Saturday, February 21, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Saturday, February 21, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, there are warnings that an attempt to take on the Islamic State will fail, there is no political solution, there's no honesty about what took place in the last years in Iraq, and much more.

Retired military Lt Michael T. Flynn served as Director of Defense Intelligence Agency from July 2012 to August 2014.  He's now penned a column for POLITICO in which he argues that US President Barack Obama's efforts against the Islamic State will fail:

Unless the United States takes dramatically more action than we have done so far in Iraq, the fractious, largely Shiite-composed units that make up the Iraqi army are not likely to be able, by themselves, to overwhelm a Sunni stronghold like Mosul, even though they outnumber the enemy by ten to one. The United States must be prepared to provide far more combat capabilities and enablers such as command and control, intelligence, logistics, and fire support, to name just a few things.
Yet to defeat an enemy, you first must admit they exist, and this we have not done. I believe there continues to be confusion at the highest level of our government about what it is we’re facing, and the American public want clarity as well as moral and intellectual courage, which they are not now getting.
There are some who argue that violent Islamists are not an existential threat and therefore can simply be managed as criminals, or as a local issue in Iraq and Syria. I respectfully and strongly disagree.

He may be right.  I disagree with many of his conclusions.  I do think the efforts Barack is pursuing will fail but for different reasons than Flynn argues.

Flynn writes of evil and seeing it when looking at the other side in Iraq.  I'm sure some Iraqis looking back at the US-led coalition saw 'evil' as well.  That combat is 'savage' really doesn't strike me as surprising or illuminating.

Flynn's probably brilliant when it comes to staging an attack or an assault and probably in finding defensive postures as well.

But in reality, it doesn't matter who controls Mosul in April or who controls it in May.

Yes, it's been controlled since June by the Islamic State.

But, believe it or not, that's not the issue.

Yes, a military operation that takes back Mosul is a good thing.

For a day or two.

Maybe a month.

But it's meaningless if that's all that happens.

The American media largely continues to lie about what happened in Iraq.

Left voices obsess over Bully Boy Bush and want to whine about 2003.

Hey, it's an illegal war, it's an ongoing illegal war.

Bully Boy Bush is War Criminal.

We've covered that.

We've dealt with that.

We've addressed it.

But that really has little to do with right now today.

Bully Boy Bush started the Iraq War and it's all dominoes or something ever since!

On the left we rightly rejected the domino theory with regards to Vietnam but we want to pretend like it exists within Iraq.

Iraq had found a form of stability when compared to its worst days of the 'civil war' (ethnic cleansing).

This happened for a number of reasons.

And if we can't be honest about what happened to turn that around, to bring Iraq back to the brink, then let's just declare war endlessly and repeatedly and never learn a damn thing because that's the path we've chosen.

In its eagerness to withdraw from Iraq, the Obama administration also undermined the country’s central democratic institutions. After preaching the virtues of democracy around the world, Obama chose to bypass the secular, Western-leaning winner of Iraq’s 2010 parliamentary elections, Ayad Allawi, in favor of the runner-up, Nouri al-Maliki. Ignoring Maliki’s sectarian and autocratic tendencies, the White House then repeatedly lobbied Congress to expedite sales of advanced American military equipment, including F-16 fighter jets, AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, and Hellfire missiles — even as the Iranian-allied strongman unleashed a reign of terror and purged his political enemies with less sophisticated American weapons systems.
Paradoxically, after Maliki actually won the 2014 parliamentary election — despite reigniting a Sunni insurgency and a broader civil war — the White House finally pivoted away from him. Washington’s preferred choice this time was Haider al-Abadi, a genuinely moderate and unifying member of the Dawa Islamic Party, which Maliki continues to formally lead.  Nevertheless, the precedent set twice by Obama — that the United States does not actually respect the intent of Iraq’s Constitution nor Iraqi elections results — will haunt the United States and Iraq alike for decades to come.

I agree with most of the above.

I'm less concerned about Barack (finally) dropping support in 2014 for Nouri.

In 2010, the results of the election were overturned by Barack Obama via The Erbil Agreement.

That didn't happen in 2014.

Allawi's Iraqiya won in 2010.  Iraqiya did not get to see one of their own become prime minister.

In 2014, State of Law (and Dawa) has the post of prime minister.

Nouri is an MP.  That's all the people can elect, MPs.  They can put a party or a slate in the lead but the Prime Minister is elected by the Parliament.

Nouri wanted a third term.

But the Parliament -- in a deal brokered by the US government and the Iranian government -- chose someone else from the same victorious group.

They didn't have to.

They could have followed the Constitution and named Moqtada al-Sadr or Ammar al-Hakim prime minister.  Both non-Dawa and non-State of Law leaders were part of the coalition -- the Shi'ite coalition -- banding together.

I don't feel that the election was stolen in 2014 because Nouri didn't have a 'right' to the post.  You can argue Dawa and State of Law -- more than any grouping in the Shi'ite alliance -- had a right to field their candidate for the post.  And that is what happened.

I don't like Nouri and that should be factored into my opinion.

I don't pretend to like Nouri.

In 2006, he was imposed upon Iraq by Bully Boy Bush.  A month after he became prime minister (not prime minister-designate, prime minister), his weakness was already on display.  His paranoia would be displayed shortly there after.

He had a lousy first term.

But his second term was so horrific that it's easy to, by comparison, see his first term as 'normal.'

I firmly believe that had Nouri gotten a third term, Iraq would have splintered completely.  I don't mean become a federation, I mean the entire social fabric would have been gone.

And I could be wrong on all of that but I toss that out there because I don't claim I'm unbiased when it comes to Nouri.  I can applaud or call out any official -- Allawi, Moqtada, you name it.  But Nouri is a destroyer and I'm not going to pretend I'm fair about him.

His second term is what no one wants to pay attention to.

The western reporters, the western officials, especially Barack and the White House thing they can physically seize Mosul or another location and everything's solved.

They get away with that nonsense because we all want to pretend that Bully Boy Bush is the cause of everything.

Bully Boy Bush was not in the White House in 2010.

Nouri lost the election, stamped his feet, the UN caved and gave him a few votes his slate didn't earn but he still wasn't the winner.

And he refused to step down.

Parliament couldn't form a new government.

For eight months, he refused to step down.

He brought the government to a standstill.  This period was known as the "political stalemate."

And instead of demanding that he step down, having lost the election, the White House decided to back Nouri al-Maliki for a second term.


Ask Samantha Power why.  She argued for Nouri.

The White House oversaw the negotiation of The Erbil Agreement.

This legal contract finally brought the stalemate to an end.

The leaders of all the political blocs signed off on the contract -- Nouri is a leader of a political bloc, he signed off too.

The White House portrayed the situation as: Nouri has held out for nearly 8 months, he could hold out longer so be the bigger person and give him the second term to do what's right for Iraq and, in exchange, we'll get you what you want by putting it in this legally binding contract that has the full backing of the US government.

So, for example, the Kurds were promised Article 140 would be implemented.

I've slammed the Kurds for being stupid on this and I'll slam them again.

Nouri became prime minister in the spring of 2006.  Iraq's current Constitution was already in place.  Article 140 of that Constitution demanded that the prime minister implement Article 140 (census and referendum on the disputed territories).  Both Baghdad and Erbil (KRG) claimed oil rich Kirkuk.  Article 140 would resolve the issue, it was the means by which to resolve it.

Nouri refused to implement it.

The Constitution gave him a deadline: December 31, 2007.

That's written into the Iraqi Constitution.

But 2007 ended and Nouri refused to implement Article 140.

He refused to in 2008.  And in 2009.

In 2010, Nouri's going to suddenly implement it because he signs a contract promising he will?

That was stupidity on the Kurds part.

And it was stupidity on everyone's part because Nouri's first term was nothing but broken promises.

If Nouri wanted a second term and the Kurds and others were willing to give it to him in exchange for X,Y and Z, then they should have demanded he first honor those requests, honor those legal promises.

They didn't.

They signed The Erbil Agreement, this allowed Parliament to finally have a real session and name a president and allow the president to name a prime minister-designate (I'm leaving a lot out including the back stabbing carried out by Jalal Talabani).  Nouri's named that and, on that first session, that first day, after being named, what does he say?

He can't implement the contract (Erbil Agreement) just yet.

Just yet.

Ayad Allawi (and members of Iraqiya -- not all) walked out of the session.

Barack personally called Allawi and asked him to call off the boycott.  The boycott was highlighting Nouri's broken promises and the US didn't want their puppet looking bad.  Barack personally promised Allawi that The Erbil Agreement would be implemented.

The press whores in the west pretended it would as well.

Then a few months passed without it being implemented and suddenly the White House and the US press pretended there had never been an Erbil Agreement.

And this is when Iraq falls apart and the world looks the other way.

The power-sharing agreement is not honored.  Nouri's attorney tells the Iraqi press that The Erbil Agreement is illegal so Nouri will not be honoring it.

By the summer of 2011, Iraqiya, Moqtada al-Sadr, the Kurds (primarily the Barzani family but Jalal Talabani wants some easy headlines so he joins in as well) and others are calling for The Erbil Agreement to be implemented.

Nouri blows them off.

As 2012 begins, Iraqi politicians begin talking about holding a vote of no-confidence in Parliament -- if the vote is one of no-confidence, Nouri is no longer prime minister.

Moqtada al-Sadr repeatedly and publicly states Nouri can end this effort at any point by implementing The Erbil Agreement -- the contract Nouri signed.

At this point, Iraqi voters have had their votes stripped away by the White House.

But their elected officials in Parliament are going to do something.

And the vote requires first a petition.  Enough signatures are gathered.

There will be a vote and it is likely Nouri will be out as prime minister . . .

but the US strong arms Jalal Talabani (one of the weakest figures in Iraqi politics) and Jalal agrees to stop the vote.

His role is pure ceremony.  He is to introduce the petition to the legislative body in a session of Parliament.

That's all his role is.

But, under US pressure and coaching, Jalal declares he has to vet the signatures.  Each one.

And not only does he have to ask each MP if they signed the petition but Jalal invents the power to ask them, "Would you still sign it?"  And if they say, "Yes, I signed it but no I wouldn't today," Jalal removed them as signers.

Or that was his excuse for disqualifying signatures.

No one could prove what he did because he announced it after the fact and refused to back it up with any evidence.

Not only that but he fled to Germany immediately and his office announced he required critical, life saving surgery.

He went to Germany and had knee surgery.

Don't confuse this with his December 2012 trip to Germany.

Having lied in May of 2012 about needing critical medical attention, karma kicked his fat ass and gave him a stroke in December 2012 and he had to be flown back to Germany.

So now you have the people stripped of their votes, their elected officials refused official redress and so the people took to the streets to begin a year of protests.

And they had reason to protest.  No jobs.

Iraqi girls and women being tortured and raped in jails and prison.

The disappeared -- male and female -- who vanished into Iraq's prisons.

The arrests without arrest warrants.

The arrests of family members charged with no crime and suspected of no crime but arrested because they were related to a suspect.

The people took to the streets and Nouri responded by targeting the protesters, having them harassed and followed home, having them beaten and killed by Iraqi forces.

The Iraqis were denied their vote by Barack, the then saw their elected officials denied Constitutional redress so they took to the streets and instead of supporting them the US government chose to ignore them.

The above really just focuses on the Sunni element.  There were also Nouri's battles with the Kurds and with other Shi'ites and with ethnic and religious minorities.

But Nouri's attacks on the Iraqi people, his constantly calling any rival or body who stood up to him 'terrorists,' his constant verbal attacks on surrounding countries, all of this brought the chaos and the violence back to the level that many thought was gone.

Driving the Islamic State out of Mosul in April is useless if nothing is done about the realities, the political crises (plural) that Nouri fostered and that continue under new prime minister Haider al-Abadi.

Erin Banco (International Business Times) reports:

The U.S. effort to stop the Islamic State group in Iraq’s Anbar province, though only a few months old, is being hindered by the Iraqi military, the partner President Barack Obama said on multiple occasions was cooperating with all of the country’s sects to stop the militant group’s advance. In a replay of the “Sunni Awakening” strategy in 2006 that funneled arms to Sunni tribes in western Iraq in a successful bid to stop al Qaeda, the U.S. enlisted tribal leaders to halt the Islamic State group with American weapons. But now leaders and their fighters say they have not received any of those weapons, because the Shiite-dominated Iraqi Army is hoarding them in Baghdad.
“The U.S. government has not provided us with the weapons directly. The Iraqi military has them,” Muhand Murshad Drueesh Alwany, a Sunni militiaman in Ramadi who also fought alongside U.S. troops in Anbar in 2007, told International Business Times. “American soldiers are so far only consulting and training in their mission in Anbar, and are also conducting airstrikes.”

A trench project is being carried out.  It's a moat.

Those of us with long memories who were paying attention in 2006 may remember that when the Green Zone was almost breached one June Friday, Baghdad went into a panic.  Walls were put up all over (Nouri was out of the country at the time and expressed outrage over this and insisted the walls would come down when he returned to Baghdad -- didn't happen).  Nouri's plan was a moat around Baghdad.  That, Nouri felt, was the answer.  That didn't happen either.

But Reuters notes a moat is being dug to protect Kerbala and they explain some reaction to this:

Many Sunnis, however, fear the trench is not a temporary security measure but just one more example of how they are being expelled from sensitive areas in central Iraq, which they say the Shi’ite majority wants to control.
The trench and an accompanying berm, now more than half built, wind through traditional Sunni tribal lands whose civilian population has been caught in the crosshairs between Islamic State insurgents and military offensives by Shi’ite militias and Iraqi security forces.
“The goal is for the Shi’ite militias to cleanse the Sunnis from the area,” said a sheikh from al-Aweisat, an agricultural region about 40 km southwest of Baghdad that has been cut up by the trench.

These are not things that take Iraq away from the brink.

June 13, 2014, Barack stated:

I do want to be clear though, this is not solely or even primarily a military challenge.  Over the past decade, American troops have made extraordinary sacrifices to give Iraqis an opportunity to claim their own future.  Unfortunately, Iraq’s leaders have been unable to overcome too often the mistrust and sectarian differences that have long been simmering there, and that’s created vulnerabilities within the Iraqi government as well as their security forces.
So any action that we may take to provide assistance to Iraqi security forces has to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq’s leaders to set aside sectarian differences, to promote stability, and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq’s communities, and to continue to build the capacity of an effective security force.  We can’t do it for them.  And in the absence of this type of political effort, short-term military action, including any assistance we might provide, won’t succeed. 
So this should be a wake-up call.  Iraq’s leaders have to demonstrate a willingness to make hard decisions and compromises on behalf of the Iraqi people in order to bring the country together.  In that effort, they will have the support of the United States and our friends and our allies. 

There's been no movement on any political solutions -- or even on just one.

So the US is going to have to waste more money and for nothing.  And the Iraqi military is going to have fight and die for nothing.

This is the same problem and it's still not being addressed.

Throwing bombs at it isn't a solution.

I'm opposed to war.

But if there was a political solution going on along with a military solution, maybe a case could be made for US involvement.

But eight months ago, Barack told the world Iraq required a political solution and there's been no solution, there's been no movement towards a solution.

In fact, Haider really is another Nouri.

He gets applause for announcing he will stop the military bombing of civilians in Falluja.  But the bombings continue.  Empty words.

He gets applause for reaching an agreement on oil with the Kurds.  But the 'agreement' was just words and is being used -- the prospect of the supposed deal -- is being used for leverage.  Empty words.

It's bad enough in my opinion that the Iraq War continues.  But to keep spending money on it and to ignore that nothing is changing is insanity.

Either Barack is nuts or he just wants the war because he and his administration have done nothing to move Iraq towards a political solution.

Margaret Griffis ( counts 72 dead across Iraq from violence on Friday.

“This is a separation line between the Sunnis and the Shi’ites,” he told Reuters.

We'll note this Tweet by the State Dept's Brett McGurk.

    1. Milestone: PM Abadi appoints Dr. Thikra Alwash as Mayor of . 1st woman mayor in its 1250-year history.

  • She will have symbolic value.

    Whether she'll have more than that was debated hotly in the Iraqi press on Thursday.