Saturday, March 28, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Saturday, March 28, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, John Allen spins fantasies for Congress, how firing Allen could buy Barack some time, "excesses" and much more.

Egypt announced its support for UN efforts to seek a political solution to the conflict in Libya, yet warned of the possible ‘lengthy’ time period needed for peaceful negotiations to conclude.

The Libyan people shouldn't have to, no.  But haven't the Iraqi people been forced to?

And not just for a few months or even for a year but for years -- plural.

The US government (under Bully Boy Bush) demanded in 2006 that Nouri al-Maliki be made prime minister.  From 2006 through 2010, he accomplished nothing and his failures were somewhat hidden by the fact that US boots were on the ground.  They were misused, to be sure.  They were used to provide stability for a government that was non-inclusive and that was accomplishing nothing.  The 'surge,' you may remember, was supposed to be the US troops providing stability and security which would free up the Iraqi government to focus on the political process.  While the US military carried out their task, Nouri failed at his.

By 2010, Nouri was a divisive figure whose failures were welol known -- as were his secret prisons where he torured people.  In March 2010, the Iraqi people voted for Iraqiya ahead of Nouri's State of Law.  This was the Iraqi voters choosing a national unity and a national identity and rising above thug Nouri's sectarian policies.  Iraqiya was welcoming to all Iraqis, representing men and women, Shi'ites, Sunnis, Kurds and various religious and ethnic minorities.

Even the Bully Boy Bush administration -- one not known for keen insights or even basic smarts -- would have realized this was a move to be backed up and endorsed.

But they didn't promise to pull out all troops from Iraq.  Barack had.

And Samantha Power and others insisted that the deal they wanted (which was already a plan to keep a few thousand troops in Iraq) could only be pulled off with the support of Nouri.

The CIA profile on Nouri in February of 2006 had noted Nouri's intense paranoia and this was seen as an asset, a way that the US government could control him.

In 2010, Samantha Power made a similar argument: Barack should back Nouri because Nouri was so divisive and unpopular and he would need American support to remain in office so they could leverage that support to get what they wanted from Nouri.  

So instead of supporting the Iraqi people, Barack backed Nouri.  And he had US officials in Iraq negotiate a contract -- The Erbil Agreement -- to give Nouri a second term.

The contract was nicely known as a power-sharing agreement.  And while that was one aspect of it, there was also the fact that that it was a bribe list.

Political leaders agreed to give Nouri a second term as prime minister and, in exchange, Nouri agreed to give them various things.  Ayad Allawi, leader of Iraqiya, would be put in charge of a national security commission, the Kurds would finally see Article 150 of the Iraqi Constitution implemented, etc.

And Nouri embraced the contract and was all for it.  To get his second term.

But he got named prime minister (designate) and said the contract would have to wait a bit -- the rest of it -- to be implemented.

That was November 2010.

He never implemented it.

He never honored the promises he made in that contract.

And as political parties demanded the contract be honored, the tensions grew and grew.

From 2010 through 2014, there was little concern about the terrorism the Iraqi people were living under.  The world turned a blind eye with few exceptions.  

When it became undeniable, the world paid attention long enough to see Barack finally pull the rug out from under despot Nouri al-Maliki and begin (publicly) sending US troops back into Iraq. 

Stepping onto the global stage last June, addressing the world, Barack declared that the only answer to Iraq's various crises was a political solution.

Where's that political solution?

Nearly a year later, where's that political solution?

Thursday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing.  We covered some of it in that day's snapshot.  Today, we're focusing on the key concern of how the operation against the Islamic State is failing.  

Appearing before the Committee were the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL John Allen as well as Brig Gen Michael Fantini and Brig Gen Gregg Olson.

John Allen is a retired general who, despite having taken a job of envoy which is under the State Dept, insists upon being called "General."  As a general rule, we go by what people call themselves here.

General rule.

There was a Rolling Stone employee who created a title for himself. 

The title didn't exist.

The New York Times ran with that title.

We did not.

When we gave his title, we gave the title that he actually had.  (And I told Jann Wenner what was going on and the employee was told to stick to the title he had which finally led the Times to use the correct title.  I also ratted out the stooge who went along with the RS employee -- NYT stooge who was the employee's friend -- to the paper and got the stooge packing.  Facts are facts, I don't tolerate lies and I don't tolerate them when press outlets try to claim "it's just entertainment coverage."  If it matters enough for you to cover it, it matters enough for you to cover it correctly.)

Allen is an envoy.  He is under the State Dept.  He is supposed to be heading Barack's diplomatic effort.

That makes him an envoy.

If that title is beneath him, and he acts as though it is, too bad.

John Allen has done an awful job as an envoy and possibly Barack, years from now, will be able to point to Allen's disaster moves to mitigate the blame he (Barack) faces for Iraq.

A diplomat was needed to work towards a political solution.

Instead of a diplomat, Barack appointed a retired general and one who has no sense of history or perspective on Iraq beyond bombs and guns.

John Allen started out an embarrassment, he's become an impediment.

Barack should find someone quickly to replace Allen and use it to create a "restart."  The latter would be especially helpful to him politically since June is approaching and his remarks from last year will be revisited then.

From Thursday's hearing, we'll note this exchange.

US House Rep Ted Deutch  I want to actually start with the news about our strikes in Tikrit.  The coverage in the New York Times today  included a paragraph which  said, "If the Americans did not engage they feared becoming marginalized by Tehran  in a country where they had spilled much blood in the last decade, the official said speaking on the condition of anonymity."  Is -- If you could speak to the strikes in Tikrit, the air support that the United States is providing, is it different than the support we've had in the past? And is it being offered in part because  there were concerns about being marginalized by the Iranians?  And in answering that question, it gets to the broader point of, again the same article "the preponderance of 30,000 fighters on the Iraqi side had been members of the militias fighting alongside the Iraqi military and police men.  Of those 30,000, how do we -- Gen Allen, following your last response -- how do we view it in a nuanced way to distinguish between the Iranian-backed militias and Sistani's popular mobilization forces?

Brig Gen Fat : Congressman, so I think the answer to your question is "no." We work by, with and through the Iraqi government.  And so through the Iraqi government and the Iraqi security forces, the-the, uh, the Iraqis came back and asked for support and we adjudicated that decision to the highest levels and decided to engage there.  It's within the Iraqi interest and the coalition's interest to be successful in Tikrit cause we don't want to have another success for Da'ash or ISIL. And, uh, we anticipate that the, uh, support that we're providing the Iraqi security forces with the Ministry of Defense, uh, in -- with the Ministry of Defense in in charge of the command and control of, uh, that operation that we're in a position where we can provide that support to be successful. 

US House Rep Ted Deutch: General Allen?

Envoy John Allen:  With regard to the command and control the, uh -- There's a difference between, uh, the role of the, uh, the traditional Shia elements that are aligned directly with Iraq and support directly with Iraq and those elements of the PMF that have provided, uh, uh, a larger force posture and a larger force generation capability, uh, they are not -- They don't intend to be or -- are not intended to be a permanent part of the Iraqi security force entity.  They are -- They are viewed as a temporary organization that have played the role ultimately of blunting and halting, uh, the forward progress of Da'ash.  And as we continue to build out the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces across the board and, uhm, we can provide you, I think, significant detail about the forces that are engaged right now in Tikrit.  It's-it's-it's actually quite encouraging.  Uhhhhh, to give you a sense of when the PMF elements are going to be in play and when they won't be in play -- and as we continue to force generate the regular forces they will play an increasing role ultimately in the counter-offensive to liberate the populations.

US House Rep Ted Deutch: General Allen, are you -- are you confident that the Iraqi people view this action in Tikrit as one taking place against ISIS by the United States through air strikes and Iraqi security forces or is it viewed as one that is a combination of US air strikes and Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias?

Envoy John Allen: Uh, that's a good question.  Uh, we've -- again from my time on the ground just last week there, uh, I made a point to meet with the provincial leadership in Salahuddin Province in which Tikrit is the largest population center.  Uh, at the time, the leadership in Salahuddin and-and even recently have talked about focusing on the liberation of Tikrit, uh, and have applauded the role of American forces in supporting the central government and the Iraqi security forces in liberating Tikrit from Da'ash.  So my sense is that on the ground in Salahuddin, their view is that the United States as we have done in other places, multiple other places in Iraq, are providing the kinds of both enabling to the use of information to command and control -- support to command and control -- and ultimately fire power that will facilitate the Iraqi government and the Iraqi security forces in accomplishing the mission of defeating Da'ash and liberating this population center.  So my sense is that at least the Sunni leadership -- key Sunni leadership -- the Speaker, the Vice President and others but also the Sunni leadership of Salahhudin have been clear that they support the role of the United States in this particular fight, sir.

Mr. Chairman, I just hope then that that translates down to the Iraqi people as well and I yield back.

We'll note another exchange from the hearing in a moment.

But first off, that's Speaker of Parliament who would be Salim al-Jabouri and Vice President Osama al-Nujafi.

As the chief US diplomat, Allen should know those names and titles.

Allen doesn't have a clue.

(That's the generous view.  The harsher view is that he's a natural born liar whose every word is a fabrication and falsehood.)

While a few Sunni political leaders did support the thousands of Sunnis who took part in a protest that lasted over a year (December 2012 through January 2014), the bulk did not.  (Most did not oppose the protests, they just didn't go out of there way to support them.)

The most infamous incident would be when Sunni politician -- and professional caver -- Saleh al-Mutlaq  attempted to use the protests as a photo op and was pelted with garbage and rocks by the protesters.  Mutlaq, at the time, was the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq (he still holds that position today).

In addition, there's Salahuddin Province itself.

Is it in their longterm interests to sit at the table right now and agree with anything with regards to Baghdad and US officials?

Yes, it is.

Because in 2011, the province declared it was semi-autonomous.  The Kurdish Regional Government is semi-autonomous.  This is the model Salahuddin is going for and declared itself to be in 2011.  Yes, the government will gladly take a seat at any table and weigh in.  It has little to do with the wants and needs with regards to ISIS and everything to do with shoring up proof that they are independent.  And should they oppose the US or Baghdad plan?  

They would be dismissed which would prove that they were not semi-autonomous.

And it is this group -- this powerless group -- of officials that Allen uses to back up his claims.

He should have been asked why, if Salahuddin Province supported the assault on Tikrit (which is in the province), they were not sending Sunni brigades in to assist with the operation?

The answer to that question would have been awkward (for Allen) but illuminating.

Michael Weiss and Michael Pregent (Foreign Policy) have an important article published today entitled "The U.S. Is Providing Air Cover for Ethnic Cleansing in Iraq: Iran's Shi'ite militias aren't a whole lot better than the Islamic State."  From the article:

On March 10, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a comprehensive study of human rights violations committed by both IS and pro-Iraqi forces. The Islamic State, OHCHR concluded, has likely committed genocide against the Yazidis, a ethno-religious minority in Iraq, in a catalogue of war crimes and crimes against humanity that include gang-rape and sexual slavery. But OHCHR’s language is equally unambiguous in condemning the other side on the battlefield: “Throughout the summer of 2014,” the report noted, “[PMUs], other volunteers and [Shiite] militia moved from their southern heartlands towards [Islamic State]-controlled areas in central and northern Iraq. While their military campaign against the group gained ground, the militias seem to operate with total impunity, leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake.” [Italics added.]
Sunni villages in Amerli and Suleiman Bek, in the Salah ad-Din province, have been looted or destroyed by militiamen operating on the specious assumption that all inhabitants once ruled by IS must be IS sympathizers or collaborators. Human Rights Watch has also lately discovered that the “liberation” of Amerli last October — another PMU/Iranian-led endeavor, only this one abetted by U.S. airstrikes in the early stages — was characterized by wide-scale abuses including the looting and burning of homes and business of Sunni residents of villages surrounding Amerli.  The apparent aim was ethnic cleansing. Human Rights Watch concluded, from witness accounts, that “building destruction in at least 47 predominantly Sunni villages was methodical and driven by revenge and intended to alter the demographic composition of Iraq’s traditionally diverse provinces of Salah al-Din and Kirkuk.”
Sunnis weren’t the only demographic subjected to collective punishment. A 21-year-old Shiite Turkmen from the Yengija village was “burned with cigarettes and tied to a ceiling fan” by militants of Saraya Tala’a al-Khorasani, another Iran-backed militia. He told Human Rights Watch: “They kept saying, ‘You are ISIS,’ and I kept denying it. They were beating me randomly on my face, head, shoulders using water pipes and the butts of their weapons…. They went to have lunch and then came back and beat us for an hour and half. Later that night they asked me if I was Shia or Sunni. I told them I was Shia Turkoman and they ordered me to prove it by praying the Shia way…. They kept me for nine days.”

AFP today quotes an unnamed Iraqi military officer stating, "The task of liberating Tikrit requires major sacrifices and street fighting, and our forces are ready for these sacrifices."   


Because the biggest sacrifice required is for everyone to let go of petty grudges and the past and work together.  That means a Shi'ite dominant government needs to be making real efforts to work with Sunnis and with Kurds.

When will that 'sacrifice' take place?

After two days of U.S. airstrikes, Iraqi forces are resuming their stalled offensive to rout Islamic State fighters from Tikrit without the help of Iran-backed fighters once at the forefront of the battle.
As Iran-backed Shiite militiamen sat on the sidelines, thousands of Iraqi government forces sought to capitalize on the new American airstrikes to dislodge hundreds of Islamic State fighters hunkered down in the heart of the city.

As has been noted here and elsewhere, Tikrit could be liberated or 'liberated' tomorrow and it wouldn't mean a damn thing if nothing else changed in Iraq.

There is no movement on the political front.  Nearly a year after Barack called for a political solution, there is none.

Holly Williams (CBS News -- link is text and video) reports on the claim that the US government insisted that Shi'ite militias depart before any strikes took place:

A condition of the U.S. strikes is that the militias go home. Just outside Tikrit two weeks ago an Iraqi general -- Bahaa al-Azawi -- confidently told us that victory was days away.
"We got the ability, we got the capability to defeat terrorism, and push them away from Iraq," al-Azawi said at the time.
But the Tikrit offensive stalled -- even though one senior Iraqi politician told us ISIS may have only 20 fighters left in the city.
"There are very few. They're using snipers, and booby trapped buildings," said Saad al-Muttalibi.
Al-Muttalibi admits that Iraq's army is feeble - despite the $20 billion spent by America to train and equip it.

At The Atlantic, Noah Gordon speaks to Stephen Biddle about ISIS, Tkrit and US and Iran jockeying efforts:

Gordon: Bigger picture: American airstrikes against ISIS started in the summer. Has ISIS lost territory? Are the Kurds and the Iraqi government making gains?

Biddle: They’ve lost some territory. I think, to a first approximation, the best characterization of the war is a stalemate: ISIS has gained a bit of ground in some places; they’ve lost some ground in other places. Most of the areas in which they’ve lost ground have been areas of mixed sectarian demography. ISIS has shown very little ability to take and hold Shiite-populated areas.
Their expansion in June was very, very rapid—and then it ground to a halt at more or less the geographic limits of Sunni Iraq. Since mid-summer, certainly, the battle lines have not changed radically. Places like Baiji [an Iraqi city taken back from ISIS in June] have changed hands several times, but in spite of some degree of dynamic change in particular locations the larger context of the war hasn’t changed very much. You’ve got, to a first approximation, deadlock.

Biddle goes on to offer his take that if the airstrikes do not lead to a major advance in the assault on Tikrit, the Iraqi government will have less reason and inclination to side with the US over Iran.

Back to Thursday's hearing.

US House Rep David Cicilline: General according to a recent Human Rights Watch report, a Shia militia destroyed a Sunni village they had retaken from ISIS. which was methodical and driven by revenge according to the report.  It indicated that dozens of other villages were similarly targeted and considering the increasing efforts to combat ISIS by Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias, sort of building on Congressman Deutch's question,  how can we -- how can we monitor Iranian retaliatory actions?  And will the Shia militias punitive actions cause Iraq's disenfranchised Sunnis to view ISIS as really their only protectors?  And what are we doing to mitigate that?  And also what are the implications for fostering reconciliation between Shia, Sunni and Kurdish communities in Iraq because of Iran's involvement?

Envoy John Allen:  It's an extraordinarily important question -- both yours and Congressman Deutch's.  Uh, there have been excesses, they've been horrible.  Uh, I think we saw very quickly that the Iraqi government contemed -- condemned those excesses.  And the Iraqi government has initiated investigations into those excesses -- ultimately to hold those who perpetrated them to be accountable.  That's an important first point. Those excesses have been condemned by the Iraqi government, those excesses have actually been condemned by the Grand Ayatollah [Ali al-] Sistani.  And it was part of  -- because of that,  it was part of the reason for his issuance of the 20-point code of ethics -- the code of conduct which would be recognizable to all of us in uniform.

I can't take that idiot for very long.

Thursday was not a good morning for choice.  We could attend a hearing with known liar Lloyd Austin -- a liar I avoid at all costs -- or we could try our luck with John Allen.

John Allen is not "in uniform."

He's retired from the military and looks like an old fart trying to relive tired glory days of the past at the expense of the realities of the present.


Human rights abuses is what some call them.  I call them War Crimes.  Because they meet the legal definition of War Crimes.

But John Allen is such a liar or so stupid he's calls them excesses.

And they're over, he insists!  These were last fall and they're over because al-Sistani issued a code of conduct.!

From the March 4th snapshot:

Al Arabiya News reports, "A video posted on the internet on Wednesday showed Iraqi soldiers shooting to death at close range a captured child suspected to have fought with militants in the Diyala Province. The director of the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights, Mustafa Saadoun, in an interview with Al Hadath News Channel, condemned 'the barbaric treatment' of the child, believed to be 11-years old."

Allen's in bed and putting out for these groups.

Which was always going to be a problem when the State Dept's Brett McGurk was allowed a say in picking an envoy.  Brett, you may remember, failed to become the US Ambassador to Iraq because he couldn't keep in his pants and also because the Sunni community lodged an official and public complaint about how one-sided Brett was, how he bent over backward for Nouri and the Shi'ite community.

The Sunnis no more trust John Allen than they trusted Nouri al-Maliki.

The Iraqi government has not condemned the March 4th atrocity caught on camera.

Nor has John Allen.

In fact, John Allen has condemned nothing.

He has lied.

Repeatedly he has lied.

He was lying about the government of Iraq.

The government of Iraq has not condemned the human rights abuses.

There's a supposed investigation -- we'll get to that -- but there's been no condemnation.

They did condemn one thing -- Human Rights Watch.

They condemned them and the report HRW issued.

In the last two weeks, everyone's stepped forward -- including the Minister of Defense -- to insist that Iraqi forces are being smeared with lies.

So maybe John Allen could address that?

Or why these 'excesses' have led the Pentagon to refuse to train certain segments of the Iraqi forces?

Maybe he could get honest about that.

Or maybe he could explain why he trusts any government investigation taking place in Iraq to begin with?

Aren't we all still waiting on the investigation of another public incident?

That would be the April 23, 2013 massacre of a sit-in in Hawija resulting from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll eventually (as some wounded died) rose to 53 dead.   UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

And when's that investigation going to issue its findings?

Oh, that's right.

In Iraq, you just say you'll do an investigation while knowing the world press and world government will never, ever hold you accountable.

May John Allen be haunted by the "excesses" in Iraq and never have another night's restful sleep.

Allen insisted to US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher, "It is not an intention, sir, that these groups remain permanently established and it is the intention ultimately of the Iraqi government that elements would be subsumed under the national guard concept or they would be disbanded and go home."

John Allen thinks he can flap his gums and we all have to believe the gas that comes flying out.

No, we don't.

He needs to start backing up his claims.

Actually, he needs to step down.

June looms.

It will not be pretty for Barack.

The smartest thing to do is immediately replace John Allen and then use Allen as the fall guy for why, a year after Barack insisted the only answer was a political solution, there is still no political solution.

At one point in the hearing, the ridiculous John Allen was talking up the national guard in Iraq.

Yes, the US has been stressing that since last summer.

The need for one.

But there's not one.

There's not even a law passed by the Parliament authorizing one.

Margaret Griffis ( counts 142 violent deaths in Iraq on Friday.

By June, some publications may be preparing to pair Barack's remarks from last year (about a "political solution") with the number of deaths reported in Iraq since that speech and how there is still no political solution.