Saturday, September 06, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Saturday, September 6, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, no end in sight to Barack's undefined mission, John Kerry tries to sell the spin, there's talk of who might be Iraq's vice presidents, and more.

US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke in Wales Friday.  We'll note some of it:

Everybody here understands what ISIL is and the challenge that it represents. I would say to all of you, including those of you – the defense ministers who are now with us, but we had a very provocative conversation last night among the foreign ministers regarding some of the overall challenges we all face, the number of failed states and the challenges of disorder in so many countries. In many ways, I believe ISIL presents us with an opportunity. And it’s an opportunity to prove that we have the ability to come together, that our capacities for defense are not so frozen in an old model that we can’t respond to something like ISIL, that we can’t pull ourselves together and effect the coalition of clearly the willing and the capable to be able to deal with ISIL.

Contrary to what you sort of heard in the politics of our country, the President is totally committed; there is a strategy that is clear, becoming more clear by the day. And it really relies on a holistic approach to ISIL. That is to say that we need to do kinetic, we need to attack them in ways that prevent them from taking over territory, that bolster the Iraqi security forces, others in the region who are prepared to take them on, without committing troops of our own, obviously. I think that’s a redline for everybody here, no boots on the ground. Nevertheless, there are many ways in which we can train, advise, assist, and equip. There are kinetic operations we can run in direct support of Iraqi security forces.

And we’ve proven the model in the last weeks – breaking the siege on Sinjar Mountain, breaking the siege of Amirli, breaking of momentum that was moving towards Erbil, and in effect picking up enough intel to understand that the minute we hit them, these guys are not 10 feet tall. They’re not as disciplined as everybody thinks. They’re not as organized as everybody thinks. And we have the technology, we have the know-how. What we need is obviously the willpower to make certain that we are steady and stay at this.

There is no contain policy for ISIL. They’re an ambitious, avowed genocidal, territorial-grabbing, Caliphate-desiring, quasi state within a regular army. And leaving them in some capacity intact anywhere would leave a cancer in place that will ultimately come back to haunt us. So there is no issue in our minds about our determination to build this coalition, go after this. I’ll give you a quick take at what we are looking for and what we’re going to do.

When we say holistic, we mean every aspect of this group, and I think this could become conceivably a model that can help us with Boko Haram, could help us with Shabaab, with other groups if we can do this successfully. And NATO needs to think of it that way as we consider sort of our role in this new world we’re living in. We need to go after their financing mechanisms and sources, and we need to elicit broad-based support within the world of (inaudible) as well as in the world of normal banking and cover entities, businesses and so forth. Which means our law enforcement and intelligence agencies are going to need to coordinate and work together that have a clear part of an agenda within this framework.

We need a major humanitarian component that needs to be coordinated with the economic component, which will be real, to help Iraq get on its feet. We need a foreign fighter component. President Obama is going to be leading a National Security Council meeting in New York in the course of UNGA. We want – hope everybody will take part in that and help us lay down a critical agenda with respect to how we deal, all of us, with foreign fighters, which is a challenge to every country here, which is partly why we are all here.

Throughout, John's losing the audience with his efforts to footnote and show off that someone did this week's vocabulary list.  He really should stop trying to show off and keep it plain spoken.

I don't agree with much of anything he's saying but the speech starts to fall apart early on and is cratering when he tosses out Boko Haram.  It only gets worse as he tries to talk "kinetic."  (We've spared you that.)

We've used the term here and been specific in its use.  John's all over the place with it and probably confusing people.

Was John's speech supposed to be homework for Americans or was he attempting to communicate with them?

Does no one know how to communicate in the administration?

It's the show boating, the need to dandy up, that divorces them from the reality so many Americans live in.

So the take away from the above is that, no, US Senator Dianne Feinstein, bombs alone won't change a thing.

They'll change numbers -- they'll increase the numbers of the Islamic State.

John Kerry needs to define what the non-military approach will be.

The American people are left in the dark.

The reason for that is, honestly, the White House still doesn't have a plan.

It doesn't have a plan for war, it doesn't have a plan for diplomacy.

No US troops should have been sent into Iraq in June.  Barack certainly shouldn't have announced this week he was sending even more into Iraq.  As Kristina Wong (The Hill) reported Tuesday, "President Obama has ordered 405 additional U.S. troops to Iraq on Tuesday, bringing the total of U.S. forces authorized there to more than 1,000, the White House announced Tuesday."

I'm back on Gasoline Alley
Where the smoke looks like a misty valley
And the dotted hills where pills go down the wrong way
In the service of the king and his kingdom too
Oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh
I was the man and the woman and the who-knows-who
-- "Down The Wrong Way," written by Chrissie Hynde and Bjorn Yttling, first appears on Chrissie's new album Stockholm.

But if you make the decision to send troops in -- and Barack did make that decision -- then you have already reviewed all options and you should know what you will be doing next.

Otherwise, you're just sending troops in blindly and that's what Barack has done.

And instead of presenting a mission, he's responded to each worsening by tossing more troops onto the fire.

Shame on those -- in Congress, and across the US -- who accept this as a plan.

Kristina Wong (The Hill) reported Friday morning, "Military officials are signaling that the fight against Islamist militants in Iraq could take years, raising the possibility of a new, open-ended military commitment that lasts beyond the Obama presidency.  Tony Blinken, the White House’s deputy national security adviser, says defeating the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) would require a long-term commitment."

And that was before John Kerry gave the speech we noted earlier.  In it, his final statements include this, "It may take a year, it may take two years, it may take three years."

A planned mission wouldn't be open-ended. 

John Kerry grasped that in the Bully Boy Bush years when he was among those insisting there needed to be some form of benchmarks by which to measure whether Iraq was progressing or not.  He also once grasped the reality of war.  No longer.

In fact, it's sad that more concern for US troops is expressed by the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government than by the American president.  National Iraqi News Agency reports:

Head of the Kurdistan region Massoud Barzani said on Wednesday, during a meeting with US Senator for the State of Michigan Carl Levin that: "We do not want from America and the nations of the world to send their sons to Kurdistan, but we want to secure humanitarian and military aids to the people of Kurdistan and the Peshmerga, to be able to defend ourselves and the citizens and religious and national components.
A statement by the presidency of the region, today, "said that Barzani stressed to Sen. George and the delegation accompanying him that the region will not allow to terrorism to have a base in Kurdistan.

By the way, the US would send men and women -- sons and daughters.  I appreciate Barzani's sentiment.  Is he being sexist?  I don't think so.  I don't even think it's that he's of a certain age.  I think it's that he's talking about what he's seeing and what he's seeing in the KRG is American men.  If that is the case, there are implications to that which aren't even being touched on.

Maybe someone else will unpack that?  (Probably not and we'll get stuck with it next week.)

For now, let's repeat: I'm against more war on Iraq.

I'd think even the War Hawks who seem to get giddy at the thought of blood spilled on the battlefield would be rushing over to my side as Barack proves repeatedly that the role of commander-in-chief is beyond his grasp.

But these days, it's all beyond his grasp.

Who would have thought the administration of Barack Obama -- aka Mr. Pretty Words -- would have difficulty with messaging?

This inability to communicate clearly was again on display today when John Kerry spoke and it's  all the more troubling when you grasp that John thinks he was crystal in his statements as evidenced by remarks like this,  "We need a clarity to the strategy, and a clarity to what everybody is going to undertake."

Are you waiting for someone to provide that clarity to you, John? 

Because that clarity was actually needed before Barack started sending US troops into Iraq as spring was winding down and summer beginning.

If anyone's getting the spin across even semi-successfully it's the State Dept spokespersons Jen Psaki and Marie Harf.

Friday, Marie Harf handled the department's press briefing and noted, "Second item at the top – second and final item at the top. Deputy Assistant Secretary Brett McGurk arrived in Baghdad today for several days of discussions with Iraqi leaders on our mutual efforts in confronting ISIL to include the next steps in building a regional and international coalition to support those efforts. He will also support the efforts of Ambassador Beecroft in encouraging the Iraqis to complete their government formation process as soon as possible. McGurk will also travel to Erbil for discussions and then later join the Secretary during his onward travel to the region following the NATO summit as well."

We'll also note this section -- a minor one to many, a blink of the eye.

QUESTION: And finally, it looks like the U.S. is sending former U.S. Ambassador Ross Wilson to Ankara as a temporary –

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Can you tell us a little bit on that appointment?

MS. HARF: Yep. So John Bass, who is President Obama’s nominee as ambassador to Turkey, is awaiting a confirmation vote from the Senate as are 50 other – over 50 other ambassadorial nominees awaiting a vote. So we are facing the prospect of a long-term gap in filling this crucial position of ambassador to Turkey. Obviously, we recognize the centrality of a strong U.S.-Turkey relationship, so the Secretary has asked Ross Wilson to return to Ankara – he served as ambassador there from 2005 until 2008 – to serve as the charge d’affaires until John Bass is confirmed as the ambassador. We, as we do with all of our nominees, encourage the Senate to confirm him as soon as possible.

Why are we noting that?


Not all nominees have been held up.  We know that, right?

Let's back up to our earlier quote from Marie Hart.

See if you can spot the puzzling moment.

I'll give you a hint, Marie's not making a mistake.  Don't look for that.

Second item at the top – second and final item at the top. Deputy Assistant Secretary Brett McGurk arrived in Baghdad today for several days of discussions with Iraqi leaders on our mutual efforts in confronting ISIL to include the next steps in building a regional and international coalition to support those efforts. He will also support the efforts of Ambassador Beecroft in encouraging the Iraqis to complete their government formation process as soon as possible. McGurk will also travel to Erbil for discussions and then later join the Secretary during his onward travel to the region following the NATO summit as well.

Did you catch it?

Okay, let's move in for a close up in case anyone missed it:

He will also support the efforts of Ambassador Beecroft in encouraging the Iraqis to complete their government formation process as soon as possible.

Ambassador Beecroft?

Robert Steven Beecroft is not the Ambassador of Iraq anymore.

Let's quote from the Senate Democrat's website:

The Senate confirmed the Beecroft, Dynan, Kai’aina, Logan and Handelsman nominations by voice votes.
Senators should expect 2 roll call votes at 5:30pm on Monday, July 7. Those votes would be on the following items:

What was Beecroft confirmed to be?  US Ambassador to Egypt.

As The Atlantic Council noted the next day (June 27th):

The Senate has confirmed the new US ambassador, Robert Beecroft, to Egypt after lengthy delays. The president nominated the envoy in May, but his nomination was held up in a larger Senate logjam that has affected dozens of appointees. Beecroft’s nomination was confirmed by voice vote.

So who is the US Ambassador to Iraq?

Let's again quote from the Senate Democrats' website on June 26th:

1:45PM the Senate began a 15minute roll call vote on confirmation of Calendar #897 Stuart E. Jones, of Virginia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Iraq;

Confirmed: 93-0

Barack's first nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq was the hideous Chris Hill. He didn't make it to a second year in the post.  Then Barack nominated James Jeffrey and Jeffrey was more of an adult than Chris.  (He also didn't get fired the way Hill did.  Jeffrey chose to leave and there's a story there the press has apparently all agreed not to touch.)  Then Barack nominated Brett McGurk but that was a failed nomination.

So Barack nominated Beecroft who became the third US Ambassador to Iraq since 2009.  And now Stuart Jones is Barack's fourth US Ambassador to Iraq.

This never-ending game of musical chairs neither inspires confidence nor fosters consistency. 

Iraq needs a diplomatic solution.  Barack's rightly and repeatedly noted in the last months.

It's difficult to see how this was going to be achieved with The Obama Conga Line of Iraq Ambassadors doing can-can kicks across the Middle East.

Brett McGurk's now meeting with Beecroft in Baghdad.  Another sign that it wasn't the time to again swap out the post. 

If only Ice Cube had been around to advise McGurk, Brett might be the ambassador today.  (In 21 Jump Street, Ice Cube tells Channing Tatum, "Keep that dirty dick inside your pants.")  In fairness to Brett, whose nomination I opposed, he's pretty much done the job without the title.

Brett McGurk Tweeted:

John Kerry should be there for those talks but Marie Harf made clear in today's press briefing that, at present, there were no plans for Kerry to be in Iraq.

Time is running out.

August 11th is when the prime minister-designate was named and that's when the 30 day time limit kicked off.  Barack observed,  "Today, Iraq took a promising step forward in this critical effort.   Last month, the Iraqi people named a new President.  Today, President Masum named a new Prime Minister designate, Dr. Haider al-Abadi.  Under the Iraqi constitution, this is an important step towards forming a new government that can unite Iraq’s different communities."

Five days to form a Cabinet.  And this as NINA reports State of Law MP Ammar al-Shibli is insisting that "some political blocs to submit unacceptable names and incompetent to Prime Minister [designate] Haider Abadi to embarrass him."

Well there's at least one looney name being bandied about.  All Iraq News reports there are three names for vice president and one for Foreign Minister.   Former prime minister Ibrahim al-Jafaari is said to be the choice for Minister of Foreign Affairs.  The three names for vice president?
Iraqiya leader Ayad Allai, former Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and thug and . . .  'outgoing' prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Again, Nouri's never gone until he's in the ground.

People underestimated him as a thug and they continue to underestimate him.

Which is a real shame because Nouri remains the biggest obstacle to peace in Iraq.

Margaret Griffis ( counts 52 dead in Friday's violence with another 38 injured.

kristina wong