Saturday, March 21, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Saturday, March 21, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, a court rules the US government must release Abu Ghraib images, Barack continues to refuse working towards a political solution in Iraq, and more.

June 20, 2003, Amnesty International announced, "The notorious Abu Ghraib Prison, centere of torture and mass executions under Saddam Hussein, is yet again a prison cut off from the outside world."  To what degree may still be unknown because, despite documented proof of the abuses, the US government -- under Bully Boy Bush and under President Barack Obama -- has refused to release the evidence which might illuminate.

That may be changing,  Mark Hensch (The Hill) notes, "The Associated Press reported Saturday that U.S. district judge Alvin Hellerstein made the ruling in New York after more than a decade of litigation. The Defense Department has two months to appeal the decision before potentially making any images public."  RT reminds:

The photographs first received attention in late 2003 by Amnesty International, which provided shocking proof that members of the US Army and the Central Intelligence Agency carried out so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ against detainees in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
The photographs pointed to gross physical and sexual abuse, including torture, rape and murder. The report opened up a debate in the United States as to the definition of torture and if it is applicable in a time of war

In 2004, Seymour Hersh (The New Yorker) reported:

A fifty-three-page report, obtained by The New Yorker, written by Major General Antonio M. Taguba and not meant for public release, was completed in late February. Its conclusions about the institutional failures of the Army prison system were devastating. Specifically, Taguba found that between October and December of 2003 there were numerous instances of “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” at Abu Ghraib. This systematic and illegal abuse of detainees, Taguba reported, was perpetrated by soldiers of the 372nd Military Police Company, and also by members of the American intelligence community. (The 372nd was attached to the 320th M.P. Battalion, which reported to Karpinski’s brigade headquarters.) Taguba’s report listed some of the wrongdoing:

Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.

There was stunning evidence to support the allegations, Taguba added—“detailed witness statements and the discovery of extremely graphic photographic evidence.” Photographs and videos taken by the soldiers as the abuses were happening were not included in his report, Taguba said, because of their “extremely sensitive nature.”

Today, Telesur quotes the ACLU's Jameel Jaffer stating, "The Obama administration’s rationale for suppressing the photos is both illegitimate and dangerous … To allow the government to suppress any image that might provoke someone, somewhere, to violence would be to give the government sweeping power to suppress evidence of its own agents' misconduct."

Lynndie England became the poster girl of the crimes.  Despite being convicted in court, the woman -- who is not very bright to begin with, granted -- still thinks she can minimize the torture.  She's not faced the crimes she committed and there are a number of Americans who share her denial.

Photographic proof won't end the lying but it will make it more clear to those in the world with sanity just how desperately deluded those who lie and minimize the crime are.

There are some who oppose the release and may do so for genuine concerns.  But those in the military brass who've fought the release?  They should be ashamed of themselves.  There is nothing in the military code which allows them to cover up or lie.  They apparently either forgot or decided to forsake their officer training.

The honorable thing to do was always to own up to what took place.

Refusing to do so has been ridiculous.

And apparently, there's this thing called 'instant redemption.'

David Petraeus apparently enrolled in that program.  Sharing classified information with his mistress while he led the CIA forced him out of that post and resulted in criminal charges but, in the blink of an eye, he's back as a national security advisor to Barack.

In the blink of an eye from turning over classified information to your sex partner -- not to be a whistle blower and inform the people, but so she'll write a book praising you (apparently Petreaus is so bad in the sack he has to bribe even his mistress) -- to national security advisor.

Barack redeemed him.

So it's only fitting that Barack be the first person bit in the ass by Petraeus.

Liz Sly (Washington Post) interviewed Petreaues in writing and this is what he wrote in response to one of her questions:

Yet despite that history and the legacy it has left, I think Iraq and the coalition forces are making considerable progress against the Islamic State. In fact, I would argue that the foremost threat to Iraq’s long-term stability and the broader regional equilibrium is not the Islamic State; rather, it is Shiite militias, many backed by — and some guided by — Iran.

These militia returned to the streets of Iraq in response to a fatwa by Shia leader Grand Ayatollah Sistani at a moment of extreme danger.  And they prevented the Islamic State from continuing its offensive into Baghdad. Nonetheless, they have, in some cases, cleared not only Sunni extremists but also Sunni civilians and committed atrocities against them.  Thus, they have, to a degree, been both part of Iraq's salvation but also the most serious threat to the all-important effort of once again getting the Sunni Arab population in Iraq to feel that it has a stake in the success of Iraq rather than a stake in its failure.  Longer term, Iranian-backed Shia militia could emerge as the preeminent power in the country, one that is outside the control of the government and instead answerable to Tehran.

I happen to agree with Petraeus' assessment.

But let's all realize that the remarks are a slap to Barack's efforts.

Barack's stupidly agreed as usual to bend over and take anything.  He's not a smart man.

He got it right in June when he said only a political solution could solve Iraq's crises.

But he made that statement and then avoided everything but a political solution.

That's where the focus should have been, on the politics.

The US should have acted -- or tried -- as mediators between the factions.

They did so before under Barack, remember?

Barack didn't like the 2010 election results so he overturned them with The Erbil Agreement -- a US brokered contract that gave Nouri al-Maliki a second term as prime minister (after his State of Law had lost to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya).

Now granted, it's probably hard to come back from that.

Because Nouri used the contract to get his second term but then refused to honor the promises he made in the contract -- the promises he made in exchange for a second term.

And when Nouri refused to honor those promises, the White House played dumb.

The same White House that swore the contract had their full backing.

The same Barack Obama who told that over the phone to Ayad Allawi to get him to end Iraqiya's walk out of Parliament.

Did we forget that?

The Erbil Agreement's signed and, finally, after 8 months of a political stalemate, the Parliament is finally allowed to meet.  From the November 11, 2010 snapshot:

Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports one hiccup in the process today involved Ayad Allawi who US President Barack Obama phoned asking/pleading that he accept the deal because "his rejection of post would be a vote of no confidence". Ben Lando, Sam Dagher and Margaret Coker (Wall St. Journal) confirm the phone call via two sources and state Allawi will take the post -- newly created -- of chair of the National Council On Higher Policy: "Mr. Obama, in his phone call to Mr. Allawi on Thursday, promised to throw U.S. weight behind the process and guarantee that the council would retain meaningful and legal power, according to the two officials with knowledge of the phone call."

I falsely state over and over that Barack never mentioned it again, The Erbil Agreement.

That's incorrect.

He did it mention it November 12, 2010 and then he ignored it.

Before I discuss the G20, I want to briefly comment on the agreement in Iraq that's taken place on the framework for a new government.  There's still challenges to overcome, but all indications are that the government will be representative, inclusive, and reflect the will of the Iraqi people who cast their ballots in the last election. This agreement marks another milestone in the history of modern Iraq.  Once again, Iraqis are showing their determination to unify Iraq and build its future and that those impulses are far stronger than those who want Iraq to descend into sectarian war and terror. For the last several months, the United States has worked closely with our Iraqi partners to promote a broad-based government -- one whose leaders share a commitment to serving all Iraqis as equal citizens.

The Erbil Agreement.

That he walked away from.

Do we all get how awful that was?

It was awful to overturn the Iraqi's people's vote.

But to do so with a contract and swear you're going to support this contract but then not do it?

Pushing Baghdad into Iran's lap has a lot to do with Barack's empty promises.

If you broker a contract and you say you will stand by it and then don't, why should anyone ever trust you again?

Much was made of Barack declaring a line in the sand on Syria and then wiping it away with his foot.  While that was damaging, so was breaking the promise on backing The Erbil Agreement.

To be very clear, Barack should have never labeled a red line (Syria) and he should never of overturned the will of the people (Iraq).  Those were huge mistakes.

But they go to Barack forever making statements he can't or won't back up.

And with that reputation, maybe it's impossible to work towards a political solution in Iraq.

But the White House doesn't even try.

They do bombings from the air.

They think that's an answer.

And with the focus solely on assault and kill, Baghdad moves even closer to Tehran.

Petraeus is correct, the Islamic State is not the biggest threat.  

His remarks go to Barack's failure in Iraq from this summer to right now.

At CNN, Rula Jebreal offers an analysis which includes:

The reality is that short-term tactical victories won't be enough to defeat ISIS, especially as the reliance on Iran-backed Shiite militias is only likely to exacerbate tensions with the largely local Sunni population. Indeed, the crucial ground war component of the campaign has so far been heavily reliant on the Shiite militias, whose track record of sectarian violence is well-documented, and their involvement threatens to drive more Iraqi Sunnis into the arms of ISIS.  
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said the involvement of these groups "will only be a problem if it results in sectarianism." But based on past experience, many locals are understandably more frightened by their designated "liberators" than they are of the vicious extremists of ISIS who have ruled their towns over the past eight months.

There are no plans beyond drop bombs, kill people.

Barack has nothing.

We're three months away from the one-year mark on his Iraq requires a political solution remarks and he has failed to focus on those efforts.

Those efforts include encouragement and discouragement.

The diplomatic tool box is not filled with roses.

There are rewards, yes.

There is also the ability to take away.

Haider al-Abadi has offered nothing but empty words since becoming prime minister in August.

The diplomatic tool box does allow the US government to say, "You get X done by Y or we pull the funding for _____."

Or, "You get your forces to stop slaughtering Sunni civilians or we cut off the weapons supply to your country."

Barack didn't have anything under his belt when he became president.

From 2005 to the end of 2006, he served in the Senate.

Starting in 2007, he was all over the country campaigning for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination and then campaigning to be the president.

He knows nothing and that becomes more and more clear with each year of his presidency as he stumbles from crisis to crisis, never solving anything.

A further confirmation of Barack's failure came Monday when Barbara Plett Usher (BBC News -- link is video) interviewed Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal today:

Prince Turki al-Faisal:  Iran is already a disruptive player in various scenes in the Arab world -- whether in Yemen, in Syria and Iraq, in Lebanon, in Palestine, in Bahrain.  And so ending the fear of Iran developing weapons of mass destruction is not going to be the end of the troubles that we're having with Iran.

Barbara Plett Usher:  Speaking of those troubles, the Americans seem to be accepting Iranian backing for the Iraqi ground forces fighting ISIS.  Is there an alternative?

Prince Turki al-Faisal:  There is.  The Iraqi people. There is a record of that, of course, when al Qaeda was the main enemy during the occupation of Iraq.  It was the Arab tribes -- Sunni tribes --  that managed to get rid of al Qaeda so that's where it should be going.

Barbara Plett Usher:  But do you think more should be done to get Iran out of the picture in terms of the fight against ISIS.

Prince Turki al-Faisal: Now it seems that Iran is expanding its occupation of Iraq. And that is unacceptable.

From 2010 to 2014, Nouri al-Maliki attacked the neighbors in the region.

He accused all -- except Iran -- of being out to get Iraq.

Nouri was paranoid -- that was known by the US government before they installed him as prime minister in 2006, that's why the Bully Boy Bush White House installed him.

But Nouri's paranoia caused a lot of damage.

Haider's not repaired anything.

His recruitment of Tehran to help fight in Iraq has actually harmed Iraq's relations with Arab states.

King Abdullah II of Jordan has also expressed public concerns.

Haider's good about hitting up the region for help but what has he done to improve relations?


And he's from Nouri's Dawa party and he's very close to Nouri.

All of which means doubt in the region when it comes to trusting Haider.

That's one of those things that the US could have provided diplomatic help on.

But again, Barack spent all the time on bombing and on using the State Dept to go around begging countries to send forces to Iraq.

No time for the political solution, not for Barack.

Earlier this week, Mosul had leaflets dropped on it from planes announcing that an assault would be forthcoming.  Deborah Amos (NPR) reports:

The Iraqi army is far from ready for an assault on Iraqi's second largest city. The first assault on ISIS in Tikrit has stalled for more than a week. The forces leading that military campaign are primarily Iraq's Shiite militias, backed and trained by Iran.
And if they succeed?
"You bring in the military force, and you fight the terrorist there, you evict them. And then what?" asks Qubad Talabani, vice president of the Kurdish regional government.
In other words, Iraq's militia may be able to take Tikrit, but it's unclear they will be able to hold it.
Mosul will be even a more difficult and sensitive operation, Talabani says. The city is five times larger than Tikrit, with more than 1 million civilians, mostly Sunni Arabs, who welcomed ISIS when they first arrived, relieved to be rid of an oppressive Shiite-dominated government and army. Now, the Sunnis of Mosul are watching Shiite forces battling ISIS in Tikrit.
"That's the problem with the Tikrit operation, that it is a purely Shiite-led military operation against a heavily Sunni place of the country," Talabani says. "This is Saddam's birthplace here, with no political endgame anywhere in sight. Not for the people of Tikrit, not for the Sunnis of Iraq."

Deborah Amos  is the author of  Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East.

Meanwhile Al-Arabiya (via NCRI) reports:

Mr. Masrour Barzani, National Security Advisor for Iraqi Kurdistan Region, warned on the role of Shiite militias supported by Iran in the battle against the Islamic State, known as ISIS, to retake Tikrit.
In an interview with BBC’s HARDTalk program he noted that using the assistance of the militias by Government of Iraq can lead to a problem greater than ISIS since their presence will up the sectarian tensions between the Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq.

As the NSA for the KRG, Barzani's remarks matter.  They matter also because of who his father: KRG President Massoud Barzani.

If you've noticed, the White House has had a flurry of remarks about the Iran 'treaty' that may or may not come to be -- a flurry in the last 72 hours.  It's because Democratic leadership in Congress, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, made it clear to Barack that this never-ending negotiation needs to wrap up one way or the other.

Barack's stupid.

There's no way to pretty that up.

But so is the administration.

They made too much of a deal too early.

Worse than that, they brought Barack in too soon.

You bring in the president at the end of negotiations, just in time for the victory lap.

Bring him (or her) in sooner risks the loss of prestige should a deal fail.

I thought the White House learned that back when they failed to get the Olympics in Chicago.

Remember that?

They sent the President of the United States to lobby for that (along with Oprah).

And they failed.

That's how cheapen the office.

That's how you tarnish it.  (You also do that by making the late night talk show rounds like you're the braless starlet determined to kick-start her career someway somehwo.)

I get that Barack is probably going to lose face on this deal.

Well he needs to suck it up and wrap it up.

If there's a deal, stop being held hostage by Tehran, make the deal.

Congress is tired of it, the American people are growing tired of it.

And Iraq is suffering because of it.

Margaret Griffis ( reports at least 47 people died of violence on Friday in Iraq and:

According to unofficial reports, the battle for Tikrit has already cost 1,000 militiamen their lives. The number remains unconfirmed by the government, which has been very tight with any casualty figures. The large number of dead may explain why forces paused their advance last weekend. The pause was to have lasted only two days while reinforcements arrived, but it was extended and continues into this weekend. Even during the pause an anonymous source at a Samarra hospital says the 100 security members are brought in each day, either wounded or dead, from the battlefield. 

Sunday, 60 Minutes (CBS) reports on Iraq:

The leader of one of Christianity's oldest communities reluctantly says that waging war against ISIS - killing their fighters - is the only way to stop the radical Islamists from destroying Christianity in Iraq. Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil speaks to Lara Logan for her report on the plight of thousands of Christians forced to flee ancestral homes from ISIS. Her story will be broadcast on 60 Minutes Sunday, March 22 AT 7 p.m. ET/PT.


the washington post
liz sly

60 minutes
cbs news