Monday, January 19, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Monday, January 19, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Canada hikes down Mission Creep, Haider al-Abadi meets with scholars, Barack's 'plan' continues to underwhelm, and much more.

The US-led occupation of Iraq continues with Margaret Griffis ( reporting 175 violent deaths today.  While the Canadian government acknowledges that  combat took place for Canada and the Islamic State.  Al Jazeera reports:

Canadian special forces have clashed with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group by exchanging gunfire in Iraq in recent days, in the first confirmed ground battle between Western troops and ISIL, a senior officer has said.
The Canadians came under mortar and machine gun fire while training Iraqi troops near front lines and shot back in what Canadian special forces commander Brigadier General Michael Rouleau described as self-defence, killing the ISIL fighters. 

Rouleau said the melee had taken place in the previous seven days and was "the first time we've taken fire and returned fire" in Iraq, where the armed group has overrun large areas.

When did the exchange take place?  Laura Payton (CBC News) offers it was "sometime in the last week when they went to the front lines following a planning session with senior Iraqi leaders, their commanding officer told reporters in Ottawa on Monday."  BBC News quotes Brigadier General Michael Rouleau that the incident was "the first time we've taken fire and returned fire."

This wasn't supposed to happen.  They were supposed to be advisors and trainers.

Sound familiar?

Steven Chase (Globe and Mail) points out:

The release by the Canadian military on Monday has triggered a debate about whether mission creep is afflicting what was supposed to be a relatively limited assignment for nearly 70 elite soldiers to offer military advice to Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq.
The military and the Harper government insist these activities are not the kind of direct-combat ground operations that Canadians were assured troops would avoid in their role as instructors and trainers to peshmerga forces battling the Islamic State.

Mission creep is always a possibility.  A point the American people should remember.

And as the news of combat for Canadian troops gets traction,  There are calls for more foreign troops to be sent into Iraq.  AFP reports, "US Senator John McCain on Monday urged the deployment of international ground forces to combat jihadists in Syria and Iraq, as he toured the Middle East with a Senate delegation."

While McCain called for more troops, Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met with some US scholars.  al-Abadi's office issued the following today:

PM Al-Abadi Discusses Developments in Iraq and the Region with American Think Tank Specialists


January 19 2015

Prime Minister Dr. Haider Al-Abadi met today with researchers and specialists in Iraqi affairs and counter-terrorism from US-based think tanks.

During the meeting with Dr. Kenneth Pollack, Dr. Kimberly Kagan and Dr. Fred Kagan, they discussed security challenges facing Iraq and the region as part of the war against Daesh terrorists.

Prime Minister Al-Abadi stressed the need for greater awareness in the international community about the global threat of terrorist organizations. He called for greater efforts to dry up their funding streams, challenge extremist ideologies and develop more comprehensive intelligence mechanisms to monitor their movements and ultimately eliminate the threat posed to the entire world.

The American delegation in turn recognized the positive developments taking place in Iraq under Prime Minister Al-Abadi's leadership and welcomed the recent military successes achieved by the Iraqi Security Forces as part of the war against Daesh.

Kenneth Pollack is with the centrist Brooking Institute and right-wing Kim Kagan heads the Institute for the Study of War and her arm candy Fred Kagan is right-wing as well.

US President Barack Obama has no real plan for Iraq.  He began bombing Iraq in August but bombing was never a plan.

It stopped being effective long ago.

And all these months later, Barack has nothing to show for the billion-dollars-plus he's wasted bombing Iraq.

The press is starting to notice.

Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports:

Iraq’s vice-president for reconciliation, Iyad Allawi, said a lack of a political process between the Shias who dominate the country’s power base, and disenfranchised Sunnis was a “grave mistake” that could mean the air attacks end up achieving little.
“The whole strategy needs to be revisited and readdressed and the international allies should be part of this,” Allawi told the Guardian. “People are asking me what will come after Isis. What would be the destiny of [local] people? Are they going to be accused of supporting or defeating Isis? Would they be accused of being Ba’athists? It is going to be really difficult for them to engage without reconciliation.”

If the Islamic State was defeated tomorrow and run out of Iraq it wouldn't make a damn bit of difference.

Tim Arango and Omar al-Jawoshy (New York Times) report:

On any given day, Sunni women gather here in search of answers about their men, some of whom have been jailed for years.
“The Iraqi Army took my son in March of 2014,” said Tawfika Abbas. “Until now, I don’t know where he is. Zero information.”
Another woman, Entisar Gannos, cried for her four sons: one jailed since 2006, another since 2010, and the other two since 2011, all without court hearings.
Their grief, and the pain of not knowing what is happening to their loved ones, highlight a vital task for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi: reforming Iraq’s criminal justice system. Well-documented abuses of the system, including long detentions without trial and confessions obtained by torture, are the primary grievance of the country’s Sunni minority.

The US government has failed to lead on diplomacy.

There are no accomplishments to point to.

And, more and more, Iraqis are making that clear, making clear that there has been no change.

  • The world must hear the voice of sunni civilians not supporting Shiite militias to kill civilians this not solves the problems

  • Lastly, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America issued the following last Friday:

    New York, N.Y. (January 16, 2015) – According to a new report released today by the Pentagon, the number of active duty suicides decreased in 2013 compared to 2012. However, the study revealed that a staggering 479 suicides were still recorded among active duty servicemembers, Reservists and National Guard members, compared to 522 in 2012. The annual Department of Defense Suicide Event Report (DoDSER), which includes suicide attempts and deaths, is available here.
    The release of the DoD survey coincides with a study to be released by the Annals of Epidemiology, which confirms that the annual suicide rate for veterans is roughly double that of civilians with similar demographics. Both studies underscore the need for mental health care reform legislation promoted by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). Their bill, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act, would increase veteran access to mental health care services and boost accountability within VA’s suicide prevention programs. The bill, which unanimously passed the House on Monday, will be heard by the Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee on Wed., Jan. 21, before being sent to the floor.
    “The Pentagon’s report is only the tip of the iceberg of our nation’s warrior mental health care crisis,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff. “Suicides from active-duty servicemembers and veterans are categorized separately in reports from the DoD and VA, clouding the big picture and making the crisis seem smaller than it is. In reality, these men and women represent the same population with the same risk factors, but are just at different points in their careers. And as the Annals of Epidemiology study underscores, the suicide rate among veterans may be higher than we have ever understood. Both of these reports confirm what IAVA and our members have known for years: that our country is failing to adequately meet the mental health care needs of our veterans. Veteran and military suicide is not just a veteran or military issue — it is a complex, national public health issue. We call on the President talk about this national crisis in Tuesday’s State of the Union address, and support IAVA’s Clay Hunt SAV Act and other policy efforts to combat veteran suicide. We also call on Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) – the first female combat veteran elected to serve in the U.S. Senate – to endorse veteran mental health care reforms during the Republican response to the State of the Union address.”
    “Although the news is difficult, we thank Secretary Hagel and his team for their commitment in combating suicides among our troops and vets. As a combat veteran himself, the Secretary is acutely aware of the challenges our soldiers face when they return home from war. In the past year the Secretary and his team have engaged with our staff and members on ways to increase quality mental health care access for active-duty military,” Rieckhoff concluded.
    In IAVA’s 2014 Member Survey, 47 percent of respondents know at least one Iraq or Afghanistan veteran who has attempted suicide, while 40 percent of respondents know someone who has died by suicide, up three points from 2013. A staggering 31 percent of respondents have thought about taking their own life since joining the military.
    To support its legislative efforts, IAVA launched a petition in December after Sen. Coburn blocked the Clay Hunt SAV Act. To date, the grassroots petition currently includes more than 139,500 signatures of IAVA members and supporters. Click here to learn more.
    In 2014, IAVA provided 2,147 veterans with comprehensive and personalized transition support from Masters level social workers through its Rapid Response Referral Program (RRRP). IAVA also connects veterans to mental health services through its partnership with the VA’s Veterans Crisis Line. The services works to ensure that every servicemember, veteran, family member and provider knows that there is free and confidential help available 24 hours a day through phone, text and online. Veterans, or those concerned about veterans, can call 800-273-8255 and press 1 to be directly connected to qualified responders.

    Note to media: Email or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.
    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.