Monday, December 15, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Monday, December 15, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, China wants in on the bombing, Germany wants to send troops, the US government wants to sell their losing as a victory for Haider, Haider just circumvented his oath of office (how long before Nouri uses that to try to displace him?), and much more.

By the end of the year, every country on the planet may be bombing Iraq.  Jeremy Bender (Business Insider) reports, "Wang Yi, China's foreign minister, has offered to help the Iraqi military defeat the militant group by providing support for ongoing air strikes. However, Chinese assistance would come unilaterally and outside of the framework of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State."  Press TV runs with an Iraqi source:

Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari says China has extended an offer to help Baghdad fight the Takfiri ISIL militants by carrying out its own airstrikes against the terrorists.
Jaafari stated that his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi made the offer during a UN anti-terrorism meeting in New York back in September, noting, however, that Beijing will not join the US-led military coalition against ISIL.

What will be left of the already suffering country as more bombs are dropped on it?

A crumbling infrastructure already existed before the 2003 invasion.  But that war didn't improve the infrastructure and Nouri al-Maliki's two terms as prime minister were noted for his refusal to initiate public works projects -- much needed public works projects.  If, for example, he had worked on the sewage and drainage issues, heavy rains might not result in standing water up to people's knees in the Sadr City section of Baghdad.

But there were no improvements and bombs dropped on Iraq won't improve anything either.

It's a status measure at this point, "Look at me, I bomb Iraq!"

The government of Iraq should be asking for security deposits and fees for those who want the 'pleasure' of bombing Iraq. The money could be put into a public works fund to address the serious issues in Iraq.

And on the ground in Iraq?

The British are coming! The British are coming!

Jason Hanna, Sweelin Ong and Yousuf Basil (CNN) report:

The United Kingdom will deploy hundreds of troops to Iraq in the coming year to train Iraqi and Kurdish forces -- the country's latest contribution to the fight against ISIS -- British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told The Telegraph newspaper.

And other foreigners rush to go war crazy in Iraq, Christopher Dreier (WSWS) reports:

The year began with the announcement by senior government politicians that Germany would have to take more responsibility in foreign policy. As the end of 2014 approaches, the intention is now to launch in Iraq a military operation that would violate all the constitutional restraints on such a move and serve as a precedent for the unrestricted use of German armed forces throughout the world.
On Thursday, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen and Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere resolved to present to the cabinet in the middle of next week a draft parliamentary mandate that allows for a huge expansion of the Bundeswehr (German army) deployment in Iraq.
According to a report in the Bild tabloid newspaper, the draft legislation provides for the posting of more than 100 armed German soldiers in the Kurdish region of Iraq. The combat troops are to be used there to train Kurdish military organisations at war with the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group.

As Germany's war machine gears up, so do peaceful Germans.  Anadolu Agency reports 4,5000 people turned out Saturday in Berlin to take part in demonstrations against Germany's deployment of troops to "Afghanistan, North Iraq and some African countries."

Three outlets attempted to grade the work or 'accomplishments' of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi today.  None did very well.

Reuters did the worst  and asserted he'd "swept away the divisive legacy of his predecessor."

All three offered as proof of accomplishment the oil deal between Baghdad and Erbil.

The Reuters piece came out of the US Embassy in Baghdad.  That was obvious reading it this morning but I've also confirmed it since.

That the US government would lie is hardly surprising.

I have no idea what Reuters gets out of it but I hope they got something big.

Here's reality and we've covered it before: The US government blocked the deal.

I am no fan of Nouri al-Maliki.  He's the forever thug and former prime minister.  

I loathe him so much I have to check my anger.

There's no plus or pleasure for me in noting that Nouri was encouraged not to make the deal.  The US government led him to believe they could assist him in opposing it.  They couldn't.

The White House didn't want the deal to go through.

A functioning press would be asking why that was.

They'd also start to notice how there's not effort to end the war just to widen it and how that effects markets. 

A functioning press would point out that war, these days and always, is much more than a bomb or bullet and note the pressure being brought on Iraq non-militarily isn't diplomatic but seems geared at 'liberating' Iraq's money as it's pushed towards 'stewardship.'

The White House blinked.

That's the reality.

Massoud Barzani is the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government and he's no Jalal Talabani.  The luckiest thing to happen to the Kurds was when the stroke took Jalal out of commission and his family lied to the Iraqi people in order to keep him from being replaced (and them from being the first family).

With Jalal out of the picture, who could the White House bribe?

Jalal's collapsible spine had been well oiled for years and years by US bribes.

Barzani wasn't 'favored nation' with the US government and wasn't the timid coward Talabani was.

He knew how to drive a hard bargain.

When Nouri and the US government attempted to seize the tanker of Kurdish oil off the coast of Texas?

Talabani would have blinked and fallen to his knees.

Massoud Barzani cast a wide net for legal opinions, found they had strong legal ground and refused to back down.  (The judge reconsidered her opinion and realized she was in the wrong.  A big blow to the White House but no one wants to tell that story either.)

Massoud Barzani and the Barzani family refused to back down.  They know this is the time to grab everything they can because the US government has to go along.

Without the Kurdish peshmerga, Iraq goes under to the Islamic State.

A year ago, even six months ago, when we pointed out that the Kurds could do what they wanted with their oil, that they had every right to demand their portion of the federal budget, etc, we were treated by two 'analysts' often quoted in the press as idiots.

We weren't idiots.  All that we said has come to pass.

Not because I'm a psychic but because I know how to get solid information and, when necessary, will even pay for it.  And I'd met the Talabanis and they were weak.  Meeting the Barzanis testified to that family's strength.  At some point, they might end up co-opted the way the Talabani family long ago was.  But for now, their goal has been the Kurds -- as a people.  And they've accomplished more in the last four years for the Kurdish people in Iraq than has been accomplished in the previous two decades.

That's why we've been able to note and, yes, chart the accomplishments while others -- that idiot Joel Wing -- were announcing the end of Massoud Barzani.

Barzani made a demand regarding the oil and refused to back down.  There was disagreement among Kurdish officials.  Hoshyar Zebari was not on board with it until February of last year and he didn't get on board strongly until the late spring.

But Barzani never blinked and now, as the US government runs around trying to get other countries to put boots on the ground (we'll tell you a little more on that in a moment), they couldn't afford to lose the peshmerge and if there wasn't an Iraq that could responds to the needs of the KRG, it was made clear that the peshmerga could be used solely to protect the northern provinces making up the KRG.

This had nothing to do -- the agreement on oil -- with Haider al-Abadi.

This had to do with the White House being forced to drop its longstanding objection.

It was a Barzani victory and a White House loss.  Naturally, the US government would rather try to sell it as a Haider victory.

Reuters notes:

He has dismissed dozens of top army and security officers appointed by former premier Nuri al-Maliki, announced a campaign against corruption in the military, ordered curbs on arrests without a judge's authorisation, and decreed the speeding up of the release of detainees when courts order them to be set free.

On the dismissals, Nouri went around the Parliament on actions like appointees in the military and did so because he was paranoid and feared a military coup.  So he put people in place who were grossly inept but hugely loyal to him.

Keeping those people on would do nothing to help Iraq's failing military and it would also make it easier for Nouri to stage a coup.  And for those who didn't get that point when we made it this morning, from Tim Arango's latest report which went online this evening at the New York Times:

“Maliki is absolutely convinced that he will be back sometime in 2015,” said one Western official, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid angering Iraqi officials.

Reuters spent a lot of time confusing statements by Haider with actual actions.

September 13th, found Haider declaring the Iraqi military would stop bombing civilian homes in Falluja (War Crimes, by the way).

Did those stop?


They continue daily, they continue wounding and killing Iraqi civilians. 

Words aren't actions.  Words can be followed by action.  Words can also be followed by no action at all.

The editorial board of the Post and Courier also offered a grading of Haider -- and there big mistake?

The Iraqi government has also agreed that the roughly 3,000 American military advisers that President Obama has dispatched to Iraq will be immune from prosecution in Iraqi courts. 

You caught it, right?


Let's drop back to the December 8th snapshot:

We ask that because last week the Associated Press was reporting:

The US has reached an agreement with Iraq on privileges and immunities for the growing number of troops based in the country, helping in the fight against the Islamic State (Isis) militant group, the new US ambassador said on Thursday.
Stuart Jones said prime minister Haider al-Abadi has given assurances that US troops will receive immunity from prosecution.

Yet now, NINA reports:

Prime Minister Dr. Haidar al-Abadi media office of Dr. Haider Abadi denied news which recently claimed that the Iraqi government would be granted immunity to US troops describing such a news as fabricated .
The office said in a statement today that the statements attributed to the US ambassador are baseless and exciting surprise .

All Iraq News also covers the story, "The Prime Minister, Hayder Al-Ebadi said Monday 'There is no immunity for any foreign fighter and I did not sign any immunity for any US soldier deployed in Iraq'."

It's amazing the AP filed multiple reports today but never got around to mentioning that their big news last week was now being called into question by statements the prime minister of Iraq is making.

It's strange because AP and other western outlets have continued to ignore those comments by Haider al-Abadi.

Let's note Human Rights Watch's alert from Saturday regarding Iraq:

Iraq’s prime minister should order stays of execution for one rival of former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and an associate of another. The death sentences were handed down after trials in which both defendants alleged they had been subjected to torture and denied access to lawyers during interrogation, highlighting Iraq’s urgent need for judicial reform.

On October 22, 2014, Baghdad’s Central Criminal Court sentenced Rasha al-Husseini, a secretary to former Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, to death on terrorism charges. The court’s judgment appears to be based entirely on al-Husseini’s confession. Her lawyers allege that security forces psychologically and physically tortured her. On November 23, the same court sentenced Ahmed al-Alwani, a former parliament member, to death on murder charges. Family members told Human Rights Watch they saw torture marks on him before his trial.

“Iraq’s judiciary is still handing down convictions in politicized trials, fraught with legal irregularities,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director. “Despite promises of reform, the government is sitting idly by while Iraq’s terribly flawed justice system sentences people to death on little or no evidence.”

Security forces arrested al-Husseini and about a dozen other Hashimi staff members in late December 2011. In March 2012, Human Rights Watch reported evidence that several of them had been tortured. One, a bodyguard named Amir Sarbut Zaidan al-Batawi, died about three months after his arrest. His body displayed signs of torture, including in several sensitive areas. The government denied the torture allegations and did not investigate.

There are many travesties.  Tim Arango offers a look at how Haider handled the recent decision to order the execution of Sunni politician Ahmed al-Alwani:

Mr. Abadi swung into action. He immediately contacted Sunni officials and Alwani tribe members, assuring them that there would be no execution. And he urged them to solve the matter by the tribal tradition of paying “blood money” to the families of the victims, two soldiers who were killed in a gun battle when commandos came to arrest Mr. Alwani last year.
[. . .]
In the Alwani case, for instance, Mr. Abadi gave private assurances to Mr. Alwani’s tribe and Sunni leaders that there would be no execution. Publicly, however, he supported the independence of the judiciary, saying he had no right to intervene. He even criticized a recent Human Rights Watch report that urged him to order a stay of execution and highlighted claims that Mr. Alwani, who has denied firing the weapon that killed the two soldiers, had been tortured and was refused access to lawyers.

I'm not really sure how that's a plus.  He could have issued a pardon, he could have rehauled the Iraqi justice system.

Instead, he took clandestine actions that spared one life while failing to address the real issues that leave so many Sunnis still facing executions for their political alliances.

I don't see why we applaud that.

It might be brave action on the part of someone from outside the system but from the person who is supposed to be heading the government?

Seems pretty weak.

And I hate to give Nouri fuel, but it's also sort of against the office itself.  Nouri never followed his oath but I'm sure he can grasp how the actions Tim Arango describes went against the oath of office.

In New Jersey today at Joint Base McGuire-Dix Lakehurst, US President Barack Obaa made a few remarks on Iraq:

In Iraq, local forces have held the line in some places and pushed back ISIL in other places. In Syria, our airstrikes are inflicting heavy losses on ISIL fighters and leaders. Because of you, we have blunted their momentum and we have put them on the defensive. And these terrorists are learning the same thing that the leaders of al Qaeda have learned the hard way: They may think that they can chalk up some quick victories, but our reach is long. We do not give up. You threaten America, you will have no safe haven. We will find you. And like petty tyrants and terrorists before you, the world is going to leave you behind and keep moving on without you, because we will get you. That's thanks to you.

Now, this campaign in Iraq will take time. But make no mistake, our coalition isn’t just going to degrade this barbaric terrorist organization, we’re going to destroy it. And because this isn’t just a military effort, we’re going to keep working with those in the Middle East who believe in tolerance and opportunity and peace, because that's what the region needs. These terrorists only know how to destroy. And we know how to do something bigger -- how to build the security and peace and justice that we can build with others. But none of that would be possible without you. That’s American leadership. That's the difference you make.

US troops.

Barack promised no troops would be on the ground in combat in Iraq.

Yet last week, Secretary of State John Kerry argued before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the promise remained but that the White House needed Congress to allow, in their write up authorizing the latest wave of the war, US troops to be on the ground in Iraq.


Unsaid by Kerry, unacknowledged by the White House, their efforts to get other countries to put troops on the ground in Iraq are being met with doubt and questions of why US troops aren't being sent into combat if that's what the White House believes in.

Reportedly, the hypothetical number of 10,000 is now being tossed around to foreign governments by State Dept officials -- 10,000 US troops that would be sent into combat.

Finally, Margaret Griffis ( counts 101 dead from violence today with another 34 injured.