Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, October 28, 2014. Chaos and violence continue, the murder of civilians in Falluja continue, the State Dept gets asked about the empty words, Erik Prince tries to rewrite history, and much more.

Erik Prince is back in the news but all those who had "glory hole scandal" haven't won -- yet.  No, Prince has a book and is busy promoting it.  Justine Drennan (Foriegn Policy) reports:

In his book Civilian Warriors, as well as in a relatively rare interview ahead of its paperback release Tuesday, Prince vehemently rejected such claims and argued that Blackwater was scapegoated by vindictive Democrats and a State Department and Pentagon that couldn't come to terms with the government's growing dependence on private contractors. "I'm no hero. The world knows all too well about my mistakes. But I was never meant to play the villain," he wrote in his book. "Seeing the company I'd built torn down for no reason was almost too much to bear." 


Democrats kicked his Blackwater out of Iraq?

The State Dept and the Pentagon sued his mercenary company Blackwater?

He doesn't own Blackwater anymore.

He sold it to escape legal culpability.

Now he attempts to escape reality.

Ali Abbas Mahmoud can't escape the reality of what Blackwater did back in September of 2007.  Last week, Ali Abbas Mahmoud spoke about it to Jonathan S. Landay (McClatchy Newspapers) following the convictions of four men who had worked for Blackwater and took part in the attack:

One of the dead boys was Mahmoud’s 11-year-old nephew, Qasim Muhammad Abbas. Qasim’s father, Muhammad Abbas Mahmoud – Ali Abbas Mahmoud’s elder brother – also died. The boy’s mother was wounded.

The family was sitting inside a pickup when the shooting broke out. Members of Iraq’s Shiite Muslim majority, they were hauling furniture to a new home in a Shiite neighborhood after tensions with minority Sunni Muslims forced them to leave their old house.
Ali Abbas Mahmoud, a 52-year-old Ministry of Housing employee who agreed to speak by telephone but refused a face-to-face interview, said he’d never forget how his sister-in-law, frantic with grief and terror, called him as she sat bleeding inside the pickup.
“She made me hysterical when she called me and told me that my brother had just been killed,” he recounted. “She was in the vehicle. She screamed, ‘They slaughtered your brother and they slaughtered your nephew and I’m injured.’ She made me as hysterical as she was.”

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/10/23/244476/in-iraq-blackwater-verdict-provides.html?sp=/99/117/416/103/#storylink=cpy

Is Ali Abbas Mahmoud a Democrat?

A Pentagon official?

A State Dept official?

No, he's an Iraqi citizen.

Erik Prince is very good about rewriting history.  Some day, the pool may pay off and he may get busted on his knees in a truck stop men's room -- at which point, he'll try to rewrite that as well.

But all the revisions don't change the fact that his company killed innocent Iraqis.

His company was out of control.

It was out of control because that's the way he wanted it.

There was no training on the need to avoid wounding or killing civilians.

Iraqis, the same people who do not matter to him today, did not matter to him when he ran Blackwater and the actions of his employees reflected that.

At the Pentagon today, spokesperson Rear Adm John Kirby declared, "While we recognize that a major Iraqi offensive against ISIL may still be a ways off, these are encouraging reports that highlight Iraq's determination to take the fight to ISIL."

They continue to spin the inability of the Iraqi military to do its job as 'good news.'

But every day that the Iraqi army fails to do its job, more US taxpayer dollars are thrown away in Iraq, "millions a day," Kirbay declared today.

And the tab for the latest wave of the never-ending Iraq War just keeps growing.

Q: On ISIS. Does the department anticipate forwarding a request for additional money to Congress for 2015 for the ISIS fight?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I think you've heard [Defense] Secretary [Chuck] Hagel and the chairman [of the Joint Chiefs, General Martin Dempsy] talk about this. I think certainly there's going to have to be some considerations going forward, but I wouldn't get ahead of specific budget moves that haven't been made yet.

I think, you know, we've gone to the Hill, we've testified to the operations, and again, Secretary Hagel has been very clear that certainly considerations for added funding are going to have to be part of the calculus going forward. But we're just not in a position right now where we can detail what that would look like, what form it would be, how much it would be, that kind of thing.

Going to nail down the cost someday soon, huh?  Like they nailed down what was happening in Iraq?

The administration failed to heed warning, failed to listen to intelligence, failed to use common sense and was completely surprised this summer to discover the Islamic State in Iraq.

Tonight PBS' Frontline examined the Islamic State and how they came to be major players in Iraq.  Michael Iskikoff (Yahoo News) recaps:

The film, reported by correspondent Martin Smith, offers a richly detailed account of how the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki alienated the country’s disenfranchised Sunni population, making reckless accusations of terrorism against Sunni leaders — including the country’s Vice Prime Minister Tariq al-Hashimi. Those allegations flatly denied by al-Hashimi on camera — were based on the testimony of bodyguards who, it is strongly suggested, were tortured.

With little pressure or engagement from Washington, al-Maliki’s anti-Sunni agenda driven by his  “paranoia,” as one of Smith’s interlocutors says — paved the way for ISIS radicals to march through huge swaths of Iraqi territory this spring, seizing arsenals of U.S.-made weapons from a collapsing Iraqi army. This, of course, was the same army that the U.S. spent billions arming and training. In fact, terrorism expert Ken Katzman suggests in the film, they were a phantom led by do-nothing officers.

Nouri was only in office, in his first term as prime minister, for a few months when we noted in 2006 his paranoia which the US government thought (at that time) would make him more "manageable" (as the CIA analysis termed it).  By the time WikiLeaks was publishing the State Dept cables in 2010, the US government's knowledge of Nouri's paranoia was on full display for anyone who wanted to see.

Yet the White House, Barack's White House, continued to support Nouri.

They demanded he get a second term as prime minister even though he lost the 2010 elections.

To get around the voters and the election results, the US brokered The Erbil Agreement, a legal contract singed by the political leaders -- including Nouri al-Maliki -- which gave Nouri a second term in exchange for Nouri making promises -- legal ones -- as well.  But Nouri used the contract to get his second term and then refused to honor it.

As Rafi al-Essawi told Frontline, "All the commitments that Maliki gave to the politicians in what’s called the Erbil Agreement -- that’s the agreement that formed the government at that time -- nothing from that agreement was fulfilled or implemented."

The US government swore The Erbil Agreement was legally binding and had the full backing of the US government.  When Ayad Allawi walked out of Parliament following the signing of the agreement -- and Nouri announcing he couldn't implement it immediately -- US President Barack Obama personally spoke to Allawi on the phone to get him to drop the boycott and return to Parliament.

But when it became obvious, months and months later, that Nouri was never going to honor his part of The Erbil Agreement, the White House said nothing.

They said nothing.

And they did nothing.

And things got worse and worse.

At Frontline, Priyanka Boghani gathers various comments from four Sunni officials reflecting on how Nouri targeted the Sunni community.  We'll not the Minister of Finance Rafi al-Essawi.

RAFI AL-ESSAWI: The environment was really very, very poisoned because of the behavior of Maliki and the government. And everyone, Shiites and politicians, advised Maliki that this is not the way of dealing with Sunnis.
There was no direct relationship at all between the demonstrations and tribes from outside and Al Qaeda on the outside. People got very upset, very angry about the government’s behavior and the Iraqi army’s behavior. … The people started to look at the army as an enemy rather than as a national army.
Everyone participated in the demonstrations, every Sunni. I can say every Sunni, not as a person, but as groups, because everyone felt that they were either not represented in the new Iraq or felt that they didn’t receive a just trial.
No one thought that the Iraqi army could attack demonstrators in Hawija. They were demonstrating for months at a time, peaceful, calling for their rights.

So when they brought their tanks, heavy army vehicles, and SWAT teams, the security forces of the ministry of interior attacked. They killed the people in a very criminal model. This added to the upset of the people. This was not their government. And the people who killed them, these were not Iraqi army personnel. These were militias who were killing them.

And the White House continued to back Nouri.

For four long years, throughout his second term, they allowed him to break the legal contract they brokered and they allowed him to target the Sunni population.  They looked the other way until the spring of this year when they finally pulled support for the US-installed puppet.

Nouri was using the security forces to violently attack protesters -- wound them, kill them.  And the US government looked the other way.

RAFI AL-ESSAWI: [For Sunni people] participation in the political process ended in nothing. Demonstration ended in nothing. Asking the government constitutionally to change their province into region was not accepted. They started to be convinced that there is no benefit of constitutional solutions.
So the government pushed and squeezed people towards supporting the terrorists. And I can’t say that it is — again, it is not direct support. It is only creating an environment — and this was a very fatal mistake of the government.
When ISIS came as defenders of Sunnis, we knew that they were criminals, that they were not Sunni defenders. When they presented themselves, people said, “Well, it may be possible to save us from the government, from the army which is not a professional national army, but one that killed and arrested Sunnis.” That is why people in these provinces stayed silent. They are not supporting ISIS. They are not opposing ISIS.
No one wants to fight against ISIS now, [because they would] appear to be pro-Maliki or supporting the militia that is killing Sunnis in Baghdad. You see, when [Sunnis] fight ISIS, people would blame them for fighting Sunnis who are protecting you, while no one is fighting Shia militias that are killing our brothers, Sunnis in Diyala.
If the government came to the Sunnis now to fulfill their requirements, the rights of the Sunnis, no one would accept ISIS. By the way, even now, despite being very upset against the government, Sunnis are not accepting ISIS.

To me, at the end of the day, it is the Sunnis who will defeat ISIS, exactly like in 2007 and ’08 when the Sunnis made the decision of fighting Al Qaeda.

The administration continues to spin.

But things don't always go there way.  Even the press doesn't always cooperate.

At today's US State Dept press briefing, spokesperson Jen Psaki faced some questions from Al Quds' Said Arikat.

QUESTION: Can I ask a question on Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Before Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was sworn in, I remember Brett McGurk, your colleague, had a hearing on the Capitol Hill.

MS. PSAKI: He’s above me in the food chain, but keep going. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay. Yeah, he told senators that, quote/unquote, “it was unacceptable” for Baghdad to stop sending the revenue share of the Kurdistan region. He said it was unacceptable. But months have passed since he made that statement, and the Kurds don’t receive their budget yet from Baghdad. I mean, one could wonder whether the United States has done anything concrete to make sure that that decision by Baghdad would be reversed, or you just made that promise in order to make sure that you had a government in place to fight ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would completely disagree with the premise of your question, which I’m sure you’re not surprised by. This is an issue we have raised many times publicly. It comes up in meetings that we have on the ground. And our position hasn’t changed on this; we’re continuing to press on that. But obviously, it’s up to the officials on the ground to make progress.

QUESTION: But why hasn’t Baghdad done anything? Is Baghdad not willing to listen to what you are telling them?

MS. PSAKI: I think, obviously, there are a range of steps that the central government is working to implement. I’d point you to them for more answers on that question.

QUESTION: Considering that this is 17 percent of the budget, why, in your opinion, is the Baghdad government withholding all that for so many months?

MS. PSAKI: Said, you’re familiar with the history here. I would point you to the government there. I don’t have any more analysis for you.

As noted in yesterday's snapshot:

Barack spent the summer insisting that Iraq required a political solution.  His point then was that the second term of Nouri had left the Sunnis 'estranged' from their own government and that a new government needed to demonstrate it was inclusive.  Iraq has a new prime minister today, Haider al-Abadi, but where is the progress on the political?
Nouri should have put through a 2014 budget no later than September 30, 2013.  That's because the 2014 Fiscal Year kicked off October 1, 2013.
Fiscal Year 2015 kicked off at the start of this month.
Guess what?
Iraq still has no 2014 budget.
Yes, al-Abadi's only been prime minister for a short time but he's been prime minister long enough to push through a budget.  Certainly he could have done that if the US government had made helping him on that a focus.  But they didn't.

There's been no real work on any political solution for Iraq, not by the US government.

They've instead poured all their time and energy to get other countries to agree to bomb Iraq.

That's the military procedure Barack once declared wasn't a solution.

Let's go back to what Said said today at the State Dept:

Okay. Yeah, he told senators that, quote/unquote, “it was unacceptable” for Baghdad to stop sending the revenue share of the Kurdistan region. He said it was unacceptable. But months have passed since he made that statement, and the Kurds don’t receive their budget yet from Baghdad. I mean, one could wonder whether the United States has done anything concrete to make sure that that decision by Baghdad would be reversed, or you just made that promise in order to make sure that you had a government in place to fight ISIS?

Yeah, it does appear that the White House "just made that promise in order to make sure that you had a government in place to fight ISIS."

They do nothing to help the Iraqi people

September 13th, Haider al-Abadi declared an end to the ongoing War Crimes of bombing civilians in Falluja as payback, Collective Punishment, for what the Islamic State has done.  NINA notes Falluja General Hospital today recieved the corpses of 7 civilians and treated 14 people injured from these ongoing bombings -- these bombings that the new prime minister declared an end to but yet they continue.

Because the forces aren't listening to the new prime minister.

And the White House doesn't give a damn.

The same White House that did nothing while Nouri targeted Sunnis from 2010 to this year wants to pretend they're 'helping' but they're not, they refuse to.  They do nothing but add to the violence.

So it's no surprise that Middle East Monitor reports:

A prominent member of Al-Ahrar (Freedom) parliamentary bloc of Al-Sadr movement, led by Shia cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, said today that his bloc is determined to end the presence of American advisors in more than one Iraqi province. He pointed out that his bloc would take all necessary measures to end what he called "the new American occupation".
In a statement to a reporter from Anadolu Agency, Mithaq Al-Mozani said: "No legal cover justifies the presence of US advisors in Iraq and their presence is part of a plan for occupation different to the 2003 occupation."

And that was before news broke about US efforts to establish a new base in Iraq.  National Iraqi News Agency reports:

On the news of the establishment of a US military base along the lines of the Turkish Incirlik base, in the Kurdistan region, the spokesman for the provincial government, said that "in this regard the talks are continuing," but he also said, "they did not take a final decision in this regard yet.
It was a high-ranking source in the government of the Kurdistan Region, recently revealed talks by the regional government on using the al-Harir / silk / airport located within Erbil province near Iraq's eastern and northern borders as a military base for US forces in the framework of the international coalition operations to fight the IS in Iraq.

Asked about the base at today's Pentagon press briefing, John Kirby played dumb.

Q: Some reports from the Iraqi Kurdish region of -- particularly Iraq Kurdistan region, say that the U.S. is going to establish a military base in Irbil. Can you confirm this, Admiral?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don't have anything for you on that today? Sorry.

 We continue to see that these combined targeting efforts are disrupting ISIL and forcing them to consider changes -- more changes in their tactics to try to avoid being targeted.

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