Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, July 30, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's War Crimes continue, the plight of Iraqi Christians receive some attention, is Nouri being 'eased' out, what is John Kerry's role in the demise of Iraq, and much more.

Ryan Zuke (MLive Media Group) reports that a crowd of over 100 people protested today at Warren City Hall in Warren, Michigan to express their outrage over "the persecution of Iraqi Christians" and that Mayor Jim Fouts and Iraqi Christian leaders noted the lack of movement on the issue from the White House.  The Warren City Mayor declared, "I don't know how the U.S., more specifically, Barack Obama, can overlook this absolute destruction of human rights, knowing full-well what's going on on the ground there.  I don't want this situation to continue in Iraq."

As we noted in Monday's snapshot, "This is becoming an issue around the world.  The Pope has spoken out against the violence repeatedly. Oscar Lopez (Latin Times) quotes Pope Francis stating, 'No more wars.  It's time to stop. Stop, please, I beg you with all my heart, stop'."

Charlotte Hayes (National Catholic Register) reports:

While he deeply appreciates the Holy Father’s strong support for Iraqi Christians, Father Michael Bazzi, a priest at St. Peter Chaldean Church in San Diego, told the Register that members of his church often feel other leaders in the West have abandoned them. His parish is particularly affected by the recent events in Iraq because almost all members still have family there.
“Every day there is a sword in our hearts,” said Father Bazzi.
“Every day we get word of a monastery being burned down,” the Iraq-born priest said. The Christians who are living under Kurdish protection are having a hard time, he said. “They are suffering so much because they have no water, and they have to dig wells, and that takes time,” he said.
Father Bazzi added that one family heard about relatives who had dug a well with great difficulty only to find that the water was salty and undrinkable. But he said that Iraqi Christians do not convert because they have a strong Christian faith and because they “know what Islam is, and they have seen Muslims abuse their wives.”
“I will never say Christianity in Iraq is over, because there have been so many persecutions before, but this is the worst,” Father Bazzi said. “We don’t give up, and we have hope in God. Every day we pray and cry because everybody has somebody who is still there. We are very sad. We have processions, some inside the church and some outside. Procession is a form of prayer. We have processions [to draw attention to the dire situation]. You can see the tears in our eyes, but nobody listens. Where is Obama?”

Where is Obama?

Virginia Republican Rep. Frank Wolf has taken to the House floor three times in the past week to plead for action from the U.S. and world community.
Wolf told me, “The Kurds have done a good job, but they are bearing the burden. President Obama should thank and encourage the Kurds for protecting the Christians. He also needs to provide (humanitarian aid), including funds for water and food.”

As we noted this morning, "The administration's doing very little and it's starting to be noticed."  Which is why people protested outside the White House over the weekend.  July vanishes this week and August emerges.  At the start of November, mid-term elections will be held in the United States.

The US government -- White House -- is seen as more distant and estranged from the government of Israel and the people of Israel than it's ever been.

While some wild-eyed lunatics on my side (the left) see that as a good thing, most Americans do not.  If you doubt it, check out the results of the latest ABC - Washington Post poll which finds "There’s a similar, 19-point gap in strong sentiment on Obama’s handling of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians -- 14 percent approve strongly, while 33 percent strongly disapprove."

Into the mid-terms that's the road the administration takes?

Well, of course, they do.  It's not like Barack's up for re-election.

But he'd be on firmer ground in taking action -- of whatever sort -- against the Israeli government if he'd insulated himself to criticism by making a strong speech decrying the targeting of Christians.

A number of girls get kidnapped in a country and we're told this reminds the White House of their own children?  But Christians are told if they remain in Mosul they either convert, pay a tax or get killed and the White House -- Barack specifically -- has nothing to say?

The White House is and has been politically stupid.  That's why Barack near instantly became a lame duck with the 2012 election.

And now the administration risks turning the mid-terms into some form of Holy War.

Again, whatever Barack's doing or thinks he'd doing with Israel is something he could probably get away with if he'd been decrying the targeting of Christians.  His silence feeds into every negative image, narrative and myth that has ever followed him.

And it doesn't help that he's arm-in-arm with Nouri al-Maliki and has been for years.

As Jon Carroll (San Francisco Chronicle) explains of Iraq:

The current government there, the fruit of all our nation building, is corrupt and violent. It persecutes Sunnis; it excludes them from meaningful positions in the government; it demonizes them. The police are often little more than thugs.
Is that the government the United States wants to preserve? We are supporting it diplomatically; we're invested in it, no matter how dreadful it is. 

That is the message being sent.

Right now, Iraqi Christians are being targeted by some Sunnis.  That's just right now.  Most of the displaced Sunnis are Christians.  But you'd have to actually pay attention to the waves of waves of Iraqi refugees to grasp that.

But Shi'ites have targeted Iraqi Christians over and over and, in fact, throughout the most recent wave of attacks.    And that's not just my opinion.  Monday, the US State Dept issued their "International Religious Freedom Report for 2013."  Here's some of what can be found in the Iraq section:

Since politics and religion are often inextricably linked, it is difficult to categorize many incidents specifically as religious intolerance. Grievances over perceived sectarian differences in treatment by security forces were exacerbated after 44 Sunni protesters were killed by security forces when they sought to disband a protest in Hawija in April following months of protests against the government seeking redress for policies they believed were anti-Sunni.
In July government security forces reportedly made mass arrests in predominantly Sunni areas of Abu Ghraib and Taji following a large-scale prison break carried out by AQI terrorists. Government officials denied the arrests targeted Sunni Muslims. Upon release detainees and witnesses reported to NGOs they were not shown arrest warrants and some detainees reported they were tortured while in custody.
In July during Ramadan, armed Shia militants, reportedly with the tacit support of local security forces, raided dozens of businesses in Baghdad, including cafes employing women, restaurants, bars, social clubs, and nightclubs they considered “un-Islamic.” Eyewitnesses reported local police destroyed property and beat staff and patrons; several people were hospitalized for their injuries and at least one individual died. Baghdad municipal officials stated the raids only focused on establishments “engaged in prostitution,” a claim local NGOs dismissed as false. They viewed the attacks as part of a broader assault on secular establishments.
On June 28, the Shia Endowment authorities demolished the house of Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Bahai Faith, in Baghdad. According to local Bahai contacts and the Ministry of Human Rights, the house had been converted into a mosque decades ago and turned over to the Shia Endowment under the Saddam Hussein regime. The mosque had deteriorated and, according to endowment officials, had to be demolished in order to build a new one. The Bahai World Center reported that it had been attempting to regain ownership of the holy site since 2004.

This was going on and the State Dept -- and the White House -- did nothing.

And now people want to get outraged?

And even now, they just want to get outraged about Sunni rebels, Sunni militants and Sunni extremists.  And they lump them all together, as though they're cohesive and universal when they are anything but that.  As Tim Arango (New York Times) points out while writing of the backlash to the attacks:

The rising public anger also resonates with a strategy being pushed by American officials and some moderate Sunnis here: working to win over some of the Sunni insurgent groups that have allied with ISIS.
Those groups — which include former Baathists who were once close to Saddam Hussein’s government and have already, in some places, fought with ISIS — are opposed to what they regard as the authoritarian rule of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government. But they are also seen as unsympathetic to the stated goal of ISIS to establish an Islamic caliphate under hard-line theocratic rule.

As for that special kind of useless outrage.

'Oh, those horrible Sunni people! Taking on Nouri's blessed government!'

Alsumaria reports that Nouri's latest round of bombing residential neighborhoods in Falluja has left 2 people dead and fourteen more injured.

This has gone on for 7 months now, every day.

And that's okay with the press and with the White House.

But let a group of Sunnis -- militants, rebels, extremists -- 'execute' Iraqi soldiers and suddenly it's clutch the pearls and wet the panties, 'Oh, my goodness! Soliders!  Iraqi soldiers were killed!'

The same group is silent as Nouri bombs Falluja's residential neighborhoods.  Those bombings are legally defined War Crimes.

But there is no outrage among the press over this.  No one really gives a damn about the Sunnis.  That is the message, it is received loud and clear.

The Iraqi Christians can suffer and the White House just doesn't give a damn.  The administration doesn't give a damn.

They only make it more clear when they open their mouths.

Here's John Kerry speaking on Monday:

And we have all seen the savagery and incredible brutality of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – the wholesale slaughter of Shia Muslims, the forced conversions of Christians in Mosul, the rape, executions, and use of women and children as human shields. All of these acts of barbarism underscore the stakes. Just the other week, ISIL declared that any remaining Christians in Mosul must convert, pay a tax, or be executed on the spot. 

And that was it for Iraq.  In a speech of over 2800 words, that's all he could come up with for Iraq.

By contrast, here he is -- in the same speech -- babbling on about the Salem witch hunts:

Freedom of religion is at the core of who we are as Americans. It’s been at the center of our very identify since the pilgrims fled religious persecution and landed in my home state of Massachusetts. And many settled in the city of Salem, which takes its name from the words “salam,” “shalom,” meaning peace.
But we’re reminded that before long, even there – even there in Salem, newly founded in order to get away from religious strife, unfortunately religious persecution arrived on the scene. Women were accused of witchcraft, and some were burned at the stake. Emerging differences between religious leaders in Massachusetts and some congregations were led, as a result of that, to break away and to found new settlements. Rhode Island was founded by people who wandered through the woods leaving Massachusetts and wandered for an entire winter until they broke out on this expanse of water, and they named it Providence, for obvious reasons.

One hundred years after the pilgrims set sail for religious freedom, a Catholic woman was executed on the Boston Common for the crime of praying her rosary. So we approach this issue – I certainly do – very mindful of our past and of how as Americans we have at times had to push and work and struggle to live up fully to the promise of our own founding.

Maybe WGN can pull from some of that to promote the second season of Salem?

That could benefit the series.

At least something would benefit from John Kerry's flapping gums.

Iraq certainly didn't.

We all grasp, right, that the State Dept is over the US mission in Iraq?

That John Kerry's supposed to be providing leadership?

Of course, he's not.

He's not and he hasn't.

As the Washington Post's Dana Milbank points out, "A fairer criticism is that he’s been a man on too many missions while serving a president more interested in domestic affairs.  His predecessor, Hillary Clinton, preserved her political prospects by showing a preference for social media over international hotspots. But Kerry has risked his standing repeatedly, personally leading negotiations over Sudan, Ukraine, Iran, Syria and Afghanistan."

Milbank's call is a solid one.

Look at that list, where John's "personally leading negotiations" and notice what country's not on the list:  Iraq.

Since the start of Fiscal Year 2012 (October 1, 2011), the State Dept's been over the US mission to Iraq and has received billions of US taxpayer dollars for Iraq.

What's been the return on the tax dollar?

Will anyone bother to ask that question?

When billions are spent -- when billions are wasted, who will be held accountable?

Sudan, Ukraine, Iran, Syria and Afghanistan.

When does John Kerry pay attention to Iraq?

Apparently never.

And we have all seen the savagery and incredible brutality of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – the wholesale slaughter of Shia Muslims, the forced conversions of Christians in Mosul, the rape, executions, and use of women and children as human shields. All of these acts of barbarism underscore the stakes. Just the other week, ISIL declared that any remaining Christians in Mosul must convert, pay a tax, or be executed on the spot. 

Again, those were John Kerry's words in full on Monday when speaking of Iraq.

When he was introducing the just released report.

Read it over and wonder if John did?

If he did, you'd think he'd have had more to offer in his speech.

After serving two terms as prime minister and currently seeking a third, Nouri seems to believe he has much to offer.  Hayder al-Khoei (Al Jazeera) becomes the latest to offer that it appears Nouri al-Maliki will not get a third term:

To make matters worse for Maliki, even his own Islamic Dawa Party issued a statement that same day echoing Sistani's demand that politicians must not cling on to power. When I asked a senior Dawa official if this statement meant that there was now a formal split within the Dawa Party, he responded by saying Dawa's leadership was united and in agreement with Sistani that the nominee of the Shia bloc in parliament had to be someone other than Maliki.
This latest development is very significant. It is no longer just the Sunni, Kurdish and rival Shia political parties - as well as Ayatollah Sistani - who believe that a third term for Maliki is untenable. Now, even the party that Maliki heads believes it is time for him to go.

National Iraqi News Agency adds, "The leading member of Ahrar parialmentary bloc within the National Allianc former MP Moshriq Naji " confirmed the veracity of the document which signed and submitted by the National Alliance’s leaders to Speaker Salim al-Jubouri that providing The National Alliance is the biggest parliamentary bloc, not the State of Law."


al jazeera
hayder al-khoei