February 19th, "CENTCOM whispers about an upcoming assault on Mosul which may involve US troops." That's when an official with CENTCOM spoke on 'background' with the US press about the then-planned upcoming attack on Mosul which has been held by the Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL) since June. As we noted then:
This was not a private conversation.
It was a background briefing.
Here's how that works, the Pentagon is the john insisting on his fantasies being played out and the press are the whores working to make the fantasy come true.
While we emphasized the aspect that US troops would be utilized -- despite US President Barack Obama insisting last June that US troops would not be sent back into Iraq to be ground troops in combat -- most went with the official declaring the assault would begin in March, April or May . . .
This has resulted in a large amount of criticisms.
Strangely, Barack hasn't been asked about it.
Strangely, he's not offered an opinion.
For once in his time as President, Mr. Know It All hasn't had an opinion to share -- this from the man who's weighed in on everything from reality TV to Kanye West.
At today's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, the background briefing to the press was raised and the new Secretary of Defense Ash Carter labeled the briefing an error and a mistake.
Senator Tom Cotton: I have to go back to something that we were discussing a few series ago about the leak of our plans to Mosul. I believe, Secretary Carter, you said you were looking into it. I know General Dempsey that you said you were looking into it. I-I-I don't understand what would take so long to get to the bottom of. I mean, this was not a leak. I mean it was a planned conference call with members of the media, if I understand the reporting correctly. Do I misunderstand something here?
Secretary Ash Carter: No, that's my understanding as well. And I just say two things about this whole incident. The first is, Senator, that when a-a-a operation is mounted against Mosul or anywhere else, uh, it needs to be a success and it needs to be Iraqi-led and supported by us and it needs to be successful. And that -- It's a little bit like the conditions-based point that Senator --
Senator Tom Cotton: Mr. Secretary, I agree fully. I agree fully. I don't -- I don't understand why announcing any timeline would have contributed to any idea it would have been a success nor do I understand why it would take so long to understand why an organized conference call with the media was held.
Secretary Ash Carter: I'll say something about that and let the Chairman who's also spoken about that to General [Lloyd] Austin [CENTCOM Commander] about that. That clearly was not neither accurate information nor had it been accurate would it have been information that should be blurted out to the press. So it's wrong on both fronts -- on both scores. And the only thing I'll say is that we try as aaaaaaaaaaaa [he stretched "a" out and we're noting it that way to capture it correctly] -- as the Department of Defense of a democracy to be as open as we can. So there are lots of people out there talking all the time about what we're doing and every once in a while somebody gets out in front of their skis but I also even as we make sure that this particular incident doesn't happen again, uhm, I-I-I think that it's important that we be open as a Department -- not with military secrets and not with war plans -- which is the mistake made in this case -- but we do try to keep the country informed about what we're doing. It's about protecting them, it is a democracy, and so openess is important but it has to have limits when it comes to security matters and those limits obviously weren't respected in this case.
Robert Burns (AP) observes, "The episode is remarkable in at least two respects. It was unusual for the U.S. military to disclose in advance the expected timing of an offensive as well as details about the makeup of the Iraqi force that would undertake it. And it was curious that a secretary of defense would wait nearly two weeks after such a briefing to denounce it publicly for having spilled military secrets."
If the briefing was wrong, maybe it's equally wrong to inaccurately portray Carter's remarks. This outlet did just that. Above is what was said.
If you're going to put words in between quotation marks, you need to make sure they're accurate. And while mishearing a word or two is always possible for anyone, recreating and restructuring public remarks is not reporting.
With the Secretary of Defense now calling out the briefing, it's probably past time that the White House was asked for a formal comment.
Today's hearing touched on many things as it reviewed the military's 2016 Fiscal Year requests and took testimony from Carter and the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey. Senator Jack Reed is the Ranking Member of the Committee and Senator John McCain is the Chari of the Committee.
One of the biggest issues in Congressional discussions of US President Barack Obama's goals with regards to Iraq has been the issue of US troops.
Barack's June promise of no ground combat troops has given way to the White House insisting that an Authorization of the Use of Military Force from Congress must give Barack the right to put US troops on the ground in Iraq and in combat. Secretary of State John Kerry was the first to make the request to Congress -- that was December of last year, to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
We'll note this exchange from today's hearing.
Senator Tim Kaine: [. . . ] the issue of ground troops as part of the ISIL AMUF and in listening to the Chairman about this what I've realized is my concern is not really about language and it's not really about sort of the Constitutional allocation of power. It's really about the definition of the mission. And I'd like to ask you a question on this. We have heard in the last two weeks -- and three weeks -- in meetings with the Foreign Relations Committee by first King Abdullah [II] of Jordan and the Sheikh [Hamad bin Khalifa Al] Thani, the Emir of Qatar last week about the battle of ISIL in the region. And both of them said to us essentially US ground troops isn't a good idea because 'this has got to be our fight against our terrorist threat. We want your help. We want you to be deeply involved. But if it gets pitched as the US against ISIL -- or even as the west against ISIL -- then it takes on a fundamentally different tenor and it becomes kind of a recruiting bonanza for ISIL.' And, you know, King Abdullah, in a very courageous way, and sadly we met with him on the very day that it was revealed that the Jordanian pilot was so horribly murdered -- burned -- he said, 'This is our fight and we've got to show the world that this is our fight. And if we're willing to do it then we need all kinds of help from you. But we've got to be upfront that this is our fight. We didn't -- The United States did not create ISIL. It didn't create this extremist ideology. It was birthed in our region by people claiming the mantle of the religious tradition that we honor and perverting it for a bad end.' So both of them have sort of guardedly advised us against ground troops. But toward the big picture goal that this battle against ISIL has to be the region policing itself not the US trying to counter them. What is your response as we think through this military mission? What is your response to that sentiment? And again, it's not about draftsmanship or the allocation of power, it's about who, you know -- isn't there a compelling need for the region to show that it will battle its own threat and if so we'll help them rather than have it be the US' burden?
General Martin Dempsey: Senator, that's exactly how the campaign is designed. It's designed to leverage a coalition of regional partners assisted by those outside the region but very much relying on those in the region to lead the effort. Requiring the government of Iraq to lead the effort especially in terms of reaching out to form a coalition in Iraq of Sunni tribal leaders and Kurdistan Peshmerga.
Who does Dempsey thinks he's kidding?
John T. Bennett (Defense News) concluded a recent column on Iraq and claims being made with the following: "Of course, we've heard rose-colored assessments about Iraq from US lawmakers and military commanders before. Did those pan out?"
No, they didn't.
And for Dempsey to claim that the regional issues were at the forefront of the US effort is ridiculous and a flat out lie. Germany, France, Canada and the various other western countries whose officials and leaders Barack's Envoy John Allen has met with (usually accompanied by the State Dept's Brett McGurk) are not regional -- not of the Middle East.
What's been done since August is non-stop meeting with western governments to try to shore up support (Australia is foolishly sending in 300 more US troops, they've announced this week) for some sort of 'international' fighting coalition.
If you're not getting that point, let's look at two Tweets from McGurk:
Brett McGurk retweeted
Turkish C-130 planes landed at Baghdad airport to bring military support and equipment to the Iraqi Armed Forces.87 retweets 22 favorites
Welcome important decision by15 retweets 11 favorites
#Australia to begin training Iraqi Army forces at Camp #Taji together with #NewZealand. http://www.minister.defence.gov.au/2015/03/03/prime-minister-and-minister-for-defence-building-partner-capacity-in-iraq/ …
So Turkey, a regional player, is sending some equipment.
Again, Turkey is regional.
Australia and New Zealand sending troops?
Neither western country is of the region.
But that is where McGurk and Allen have placed the emphasis -- on the west.
As for Dempsey's claim that Iraq's leading the effort? That was laughable even setting aside the issue of Iran. But it's a flat out lie that the Baghdad-based government is "reaching out fo form a coaltion in Iraq of Sunni tribal leaders and Kurdistan Peshmerga."
The Sunni tribal leaders, especially in Anbar Province, repeatedly and publicly note that the Baghdad-based government refuses to supply them with weapons.
The Kurdish government of northern Iraq has repeatedly requested -- including to members of Congress -- including to ones present for Dempsey's ridiculous lie today -- that the US government supply them with weapons because Baghdad just isn't passing the weapons on.
There is no progress from Baghdad.
Except new Prime Minister Hadier al-Abadi's decision to get deeper in bed with the government of Iran.
From today's hearing.
Chair John McCain: Today in Tikrit, Secretary Carter, the Shi'ite militia with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard leader -- among others -- and Iranian air is now attacking Tikrit -- the hometown of Saddam Hussein, as we recall. And the majority of that effort with a couple of thousand of Iraqis are being undertaken by the Shia militia. The same militia that we fought against in the surge. The same militia that according to estimates manufactured the IEDs which are -- which directly resulted in the deaths of some thousand or two young Americans. Are-are you concerned that Iran is basically taking over the fight and, according to the Wall St. Journal this morning, we are observing that operation. Does that ring an alarm bell with you, Mr. Secretary?
Secretary Ash Carter: It-it-it does. It does. Our approach to, uh, combating ISIL in Iraq is to work with the Iraqi security forces and a, uh, multi-sectarian government that takes a multi-sectarian approach to defeating ISIL and retaking its own territory. Sectarianism is what brought us to the point where we are. And so I do look at it with concern. We're watching it very closely. The, uh, Shi'ite militias involved also the Iraqi forces involved -- some Sunni forces involved. Uh-uh, I would note that there have -- Some Sunni tribal leaders in Tikrit -- and this is important -- have signaled their support for this offensive. And if that's true, it's good news because that suggests that this is not purely a Shi'ite on Sunni thing. But this is the problem that brought Iraq low. So I am -- So I am looking at it with great concern.
Chair John McCain: And of course we -- There's well documented human rights violations -- significant -- by Shi'ite militias on Sunni as we all know.
If Carter's comments seem confusing above, they were confusing to listen to.
He's saying that Sunni tribal leaders said they support the attack on Tikrit. Then he's saying "if that's true." Didn't he just say it was?
Yes, he did. But what he meant to say was that he had heard reports that the Sunni tribal leaders had said that.
This is not me interpreting him or saying, "What he really meant was . . ."
The issue came up nearly an hour later during Senator Joe Donnelly's round of questioning. Responding to Donnelly, Carter replied, "Well that's exactly the concern. They did, as we understand it, make a statement today, the tribal leaders, that they supported the offensive I hope that's true because what's very important is that we all be behind defeating ISIL and that sectarianism not raise its ugly head again because that's what brought us to this place in the first place."
That's why Carter stated "if true" earlier in the hearing when referencing comments (or alleged comments) of unnamed Sunni tribal leaders.
On the issue of Iran leading Baghdad's charge on Tikrit, Mark Thompson (Time magazine notes):
American concern is justified: having Iranian-backed Shi’ite forces storm largely-Sunni Tikrit risks turning the conflict against the Sunni ISIS forces into a sectarian conflict that could balloon into a civil war. “It’s absolutely key that [the Iraqi government] make sure that they have provisions in place to accommodate the Sunnis,” Army General Lloyd Austin, chief of the U.S. Central Command, told the House Armed Services Committee Tuesday. “That lack of inclusion is what got us to this point, and I think the only way that we can ensure that we don’t go back there is if we have the right steps taken by the government.” Fewer than 1,000 of the 30,000 fighters battling ISIS for Tikrit are Sunni tribal fighters, according to Iraqi estimates.
The populations of both Iran and Iraq are primarily Shi’ite. Since Saddam’s hanging in 2006, the Sunnis of western Iraq have been treated poorly by the Shi’ite-dominated government in Baghdad. Many Sunnis welcomed ISIS’s move into the region last year, when it killed more than 1,000 Iraqi Shi’ite troops who had been stationed at a base known, when the Americans were there, as Camp Speicher. Some of the Shi’ites attacking Tikrit are bent on revenge for the slaughter, which could exacerbate intra-Muslim tensions.
And for any taking issue with my wording ("the issue of Iran leading Baghdad's charge on Tikrit"), they should refer to today's report by Nafiseh Kohnavard (BBC Persian):
Shia militia sources in Iraq have confirmed that Gen Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force is personally taking part in leading the operation.
[. . .]
As sources on the ground have told BBC Persian, a number of IRGC officers were involved at a command level before the operation was officially launched.
Iranian authorities are yet to comment officially but Iran's Fars news agency, considered to be very close to the Revolutionary Guards, has extensively reported on the role of Gen Soleimani in the operation.
Iraq War veteran Joni Ernst was elected to the Senate last November. She noted Iraq in today's hearing.
Senator Joni Ernst: I do want to talk a little bit about -- we've talked about this all day -- with the Shia militia, I know Senator McCain had spoken about this earlier. In the Fiscal Year 15 budget we had $1.6 billion that we used for the Iraq Train and Equip Fund and that was to train and equip the Iraqi security forces, the Kurdish Peshmerga and Sunni tribes and, of course, other local forces. Now in this Fiscal Year 16 budget, you're requesting $700 million for this fund. And I do support this effort. I think we should be training and equipping the Kurdish Peshmerga, I think they've been important allies in the fight against ISIL and others. But what I am concerned about is the relationship between the Iraqi security forces and Iran which has been the sidebar topic of many conversations today and the Shia militia forces. Now during the Iraq War, IEDs were huge concerns to American troops. And I think, as Senator McCain had alluded to, there were some types of IEDs -- EFPs -- Explosively Formed Projectiles that were used. They were devastating to our men and women, left many Gold Star families out there. We know that those EFPS, a lot of them came from Iran. And so right now what I'd like to hear from you is: Are American tax dollars going to the Shia militia that once were fighting against American soldiers? And how -- how can we assure the American tax payer that these dollars going to this fund to train and equip Iraqi forces will not be used against us as we move forward? Secretary Carter, if you can address that --
Secretary Ash Carter: Thank you. Thank you. And then Chairman Dempsey. Well first of all, I share your concern about the Shi'ite militias and the face of sectarianism looming again in Iraq which -- as you know extremely well from your own service -- is-is the principle challenge that the government of Iraq faces going forward. Our training and equipping is to Iraqi security forces through the government of Iraq. And our assistance to the Peshmerga is also through the government of Iraq. That reflects the view that a multi-sectarian Iraqi government is the best way to keep Iraq together and defeat ISIL in Iraq and ultimately drive them out of the country. But I say I share your concern because what we've seen in the last few years has been sectarianism eroding the Iraqi security forces and that's why they collapsed in the face of ISIL. So I absolutely share your concern. And about EFPs, you know that extremely well from your own service. We've had that experience before and General Dempsey who was there also in Iraq so let me ask him to join in as well.
Gen Martin Dempsey: I'll just, I'll express my own concern as well And I think if General Austin were -- I guess he is going to be here actually -- he would tell you that the reason his campaign is deliberate is that one lines of effort -- I mentioned there were nine -- is Iraqi governance. And if the central government of Iraq does not achieve -- let's call it reconciliation -- because that's probably the right word -- with the Shia and the Kurds, then it does put our campaign at risk and so I am concerned about that. As far as the weapons that we've been issuing to the ISF as well as to the Peshmerga through the government of Iraq, we've got confidence that those are going into the right hands. Some of the weapons you've seen in the hands of the Shia militias -- you can see it on YouTube and on Twitter and other places -- are things that were procured by the Iraqis through our foreign military sales process that they bought years -- probably a couple of years ago -- two or three years ago. But we're monitoring it as well as we can.
Carter and Dempsey repeatedly noted how the Islamic State came to the position of power it currently holds in Iraq.
This is in stark contrast to the stupidity Noam Chomsky offered on Democracy Now! or that Amy Goodman offers daily.
Neither of the two bothered to cover the crimes of Nouri al-Maliki, their hands are bloody, their silence ghastly.
So now they try to cry 'original sin' or some such b.s.
I get it.
It gives them tingles to call out Bully Boy Bush.
Doesn't matter to them that he left office in January of 2009.
Doesn't matter to them that the Iraqi people voted Nouri out as prime minister in 2010 but Barack went around a democratically held election and used a legal contract (The Erbil Agreement) to give thug Nouri a second term.
Doesn't matter than in that second term, everyone was targeted. Elected officials were put on trial, their homes surrounded by military tanks, their homes stormed by Nouri's forces in the dead of night.
None of this matters.
They just keep repeating, "It was wrong to invade Iraq."
No, it was illegal.
It was illegal to invade Iraq.
They're such cowards they can't even get that right.
But in 2010, the Iraqi people risked a lot to try to change their course and instead of encouraging that, instead of fostering their attempt at building unity, Barack Obama stomped it out and stuck them with a despot who'd already been exposed for running secret prisons where prisoners were being tortured.
That's who he put in charge.
So excuse me, Noam and Amy, until you can tell those truths, why don't you find another topic to whore on because the people of Iraq have suffered enough.
Your craven devotion to Barack and the revisionary history it's leading too helps no one.
As Victoria Fontan (Rudaw) points out today, "What seems to escape the mind of every self-appointed Islamic State specialist is that ISIS was not born in a vacuum. The population support it fed on as it took one Sunni town after another was based on years of brutal sectarian reprisals by the then Maliki government, a government supported by the United Nations and the US government until the siege of Mosul."
David Francis and Sabine Muscat (Foreign Policy) offer this on Iran's leadership role and the US lack of one:
Iraq repays DoD’s Mosul leaks with a surprise of its own. Iraqi officials were angry after the Pentagon released details on plans without Baghdad’s approval to retake Mosul. They returned the favor Monday with an unexpected offensive to retake Tikrit from the Islamic State. FP’s Kate Brannen and Lara Jakes on the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State, “which the Defense Department says is providing no support to the Tikrit operation. After conducting more than 2,000 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria, the absence of the United States from the Tikrit fight is telling and speaks to how little influence the United States may have on this complicated battlefield.”
We need to note a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing from last week. I'll try to pull it in tomorrow -- it'll probably be brief. We'll probably mainly focus on one aspect and probably only quote Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal.
Blumenthal also serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee and right now we'll note this from the hearing today:
Senator Richard Blumenthal: I want to focus on the connections between DoD and the VA. Having now seen it from the perspective of the VA, the Veterans Administration in my position as Ranking Member I'm struck by the need for better information, the electronics -- health electronic record have been a point of contention. but so have the formulary issue, the drug formulary issue. There are a variety of area where there needs to be better coordination. That is a Washington word -- coordination, collaboration. But can you see ways that we can improve the flow of information and the help that veterans get -- particularly our veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury as you know, both Chairman McCain and I have addressed in the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act that recently passed. But that's just a beginning, juts a down payment. And I wonder what more we can do in that area? And I know we've talked about that a little bit and I wondered if you could address that in the context of the budget?
Secretary Ash Carter: I can discuss that and thank you for that and accordingly the time I've been here I've tried to see and assess -- I have a great partner in the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and I've talked to him. And, uh, to the soldier, sailor, airman and marine, they don't -- they shouldn't have to worry that there are two cabinet Departments that are responsible for taking care of them. They shouldn't have to worry about that. We should have to make it knit together. And you mentioned IEHR the Integrated Electronic Health Record -- program, formulary issues, pharmacies and what they call drugs and so forth and so yes we do need to stay closely knitted and we will. I wanted to particularly note your work on PTS simply because that's one of these things we have learned through sad experience over the last decade or so is a serious thing but also can be treated. And I think you have been the one championing -- and I thank you for that -- making sure that veterans who came along before there was this awareness and before there were these treatments are given the benefits of this awareness and are given the benefits of these treatment.
The IEHR needs to be noted pretty much anytime it comes up in a Congressional hearing -- because it comes up so little. This was supposed to have been taken care of -- developed and implemented -- in Barack's first term. It's supposed to allow a record to be created -- medical record -- for someone when they enlist -- a record that can follow them to their later veteran status.
This record would help in numerous ways -- most obviously it would lessen the veteran's fight for a disability claim to be recognized fully. Former US House Rep John Hall grasped this and actively led on it within Congress and in terms of getting the point out to the press. Since he left Congress, it's been an issue that rarely receives serious attention in the press.
Xiang Bo (Xinhua) notes some of today's violence in Iraq, "Islamic State (IS) militants on Monday executed 32 security members in Iraq's western province of Anbar, a provincial security source said.
The 32 young men were shot dead in the morning in Jubba area, just near the town of al-Baghdadi, some 200 km northwest of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity."