Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, April 7, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, anticipation mounts for Joe Biden's Iraq speech scheduled for delivery on Thursday, Haider al-Abadi preps for an assault on Anbar, the Democratic Party thinks Iraq can again be used (or mis-used) for an election cycle, the non-deal with Iran gets criticism from the region, and much more.

Josh Richman (Daily Democrat) notes US Vice President Joe Biden's planned trip to the Bay Area later this week and, "The vice president earlier Thursday will give a major speech at the National Defense University in Washington about progress made in strengthening Iraq's government and military to defeat the self-proclaimed Islamic State, The Associated Press reported. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama next week in Washington."  Fred Lucas (Blaze) points out that "the White House is offering little information on why it's Biden, and not Obama, who will be talking about issues of such gravity in close proximity to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi’s visit."

There are actually a number of reasons Barack might want to take a pass on Iraq.  But while it's interesting that Joe's been tasked with the important speech, it's also interesting who's rushing forward to hijack Iraq.

Take the always laughable Steve Benen who wants to prove something but only succeeds in proving stupidity.  Benen's a producer with the faltering MSNBC talk show hosted by Rachel Maddow.  He wants you to know that people who are "wrong" about the Iranian 'deal' were wrong about Iraq.

I'm confused.

Who was wrong about Iraq?

When I say someone was wrong about Iraq, I'm speaking as someone who opposed the illegal war and spoke out against it.

Benen's boss is Rachel Maddow who supported the war before it started, supported in 2004 as an Air America Radio host, repeatedly whored out the lie that "we" (the US) "broke it" (Iraq) so "we" had to pay for it and insisted that was The Pottery Barn Rule.  There was no such rule.  And  this was revealed by  Al Franken, whose Air America Radio show aired directly after Unfiltered (hosted by Lizz Winstead, Chuck D and Rachel Maddow) but apparently Rachel never caught those broadcasts.

She did manage to support the Iraq War.

She did refuse to present an anti-Iraq War view on Unfiltered.  She did refuse to bring on veterans who were opposed to the war (Janeane Garofalo's The Majority Report had no problem bringing those veterans on)  Rachel Maddow, throughout the life of Unfiltered, insisted that the US military could not leave Iraq.

So it's really funny that Steven Benen wants to blog about who was wrong on Iraq and to do so at Rachel's website.  Good lackey that he is, he knows to avoid mentioning his boss.

Leaving aside the hypocrisy, let's deal with the larger issue, there is no deal with Iran.  There's framework for a deal that might be reached at the end of June -- might not be as well.  The whores -- that includes Steve -- rushing forward to defend a 'deal' that isn't one is much more embarrassing than anyone objecting to it.

But you could be wrong on Iraq (I wasn't) and be right to oppose the Iranian 'deal.'

I hope Benen realizes he's doing more harm to his own political party than anything else.

Americans know little about the 'deal' because there's little to now.

But if you want to promote that being wrong on Iraq means you're incapable of rational thought, lots of luck turning out voters if Hillary Wrong On Iraq Clinton gets the Democratic Party's presidential nomination (as many believe she will).

The Democratic Party doesn't know what to do.  It was running on fumes some time ago.

Now it doesn't even have fumes.

So they're going to try to make 2016 about the Iraq War.

It's pretty much agreed by party leaders that the 2016 Dem candidate can't run on Barack's coat tails.  The promised change never came and too many Americans are still without jobs.

ObamaCare remains deeply unpopular and deeply divisive.

So the party's trying to build a strategy around Iraq.

They're going to be running a lot of Iraq War veterans for that reason.

In 2006, the Iraq War let the Democrats win control of both houses of Congress.  In 2008, the Iraq War let the Democrats win the White House.

Having nothing to show for the trust the American people placed in the party, Democratic leadership hopes to use the ghost memories of Iraq to scare up voters in 2016.  That's what all the idiotic Tweets of late have been about.  (The one that outraged Dem honchos today was a 'friendly' who elected to Tweet that Bully Boy Bush was responsible for the 9-11 attacks. Leadership continues that "crazy" and "harmful.")

There are two basic problems with resurrecting Iraq -- largely forgotten by the American public as a result of the only real withdrawal that took place: the US press withdrawl.

Again, Hillary is seen as the likely nominee.

She's hostile and defensive when talking about her own vote for the Iraq War.

Or was, in 2007 and 2008, hostile and defensive.

As she demonstrated in her January 2013 public rage during Congressional testimony, she hasn't honed her social skills since her last run for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

Reviving Iraq and using it as a club to beat political opponents with risks reminding the American public of how wrong Hillary was on Iraq.

The other problem for the Democratic Party is that Barack owns Iraq.

Didn't have to be that way.

He could have ordered US forces out of Iraq upon being sworn in.

Instead, he wanted to put his imprint on Iraq.  And he did.

And it's why Iraq is in crises today.

CNN's Arwa Damon Tweets today:

  • Inside look at why Obama administration mistakes as devastating as Bush. "How Obama Abandoned Democracy in "

  • Damon's referring to Emma Sky's "How Obama Abandoned Democracy in Iraq: Bush's mistake was invading the country. His successor's was leaving it to a strongman" which POLITICO published today and which offers more clarity than most articles on Iraq have in the last four years.

    Sky explains how, in the 2010 elections, Iraqis reached for something more: a national identity.  And the US government could have backed that by supporting Iraqiya's win but instead worked to undermine it so that thug Nouri al-Maliki could have a second term.  This was not under Bully Boy Bush.  Barack was president.  Chris Hill was Barack's (hideous and destructive) US Ambassador to Iraq.

    Sky writes of Joe Biden:

    Biden visited Iraq at the end of August 2010. By then, Hill had been replaced as ambassador by Jim Jeffrey. In internal meetings, one U.S. adviser argued that Maliki was “our man”: He would give us a follow-on Status of Forces Agreement to keep a small contingent of U.S. forces in Iraq after 2011; he was a nationalist; and he would fight the Sadrists. Furthermore, the official claimed that Maliki had promised him that he would not seek a third term. “Maliki is not our friend,” replied another official, Jeff Feltman, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, exasperated at the delusional nature of the discussion. But Biden had been persuaded by the arguments that there was no one but Maliki who could be prime minister and that he would sign a new security agreement with the United States. The Obama administration wanted to see an Iraqi government in place before the U.S. mid-term elections in November. Biden believed the quickest way to form a government was to keep Maliki as prime minister, and to cajole other Iraqis into accepting this.
    [. . .]
    I tried to explain the struggle between secularists and Islamists, and how many Iraqis wanted to move beyond sectarianism. But Biden could not fathom this. For him, Iraq was simply about Sunnis, Shia and Kurds.
    I tried another tack: “It is important to build belief in the democratic process by showing people that change can come about through elections—rather than violence. The peaceful transfer of power is key—it has never happened in the Arab World.” At the very least, either Maliki or Talabani needed to give up his seat; otherwise, they would both think they owned the seats. Biden did not agree. He responded that there were often elections in the United States that did not bring about any change.

    Meeting Iraqiya, Joe would do on to invoke Al Gore, "He said that one of his predecessors, Al Gore, had technically won more votes in the 2000 presidential election, but for the good of America had stepped back rather than keep the country in limbo while fighting over the disputed vote-count."

    I know there are many who would argue if Al Gore had fought for the presidency, the Iraq War would not have happened.  (I don't argue that.  Though Gore came out against the Iraq War before it started, he'd also given an infamous speech that showed he could have gone the other way.)

    But it's also true that Al Gore made up his own mind.

    Iraq's President Saddam Hussein didn't tell Gore it was time to step aside, for example.  But the White House did tell Iraqi leaders that Nouri al-Maliki was getting a second term (despite losing the 2010 elections) and the White House then negotiated The Erbil Agreement which overturned the votes and the election and gave Nouri a second term.

    Sky visited Iraq in the summer of 2014 and saw the results of that second term.  Here she notes speaking to former Minister of Finance Rafi Issawi:

    Rafi listed for me the Sunni grievances that had steadily simmered since I’d left—until they had finally boiled over. Maliki had detained thousands of Sunnis without trial, pushed leading Sunnis, including Rafi, out of the political process by accusing them of terrorism and reneged on payments and pledges to the Iraqi tribes who had bravely fought Al Qaeda in Iraq. Year-long Sunni protests demanding an end to discrimination were met by violence, with dozens of unarmed protesters killed by Iraqi security forces. Maliki had completely subverted the judiciary to his will, so that Sunnis felt unable to achieve justice. The Islamic State, Rafi explained to me, was able to take advantage of this situation, publicly claiming to be the defenders of the Sunnis against the Iranian-backed Maliki government.

    Those realities are why Barack might be less than keen to deliver a speech this month on Iraq.  Equally true, in June of last year, Barack stated Iraq's crises could only be resolved with a political solution and there's been no progress on that front.

    After nearly a year of being occupied by the Islamic State, Tikrit has been 'liberated.'

    As such, it should be a rallying point, a beacon of hope and a sign of what can be accomplished in a 'new' Iraq.  Instead, the failures of Haider al-Abadi have ensured that Tikrit's 'liberation' confirmed every Sunni fear that a new prime minister (Haider) didn't mean anything was changing in Iraq.  Mitchell Prothero (McClatchy Newspapers) reports

    As security forces took control last week, journalists and civilians returning to the area witnessed widespread looting by both security forces and militias. Two local staff members from the Reuters news agency witnessed the summary execution of an Egyptian man accused of being an Islamic State fighter by a crowd of angry Iraqi policemen.
    Concern about Shiite militia behavior as they moved into a Sunni area was one reason the United States withheld air support from the operation until Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi gave assurances that the militias would not enter the city itself as part of the final push. But the militias had a heavy presence in the town after its liberation and were seen openly looting government buildings and private homes, as well as burning buildings belonging to suspected collaborators.

    Fred Abrahams (Human Rights Watch) points out, "In other areas retaken from ISIS, pro-government militias and volunteer fighters, along with Iraqi security forces, have looted Sunni villages, destroyed homes with explosives, and burned buildings to the ground.Rod Nordland (New York Times) notes the Shi'ite militias crimes in Tikrit were seen in earlier 'liberation' efforts and he offers:

    Prime Minister Abadi publicly criticized the looting and ordered the militias to be withdrawn from Tikrit on Saturday as a result, a move that was widely praised by Sunni leaders.
    On Tuesday, Mr. Abadi went a step further, ordering that all the popular mobilization forces be placed under the direct command of the prime minister’s office. The collective popular mobilization had been led by Hadi al-Ameri, a prominent Shiite politician and leader of the Badr Organization and militia, who has close ties to Iran.
    “He tried his best to stop the looting in Tikrit, and we appreciate that, but he couldn’t,” Hamid al-Mutlaq, a Sunni member of Parliament from Anbar, said of the prime minister’s efforts. “The people of Anbar will not let that happen there.”

    Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) links to Nordland's article and observes, "Iraqi PM Hayder Abadi is trying to give lip-service to the US idea, saying they’d like more Sunni involvement. He doesn’t seem to be ruling out the Shi’ite militias, however, and given the looting and lynching the militias have carried out virtually every time they take Sunni towns, the number of Sunnis who might get on board for the offensive are shrinking by the day."

    There's a larger issue here that Ditz doesn't acknowledge.

    The US idea of Sunnis being necessary to liberate Anbar Province (predominately Sunni in terms of population) is one the US Congress supports.

    At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing last month, Chair Ed Royce explained, "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."    Barack's Special Envoy John Allen was questioned by the Committee.  

    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?

    When Haider al-Abadi visits DC this month, he will meet with Barack at the White House.

    He will also meet with various members of Congress.

    And they will have serious questions about what he is doing to come to a political solution and what he's doing with regards the Shi'ite militias.

    Congress has been very clear that Sunnis must be involved in any Anbar Province effort.  Haider will have to explain how he intends to make that happen.

    He'll have to convince them because they were concerned about the Shi'ite militias before Tikrit.  They're only more concerned now.  And they are the ones who control the power of the purse.

    They could vote against continued funding of Barack's bombings.

    More likely, if they lose faith in Haider, they will instead merely invoke the Leahy Amendment which forbids US funding and support for regimes that terrorize their own citizens. 

    Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 158 violent deaths in Iraq today.

    Returning now to the issue of the Iranian 'deal,' I've noted here repeatedly that I have no opinion on a deal.  I'd have to know something about it -- even a proposed deal -- to have an opinion of support or opposition and I don't feel the White House has been forthcoming on the details.

    I do have an opinion on the White House using cheap whores to silence debate and dissent.  

    I opposed that nonsense under Bully Boy Bush, I'll oppose it under Barack Obama.

    As Gwen Ifill (The NewsHour, PBS) explained Monday, "After last week’s announcement of a framework agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program, the White House is working overtime to sell the deal to the American public, Congress and skeptical allies.:

    Breaking from the pack, Yousaf Butt (The Hill) offers:

    After a marathon negotiation session, Tehran and the world powers announced last week that an initial framework of a nuclear deal had been agreed upon. But things have quickly gotten complicated: there's considerable confusion as to what last week's initial understanding actually means. We still don't know what Iran would have to do, nor when the various sanctions on Iran would be removed in return. The White House released a factsheet on the agreement but Iran has not signed off on this factsheet – Iranian foreign minister Javid Zarif immediately took to twitter, disparaging the White House release: “...[t]here is no need to spin using ‘fact sheets’ so early on.” It's far from clear which “facts” in the White House factsheet will survive until July, the deadline for a final agreement.
    So what did Tehran and the world powers agree to last week? Depends who you ask. There are at least three different versions of what was allegedly decided.

    Some of the most excited voices -- such as the hysteric and hysterical Phyllis Bennis -- have cared little that the framework for a deal came via the US and European countries.  Bennis is usually one of the loudest critics of imperialism and generally supports region's making their own decisions.

    But the White House elected to sideline countries in the region.

    While it hasn't stopped Phyllis from repeatedly dialing the rotary phone, it has led to criticism from those living in the Middle East.  For example, Salman Aldossary (Asharq al-Awsat) responds very clearly to the notion that Barack can lecture the Gulf on who their friends are and who their friends are not:

    What invaluable gifts US President Barack Obama has bestowed on Iran! Has the “axis of evil” collapsed to the extent that the president of the world’s most powerful country is courting one of its key members? Not only did Obama crown his two terms in office with a “historic” vague deal with Iran, but he gave Tehran a free hand in Iraq, turning a blind eye to the activities of the Popular Mobilization forces that operate under the command of Quds Force leader Gen. Qassem Suleimani. Not only has he turned over a new leaf with Tehran, he is even issuing statements on its behalf, going so far as to tell “Sunni Arabs” that Tehran does not pose a threat to them and instead telling them to focus on “real internal threats” according to a New York Times interview. What is strange about the interview is Obama’s frequent use of terms like “Sunni Arabs” and “Sunni countries.” These are expressions that betray sectarian over-simplification; while he refers to whole states as being “Sunni,” Obama falls short of describing Iran as a Shi’ite country. I wonder what other surprises Mr. Obama has up his sleeve.
    It was Washington that labelled Iran as a member of the so-called “axis of evil” and a country that sponsors terrorism. It was Washington that warned the world against dealing with Iran, imposing economic sanctions on Tehran and regarding it as an arch enemy. So, after all this, how can the US president now come out to say that Iran no longer poses a threat to its neighbors? Does the signing of a nuclear framework deal negate this threat? Does Obama expect the Gulf—which has long suffered from Iran’s interventions and sponsorship of terrorism—to simply believe his efforts to improve the image of Tehran? Isn’t this the same Tehran that has posed a clear and present danger to Gulf states for the past 36 years? 

    Gulf News does a round up of reactions from Gulf bloggers:

    Obama’s argument was promptly refuted by a blogger writing under the moniker “The Free”.
    “The problem with the US is that it wants to decide for us who our friend is and who our foe is,” he posted online. “It also wants to decide when we should destroy one another and who should reconstruct what has been destroyed. We are treated like political adolescents,” he said.
    The Bulldozer, another blogger, said that the US could not be trusted.
    “There is no safe ground with the US, a country that is ready to sell out its closest allies for the sake of its own interests,” he said. “It is not a matter of Sunni or Shiite. It is pure interests. The US sold the Shah of Iran in 1979, and then it sold Kuwait before selling Saddam [Hussain]. It recently sold Hosni [Mubarak] and others. Today, it is selling away everyone.”
    “The US has reached a conclusion that Sunnis were a threat and as such they should be subdued,” Conclusion, another blogger, said. “To the US, the Arab countries are the source of terrorists and the best solution to deal with them is to work closely with Iran against them.”
    Mohammad Al Azemi said he was shocked that Obama failed to see the reality on the ground.
    “Iran has taken over Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and now wants to take over Yemen,” he said. “Yet, we have a US president who says that Iran is not a threat!”                                      

    These voices represent many who were provided no seat at the table but who will be most directly impacted by any deal that is eventually made.

    We're going to again note an opinion on the deal.  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