Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, October 14, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Barack Obama attends (but does not lead) a meaningless meet-up, State Dept confuses itself with the Defense Dept (again), Turkey resumes bombing Iraq, Amnesty releases a report on the targeting of Sunnis and much more.

Eugene Robinson (Washington Post via News-Leader) concludes what many still seem afraid to say:

 It's not too soon to state the obvious: At this point, the war against the Islamic State can only be seen as failing.
U.S.-led air power has barely been able to keep the jihadist militants from capturing the Syrian town of Kobane, near the Turkish border — and the besieged city may yet fall. Far to the southeast, Islamic State fighters have come within a few miles of Baghdad and threaten to consolidate their control of the vast Anbar Province, the Sunni heartland of Iraq. The self-proclaimed "caliphate" remains intact and its forces are advancing.

Earlier today, CBS News reported, "President Obama met military commanders from more than 20 countries on Tuesday to discuss how to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)."

That 'brain trust' must have been something.

Better have been considering how much the US taxpayer is forking over for Barack's 'plan.'

  • Pentagon says the airstrike campaign in Iraq & Syria has cost $424 million so far since they started on August 8 -- first strike in Iraq

  • At the meet up today, Barack, of course, advocated leadership.


    Not exactly.

    The White House captioned the official photo, by Pete Souza, as follows:

    President Barack Obama participates in a meeting hosted by Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with more than 20 foreign chiefs of defense to discuss the coalition efforts in the ongoing campaign against ISIL.

    He participated, did he?

    Well then he takes home a participation trophy!

    Of course, being the highest ranking official in the room, most people would expect him to do more than just 'participate.'  Most people would expect him to lead, right?

    Guess no leadership with Barack.

    Today, he declared, "One of the things that has emerged from the discussions, both before I came and during my visit here, is that this is going to be a long-term campaign.  There are not quick fixes involved.  We’re still at the early stages.  As with any military effort, there will be days of progress and there are going to be periods of setback."

    This is only the beginning.  Well that gives him time to come up with a plan, right?

    Because dropping bombs isn't a plan, no matter how many people pretend otherwise.

    What did he used to say over and over, like a trained parrot, about Iraq?

    Oh, that's right: It required a political solution.

    Help me out, how does the big meet-up of "more than 20" defense ministers get to work on political solutions?

    Oh, that's right, it doesn't.

    And, turns out, the big meet-up?

    It was something of a fake.

    An official explained to the press that it was no big deal. New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key told Audrey Young (New Zealand Herald):

    "It is a regular meeting the CDF always goes to."

    "It's true that one of the topics of conversation will be what contributions countries might make although that is not the purpose of the meeting as I understand it."

    Barack likes to inflate the truth, doesn't he?  And he's got such a willing partner in the US press.

    Also questioning the 'plan'?  Artist Neil Young.  Of the singer-songwriter, Joe Newby (Spokane Conservative Examiner) reports:

    The radical Islamic group ISIS is taking large areas of land in Iraq and Syria, enslaving women and beheading anyone with whom they disagree -- even children. But those are secondary concerns as far as singer Neil Young is concerned, Canada's Sun News reported Tuesday. What's more important to Young is the impact a conflict with ISIS would have on the environment.
    "We can do little things to fight climate change but our armed forces are the biggest carbon dioxide providers in the world, and yet we are fighting, what, ISIS?" he told Howard Stern over the weekend. According to Young, terror groups like al-Qaida and ISIS have smaller carbon footprints than Western militaries and their "big machines," Sun News added.
    "Since 1950 we've lost 90% of the fish in the ocean (and) we've doubled our own population," he told Stern. "Since 1970, we've lost half the wildlife on the planet and again we've doubled our population."

    "And we are fighting these wars against these organizations and their carbon footprint has got to be like one percent of our huge army and our navy and all of this stuff that have with all our big machines," he added, as though America's foreign policy and national defense should be based solely on the carbon footprint of its military. "We're doing more damage to the earth with our wars. And you try to find out? Hey, freedom? No, freedom, you don't get it. You can't find out what that carbon footprint is of the military. It's not available for us."

    Andrew Kirell (Mediaite) adds:

    But when it came to politics, Young made it quite clear he is disappointed in the environmental policies of the Obama administration. “Our leaders are doing a bang-up job,” he snarked when discussing whether policies have shifted in a direction he’d find favorable.
    “Obama just opened up the Gulf of Mexico to fracking for all the oil companies,” he said. “I don’t see the prescience in that.”
    Stern and Young both noted that the president campaigned with an environmental theme back in 2008.
    “Isn’t that what Barack Obama said? ‘Change and hope’ and all that?” Young recalled. “And they’re fracking in the Gulf of Mexico. Hello, Barack! Wake up, buddy!”

    Young insisted that among powerful world leaders, Obama has failed to take a stronger stance in favor of alternative energy sources. “If the United States of America is the leader of the free world, why is it that we are saying that we can maybe have two percent solar energy by 2020 and Germany has 50 percent renewable energy right now with the same sun and the same crops?” he asked.

    That's Neil's own hair.

    I mention that because maybe gutless Robert Redford is so ridiculous while pretending to give a damn about the environment because of that ginger colored rat's nest he wears on his head which he pretends is his own hair?

    Unlike Redford, Neil cares about the environment so he's never going to whore for any politician.  (Or get caught producing a 'documentary' that staged events to make Rahm Emanuel look good.)

    Changing topics, but on the same theme, John Kerry is the US Secretary of State.  Today, he met with Laurent Fabius, France's Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Sergey Lavrov, Russia's Minister of Foriegn Affairs.

    And they discussed Iraq . . . .

    Well . . .

    They discussed how to defeat the Islamic State.

    Secretary of State John Kerry:  And in addition, we particularly talked about ISIL. We both recognize the need to destroy and ultimately defeat ISIL, to degrade their efforts and ultimately to defeat them, and also to counter the violent and oppressive approach of ISIL. Minister Lavrov acknowledged, as we acknowledged, both of us have people from our countries who are fighting in ISIL. There may be as many as 500 or more from Russia. We both recognize that ISIL has absolutely no place in the 21st century. No decent country by any definition could support the horrors that are perpetrated by ISIL, and no civilized country should shirk its responsibility to stand up and be part of the effort to stamp out this disease.
    In our discussions today, I suggested to Foreign Minister Lavrov that we intensify intelligence cooperation with respect to ISIL and other counterterrorism challenges of the region, and we agreed to do so. And we also agreed to explore whether Russia could do more to support Iraqi Security Forces, and the foreign minister indeed acknowledged their preparedness to help with respect to arms, weapons – they are doing that now and they already have provided some – and also potentially with the training and advising aspects.

    In terms of "counterterrorism" and  how "to support Iraqi Security Forces"?

    John Kerry is still head of the State Dept, right?

    Not the Defense Dept?

    Even State doesn't have time to work on diplomacy.

    Or to promote it -- as evidenced by this Tweet today.

  • U.S. military and partner nations continued airstrikes against ISIL in Syria and Iraq today: via

  • Barack and his entire administration are bunch of overgrown kids who think they're in a sandlot with plastic toy soldiers they can play with.

    But apparently, there are a lot of 'big kids' all over the world wanting to play war.  For example, BBC reports:

    Turkish F-16 and F-4 warplanes have bombed Kurdish PKK rebel targets near the Iraqi border, as their ceasefire comes under increasing strain.
    The air strikes on Daglica were in response to PKK shelling of a military outpost, the armed forces said.

    You can do Turkey a favor and pretend this is somehow 'Islamic State' related.

    It's not.

    But you can play dumb.  AFP does.

    This is part of the non-stop violence that began in the 80s between the PKK (Kurdish group that uses violence) and the Turkish government.  At the heart of it all, the PKK feels the Kurds are discriminated against in Turkey -- and they are.  Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) observes, "The PKK, deemed terrorists by both the US and Turkey, have proven among the most capable of Kurdish fighters taking on IS inside both Iraq and Syria. But Turkey's priority is to contain the Marxist group, which it sees as a bigger threat to its interests than IS. For the past 18 months, Turkey has held peace talks with the PKK, which appeared willing to accept some kind of autonomy in Turkey in exchange for giving up its independence ambitions."

    During Nouri al-Maliki's first term as prime minister of Iraq, Turkey began bombing northern Iraq.

    They did so with the help of the US government which, among other things, provided 'intelligence.'

    For Iraq it wasn't a big deal at first.  By the time Nouri was in his second term, it was.  Iraqis -- not just in the north where the bombings took place -- were outraged by the attacks on their sovereignty and by the civilians being killed in these bombings.

    Maybe AFP and others have to lie today because they don't want you to know that Barack's bombings today will soon meet the same fate with Iraqi citizens calling out their 'leaders' who allow the country to be bombed and innocents to be killed.

    But while AFP tried to act as though it was Islamic State related, US State Dept spokesperson Jen Psaki wasn't clowning:

    QUESTION: I mean, although you’re trying to encourage us not to link the situation in Kobani with the bombardment of PKK positions, that might not be the interpretation of ISIS. So my question is: Do you think that targeting PKK, which is fighting ISIS, Turkey is maybe risking sending the wrong message to ISIS?

    MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve addressed this question. I don’t think I have more to add to what I said.

    Reporters had much to add -- including rumors that the White House has made a secret deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government.

    QUESTION: One more question. Secretary Kerry made a phone call with President Masoud Barzani of Kurdistan, I think last week. Do you have anything on that? And shortly after that meeting, according to a statement first of all put out by President Barzani’s office, they discussed the situation in Kobani. That was all it said. And after that, just today actually, President Barzani hosted the Kurdish – the Syrian Kurdish leader in Erbil. I just want to see what – do you have anything on that phone call?

    MS. PSAKI: I don’t – I think it’s not at all out of the ordinary for Secretary Kerry or any Secretary of State to have calls touching base with officials in the region when they’re facing the threat that they do, and it was simply, as I understand it, a check-in call. I can see if there’s anything more we can provide in terms of a readout.

    QUESTION: So just one more thing. Some media outlets in Kurdistan, they have said from anonymous officials again that Secretary Kerry promised Barzani if the Syrian Kurds unite then there will be more U.S. support. Is that something that you can confirm?

    MS. PSAKI: I – that is not our position, so it seems unlikely that’s an accurate report.

    Unlikely is the political solution the White House keeps forgetting to work on.

    Daniel R. Green (The Hill) feels that a model for a Sunni buy-in on the Iraqi government would involved revisiting the program where Sunnis were part of policing force -- they were known as Awakenings, Sons Of Iraq (and Daughters Of Iraq) and Sahwa.  Green writes:

    As the Obama administration begins to implement its strategy to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), Iraq’s tribes are getting a fresh look as a possible partner to confront the terrorist group. Having successfully utilized tribal groups against al-Qaeda in the Sunni Arab heartland of Anbar Province in 2006-2008 during the Awakening movement, Iraq’s tribes provide the U.S. with a number of advantages in an era where placing U.S. troops directly in harms way is off the table. Arab tribes are a social institution based upon extended family and kinship ties that operate like a system with members sharing obligations to each other and to their leaders or sheiks. The tribal structure is hierarchical, usually led by a paramount sheik, with sub-sheiks leading smaller tribal groupings or family clans. These tribal structures can be harnessed to use family loyalty to trump Islamist identity and to better organize communities to resist oppression.

    The “Anbar model” consisted of enlisting local tribes in their own defense by working through local sheiks to form community police forces to not only protect local villages but to partner with the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police against al-Qaeda. When successfully applied to the Fallujah area in 2007, in addition to using a counter-insurgency approach for the city, the number of security incidents went from approximately 750 in March to less than 80 in October. The key benefit of working with the tribes is that they rob the insurgency of manpower by employing their potential recruits into the government’s security services, it increases the eyes and ears of the government against the insurgency, and organizes the community to better resist insurgent intimidation. This very successful program turned Anbar Province around but was eventually undercut by the Maliki Government as it reduced and then eliminated funding, persecuted tribal leaders, and marginalized the Sunni Arab community.

    So what's the status on that?

    Oh, right, a Sahwa leader didn't even get a seat at the table for Barack's DC event today.

    In Iraq?

    Salem, a 40-year-old businessman and father of nine from Baghdad was abducted in July. Two weeks after his family had paid the kidnappers a $60,000 ransom, his body was found in Baghdad’s morgue; with his head crushed and his hands still cuffed together.

    The growing power of Shi’a militias has contributed to an overall deterioration in security and an atmosphere of lawlessness. The relative of one victim from Kirkuk told Amnesty International:

    “I have lost one son and don’t want to lose any more. Nothing can bring him back and I can’t put my other children at risk. Who knows who will be next? There is no rule of law, no protection.”

    Among the Shi’a militias believed to be behind the string of abductions and killings are: ‘Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, the Badr Brigades, the Mahdi Army, and Kata’ib Hizbullah.

    These militias have further risen in power and prominence since June, after the Iraqi army retreated, ceding nearly a third of the country to IS fighters. Militia members, numbering tens of thousands, wear military uniforms, but they operate outside any legal framework and without any official oversight.

    “By failing to hold militias accountable for war crimes and other gross human rights abuses the Iraqi authorities have effectively granted them free rein to go on the rampage against Sunnis. The new Iraqi government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi must act now to rein in the militias and establish the rule of law,” said Donatella Rovera.

    “Shi’a militias are ruthlessly targeting Sunni civilians on a sectarian basis under the guise of fighting terrorism, in an apparent bid to punish Sunnis for the rise of the IS and for its heinous crimes.”

    At a checkpoint north of Baghdad, for instance, Amnesty International heard a member of the ‘Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq militia say: “If we catch ‘those dogs’ [Sunnis] coming down from the Tikrit area we execute them…. They come to Baghdad to commit terrorist crimes, so we have to stop them.” 

    Yeah, the White House might need to work on those abuses.  Amnesty International outlines them in their new report entitled Absolute Impunity: Militia Rule in Iraq.

    The US efforts at political solutions in Iraq are apparently so tiny, they can be reduced to a Tweet:

    On the topic of violence, Lu Hui  (Xinhua) notes, "A total of 50 people were killed on Tuesday in clashes and air strikes against the positions of the Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq, security source said."  Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) examines the Islamic State's movement in Anbar Province, "The new target seems to be the al-Assad airbase, the second largest airfields in Iraq, and one of the last bases around Haditha Dam. The base is now surrounded, according to reports."

    BBC News notes:

    Two Iraqi journalists have been killed by Islamic State (IS) in the past four days, Reporters Without Borders says.
    Mohanad al-Akidi, the correspondent for the Sada news agency in the IS-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul, was shot dead at the Ghazlani base on Monday.
    Mr Akidi was abducted in July while he travelled to Dohuk province.

    On Friday Raad Mohamed al-Azzawi, a cameraman for Sama Salah Aldeen TV, was beheaded by IS militants in the city of Samarra. He had been held for a month.

    Still on violence, State Dept spokesperson Jen Psaki issued the following statement today:

    The United States strongly condemns the vicious string of suicide, vehicle borne, and other attacks that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has perpetrated in Baghdad and surrounding provinces in recent days, taking scores of innocent lives. Those lost in these attacks include courageous citizens from all walks of life and represent the full diversity of Iraqi society, including Ahmed al-Khafaji, an elected Member of Parliament from Basrah Province, and Major General Ahmed Saddak al-Dulaimi, the Police Chief of Anbar Province. We extend our condolences to the families of the victims and hope for a rapid recovery for those who were injured.
    The United States is committed to working with the Government of Iraq and our coalition partners to end this terrorist scourge. We will continue to target ISIL leaders, fighters, supplies and weapons, facilities, and safe havens, working in support of our Iraqi partners, as we also work in parallel to restore the capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces to effectively counter ISIL on their own.
    ISIL, through these attacks, looks to tear apart the diverse fabric of Iraqi society, something it has sought to do over the past decade in its earlier incarnation, al-Qaida in Iraq. The Iraqi people have shown resilience in the face of this terror before, and with the world now united behind a global campaign to degrade and defeat ISIL, they will prevail once again.

    The United States will continue to stand with all Iraqi citizens, from all parts of the country, as they work to root out violent extremists, and promote the unified, federal, pluralistic, and democratic state, as envisioned in the Iraqi Constitution.