Earlier today, AP reported that Iran's Revolutionary Guard was insisting 2 of their members in Iraq were killed by US drone in or around Tikrit on March 23rd. Al Jazeera adds, "The US defence department has denied claims that it killed two Iranian advisers in drone strikes in Iraq earlier this month, telling Al Jazeera it had no role in the area during the time of their deaths." The outlet quotes an official with the Pentagon stating, "Coalition forces initiated airstrikes near Tikrit on March 25, two days after the alleged incident occurred and no airstrikes were conducted in or near Tikrit on March 23."
Spencer Ackerman (Guardian) notes, "The IRGC named the two men as Ali Yazdani and Hadi Jafari, and said they had been buried on Sunday." RT points out, "The adviser death controversy comes as Iran is engaged in tough negotiations with six major world powers, including the US, over its contested nuclear power program. The talks so far failed to produce a deal, that would allow Tehran to pursue civilian use of nuclear energy."
This was sort of a major story today to everyone but the stooges of the State Dept press corps who elected to ignore it during the press briefing.
Last week, James Jeffrey offered an opinion some found shocking. Dropping back to the March 26th snapshot:
Quick, when was the last time a US official -- past or present -- told Congress the truth about the Peshmerga?
And the official was former US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey who noted that Baghdad wasn't overly fond of arming the Peshmerga.
Jeffrey is part of Michael Crowley's examination (for POLITICO) of Barack's efforts in the region:
“We’re in a g**damn free fall here,” said James Jeffrey, who served as Obama’s ambassador to Iraq and was a top national security aide in the George W. Bush White House.
For years, members of the Obama team has grappled with the chaotic aftermath of the Arab Spring. But of late they have been repeatedly caught off-guard, raising new questions about America’s ability to manage the dangerous region.
Obama officials were surprised earlier this month, for instance, when the Iraqi government joined with Iranian-backed militias to mount a sudden offensive aimed at freeing the city of Tikrit from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Nor did they foresee the swift rise of the Iranian-backed rebels who toppled Yemen’s U.S.-friendly government and disrupted a crucial U.S. counterterrorism mission against Al Qaeda there.
Today on CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper, Tapper explored this topic with Jeffrey (link is video):
Jake Tapper: We look at the bigger picture here with James Jeffrey, Ambassador to Iraq under President Obama and Deputy National Security Advisor under President George W. Bush, Mr. Ambassador, thank you so much for being here. In a recent POLITICO piece on the Middle East, you said "We're in a g**damn free fall here." What did you mean by that?
James Jeffrey: What I meant was look at Afghanistan, Iran -- what we just heard, Iraq -- what you just showed, Syria, now Yemen, Tunisia. We have a variety of forces that are basically, fundamentally opposed to the international order that are on the march and we, the United States, traditionally have been the balancing force maintaining the order -- including through the threat of the use of military force, seem to be drawing back, not supporting our friends and allies -- our traditional friends and allies, putting all of our cards on this Iran deal while the region burns all around us and, as a result, you have the Saudis and others acting on their own. This isn't a good thing.
Jake Tapper: There's also been criticism saying that the President -- We're allied with Iran whether we want to be fighting ISIS, trying to come up with a deal with Iran having to deal with the nuclear program, then, of course, we're nominally on the side of the Saudis who are fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt Gen Michael Flynn, told Chris Wallace [Fox News Sunday] that the network of alliance that we're in is "almost a policy of willful ignorance . . . Here we are talking to Iran about a nuclear deal with this almost complete breakdown of order in the Middle East ." Do you find it confusing? Do you see a coherent Middle East policy here beyond just whack-a-mole?
James Jeffrey: First of all, in fairness to the Obama administration, this is a very dangerous area and it has been so for a long time --
Jake Tapper: For centuries, long before President Obama took office, of course.
James Jeffrey: For centuries. But it's become much dysfunctional in the last few years and that's something somewhat beyond the scope of American abilities. Nonetheless, our response to it can be somewhat contradictory on the ground tactically. Supporting the same goal as Iran to crush ISIS in Iraq? That's an understandable goal. Driving Iranian-backed Houthis back from when they came in Yemen is another goal that looks contradictory but if it fits into a larger policy, it makes some sense. That policy has to be predictable and consistent. That's what people in the region are not seeing. They don't know whether America will fight if necessary to support the nation-state system in the region.
Jake Tapper: What should we be doing? What should the United States be doing that it's not?
James Jeffrey: It's about five things and they aren't major.  President Obama tomorrow says I will keep troops on if needed beyond 2016 in Afghanistan. He starts letting our special forces and forward air controllers go out with Iraqi forces rather than --
Jake Tapper: Fighting ISIL in Iraq and Syria.
James Jeffrey: Exactly. Fighting ISIS in Syria. We start providing air support and other visible concrete support to the Saudis in the fight against the Housthis. We work with the Turks on either a buffer or a no fly zone or something to start changing the scales in Syria to try to get a negotiated result. And we make it clear, from Israel to Turkey to Riyadh, that whether we like what they say or do sometimes, they're our allies and we'll stand by them.
Jake Tapper: We are seeing -- I don't want to be a Pollyanna looking for bright sides -- but we are seeing Sunni countries stepping up against the Housthis rebels after Jordan and other Arab allies stepped up to fight ISIS. How do you view these shows of force? Is it a good sign? Is it positive diplomacy by the Obama administration? Or is it out of necessity because the United States has been stepping back?
James Jeffrey: It's a little bit of all. First of all, in and of itself, it's not a bad thing for local allies and friends to ban together. Two problems. First of all, I know their military capabilities. Even in their air, they're limited. And on the ground, they're very weak. Look at the Iraqi --
Jake Tapper: Are you talking about the Saudis?
James Jeffrey: The Saudis, all of them in the region. Regular armies are not good at fighting insurgencies. Look at what happened in Iraq last year. Secondly, if we're not there? We're a balancing force not just militarily but politically. We tend to limit the objectives and balance them with the military objectives. These people are liable to go off on their own and demand not just that the Housthis in Yemen negotiate with the other side but that they surrender, that Assad and all the Alawites who back him -- this Shi'ite like group in Syria basically be driven away. We have introduced -- be it in the Balkans or elsewhere -- a sense of moderation in these goals. These people won't be restricted without us.
Jake Tapper: I know you've worked for both President Obama and President Bush and believe them both -- both of their administrations at least somewhat responsible. What do you think those such as former Vice President Dick Cheney who say This is a perfect example of why we should have been siding with the dictators as the Arab Spring erupted.
James Jeffrey: Well it's interesting because I worked closely with him, I also worked very closely with many others in the Bush administration who thought exactly the opposite. we should do all we can do throw them overboard including, if necessary, Islamic forces. Nobody has the answer to this, it's a very, very complicated problem. But when you don't have an answer to things there are certain default things you do: Keep your powder dry, be sure you're respected -- and even feared, and support people who supported you
Jake Tapper: And you still think we're in a "g**damn freefall" here?
James Jeffrey: Until I see otherwise We'll see.
It's an interesting argument to ponder and debate -- which is generally true of all the best segments of Jake Tapper's show.
(And, yes, Jeffrey does have a paternalistic view but if that's news to you what were you doing the last few years?)
Today, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter spoke to troops at Fort Drum. Among his statements? "And some of you, and this is important, will be going to Iraq. And there to train, advise and assist the Iraqi security forces so that they can be the force that sustained the defeat of ISIL after ISIL is defeated, which it will be. But in order to sustain that defeat, we need a force on the ground and that's what you'll be helping to create."
Andrew Tilghman and Michelle Tan (Army Times) note the number deploying is "about 1,250 soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division." Gordon Block (Watertown Daily Times) notes the deployment will take place "around August."
Under Bully Boy Bush, the peace movement was disturbed by announced deployments.
Under Barack Obama?
It's a 'Eh, is American Idol on?"
You have to drop back, for example, to March 26th on CodeStink's Twitter feed to find a Tweet about Iraq,
Or, to put it another way, you have to wade through 36 Tweets right now before getting to Tweet 37 which notes Iraq.
They have no Tweet about the deployment.
They have no Tweet of any consequence.
Yet they claim to be against the Iraq War.
Meanwhile, the assault on Tikrit continues and Nabih Bulos (Los Angeles Times) reports, "Shiite Muslim militias on Monday rejoined Iraqi government forces in their battle to gain control of the strategic central city of Tikrit, after a four-day retreat to protest a U.S.-led coalition's intervention in the campaign."
As we noted last Friday, either the Iranian government told the militias to pull out (only a third apparently did) or the US government did.
But now they're back.
And remember that visit to Fort Drum by Ash Carter today?
Lolita C. Baldor (AP) notes he declared that "the U.S. will continue to insist that Iranian-backed Shiite militias not participate."
Someone apparently forgot to brief Carter on the latest development before he spoke.
They also apparently forgot to brief him on another detail. Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) reports, "Leaders from multiple major Shi’ite militias in Iraq claim to have been given assurances by Prime Minister Abadi that the United States is going to halt airstrikes against the ISIS-held city of Tikrit, allowing them to sweep in and conquer it."
While Baghdad officials have insisted that progress will be swift, Al Mada reports that local officials in Salhuddin Province declared yesterday that the progress would be slow. All Iraq News adds that Iraqi forces today "raised the Iraqi flag over Tikrit hospital." Press TV states that the Grand Mosque of Tikrit was also re-taken by Iraqi forces. Hamdi Alkhshali (CNN) reports, "The gains, according to the official, came after a slow advance into the city as the forces dealt with more than 300 improvised explosive devices planted in the city's streets. At least 26 militants were killed in the operation, the official said."
Sunday, Maria Fantappie and Peter Harling's "If Shi'ite militias beat Islamic State in Tikrit, Iraq will still lose" (Reuters) observed:
The military campaign is thus exacerbating the sense of powerlessness, disenfranchisement and humiliation among Sunni Arabs that gave rise to Islamic State.
The growing tendency in Baghdad and the south to equate Shi’ite militias with the national army, to declare oneself a patriot while expressing gratitude to Iran for its intervention, and to subsume national symbols under Shi’ite ones — with black, yellow and green flags referring to Hussein ibn Ali ibn Abi Taleb, Shiism’s third Imam, increasingly crowding out the Iraqi flag — is reshaping Iraqis’ national identity in ways that will vastly complicate well-intentioned efforts to advance inclusive politics and governance.
The editorial board of the New York Times noted last week:
The overwhelmingly Shiite ground forces battling ISIS in Sunni Tikrit have become increasingly powerful as the government army has disintegrated. The militias have a brutal record of sectarian bloodletting, including burning and bulldozing thousands of homes and other buildings in dozens of Sunni villages after American airstrikes drove ISIS out of the town of Amerli in northeastern Iraq last summer. If that happened in Tikrit, the United States would be blamed for helping to trigger yet another cycle of horrific sectarian violence.
Concerns are rightly building because there's no progress on political solutions in Iraq.
This despite Barack declaring last June that a political solution was the only solution for Iraq's various crises which threaten Iraq and threaten the region.
And these concerns take us into what was probably the biggest story out of Iraq today, we'll note this Tweet.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Baghdad today.
And his remarks were news.
Unless you were at today's State Dept's press briefing.
Not one reporter or 'reporter' bothered to note that Ban Ki-moon was in Iraq, let alone his remarks.
It wasn't news to anyone in the room and spokesperson Marie Harf certainly didn't bring up the topic.
BREAKING: U.N. Secretary General: Concerned about alleged summary executions and torture by pro-government forces in19 retweets 5 favorites
Ned Parker and John Stonestreet (Reuters) quote the Secretary-General, "I am... concerned by allegations of summary killings, abductions and destruction of property perpetrated by forces and militias fighting alongside Iraqi armed forces," Ned Parker and Crispian Balmer (Reuters) offer a longer report here. Rod Nordland covers Ban Ki-moon's remarks for the New York Times here. RTT covers it here.
The needed remarks come after a missed opportunity last week. Friday, Human Rights Watch issued a statement which included:
The United Nations Human Rights Council has missed a key opportunity to address war crimes and rights abuses by all sides to the conflict in Iraq. The council adopted a resolution on the Iraq conflict by consensus on March 27, 2015, that denounces atrocities by the extremist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS), but failed to condemn the abuses by militias, volunteer fighters, and Iraqi forces.
“No one questions the Human Rights Council's attention to the widespread atrocities by ISIS in Iraq, but ignoring abuses by Iraqi militias and security forces is not only indefensible, it's dangerous,” said John Fisher, Geneva director.
Iraq prepared the resolution, and the Arab group of countries put it forward at the council on March 19. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a report the same day that documents ISIS abuses. But the High Commissioner also found that militias and Iraqi security forces had “carried out extrajudicial killings, torture, abductions and forcibly displaced a large number of people, often with impunity,” and that by doing so they “may have committed war crimes.” The Human Rights Council asked for the report in September 2014 during an emergency session.
Human Rights Watch reached similar conclusions following an investigation of abuses in the wake of the ISIS retreat from the town of Amerli in September. Militias looted property of Sunni civilians who had fled the fighting, burned their homes and businesses, and destroyed at least two entire villages, all in violation of the laws of war.
Deutsche Welle speaks with Carnegie Middle East Center's Renad Mansour about the human rights abuses. Excerpt.
The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution last week denouncing the atrocities by IS, but didn't directly address alleged crimes and rights abuses committed by Iraqi forces and the militias fighting with them. How important is that step?
Very. One of the biggest issues that we have in Iraq at the moment is that, even if Iraq takes back Tikrit, and even if it takes back Mosul, Iraq's democratization - and creating a secure country - is not going to come from a military solution. It's very much going to come from a socio-political solution, which is going to have to include trust between the different parties. When you have Shia militias performing these gruesome acts of violence and crimes against humanity, that hurts the trust Sunni groups have in the Shia militias, which at the moment are seen by [Sunni groups] as part of the government. This is where I think we can take a lesson from the previous Sunni awakening which actually managed to get rid of, at that time [between 2005 and 2007, the eds.], al Qaeda in Iraq and bring the Sunnis back into the political equation. Today we need much more of that, much more of a recognition that both sides are at fault, and I think that's the key for reconciliation.
Turning to violence, AP notes two car bombs in northern Baghdad left 11 people dead and twenty-six more injured. And KUNA notes that the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, John Boehner, arrived in Baghdad today as well.
Turning to possible US candidates for president, Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Uncle Joe's Looking Better and Better" went up earlier tonight and details how John Kerry and Hillary Clinton's actions are making Joe Biden look like a viable candidate. The New York Times' Maureen Dowd takes on potential candidate Jeb Bush. David Swanson and Cindy Sheehan (War Is A Crime) take on Hillary here and wonder why she and Chuck Schumer get a pass but don't ask the same of Barack. (I also dispute their claims of fewer deaths under Barack.)
Maybe Martin O'Malley will declare a run?
The ridiculous Jill Stein thinks she warrants the Green Party's presidential nomination yet again.
Yeah, she thinks she deserves the nomination again.
She was an embarrassment and a whore for the Democratic Party in 2012.
She rushed to rescue Barack from Mitt Romney whenever she could.
She refused to run a real campaign.
And she made an idiot out of herself.
In all the years since, where has her strong criticism of Barack been?
The Green Shadow Cabinet?
A good idea that turned into a sad joke.
If Jill wants an alternative to Barack, she's going to have to call out what he's done and she lacks the spine and the common sense to do that -- as she's demonstrated time and time again.
If that's who the Green Party chooses, they're sending a message.
And let's put the Green Party on notice, we will rip apart your nominee if they don't run a real campaign. We won't be sweet and kind to whatever stupid fool thinks they can say they're running for president while providing cover to the Democratic Party.
Elaine had a great piece about how the idiot Paul Street thinks the answer is for a fake run that raises issues:
There's no reason in the world you can't raised real issues and make a real run for the presidency.
In fact, raising real issues and making a real run and being mocked by the press would underscore just how against the people the current system really is.
Part of the reason the system sucks as much as it does is because We The People settle.
Also because we are encouraged to settle.
Here's Paul Street, supposed radical, telling us the best we can hope for is a fake run to highlight real issues.
Talk about lowering the bar.
the lead with jake tapper
all iraq news
lolita c. baldor