Saturday, May 30, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Saturday, May 30, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Haider al-Abadi goes after a major Sunni politician, Baghdad's off-limits to refugees and the State Dept has "no comment," Justin Raimondo plays the Truth Game on Bernie Sanders, and much more.

CBS and AP note Iraqi officials declared yesterday that car bombings targeted two Baghdad hotels leaving 15 people dead. The bombings were late Thursday and, in addition to those, Margaret Griffis ( counts 22 dead from violence on Friday across Iraq.  But back to the 15 dead from Thursday's hotel bombings, where were they?


Dropping back to Thursday's snapshot:

In other signs that there is no political solution in Iraq today, Margaret Griffis ( notes, "Baghdad has asked the Kurdish government to allow 20,000 refugees from Anbar province to relocate there because they will not be allowed into the capital. The fear is that terrorists will be hidden among the displaced."
First, you have citizens of Iraq being denied the right to enter their own capitol.
Second, if Haider al-Abadi really believes there's a threat of terrorists being in with the refugees, why would he insist the KRG take them in?
In what world does that make sense?
'We can't let them into Baghdad because they might be bombers but how about you take these possible bombers into the KRG because it doesn't matter if Erbil gets attacked or Kurds get killed."
That's what it sounds like.
And it sounds like Haider's placing a premium on one group of lives (Shi'ite) while arguing that Sunni lives (the refugees) do not matter nor do the Kurds.
There is no unity in Iraq under Haider al-Abadi -- not even a pretense of unity.

Sad news for Haider, attacks will take place inside Baghdad whether or not he lets the refugees in.  Already in Baghdad, the seeds of his own destruction are present.

You people can watch while I'm scrubbing these floors
And I'm scrubbing the floors while you're gawking
Maybe one you tip me and it makes you feel swell
In this crummy southern town in this crummy old hotel
But you'll never guess to who you're talking
No, you couldn't ever guess to who you're talking
Then one night there's a scream in the night
And you wonder who could that have been?
And you see me kind of grinning while I'm scrubbing
And you say, "What's she got to grin?"

"Pirate Jenny" is from Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera which debuted in 1928. The song has been covered by many including Nina Simone and Judy Collins.

The thing about corrupt and unresponsive governments is that they crater from the inside all on their own.  External factors may distract from what's taking place, but they're rotten at the root and beg for their own fall.

Following in the footsteps of Noam Chomsky (2006's Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy), Loren Thompson (Forbes) declares Iraq a failed state and notes:

Iraq’s political culture is one of the most corrupt in the world.  Transparency International, the global coalition against corruption, ranks Iraq 170th out of 175 countries in terms of the rapacity of its leaders and the extent of official corruption.  Virtually every transaction of the government from construction contracts to military commissions to prisoner releases is tainted by corruption.  A commission to investigate the extent of wrongdoing has calculated that up to $330 billion in public funds is missing as a result of malfeasance by officials.  This continues a long tradition in which political leaders disbursed funds to strengthen ties with families, tribes and religious communities at the expense of the larger good.  And as Patrick Cockburn observed in the British newspaper The Independent, “The system cannot be reformed by the government because it would be striking at the very mechanism by which it rules.”

Ramadi fell to the Islamic State this month despite the fact that the Iraqi forces present far outnumbered the Islamic State fighters on the scene.  Michelle Tan (Army Times) quotes Gen Ray Odierno stating, "As you look at this, you could say there probably is a problem with leadership.  They have to have the will to fight. It always goes back to the government of Iraq.  Unless you get everyone to believe the government of Iraq is there for all Iraqis, you're always going to have this problem."

Whether working in Bully Boy Bush's administration or Barack Obama's, Odierno has always been one of the smarter officials.

And for a diplomat, proving how stupid he truly is, Barack hires a retired general to be an envoy -- a retired general who doesn't want to be seen as a diplomat and who insists on being called a general.  As everyone knows, Barack went for John Allen to try to shut Allen up (Allen was criticizing Barack's foreign policy).  But, as everyone knows, Allen is unqualified to work towards a diplomatic solution.

The White House notes:

Special Presidential Envoy Allen Travel to Iraq and France

Media Note
Washington, DC
May 30, 2015

Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL General John Allen is in Baghdad to meet with Prime Minister Abadi and other senior Iraqi political and security leaders. They will discuss U.S. support for Iraqi-led efforts to counter ISIL, including operations in Anbar and how the U.S. and the Coalition can continue to support the Government of Iraq’s plan for re-taking Ramadi from ISIL and restoring Iraq’s territorial integrity.
General Allen and Deputy Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk will then travel to Paris to join Secretary Kerry at the Small Group Ministerial of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL on June 2.

The retired general who now likes to play toy soldier spoke to France 24:

FRANCE 24: Can a group like the Islamic State organisation be entirely defeated? Is that even possible?

General Allen: "Well, we need to be careful about applying...solely a military term to an outcome. When you hear us talk about the defeat of Daesh (the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group), inherent in the outcome is an expectation that specifically, and more broadly, we can deal with some of the underlying causes that ultimately bring an organisation like Daesh into being.”

“So at the same time we talk about the defeat of Daesh, we’re also talking about dealing with the origins of violent extremism, and I think we would say that we have to deal with the political issues. We have to deal with inherent social, economic, religious issues, because in the end, the aggregation of those creates an environment where an organisation like Daesh can find cohesion and purpose.”

Well when does the envoy plan on addressing those "underlying causes"?

It's almost a year since Barack declared the only solution for Iraq was a "political solution."

All this talk about military aspects.  Would it be any different -- would the administration be working on a political solution -- if they'd picked someone more appropriate for the envoy job -- say Jimmy Carter?

If Carter wasn't available, he could have gone with Cher.

  1. Ash Carter Says"IRAQI ARMY LACKS WILL 2FIGHT"YA THINK SpendREALLY Arming The Kurds.We BLEW Off Sunni Tribesman,4 Shiite Gov &Now We'll Pay

Iraq is in ruins and all Barack can think to do is drop more bombs from overhead.

Which will produce?

More ruins.

Diplomacy in the US is supposed to be led by the State Dept and, goodness, have they failed.  This was obvious yet again on Friday during the press briefing moderated by Jeff Rathke.

QUESTION: Staying on ISIL?

MR RATHKE: Yes, we can and then – yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Regarding the ongoing efforts to retake Anbar from ISIL, Sunni fighters have told our channel that they’ve been asking Baghdad for weapons, for training, and that they’re not getting it and they suspect that it’s because they’re Sunni. And those comments come on the heels of the Defense Secretary saying that it may be time for the U.S. to actually directly train Sunni tribes and provide them weapons. Does this Administration believe that Prime Minister al-Abadi is acting in good faith when he says that he’s trying to have a unified front against ISIL, or does this Administration believe he’s favoring --

MR RATHKE: Can I stop you there so I can give you a one-word answer?


MR RATHKE: The answer is yes. Do we believe he has – is committed to a – his policy – implementing his policy of a unified Iraq and to representing the interests of all – of all of Iraq’s people? Yes.

QUESTION: But the Defense Secretary also told reporters on his way to Singapore that as far as the Pentagon can tell the ongoing training that’s been happening, the ongoing arming that’s been happening coming out of Baghdad has been primarily to Shiites and not to Sunnis. So it kind of begs the question: Is Abadi doing enough to actually make this a unified fight? And if he is, why would then the defense secretary say on the record that it may be time for the U.S. to essentially step in, even under the rubric of acting on the invitation of Baghdad but do the training and the arming itself?

MR RATHKE: So let me – so you’ve packed a lot of questions into that one. So first, the Government of Iraq is determined to eject ISIL from Ramadi, and the international coalition shares the same – the same determination. And we are supporting the efforts led by the Government of Iraq to liberate its territory from ISIL in Anbar and in other parts of Iraq. So we’re going to continue to support our Iraqi partners.
We will do everything that we can to support Iraqi forces, including the tribes of Anbar, as they try to secure the province from ISIL. This includes our ongoing training and equipping program, our airstrikes, our expedited provision of equipment to address the threat posed by ISIL’s use of truck bombs because we recognize that our strategy requires a well-equipped and trained partner on the ground.
Now with regard to the question of Sunni tribes, we are encouraged by the announcement of hundreds of additional tribal fighters in Anbar province, and they were inducted into the Popular Mobilization Forces two days ago. The Iraqis have to be empowered to take this on themselves, and so that’s why we’ve been engaging with Iraqis across the political spectrum locally, nationally. And we believe Iraqis are determined to rise to this challenge, and Prime Minister Abadi and his cabinet and his council of ministers are as well.

QUESTION: Has the U.S. made it very clear, though, to Abadi that he has to be as vigorous as possible to make certain that there is parity between Sunnis who are fighting and Shiites who are fighting?

MR RATHKE: Well, we have – this is central to Prime Minister Abadi’s plan, and we support him and we are in regular contact with him and his government about it. I would also point out that it was the Iraqi council of ministers just about 10 days ago that announced the accelerated training and equipping of local tribes in coordination with Anbar authorities. This includes recruiting into the Iraqi Army but also the Popular Mobilization Forces. There are Sunni tribal units currently being trained by the Iraqi Security Forces and equipped by the Government of Iraq.
And this is part of their budget. A lot of these resources are now coming on stream. And in the same way, the U.S. and a lot of the assistance from – that was approved by Congress, the 1.6 billion that was approved at the end of 2014, is also coming online. So we’re seeing these increased efforts from the Iraqi Government but also a lot of our stuff coming online, too.

QUESTION: And this might be a better question for the Pentagon, but do you anticipate that as the U.S. continues its train and equip mission that U.S. troops will be actively engaged in working with the Sunni tribes to make certain that they have the capability and the equipment to engage in this fight against ISIL?

MR RATHKE: Well, again, our train – our train and equip program and the locations where it’s being carried out, those are better questions for the Department of Defense. I don’t have any announcements to make on their behalf. But certainly, we have been – as our assistance approved by Congress comes online, this also involves providing assistance to the Sunni tribes with the approval and in coordination with the central government in Baghdad.

QUESTION: Okay, and the one question on the human rights situation.

MR RATHKE: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: People in Ramadi and the surrounding areas are complaining that Baghdad is still making it very difficult for them to basically escape the fighting, especially if they want to go to Baghdad; they need to have a relative sponsor them. Baghdad’s argument is that they want to make certain that members of ISIL aren’t sneaking in among those who are trying to escape the fighting. Is Baghdad being a little too careful by half in the U.S.’s estimation?

MR RATHKE: We’re concerned about the humanitarian situation in Iraq, and there have been a lot of people displaced from Ramadi and around. This is, of course, a complicated humanitarian crisis. There’re about 2.8 million people – 2.8 million Iraqis internally displaced since the start of ISIL’s campaign in January 2014. So we are certainly aware of that, and we remain in contact with Iraqi authorities about it. We recognize their efforts as well to provide the displaced people with financial support and food rations, and we continue to urge Iraqi authorities to take all measures to assure safety and free passage to people who are fleeing the violence.
You made reference and there has been reference made in recent days to situation at the bridge leading into Baghdad. We understand that that bridge was opened and approximately 3,000 families with sponsorship in Baghdad have been allowed to cross, and that very few families remain around the bridge. But that doesn’t change the fact that the overall situation for many people who’ve fled the violence remains dire, and that’s why we remain engaged on it.

QUESTION: Is the sponsorship, though, perhaps an impediment to providing physical safety to others who are trying to escape the fighting in Ramadi?

MR RATHKE: I don’t have a particular comment on that aspect.

A human rights event is taking place and the State Dept has no "particular comment"?


In December 2011, as the US military was implementing the Pentagon's drawdown from Iraq, then-prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki began using the military to target his political rivals.  Various Sunni leaders in Baghdad were targeted as he had military tanks circling their homes.  Most infamously, he had Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq removed from a plane headed to northern Iraq.  They were held for a few hours before being released and allowed to board the plane.  The next day, Nouri issued an arrest warrant for Tareq al-Hashemi.  The targeting of Sunni politicians never ended under Nouri.

Enter new prime minister Haider al-Abadi representing change or 'change.'

And nothing has changed.

Sunnis remain targeted, Sunnis continue to be arrested without warrants, they continue to be threatened and bullied and now it's time for Haider to go after Sunni politicians.

Atheel al-Nujaifi is the Governor of Nineveh Province.  He is also someone Nouri repeatedly attempted to force out of office.  He is also the brother of Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi (one of Iraq's three vice presidents).

And now he's supposedly out of office.

Al Manar reports that 169 MPs voted to remove Atheel as governor and State of Law MP Hatham al-Jubouri insists this took place following "a formal request from the prime minister" to remove al-Nujaifi.

BAS News adds that Shi'ite MP Muwaffaq al-Rubaie is alleging the KRG has set up a "number of illegal military bases in the Kurdistan Region. ‘Derbodan’ base, where civilians are being trained for operations to free Mosul, is operating under the control of Mosul governor Atheel al-Nujaifi, and should be closed down. The forces that are being trained in those military bases are all under the influence of al- Nujaifi; this is illegal and he should be held accountable for it."

Hamza Mustaffa quotes an unnamed politician speaking to Aswat al-Iraq about the effort against al-Nujaifi:

There are two reasons for what happened. Firstly, he is hated by many government figures and parties who want to hold him responsible for the fall of Mosul despite the fact that it was the military leadership who must bear full responsibility for this. The second reason is related to a previous request submitted by 23 members of the [Nineveh] Provincial Council calling for his dismissal.
Iraqi Minister of Provincial Affairs Ahmed Abdullah Al-Jubouri, for reasons we don’t know, submitted the request to Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi who referred it to parliament, despite the fact that this is illegal as it [the legal request] lacked the required legal pretexts.

All Iraq News reports Atheel al-Nujaifi stated that he is still the governor and that he has received no notification that this has changed.  He is quoted stating, "The members of the State of Law Coalition voted for dismissing me because I rejected involving the Popular Mobilzation Forces (PMF) in liberating Nineveh.  I have been dismissed for different reasons that include my last visit to the US [. . .]"

State of Law is the political coalition headed by Nouri al-Maliki. The so-called Popular Mobilization Forces are the Shi'ite militias -- many of which are the thugs accused of crimes against civilians.

MP Hadi al-Amiri is a thug.  He heads the Badr militia.  Alsumaria reports that he was crowing that Atheel is "a lesson" for those who betray. He is most infamous internationally for threatening to mutilate Americans a few weeks back when he was unhappy with a bill being considered in the US Congress.

This process began Thursday, yet Friday at the US State Dept, Jeff Rathke was all grins.

QUESTION: I have an Iraq follow-up.


QUESTION: You said you believe that Iraqis are determined to rise to this challenge. What makes you believe that?

MR RATHKE: Well, as I said, this is a – we’ve been in contact over the last days and weeks with people across Iraq, with people across the political spectrum, local officials, national officials. And that’s the feedback that we get and that’s why we’re committed to helping Iraq.

QUESTION: Did you believe when the United States removed all of its combat forces from Iraq at the end of 2011 that the Iraqi forces were then capable of and determined to defend their country’s territory?

MR RATHKE: I don’t have a retrospective analysis at my fingertips here to offer on that.

QUESTION: But why would you have pulled out if you didn’t think they were capable of it? And public statements by multiple officials suggested that the United States believed that they were capable of defending their territory, so – the reason I’m asking is it’s not clear to me why your judgment, which was that they could fight back then, is necessarily – and appears to have been wrong – is necessarily correct now, that they can and will fight.

MR RATHKE: Well, again, I’m just passing on to you what we hear now from the people we are in contact with across the country. We realize and we’ve said many times that this is a very difficult fight. It’s not – it’s by no means easy, so it requires commitment and it requires the leadership which, again, we believe Prime Minister Abadi has been demonstrating through his efforts to reach out across sectarian and ethnic lines.

Apparently attempting to illegal oust Sunni politician Atheel al-Nujaifi is, to the State Dept, evidence that "Prime Minister Abadi has been demonstrating through his efforts to reach out across sectarian and ethnic lines."

In the US, Justin Raimondo ( drops a few truth bombs on fake-ass Bernie Sanders -- US Senator and vying for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination:

The evolution of Bernie Sanders – from his days as a Liberty Unionist radical and Trotskyist fellow-traveler, to his first political success as Mayor of Burlington, his election to Congress and then on to the Senate – limns the course of the post-Sixties American left. Although birthed in the turmoil of the Vietnam war, the vaunted anti-interventionism of this crowd soon fell by the wayside as domestic political tradeoffs trumped ideology. Nothing exemplifies this process of incremental betrayal better than Sanders’ support for the troubled F-35 fighter jet, the classic case of a military program that exists only to enrich the military-industrial complex. Although the plane has been plagued with technical difficulties, and has toted up hundreds of billions of dollars in cost overruns, Sanders has stubbornly defended and voted for it because Lockheed-Martin manufactures it in Vermont.
Never mind all that highfalutin’ anti-militarist rhetoric – a politician’s job is to bring home the bacon. And that is what Sanders, and his fellow progressives (for the most part), have done. In Bernie’s case, the F-35 issue dramatizes the political dynamics of how the “anti-imperialist” radicals of yesteryear became the Establishment’s house progressives in 2015.
While the Democrats – whom the “independent” Sanders caucuses with, and votes with 99% of the time – vote to expand the Welfare State, the Republicans vote to expand the Warfare State. Aside from a few symbolic skirmishes, done mainly for public consumption, neither really stands in the way of the other. In this manner, both sectors of the federal budget have expanded exponentially to the point where we face a real crisis of fiscal insolvency at home, as well as deadly “blowback” emanating from abroad. Sanders plays his part in this legislative tradeoff, just like all the rest of them.

The Ron Paul of the left? Listen, I know Ron Paul. Ron Paul is a friend of mine – and, Senator, you’re no Ron Paul!

Lastly,, David Bacon's latest book is The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration  is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press).  This is from his photo essay "STREETS OF NEW YORK -- Mexican moms of Brooklyn:"

A friend once told me once that when she was growing up back east, if you wanted tortillas you had to buy them in a can from Old El Paso.  It was a big joke since she was from Las Cruces, which is right next to El Paso.  I can't imagine what they tasted like.  When my family left New York City in the 1950s there were hardly any Mexicans there, at least that we knew of.  Even when I went back to live for a while in the early 70s there weren't many.

That's certainly not true anymore.  A few years ago I went to the Cinco de Mayo celebration in Flushing Meadows.  You can still see that huge strange earth globe there, leftover from the 1964 World's Fair, with hollow spaces crisscrossed by metal struts where all the oceans should be.  That year, under the globe lounged all these young cholos and cholas, styling like they were in East Oakland or East LA, their lowrider bikes with the front forks sticking out and chrome all over.

That year they said there were 750,000 people from Mexico living in New York City - enough so their nickname for it was PueblaYork, the way California's become OaxaCalifornia.

One of the big centers of Mexican life today is Sunset Park in Brooklyn.  There Fourth and Fifth Avenues are lined with taquerias, although their idea of a quesadilla, with orange sauce and lettuce on it, is a little different from what I'm used to, being an Oakland boy.  But the stores have as many signs in Spanish as you see in Huntington Park in southeast LA.  I'm waiting to see if we'll start seeing signs in Mixteco or Nahuatl, the way you can in some places in the San Joaquin Valley.  And if you walk just a block over to Sixth Avenue, the language you hear is Chinese and the restaurants sell smoked duck.  And then a block or two over from that the voices speak Arabic.  New York was never really a melting pot -- just a lot of people from all over, living next to each other, but most fighting to keep ahold of their culture.