Monday, September 15, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Monday, September 15, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, a big meet-up in Paris plots how to bring more violence to Iraq, Barack continues to fumble, and much more.

A lot of talk about Iraq is passed off as reporting in today's spin cycle.

Real reporting from Iraq would focus on real issues such as the question of was an order given or not?

Because if an order was given and the Iraqi military refused to obey it, there would be no reason for the US government and others to come to the 'aid' of government.

Third's "Editorial: The bombing of civilians continues in Iraq" noted Iraq's new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, ordered an end to the military bombing civilian targets on Saturday.

That's what al-Abadi declared publicly.

Yet on Sunday,  Falluja General Hospital was bombed and, in addition, Iraqi Spring MC noted the bombings of residential neighborhoods in Falluja also continued with 6 civilians left dead  and 22 more injured.

Was al-Abadi lying on Saturday?

Or did the Iraqi military ignored orders given by the prime minister?

If it's the latter, if an order was given and the Iraqi military refused to follow it, there's no point in any foreign government 'helping' at this point.

And if the issue is a politician who lied?

That's damaging in its own way.  Alice Fordham (Sunday Weekend Edition, NPR -- link is text and audio) spoke with US Col Derek Harvey about the Sahwa -- mainly Sunni forces who were instrumental to reducing violence and who were among those targeted by the recently former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki:

FORDHAM: Harvey thinks as many as a quarter of them [Sahwa]  fought alongside the Islamic State this year. He says that everything depends on the new government led by new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi who will have...

HARVEY: ...To work and legitimize local defense forces and empower Sunni-Arab political leaders of all stripes in these provinces.

FORDHAM: Abadi's been in power for almost a week now and is making all the right promises. But political wrangling has stopped the appointment of an interior or defense minister. And Harvey says this plan won't work until there's tangible political progress here. Alice Fordham, NPR News, Baghdad.

And then there's that issue, noted as an aside:  The country still has no Minister of the Interior or Minister of Defense.  There were none in Nouri's second term and the new prime minister has faced resistance and hostility to his nominees for the post -- resistance and hostility from Parliament.

This is no time for these positions to be empty.

Barack likes to say the government of Iraq (that the US installed) wants 'our help' but how can you help someone who repeatedly refuses to fill the posts that would protect their own country?

The press isn't pursuing that question -- or any others -- because they're too busy rushing to support and encourage war.

John Irish and Jason Szep (Reuters) note, "World powers backed military measures on Monday to help defeat Islamic State fighters in Iraq, boosting Washington's efforts to set up a coalition, but made no mention of the tougher diplomatic challenge next door in Syria."

This was the big takeaway from the meet-up in France today.  Cassandra Vinograd (NBC News) reports Francois Hollande, the President of France, presided over a meeting of various world officials -- including US Secretary of State John Kerry -- in Paris in which they will supposedly address issues in Iraq.

The only issue for them was the Islamic State and how to combat it with violence.  And while they talked, violence continued.  Margaret Griffis ( notes, "Diplomats from 30 countries met in Paris today to discuss the Islamic State situation in Iraq. The Kurdish Peshmerga Ministry held its own meeting with representatives from seven countries. Attacks and battles left at least 86 dead and 22 wounded."

Reuters quotes Hollande asking, "What is the threat?"

Any notion that this was going to address real issues quickly vanished as it became obvious Hollande was not asking for input but being rhetorical.  Answering his own question, he declared, "It is global so the response must be global... Iraq's fight against the terrorists is also our fight. We must commit ourselves together -- that is the purpose of this conference."  All Iraq News notes he insisted the Islamic State is a "threat to world peace."  This despite the fact that, unlike France, the Islamic State has confined its war actions to Iraq and Syria while France has pretty much spun the globe.

For years, the world has allowed things to worsen in Iraq until an Islamic State could be built and fostered.  Now they want to 'address' the product and not the conditions that produced it in the first place.

That's never an answer.

Among those representing Iraq at the conference is Iraqi President Fuad Masoum.  All Iraq News notes he and Hollande held a joint press conference today.  National Iraqi News Agency reports on a speech he gave:

Masum said in his speech in the International Conference on peace and security for Iraq, in the French capital Paris that: "Iraq needs more military support to eliminate terrorism, especially after the qualitative transformation in terrorist operations, from scattered criminal operations to the establishment of a terrorist state" stressing: "The occupation of the Islamic State to the safe areas did not exclude religion or sect or nationality and its crimes affected women, elderly and children."

He added: "The goals of the terrorists and their danger became clear now through their speeches, to occupy all the areas under their control, and the presence of foreign fighters within the (IS) and using modern technologies and passed traditional thought in its work, represents a new threat to regional and international powers," adding: "the terrorists are still using the policy of "with us or against us" and through this way and curriculum killed thousands of men, women, children and elderly in areas they had controlled. "

He continued: Dozens of families are still suffering from the control and influence of this terrorist organization since months after they prevent them from immigration, and have committed genocide in the areas under their control by the so-called Sharia courts, stressing that the terrorist organization violated holy sites and places of worship and civilization has existed since thousands of years in areas they had controlled. "

Let's pretend for a moment.  In our little exercise, the aims of Barack and others to kill every member of the Islamic State worked.  It's never happened before but in our exercise/pretense it did.

Does that mean it's over?


Because the conditions that allowed the Islamic State to rise up and take root continue to exist.

Instead of bombing anything, it would make more sense to address those conditions.

Doing so would rob IS of popular support.

Doing so would mean many in IS would be leaving it, turning against it.

The bombing and killing?
You better be prepared to do that for decades and to wipe out everyone.

Because otherwise, some people are going to grow up feeling wronged and those people are going to want justice.

Already the bombing campaign is angering old foes of the US in Iraq.  For example, cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr is objecting to the outside 'interest' in Iraq's affairs.  National Iraqi News Agency reports he issued a statement:

Sadr said in a statement carried his signature and stamp today, " The / Black House / decided to launch attacks on Iraqi territory and this American decision perhaps came after its remorse to its fake withdraw."
He added: " if you came back again we will back."
Sadr added, "the government should not get help from the occupier whatever, even under the pretext of (the Islamic State), which is not exist except in the imagination, but is a creature of Americans."

Moqtada is not a minor figure.  He is popular exactly because he gives voice to the thoughts of many.  

Tom Vanden Brook and William M. Welch (USA Today) report, "The United States launched airstrikes in Iraq on Monday in what defense officials said is the start of an expanded action against Islamic State extremists. The U.S. military's Central Command said both fighter and attack aircraft conducted separate airstrikes Sunday and Monday in support of Iraqi forces southwest of Baghdad and near Sinjar, Iraq."

Moqtada was speaking as this change was taking place.  For those who don't grasp what's changed, Eyder Peralta (NPR) explains:

In an August interview with The New York Times, President Obama vowed that "the United States had no intention of 'being the Iraqi air force.'"
But, then in a prime-time speech to the American public, Obama announced a broader mission against the Islamic State, saying the United States ultimately wanted to "destroy" the Sunni militant group.

Of today's bombing, AFP notes, "They bring the number of US air strikes across Iraq to 162."

So Barack's 'plan' is to carry out 1,620 air strikes?  Or 16,200 air strikes?  

What's the magic number that suddenly makes bombing an answer?

There is no magic number.  There is just bombing.  And Barack's not going to be able to kill every member of IS but these bombings certainly will result in the birthing of new members of the Islamic State. 

The United Nations News Centre noted:

      14 September 2014 – Sustained funding and support will be vital if the United Nations and its partners are to continue assisting the millions of Iraqis affected by the ongoing crisis in the country, particularly as winter approaches, the world body's top humanitarian official said on Sunday.

Addressing reporters in Baghdad, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos highlighted the very serious humanitarian crisis resulting from the surge in violence between armed groups and Government forces which has left 1.8 million people internally displaced and hundreds of thousands in need of assistance.

“Some families have been displaced multiple times and have been left terrified by what has happened to them,” she stated. “Winter is fast approaching and there is a huge amount of work needed to ensure that families have protection from the cold.”

During her visit to the country, Ms. Amos visited the Khanke camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Dohuk, one of the largest in the country.

“I heard horrendous stories of violence and brutality from 'Da'ash' on ordinary children, women and men,” she said, using another name for the armed group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

She added that as the international community works together with the Government to tackle the rising levels of conflict and brutality across Iraq and also Syria being meted out by 'Da'ash' and other armed groups, it is important to also remember the humanitarian impact.

That's a way to address some of the conditions in Iraq, by focusing on aiding those in need.

Sadly, the War Hawks in the administration are only focused on killing.

All Iraq News reports John Kerry boasted in Paris today that many countries are offering "to send troops into Iraq."  That's diplomacy?

Sounds like stupidity.

How does he think statements like that play out in Iraq to the Iraqi people?  

He doesn't.

But Iraq suffered sanctions -- US-imposed -- in the 90s and is still in the midst of the war that began in 2003 by the US-led invasion.  What the US-installed government is calling 'help' can look a lot like another form of occupation to the Iraqi people.

A working State Dept would grasp that.

But Kerry's too busy playing War Hawk and stroking the War Machine to register reality.

At the State Dept press briefing today, moderated by spokesperson Marie Hart, the world got a look at just how dysfunctional it had become.  Excerpt.

MS. HARF: Good afternoon. Happy Monday, everyone. Welcome to the daily press briefing. I have a few items at the top, and then open it up for your questions.
First, Secretary Kerry will travel to New York on Friday, September 19th to chair a ministerial debate of the United Nations Security Council on Iraq as part of the U.S. presidency of the council for the month of September. Secretary Kerry will convene the council to demonstrate broad and unified international support for the new Iraqi Government and emphasize the need for broad political inclusivity as the new government pursues its agenda on behalf of the Iraqi people. In addition, the council session will also provide a platform for the international community to underscore its support for Iraq’s new government as it fights against ISIL and responds to the ongoing humanitarian crisis that ISIL is spreading. Lastly, the council session will highlight support for Iraq’s further reintegration into the region and the international community. The debate will begin at 2 p.m. on Friday. Secretary Kerry will return to New York on Sunday, September 21st, to begin his UNGA schedule, which we’ll have more details on later this week.
Second item at the top: The United States does not recognize the legitimacy of the so-called regional and local elections in Crimea on September 14th and will not acknowledge their outcome. Our position on Crimea remains clear: The peninsula remains an integral part of Ukraine. The United States continues to condemn the Russian Federation’s occupation and purported annexation of Ukrainian territory and its violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity in breach of its obligations and commitments under the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, and its military basing agreements with Ukraine. We call on Russia to return Crimea to its rightful status as part of Ukraine. We are also concerned about wide-scale reports of Ukrainian citizens in Crimea being forced to give up their Ukrainian passports for Russian passports and reports of routine human rights abuses against Crimean Tatars and other minorities and pro-Ukrainian activists, such as killings, disappearances, detentions, and raids on private homes and businesses. These abuses are unacceptable and we call for an immediate end to such practices.
And finally, a trip update. Secretary Kerry is in Paris today participating in the International Conference on Peace and Security in Iraq. Additionally, he will – had or has already had – obviously, the schedule’s ongoing – bilateral meetings with French Foreign Minister Fabius, the Lebanese foreign minister, the Dutch foreign minister, Iraqi President Masum, and Qatari Foreign Minister al-Attiyah.
That is it.


MS. HARF: Get us started.

QUESTION: Okay. Let’s start with Iraq.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: And just first with a logistical question about the meeting on Friday.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Is that – is it your expectation that that will foreign ministers, all foreign ministers, or you’re not --

MS. HARF: I can check on participation. I know that’s still being worked out, obviously. He’s chairing it, but we can check on specific participation and at what level.

QUESTION: Okay. And then related to that – so he will leave New York, or he will definitely not have any schedule on Saturday until --

MS. HARF: In New York.

QUESTION: -- Sunday – sometime on Sunday? Is that correct?

MS. HARF: Correct. Yes. We don’t want people to think he’s up there Friday for the duration.

QUESTION: Okay. All right. So on Iraq and the coalition and Secretary Kerry’s travels, I realize that this has been – there was a lengthy discussion of this at the White House, so I think that a lot of questions have been answered or they’ve been --

MS. HARF: Great. I will always let them go out to the podium first. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Right. But I – you saw this – these reports from Iran with the Supreme Leader. He said when he left the hospital that both your ambassador in Baghdad, Ambassador Beecroft, and the Secretary made direct outreaches, made outreaches to Iranian – well, the ambassador to the Iranian ambassador and Secretary Kerry to Foreign Minister Zarif – about the situation in Iraq. Is that --

QUESTION: About the situation where?



QUESTION: With ISIL. Is that – one, is that true? And two, if it is – even if it isn’t true, can – have there been – what kind of contacts have there been other than the ones that you have already spoken to between Deputy Secretary Burns and others on the side of the P5+1?

MS. HARF: Well, we don’t outline every diplomatic discussion publicly that we have. We’ve said we’ve talked about it on the sidelines of the P5+1 talks, as you mentioned. We’ll be continuing these talks on the nuclear issue starting this week at UNGA, so there may be additional opportunities for conversations. We’re not going to outline every discussion we have, but to be very clear, we are not coordinating with, we do not want to coordinate with, we are not planning to coordinate with Iran in any way on Iraq, period. So obviously, we’re open to having a discussion with them. We won’t always outline all of those discussions. But in terms of the content of what those discussions might look like, we are not coordinating with them.

QUESTION: And there has been no approach to them either in – there’s been no approach to them in Baghdad through the ambassadors?

MS. HARF: I’m not confirming one way or the other any reports of contact. As we’ve said, there are a variety of ways we can talk, but again, don’t always outline all of those publicly.

QUESTION: But what you’re saying is that any contact that you have had and may have in the future will 
not be an ask of Iran; is that right?

MS. HARF: Correct, absolutely correct.


QUESTION: Wait a minute. Not coordinating is different from not asking them something.

MS. HARF: Well, he was – but the reports were about asking to coordinate.


MS. HARF: Correct? So that’s what I was referring to.

QUESTION: The Secretary of State personally asks Zarif and he rejected the request.

MS. HARF: So I was --

QUESTION: So it says nothing that Iran – there’s nothing – in these meetings they haven’t been set up so that Iran – you’re expecting a response, yes or no, from Iran; is that correct?

MS. HARF: We’re certainly not discussing coordinating with them because we’re not going to be coordinating with them.

QUESTION: Well, there’s a question – is there anything for the Iranians to say no to?

MS. HARF: I have – I mean, I don’t even know – I’m sure they could say no to something.

QUESTION: Well, they say – I mean he says no, we said no – right from the start, the U.S. asked through its ambassador whether we would cooperate against Daesh.

MS. HARF: And I just said we are not going to cooperate --

QUESTION: Not. So there --

MS. HARF: So obviously, that would follow that we haven’t asked them to.

QUESTION: Okay. So there is nothing for the Iranians to say no to?

MS. HARF: Well, not necessarily. If we say hypothetically, as I said publicly, we’d like you to support the inclusive government --

QUESTION: Oh, okay. All right.

MS. HARF: I guess then --

QUESTION: As far as you understand --

MS. HARF: -- technically that could be a yes or no question.

QUESTION: But the Iranians – as far as you know, the Iranians have at least gone along with supporting an inclusive government?

MS. HARF: I haven’t heard otherwise.

QUESTION: All right. Sorry, Arshad.

MS. HARF: Yeah, I just wanted to be clear on that for you, so --

QUESTION: What is – can you explain what you’re talking to them about? If you’re not talking about coordinating against IS, what are you – and you’re not asking them to do anything, what are you talking to them about?

MS. HARF: Well, I’ve actually said publicly that we’re asking every country in the region to support the new – including Iran – to support the new inclusive government in Iraq, to channel any assistance to the Iraqi security forces, not to militias or others. Again, I’m not saying these are actual things we’ve said privately to the Iranians; but in general, what I’ve said publicly is that is our message to the Iranians.

QUESTION: So – but then what are you asking them? If that’s your message to the Iranians, are you not saying that to them in private, too?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to outline our private discussions with them from the podium.

QUESTION: So you can’t tell us what you’ve actually discussed with them privately; all you can say is that you’re not going to coordinate with them and you’re not asking them to coordinate?

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: But there’s a lot you could do other short of coordinating with them.

MS. HARF: Like what?

QUESTION: Well, I mean, you outlined some of it. You talked about even if you’re not coordinating with them, you’re asking them not to fund Iraqi militias. Is that coordination or is that not coordination? I guess in your definition it’s not coordination?

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t say we were asking them that privately. I said in general, what I’ve said publicly is our message to the Iranians is everyone in the region should support this new government. That’s not a secret.


MS. HARF: That everyone should funnel their support to the Iraqi security forces. I think the report Matt is referencing is a report about coordinating military action, which we have been very clear we are not going to do. And we’re not coordinating with the Iranians on activities inside of Iraq. We’re making clear privately what we say publicly, and they can make their own decisions.

QUESTION: So – okay, so you are making clear privately what you’ve said publicly and what you just referenced about what you’ve said publicly about your desire that they not fund – that nobody fund --

MS. HARF: I’m not getting into specifics, but that we think every country should support the Iraqi security forces if they’re going to private support in this fight here.

QUESTION: But you’re not willing to admit that you’ve said that privately even though you just said we’re saying to them privately what we’re saying publicly?

MS. HARF: I just said, Arshad, that I’m happy to say we are telling everyone we talk to, including the Iranians, that any support should be given to the new government and to the Iraqi security forces.


MS. HARF: That is as detailed as I’m going to get about what we say privately to the Iranians.

QUESTION: If the report is wrong that they have rejected your entreaties or your floating the idea of some kind of cooperation --

MS. HARF: Because we haven’t.

QUESTION: -- so why not try to give people some understanding of what you’re trying to get from them?

MS. HARF: Because we don’t think the way to handle this diplomatically is to talk about our private discussions publicly.

All that time wasted and why?

Because Marie and the State Dept want to split hairs over what sort of relationship they are or are not creating with Iran currently.

That's the sort of thing that they focus on, they that obsess over.

Meanwhile Al Arabiya News reports France has now joined England in sending spy planes into Iraqi air space to carry out "surveillance flights."

So you have other countries now aping the already questionable behavior of the United States.

When the Iraqi people register their offense over these attacks -- and they will -- will they be listened to?

Or will it be like the most recent round where for years they called for all foreign troops to leave their country and, after 8 years, most had left?

If there's a way to improve things, the White House will stumble past it and focus on something else.  Which may be why US President Barack Obama suffers so badly in the polls.  The Chicago Tribune's Clarence Page reminds, "A USA Today-Pew Research Center poll later in August found 54 percent of Americans thought Obama was 'not tough enough.' A Washington Post-ABC poll released Friday similarly found Obama’s approval rating on foreign affairs slipping to a new low of 37 percent among women, almost matching his 38 percent among men."