And for Fiscal Year 2013, the State Dept wants $149.6 million dollars to train yet another year?
From that hearing:
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: When will they be willing to stand up without us?
Brooke Darby: I wish I could answer that question.
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: Then why are we spending money if we don't have the answer?
[long pause]
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: You know, this is turning into what happens after a bar mitzvah or a Jewish wedding. It's called "a Jewish goodbye." Everybody keeps saying goodbye but nobody leaves.

The State Dept still can't answer Ackerman's question: "When will they be willing to stand up without us?" They can't even answer his second question: "Then why are we spending money if we don't have the answer?"

The above coves two issues.  Let's grab the first one.  Didn't the US government already spend millions and spend years trying to train the forces?

What's different now?

I think an argument can be made that the mass desertions from the security forces -- nearly 400,000 deserted this month by some reports -- results from Iraqis in the security forces being conflicted about attacking their fellow citizens.  That happened in 2008 when Nouri sent security forces to attack Basra.  Some people are surely thinking "I don't want to get killed" and who could blame them for that?  But there's also the issue of Iraqis being asked to kill one another.

How do you deal with that?

I don't know that you do. Again, asking soldiers to attack their fellow citizens is always risking desertion -- that's been true in century after century, country after country.

It's worse in Iraq because you've had Nouri attacking Sunnis for everything in the last four years.  He ran off the Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and tortured Tareq's staff and bodyguards to try to get them to provide forced confessions -- at least one bodyguard died of kidney damage as a result of this torture. Further harming Nouri on just this one example,  Tareq was not only found guilty in absentia by a Baghdad court that had publicly declared his guilt months before the trial started but he was also repeatedly -- four or five times -- sentenced to death by this court.  That surpasses "excessive" and borders on "obsessive." Other Sunni politicians have been targeted, Sunni activists have been targeted, Sunnis have been disappeared into the prison systems leaving their families not even knowing if their loved ones are still alive, Sunni girls and women have been tortured and raped in Nouri's detention centers, jails and prisons . . .  It doesn't matter if you're Sunni or Shi'ite, that has to bother you.  So when Nouri orders an assault on Sunnis, all of that is factored in and weighs on those being ordered to carry out the asault.

For Barack's proposals to succeed at the most limited definition of success requires Nouri al-Maliki to step aside.  Training will be wasted -- US training -- and advising unless Nouri goes.

That's one issue from the above.  The above contains another issue as well.
Now let's talk about the 'acting' Minister of the Interior. That's Deputy Minister Adnan al-Asadi. He is one of the Iraqis Ranking Member Ackerman referred to in the November 30th hearing, "Interviews with senior Iraqi officials by the Special Inspector Generals how utter disdain for the program. When the Iraqis suggest that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States, I think that might be a clue."
Adnan al-Asadi was not Minister of the Interior.  He was 'acting' (for four years) and doing Nouri's bidding.

Adnan al-Asadi is who stated, to SIGIR, in 2012, that the US government should spend the money set aside for training Iraqi forces instead on programs in the US. Two years ago, Nouri didn't want training and assistance.  If this is news to you, you should refer to  the Office of the Special Inspector General For Iraq Reconstruction's [PDF format warning] "Iraq Police Development Program: Lack Of Iraqi Support And Security Problems Raise Questions About The Continued Viability Of The Program."
That report found that the US State Dept had wasted ("de facto waste") approximately $206 million in training the Iraqi police since they took over October 1, 2011. How so? They spent $98 million on a Basra training facility and $108 million on a Baghdad training facility.

And what happened to those facilities?

The US taxpayers footed the bill and the State Dept, after Nouri made clear that there would be no training from the US, ended up abandoning the buildings and handing them over to the Iraqi government -- and Nouri didn't pay a penny for those facilities.

In real time, when this nonsense was taking place, there were some members of Congress asking why these fortified and new buildings weren't being turned over to NGOs or civic organizations in Iraq but instead were being gifted to the man who had killed the training program?

No answer was ever provided to that question.

 The US taxpayer spent millions on the construction of training facilities, on the presence of trainers, on scheduling training and Nouri's forces -- apparently on Nouri's orders -- didn't show up for training.

Now the US taxpayer is going to foot the bill again?
The Congress needs to find out the price tag on Barack's new Iraq mission.

The Congress needs to find out who's paying it.

Nouri asked for it.  He sits on billions, he can pay for it.

Why isn't he being asked to pay for it?

He's the one who rejected training after millions were spent constructing buildings, developing a training program and bringing over trainers.

Two years later, he's changed his mind?

Congress needs to find out the price tag.

Barack, as I recall, railed against the piece meal funding process, argued this hid the true financial cost of war.  He was right. But that's when he was a US senator.  Now that's he's president?  He gave a 946 word speech on his 'mission' yesterday that failed to note who would be footing the bill for this misadventure or how much it would cost?

The reality is, he doesn't know how much it's going to cost.

He failed to define how success would be measured or any other facet of the mission.

What's he's proposed is an open-ended mission.  It's very difficult to put a price tag on those.  It's even more difficult to control the costs on those 'missions.'

Back to Hillary, she needs to explain why the State Dept, under her leadership failed to get US land use agreements.  Hillary didn't run Iraq.  We noted that in real time.  Barack removed the direct oversight of the mission in Iraq from her.  But the land use agreements should have still fallen under her supervision.  

The failure to get land use agreements before the construction of US facilities in Iraq resulted in the loss of millions of dollars.  Hillary needs to answer how that happened.  It may very well turn out that she wasn't over that facet as well.  If so, she just needs to state that.  However, Patrick Kennedy was supposed to be over that and he served under Hillary and reported to Hillary so I do believe the failure to secure land use agreements before constructing US facilities falls on Hillary.  

As things fall apart in Iraq, Nicola Nasser (Dissident Voice) argues humanitarian interests or concerns wasn't the straw that broke US government support for Nouri, it was the lack of an oil and gas law:

Anti-American armed resistance to the U.S. proxy ruling regime in Baghdad, especially the Baath-led backbone, is on record as seeking to return to the status quo ante with regard to the country’s strategic hydrocarbon assets; i.e., nationalization.
De-nationalization and privatization of the Iraqi oil and gas industry began with the U.S.-led invasion of the country in 2003. Al-Maliki, for eight years, could not pass a hydrocarbons law through the parliament. Popular opposition and a political system based on sectarian distribution of power and “federal” distribution of oil revenues blocked its adoption. Ruling by political majority instead by sectarian consensus was al-Maliki’s declared hope to enact the law.
Al-Maliki’s plans towards this end, together with his political ambitions for a third term, were cut short by the fall to armed opposition on June 10 of Mosul, the capital of the northern Ninawa governorate and second only to Baghdad as Iraq’s largest metropolitan area.

If that is the case, the planned US actions would be about little more than grabbing the oil.

Yesterday, US President Barack Obama announced his intent to send several hundred US troops to Iraq. William Deane (Our Missing News) explains, "Step-by-step: 300 combat advisors in route to Iraq, announced by President Obama at a news briefing this Thursday afternoon.   This on top of Monday's 275 troops, announced Monday to protect American Embassy personnel in Baghdad."  In addition to those numbers, there are also members of the Air Force that Barack has doing operations.  Brian Everstine (Air Force Times) points out, "The military is increasing surveillance flights over Iraq to identify possible targets for air strikes, President Obama said Thursday, while a team of airmen waits outside the country to set up and secure air operations if needed."

Amy Davidson (New Yorker) offers her critique here.  The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus offers this judgment, "The administration’s instinct to retreat and ignore festering problems has helped contribute to the cataclysmic result now playing out in Iraq. Yes, the original, far graver sin was the decision to invade. The responsibility of the incumbent president is to deal with the mistakes he inherits."

Domenico Montanaro, Terence Burlij, Rachel Wellford and Simone Pathe (PBS' The NewsHour) note, "But Americans aren’t convinced either of President Obama’s approach to these foreign hotspots. The conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine have taken a severe toll on the president’s standing. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll this week found him with the lowest foreign policy approval of his presidency -- just 37 percent, down from 52 percent in Dec. 2012 right after he was re-elected."  Barack's speech Thursday has no poll results yet.  It's doubtful, however, just due to its low-key nature, to result in any positive bump to his numbers.  Often, there is a rally around the leader effect when US military actions are announced by a president, however, Barack failed to convey the mission and, most importantly, failed to convincingly express a rationale as to why US troops needed to be sent to Iraq.  More troubling, he failed to note the risks from his plan.  Aryn Baker (Time magazine) observes that attacking ISIS in Iraq could lead to realiation attacks within the US.

Lara Jakes (AP) offers an analysis of recent events.  Barak Mendelsohn (CNN) argues that Barack Obama's plan "is likely doomed."

More caution on Barack's plan came from a world leader.  Speaking to The Asia Society in New York today, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared:

Developments in the past few days make it all too easy to imagine a spiral of attack and reprisal not seen in Iraq since 2006 and 2007.
The Sunni extremists of ISIS are trying to show that the Government in Baghdad, Iran and the United States are working together to support atrocities against Sunnis. This perception would help them mobilize support from the Sunni majority that does not share the extremists’ agenda. It is essential that the Government of Iraq and its supporters do everything possible to avoid falling into this trap. Military strikes against ISIS might have little lasting effect or even be counter-productive if there is no movement towards inclusive government in Iraq.
It is imperative for the Government and its backers to ensure that no reprisals are carried out against Sunni communities in revenge for the barbaric acts by ISIS. The ISIS is a threat to all communities in Iraq; all should now work together. Moderate Sunnis should make it clear that they are against terrorism. Kurds should not be seen as disengaging or benefitting from the ongoing chaos. And Shias - they should agree that the army is a national institution.
Sectarian warfare is a disaster for all. It generates a vicious circle of polarization and terrorism. It is crucial for the region’s leaders -- political and religious -- to call for restraint and avoid further contagion. I hope other countries, including Saudi Arabia and Iran as well as other regional governments, can find ways to build bridges that promote calm and reconciliation.

The United Nations and I personally stand ready to take any initiative that those leaders would find helpful. The region is already wrestling with dramatic transition and the fallout of unrealized aspirations. The risk of massive sectarian violence beyond national borders compels us all to go the extra mile for peace.

Monday, Nickolay Mladenov (Ban Ki-Moon's Special Representative to Iraq) will meet with European Union to discuss events in Iraq. Also weighing in on Barack's plan is the Center for Constitutional Rights:

Center for Constitutional Rights Statement on Iraqi Crisis

June 19, 2014, New York – In response to the current crisis in Iraq and calls for a U.S. military response, the Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following statement:

The two catastrophic decades of U.S. military action in Iraq should put to rest any delusion that further U.S. military involvement of any kind can foster a lasting resolution to the current crisis. Any plan for security and reconciliation in Iraq must begin by bolstering the voices of the millions of Iraqi civilians who have been caught between brutal abuses by ISIS and other fundamentalist forces and the U.S.-backed government alike.
A strong civil society exists in Iraq despite enormous odds, and there is sustained opposition to the sectarian political system at the heart of this crisis and formally entrenched under the U.S. occupation. With the support of the U.S. government, Prime Minister Maliki further institutionalized violent discrimination and escalated sectarianism. Heeding calls for U.S. military action does not address the underlying political problem, but it could bring further disaster for civilians already reeling from the devastating effects of his policies and the decade-long U.S. military intervention and occupation.
The U.S. should be making reparations to rebuild the country and address the health and environmental crisis and decimation of Iraq’s infrastructure brought on by the previous administration’s illegal war. The U.S. government, which has been bombing Iraq since 1991, is in no small part responsible for what is happening today.  Further violence against the Iraqi people would be just as illegal and just as devastating, whether it involved airstrikes, the deployment of troops, or the expansion of an unlawful drone killing program.

Also today, CCR joined Iraqi and U.S. partners in the Right to Heal Initiative to send a letter to the State Department, which can be read here.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

Barack's speech yesterday contained a lot of words -- 946 of them  -- but it failed to answer the most basic question, one the editorial board of the Salem Statesman Journal noted earlier this week:

But Americans also have a question, one that has lingered since Vietnam: "What are we fighting for?"
With each passing day in Afghanistan, and now again in Iraq, the answer seems murkier.

There has been no clarification on that -- none at all.  Worse, at a time when Nouri desperately wants US help, note that he's not changed a damn thing.  Barack's only real demand was that Nouri work on an inclusive government.  Not only has he note done that but he's getting complaints from Osama al-Nujaifi's Mottahidoon coalition (it's a Sunni coaltion led by Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi).  National Iraqi News Agency reports that the state-controlled channel Iraqiya is labeling various Sunni political leaders to be "terrorists and Dawish."  On the ground in Iraq today, Martha Raddatz (ABC News) reports:

Iraqi troops battling for control of the vital Baiji oil refinery are outnumbered, surrounded and trapped inside the facility, U.S. source told ABC News.
The battle for the refinery was in its fourth day today, although fighters for the radical Islamic militia ISIS have apparently taken control of much of the facility and are willing to keep the government forces isolated until they run out of food and ammunition, sources said.
"There is very little the Iraqi government can do to save or liberate those guys," a U.S. official told ABC News. 

Iraq Body Count counts 2,792 violent deaths through Thursday for the month of June so far.  I'd hoped we'd have time to get to the questions Barack was asked Thursday, but we didn't.  Maybe Monday.