Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The criticism of the administration continues to grow and Psaki gets bitchy

Supposedly, the US will launch or back an attempt to retake Mosul from the Islamic State -- either in March or April or May   The Islamic State has had control of the city in northern Iraq since June.  Wafiq al-Samarrai (Asharq Al-Awsat) questions both the proposed attempt and it's timetable which the US government has labeled "imminent."  He offers:

“Imminent” is the designation given to operations or plans that are carried out within hours or a couple of days maximum. In reality, there is no indication pointing to such a degree of progress being achieved. The number of local volunteers is below the required level and their capabilities are extremely modest. While Iraqi forces are busy on multiple fronts. There are also far more significant targets than Mosul both strategically and in terms of security, such as the Salah Al-Din governorate and the area west of Baghdad, more specifically in the Anbar province.
So, what is the secret behind the US passion for Mosul?
In principle, and according to the information, liberating Mosul serves neither the project nor the aspirations of the Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani as it will ease the pressures on the Iraqi government at a time when tensions between the two sides, particularly the one relating to article 140 of the constitution about “disputed areas,” remain unresolved. Moreover, liberating Mosul and southwestern Kirkuk will lead to the resumption of oil being exported from Kirkuk to Turkey through the national pipeline instead of temporarily transferred through Kurdish ones that are not under the control of Baghdad. This is not to mention the historical sensitivity felt by the people of Mosul as far as the growing Kurdish influence in their governorate is concerned, especially after the Peshmerga forces refused to raise the Iraqi flag during its operations, and Barzani’s emphasis that the current borders were drawn by blood, a statement that reveals dangerous intentions that might create frictions.

That's the only criticism the White House is facing.  The White House was already facing criticism from Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham over the public remarks about the planned mission.  Kristina Wong (The Hill) notes that now US House Rep and Iraq War veteran Tulsi Gabbard has also blasted the public announcements:

"I was similarly mind-boggled and didn't understand at all how this could be part of a strategic plan in what they're talking about," Gabbard, a captain in the Hawaii Army National Guard and Iraq War veteran, said on CNN. 
"That you're not only outlining the timeline — which is troubling, but you're also talking about specifically how many troops, how many brigades, where they're coming from, and what they're going to be doing," she added. 

One aspect receiving less attention is how unready many believe the Iraqi troops are for a mission any real size.  Sunday, Mitchell Prothero (McClatchy Newspapers) reported on the response in Iraq to an assault on Mosul in March or April.  Among those who he spoke to was Kurdish commander Major Deliar Shouki:

 “There really is no Iraqi army, so I don’t know where they get the idea that they can train 25,000 soldiers in two months to fight house to house in Mosul,” he said on Friday as he gave a visiting journalist a tour of his men’s positions on the outskirts of the tiny hamlet of Sultan Abdullah, which lies about midway between Mosul and the Kurdish capital of Irbil.

As the illusions of 'success' that the White House has so carefully crafted fall apart, State Dept spokesperson Jen Psaki got a little bitchy at yesterday's State Dept press briefing:

QUESTION: Iraqi Kurdish officials have accused Baghdad – I’m not sure if you’ve seen the reports – of having failed to abide by the most recent agreement over oil and budget. Prime Minister Abadi says, because partly of the oil price drop, Iraq has no money to send to the KRG. KRG says why does Iraq – why is Iraq able to pay the salaries of all of the Iraqis, including the residents of Mosul, except for Kurdistan.
Is that your assessment that the agreement between Baghdad and Kurdistan is unraveling?

MS. PSAKI: It is not. We understand that both Baghdad and Erbil remain committed to seeking implementation of the deal that is enshrined in the budget law. We recognize that Iraq writ large is facing financial difficulties due to low oil prices, the large refugee and IDP population, and the need to focus on defense spending because of the fight against ISIL. I would refer you to the Government of Iraq, but I do also recall news reports that Baghdad transferred two payments totaling $1 billion late last year as part of the agreement that was reached. So certainly, it’s not accurate to suggest that --

QUESTION: But this year, they haven’t done it according to the top Kurdish officials. They were just in Baghdad last week. Baghdad said --

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Iraqi parliament also just recently passed its $103 billion 2015 budget, which includes payments to the KRG. So I would point you to the Government of Iraq to ask that question.

QUESTION: So would you be concerned as the United States – if that is true, which is really true, that Iraq has not paid or is not going to pay KRG --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t see what you’re presenting as evidence that it’s true.

QUESTION: Why is --

MS. PSAKI: Or do you have more information you want to provide us?

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. The prime minister of Kurdistan, he just talked to the media, and he’s --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m just referring to the fact that last year there were two payments reportedly made. I would certainly have you confirm that with the relevant authorities. The budget just passed. It includes payment to the KRG – payments to the KRG. Both sides have said they’re committed to the plan. So I’d suggest you pose your questions to the Iraqi Government on this issue.

Looks like it's time to bring back out Marie Harf for the briefings.  Marie got benched for her remarks -- for the ridicule her remarks received.  (I've noted that Harf was not out of bounds with her remarks but her failure and the State Dept's failure to discuss -- let alone address -- these issues in all the months since Barack called for a political solution make the stinging rebukes she received karmic.)

Do you have more information you want to provide us?

Psaki's usually a little more rational and reasoned in her remarks.  That she's resorted to bitchy goes to the strain all the lying must place her under.

(I can applaud bitchy in the private sector -- when it's pulled off and amusing.  But the US taxpayer isn't forking over a salary to Jen Psaki so that she can stand up before the world and be bitchy.)

If you're wondering why Psaki's so touchy, add the above up and factor Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter's remarks about US forces in combat in Iraq.

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