Thursday, March 12, 2015

So much of the administration's testimony yesterday has already fallen apart

Yesterday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee [corrected from "Senate Armed Services Committee" -- 3/12/15]  held a hearing on Iraq.  Senators -- Democrats and Republicans -- expressed concern about Iran's influence in Iraq.

Mark Thompson (Time magazine) points out:

Iran came up at the hearing 67 times, nearly as much as Iraq (79) and more than Syria (44).
[. . .]

Republican lawmakers pointedly asked the trio if the Obama Administration was averting its eyes from Iran’s growing presence in Iraq in hopes of greasing the skids for a nuclear deal with Tehran. “I believe that much of our strategy with regards to ISIS is being driven by a desire not to upset Iran so that they don’t walk away from the negotiating table on the deal that you’re working on,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said.

The current assault on Tikrit, for example, is a Baghdad-Tehran led attack.  The US is not welcome in that assault.

From yesterday's snapshot:

"Yes, Iran's influence has spread at this moment and we're deeply concerned about it," John Kerry insisted at one point under pressure from the Committee.  And Ash Carter would term the relationship "concerning."
But again, only after non-stop questioning and probably after finally getting a true gauge of the room they were trying to work.
Kerry went on to declare a little after mid-way through the hearing, "There are several battles taking place right now.  Not just Tirkit.  There are others.  Two out of three where, in fact, we are playing a central role in the other two -- hasn't been as heraled -- but it's making a difference.  And the Sunni Arab are prosecuting that."

And Gen Martin Dempsey, Chair of the Joint Chief of Staff, insisted that they were "watching carefully is whether the militias -- they call themselves the Popular Mobilization Forces -- whether, when they recapture lost territory, whether they engage in acts of retribution and ethnic cleansing."

Of course they do.

It's not a secret.

Just last week, they were caught on tape executing an 11-year-old boy.  We covered it here repeatedly.  At Third on Sunday, we made it the focus of "Editorial: A video tells ten billion words."

But, as Eli Lake (Bloomberg News) notes, Dempsey also insisted, "There's no indication that that is a widespread event at this point, but we're watching closely."

Lake notes:

ABC News has found evidence of atrocities in the past. The library of phone videos and photos document unthinkable violence. Severed heads are attached to the front of Humvees. One photo shows a lifeless body being shoved from a tower. Another shows a man smiling as he holds two severed heads by his side.

James Gordon Meek, Brian Ross, Rym Momtaz and Alex Hosenball are the reporters working on the story for ABC News:

 Under what is known as the Leahy Law, the U.S. is required to cut off funds to any foreign military unit when there is “credible evidence” of human rights violations. In Iraq the responsibility of determination falls to the Department of Defense. In recent Senate testimony, Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed the Iraqi investigation had been ordered and said the Leahy Law applies to units operating alongside the many militias also fighting in Iraq against ISIS.
"I would say that involves the Leahy Law," Leahy recently told ABC News after viewing the shocking imagery. “And I'd argue that we should be withholding money." 

And many people would agree with Leahy.

I certainly do.

From yesterday' s snapshot:

Though he can't get honest, John Kerry can lecture and did so repeatedly.
"So as long as we continue to work on the integration," he said waiving his clutched and unclutched right hand  throughout the air, "the  internal inclusivity of Iraq and its government -- to help the Iraqis to be able to do this themselves, help the region feel empowered by it, that is a long term recipe for the United States not to have as much risk and not to have to put ourselves on the line the way we have historically."
But that hasn't been done.
Iraq's Haider al-Abadi became prime minister in August and there's been nothing but empty talk.

AP's Ken Dilanian and Robert Burns report this morning on how there is no progress:

 Instead of reaching out to Sunnis, the Iraqi government has bolstered its already close ties to Iran and to Iranian-backed Shiite militias that have been credibly accused of massacring Sunnis, U.S. officials acknowledge. The Iraqi military's reliance on Shiite militias this week to retake Tikrit, a Sunni stronghold, has complicated the prospects of political reconciliation, experts say.

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