Saturday, January 31, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Saturday, January 31, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Shi'ite militias have better weapons than the Iraqi military (guess who provided them), killing journalists continues to go unpunished in Iraq, we remember activist, journalist and martyr Hadi al-Mahdi whose assassin still roams free in Iraq, the White House publicly argues that Barack sending combat troops into Iraq is a private issue between Congressional Democrats and Republicans, the State Dept continues to fail at diplomacy in Iraq, and much more.

Six months into US President Barack Obama's 'plan' for saving Iraq from violence, the violence continues.  Margaret Griffis ( counts 197 dead from violence on Friday with another forty-one left injured.  And already today, Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports Baghdad and surrounding areas have been slammed with bombings resulting in 9 deaths and twenty-five people injured.

US President Barack Obama: Good afternoon, everybody.  I just met with my national security team to discuss the situation in Iraq.  We’ve been meeting regularly to review the situation since ISIL, a terrorist organization that operates in Iraq and Syria, made advances inside of Iraq.  As I said last week, ISIL poses a threat to the Iraqi people, to the region, and to U.S. interests.  So today I wanted to provide you an update on how we’re responding to the situation.
First [. . .]
American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq, but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region, and American interests as well.
[. . .]
I want to emphasize, though, that the best and most effective response to a threat like ISIL will ultimately involve partnerships where local forces, like Iraqis, take the lead. 
Finally, the United States will lead a diplomatic effort to work with Iraqi leaders and the countries in the region to support stability in Iraq.  At my direction, Secretary Kerry will depart this weekend for meetings in the Middle East and Europe, where he’ll be able to consult with our allies and partners.  And just as all Iraq’s neighbors must respect Iraq’s territorial integrity, all of Iraq’s neighbors have a vital interest in ensuring that Iraq does not descend into civil war or become a safe haven for terrorists.
Above all, Iraqi leaders must rise above their differences and come together around a political plan for Iraq’s future.  Shia, Sunni, Kurds -- all Iraqis -- must have confidence that they can advance their interests and aspirations through the political process rather than through violence.  National unity meetings have to go forward to build consensus across Iraq’s different communities.  Now that the results of Iraq’s recent election has been certified, a new parliament should convene as soon as possible.  The formation of a new government will be an opportunity to begin a genuine dialogue and forge a government that represents the legitimate interests of all Iraqis.

Now, it’s not the place for the United States to choose Iraq’s leaders.  It is clear, though, that only leaders that can govern with an inclusive agenda are going to be able to truly bring the Iraqi people together and help them through this crisis.  Meanwhile, the United States will not pursue military options that support one sect inside of Iraq at the expense of another.  There’s no military solution inside of Iraq, certainly not one that is led by the United States.  But there is an urgent need for an inclusive political process, a more capable Iraqi security force, and counterterrorism efforts that deny groups like ISIL a safe haven.

That's Barack speaking on June 19th.

First off, please note, there's been no serious updates from Barack in the time since.  Starting in August, US tax payers on the hook for over a billion dollars because of Barack's 'response' to the Islamic State.  Despite spending billions of tax payer dollars, the White House hasn't felt the need to seriously address Iraq -- it was but a brief aside, one sentence, in Barack's State of the Union Address last week -- despite the fact that this Constitutionally mandated speech required Barack to address the issue of Iraq.

The State Dept's also failing to address it.  I was asked Friday if I'd organized a veterans lobby?  Huh?  This week, the State Dept's online surveys have resulted in one slam after another from self-identified veterans of the Iraq War noting that the daily press briefings have ignored Iraq repeatedly.  No, I had nothing to do with that.  But how out of touch is the State Dept with American citizens -- including veterans -- that when their own surveys reveal the public is appalled that they're refusing to update daily on Iraq, the State Dept's natural assumption is to assume it must be a conspiracy and not, in fact, a true reflection of public attitudes.

Let's emphasize this from the speech:

Finally, the United States will lead a diplomatic effort to work with Iraqi leaders and the countries in the region to support stability in Iraq.  At my direction, Secretary Kerry will depart this weekend for meetings in the Middle East and Europe, where he’ll be able to consult with our allies and partners.  And just as all Iraq’s neighbors must respect Iraq’s territorial integrity, all of Iraq’s neighbors have a vital interest in ensuring that Iraq does not descend into civil war or become a safe haven for terrorists.

Where's that diplomatic effort?

As noted Friday morning, some feel I should have covered the passage of the Iraqi budget in Thursday's snapshot.

This morning Alsumaria has published it in PDF format and, at some point today, I will try to read it.  Prior to that, it's a sentence: Iraq passed a budget worth $150 billion US dollars. Saif Hameed (Reuters) has that here.
Considering the way programs to rebuild Iraq were being slashed when oil was at a high, I can't imagine that the programs didn't suffer even more as the oil prices dropped.
That's what the story of the budget's about: Where the money is going.
That is passed is meaningless without knowing that.

Reuters has published another piece here -- the last part notes some budget issues.  I'm not talking about the budget, I haven't read it.  I haven't had the time.  I also haven't to sleep since I woke up Friday morning.  I do have a life.  (There may be a piece tonight responding to flack from United Nations' friends over Thursday's snapshot, there may not be.  I listened to their whines repeatedly yesterday.  It's whining.  We may do something here tonight on the UN, the CIA, etc.)

But the budget . . .

I don't work for the US government (or the UN), I don't take orders from them.

I don't work for Reuters either.

Reuters did their job reporting, from Iraq, that the budget had passed and noting that former prime minister (and forever thug) Nouri al-Maliki never was able to pass a 2014 budget.

The news agency spends a lot of money to cover Iraq, they did their job and justified the money spent.

But more money is being spent by the American taxpayer on Iraq right now than by Reuters.

Again, the price tags for just the time since August is over a billion (some of that is Syria-related costs as well).

The American public, footing the bill, is not seeing a return on their dollar for this huge expenditure.

Not in terms of information.

What has been the US government's response to the budget passing?

There's been no statement released by the White House.  There's been no read out of a phone call the president or Vice President Joe Biden had with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi congratulating him on the budget passing.

The State Dept?

They've had three press briefings to address it and have never even noted it.

They've issued no statement on it.

In fact, the administration's entire response to the budget passing is right here:

: Congratulations to Parliament 4 approving 2015 budget. Important in bringing transparency & control over national finances
38 retweets27 favorites

The State Dept's Brett McGurk re-Tweeted UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov's Tweet on the budget.

That's it.

That's everything.

Now maybe, like me, they wanted to read the budget before commenting?  Maybe they've also heard that the budget allegedly slashed, for example, the already small amount of aid the Iraqi government provides to the challenged/disabled communities?

I don't know.

I do know that it's kind of the State Dept's job to spin.  They're not engaged in honesty, they're engaged in deception and spin and that's not a development that arrived when Barack was first  sworn in  as president (January 2009) but a hallmark of the department for decades.

So it's yet again very telling that when the State Dept does have something they could spin, they're more interested in ignoring it.  Brett, for example, confuses missiles with his own cock and can't stop drooling over the ability of these bombs to destroy.

That is what he repeatedly Tweets about.  For example:

CENTCOM confirms death of experienced chemical weapons engineer Abu Maliki in an airstrike near earlier this week.
46 retweets29 favorites

He never has any diplomacy Tweets, does he?

In fairness to Brett, a recent Tweet did note the German Parliament . . . authorizing troops to be sent into Iraq.

Like John Kerry, Brett's thinks he's working for the Defense Dept.

I think the two are suffering from severe cases of Pentagon envy.

And they're helping to destroy Iraq in the process.

Alsumaria reports Haider al-Abadi had some curious statements to make.

In supposedly inclusive Iraq, Haider's declared free speech does not include making comments about the Prophet Muhammad.

Reality: Free speech does allow everyone and anyone to critique, mock, denigrate any religious symbol or figure they desire.

But set reality aside because Iraq's not going to have free speech today, tomorrow or in the next five years.

If Haider wanted to make the comments and wanted to be inclusive, he would have said that was true of comments about religious figures from the Christian faith, the Jewish faith, the Buddhist faith, the Baha'i faith, etc.  And, of those just listed, it would have been including the Baha'i that would have been the most controversial.  For those late to the party, they can reference Ali Mamouri's 2013 report for Al-Monitor which includes:

  Ever since its establishment, the Baha'i religion has been facing pressure and persecution in the Middle East at large, and in Iraq in particular. Many of its followers have been killed and its holy sites destroyed. Baha'is have been subjected to investigations and persecution during different periods. A number of provocative writings have been produced against Baha'is, supporting violence against them. They have been accused of a variety of charges, ranging from undermining religion to preaching atheism, pornography and being the fruit of colonialism and Zionism, and the list goes on.
There are no official statistics on Baha'is in Iraq, and their exact number remains unknown due to adherents’ fear of revealing their identities. Al-Monitor’s correspondent met with a number of Baha’is in Baghdad and Sulaimaniyah in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. However, none of those interviewed gave statistics on their numbers, due to their dispersion as a result of the intense fear of being oppressed by both the authorities and ordinary citizens. However, Baha'is in Sulaimaniyah feel safer and have greater stability than their brothers in Baghdad, although they abstain from openly practicing their faith for the above-mentioned reasons.
During the royal era, however, Baha'is managed to officially declare their identity. The Iraqi Baha'i community was founded in 1931, the first central Baha'i forum was established in 1936 in the al-Sa’doun region and they have possessed a cemetery in the New Baghdad district since 1952 known as the “eternal garden.” The Iraqi government registered the Baha'i religion in the 1957 census.
Restrictions on Baha’is started to gradually spread following the fall of the monarchy, until the repression reached its peak during the reign of the Baath regime. The regime issued a set of decisions against Baha'is in 1970, and published them in the Official Gazette of Iraq. Under these decisions, the Baha'i religion was officially banned and Baha'is were deprived of all their property and forbidden from registering their religion in civil records. Furthermore, they were ordered to delete references to the Baha’i faith from existing records and replace them with one of the three officially recognized Abrahamic religions. Subsequently, a large number of adherents were imprisoned and many Baha’i political and religious followers were sentenced to death in the late 1970s.
The above risks led Baha'is to either completely close themselves off or emigrate from Iraq. Despite the openness that followed the fall of deposed president Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003, Baha'is in Iraq are still hiding, living in fear of declaring their social identity and preferring not to practice their religion in public.

If Barack's June speech had any meaning at all, the diplomatic effort the US government is supposed to be pursuing would include defending the religious minorities.

Or do the Baha'i have to be trapped on a mountain to get noticed by the US government?

Let's return to the issue of free speech.

Haider's presented himself as an advocate of it.

He's earned applause from segments of the world press (and from segments of the Iraqi press) for a lot of blah-blah, hollow and b.s. statements about freedom of the press.

As we noted then, it's real easy to offer that sop when you're getting good press.  Whether Haider is a defender of the press or not will only emerge when he faces criticism -- strong criticism -- in the press.

When that happens, he might turn out to be a bigger enemy of the press than, for example, Adm William Fallon's bitchy attack on the press.

We covered the hearing in Tuesday's snapshot,   Wally covered it with "The threat from the Islamic State (Wally)," Ava covered it with "Naming the prettiest and the ugliest members of the Senate Armed Services Committee (Ava)" and Kat with "Sequestration."

A few e-mails have suggested I "fact check" two outlets who ran with "US generals" in their coverage of the hearing.  Fallon is not a general.

Did the outlets get it wrong?


Two generals did testify: Gen John Keane and Gen  James Mattis (they and Fallon are all retired, FYI).  It wasn't wrong to say "generals" testified because two did.  Most likely, not including Fallon in their headlines or in their opening paragraph was a response to his trashing of the press -- in response to a question that had nothing to do with the press.

Act like a bitch and the press will respond in kind.

Thursday, Human Rights Watch issued their [PDF format warning] 25th annual World Report which, as usual, is a wealth of information about the world.  We'll be noting the report repeatedly in the next week or so -- not just Thursday and not just today.  This is an important report and should not be reduced -- as it already has been by the press -- to a one day news cycle.

On the issue of the press, the report notes:

The Committee to Protect Journalists named Iraq the “worst nation” on its 2014 Impunity Index of unsolved journalist murders, noting that a resurgence of armed groups “propelled a spike” in journalist killings.
The government-run Communications and Media Commission issued “mandatory” guidelines on June 18 to regulate media “during the war on terror.” Article 1 forbids media from broadcasting or publishing material that “may be interpreted as being against the security forces” and instead requires that they “focus on the security achievements of the armed forces, by repetition throughout the day.” This includes “praising the heroic acts of security personnel.”
On June 21, the commission wrote to a media outlet that reported critically about the government, warning that “if this kind of broadcasting is repeated” the commission would revoke their license. On June 24, Egypt’s broadcast regulator barred two privately owned Iraqi television stations based in Cairo from access to Egypt’s main satellite system, after Egyptian officials received complaints from Baghdad about the stations’ content. According to a staff member of one of the channels, Al-Baghdadiyya, 16 police officers came to the station’s Baghdad office around June 20, beat two guards so badly that they required hospitalization, and confiscated some of the station’s equipment.

On June 13, the central and Kurdish regional governments separately blocked social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Skype, and YouTube, and in some places tried to block the Internet completely. The government lifted the ban intermittently throughout the rest of the year.      

Not everyone feels Haider's statements have been hollow.  That's fine and their entitled to express that.  We're about to note one person who does.  Dirk Adriaensens has an important article on the issue entitled "Iraq: Media professionals assassinated in 2014." (BRussells Tribunal) and this is the opening:

On January 7, 2015, the  Xinhua press Agence reported  that 14 journalists were killed in Iraq in 2014, citing the Iraqi Journalists’ Syndicate:
“A total of 14 journalists were killed in the violence-ridden Iraq last year, an Iraqi journalists' body said on Tuesday.
The latest body count brings the death toll of journalists in the Middle East country to 406 since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
"Some media organizations and houses of journalists were not safe from some abuses, whether by security forces or by unidentified parties," said a report made by the Iraqi Journalists' Syndicate.
According to the report, more than 23 offenses had been registered against the journalists during the year, ranging from assassination attempts, detaining, beating and raids on their headquarters and houses to prevent them from reporting.
Such killings and other offenses came despite some positive indicators in general, like growing openness shown by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's new Iraqi government toward the freedom of the journalistic work, including his decision to drop all pending government lawsuits against journalists and media outlets.
The prevailing atmosphere of democracy, which greatly enhanced the freedom of expression, in addition to the official and popular support to the journalists, were not enough to prevent the series of violence against the journalists, making the journalistic work in Iraq fraught with risks, the report added.“
The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) lists only 6 of these victims in its database. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) lists only 4 killed media profesionals.

Question: Why do these organizations not contact their partners of the Journalists’ syndicate? Year after year after year both CPJ and RSF persevere in their evil course of downgrading the number of assassinated colleagues. Read: 2013: Another year of slaughter in Iraq claims the lives of at least 21 media professionals

Again, that's the opening.

My own personal observation on this topic?  Reporters Without Borders will, if pressured, respond.  The Committee to Protect Journalists just doesn't give a damn.  That's reality, that's based on when I used to spend hours screaming on the phone to friends at both -- and noted that here as we covered this issue seriously.  CPJ just doesn't care.  If you can yell loud enough and build a strong enough case, you can move -- or shame -- Reporters Without Borders into adding an Iraqi journalist to the list of those killed.

And since we don't cover the topic regularly now -- good in that two Fridays mornings ago, we would have run with 3 journalists killed in Diyala which was later that day corrected to have been one journalist -- I should probably restate our position: You are an Iraqi journalist if you are working in journalism.  'Media driver' or 'media assistant' or anything else is meaningless.  The western press, for example, depended on these 'media assistants' for the reports.  Most of the western reporters rarely left the Green Zone. (Or, if they did, they were like Nancy A. Youssef -- only leaving the Green Zone with  US military transportation as they went to a US military base.  As Baghdad was facing extensive ethnic cleansing in 2007, Nancy 'reported' on it without being present.  She's far from the only one.  But her reports were so one-sided, we called them out in real time and we'll note her now.)  Iraqis put themselves at risk for western outlets, they deserve to be called reporters and journalists.  Iraqis working for Iraqi outlets are even more at risk.  "Media professionals" is a fair title.  But I prefer "journalists" or "reporters" because that's what they're doing even if they're not getting bylines for it.

Now if Haider really cares about journalism, it would be easy for him to prove it.

He could ensure that those who killed journalists were punished for their crimes.

He could start with a serious investigation into the assassination of Hadi al-Mahdi.

The Iraq journalist and activist was a part of the Baghdad protests.

He and other journalists were kidnapped by Nouri's forces after they had covered a protest -- they were a restaurant, eating on the outdoor patio, when they were hauled off in broad daylight.  They were then physically beaten and threatened with worse if they continued to cover the protests.

Hadi continued to cover the protests and months later was assassinated in his own home,

Dropping back to the September 8, 2011 snapshot:

In Iraq, a journalist has been murdered.  In addition to being a journalist, he was also a leader of change and part of the movement to create an Iraq that was responsive to Iraqis. 
Al Mada reports Iraqi journalist Hadi al-Mahdi is dead according to an Interior Ministry source who says police discovered him murdered in his Baghdad home.  Along with being a journalist, Al Mada notes he was one of the chief organizers of the demonstrations demanding change and service reform that began on February 25th -- the day he was arrested by Iraqi security forces and beaten in broad daylight as he and others, after the February 25th protest, were eating in a restaurant. The New York Times didn't want to tell you about, the Washington Post did.  And now the man is dead. Gee, which paper has the archives that matter to any real degree.  Maybe it's time to act like a newspaper and not a "news magazine" with pithy little human interest stories?  (That is not a dig at Tim Arango but at the paper's diva male 'reporter' who went on NPR to talk of an Iraqi college this week.)  So while the Times missed the story (actaully, they misled on the story -- cowtowing to Nouri as usual),  Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) reported:

Four journalists who had been released described being rounded up well after they had left a protest at Baghdad's Tahrir Square. They said they were handcuffed, blindfolded, beaten and threatened with execution by soldiers from an army intelligence unit.
"It was like they were dealing with a bunch of al-Qaeda operatives, not a group of journalists," said Hussam al-Ssairi, a journalist and poet, who was among a group and described seeing hundreds of protesters in black hoods at the detention facility. "Yesterday was like a test, like a picture of the new democracy in Iraq."

All this time later, there's no one that's been arrested.

It was a hit, it was an assassination and it was carried out with the cooperation of the Baghdad police force and could have only been done on the orders of Nouri al-Maliki (my opinion, feel free to disagree).

It should be easy, even now, to determine who killed Hadi because his apartment complex had street cameras recording everything.

So just pull up the footage and --

Oh, wait, you can't.

On the day he was assassinated, the cameras were killed.

Working the day prior.

Working the day after.

Just not on the day he was assassinated.

As I've noted before, Hadi was kind enough to gently correct me on an issue I had wrong here on the protests.  (No one has to correct me gently -- if I'm wrong, e-mail me and show me where it is -- there are thousands of entries at this site, specify which one -- but that's the kind of person that Hadi was.)  And we exchanged e-mails occasionally after that.  As the protest movement was gearing back up, he was warned by friends that were stepping away from it for safety reasons that he could be targeted again by the government and that, as the threats were stated months prior, they wouldn't be beaten, they'd be killed.

In the e-mails, he made light of that which might have been how he took it or it might have been his trying not to be intimidated, I don't know.  But he was very clear that if Nouri was going to kill him it would be for covering something -- the protests, the government corruption, etc.  He didn't feel there was safety in silence and, more importantly, he felt a democratic Iraq was worth fighting for.

And that's why he was assassinated.

And those who participated in the protest movement remember him.  His name was evoked when it restarted in December 2013.  And his spirit lives on.

But no one has been arrested to this day for the assassination.

If Haider al-Abadi gave a damn about a free press, he could prove in a minute by actually pursuing justice on behalf of those journalists who were killed.

In the case of Hadi, the bloody trail leads back to Nouri.

Haider would be smart to follow that trail.

I doubt Nouri, should he pull off his conspiracy to return as prime minister before the end of 2015, will be as kind to his 'friend' Haider.

This morning, Alsumaria reports that Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani declared today that Hiader's biggest problem is Nouri al-Maliki, noting that Nouri divided the country and set the stage for the Islamic State

On Monday, Ahmed Rasheed, Stephen Kalin and Robin Pomeroy (Reuters) reported:

Sunni politicians and tribal chiefs from Iraq's eastern Diyala province accused Shi'ite militias on Monday of killing more than 70 unarmed civilians who had fled clashes with Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) militants.

And Ahmed Rasheed, Ned Parker and Stephen Kalin (Reuters) report of what survivors of the slaughter say should also be read.  Supposedly, there's going to be a serious investigation. Supposedly.  Mustafa Habib reports on the militias for Niqash in an article that went online Thursday:

Most of the new members of these militias are volunteers from the regular population who joined up after the highest religious leader for Iraq’s Shiite Muslims, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called upon ordinary Iraqis to defend the country against the Islamic State, or IS, group in June last year. Al-Sistani later clarified his statement, recommending that anyone who wanted to defend the country do so in an official way, by, for example, joining the regular army.

“The popular crowd has better and more sophisticated weapons, an Iraqi army captain serving in the Salahaddin province, told NIQASH. They are also paid around US$600 a month, a salary that is equal to that paid to regular soldiers, he noted.

“In the battles fought by the army and the Shiite militias against the IS group in Salahaddin, there were always borders separating the army from the Shiite militias," Captain Muhammad al-Saadi told NIQASH. “In some cases there were joint battles fought though. And it was during these that we were able to see that the Shiite militias have new weapons.”

These included Iranian-made 106 mm anti-tank guns as well as 120mm, 82mm and 60mm mortars.

"They also have some US-made weapons, which they have from the government,” the captain noted. “The most prominent among these is the Steiner-scoped sniper rifle and the M16 rifle.”

The militias don’t usually have Hummer military vehicles or tanks such as those owned by the Iraqi army. They mostly use medium-sized pickup trucks to carry their weapons and men around. But these may well be more useful than tanks because a lot of the fighting between them and the IS group takes place, street by street, between buildings in residential areas.

“Everyone thinks that the Iraqi army is the main force fighting the IS group and that the Shiite militias support the army,” al-Saadi explained. “But the reality on the ground would suggest that the army doesn’t actually have any authority over these militias and that the militias make their own decisions.”

Earlier in the snapshot, we noted Barack's June speech which included this:

American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq, but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region, and American interests as well.

That was the promise in June.  That changed and, December 9th, Secretary of State John Kerry appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to argue the White House's new opinion that any legal authorization of Barack's current actions in Iraq must include Congress explicitly stating that Barack can put combat forces on the ground in Iraq.

Wednesday's snapshot included:

Meanwhile, US House Rep Adam Schiff is again introducing a bill providing authorization for Barack Obama's actions in Iraq and Syria.  AP notes, "Schiff's bill would authorize the use of force against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria for three years, but prohibit the use of ground forces in a combat mission in either of the two nations."  Tewhid Bastrurk (World Bulletin) reminds, "U.S. President Barack Obama was able to begin Operation Inherent Resolve without consulting congress due to the Democratic majority in the  [Senate] Armed Services Committee (ASC) controlling, responsible for control over the Pentagon's activity, in a move which pushed the limits of his presidential power and drew unfavorable responses from both Democrat and Republican camps."
Of course, US forces already are in combat in Iraq.  We've known it since the end of 2011 thanks to then-US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey's NBC interview with Ted Koppel but did the Pentagon really mean to let it slip out as well?
They did so today:

Special operations forces are very busy today, but they must also plan to confront future threats, Michael J. Dumont, the principle deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict said here yesterday.
Dumont spoke during the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations/Low-intensity Conflict Symposium here.
There is no shortage of threats, the deputy assistant secretary said. Special operations personnel are confronting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terror group in Iraq and are planning to train Syrian moderate forces opposed to ISIL, he said.

Repeating:  "There is no shortage of threats, the deputy assistant secretary said. Special operations personnel are confronting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terror group in Iraq and are planning to train Syrian moderate forces opposed to ISIL, he said."

On the topic of Congressional approval, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest was asked about it in Thursday's White House press briefing:

Q    Josh, thanks.  I want to go back to Congressman Schiff’s AUMF legislation.  It includes language that would prohibit the use of ground troops.  I know that Secretary Kerry a while back, he said that that shouldn’t be part of the AUMF language.  Does the administration still stand by that?  Are you still opposed to legislation that would prohibit the use of ground troops?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Kristen, I’m not going to be in a position to negotiate the language from here.  We are having private negotiations with Democrats and Republicans on the Hill about what should be included in the agreement.  But --

Q    But that seems like a very basic tenet of any piece of legislation.  I mean, the President has said multiple times that he’s not going to send U.S. troops -- put U.S. troops on the ground.  So is that something that you would be opposed to?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, this is something that we’ll have to work out with Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill.  But I appreciate your raising what is a principle that the President has established from the very first day he started talking about ISIL, which is that he does not believe that it’s in the best interest of the United States for us to commit a significant contingent of American ground troops in a combat role to fight ISIL.  He believes that the best way for us to do this is to put American troops in a situation where they can use their skills and expertise to train up local forces that can take the fight to ISIL on the ground in their own country.

Will you have to work it out, Josh?

Seems like this is something to work out with the American people.

Especially since Barack's breaking his word.

Seems like this is something a democracy works out in the open.

Seems like this is something that Barack needs to announce to the American people he's pursuing.

Or is the White House no longer pretending the United States is a democracy?