Thursday, April 30, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, April 30, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Haider al-Abadi announces Shi'ite militias will be sent into the Sunni province of Anbar, the State Dept's pretense of defending the press is called out, Marie Harf lies yet again (she has no credibility, it's time to find another face for the State Dept), Congress hears about the Ashraf community at Camp Liberty, and much more.

The US State Dept continues their "Free The Press campaign" which is where they attack political enemies by pretending to care about journalism.  They're not interested  in freeing the press or helping journalists.  They bend over backwards to ignore, for example, the abuses in Iraq where threats have forced Reuters journalist Ned Parker to leave Iraq this month and where Iraqi journalist Thaer Ali was assassinated this week by the Islamic State in Mosul.

Here's US State Dept spokesperson Marie Harf spinning today.

MS HARF: Hi, everyone. I’m really sorry I’m late. I know; it’s my fault today.
Okay, Free the Press. Let’s start with that. We continue our Free the Press campaign with two more cases today. The first comes from Azerbaijan, where 12 journalists and bloggers remain detained or imprisoned on government orders. Among the 12, Mr. Hilal Mammadov – Mammadov, I think – has been imprisoned since 2013. There he is on the screen. He was arrested in 2012 on charges of treason, incitement of ethnic hatred, and drug possession, and sentenced to five years in prison in 2013.
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considers his detention arbitrary, and has requested his immediate release in March 2014. A number of international human rights groups have also called for his release. We join them in calling for the immediate release of him and other journalists and bloggers who were incarcerated for simply exercising their right to freedom of expression. We call for an end to all such prosecutions and other forms of pressure on the independent press, and for Azerbaijan to honor its commitments to freedom of expression.

Let’s go to the second one. Our second case comes from Swaziland. Prominent journalist Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko are currently serving two-year sentences for charges based on their criticisms – criticism of Swaziland’s judicial system. The charges arose from an article they wrote for Swaziland’s The Nation magazine. The article criticized the judiciary’s handling of another case and the lack of an independent judiciary. Both men were found guilty of contempt and sentenced to two years in prison. We continue to call for the immediate release of both individuals, who were arrested and remain imprisoned merely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We call on Swaziland as well to honor its international human rights commitments.

The State Dept thinks its fooling the world with their nonsense.

They aren't.

Noting the threats against Ned Parker, Jamal Doumani (Arab News) points out today:

Sadly, the State Department’s response to all this has been wimpy.
“The State Department will continue to closely monitor the treatment of international media,” a spokesperson for the government agency said, “and raise objections to any form of intimidation that may inhibit the ability of the media to perform their work.” (In English we can all understand, the statement meant to say this: Ain’t nothing we can do about it.)
And sadly, US President Barack Obama, during his scheduled meeting last week with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi never even raised the issue. Perhaps raising it would have been futile, for bringing up the issue of the sanctity of a free press with the leader of a country that had never had a free press, is like shaking hands with smoke.

While the State Dept and the White House avoided the issue, not everyone has been such a 'delicate flower.'   Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was in DC April 16th at an event hosted by The Center For Strategic and International Studies.  As we noted in that day's snapshot, the Center purged all Tweeted questions (they had for Tweeted questions 24 hours ahead of the event) because they focused on issues such as the threats against Ned Parker.

This left them with only one Tweet, a rather silly one all things considered.

But while they silenced that segment, they weren't able to silence the journalists present.

Barbara Slavin: And also, one of our colleagues, Ned Parker, recently has left because of threats against Reuters for reporting what happened in Tikrit.  Will you issue a statement in Arabic protecting journalists for reporting what goes on in Iraq.  Thank you.

Haider al-Abadi: As with Mr. Parker, Ned Parker, I've known him for many years.  I heard this story while he was still in Baghdad.  My natural fact, a spokesman for my office has given me a message and he told me Ned Parker feels threatened and asked what sort of threats he had received? We want more information so that I can take action about these people who have threatened him.  I haven't received anything on that, to be honest with you. I asked for protection of his office -- to increase protection of his office -- and we did.  But all of the sudden, I'd heard he left. I know he sent a message he wants to meet me in Washington but unfortunately my program is, uh -- I didn't even have time to talk to my wife yesterday. [Begins chuckling.]  So I don't think I would talk to Ned instead of my wife.

Haider's such a thug.

Did he keep his promise?

Haider does as a little as possible.

The statement was released in Iraq on April 13th -- in English only.

A defense of the press should have been released in Arabic as well.

If it was genuine.

If it was just sop released in English to try to trick the English speaking public around the world -- especially the US government -- then it would only be released in Arabic.

And that's what happened.

But what happened after Haider's pledge?

It was released in a silly and offensive manner.

It's the second one listed below.

قرارات مجلس الوزراء - الجلسة الاعتيادية الخامسة عشرة لعام 2015  14 نيسان 2015 
بيان   13 نيسان 2015 
رئيس مجلس الوزراء الدكتور حيدر العبادي: العراق يطمح لتطوير علاقاته مع الولايات المتحدة بما يضمن سيادته الوطنية والمصالح المشتركة  13 نيسان 2015 
 رئيس مجلس الوزراء الدكتور حيدر العبادي  يغادر الى الولايات المتحدة الامريكية   13 نيسان 2015 
القائد العام للقوات المسلحة الدكتور حيدر العبادي يحيل اكثر من ثلاثمائة ضابط في وزارة الدفاع على التقاعد  12 نيسان 2015 
رئيس مجلس الوزراء الدكتور حيدر العبادي يستقبل  مجموعة من شيوخ عشائر ووجهاء محافظة الانبار 12 نيسان 2015 
رئيس مجلس الوزراء القائد العام للقوات المسلحة الدكتور حيدر العبادي يستقبل قائد عمليات نينوى الجديد  12 نيسان 2015 

It's this one:

بيان   13 نيسان 2015 

Now we offered all the above examples for a reason.

Even if you don't read Arabic, you should grasp that all the others have long titles.

But this:

بيان   13 نيسان 2015 

That says "Statement 13 April 2015."

Having failed to post it in real time, having only posted it when pressured publicly to do so, it goes up after the fact, way down the page where no one will see it and anyone scrolling through will have no idea what the "statement" is about.

Yes, it was titled that in English.

But on the English side of the website, the statement went up in real time and it wasn't the 49th down press release.

The whole point Barbara Slavin was making was that the press release was being hidden from the Iraqi people.  Haider's nonsense hasn't addressed that.

In related news, Haider made a verbal attack on journalists April 8, 2015.  As we've repeatedly noted, this attack was included in an April 8th press release -- in Arabic only (click here for repost of it).  To this day, this statement has not been posted in English (click here for English press releases from his office).

 Let's go back to liar Marie Harf at the State Dept today:

MS HARF: Give me a second. Masoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, will visit Washington next week. He will meet with Administration officials, including here at the State Department with Deputy Secretary Tony Blinken on Wednesday, to discuss a range of issues including the U.S.’s strong and continued support to Iraqi Kurdistan and the Kurdish people, the combined campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL, and the status of ongoing political initiatives to address the needs of the Iraqi people, and to foster cooperation across all communities. President Obama will also join Vice President Biden in welcoming President Barzani to the White House.
And I think the delegation – he and his delegation arrive on Sunday for a week-long visit.

QUESTION: Is Secretary Kerry going --

MS HARF: Unfortunately, we’re going to be out of town. We leave tonight for a fairly lengthy trip. I know the Secretary would have liked to be here, and the Deputy Secretary will be meeting with him.

QUESTION: Okay. Just a couple more questions. I know you talked about this yesterday, I think. 
The House Armed Services Committee bill to --

MS HARF: I did, yes.

QUESTION: -- to directly arm the Peshmerga and the Sunni Arab tribes. We’ve seen quite a bit of reaction from the – some communities in Iraq, including Muqtada al-Sadr’s group. Muqtada al-Sadr himself said if that bill becomes a law, if that’s passed, if the United States does that, we will target U.S. – we will strike U.S. targets, whatever we find. Would you find that as a threat, or how would you --

MS HARF: Well, let’s take a step – I know there’s been a lot of commentary about this in Iraq, but let’s just take a step back and – so I can reaffirm what our position is, independent of the commentary in Iraq. The position of this Administration has been clear and consistent in support of a unified Iraq. A unified Iraq is stronger; it’s important to the stability of the region as well. Our military assistance and equipment deliveries: our policy remains that all arms transfers must be coordinated via the sovereign central government of Iraq. We believe this policy is the most effective way to support the coalition’s efforts to combat ISIL and promote our policy of a unified, federal, pluralistic, and democratic state. And as I said yesterday, the current language in the draft NDAA bill in the House on this issue – and again, this is just a draft in the House; it’s at the very beginning of the process here – on this issue, as currently written, does not reflect Administration policy.

QUESTION: So you have problems to the way the bill is written?

MS HARF: And we look forward to – just talking about that piece of it; it’s a huge bill. This Administration looks forward to working with Congress on language that we can support on this important issue. But as I said, the policy of this Administration has been clear in support of a unified Iraq.

QUESTION: But why don’t you support that? I mean, they say it can go – like, only 25 percent will go to the Kurds and the Sunni Arabs. And that’s like their share as well.

MS HARF: Because we believe that a unified Iraq is a stronger Iraq --

QUESTION: But wouldn’t that --

MS HARF: -- and it’s important to --

QUESTION: Why wouldn’t that keep Iraq united?

MS HARF: -- the stability of the region.

QUESTION: Why wouldn’t that keep Iraq united?

MS HARF: Because we believe this language – first of all, two points.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the country (inaudible).

MS HARF: Our military assistance and equipment deliveries – our policy remains that the most effective way to support the coalition’s efforts to combat ISIL and to promote a policy of a unified, federal, pluralistic, and democratic Iraq is to on all equipment deliveries coordinate them via the sovereign central government. This is what we believe is the best policy.

QUESTION: Do you think that they have been distributing them the way – in the percentages that they should be?

MS HARF: I don’t have percentages for you. But we’ve certainly seen a level of coordination and cooperation we have never seen in the past and I know has been quite good.

QUESTION: So you don’t think that the --

MS HARF: I haven’t heard of issues.

QUESTION: Of issues in terms of the distribution from the central government to the tribes and to the Peshmerga?

MS HARF: Correct. Correct.

First off, as we noted yesterday, Bully Boy Bush and US President Barack Obama both paid the salaries of Sahwa and armed them.  These are predominately Sunni fighters, they were in Anbar Province.  Nouri al-Maliki was the then-prime minister.

The US government did not go through Baghdad on this -- not under Bully Boy Bush, not under Barack.

Nouri opposed the Sahwa (also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons of Iraq" and "Daughters of Iraq"), refused to pay their salaries when the US government first tried to pass the cost off to Nouri (after US Senator Barbara Boxer raised the issue of why is the US taxpayer footing the bill and not the Iraqi government), he refused to do it the second time.  It was almost the middle of Barack's first term before Nouri took over paying them -- which is to say the US stopped paying (most of them) and Nouri said he'd pay but didn't.

He didn't pay them, he had them arrested and killed.

This is part of what leads up to the current crises.

But the point is, the US government, when arming Sunni fighters, has never gone through Baghdad since the start of the Iraq War in 2003.

Let's spoonfeed  Granny Chaser Marie but let's not her remarks one more time:

QUESTION: Do you think that they have been distributing them the way – in the percentages that they should be?

MS HARF: I don’t have percentages for you. But we’ve certainly seen a level of coordination and cooperation we have never seen in the past and I know has been quite good.

QUESTION: So you don’t think that the --

MS HARF: I haven’t heard of issues.

QUESTION: Of issues in terms of the distribution from the central government to the tribes and to the Peshmerga?

MS HARF: Correct. Correct.

First, this is from the February 14th snapshot regarding the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on February 12th:

US House Rep Grace Meng:  Thank you.  And I'll try to answer my last question fast. Secretary Kerry previously testified that the US would be supplying the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga going through Baghdad so as not to undermine the central government.  Has this arrangement prevented the Kurdish Peshmerga from getting what they need to effectively fight ISIS?  And how would the central government in Baghdad view an effort to provide military equipment directly to the Kurds?

James Jeffrey: Uh, it did prevent the transfer of equipment when I was Ambassador.  Uh, I don't have the statistics now but the Kurds certainly believe that it has.  They cite, as we heard earlier, only 25 of 100s of MRAP armored vehicles that have been provided to them.  And, uh, while there are some pretty good reasons why we're careful with the equipment we give them, the point is they are fighting, they are the allies of Baghdad and a lot of these weapons systems are no threat to Baghdad but they are a threat to ISIS and they should be flowing.

Never heard of any issues, did you, Marie?

Second, this is from the March 14, 2015 snapshot:

Wednesday the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held an important hearing on Iraq and the Authorization for the Use of Military Force that US President Barack Obama has requested.  We've covered the hearing in the Wednesday and Thursday snapshots and will cover it later in this one.  But for now, let's note what Ranking Member Robert Menendez stated as the hearing was coming to a close.
[. . .]

Ash Carter is the Secretary of Defense.  He appeared at the hearing to offer testimony as did Secretary of State John Kerry and General Martin Dempsey who is the Chair of the Joint Chiefs.

Let's jump in on this exchange.

Senator Cory Gardner:  . .  . what weight of effort would you say that the Peshmerga or other fighting in the region are pursuing against ISIL?

Gen Martin Dempsey:  The early successes against ISIL were largely through the Peshmerga.  And that will evolve over time but they've been carrying the majority of the effort thus far.

Senator Cory Gardner:  And by majority of effort, is there a weight?  Like they're carrying out a third?   Three-quarters?  Ninety percent?

Gen Martin Dempsey:  No, Senator, I can't actually put

Senator Cory Gardner:  -- the weight of effort on it?

Gen Martin Depmsey:  -- but the early, uh, the early effort to blunt ISIL's momentum were north and therefore with the Peshmerga

Senator Cory Gardner:  And reports in the news and other places have stated the Peshmerga are only getting about 10% of the arms that have routed through -- that have been routed through Baghdad.  Is that correct?

Gen Martin Dempsey:  Uh, again, I don't have the percentage but I can certainly take it for the record.  But there were some friction early on with the willingness of the government of Iraq to provide weapons to the Peshmerga but we think we've-we've managed our way through that.

Senator Cory Gardner:  And so right now you feel confident that the process by which arms will reach Erbil have now been settled or resolved?

Gen Martin Dempsey:  I am confident that we've broke through the initial friction but it doesn't mean it won't return.

He was confident on Wednesday.

Is he still confident?

Or is he just a liar?

Massoud Barazani is the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Hours after the hearing, The NewsHour (PBS -- link is text, audio and video) aired an interview with Barzani which included Barzani declaring:

We are satisfied with the [US] air support. We are getting good support, but, in reality, to this present moment, we have the same view as in the past on arming and equipping the Peshmerga forces with the right weapons.  It’s not to the standard we want.

If that's confusing for anyone -- possibly confusing for Dempsey, the title of the segment is "Kurdish leader says more U.S. weapons needed in fight against Islamic State."

It's apparently also confusing for Marie.

And this issue has come up repeatedly in one Congressional hearing after another.

It's also come up, pay attention, Marie, in US State Dept press briefings such as when House Republicans floated a bill to enable/order Barack to provide arms directly to the KRG (bill introduced by US House Rep Ed Royce on November 20, 2014 -- Marie can check with her State Dept colleague if she's ignorant of this -- Jeff Rathke took questions on this bill).

Marie Harf needs to go.

She lies, she gets things wrong, she's a joke.

She's a huge joke on Arabic social media and has been for some time.

That's not sexism, that's her stupidity.

Until recently Jen Psaki was the main spokesperson for State (she's now at the White House) and Jen was not ridiculed and mocked.

When you present yourself as a starlet and a joker, don't be surprised if your 'funnies' about events in the Middle East don't strike residents of the region as funny and if they don't turn you into a target of mockery.

And while we're on the subject of the Sunnis and the Kurds, Congress has been very clear that they are opposed to Shi'ite militias being utilized in Anbar.

With US House Rep Alan Grayson pointing out that US taxpayers are spending a million dollars a day in Iraq, the US actually does have some say on whether or not the thugs that comprise many of the Shi'ite militias should be allowed to 'liberate' the Sunni province of Anbar.

Mitchell Prothero (McClatcy Newspapers) reports today:
The Iraqi government has agreed to a limited – and as yet undefined – deployment of Shiite Muslim militias in the primarily Sunni Muslim province of Anbar in a last-ditch effort to stabilize an area that’s been primarily under the control of the Islamic State since early last year, according to Iraqi and Kurdish officials.
The decision by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi came after a weeklong stalemate between his government and militia commanders over what role in the fight against the Islamic State should be assigned to the so-called “Popular Committees,” the name given to the alliance of Shiite militias aligned with the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad.

Read more here:

And before Marie Harf pretends no one has ever objected in Congress to this sort of proposal . . .

Here's Chair Ed Royce at the March 26, 2015 House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing:

Chair Ed Royce:  Adding to the problem, the regional forces on the ground these airstrikes are supposed to be supporting are badly undersupplied.  After seven months of fighting, the Committee is still receiving troubling reports that the Kurdish Peshmerga are outgunned on the front lines.  This morning, Ranking Member Engel and I are re-introducing legislation to allow US arms to be sent directly to the Kurds.  These brave fighters need the better equipment to defeat ISIS.  And the Sunni tribal fighters, who will be central to this fight, are yet to trust Baghdad.  Strong local police and provincial national guard forces are desperately needed to protect Sunnis in Anbar Province and elsewhere.  Into the void on the ground in Iraq have stepped Iranian-backed Shi'ite fighters, the leading force behind the recent Tikrit offensive.  Senior US officials have put this development in positive terms.  And reports indicate that US intelligence and air power will now support this Iranian-backed mission.  The Washington Post wisely cautioned in an editorial this week, "The growing power of the militias, with their brutal tactics, sectarian ideology and allegiance to Iran's most militant faction, has become as large an impediment to the goal of stabilizing Iraq" as ISIS.  Shi'ite militias taking on ISIS may serve the immediate interest of killing jihadis but it is hard to see how empowering Iran's proxies is in the short, medium or long term interests of an inclusive Iraq or a stable Middle East.  The fear that many of us have is that Sunni Iraqis, who have been tortured by ISIS, will get the same brutal treatment by their Shi'ite militia 'liberators.'  That would fuel endless conflict.  Political reconciliation in Baghdad must be central to US policy.  The Committee will be interested to learn what the administration is doing to press Prime Minister [Hadier al-] Abadi to ensure he doesn't become former Prime Minister [Nouri al-] Maliki, a disastrous sectarian.  

And here's former US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey at a February 12 House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing (from the February 14th snapshot):

US House Rep Ron DeSantis:  Dr. Rand mentioned, I think accurately, that a lot of these Sunni tribes in Iraq -- and certainly, when I was serving there -- they're really not jihadists.  They're Sunni Arabs.  And if they think that -- back then -- AQI [al Qaeda in Iraq] was better than the deal they'd get with the central government, then they were out to do that.  And if they think it's a Shi'ite government, then that's going to push them further [away from the Iraqi government and towards a group against the Baghdad-based government].  So I guess my question is-is, if you look at the administration's policy, there's a clear attempt to have a major rapprochement with Iran, if you look at Yemen -- now could potentially be an Iranian-client state, the [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad -- I know we've been through different machinations there, but I think the administration is content to leave Assad there.  And so, if you're just the average Sunni Arab wanting to figure out should you work with the Americans and whatever forces that we may be supporting or should you work with some of the Sunni jihadist groups?  If they see us as, uhm, facilitating Shi'ite domination of the region, isn't that going to push some of these Sunni Arabs who are not necessarily jihadists into the arms of the more radical Sunni groups.  Ambassador?

James Jeffrey: Absolutely.  Which is why we can't pick a side in the Sunni - Shia struggle anymore than we could pick a side in the Christian - Muslim struggle in the Balkins.  We have to have a set of values and friends who accept them and go after everybody who is violating them -- whether they're coming out of Mosul or they're coming out of Tehran or they're coming out of Damascus.

US House Rep Ron DeSantis:  So you have, for example, ISIS fighters threatening the outer Baghdad belts and you have Shi'ite militia groups -- which we've considered to be terrorists when we were in Iraq and that are supported by Iran's Quds Force -- some have said 'well there's kind of an alliance with the US.'  We're supporting some of the anti-ISIS forces in other parts of Iraq and we're essentially relying on the Iranian-backed forces to-to keep ISIS out of Baghdad.  Is that a sustainable strategy?

James Jeffrey:  Uh, in the long run no.  But there's a saying, you slay the wolf closest to sled.  Right now, when ISIS is moving forward, we should be working with anybody that can stop them.  But, uh, they really haven't moved forward anymore.  Now we have to figure out how to go get them.  That's really not with Shi'ite militias.

And from the March 26th House Foreign Affairs Committee 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.

Why would people object?  Let's remember this this segment from a March broadcast of ABC World News with David Muir:

David Muir: Now to new fall out after our ABC investigation last night. It involves the fight against ISIS known for those awful videos, lining up their victims on the beach.  And now a new concern.  Are some of the Iraqi forces -- trained and paid for by US taxpayers -- using techniques that are just as brutal?  Well the State Dept tonight responding to our report and ABC's chief investigative reporter Brian Ross back on the job tonight.

Brian Ross:  The State Dept called these scenes today serious and disturbing.  Brutal images of what appear to be Iraqi forces and militias carrying out, celebrating, torture and beheadings.  In this torture scene, two US weapons against the wall. This video shows two civilians, pleading for their lives, about to be shot dead.  A man with an American supplied weapon walks by, a gunman with what appears to be the insignia of Iraqi Special Forces caught on tape.

US State Dept spokesperson Jen Psaki: Their behavior must be above reproach or they risk being painted with the same brush as ISIL fighters.

Brian Ross:  The Pentagon says it has already cut off money to some Iraqi units because of gross human rights violations.  But Senator Patrick Leahy says the ABC News report shows the government should cut off money to more Iraqi units.

Senator Patrick Leahy: When you look at at the videos and look at the uniforms being worn, do we really want to say the US condones that?

Brian Ross: US officials tonight tell ABC News that America's top military leader Gen Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has repeatedly warned Iraqi leaders about the conduct of the Iraqi military and the militias that fight with them -- especially because the US is sending $1.5 billion to the Iraqi army and almost 3,000 American troops to help train them.

Let's also remember that Haider was begging for US airstrikes on Tikrit when the Iraqi forces and Shi'ite militias (under Iranian leadership) were failing to retake the city.

The condition imposed by the US government was reported to be that the militias pull out first.

But now Haider's sending them into Anbar.

Moving on to another topic, let's note this exchange from yesterday:

US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee: Let me finish by saying that if you have any comments about Camp Liberty and those continued attacks if you want to include that and how we can work to better stop that I would appreciate the Chairman's indulgence and I thank you very much for your answers to these questions. 

Maryam Rajavi:  [. . .] And just very briefly about Liberty as I said to expect that the United States government will uphold its expectations which have been violated but and the US must really put Camp Liberty under its own protections soon and put an end to the barricade, to demand from the Iraqi government to lift the blockade and to recognize their rights as a protected person under the Geneva convention.

That exchange took place on Wednesday as the House Foreign Affairs on Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade held a hearing.  The Subcommittee Chair is US House Rep Ted Poe and US House Rep William Keating is the Ranking Member.

Maryam Rajavi is the President-Elect of the National Council of Reistance of Iran and she was testifying to the Subcommittee via satellite while former US Ambassador Robert Ford and Walid Phares of the Transatlantic Parliamentary Group on Counterterrorism testified to the Committee in person.

Camp Liberty is where the Ashraf community was relocated.  As of September 2013, Camp Ashraf in Iraq is empty.  All remaining members of the community have been moved to Camp Hurriya (also known as Camp Liberty).  Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were  welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.)   In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So the US has an obligation to protect the residents.  3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf.  They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part.  A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday.   That was the second attack this year alone.   February 9, 2013, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."  They were attacked again September 1, 2013.   Adam Schreck (AP) reported that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.  In addition, 7 Ashraf residents were taken in the assault.  November 2013, in response to questions from US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee, the  State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Brett McGurk, stated, "The seven are not in Iraq."

The Ashraf community at Camp Liberty is supposed to be relocated outside of Iraq.

If and when that ever happens, the US government's legal obligation will be over. The minor number that the US has helped relocate, for example, are no longer under the protected persons designation.

It is in the US government's own interest to get these refugees out of Iraq.

The administration of Barack Obama has shirked their legal obligations and only addresses the issues of these refugees when the world is aghast over an attack.  Such was the case in September 2013 and this led to the State Dept naming Secretary of State John Kerry's personal friend (who really had no qualifications for the job) to be the "Senior Advsior for MEK Resettlement."

Having no qualifications for the job, Jonathan Winer's failure at it was appalling.  Less than 3,700 refugees needed to be re-settled outside of Iraq.  They couldn't be sent to Iran (where they would face prison and torture for their dissent) but it's big world and there were plenty of other countries (including the US) where they could be restteled.

However, being John Kerry's roll dog means never having to do any actual work.

So Winer rewarded for his failures by being given a new post in May of 2014.

Maybe in the future, when John Kerry puts personal friends on the US payroll, he can make their payment conditional upon getting results.  The US taxpayers footed the bill for Winer -- which reportedly included many design modifications for his office -- from September to May and, during that time, he accomplished nothing.

In approximately 8 months he was unable to resettle 3,700 people.

Again, in the future, maybe when John Kerry puts his personal friends on the US taxpayer's dime, their salary should be conditions-based and, if they're unable to do the job they were hired to do, they can be paid minimum wage for a 40 hour work week and nothing more.  (Should payment in excess of that amount have been made to them, they should immediately be required to refund it or faces charges of defrauding the US government.  Just a suggestion of one way to bring accountability to the cronyism that is rampant in the State Dept currently.)

We'll note this exchange from the hearing:

US House Rep Judy Chu: I would like to address these questions to Mrs. Rajavi, I'd like to ask about Camp Liberty.  Camp Liberty is the military base that has become a permanent home for over 3,000 Iranian refugees but the conditions there are poor and freedom severely restricted.  Worse, there are reports that the Iraqi government is blockading the base preventing food, water and medicine from arriving, combined with the restriction on travel, this blockade has led to at least 25 deaths.  The most recent being Mr. Jalal Albadini on April 17th.  Can you give us a sense of living conditions in Camp Liberty in regard to food, medicine and decent housing?  

Maryam Rajavi:  Our primary concern about the residents of Camp Liberty is their safety and security. That is the main problem that they're facing in Camp Liberty now to the extent that since the protection of the residents were transferred from the United States to Iraq, 126 have been killed, 7 have been taken hostage and the residents are denied timely access to medical care for this reason so as you just mentioned 25 people have lost their lives while there was the possibility to save their lives I think it was 127 who have been killed during these attacks by the Iraqi forces.  They have no freedom of movement and enormous restrictions have been imposed upon them.  Just to give you one example, Camp Liberty is the elecricity is still not connected and since the Abadi government took office there have been no changes in the conditions and there is still a prison-like condition for the residents. And I think the new government must recognize Camp Liberty as a refugee camp and remove and lift inhuman restrictions which have been imposed on the Camp and put an end to the daily harassment of the residents.  In particular, it is very important that the camp management be changed because they are the same people -- the people who manage the camp are the same people who were engaged in the massacre and the killing of the residents in the past attacks and as you know the United States has made the written commitment to provide safety and security for these people but that obligation has been violated and I think Camp Liberty should be really under the protection of the United States or at least their personal weapons to be given so that if they're attacked by the militia or paramilitary groups that they could defend themselves.  And I expect that the United States would uphold its commitment to regular monitoring of Liberty.

US House Rep Judy Chu:  Let me ask now about do you have any confidence in the current government to improve conditions? And what is the future for the residents of Camp Liberty?  Is there a US role?

Maryam Rajavi: I think the US government can really demand and urge the Iraqi government to uphold its obligations. So far the government has not done anything that we could really trust them that they would do the right thing.  And, as I said, people are still living in a prison-like situation in Camp Liberty as a prisoner.  That's what I said, that the new government should recognize Liberty as a refugee camp and remove all the restrictions imposed on the camp and end the harassment of the residents. And I want to reiterate that it is very vital to change the camp management and do not allow the mullah's regime to send its agents for psychological torture of the residents and lay the ground for another massacre of Camp Liberty.  These are the actions that they can take. And I believe that the United States government is really in a position to call and demand from the Iraqi government to uphold these obligations. 

In the hearing, doubts were raised about the White House's plan or 'plan' for addressing the Islamic State.  We'll note this critique.

US House Rep Scott Perry:  President Obama declared his intention to defeat ISIS and developed a plan he believes can achieve his aims.  However, I have serious concerns with the strategy -- and I use the term loosely -- especially because the President doesn't seem to have a clear understanding of our enemy.  In the past year, President Obama has referred to ISIS as not Islamic and as al Qaeda's j.v. [junior varsity] team.-- statements that cause confusion about the group and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.  Denying that the US is at war with radical Islam makes it difficult to engage in a factual, honest, idealogical debate exposing ISIS' false narrative and to empower moderate Muslim voices.  Misperceptions and the lack of understanding about ISIS have consistently led to underestimating this rapidly expanding terror group.  

One of the witnesses, former US Ambassador (to Syria) Robert Ford felt the White House was on better footing than did Rep Perry.  This is from Ford's opening statement and he's discussing Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, etc.  This is the "Iraq snapshot" so I'm editing it so the focus is on Iraq (as always, any edits that leave our remarks between statements are noted by "[. . .]"):

Ambassador Robert Ford: The administration is right to understand that we have to confront the Islamic State and this is an organization wholly different from al Qaeda.  However, if we properly understand the ideology that drives the Islamic State, we would understand that it will never stop fighting in Syria and Iraq, or in other countries where it has a foothold.  It might eventually seek temporary truces but its absolutist interpretations means that eventually the Islamic State will choose to fight all other communities that do not recognize its authority.  Its severe, literalist interpretations of governance and justice alienate a great many of the inhabitants of territories it controls since many of those inhabitants enjoy aspects of 20th and 21st century living.  We have seen this in places like Raqqa and Dier Zour in Syria and in Mosul in Iraq. [. . .] Among jurisprudents in Salafi circles, the Islamic State has vulnerability about its declaration of its being a caliphate and the long-hoped for new caliphate.  If it loses territory so that it cannot govern -- and its judges cannot administer its brand of justice -- it loses some legitimacy of its claim to loyalty and allegiance.  The ground gains in Iraq are important, therefore.  [. . .] Finally, as we and friends fight against the Islamic State, it is extremely important to remember the original context -- aggrieved Sunni Muslim communities in places like Lebanon, Syria and Iraq who are angry at and afraid of Iran and the Arab Shia.  If we ally with Iran against the Islamic State -- directly or indirectly -- we play into the Islmaic State's narrative and will help its recruitment.

Brian Ross