Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, May 26, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter tells some truths, the White House then stabs him in the back for it, Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi insists that liberating Anbar Province "is so close," and much more.

Mark your calendars, Ammar Al Shamary (USA Today) reports, "Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Tuesday that 'the liberation of Anbar is so close'. "

So close -- closer and closer
Feel your body next to mine
So close -- closer and closer
closer and closer and closer
I lose all sense of time 
I want to stay here for the rest of my life
I want to stay here for the rest of my life
-- "So Close," written by Bill Wray, Rob Mounsey and Diana Ross, first appears on Diana's Silk Electric album.

And it may take the rest of our lives.

It certainly won't be "so close."

Anbar isn't a city, it's a province.  And while Ramadi feel to the Islamic State this month, the province itself has been under IS de facto control since spring of 2014.  The 'success' of Tikrit this spring was no 'success' at all.

The mission to retake the city from the Islamic State was supposed to be quick and last less than a week.  It took them weeks just to get into the city itself.  And today?

Tikrit is empty.

Not thriving.

Refugees who fled the violence of the Islamic State refuse to return for the same reason that others fled the 'liberation' -- the Shi'ite militias (thugs) were looting and terrorizing.

And Iraq's prime minister responded how?

After denying the War Crimes were taking place, after photos surfaced proving that they were, Haider announced that from this moment forward those breaking the law better stop.  Starting now.  He's not kidding, mister.  Right now.

No one was ever punished for anything despite the fact that the thugs were quite happy during their crime spree -- as demonstrated by their broad smiles in one photograph after another.

Yeah, photographs.


And yet no one was punished.

Even with photographs of the guilty, Haider and his forces were unable to figure out what the criminals looked like.

Tikrit was a failure in every way.

It revealed that the Iraqi forces were not ready for combat.

It also revealed that the Iranian help was no real help at all.

Despite -- or maybe because -- Iranian Quds Force ommander Qasem Solemani calling the shots, the mission faltered week after week and the Iraqi forces were only able to move forward (and into Tikrit) as a result of Solemani leaving and the US military dropping bombs from war planes.

So claims by Haider al-Abadi that liberation of Anbar Province -- the entire province -- are "close" are probably as dubious as every other claim the fool has made.

That includes, but is not limited to, when he tried to big boy on the international stage last fall by announcing that he had 'intelligence' on terrorist attacks on NYC's subways.  Though the White House was indulgent, as always, on their child-like idiot, others -- especially NYC officials -- felt no obligation to treat crazy Haider with kid gloves and he returned to Iraq with the howls of laughter still echoing in his ears.

With that record dogging him, Haider wants to announce that not only is he initiating a mission to 'liberate' Anbar Province but that liberation is very close.

Hamdi Alkhshali, Nick Paton Walsh and Laura Smith-Spark (CNN) report, "Iraq forces have launched a major military operation to liberate Iraq's Anbar and Salaheddin provinces from ISIS, Iraqi state media and a key Shia militia group said Tuesday, a little more than a week after the militant group overran Anbar's provincial capital, Ramadi."

So the Iraqi forces are launching an operation --

Well, Iraq military adjacent at any rate.  Ben Kamisar (The Hill) words it this way, "Iraqi-allied forces have launched a new offensive to retake two major provinces from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to local media reports."  Simon Tomlinson (Telegraph of London) notes, "A spokesman for Iraq's Shi'ite militias boasted that the operation launched to retake the province from the Islamic State will 'not last for a long time' and that Iraqi forces have surrounded the provincial capital from three sides."

The Shi'ite militias -- noted for their abuses and their criminal actions -- are taking part in the action in Sunni Anbar?

No, they're leading it -- or saying that they are.  Reuters reports, "Iraq's Shi'ite militia announced on Tuesday they had taken charge of the campaign to drive Islamic State from the western province of Anbar, giving the operation an openly sectarian codename that could infuriate its Sunni population." And the codename is Labaik ya Hussein to ensure that sectarian tensions rise even further.  AP explains that the phrase "refers to a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and one of the most revered figures of Shiite Islam."  Joshua Keating (Slate) elaborates further:

The Shiite militias have named the Anbar campaign “Labaik ya Hussein”—a slogan honoring the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad whose defeat and beheading in 680 A.D. is one of the defining moments in the history of Shia Islam and the schism between the Shiites and Sunnis. The name is not exactly designed to assuage the fears of Sunni locals who see the campaign as an Iranian-backed Shiite takeover. It also plays into the hands of ISIS, which portrays itself as fighting on behalf of Iraq’s beleaguered Sunni population. 

Zee News words it this way, "Iraq`s Shi`ite paramilitaries announced on Tuesday they had taken charge of the campaign to drive Islamic State from the western province of Anbar, giving the operation an openly sectarian codename that could infuriate its Sunni population."

AFP reports, "The Pentagon has expressed disappointment over a decision by Iraqi militias to impose an explicitly Shia name for a military operation in Iraq’s Sunni heartland, saying it could aggravate sectarian tensions."  Zee News words it this way, "Washington: The Pentagon on Tuesday said it was "unhelpful" for Iraq`s Shi`ite militia to have announced an openly sectarian code name for the operation to retake the Sunni city of Ramadi and added that, in the US view, the full-on offensive had yet to begin."

And these steps make the news at the same time that Iraqi Spring MC notes that  southeast of Baquba, Shi'ite militias have burned ten houses and are telling people they must leave their village.  The same outlets rushing to repeat the Baghdad propaganda shy from reporting those actions.

Eric Schmitt gets taken to the woodshed by Glenn Greenwald (The Intercept) who notes Schmitt's column passing as 'reporting' argues that the US is being too 'kid gloves' in the fight against the Islamic State in order to keep civilian deaths down.  Greenwald notes that Schmitt ignores civilian deaths and that there were outlets he could have turned to:

Among that evidence is the data compiled by Airwars.org, a group of independent journalists with extensive experience reporting on that region. Last week, the group reported:
To May 13th 2015, between 587 and 734 civilian non-combatant fatalities had been reported from 95 separate incidents, in both Iraq and Syria.
Of these it is our provisional view — based on available reports — that between 370-465 civilian non-combatants have been killed in incidents likely to have been conducted by the coalition.
A further 130-145 claimed deaths attributed to coalition airstrikes are poorly reported or are single-sourced, while an additional 85-125  reported fatalities resulted from contested events (for example, claims that the Iraq military might instead have been responsible.)

Is anyone in charge?

Clearly Haider al-Abadi isn't.

Is the White House?

Is it just going to continue to fund and arm Shi'ite thugs who terrorize the Sunni population?

One grown up is Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.  On State of the Union (CNN) Sunday, Barbara Starr interviewed  Carter who spoke of the fall of Ramadi to the Islamic State.

Secretary Ash Carter:  What apparently happened was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight. Uh, they were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force. And yet they failed to fight they withdrew from the sight and uh that says to me and i think to most of us that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and  defend themselves now we can give them training, we can give them equipment, we obviously can't give them the will to fight.

This was not a controversial call.  It was a description of what had happened.  But there are some who can never tolerate truth.

Al Jazeera reports that Iraqi MP Hakim al-Saumili threw a snit fit insisting the United States bore the brunt of the blame because they did not furnish Iraq with "good equipment, weapons and aerial support."


Were the Iraqi forces fighting to protect a US city?

No, they were fighting to protect their own city.

Anything a foreign government does is extra.  

If you can't get your own act together, that's on you.  Quit being such a whiny little bitch and blaming everyone else for your failures.

And that's the lesson Haider and his supporters need to learn to face.

But like an overindulgent parent, Barack refuses to allow Haider to learn accountability.  So Joe Biden was rushed in to kiss the boo-boo as the White House announced on Monday:

Readout of Vice President Biden's Call with Prime Minister Al-Abadi of Iraq

Vice President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi today to reaffirm U.S. support for the Iraqi government’s fight against ISIL. The Vice President recognized the enormous sacrifice and bravery of Iraqi forces over the past eighteen months in Ramadi and elsewhere. The Vice President welcomed the Council of Minister’s unanimous decision on May 19th to mobilize additional troops, honor those who have fallen, and prepare for counter-attack operations. The Vice President pledged full U.S. support in these and other Iraqi efforts to liberate territory from ISIL, including the expedited provision of U.S. training and equipment to address the threat posed by ISIL’s use of truck bombs.

Not everyone rushed to indulge Haider's tantrum (or to stab Carter in the back).  Matt Stout (Boston Herald) reports

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter was “absolutely right” when he said Iraqi forces lack the “will to fight” the surging Islamic State, U.S. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch told the Herald yesterday, but the South Boston Democrat warned that Iraq can’t expect the U.S. to commit more troops to “do the fighting that their young people should be doing.”
Lynch, one of Congress’ most frequent visitors to war-torn areas in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the U.S. has “created a moral hazard,” where people “in this region think that we’re going to come in and fight their war for them.”

And Kristina Wong (The Hill) reports, "The Pentagon doubled down Tuesday on Defense Secretary Ash Carter's criticism of Iraqi forces, saying that local troops 'chose to withdraw' from the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Ramadi."  Al Jazeera adds, "Iraqi forces in Ramadi had held a 10-to-1 numerical advantage over the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant when the pro-government troops retreated in the face of an ISIL offensive over a week ago, Pentagon sources told Al Jazeera on Tuesday."

Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 223 violent deaths across Iraq today.

In the United States, Monday was Memorial Day -- a day that gets shorthanded as Veterans Day II.  It is about sacrifice and, specifically, about remembering those who died while serving.  The White House elected to 'honor' the day and the dead by stabbing Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in the back.  The White House also elected to yet again spin on US forces stationed in war zones.

IAVA's Paul Rieckhoff wasn't silent about that nonsense:

  • Hmmmm. So, it's all over? Tell that to our troops still serving there. And in Iraq.

  • Lastly, David Bacon's latest book is The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration.  We'll close with this from Bacon's introduction to his latest photo essay "Streets of New York: Kids"

    I was a little boy when we left New York City for Oakland.  My father always said we'd become transcontinental migrants so we could live in a better place to bring up a family. I knew there were other reasons too, even at the time.  He'd been blacklisted and couldn't get work.  Their friends were getting called up before the UnAmerican Activities Committee.  I guess my folks were a little scared, and who wouldn't be.

    But I always wondered if I would have turned out different growing up in New York.  Now when I go back I look at the children I see in the street and think -- that could have been me.  I remember going to PS 125, and feeling abandoned when my mother left me there on what must have been my first day.  I remember her bundling me up in a snowsuit later that winter, before we left.

    Kids are kids.  But the ones I see in New York now have a combination of child aspect and adult aspect.  Maybe they grow up fast.  They seem happy enough, but not always.  I see them a lot with questions in their faces, not too sure about this adult world they're faced with.  Then they're funny and aggressive, trying to figure it all out.

    kristina wong