Thursday, November 13, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, November 13, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, CENTCOM host a military meet-up, Gen Martin Dempsey seems eager to send more US troops into Iraq, and much more.

US House Rep Walter Jones:  Mr. Secretary it's kind of ironic the last time that I heard, before today, a Secretary of Defense talk about military involvement in Iraq was Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.  That got us into a war that was unnecessary.  I know ISIL is evil.  There's no question about it.  They need to be taken out.  But I looked at some of your statements from 2002 when you were a senator and how you felt about the obligation of a member of Congress to make a decision to send a young man or young woman to die.  I also looked at your statements  in 2007 when, like myself, you came out against the surge in Iraq.  Now we are going to possibly be asked by the President of the United States -- like we were by George W. Bush -- to authorize an AMUF.  This is nothing but an abdication of our Constitutional responsibility.  To give any president an AMUF.  We tried this past year in June when we had the NDAA bill, Adam Schiff tried to sunset out the AMUF that we gave to President Bush -- which is what was used by President Obama.  And I do not understand how we in Congress can continue to abdicate what the Constitution says is our responsibility.  Before I get to a brief question, James Madison once said this, "The power to declare war -- including the power to judging the cause of war  -- is fully and exclusively vested in the legislature."  And I do not believe sincerely because when -- this happens to be President Obama.  He wants to have another AMUF or an extension of what we have.  I hope that the Congress -- both parties -- will look seriously at what is our responsibility because it's not going to be but so long.  You have sent more and more troops to Iraq to train.  Many of these [being trained] are former Saddam Hussein loyalists and now they're fighting with ISIS -- some are fighting for the other side.  It's very complex, I understand that and I agree with that.  But for goodness sake, why in the world should we make such a commitment?  And we don't even have an end point to it.  I would like for you or Gen Dempsey -- I have great respect for both of you -- to submit for the record two things very quickly: how does this new war end in your opinion?  And I realize that it's just your opinion but it's very important because of what you are.  What is the end state of what we're trying to accomplish.  The American people -- fifty -- over fifty percent of the American people do not want our personnel in Syria or in Iraq.  And I will be honest with you, I don't know how we can convince the American people that a nation that's financially broke  -- You sat right here, Gen Dempsey, and you were exactly right, sequestration and all the budget problems coming your way and yet you're asking for five or six billion dollars to drop more armaments in Iraq and in Syria?  Where is it coming from? Please explain to the American people and to this Congress how this war is going to end some day?  Whether we are advisors or we are fighting?  And I hope to God we are not fighting and I hope we do not give the president a new AMUF.  So if you'll get those into the Committee in written form [take the question for the record] then you won't have to answer them now.  But this, again, looks like we're going down the same road that Secretary Rumsfeld said we had to do -- we had to do! -- and yet there was no end point to that as well.  Thank you very much.

That was Jones from this today's House Armed Services Committee hearing where Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and the Chair of the Joint-Chiefs of Staff Gen Martin Dempsey testified.

Committee Chair Buck McKeon made clear from the start that any authorization he got behind would not be an open-ended one.

The hearing was often surreal (and what was up with the band aid Hagel had on the left side of his face?) and a demonstration of just how insane the government is.

For example, to listen to Dempsey, the Islamic State is nothing but a big pimple "We need to squeeze ISIL from all directions."

He also insisted, "There is no change, and there is no different direction."  Or when he declared, "I think progress purchases patience."  Were that true, the reality would still be that there is no progress.  A fact Hagel seemed to acknowledge when he declared,  "We are three months into a multi-year effort."  Not a reassuring statement.

Justin Raimondo ( offers:

So what’s our policy? You can’t really tell from here what this most "transparent" of administrations is up to, and what’s particularly scary is that one doubts whether even they know. Obama says one thing, and then does another. Dempsey says more, Obama says less. This game of seesaw between the President and Dempsey is a bit banana-republic-anish – I mean, who’s in charge here, exactly? Or are we being fooled into thinking Obama is the "reluctant interventionist," as he cynically plays the game once played by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the run up to our last world war?
FDR, you’ll recall, pledged "again and again" that "your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars" – even as he was scheming and plotting to get us in by doing everything possible to provoke a German attack on our trans-Atlantic shipping. While FDR pussyfooted around – or appeared to – his allies and advisors clamored for more decisive measures, to which he eventually and gladly gave in.

Whatever the President’s real views, we are sliding down the Iraqi slope pretty rapidly. Hardly a week goes by when we don’t hear of another few hundred GIs being quietly shipped to Iraq – "non-combat" troops, to be sure. Yes, they’re going over there to engage in some pretty dangerous and potentially lethal "non-combat" – and when they start getting killed in numbers high enough to notice, will they come back in non-bodybags? 

At one point early on, Chair Buck McKeon noted that Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes went on TV (PBS' Frontline) and stated that US President Barack Obama would not reconsider his decision re: sending in troops for combat on the ground.

Dempsey stated he was under no limitations with regards to what he recommends to Barack. and that there was nothing to stop him, if he felt it was needed, from recommending US troops accompany Iraqi troops on missions in Mosul and along the border, "I'm not predicting at this point that I would recommend that those forces in Mosul and along the border would need to be accompanied by US forces, but we're certainly considering it."

US House Rep Loretta Sanchez wanted to know what was different this time?  After all the training that had taken place, what was different in this latest 'solution'?

Hagel insisted one difference was the new prime minister (Haider al-Abadi) and how Iraq now had a Minister of Defense, "We haven't had a Minister of Defense in Iraq for more than four years -- [former] Prime Minister [Nouri al-]Maliki took that job for himself -- as he did the Minister of Interior."

There is no political solution in Iraq still.  And no real effort to work towards one on the part of the US government.  But, as we noted in yesterday's snapshot, CENTCOM was leading more military efforts.  Today CENTCOM issued the following release:

TAMPA, Fla., Nov. 12, 2014 – U.S. and partner-nation military forces continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria Nov. 10 to 12 using bomber, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft to conduct 16 airstrikes, U.S. Central Command officials reported today.
Separately, U.S. and partner nation military forces conducted seven airstrikes in Iraq Nov. 10-12 using attack, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft against ISIL terrorists, officials said.
Meetings at Centcom Headquarters
And, Centcom will host military planners from more than 30 nations for an operational planning conference at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, from today until Nov. 21, officials said today. The conference provides an opportunity for coalition partners to strengthen relationships and further develop and refine military campaign plans to degrade and defeat ISIL. The event, officials said, is another milestone in U.S. and coalition military efforts to work together with Iraq and other partners from around the world to eliminate the terrorist group ISIL and the threat they pose to Iraq, the region and the wider international community.
"This gathering of military planners from more than 30 nations is historic in many ways," said Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, Centcom's commander. "The nearly 200 participants represent the broad coalition that has come together and is key to the success of our campaign to defeat ISIL.
"Indeed, it is the coalition that our enemies fear most," Austin continued. "And, it is the coalition that will get the job done and done the right way, and as quickly as possible. I have every confidence that over the next several days this esteemed group will do tremendous work and through their efforts set the conditions necessary to ensure that ISIL is defeated and long-term security and stability is achieved throughout the Central Region."
Airstrikes Target ISIL in Syria, Iraq
In Syria, 10 airstrikes conducted near Kobani struck eight small ISIL units, damaged three ISIL fighting positions and destroyed an ISIL logistics facility. There were two airstrikes south of Al-Haskah damaging a crude oil collection point operated by ISIL. Three airstrikes northeast of Dayr Az Zawr damaged an ISIL crude oil collection facility. Near Dayr Az Zawr, one airstrike struck a small ISIL unit and damaged an ISIL vehicle.
In Iraq, two airstrikes near Kirkuk struck a small ISIL unit and a large ISIL unit. Five airstrikes near Bayji struck three small ISIL units, one large ISIL unit and destroyed two ISIL buildings, an ISIL sniper position, two ISIL vehicles, an ISIL mortar tube and an ISIL artillery piece. All aircraft departed the strike areas safely. Airstrike assessments are based on initial reports.
The strikes were conducted as part of Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the terrorist group ISIL and the threat they pose to Iraq, the region and the wider international community.
The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group's ability to project power and conduct operations. Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Iraq include the U.S., Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

 Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Syria include the U.S., Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

In the meantime, Barack says that he can't be expected not to arm and support tyrants.  AP reports the White House is seeking an exemption from the Leahy Amendment which, among other things, is supposed to prevent the US government from giving aid and weapons to those they know torture.

Barack always takes the low road.

Today the spokesperson for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared:

The Secretary-General welcomes the agreement reached between the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government aimed at finding a solution to the issues related to the general budget and oil exports.
He congratulates Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Kurdistan Regional Government's Prime Minister Nechervan  Barzani for the willingness to negotiate and conclude agreements that are in the interest of the Iraqi people.

The Secretary-General encourages the Federal and Regional authorities to build on this important first step and to solve all remaining outstanding issues within the framework of the Constitution. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq stands ready, within its mandate, to continue supporting this process.

The issue came up today in the State Dept press briefing.

QUESTION: Just somewhat related to – well, not related to this at all, but in Iraq.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Have you seen reports that the Kurds and the Iraqis – or the government in Baghdad have reached an oil agreement?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. Yes, I have.

QUESTION: Do you have any response to that?

MS. PSAKI: We welcome the announcement that an agreement has been reached between the Iraqi federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to take initial steps at finding a fair and comprehensive solution on the management of Iraq’s hydrocarbon resources. We urge that these steps be taken as soon as possible to build trust as Iraqi leaders continue to discuss remaining issues in the coming days toward a just and constitutional solution that will allow all Iraqis to benefit fairly and equitably from Iraq’s hydrocarbon sector.
We are encouraged by this development and the willingness of officials in Baghdad and Erbil to address these complex issues directly and earnestly. We understand that this is the first of many steps that will be required to reach a comprehensive agreement, and the United States will continue to serve as a neutral broker and facilitator to the extent desired by the leadership of both Iraq and the KRG.

QUESTION: Do you know or can you speak to what the U.S. involvement as a neutral facilitator was in getting to this point? Do you know?

MS. PSAKI: I – that’s a great question. I’d have to talk to our team about our involvement in the last couple of days. Obviously, we’ve been encouraging both sides for some time to resolve this issue, but I can see if there’s more on that front to report.

QUESTION: Ambassador McGurk was in Iraq. Did he play any role to facilitate this agreement?

MS. PSAKI: Say that one more time?

QUESTION: Ambassador Brett McGurk was in Iraq a few days ago.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, he was. It’s a great question. I don’t have any details on his involvement. Obviously, this was largely negotiated between the KRG and the Government of Iraq. We’ve certainly been encouraging them to resolve this for some time. I can see if there’s any more to read out about his involvement.

To his credit, Brett McGurk didn't try to claim credit he didn't earn:

The violence continues and Margaret Griffis ( reports, "At least 181 people were killed and 46 were wounded on Thursday. As well as the usual bombings in Baghdad and airstrikes in ISIS/DAASH territory, militants executed a number of tribe members. Also, several dumped bodies were found in Baghdad."

And we'll close with this from RT's Abby Martin: