Thursday, June 19, 2014

Nouri says he won't resign, White House can't do smart politics

Martin Chulov and Spencer Ackerman (Guardian) report:

A spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has said he will not stand down as a condition of US air strikes against Sunni militants who have made a lightning advance across the country.
Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, on Wednesday made a public call on al-Arabiya television for the US to launch strikes but Barack Obama has come under pressure from senior US politicians to persuade Maliki, a Shia Muslim who has pursued sectarian policies, to step down over what they see as failed leadership in the face of an insurgency.

The article quotes Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh insisting Nouri has "never used sectarian tactics" and that the focus should be on attacking ISIS.

Oh, wait.

Not Ali al-Dabbagh, Zuhair al-Nahar.

What happened to Ali al-Dabbagh?

Oh, yeah.  Dropping back to November 30, 2012:

As Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe explained in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, "When love goes wrong, nothing goes right."  It appears the lesson is learned yet again in Iraq as former 'blood brothers' -- a prime minister and a spokesperson -- turn on one another publicly.
As is often the case, money appears to be the root of the conflict.
Ali al-Dabbagh used to be so close to Nouri that the two were practically bath buddies.  Today All Iraq News reports that he's accusing Nouri's Media Affairs Office Ali al-Moussawi of a media lynching as Nouri attempts to weasel out of the corruption charges regarding the $4.2 billion weapons deal with Russia on al-Dabbagh.  In a written statement to the news outlet, al-Dabbagh alludes to information about Nouri's inner circle that he could reveal.  al-Dabbagh has twice publicly denied any involvement in the arms deal.  Al Mada notes that in his written statement, he cited his six years of being a spokesperson for the Iraqi government as proof of his (no laughter, please) integrity.  Kitabat quotes it in full and that includes insisting that his image is being distorted and that his reputation is unfairly maligned.  As a result, he insists, he can no longer do his job.  That might have carried more weight had he issued it when he was still in Iraq and before he reportedly fled the country. 

You know, Barack lost his spokesperson.  Yesterday, Jay Carney gave his final press briefing yesterday.  Josh Earnest is the new spokesperson.

But thing is, Carney didn'r have to flee to Qatar.  He wasn't threatened with arrest.

Working for Nouri is much more dangerous.  How long before Nouri's new boy goes running?

On ISIS, Russ Wellen (Foreign Policy In Focus) zooms in on Kenneth Pollack's analysis rejecting the labeling of ISIS as "terrorists" and quotes Pollack on this:

That is important because defining the Sunni militants as terrorists implies that they need to be attacked immediately and directly by the United States. Seeing them [as] a sectarian militia waging a civil war, puts the emphasis on where it needs to be: finding an integrated political-military solution to the internal Iraqi problems that sparked the civil war. And that is a set of problems that is unlikely to be solved by immediate, direct American attacks on the Sunni militants.

Chelsea J. Carter, Laura Smith-Spark and Elise Labot (CNN) report:

There's a heavy police and military presence on the streets of the Iraqi capital and at checkpoints that sometimes appear to pop up overnight.
Nowhere is the sense of fear more palpable than at Baghdad International Airport, where hundreds and hundreds of people wait in long security and check-in lines for one of the few, precious seats available on flights out of Iraq.

Fear breeds.  It's breeding in the US.  It's breeding in the White House.

Fear distorts reality and impairs judgment.

This was in yesterday's snapshot:

Senator Bill Nelson's office issued the following:

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) has been asked to comment on the situation in Iraq – specifically, on the decision to send 275 additional troops to the region.  Here’s what he had to say:
“We’re sending an additional 275 troops to Baghdad to protect our embassy.  That’s a good thing.  We’re going to send a carrier and an amphibious transport ship into the Persian Gulf in case we have to evacuate those Americans.  And in the meantime, we’re going to try to work with our allies to stop the sectarian violence that’s about to blow Iraq apart.”

I like Bill Nelson and can even respect his opinion above but I'm not glad that 275 troops -- who the White House noted would be combat ready -- are being sent to Iraq.  I agree with Bill Auken that there are areas of concern.  I also wonder how any troops -- those 275 or more -- can do any operations in Iraq.

B-b-but, e-mails fretted.

But what?

275 troops who can do combat will often be tasked with combat.

In addition, if you're that fearful, get the hell out.

People close embassies all the time.

Look at the US mission in Syria which has been one embassy closing after another.

The US Embassy in Baghdad is supposed to be a fortress.  It was planned to survive anything.

Of course, there are the plans and then there is the construction.

Turns out -- and no one in the administration wants to talk about this -- the US Embassy in Baghdad was built as shoddy as every other US construction project in Iraq.  It's shoddy and it's not safe.

So why are you sending up to 275 troops when you'd be much smarter to evacuate the Embassy?

The US wouldn't even have to leave Iraq (although I think it should), they could just move the components to the KRG until the unrest passes (say, twenty to a hundred years from now).

Brett McGurk became a high value target in 2012.  It was stupidity to send him back to Iraq.  He is the American devil in the eyes of fundamentalists.  Not only is he part of the occupation, but he slept with a married woman thereby destroying two marriages (that includes his own).  You don't send that back to a country that dislikes the US and has a number of citizens who see the US as "godless" or worse.

But Brett's return came with one blessing.

It made clear that Baghdad wasn't all that safe as various Embassy staff began noticing people checking out the parameter for weaknesses.

Now, with regard to Brett, we wrote about that awhile back because there were serious talk of him being targeted.  And when the State Dept and the White House became aware of that, they also became aware that, Green Zone located or not, the US Embassy could be targeted.

An e-mail said, "After Benghazi, I think you would be thrilled security was being provided."

More security in Benghazi would have helped.  Would it have prevented the attack?

Who knows.

Listening to the threats and the on ground intelligence and pulling the Benghazi mission would have prevented the loss of US life.

By the same token, removing the US from Baghdad would prevent the loss of life.

When embassies fall, citizens tend to ask why the government didn't consider all possibilities.

Right now, the White House has refused to consider pulling the Baghdad mission.

Now, again, they could continue and do so by being based in the much safer KRG.

I have no idea what's going to happen.  Rebels may advance on Baghdad and be foiled, they may advance on Baghdad and succeed, they may fold tent and go elsewhere.

I don't know.

But I do know that a 'fortress' can be revealed as a slum if its set on fire and people die in it.

And if that happens, Americans may ask why the mission wasn't either pulled or moved to the KRG?

And if that happens, we should all wonder why a full range discussion did not take place.

Why isn't the media asking its various officials paraded before the camera: "Would it be better to move the diplomatic mission to Erbil?  Or just to shut it down completely?"

These are conversations that people in the US need to be having.

The reality -- I'm basing this on research polling -- is that if the White House floats the possibility of pulling out, the American people will say "no."

Every citizenry has an inflated opinion of their own power. (Building up a call to close the Baghdad Embassy would take a minimum of 13 days and that would be if multiple organizations were working on promoting such an action.)

But that's good for the White House.  They can say the idea was put out there and rejected by the people.

That rejection means Americans participate in democracy.

And, for the White House, it means if anything does go wrong, should Americans die in the Baghdad Embassy, Barack's is criticism-proofed.  He put the idea out there as part of the discussion, the American people rejected it.  Things went wrong, people died and we shared the choices as a country.

Again, this should be a part of the discussion.  It would make people more informed, it would aid in democracy and it would ensure that, should anything go wrong, Barack couldn't be blamed for it.  It's smart politics in every way.  But after six years, it appears the administration still doesn't get smart politics.

The following community sites -- plus McClatchy Newspapers,  Jake Tapper, Dissident Voice, Pacifica Evening News, and the House Veterans Affairs Committee --   updated:



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