Today at the Pentagon, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel addresses the issue of Iraq.
Secretary Chuck Hagel: And I'd like to focus a couple of comments on Iraq as I -- as I start.
Our efforts here at DOD have been focused on two specific missions. And I want to lay a bit of a framework down and a base down on what those missions are and then I know you'll have questions.
But in a very clear, deliberate way, first securing our embassy, facilities and our personnel in Iraq.
Second, assessing the situation in Iraq and advising the Iraqi security forces.
Both of these missions are important components of the president's overall strategy in Iraq, helping Iraq's leaders resolve the political crisis that has enabled ISIL's advance and supporting Iraqi forces.
By reinforcing security at the U.S. embassy, its support facilities in Baghdad International Airport, we're helping provide our diplomats time and space to work with Sunni, Kurd, Shia political leaders as they attempt to form a new inclusive national unity government.
By better understanding the conditions on the ground and the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces, we'll be better able to help advise them as they combat ISIL forces inside their own country.
Approximately 200 military advisers are now on the ground. We have established a joint operations center with Iraqis in Baghdad and we have personnel on the ground in Erbil where our second joint operations center has achieved initial operating capability.
Assessment teams are also evaluating the capabilities and cohesiveness of Iraqi forces. None of these troops are performing combat missions. None will perform combat missions.
President Obama has been very clear that American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again. The situation in Iraq, as you all know, is complex and it's fluid. But there's no exclusively military solution to the threats posed by ISIL. Our approach is deliberate and flexible. It is designed to bolster our diplomatic efforts and support the Iraqi people. We will remain prepared to protect our people and our interests in Iraq.
As most Americans enjoy this holiday weekend, our military around the world, and especially in the Middle East, will stay postured and ready for any contingency in that region.
As we celebrate Independence Day tomorrow, I want to particularly express my gratitude to the men and women and their families who serve our nation at home and abroad, both civilian and in uniform. I thank you all for what you do to keep our country safe every day.
Okay, before we get to the questions, let's again restate the obvious: US President Barack Obama has refused to put forward a concrete list of actions for how the US can 'help' Iraq. This probably goes a long way to explaining the results in the recent Quinnipiac poll.
CNN reports, "The poll also indicates that most say it's not in the national interest to get involved in the fighting in Iraq and oppose sending U.S. ground troops to help the Iraqi government, which is trying to hault an aggressive drive by radical Sunni militants who have captured city after city in northern and central Iraq as they march towards Baghdad."
If today's Pentagon press briefing was an honest attempt at informing the people, it failed tremendously.
Even General Dempsey could not explain what the White House has planned for Iraq.
Q: For General Dempsey, to begin with.
Sir, at the beginning, the Pentagon said one of the objectives was to break the momentum of ISIS.
So my question is very specific, not to the assessments. But what is your measure of success in doing that? How do you know that -- how much do you break the momentum? How do you know, mission accomplished this time, that you can say to the president, "We have achieved those objectives"?
And is it enough for the Iraqi forces simply to be able to hold Baghdad? Is the measure of success that? Or is it the Iraqi forces able to go north and regain this massive territory that ISIS has right now?
Are you -- is the United States military prepared, if they have to, to defend Baghdad and defend the airport?
GEN. DEMPSEY: So the questions get more and more complex as we go.
Q: We haven't seen you in a long time.
GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, I know you haven't. Well, you know, it's impossible to wrestle the podium away from John Kirby.
The -- I don't think you've ever heard me say that we would break the momentum.
Q: Actually, Admiral Kirby said it.
GEN. DEMPSEY: Well, I told you. That's my problem.
The issue is for us -- has been for us to determine the ability of the ISF after having suffered some initial setbacks to be able to stabilize the situation and eventually go back on the offensive to regain their sovereign territory and what will we be willing to contribute to that cause. And that's not a question that we're prepared to answer just yet.
In terms of -- you know, you mentioned the airport and you mentioned our intentions. Remember, the phrase I used was that we are protecting that which would allow us to preserve options. And the airport, not the entire airport, but that part of it that we need for logistics, resupply and potentially for evacuation, we are protecting that part of the airport for that purpose.
It's -- it really is about deliberately first preserving options and then developing options. And if you are asking me, will the Iraqis, at some point, be able to go back on the offensive to recapture the part of -- of Iraq that they've lost, I think that's a really broad campaign-quality question.
Probably not by themselves. It doesn't mean we would have to provide kinetic support. I'm not suggesting that that's the direction this is headed. But in any military campaign, you would want to develop multiple actions to squeeze ISIL. You'd like to squeeze them from the south and west. You'd like to squeeze them from the north and you'd like to squeeze them from Baghdad. And that's a campaign that has to be developed.
But the first step in developing that campaign is to determine whether we have a reliable Iraqi partner that is committed to growing their country into something that all Iraqis will be willing to participate in. If the answer to that is no, then the future is pretty bleak.
So, with hundreds of US troops sent back into Iraq, what is the plan?
The best Dempsey can offer is that there's a "first step" in which the US will "determine whether we have a reliable Iraqi partner that is committed to growing their country into something that all Iraqis will be willing to participate in. If the answer to that is no, then the future is pretty bleak."
Right now it appears the future is pretty bleak. It's a shame this couldn't have been determined before hundreds of US troops were sent into Iraq in the last weeks.
The press wasn't just taking dictation in the briefing.
Q: Yes. Again, General Dempsey, what you just described sounds like an open-ended commitment or mission for the U.S. military. A stable Iraq, an inclusive government, the ability to force ISIL into some find of retreat or submission sounds like a long-term effort. What is the end game? When will the president be able to say, "let's bring our boys home"?
GEN. DEMPSEY: Well, first of all, this is not 2003. It's not 2006. This is a very different approach than we've -- than we've taken in the past. I mean, assessing, advising and enabling are very different words than attacking, defeating and disrupting.
Okay, so it was "attacking, defeating and disrupting" and now it's "assessing, advising and enabling." Who knew that for every trillion dollars a nation wastes on an illegal war, Collins Reference tossed in a Roget's Thesaurus? Apparently, they tossed in a calendar as well allowing Dempsey to grasp that it was neither 2003 nor 2006.
Dempsey then went on to explain that US troops on the ground may, in fact, despite the claims otherwise, be involved in "direct action." He stated, "We may get to that point if our national interests drive us there; if ISIL becomes such a threat to the homeland that -- that the president of the United States, with our advice, decides that we have to take direct action. I'm just suggesting to you we're not there yet."
And when reporters hear this and ask about it? A lot of spinning takes place.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you said the advisers would not be involved in combat. General Dempsey, you have raised the possibility that those advisers could be used as forward air controllers in the event that you called in air strikes, which I think most people would regard as being involved in combat. So, which is it on that?
And second, you mentioned that the Iraqis, to go on the offensive, would most likely to need help in logistics, which sounds like a prescription for sending in more U.S. advisers, troops, opening up supply depots. Is that on the table?
GEN. DEMPSEY: You know, there's a tendency to think of this as kind of industrial-strength, you know, where we're going to put a mountain of supplies someplace, and then that's going to require us to protect it, and then we've got to move it forward into the hands of the Iraqis to ensure that they use it and use it responsibly and effectively.
And that's -- that's obviously one possibility, but it's not one that personally I think the situation demands. I think the situation demands first and foremost that the Iraqi political system find a way to separate the Sunnis who have partnered now with ISIL, because they have zero confidence in the ability of Iraq's politicians to govern.
If you can separate those groups, then the problem becomes manageable and understandable and allows us to be in a position to enable Iraq, not with a huge industrial-strength effort, but rather with the special skills, leadership and niche capabilities that we possess uniquely. And there's no daylight between what an adviser will do.
We haven't made -- right now as we sit here, the advisers are categorically not involved in combat operations. They're literally assessing. That's their task. If the assessment comes back and reveals that it would be beneficial to this effort and to our national security interests to put the advisers in a different role, I will first consult with the secretary. We will consult with the president. We'll provide that option and we'll move ahead. But that's where we are today.
Q: (inaudible) -- will not be involved.
SEC. HAGEL: Well, I think the chairman made it very clear. These are assessment teams and that's their mission. Their mission is limited and it is a clear scope of what their mission is, and it is to assess. It is to come back with their assessment of where they believe we are regarding ISF, ISIL, and all the other dimensions that I -- let me finish -- that I said.
Advisers or what may come as a result of any assessments as to what they would come back to General Dempsey with or General Austin, and eventually me and eventually the president, I don't know where they're going to be. But their mission today is making those assessments. So I think the general was pretty clear.
Q: But their mission could change.
SEC. HAGEL: That wasn't your question.
Actually, it was: "Mr. Secretary, you said the advisers would not be involved in combat. General Dempsey, you have raised the possibility that those advisers could be used as forward air controllers in the event that you called in air strikes, which I think most people would regard as being involved in combat. So, which is it on that? And second, you mentioned that the Iraqis, to go on the offensive, would most likely to need help in logistics, which sounds like a prescription for sending in more U.S. advisers, troops, opening up supply depots. Is that on the table?" The entire question was based on the mission changing.
And because Barack has failed to clearly define the US mission, Hagel's left to snap, "That wasn't your question."
Hagel went on to insist, "We have one mission today, and that's assessments. I don't know what the assessments are going to come back and say or what they would recommend. We'll wait to see what that is, what General Austin and General Dempsey then recommend. But, that's the whole point of assessments."
Is that the whole point of assessments?
Thank you for sharing that. But at what point is a clear mission presented to the American people?
General Dempsey spoke of Iran, "On Iran. Look, anyone who's served in Iraq through the years knows that Iran has been active in Iraq since 2005. So, the -- the thought that they are active in Iraq in 2014 is completely unsurprising. Now, it's probably more overt than it has been up until now. And as you know, they -- they, too, have come over to in some ways advise this call for -- for young Shia men to rise in the defense of their nation that Sistani made. By the way, when Sistani made that proclamation, he talked about an Iraq for all Iraqis. I hope so. We'll see. That's a question that has yet to be answered. But the Iranians are there, as you know. They're also flying some unmanned aerial vehicles, and they have, as you described, provided some military equipment. I don't know whether it has violated any Security Council resolutions. That will have to be determined. In terms of whether we intend to coordinate with them or not, we do not intend at this time to coordinate them. It's not impossible that in the future we would be -- we would have reason to do so. In terms of de-conflicting, let's take the airspace. That's sovereign Iraqi airspace. So the de-confliction of our ISR and their ISR and our flights and their flights, that's an Iraqi responsibility which they are capable of fulfilling."
Yeah, the world will believe you on that, Dempsey. In related news, Iran is providing fighter jets to Iraq. Iraqi Spring MC Tweeted the following at 1:00 AM EST -- hours and hours before today's press briefing.
تناقلت وكالات الأنباء العالمية عن خبراء ان الطائرات المقاتلة التي ادعى المالكي انها من روسيا انما هي ايرانية .
You'll note the circles around the painted on flags -- that's the Iranian flag.
In activism news, World Can't Wait is encouraging this action:
Post your event on Facebook.
Post your event at worldcantwait.net.
At Foreign Policy In Focus, Russ Wellen offers something entitled "Maliki Big Loser in the Blame Game" with the subtitle "However vindictive and mule-headed, Prime Minister Maliki doesn't deserve all the blame for the success of ISIS in Iraq."
Is Wellen going to call out Bully Boy Bush and Barack Obama for installing and keeping Nouri? Because that's what happened. Bully Boy Bush installed him in 2006, Barack demanded he get a second term in 2010 and backed Nouri's eight months of refusing to step down after he lost the 2010 election and Barack had US officials broker The Erbil Agreement that gave Nouri a second term.
No, Wellen's not going to do that.
He doesn't do much of anything at all but string together the opinions of others.
When a writer for a 'think tank' doesn't think, what is it? A 'disregard tank'?
Wellen concludes his post with this:
“Of course,” wrote the author of a report with no byline at Conflict Forum, “it is easy for external observers to blame PM Maliki for all Iraqi ills.”
But it was not Maliki that set up the Kurdish autonomous region, or who armed the Peshmerga; nor was it Maliki who disbanded Sadam Hussein’s army or initiated de-Ba’athification or who purged the Sunnis from power. It is true that the Prime Minister is neurotically suspicious of conspiracies mounted against him — a pathology which has deadened and ossified Iraqi politics. But his caution and suspicions, albeit exaggerated and damaging politically, can hardly [be] said to have been entirely without basis.
I'm so sorry, I didn't realize Wellen was so uninformed.
But that is the reality, after all.
Nouri's enablers went far beyond the US government. It included many media 'types.' We gave up on Antiwar Radio because Scott Horton's man crush on Nouri was an embarrassment. He was among many who saw puppet Nouri 'standing up to the US' and -- never having used his actual brain -- he just knew that meant Nouri was heroic.
Heroic people don't target gay and lesbian youth. Nouri is over the Minister of the Interior. He controls it (because he refused to nominate anyone to head it in his second term). The Ministry of the Interior was carrying out his orders when they conflated gay and lesbian youth with Emo culture and declared them both to be vampires and worthy of killing. In fact, let's go slow on this because idiots like Russ Wellen didn't pay attention in 2012 -- they were too busy prostituting themselves for elections.
It was February 2012 when Nouri's Ministry of the Interior announced that the Emo were the number one threat to Iraq. This was also when they started sending officials into the schools to urge the high school children to attack and kill youths who might be (or might not be) Emo, gay or lesbian.
Why, except stupidity, would you ever feel the need to defend someone like Nouri? Someone who deliberately attempted to target the oppressed in society and stir up hatred to incite violence?
As a reminder, we'll drop back to March 11, 2012:
The targeting of Iraqi youth continues. Specifically, if you are or are thought to be Emo or gay, you are targeted. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) speaks with a gay Iraqi youth who explains, "Ten days ago, I received a letter from militiamen threatening me that if they found me then they will not kill me like other 'perverts' but they will cut my body into pieces." The letter reads, "We strongly warn every male and female debauchee, if you do not stop this dirty act within four days, then the punishment of God will fall on you at the hands of Mujahideen." Tawfeeq also reports that a source in the Ministry of the Interior confirmed that 14 Iraqi youths have been killed in the last weeks. We need to clear something up before we go further. This isn't from Tawfeeq's report. Tawfeeq's in the region and reads Arabic so is aware of Emo. But there are two other reports we're going to be kind and not note which insist that "gay" and "Emo" are the same thing in Iraq. No, they're not. You can be gay and Emo. But Emo -- and this comes from the demonization that took place in Egypt last year -- is also seen as "Satinists" and "vampires." Again, we're being kind because for many this story is only now 'news' (only since Saturday have major outlets reported on it). However, we will note Prashant Rao damn well knows better and his report is an embarrassment. The "vampire" aspect has been especially scary (drinking blood) in a country that was bragging just last month that their security forcers had arrested "sorcerers." Brody Levesque (LGBTQ Nation) quotes Iraqi blogger Bissam who explains that "it is commonly assumed that most emos are 'f**s,' feminine (in the case of boys) or masculine (in the case of girls), and Satan worshipers. Girls wearing short skirts, tight trousers (called 'stretch') are also singled out as morally corrupt and therefore legitimate targets." BBC News notes, "Dozens of Iraqi teenagers have been killed in recent months by militias who consider them to be devil worshippers, human rights activists claim. The young people are described as /emos', a term used in the West to refer to youths who listen to rock music and wear alternative clothing. [. . .] Iraq's interior ministry recently described emos as devil worshippers. In Iraq, the term emo is also conflated with homosexuality, which although legal is socially and religiously taboo." The BBC contradicts practically everything Prahsant Rao 'reported' and the BBC is correct. If you're still not getting it, Kanchana Devi (Truth Dive) points out, "The killings have taken place since Iraq’s interior ministry drew attention to the 'emo' subculture last month, labelling it 'Satanism' and ordering a community police force to stamp it out."
It wasn't a concern of Foreign Policy In Focus or Antiwar Radio. It's strange what gets ignored, isn't it? At the middle of last month, a 'helper' wanted to explain the protests that took place in Iraq. And the 'helper' had nothing to say about women. Maybe the 'helper' should have just refrained from typing anything because falsehoods help no one.
Let's drop back to the December 31, 2012 snapshot:
Protests continued over the weekend. Al Bawaba News noted, "Pressure is mounting on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step down, after the largest scale protests so far saw tens of thousands of Iraqis gather on Friday to call for his removal." All Iraq News reported that Minister of Defense Saadoun al-Dulaimi received a list of demands from members of the council of Anbar Province whose citizens passed on the demands: They want the detention of women stopped, they want detainees released and Article 4 of the Constitution reviewed. The Defense Minister was visiting Anbar Province one day after Friday's massive demonstration took place in Falluja (with a conservative estimate of the protesters being 60,000). Al Mada noted that Nouri pronounced Friday's protests in Mosul and Ramadi "uncivilized"; however, rock throwing wouldn't emerge until Sunday.
Mosul is the capital of Nineveh Province. All Iraq News reported that Council Members have informed the central government in Baghdad that their citizens demand the release of prisoners an end to Article 4 and an end to the Justice and Accountability Commission. Article 4 is how Nouri dubs various Iraqi rivals 'terrorists.' And the Justice and Accountability Commission is what Nouri uses to prevent people from running in elections. They have no job, they have no real role. Any Saddam Hussein loyalists would have long ago been captured. But Nouri uses this Article 4 to destroy his political rivals. Alsumaria added that Nineveh Provincial Council announced Saturday a general strike in solidarity with the protesters. It's a 72-hour strike (medical facilities will not be on strike). Today Alsumaria reports that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi has declared that Parliament will abolish Article 4. He compares Article 4 to the Sword of Damocles hanging over the neck of Iraqis.
Atheel (or Ethel) al-Nujaifi is the governor of the province. He's also the brother of Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi. Alsumaria notes that the governor declared Saturday that Nouri al-Maliki can end the current crisis within 24 hours just be returning the arrested to their provinces. Al Mada explains that Nouri has repeatedly targeted Atheel al-Nujaifi.
In October, allegations of torture and rape of women held in Iraqi prisons and detention centers began to make the rounds. In November, the allegations became a bit more and a fistfight broke out in Parliament with an angry State of Law storming out. By December, Members of Parliament on certain security committees were speaking publicly about the abuses. Then Nouri declared that anyone talking about this topic was breaking the law. He continued on this tangent for weeks claiming this past week that he would strip MPs of their immunity. (The Constitution doesn't allow for that.) Also this past week, it was learned that at least four females were raped in a Baghdad prison.
The outrage here is part of what has fueled the protests. Alsumaria notes the Ministry of Justice's latest spin Saturday: Only women guards are at these prisons! Whether that's true or not (most likely it is not) world history demonstrates that when women are imprisoned it's very common for someone to get the 'bright idea' to sell access to these women. Greed is a strong motivator. Again, the very claim is doubtful but if there are no men on staff, that doesn't mean men have not been present in the prisons. It wasn't enough to silence objections or stop the protests.
If you want to talk protest but you don't want to talk women, just sit your tired ass down because you have nothing to share.
The outrage that sparked the 2011 protests in Iraq was "the disappeared." There were many issues at play but for a protest to last more than a few weeks, it has to have a purpose, a reason to exist. In 2011, it was the family members who were taken away by security forces -- sometimes never charged -- and imprisoned, disappeared with their families unable to locate them or even find out if they were still alive. Nouri was/is Baby Pinochet which is why his apologists and defenders are so damn disgusting. (Earlier this week, Trina wrote about the US government's culpability -- as determined by a court of law -- in the deaths of two Americans in Chile under Pinochet.) The next wave of protests kicked off December 21,2012 and the motivating factor there was what was happening to girls and women in Iraqi prisons. This was the higher purpose that could motivate people to go into the streets. The issues were numerous. Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) has summed up the primary issues as follows:
- End of Sectarian Shia rule
- the re-writing of the Iraqi constitution (drafted by the Americans and Iranians)
- the end to arbitrary killings and detention, rape and torture of all detainees on basis of sect alone and their release
- the end of discriminatory policies in employment, education, etc based on sect
- the provision of government services to all
- the end of corruption
- no division between Shias and Sunnis, a one Islam for all Iraqi Muslims and a one Iraq for all Iraqis.
The Iraqi people have suffered under Nouri's corrupt and criminal regime. And the US supplying him with weapons only allow him to terrorize the Iraqi people NINA notes:
Hundreds of families were displaced on Thursday from al-Qaim district west of Anbar, to escape the bombing of the aircraft.
Local residents told the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA / that hundreds of families have fled since the morning to safer areas due to the aerial bombardment of a number of aircraft, believed to be Sukhoi.
They said that the bombing focused on areas of al-Rumana, Karabilah and the center of the district, that led to the killing of a number of people and the destruction of / 5 / residential homes.
Why is the US aiding Nouri in his War Crimes?
In other violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 police officer was injured in a Jurf al-Sakhar shooting, 12 corpses ("including 5 women and two children") were discovered dumped "southwest of Tikrit," 9 corpses were found dumped in Mosul, security forces say they killed 88 suspects in Salah al-Din Province, and security forces say they killed 14 suspects in Diyala Province.
In another sign of security issues, the Iraqi military is said to have abandoned another post today. NINA notes, "Media sources reported that Saudi Arabia deployed 30 thousand troops on its border with Iraq after the withdrawal of Iraqi troops from the region."
Tuesday, Iraq's Parliament met for the first time since the April 30th election and they were unable to name a Speaker of Parliament. NINA reports today that Osama al-Nujaifi (who became Speaker in November 2010) has announced he is withdrawing his name for that post. Along with the Speaker of Parliament, the President of Iraq and Prime Minister of Iraq are the posts to be decided by Parliament. On the presidential post, All Iraq News notes that Goran says there is bickering among the Kurdish parties over who will be president.
President of Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani, said in a speech addressed to the regional parliament hearing today : "Iraq is living a new and a different reality after 2014 June 10.
A member of Kurdistan Parliament Saad Allah Muhammad told the National Iraqi News Agency / Nina /, today: "Barzani stressed t the non-withdrawal of the Peshmerga forces from the disputed areas, which Beshmagah forces seized and controlled after the events of Nineveh on June 10 / 2014.
Abigail Hauslohner and Loveday Morris (Washington Post) put it this way, "Iraq’s Kurdish minority took one step closer Thursday to going its own way, even as politicians in Baghdad, including Kurds, wrangled over the formation of a new central government that would appease the country’s deeply divided factions."
Lastly, Kat reviewed Chrissie Hynde's album Stockholm in "Kat's Korner: Chrissie Hynde rocks out." Chrissie was a guest on NPR's World Cafe today and performed four acoustic numbers: "Dark Sunglasses," "Like In The Movies," "Down The Wrong Way" and "You Or No One."