Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, November 5, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Barack wants to talk Iraq, there's talk of trying to get Congress to authorize his bombing of Iraq,  Haider al-Abadi looks ever weaker, the Iraqi people will suffer greatly under his proposed budget and much more.

In DC today, US President Barack Obama held a rare (and brief) press conference.

President Barack Obama: Ed Henry.  I missed you guys.  I haven't done this in a while.

Q    I know, I’ve missed you.  Thank you, Mr. President.  I haven't heard you say a specific thing during this news conference that you would do differently.  You’ve been asked it a few different ways.  I understand you’re going to reach out, but you’ve talked about doing that before.  It’s almost like you’re doubling down on the same policies and approach you’ve had for six years.  So my question is, why not pull a page from the Clinton playbook and admit you have to make a much more dramatic shift in course for these last two years?
And on ISIS, there was pretty dramatic setback in the last few days with it appearing that the Syrian rebels have been routed.  There are some Gitmo detainees who have rejoined the battlefield, helping ISIS and other terror groups, is what the reports are suggesting.  So my question is, are we winning?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think it’s too early to say whether we are winning, because as I said at the outset of the ISIL campaign, this is going to be a long-term plan to solidify the Iraqi government, to solidify their security forces, to make sure that in addition to air cover that they have the capacity to run a ground game that pushes ISIL back from some of the territories that they had taken, that we have a strong international coalition that we’ve now built, but that they are on the ground providing the training, providing the equipment, providing the supplies that are necessary for Iraqis to fight on behalf of their territory.

I understand what Barack means when he says "long-term plan to solidify the Iraqi government," but I understood him when he was talking about how the only answer was a political solution.

So my question is, is he sincere or lying?

If he's sincere, it would those supposedly working with him or either stupid or working to subvert his aims.

Barack held today's press conference in an attempt to move the focus off away from Tuesday's election results which saw wins for the Republicans and losses for the Democrats with debate as to how much Barack impacted the Democrats' losses.

How bad were the election returns seen for Barack?

So bad that he wanted to talk Iraq.

We'll join him in moving the focus to Iraq here.

Tuesday morning, we noted:

Word is the Kurds have about had it with al-Abadi.
But you don't see that in the press do you?
Last week, not covered in the US or western press, former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani sent a delegation to Baghdad to speak about serious issues and how the rift between the KRG and the central government out of Baghdad was again widening.  Among the issues resurfacing are the failure of al-Abadi to pass a budget for 2014 or 2015 (he inherited the failure to pass the 2014 budget) and the attempts to prevent the Kurds from selling their own oil.
At a time when the KRG is denied federal funds and when the KRG's fighters (the Peshmerga) are carrying a heavy load, Talabani's delegation expressed the opinion that now is not the time to be pursuing Nouri's failed politics.
Though pleasantries were exchanged, the delegation wasn't stupid enough to be mollified by pretty words.  If the rift widens, look for things to get even worse in Iraq -- and who would have thought that was possible?

Matt Bradley and Ghassan Adnan (Wall St. Journal) report on the budgets (2014 and 2015) today and also on the conflict between the KRG and Baghdad while getting it right -- something few do -- about what came first (Nouri's withholding the 17% of the federal budget the Kurds are entitled to) in this economic battle.  As the 2014 budget continues to elude the Iraqi government, new prime minister Aider al-Abadi is making weapons and violence his spending priority and slashing everything else:

Mr. Abadi’s cuts have pushed budget expenditures this year down to 137 trillion Iraqi dinars ($117.9 billion) from a projected outlay of 171 trillion ($147.16 billion).
The cuts have been painful. Plans were scrapped to hire some 37,000 new government employees—including doctors and teachers—and raises were delayed for existing ones. The government has also postponed plans for new student loans and scholarships, said Majda al-Tamimi, who represents the government-allied Sadrist bloc on the finance committee.

There’s even talk in parliament of cutting spending on orphans and on elementary-education projects, according to some lawmakers.

That helps no one, that's nonsense and it's outrageous but set aside the ethical issues.

It's also stupid politics.

Deeply stupid.

Iraqis need jobs.  Iraq needs doctors and teachers.

The inability to create jobs in the recent past in Iraq led to what?

Oh, that's right, Sunnis joining al Qaeda in Iraq.

Gutting student loans and scholarships?

Exactly what the hell is al-Abadi doing.

And let's stop lying that he's protecting the country.

Getting foreigners to bomb your own country from airplanes -- and tossing a few of your war planes into the air -- is not providing safety or addressing any issues.

It's actually both stupid and cowardly.

It's the Chicken Hawk way for War Hawks to cowardly to fight on the ground.

You want to run the 20,000 or 30,000 people out of country with over 30 million people?

You don't need bombs falling from the skies.

You need people on the ground willing to rebuke, forget fight, the Islamic State.

In 2010, the Iraqi people cast votes to stand for a national identity and that's still possible.

But that embarrassing budget won't do a damn thing to pull the country together.

If the US government, if Barack wanted to help, he would have a US diplomatic delegation in Iraq explaining how to utilize the budget in a manner to pull the country together.

Equally true, the Iraqi government needs to be going after Nouri al-Maliki and Nouri's son whose theft of public monies is an open secret and Iraqis suffering in poverty aren't going to embrace further poverty measures while thieves like Nouri remain unpunished.

He doesn't just remain unpunished, he remains in the presidential palace despite not being prime minister.  He refuses to leave.

If Haider al-Abadi had any sense, he's send the military to force Nouri out and you better believe Iraqis would cheer him on.

When Haider can't even reside in the prime minister's housing because former prime minister Nouri won't leave, he looks weak and inept.

He's looked weak and inept since his September 13 announcement that he had ended the bombing of Falluja's residential neighborhoods -- since he made the announcement and the bombings continued.  NINA notes 9 civilians were killed today and twenty-three more ("including women and children") were left injured from the security forces' bombings.

Let's go back to Barack's press conference.  Here Phil Mattingly is asking a question.

Q    Also if it is your feeling that you have the power to implement any type of agreement that's reached without any action from Congress?  And then, also I just wanted to quickly touch on the AUMF that you mentioned earlier.  Is that going to be more of a codification of the limits that you've put in place for the mission up to this point?  Or what should we be looking for on that when you send it to the Hill?  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  On the AUMF, the leaders are going to be coming here on Friday.  It will be an expanded group, not just the four leaders, but a larger group who all have an interest in the issues we're discussing today.  And I’m actually going to invite Lloyd Austin, the CENTCOM Commander, to make a presentation about how our fight against ISIL is proceeding and I think to answer questions and assure that Congress is fully briefed on what we're doing there.
With respect to the AUMF, we’ve already had conversations with members of both parties in Congress, and the idea is to right-size and update whatever authorization Congress provides to suit the current fight, rather than previous fights. 
In 2001, after the heartbreaking tragedy of 9/11, we had a very specific set of missions that we had to conduct, and the AUMF was designed to pursue those missions.  With respect to Iraq, there was a very specific AUMF.
We now have a different type of enemy.  The strategy is different.  How we partner with Iraq and other Gulf countries and the international coalition -- that has to be structured differently.  So it makes sense for us to make sure that the authorization from Congress reflects what we perceive to be not just our strategy over the next two or three months, but our strategy going forward.

And it will be a process of listening to members of Congress, as well as us presenting what we think needs to be the set of authorities that we have.  And I’m confident we're going to be able to get that done.  And that may just be a process of us getting it started now.  It may carry over into the next Congress.

US House Rep Adam Schiff supports Barack's continued war on Iraq and today's Schiff's office issued the following:

Washington, DC –Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a senior Member of the Intelligence Committee and author of legislation providing a limited and narrow authorization for use of military force against ISIL, sent a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner calling on him to schedule a debate and vote on a new war authorization against ISIS during the lame duck session after the midterm election.  During his press conference today, President Obama called for Congress to approve a new authorization for use of military force against ISIS.
The letter is below:
Dear Speaker Boehner:
As you prepare for the session that will close out the 113th Congress, I urge you to schedule time for consideration of an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against ISIL.
As you know, American forces have been engaged in combat against ISIL since early August with operations currently underway against targets in both Iraq and Syria.  President Obama has made repeated reports, as required by the War Powers Resolution, detailing these operations.  Now, after three months of presidentially-directed airstrikes and other activities undertaken to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat” ISIL, Congress must meet the obligations of Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution by deciding whether to grant the president the power to conduct this new war in the Middle East.
The use of the 2001 AUMF as legal justification for current the military action requires an extraordinarily broad and problematic reading of that measure. While ISIL may share al Qaeda’s hatred for the United States and the West, the group did not exist in 2001 and had no role in the 9/11 attacks. Nor is ISIL affiliated with or aiding al Qaeda, having been expressly repudiated by the Zawahiri leadership, and, despite reports of talks between the two groups, little evidence of an alliance between them.   
Vehement opposition to Bashar al Assad’s brutal government in Syria and the harshly sectarian policies of Nouri al Maliki in Iraq, not 9/11 or allegiance to Osama bin Laden, has fueled the rise of ISIL and allowed it to capture a huge swathe of territory in those two countries.  From this redoubt, ISIL threatens tens of millions and the group’s extreme violence and barbarity, including the recent mass murder of a Sunni tribe in Iraq’s Anbar province, cannot be underestimated.
I believe that the threat to core American foreign policy interests and our national security from ISIL is sufficient to warrant military force as an element of a multifaceted campaign.  But, I also believe that no President has the power to commit the nation’s sons and daughters to war without authorization from Congress.  This is not a decision that can or should wait until 2015; this action was begun during the sitting of the 113th Congress and it well within our ability to authorize it properly before adjourning sine die. 
In September I introduced a draft Joint Resolution (HJ Res 125) that provides for an 18 month authorization for continued airstrikes and limited special operations activities in Iraq and Syria and against ISIL.  While I believe that my proposal merits consideration, whether it, or some other  form of authorization, is ultimately taken up, the most important thing is for us to do our duty to American people and the Constitution.  I look forward to working with you on this most important issue.

Today, the US Defense Dept announced:

In Iraq, an airstrike near Mosul destroyed ISIL-occupied buildings, including one housing a generator used for oil production and another used to manufacture explosive devices. Three airstrikes near Bayji struck two small ISIL units, destroyed an ISIL vehicle, an ISIL-occupied bunker and an ISIL anti-aircraft artillery piece.

 Also in Iraq, an airstrike near Fallujah struck a small ISIL unit and destroyed an ISIL vehicle. Three airstrikes near Ramadi damaged an ISIL vehicle and destroyed an ISIL checkpoint.

Didn't stop any of the (other) violence but violent responses only breed further violentce. National Iraqi News Agency reports Shiekh Abdul Rahman Abboud Shabib was shot dead as he left a mosque in Muqdadiyah, the Islamic State "kidnapped /46/ members of the Albu Nimr tribe, mostly women and children, west of Ramadi," a Kut bombing left four people injured, rocket and mortar attacks in Baiji Village and Sada Village left 11 people dead (including two children) and four more people injured, and a Baiji suicide car bomber left 4 Iraqi soldiers dead and seven more injured.   Dropping back to Tuesday, Margaret Griffis ( counts 141 violent deaths with sixty-nine people left injured.

Finally, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America note:

***Media Alert*** IAVA to Hold 10th Anniversary Heroes Gala on November 13th

CONTACT: Gretchen Andersen (212) 982-9699 or
Admiral Mike Mullen, 17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick Will Receive Awards; Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald to speak, NBC and MSNBC co-anchor Willie Geist Will Emcee
WHAT: On Thursday, November 13th, 2014, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) will hold IAVA’s Annual Heroes Gala Celebrating Our 10th Anniversary at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City. Taking place for the eighth year in a row, and when U.S. troops are still at war, this year’s Heroes Gala will honor those who have made a unique and lasting contribution to IAVA’s mission to improve the lives of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families.
WHO: IAVA will honor Admiral Mike Mullen, 17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with the IAVA Veteran Leadership Award, and Uber CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick with the IAVA Civilian Service Award. Willie Geist, co-anchor of NBC’s “TODAY” show and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” will host the event. 
Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald will also be speaking at the event.
Veterans and supporters will attend, as well as representatives from leading sponsors Victory Motorcycles (Hero Sponsor); TriWest Healthcare, Turner Broadcasting, and USAA (Dinner Sponsors); Robert Cohn, Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation, HBO, JPMorgan Chase, Miller High Life, Uber, Western Asset Management, Wheel's Up, and WME/IMG (Support Sponsors). Southwest Airlines, IAVA's official airline partner, will also be in attendance. 
New York City Commissioner of Veterans Affairs Loree Sutton, Lone Survivor director Peter Berg, actress Michelle Monaghan and more will also be in attendance. 
WHEN: Thursday, November 13, 2014 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
          Press check-in: 5:15 - 6:15 p.m.  (Cipriani 42nd Street)
          Sponsor Reception 5:30 - 6:30pm (Cipriani 42nd Street)
          Cocktail Reception 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. (Cipriani 42nd Street)
          Dinner & Award Presentation: 7:30 – 9:30pm (Cipriani 42nd Street)
WHERE: Cipriani 42nd Street, 110 E. 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017
Livestream the gala at
Note to media: A mult box will be provided at the venue. Please RSVP by emailing if you would like to cover the Gala.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the nation's first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has nearly 300,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, IAVA recently received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.