Thursday, April 09, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, April 9, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, we examine Joe Biden's repeated lies about Iraq in a speech so embarrassing that the White House hasn't posted it (an hour after the snapshot goes up, we'll post the speech in full -- as prepared for delivery), Haider al-Abadi has declared war on the press even though the western press is so good about looking the other way for him, IAVA continues its truth telling,  and much more.

As the announcer used to say at the start of The Lone Ranger, "Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear."

Who knew the White House felt the same?

Audio only?

They promote Vice President Joe Biden's speech on Iraq for days, they call it a major one and yet when it takes place all they offer is an audio stream?

That makes it only much less surprising that the White House still hasn't bothered to post a transcript of the speech.

Biden offered early on, "Next week, Prime Minister Abadi will make his first visit to Washington, D.C. And this provides us with an opportunity to take stock of where things stand right now. And that’s going to be the focus, with your permission, of my remarks today."

(All quotes from prepared remarks that the White House has yet to post, FYI.)

And taking stock would be a good thing.  It might not be a pretty thing, but it would be a good thing.

Any hopes that Joe would speak some truth and offer leadership vanished quickly.

Vice President Joe Biden:  Critics have made a number of claims regarding our policy in Iraq and the state of affairs in Iraq today. They say that Iraq’s fight against ISIL -- under the command of the Iraqi government, backed by America and an international coalition -— has stalled, has been stalemated. We read that ISIL remains in a commanding position inside of Iraq; that Iran and its proxies are leading the fight against ISIL, and that they are dominating Iraq; and that Iraq itself is likely to be a thing of the past, doomed to split apart because of sectarian violence. There’s just one problem with these critiques: The claims do not reflect the circumstances on the ground. The claims do not respect and represent the circumstances on the ground. They don’t reflect Iraq’s progress against ISIL -– incomplete but significant and growing; Iraq’s resilience and unity in confronting the crisis many predicted would split them apart; or Iraq’s resolve to uphold their sovereignty and their independence -– even as they look to their neighbors in all directions for assistance. 

That's just disgusting.  That's Petey Beinart 'thinking.'

You create a straw man to rail against.

Whether or not the 'fight' is bogged down is not the issue.

Joe Biden provided real leadership on LGBT rights as Vice President, he spoke plainly and forced the White House to move before it was actually ready to.

But on Iraq, he offered garbage and lies.

Whether this part of Iraq is occupied by the Islamic State or that part is?  That's not the argument nor is it the terms for success that have been laid down.

It wasn't some straw man who declared:

Finally, the United States will lead a diplomatic effort to work with Iraqi leaders and the countries in the region to support stability in Iraq.  At my direction, Secretary Kerry will depart this weekend for meetings in the Middle East and Europe, where he’ll be able to consult with our allies and partners.  And just as all Iraq’s neighbors must respect Iraq’s territorial integrity, all of Iraq’s neighbors have a vital interest in ensuring that Iraq does not descend into civil war or become a safe haven for terrorists.
Above all, Iraqi leaders must rise above their differences and come together around a political plan for Iraq’s future.  Shia, Sunni, Kurds -- all Iraqis -- must have confidence that they can advance their interests and aspirations through the political process rather than through violence.  National unity meetings have to go forward to build consensus across Iraq’s different communities.  Now that the results of Iraq’s recent election has been certified, a new parliament should convene as soon as possible.  The formation of a new government will be an opportunity to begin a genuine dialogue and forge a government that represents the legitimate interests of all Iraqis.
Now, it’s not the place for the United States to choose Iraq’s leaders.  It is clear, though, that only leaders that can govern with an inclusive agenda are going to be able to truly bring the Iraqi people together and help them through this crisis.  Meanwhile, the United States will not pursue military options that support one sect inside of Iraq at the expense of another.  There’s no military solution inside of Iraq, certainly not one that is led by the United States.  But there is an urgent need for an inclusive political process, a more capable Iraqi security force, and counterterrorism efforts that deny groups like ISIL a safe haven.
[. . .]
Regardless of what’s happened in the past, right now is a moment where the fate of Iraq hangs in the balance, and the test for all of them is going to be whether they can overcome the mistrust, the deep sectarian divisions, in some cases just political opportunism, and say this is bigger than any one of us and we’ve got to make sure that we do what’s right for the Iraqi people.  And that’s a challenge.
That’s not something that the United States can do for them.  That’s not something, by the way, that the United States Armed Forces can do for them.  We can provide them the space, we can provide them the tools.  But ultimately, they’re going to have to make those decisions.

No, those remarks were made June 19, 2014 by US President Barack Obama.

With Barack having made those remarks, Joe had to struggle to address them.

Vice President Joe Biden:  When Mosul fell, Iraq had just held their national election. Fourteen million -- roughly 14 million Iraqis had shown up at the polls. But now they had to form a government in the middle of this chaos. And having been deeply, deeply involved, as Brian McKeon will tell you because he was with me, trying to help form the first government and being engaged, we knew this could be extremely difficult [sic].
During the term of the last government, distrust had deepened so profoundly between Sunni, Shia, and Kurds -— creating serious obstacles to a unified effort against ISIL and a questioned willingness of whether they were willing to literally stay together.
But the irony -- the irony of all ironies -- is that Iraq was actually -- helped form its government because of ISIL. ISIL the very outfit that intended to tear Iraq apart and establish a caliphate, it actually united Iraqis.
The Sunnis realized they preferred a united, federal Iraq under a new government to being at the mercy of ISIL or dependent upon the other Sunni states. The Kurds realized that withdrawing from Iraq was not a viable option, and they did not want a terrorist state on their doorstep. I don’t know how many conversations I had with President Barzani relating to this. And the Shia, they realized they didn’t want to take on ISIL alone or become a vassal of a neighboring state. Consequently, they each concluded they were better off if they were in this together. And to quote a famous American politician in an early war of ours, we either hang together or hang separately.

Oh, the nonsense never ended.

Vice President Joe Biden: The Iraqis themselves recognized how badly the trust had been broken among them. Nothing less than a comprehensive change could deliver a united Iraqi government that could effectively take on ISIL, and many Iraqi leaders believed that the only way to do this, as I believed, was a wholesale change in leadership; that every interest in Iraq had to find different leaders this time to occupy the seats of power.
I remember speaking to -- with Usama Nujayfi, a proud son of Mosul, who had been the speaker of Iraqi’s parliament, and him deciding that in order to make way for a new wave of leaders, it was very important -- which he thought was important as well -- that he would have to step down as speaker.
And so there was a need, from the speaker to the Prime Minister to the president, to find new leaders. And the result was -- another widely respected Sunni, Salim Jabouri, became the new parliamentary speaker, and Iraq chose Fuad Masum, a well-respected Kurdish senior statesman, to be the new president. And he stuck to his convictions under enormous pressure -- because you know how the process works -- he, the president, is the one that then turns to one of the factions to form a government.

That's a cute, albeit incomplete, rendering of history.

I have no problem with Osama al-Nujaifi.

But he didn't step down as Speaker of Parliament for the good of the country.

He stepped down to become one of Iraq's three vice presidents.

That's actually a higher position than Speaker of Parliament.

It has more powers, much more powers.

Including the power to kill legislation after Parliament's passed it.

It was 2009 when then-Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi demonstrated that power wasn't just in theory but actual by killing a just-passed election law (and pushing the national elections back from 2009 to 2010 in the process) when he felt the election law did not adequately represent Iraqi refugees (which were predominately Sunni).

Joe likes to pretend the government changed but it didn't.

In 2010, the only change was Osama al-Nujaifi.

Everyone else stayed in their same positions.

In 2014?

There was shuffling but that was all.

Yes, Iraq finally got a new president.

But that wasn't due to a vote.

That was due to the idiot Jalal Talabani.

He can't eat right.

He thinks he can visit the US and they can suck out his cholesterol and make him all better and he can then eat mountains of unhealthy food a day.

Didn't work out for him.

Suffered a massive stroke.

Which his family lied about.

Jalal was whisked off to Germany.

They'd sit fat boy up for some photos every now and then -- just like Weekend At Bernie's, as Arabic social media noted in real time.

Iraq had no president.

The Constitution was ignored -- in part because the Talabani family lied repeatedly, insisting Jalal's health wasn't that bad and hwas improving.  He was out of the country for basically a year and a half.  And when he finally returned, he still couldn't assume his duties (or speak in public).

So there was never any doubt that Iraq would have a new president.

Nouri al-Maliki?

The thug who brought Iraq to ruin?

He is no longer prime minister.

Don't throw that confetti just yet.

He is now one of Iraq's three vice presidents.  (And he continues to occupy the home/castle of the prime minister.  Since August, he's refused to move out.)

Osama became another.  Ayad Allawi, another former prime minister of Iraq, is the third.

Where's the change Joe Biden's talking about?

Let's get back to Joe's speech and see if you can catch his 'quantum leap' in time and space in the following remarks.

US Vice President Joe Biden: There was an enormous amount of pressure, but he stuck to his guns. And he named Haider al-Abadi, the Prime Minister, a Shia leader who had built up majority support within the Shia National Alliance, which won a majority of the votes. There was a consensus among these leaders that Iraq would need a much greater measure of functioning federalism, which is called for in the constitution. They all agreed to that. That common understanding backed by genuine acts of statesmanship has led to significant progress. And the chance of a long-term unity government here.
In just eight months, Prime Minister Abadi and other Iraqi leaders have formed an inclusive government, in record time, arrived at a national budget with equitable revenue sharing, forged an oil deal between Baghdad and Erbil. I don’t know how many times Brian and I sat there over the 23 visits into Iraq being told there’s an oil deal just over the horizon. Never occurred. But in the face of this crisis, they pulled that together.
They built a consensus and began to mobilize thousands of Sunni fighters to fight against ISIL. And just this past week, Prime Minister Abadi visited Erbil, met with President Barzani to discuss cooperation with the Peshmerga forces in a plan, coordinated by General Austin in part, to help liberate Mosul. Yesterday, he was in Anbar Province announcing the delivery of over 1,000 weapons for Sunni tribes in preparation for the liberation of Anbar, in part, as part of his commitment that he made to Sunni leaders in the formation of the government.

So he starts with August when Haider al-Abadi became prime minister, moves quickly to a so-called oil 'deal' ("between Baghdad and Erbil")  That's a leap from August to December 2nd.

It's also a joke.  He's singing praises and getting away with those off key notes because he's speaking to an American public kept stupid by lazy and craven media.

There is no oil deal.

What is about this White House and their need to pronounce deals that don't exist?

That December 'deal' was not a deal.  Which is how, February 15th (two months after 'the deal'), Rudaw was able to report "First round of Erbil-Baghdad oil talks ends in impasse."  Exactly a month later, Rudaw would report, "The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said it has abided by 97 percent of its commitments under a key oil agreement with Baghdad, but that in return the central government has lived up to only 20 percent of its financial obligations."

And let's now move to March 25th:

In a detailed interview with Rudaw, Kurdistan’s Minister of Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami explains the hurdles encountered by the Kurdistan Regional Government over an oil deal signed with Baghdad. That agreement was supposed to mend a year of tensions and restart payments from Baghdad for the running of the regional government. Hawrami explains why that has not gone smoothly. “The issue is not technical, it is money and political,” he explains.

Rudaw: What is the basis of your agreement with Baghdad?

Ashti Hawrami: Our agreement with Baghdad was signed in November of last year which was a temporary agreement for 150,000 barrels of oil per day. In return, Baghdad agreed to give $500 million to the Kurdistan Region monthly. That was to continue negotiating for an agreement for 2015. In reality, we expected $1 billion by the second installment, but they only sent half a billion. We gave up on that and continued with the 150,000 barrels. On December 2, 2014 we were in Baghdad talking about the budget. We agreed that we would produce from Kurdistan’s oilfields 250,000 barrels of oil daily for SOMO (State Oil Marketing Organization) in return for the 2015 budget. We also agreed that we would transport for them 300,000 barrels of oil from Kirkuk and hand it over to SOMO at Ceyhan port. That was our agreement, and in return the Kurdistan Region would receive its 17 percent share of the budget. That was our first and principal agreement, which was to go to the Iraqi council of ministers for passing. We then continued with exporting the 150,000 barrels through December while waiting for the agreement to become law. We continued for two or three weeks as a gesture of goodwill until we see the draft of the law. But in the first seven days they started complaining, saying, “You are sending us little (oil). You have to send 250,000 barrels.” We then said that we hadn’t even started yet. We said that we hadn’t said we would export for sure 250,000 barrels a day, and that that would be the case in the annual total sum. 

Joe Biden hailed a deal as wonderful when the reality is that Baghdad's failed to honor it.

It's nothing but empty words from Baghdad.

And Joe adds his own gas baggery to that.

There's the budget.  Joe did hail the budget as a success today.

The budget?  That was January 29th. (Covered in the Jan. 31st snapshot.)

Of course, in the Iraq press these days, the big story is that oil prices are wrecking havoc on the national budget and there's talk of cuts.  Alsumaria notes that they're talking about cutting (or gutting) the education scholarships. And lucky for Joe Biden that the US press doesn't give a damn about Iraq.  Otherwise, all US outlets would be noting, as Alsumaria did, that Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jubouri declared today that the oil prices may force the government to cut salaries in the next two months.

Nothing Joe Biden was fully honest.

He spun, he lied, he embarrassed himself.

If Joe was going to have a presidential run, today was the day he would have made that clear by talking honestly about Iraq.

He didn't.

But then, he couldn't.

Joe was tasked with Iraq by Barack.

You can't run on Iraq today and win.

You can't even get the presidential nomination today if you're the anchor that sunk Iraq.

Joe could have provided honesty but he didn't.

So he'll go down as the only two term Democratic Vice President in modern time not to run for the party's presidential nomination.  Not since Alben Barkley was forced not to run (opposition from labor) has a sitting Vice President from the Democratic Party been so humiliated.

Words matter.

And if you don't want an American audience to know about some words, the easiest way to conceal them -- even in plain sight -- is to leave them in a foreign language.

Those who paid attention -- a few of us actually did -- to the increased thuggery throughout Nouri al-Maliki's term should remember that a hallmark was his hatred of the press, his attacks on the press. They weren't limited to encouraging his thugs to point guns at reporters (the New York Times infamously had to remove an American reporter from Iraq when that happened to him) and they weren't limited to suing England's Guardian newspaper nor were they limited to (in my opinion) his ordering the assassination of Iraqi journalist Hahdi al-Mahdi.

There was so much more.

He tried to criminalize reporting early on.

In that, he was following the US government's lead in Iraq where they repeatedly went after stringers insisting that their photography of the aftermath of bombings had to mean they were the ones behind the bombs.

Did the US government really believe that?


Nor did Nouri.

But both knew they could intimidate the press with the fear of arrest.

Nouri's 'gone' (again, he's a vice president who refuses to vacate the prime minister's residency -- how gone is that really?).

And Haider's a change, right?

Haider al-Abadi's a friend of the press.

That's what the western press keeps insisting.

And to make the claim, they have to ignore a great deal.

For instance, they ignored yesterday's speech by Haider.

Not the part about 'liberating' Anbar.

They were fully on board with repeating that.

We noted the press release from the prime minister's office yesterday.

In part.

And waited to see who'd step forward to report.

No one in the western press has, have they?

Haider attacked the press while speaking of 'liberating' Anbar.  He said that the military forces had real victories but the media kept trying to undercut them.

It wasn't a long speech, it wasn't a long press release.

So how did they miss it?

Haider's turning out to be another Nouri.

Check the archives, the accepted view of Nouri today?

We documented it in real time.


People waited four years and -- yes, daily -- ignored the signs with Nouri.

Maybe if they'd called him out or even reported honestly -- maybe then things would be different?

Neither the western press nor the White House helps Iraq by being silent on these attacks.

(When I noted this morning we'd be covering something the press was ignoring, a friend at NBC News called -- he was aware of Haider's remarks on the press and knew that's what I was referring to.  He said it was funny how I gave people enough rope to hang themselves.  I wasn't doing that.  I wasn't silent yesterday because I wanted to see who would cover it.  I was silent because the press release didn't make the English language version of Hadier's website.  I was waiting to see if it would.  It didn't.  And I was waiting for that because I'd much rather copy and paste that in then have dozens of e-mails from people who never bothered to learn Arabic insisting that I must be wrong -- even though they can't read Arabic -- because that would never be said.)

Let's start wrapping up.

Margaret Griffis ( counts 406 dead from violence.

It disappeared!

From our links!

I'm just not in the mood for hour after hour to have "bulls**t" on this website spelled out in full.

I love the s-word, I use it all the time.

But not here.

And I really didn't appreciate that it was up on this page because of

That word is why we have the work safe policy (yes, I used "cock" on Saturday -- it's an allowed word and, equally true, if we're going to get risky on the policy, the weekend is when we do it since the bulk of our community members who check the site from work do so Monday through Friday).  The Washington Post quoted Dick Cheney, then President of Vice, using that term.  There were people, across the country, who got in trouble at their work for accessing a website -- a daily newspaper -- because of the s-word being there in full.

That's why we've always had the work safe policy.

I've got a bigger potty mouth than anyone.

But at this site, we don't get to use my favorite term, the s-word.

When I have time to go into the links, I'll put back on.  But when that time comes, if I have to take it down again, it's staying down.

Too many organizations stay silent to curry favor.  Applause to one group which seems consistently willing to speak their truth because truth matters.  Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America issued the following today:

Tel: 212-982-9699

NEW YORK (April 9, 2015) - The following statement is from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff in response to today’s announcement by New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio of his appointments for the Veteran Advisory Board (VAB) for the city:

“These appointments, already long over due, are a visible representation of the tone deafness of this administration on veteran issues. Most glaring is the lack of Veteran Service Organizations and veteran service providers represented on the list. It’s hard to believe this administration could be further disconnected from the veterans’ community, but these appointments achieve exactly that.

The mayor made big promises about veterans’ services in New York City but, so far, has not delivered despite being provided ample time and opportunity. For example, it took him nearly nine months to appoint a Commissioner of Veterans Affairs. Even now, after Commissioner Dr. Loree Sutton’s nearly eight months on the job, we still don’t have a public comprehensive plan for the direction of Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs (MOVA) or veteran services in the city.

IAVA is a national veterans empowerment organization headquartered in New York with more than 10 years of experience in delivering results for veterans. Yet, when we’ve tried to provide advice and guidance to this administration, we’ve repeatedly been rebuffed. IAVA and other VSOs have been highly critical of the mayor in numerous testimonies ranging from MOVA to the VAB. With little VSO representation on the VAB, we hope this isn’t a sign of what happens when you question this mayor.

While the appointment of a committee won’t provide a sure fix, it should be part of a real plan, real leadership and real resources. The mayor still has not met once with the existing VAB, or a single time with IAVA or other leading veterans organizations. We know he’s busy, but if the president of the United States can find time to meet with us three times over the last few months, we’d hope the mayor could squeeze us into his schedule.

Since being elected, the mayor has consistently fought expansion of MOVA – including expanding its budget and creating a Department of Veterans Affairs, which would bring greater services to NYC veterans and has overwhelming support in city council. In total the MOVA budget, after this year’s budget is passed, will only be roughly $500,000 for a city that has an estimated 230,000 veterans. The mayor was also largely responsible for a gubernatorial veto of a veterans pension bill that was passed nearly unanimously in the state legislature.

With 6,844 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs disability claims pending and 3,380 stuck in the New York Regional Office backlog, our veterans need help, not excuses, from their local leaders. Further, city veterans wait an average of 225 days to complete a claim, significantly higher than the national average of 184 days. A viable VAB is exactly what our veterans need. These latest appointments to the VAB are just another example of the mayor’s laissez-faire attitude towards veterans’ issues in NYC. The community deserves and demands better from its city.

We have more post-9/11 members than any organization in America. And more than anyone in NYC. Anyone who works in this space or attends the Veterans Day parade knows that. The lack of a representation of any kind from IAVA is a slap in the face to thousands of our members city wide.”

Note to media: Email or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the leading post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization (VEO) with the most diverse and rapidly growing membership in America. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, IAVA has repeatedly received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.