Monday, April 06, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Monday, April 6, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, mass graves are discovered in Tikrit, Iraq's prime minister visits the KRG, Joe Biden's going to have to make the speech of his life this week, a member of Congress wants answers regarding what's happened to an Ashraf community member in Iraq,  and much more.

Today, Iraq's Prime Minister visited the Kurdistan Regional Government.  The KRG is in northern Iraq and semi-autonomous.  This was Haider al-Abadi's first visit to the region since becoming prime minister last August.

Alsumaria reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani greeted Haider at the Erbil airport as the prime minister disembarked from his plane.  Al Mada notes that the visit also resulted in the two leaders holding their first joint-press conference.  At the press conference, the Daily Star notes, Haider spoke of 'liberated' Tikrit:

Iraq’s prime minister said Monday that “only” 152 homes and shops were burned in Tikrit, where pro-government forces have been accused of carrying out abuses after retaking the city last week.

Haider al-Abadi did not specify who burned the structures or when the fires took place, but pro-government militiamen have admitted to torching houses in other recaptured areas and allegedly did so in Tikrit.

Of those "152 homes and shops," Al Mada breaks it down to Abadi stating 67 homes and 85 shops.
AP adds, "Speaking in Irbil, capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region, Haider al-Abadi pledged that the 'properties and rights' of local residents would be respected once Islamic State militants were driven out."

But of course the 'properties and rights' were not respected.  We'll get to it.

For now, focus on the "only" figure of house and shops damaged.  152 is no small number.  However, others are noting much larger numbers than Haider provided.  Wael Grace (Al Mada) notes local officials in Tikrit are saying the damage is much more than al-Abadi is letting on with half the infrastructure and buildings left damaged from the Islamic State occupation and the 'liberation.'

So did the focus go to how to mend fences, how to bring the Sunnis in?


All Iraq News reports that Massoud Barzani "announced the formation of a joint committee for joint operations."  Alsumaria notes  his office issued a statement saying that now was the time for Iraqi to work together against the threat of the Islamic State.

Sputnik notes:

Iraqi Kurdistan Regional President Masoud Barzani said Monday he and Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Abadi have agreed to act jointly to counter Islamic State (ISIL) militants.

"We have agreed on joint actions to save Iraq from terrorism," Barzani said at a press conference in the city of Erbil.
The Iraqi leader said the parties had agreed on joint efforts to free the northern Nineveh Governorate and the city of Mosul.

Military.  And, for a splash of color, All Iraq News notes that part of the visit included Haider and Barzani visiting a refugee camp in Erbil.

Alsumaria has a photo essay of  the meaningless series of photo-ops here.

Who knows what Massoud got out of it but Gedalyah Reback (Israel National News) offers:

The KRG’s representative to the United States, Bayan Sami-Abdul Rahman, complained, “President Obama's Iraq train-and-equip fund, which comes to $1.6 billion, gave us great hope that American weapons would be delivered in early 2015, but since the passage of the law approving the train-and-equip fund, the vast majority of those weapons have not been delivered."
The Pentagon has claimed the KRG has gotten over 4 million pounds of equipment and is hardly being undercut, but Rahman has also said the US is wasting time by playing bureaucracy with Baghdad.

They're not getting weapons.  The oil 'deal' remains on hold (pretty words -- empty words -- from Haider).  What did the KRG get out of the meet-up?

Who knows but it was a war meet-up, not a way to find or work towards political solutions.

If you didn't get the point, enter the US State Dept's Brett McGurk.

PM Abadi & Region Pres. Barzani in today to coordinate next phase of campaign against .

PM Abadi & Region Pres. Barzani in today to coordinate next phase of campaign against .
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The next phase of battle.

What did Barack say Iraq needed last June?

Oh, yeah, the only answer was a political solution.

But there's no time for any work on that.

AP notes that post-'liberation' in Tikrit, the issue is to win back Sunni support and reminds, "Sunni grievances mounted during the eight-year rule of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, widely seen as pursuing sectarian policies. Al-Maliki responded to rising Sunni protests with a violent crackdown, further stirring dissent. By December 2013, security forces withdrew from Ramadi after dismantling a protest camp, allowing Islamic State militants ultimately to take it over."

So it's rather sad that, as All Iraq News reports, Iraq's Prime Minsiter Haider al-Abadi went to Erbil today to speak with KRG President Massoud Barzani about 'liberating' Nineveh Province.  Reuters notes Haider says they have to remain unclear on the timeline for the operation in order to preserve "the element of surprise."  Tasnim notes that as well as the following:

"Our visit to Erbil today is to coordinate and cooperate on a joint plan to liberate the people of Nineveh," Abadi said at a joint news conference with President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani on Monday.

Some might point out that Tikrit still isn't secure and that any gains are short-term if the larger issues -- the ones that allowed the Islamic State to take root -- are not dalt with.

And Yamel Wang (Xinhua) reports on today's meet-upit this way:

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Monday the Iraqi federal forces will work with the Kurdish regional forces to liberate the northern province of Nineveh from the Islamic State (IS) militants.
"Our visit in Arbil is to cooperate and coordinate on a joint plan to liberate the people of Nineveh," Abadi told a joint press conference with the regional President Masoud Barzani during Abadi's official visit to Arbil, the capital of the Kurdish region.

"We have common agreements and understandings that liberating Nineveh is the responsibility of all of us," Abadi said after his meeting with Barzani.

AP notes Haider's vowing to bring to justice anyone who loots or burns down homes and shops.

But he's not.

These aren't mystery men, hiding their faces and going out cloaked by darkness.

These are people -- Shi'ite forces -- carrying out crimes in broad daylight.

Long before the press discovered the story and long before Haider made his 'stop it now or you'll be arrested' speech, Iraqi Spring MC Tweeted about the militia looting Tikrit.

: تكرار حالات السلب والنهب التي تنتهجها القوات الحكومية والميليشيات التابعة لها عند دخولها مناطق النزاع.
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That is a photo of joyful criminals -- wearing Iraqi forces fatigues.

If Haider wanted to defend Iraq, he could start with seeing to it that everyone in that photo was immediately arrested.

But that's apparently too obvious -- just like the need for a political solution.

Ayad Allawi is one of Iraq's three vice presidents.

He may be the most senior official in Iraq who still remembers the need for a political solution.

Iraq has three vice presidents.

Along with Allawi, there's also Osama al-Nujaifi.  And then there's thug Nouri al-Maliki who was the previous prime minister.  Corruption was the hallmark of Nouri's tenure and his son was openly corrupt as well.

His corruption is so well known it even came up in an interview with Haider last week:

SPIEGEL: One of your first actions after you took office was to close the office of your predecessor's son, who is said to have provided huge government contracts to people who were ready to pay the most for them. Young college graduates claim they had to pay officials $10,000 to $20,000 in order to obtain government jobs. Why should Iraqis have any faith in this government?

Al-Abadi: We need to flip the system. Four years ago, the government tried to stop the corruption at the Passport Office, where people pay $400 to $500 just to get their passport issued. Every day they were arresting so many people and it did not have much of an effect. But if you ease the procedure, for instance making the document available online, it puts an end to it altogether. I don't want to fill our prisons with people who ask for petty cash while we are facing this major terrorist threat to the country. I want to keep these prisons for the actual criminals who are killing people or for people who are stealing vast amounts of money from the people. I want to change how we run the government in Iraq.

The US has only one vice president and his  Twitter feed noted today:

On Thursday, VP Biden will deliver an address on ’s political & military progress, and the work that lies ahead to defeat .

That ought to be some address as Joe has to spin frantically to find political progress in Iraq.

Haider's becoming a joke -- as well as ingrate.

Last week, Der Spiegel published their interview with Haider al-Abadi which included:

SPIEGEL: It is Iran and not the United States that emerged as your most important ally in the battle against IS. Are you disappointed by President Barack Obama?

Al-Abadi: I hoped the support would have been quicker and more effective, especially at the beginning of the assault by Daesh. Baghdad was being threatened by them and, in actual fact, there was no action from the US or anybody else.

SPIEGEL: Do you still trust this strategic partnership?

Al-Abadi: I was very surprised to hear later that the US was anticipating that Baghdad might fall within three days. I don't think that this assessment was accurate. Baghdad was and remains fortified very well by our security forces. And after Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani issued a fatwa to the civilians to defend the country and the sacred sites, the whole scenario changed. The Iranians were quick and prompt in providing support, in the form of weaponry and advisors. Iran regards Daesh as a national security threat that had reached their borders. As such, they reacted promptly. 

Those comments should set the stage for a 'fun' visit with Barack later this month in DC.  The Tehran Times emphasizes these words of Haider's "The Iranians were quick and prompt in providing support, in the form of weaponry and advisors."

CNN reports a mass grave has been discovered in Tikrit with some suspecting it may hold close to 2,000 corpses with the belief being that many are Iraqi soldiers, "CNN's Arwa Damon saw nine bodies recovered by forensics experts at one of the excavation sites. Grieving Iraqis, apparently not related to the soldiers, gathered to pray over the bodies."  All Iraq News notes there are supposed to be 12 locations for the mass graves and that the Ministry of Health says 20 corpses have been unearthed thus far.  Alsumaria reports that family members of soldiers missing and thought killed in the Tikrit Spyker massacre demonstrated in Baghdad's Tahrir Square today, many carrying photos of their missing loved ones.  Alsumaria also notes that the Council of Ministers's Muammed al-Tamimi is stating that 28 soldiers survived the massacre.

Alsumaria notes a bombing west of Ramadi left 2 people dead, a southern Baghdad roadside bombing left one military officer and three soldiers injured, combat in downtown Tikrit left 9 militants dead, 2 people fleeing Tikrit were killed as suspected members of the Islamic State, and a village mayor was killed by a Muhktar Kwereh Village sticky bombing.  EFE adds, "The Islamic State executed nine officers from both the Iraqi army and police in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh, head of the Security Committee of Nineveh, Mohamed al-Bayati told Efe on Monday."
And Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports, "A total of 30 people were killed and 27 others wounded on Monday in a U.S.-led coalition airstrike and clashes with the Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq, security source said."  

Margaret Griffis ( counts 85 dead and sixty-five injured.

Turning to the United States, House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen released a letter she sent to US Ambassador to Iraq Stuart Jones April 2nd:

Dear Mr. Ambassador: 

I am seeking information regarding an incident involving local Iraqi law enforcement and a resident of Camp Liberty that took place over two weeks ago and urging the administration to ensure the safety and security of all the Camp's residents. As you recall, during my recent visit to Iraq as part of a Congressional Delegation, I spoke of the plight of the Camp Liberty residents and we discussed this specific incident. While I appreciate our discussion, I would like to ensure that the Embassy and State Department are doing everything possible for this individual who may be, according to reports, a victim of extrajudicial punishment by the Government of Iraq. 
As you are aware, on March 16, 2015, there was reportedly an incident involving Mr. Safar Zakery, a resident of Camp Liberty, and members of the Iraqi SWAT forces. I have been informed that in the aftermath of the incident, Mr. Zakery was and continues to be unlawfully detained. I have also been informed that witnesses to the incident, which include several local policemen involved in, or witness to the incident, all report that it was the Iraqi SWAT forces that were at fault, not Mr. Zakery. 
In addition to these troubling allegations, I have also been informed that, despite Mr. Zakery being a Person of Concern as designated by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Iraqi judicial system has reached out to the Government of Iran to inquire about his status and continues to inquire about the legality of his entry into Iraq. 
If true, seeking information on Mr. Zakery's status from Iran -- the country he fled in fear for his life -- is both counterproductive and counter to purpose behind such a designation. Therefore, I respectfully request that the State Department provide a complete report on this incident and will urge the Government of Iraq to release Mr. Zakery immediately.  I also continue to ask the administration [to] help protect and care for the residents of Camp Liberty.
Once again, I thank you for your prompt attention to this pressing matter, and look forward to your response.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen 
Member of Congress 

Ros-Lehtinen is expressing concern over the Ashraf community in Iraq.  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."

Right now, it is one member of Congress speaking out.  That's going to multiply and it's going to do so rather quickly.  Iraq, under a new prime minister, is yet again failing to live up to its promises and this matters because the US is responsible for the safety of the Ashraf community -- legally responsible.

Lastly, Francis A. Boyle is an attorney and a professor of international law.  He's also the author of many books including, most recently, United Ireland, Human Rights and International Law.  Below he weighs in on Iran and nukes:

Everyone knows that Iran does not have nuclear weapons. These negotiations are really about re-integrating Iran into the  U.S.   Imperial Order as Iran was before the 1979 Revolution— becoming once again the American  “policeman” for the Persian Gulf. For well-known reasons, Israel cannot do that job. Israel will remain America’s “policeman” on the Mediterranean for the Northern Middle East. And Iran is slated to become once again  America’s “policeman” for the Persian Gulf together with all  its oil and gas fields  and the Straits of Hormuz through which most energy supplies are  shipped to Europe, China, Japan and elsewhere in Asia.  Integrating  Iran will also enable the United States to consolidate its tenuous toe-hold in Afghanistan and thus continue to project power into Central Asia with its riches of oil and gas fields there. It appears that Iran is willing to go along with this Agenda.
Professor Francis A. Boyle
Francis A. Boyle
Law Building
504 E. Pennsylvania Ave.

Champaign, IL 61820 USA