Monday, March 09, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Monday, March 9, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the assault on Tirkit (or near it) continues, US Gen Martin Dempsey appears to have been misquoted, a Tehran government official reportedly asserts Baghdad is the new capital in Iran's growing empire, Senator Angus King says sending (more) US troops into Iraq is what the Islamic State wants, Law and Disorder Radio covers Iraq, and much more.

Prensa Latina reports, "US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey said today that the self proclaimed Islamic State for Syria and Iraq, ISIS will be defeated at the same time that the local government increases is offensive against Tikrit and Al-Anbar."

Is that what he said?

If that's what he said, he's an idiot.

As many observers have pointed out -- to stick only with Tikrit -- Iraq grabbing control of it from the Islamic State doesn't matter as much as what happens the day after liberation or 'liberation.'

Is there a reason for Sunnis to buy in?  A reason for them to feel the government out of Baghdad is a representative one.

Dempsey usually makes remarks about the need for a political solution.

Maybe he forgot.

Or maybe Prensa Latina got it wrong.

Robert Burns (AP) reports, "Before arriving in the Iraqi capital, Dempsey said that he wanted to press the Shiite-dominated government to deliver on its promise to reconcile with the Sunni minority and to explain how it intends to balance its relations with Iran."

It's a shame that the Pentagon failed to release a transcript of the press conference.

It might have cleared up some errors.

Might have even mitigated some of the reactions to the press briefing.

At Rudaw's report on Dempsey's remarks at the press conference, the most popular reader comment is this:

They're spinning the story, what's happened is the Iranians have instructed Baghdad to get rid of the Americans, all of it, the air support, bases, training etc. and now the Americans are doing damage control, trying to save face. Fist they claimed Baghdad is not requesting more air support, now they're claiming that they want to "avoid civilian casualties", they have no such concerns in Syria or Yemen or Afghanistan. A month ago the Pentagon and the administration declared that they were planing to send additional advisers, special forces and around 4000 marines to Iraq, this past week they've changed their tone completely, even today Dempsey said Iraq "doesn't need" more US trainers or advisories.                      

Before anymore US troops are sent to Iraq, it would be good to know how the missing is seen in the region and in Iraq.  Not how it's seen by the US appointed and anointed rulers in Iraq, but by the people.

In America, some are saying the people have spoken.  For example, Andrew Tilghman (Military Times) writes, "According to a Rasmussen poll in early February, 52 percent of Americans believe the U.S. should send 'send combat troops back to Iraq as part of an international coalition to fight ISIS.' That's up from 48 percent in October. Meanwhile, the percentage of those opposed fell 8 points, to 28 percent from 36 percent in October."

A few problems.

"International coalition" isn't defined.

Second, Rasmussen?


I believe, correct me if I'm wrong, their polling had Mitt Romney winning the 2012 election.

For those who've forgotten, Mitt Romney lost that election to Barack Obama.

Whatever the actual figure, I don't doubt that it's increased since October.

The US media's been selling fear non-stop since then.

It's attempted to stir up the public.  It's featured 'talkers' who've predicted mayhem on the streets of America from the Islamic State despite the fact that it's really not possible.

Homegrown terrorists launching an attack on US soil?

Very possible.

It's even possible that they might be terrorists who are sympathetic to the Islamic State.

But the Islamic State having fighters to spare, fighters who can easily cross into the US?

Not as simple as the talkers would insist.

Let's note some violence.  All Iraq News notes 5 people are dead and thirty more injured as a result of 3 car bombing in Kirku Province.  AFP adds, "Daesh executed 20 people who wanted to fight against them in the northern Iraqi province of Kirkuk, officials said on Monday."  IANS reports, "Members of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group publicly beheaded four young people on charges of homosexuality in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Monday."

That last one, that would be the second reported attack on gay men or men suspected of being gay.

But that's not used to stir up anger or fear in the US?


First off, they don't have their own public relations agency working their angle.

The Yezidis, after their plight -- trapped on Mount Sinjar -- became news, neoconservatives in the United States suddenly loved the Yezidis and got them a public relations firm to ensure that they got press and lots of it.  Their  representative in Parliament -- at a time when Parliament is supposed to be focused on mending fences and moving Iraq forward -- skipped weeks of legislative sessions to fulfill a p.r. tour in the west that the public relations firm had booked her on.

An Iraqi ethnic minority never had it so good.

And it's resulted in Iraqi Christians -- who have been under attacks much longer -- to marvel at the ease with which the Yazidis have become the face of Iraq's minority population, who have been able to dominate the conversation.

Yazidis are not Christians.

But they've been sold and marketed as such by the neocon public relations firm.

It's amazing the way they and their cause have been embraced when you remember that for years western reporters described the religion as worshiping Lucifer/Satan.

But US neocons who want war pour millions into promoting the Yazidis and everything can be re-written.

The Yazidis truly suffered on Mount Sinjar.

But what's followed in the last months has been the Yazidis -- at least their leaders -- using their misfortune to promote war.

Iraq's LGBTQ community has no such public relations firm.

Equally true, there's no benefit in 'merchandising' them.

You can't sell war with them.

They wouldn't go along the way the Yazidi MP has.

They're fully aware that any targeting from the Sunni extremists in the Islamic State is nothing compared to the many years of targeting by Shi'ite militias.

They're fully aware that the Shi'ite militias targeted them throughout Nouri al-Maliki's second term as prime minister (2010 - 2014) targeted them with the encouragement and support of the Baghdad government.  It was Nouri, as head of the Ministery of Interior (he refused to nominate anyone to head the Ministry so that he could control it), who dispatched MoI employees to schools to encourage Iraqi youths to attack and kill gay men and those suspected of being gay.

Unlike the Yazidi PM, you wouldn't find gay men willing to whore for a little bit of publicity or a few coins tossed their way.

So the attacks on gay men and men suspected of being gay are not going to be embraced by the US media determined to sell fear and panic.

Panhandle Media -- media that begs its audience for donations -- could tell the truths that the MSM is not telling.

But they've run from Iraq.

They've refused to cover it.

Even today, when a brave soul steps forward, they refuse to tell the truth about Nouri's second term.  How it was brutal for the Sunnis.  How Nouri didn't win a second term but Barack insisted Nouri get a second term.  How a legal contract (The Erbil Agreement) was used to give Nouri a second term after he lost the 2010 election to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya.

These details and so many more are ignored.

On this week's Law and Disorder Radio,  an hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) topics addressed include Iraq and the Islamic State and that segment features Jim Lafferty of the National Lawyers Guild.  Excerpt.

Heidi Boghosian:  Now there are so many things we could talk to you about but we'd like to focus a bit on ISIS and ask you what gave rise to the creation of ISIS

Jim Lafferty:  Yes, I think that is important for the people in this country to understand as they hopefully will debate what Obama wants to do next -- which is sort of double down on a failed policy. It was US military strategy in the Middle East to begin with and past US military action in that part of the world -- especially in Iraq -- that provided the primary catalyst for the growth of ISIS.  I mean, we destroyed the secular government in Iraq and Libya and that created the political space for ISIS and other right-wing forces to grow.  I mean, when you have years of sanctions and war in Iraq,  you fragment the country along ethnic and sectarian lines and-and countries in that part of the world often have tribal divsions to begin with and we conciously re-organized the political life in Iraq.  We said a Shi'ite would be prime minister, a Kurd would be president, a Sunni would be Speaker of the National Assembly.  And then starting in 2002, 2003, in an effort to prevent the emergence of a reunited Iraq, a resistance to our occupation, we started funding militias whose identities were anchored in religion or ethnicity.  We bombed populated areas in Iraq thereby marginalizing the central government.  The old Iraq wasn't there anymore.  ISIS filled the governing vacuum, took advantage of these ethnic divisions -- angered at the US -- and steadily gained strength thereafter.  The people were angry at the US.  If you think about it, we spent the last 40 or 50 years destroying leftists and secular and anti-imperialist movements all over that region of the world and governments that constituted any kind of leadership of anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movements.  I don't think the US should now be surprised that loathsome organizations like ISIS have risen to fill that void.

Michael Smith: What about President Obama in advance of any Congressional authorization for the use of military force -- which is what he's going to ask for but aren't they already waging the very war that he's now talking about authorizations for?

Jim Lafferty:  Yeah, I mean he's looking for political cover.  You know, I guess he's tired of being called a wimp by the Congress, so he asks them to have some backbone and support his failed policy.  There are already thousands of more troops on the ground.  Two weeks ago, the Pentagon announced it's sending another 4,000 US troops with very heavy weaponry to Kuwait.  The US has already set up a "division headquarters" in Iraq -- a new division headquarters in Iraq.  Well a division consists of 20,000 troops.  Suddenly anyone who thinks this is a war the US can wage for a decade or more -- as he talks about -- without tens of thousands boots on the ground is

We'll try to note more from the program throughout the week.

For now let's move over to the US State Dept and Jen Psaki's frustrations when asked of Iraq.

QUESTION: Local media has reported in numerous articles that the Iranian Government is intervening – helping the Iraqi Government retake Tikrit. There are reports that Qasem Soleimani is there. So I just want to know whether you agree with any of these local reports that Iran plays a role in retaking Tikrit.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve spoken to this before. We’ve said previously we are aware Iran has sent some operatives into Iraq that are training and advising some Iraqi Security Forces. We also know that Iran has provided some supplies, arms, ammunition and aircraft for Iraq’s armed forces. I would point you to what the Secretary said on Saturday, where he addressed a very similar question.

QUESTION: On Tikrit specifically?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, he did on Saturday. I would look at his press avail.

QUESTION: But you’re not opposed to the Iranians being there fighting ISIS, are you?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve addressed this many times, Said. We’ve been clear that Iran – Iraq can best counter the threat from ISIL with a government and security forces that are inclusive, and if the interests of all groups are respected. With respect to the activities of any country in Iraq, including Iran, we believe strongly that Iraq’s sovereignty must be respected and the Government of Iraq must focus on strengthening its internal political and security situation – institutions in an inclusive way. Clearly, that’s what our focus is on. We’re not coordinating with the Iranians; nothing has changed in that regard.

QUESTION: Are you concerned that the militia al-Hashd al-Shaabi, which is an Iranian-backed militia – in fact, an Iranian militia – is – there are claims that they are doing some terrible things to the Sunni populations and so on. How do you raise these issues with the Iranians directly?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve also spoken to this a number of times, but I’m happy to reiterate.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) last 24 hours.

MS. PSAKI: And Prime Minister Abadi has also spoken to this, including, I believe, in his inaugural address, and his efforts to not only regulate militias but to look into these reports. That’s something we certainly support. We’ve raised this issue with – from Washington, D.C. as well as from our Embassy in Baghdad, and we’ll continue to do that.

QUESTION: I have been following the CENTCOM announcements. I haven’t seen airstrikes being carried out to help Iraqi forces to retake Tikrit. Why so?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Iraqi forces continue to advance on the city of Tikrit with a combination of regular Iraqi Security Forces, militias and tribes. We’ve seen some success by the Iraqi Security Forces in pushing ISIL back in a number of towns and villages around Tikrit, but operations remains ongoing. Tikrit is one operation of many Iraqi-led efforts to push back against ISIL. The United States and our Coalition partners have assisted Iraqi ground forces in over 20 counter-ISIL operations across Iraq, all of them successful. I would refer you to the Department of Defense about airstrikes.

QUESTION: But why don’t you help them in Tikrit? Is it because of Iran’s role? Do you not want to cooperate with Iran?

MS. PSAKI: I would refer you to the Department of Defense about military action.

QUESTION: This is a political --

MS. PSAKI: Any more on Iraq?


MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: The government is digging a trench right along the entire length of the border with Anbar, between Anbar and the heartland. Are you concerned that this may be sort of a prelude to dividing the country?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen the report you’re referring to, Said, and I don’t think your question is accurate with what’s happening on the ground.

QUESTION: There’s been over 2,700 airstrikes among the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria. Would you like to see other countries do more – Egypt, for example?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a number of countries, as you know. There are 60 countries in the coalition. Certainly, the military component is a very important component of it. There are a number of countries that have participated in that. But as we’ve long said, it’s not just a military effort to degrade and defeat ISIL. There are several other components many countries are participating in. We also continue to have discussions with a range of countries about the role that they can play. We’ll let them speak to what role they’re going to play.

QUESTION: The United States has taken part in over 81 percent of the strikes. Would you like to see other countries do more? Would you like to see --

MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve addressed the question.

Yes, Tehran is calling the shots.

مستشار الرئيس الايراني: اصبحنا امبراطورية عاصمتنا بغداد. .
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That's Ali Younesi,  adviser to the Iranian president, and Iraqi Spring MC reports his alleged declaration that Iran has become an empire and it's new capital is Baghdad.

Sunday, The NewsHour (PBS -- link is text, video and audio) spoke with the New York Times' Anne Barnard about the assault on Tikrit:

HARI SREENIVASAN: Iraqi forces have been making significant headway against ISIS in the last few days, pushing extremist fighters back out of some of the territory they seized last year.
Anne Barnard has been reporting for The New York Times on the fighting and the rising political tension. She joins me via Skype from Baghdad.
So, what is the latest on the Iraqi forces’ efforts to take back some of the ground that ISIS gained last summer?

ANNE BARNARD, Beirut Bureau Chief, The New York Times: Well, tonight, we’re starting to hear reports that they have moved into another village called Abu Ajeel, which is close to Tikrit.
The — the offensive has been going for the last week, perhaps more slowly than expected, but moving steadily ahead.
And there’s about 30,000 troops involved. ISIS has been able to hold out against them in the center of Tikrit but they lost a number of villages around Tikrit and Samarra.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, by some measures, this is a sign of success.
I mean, is the Iraqi military ready for this fight now versus in other times where we had reports of them turning away on the battlefield and fleeing?

ANNE BARNARD: Well, we were out on the front lines the other day.
And we definitely saw, I would say, a new level of organization and enthusiasm.
But I wouldn’t say it’s as much the Iraqi army that is leading the fight as the Shiite paramilitary organization known as the Popular Mobilization Committee, the Shiite militias, which are closely tied to Iran, which are providing the bulk of the fighters.
And there was a call that went out from Shia clerics asking everyone to come and fight ISIS.

The assault started a week ago.  The forces are still not in Tikrit.  The assault started a week ago.  Near the end of last week, Iraqi officials were swearing the foces would reach Tikirt by late Friday.  Friday came and went.

Saturday, came news of a Friday death among foreign forces in Iraq.  The Pentagon released the following on that death:


Release No: NR-072-15
March 08, 2015

Readout of Defense Secretary Ash Carter's Phone Call with Canadian Minister of Defense Jason Kenney

  Secretary Carter spoke today via telephone with Canadian Minister of Defense Jason Kenney. ‎ Secretary Carter extended his deepest condolences to Minister Kenney and to the family of Sergeant Andrew Joseph Doiron, a Canadian Special Forces soldier killed Friday in Iraq. Sgt. Doiron was the first Canadian service member killed while engaging in the fight against ISIL. Secretary Carter also wished a speedy recovery to those who were injured.
This was Secretary Carter's first conversation with Minister Kenney, who became minister of defense on February 9, 2015. Secretary Carter thanked him for his leadership and for Canada’s contributions to global security efforts, to include their support to ongoing operations in Iraq against ISIL and for Canada's contributions to Ukraine.
As NATO allies, NORAD partners, and North American neighbors, Secretary Carter and Minister Kenney highlighted the deep and enduring defense partnership between the United States and Canada. The two leaders noted that they look forward to meeting in person and agreed to continue the strong institutional and personal relationship that their predecessors enjoyed.‎ ‎


CBC reports the Canadian government and the Kurdish government are at odds over what happened.  Kurdish government officials insist that the sergeant and unnamed Canadians appeared on the front line and started calling in air strikes and when they  replied to questions from the Peshmerga in Arabic and began replying in Arabic, the Peshmerga began shooting them.  Among the disputes the Canadian government is offering to the Kurdish account is that the Peshmerga would have been the third 'checkpoint' -- and that the Canadian soldiers had passed through two prior successfully.  Canadian Minister of Defence Jason Kenney insists the soldiers were not on the front line when the attack took place.  CTV News notes, "In the wake of a Canadian soldier's death in Iraq, the Conservative government is likely to face fresh scrutiny over extending the country's mission against the Islamic State."

David J. Climenhaga (Rabble) offers:

The real problem has to do with our 69 special-operations soldiers -- a small and oddly specific number -- and what they are doing in Iraq.
After our long , painful and expensive Afghanistan experience, Canadians obviously want no part in a ground war in the Middle East or Asia. We have made this clear, and the government has responded -- against its instincts -- by not remaining in Afghanistan and promising us that Canadian troops will not get involved on the ground in Iraq.
For this reason, the Harper Government has been careful to claim, repeatedly, that the Canadian special-ops soldiers are there as non-combatants to train and advise soldiers of the Kurdish Peshmerga, far behind the front lines of the fight with ISIS.
So what was a party of four Canadian soldiers doing Friday inside the combat zone?

Will that question be answered or clarified?

Probably not.

But it hasn't stopped other countries from promising more troops.  Al Arabiya News reports UK Prime Minister David Cameron declared Sunday he would send additional British troops to Iraq.  AP reports Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban declared today that he was going to Parliament to ask for Hungarian soldiers to be sent to Iraq because it "would bring prestige" to the country.


Well then maybe Viktor should suit up, arm up and take his own ass over to Iraq in search of "prestige"?

On CNN's New Day today (link is video), Senator Angus King spoke with hosts Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota about sending (more) troops into Iraq.

Senator Angus King: That's what they want.  If you want to make a gift to IS tomorrow, send in U.S. troops.  They -- they want this to be a war of the west against Islam. This has to be Arabs, Muslims, taking the fight to them in Mosul, in Tikrit.  We can do the air power part.  And we can do the leadership and training.  But for us to actually send in troops would backfire.  No matter how you slice it, we're the invaders, we're the infidels, we're the crusaders -- all of that historic reference.  That would make their day.

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