Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, June 2, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, a conference takes place in Paris, Antony Blinken sounds like he's on drugs, and much more.

And now we have the answer.

How could Secretary of State John Kerry fall off his bicycle last week in France?  And how could he be stupid enough to go riding at his age?


Clearly, the State Dept needs to institute weekly drug testing for all employees.

At today's US State Dept briefing, spokesperson Marie Harf stumbled around as if on acid and tripping hard as she was pressed on what the US is doing, why Blinken said the US would "redouble efforts," and why the US was not, in fact, going to "redouble efforts"?

QUESTION: Can I ask you about the Paris conference?

MS HARF: You can.

QUESTION: I think you’ll be able to answer maybe more about that than this subject.


QUESTION: Deputy Secretary Blinken said that everyone would redouble efforts. What did he mean? What are you going to double – advisors, equipment? What is the actual redoubling going to --

MS HARF: Well, I’m not sure he was using “double” in a specific way. I think he was using it colloquially to mean that this group that met in Paris agreed on a couple of things. The first is that given the situation on the battlefield, we need to increase even more intelligence-sharing, getting them assistance as quickly as we can. We’ve been doing all of this for some time, but really underscoring the need to do as much as we can and more as quickly as possible.
I think it was also important to note that they fully expressed their support for Prime Minister Abadi and the plan that he laid out recently to take on ISIL when it comes to Anbar. He was there at the meeting. So these were all, I think, important things that came out of it, but nothing specific to announce at this point.
I would note – and the Secretary made mention of this as well – that there has been – and let me get the specifics on this – delivery that’s already gone through, I think, of 1,000 AT4 anti-tank weapon systems. They were delivered on May 30th to the Government of Iraq. These are one of the kinds of weapons that are effective at fighting back against ISIL, particularly in Anbar, so this was delivered on May 30th. We’ll see more deliveries like this happening.

QUESTION: That delivery was – that decision to send those was actually made before Ramadi fell, is that correct?

MS HARF: I believe that – I believe so, but it’s just an example of how we’re getting them things as quickly as we can, and will continue to do so.

QUESTION: Now just on the redoubling – I mean, if he didn’t actually talk about anything specifically more you’re going to do, what does it mean, then?

MS HARF: Right.

QUESTION: I mean, you’re talking about redoubling, but you’re not actually going to do anything more?

MS HARF: Well, no, that’s not what I’m saying. With our partners inside the room, I know they talked about ways we can share more intelligence, we can get assistance more quickly to the Iraqis, certainly how we can do more to support the Syrian opposition. These were all things discussed in the room, certainly. I don’t have anything to announce publicly about more today.

QUESTION: But if I had asked a month ago if you’re doing everything you can to help defeat ISIL in Iraq, you would have said the coalition is doing everything it can.

MS HARF: Yes. Well --

QUESTION: And now you’re saying we’re going to do more because we need to do more. I mean, I don’t quite get it.

Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) notes of Blinken's ridiculous claim, "That’s been the official US position all along, and it gets reiterated all the more often the more obvious it gets that ground is being lost to ISIS forces. The loss of Ramadi, a city of 500,000 people and capital of Iraq’s largest province, is the latest evidence the war is being lost."

The right plan both politically and militarily?

You can evaluate whether or not you think the 'military plan' is working.

You really can't evaluate the 'political plan' because it consists solely of US President Barack Obama claiming, June 19th of last year, that the only answer to Iraq's crises is a political solution.

He made that statement.

It got echoed a bit.

And then everyone marched off to play toy soldier -- State Dept included! -- and diplomacy and the need for Iraq to resolve its glaring mistreatment of Sunnis and Kurds was ignored.

Not just for a day or two.

Not just for a week.

Not just for a month.

But for 17 days short of a year.

Where is the work towards a political solution?

Not the US State Dept.

Don't take my word for it, let's go to Brett McGurk who handled the June 1st State Dept background briefing (here in full) and wanted to explain what the US government was doing.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The common objective is to defeat ISIL in all aspects of its organization, and really to asphyxiate it. That includes the military line of effort with a focus on activities in Iraq and Syria, and that’s important because Iraq and Syria is the heart of its perversely claimed caliphate, which is attracting foreign fighters from all around the world. The second line of effort is the foreign fighter networks, trying to cut down on the foreign fighter flows into the Syria and Iraq theater. The third line of effort is the financing, cutting down on ISIL’s attempts to finance itself and also to access global financial markets. The fourth line of effort is focusing on the humanitarian crisis, which has been generated by the fighting. And the fifth is countering ISIL in the messaging space. And the sixth is a new line of effort that we created a couple months ago focused on stabilization, and that is really (inaudible) cleared of ISIL, how do you flush resources into those areas, how do you take care of people, how do you bring services back. So that is the stabilization piece, which also brings an element of police with some coalition members really stepping up to help the Iraqis in policing.
So that is how we’re organized. Let me just kind of go through some of the highlights of what we’re doing. And let me say that we’re learning more about ISIL every single day, and we’re learning more about it because of our activities, because of our intelligence activities, and because of this coalition – because of the information we share, because of the information that is shared within each working group and which is shared across each working group. General Allen and I just hosted here in Paris a meeting of the working group leads, the leads from many different countries. For example, stabilization is led by Germany and the UAE, and they’ve done really great work in helping the Iraqis to organize a stabilization fund through the United Nations, which is now finalized. And we will have – it’ll be a key part of the discussion tomorrow. So we brought those capitals in the room together to share information and really learn more about this network.
I’ll give you an example: On the foreign fighters, this is a global network. As you know – we’ve discussed this before – more than 22,000 fighters from a hundred countries all around the world have poured (inaudible) Syria to join extremist organizations, mostly ISIL. And this is something that the world has really never seen before on this scale. Since September, when we formed this coalition and the United Nations Security Council passed the Chapter 7 Resolution 2178 to really encourage countries all around the world to crack down on foreign fighter terrorist networks, 34 countries since we formed this coalition in September have updated or enhanced their laws against foreign fighter networks. Twenty-six – in 26 instances, capitals have broken up cells. Interpol is now dramatically involved in this effort. Turkey has about 13,000 members on a no-entry list. And within the United States, the Department of Justice has brought charges to over more than 40 cases to date in individuals within our country trying to join ISIL.
So this is a significant international network. I can just say we know a lot more about it now than we did in September, and we’re looking at ways to collapse the networks as they try to move foreign fighters, foreign terrorist fighters, into Syria.
In the financing side, we’re working to deny any use of the financial system to any affiliates of ISIL or anyone associated with ISIL. We are targeting their oil processing capabilities, because one of their primary sources of financing, particularly when we started this effort, was in the oil trade and oil bartering. And of course, we just conducted – our special forces conducted a raid into Syria to target Abu Sayyaf, who was the number one financier. He kind of ran the whole financial network for ISIL. And I’ll just say from that raid we’re learning quite a bit that we did not know before we did that raid.
So again, every single day the picture becomes clearer of what this organization is, how sophisticated it is, how global it is, and how networked it is. And through these meetings with the coalition we’re able to learn more, synthesize, compare notes, and really kind of accelerate efforts where we need to.
On the military side, of course, that gets most of the focus but that’s only one of the lines of effort. We have 12 coalition partners now in Iraq training Iraqi forces. We’ve trained so far 7,000 Iraqi soldiers; 4,000 are in training now. Again, important to keep in mind that this effort is really just getting up and running. We always knew this would be a very long-term, very long haul, and it’s getting moving now. Important to note in Ramadi, which I’ll talk about, but the troops in Ramadi that retreated were not troops that we had trained. Some of the troops that will participate in the counter-attack we anticipate will be troops that we trained, so we’ll have to see how they do. We’re obviously very focused on supporting them.
We also, of course, have nine coalition partners conducting airstrikes in Iraq, six coalition partners conducting airstrikes in Syria. Jordan is now conducting airstrikes in Iraq. Canada is now conducting airstrikes in Syria. And the military line of effort, of course, is very closely coordinated through CENTCOM and our Department of Defense.
Getting to the meeting tomorrow, we’re, of course, going to go through all of the lines of effort, the working groups comparing notes as we usually do, learning more. What do we know now that we didn’t know when we first – when we got together in January with this group? But tomorrow also has a significant purpose. This is not a business-as-usual meeting. We’re coming in the wake of the events in Ramadi, and we’re coming to discuss with Prime Minister Abadi his plan – his plan – for liberating Ramadi and Anbar province. And this is important because in the immediate wake of Ramadi, Prime Minister Abadi called together his national security council, his cabinet – Sunni, Shia, and Kurds – and they unanimously adopted a national program for taking back Ramadi, and not just Ramadi but securing Anbar province and cutting off the access route that we know ISIL is using to funnel its – funnel resources all the way up north into Mosul, because as you may recall, we’ve been successful in cutting off its access routes into Mosul from the north with various operations we did with the Peshmerga and some of the Arab tribes in that area earlier this year.
So the Iraqi plan has – which was endorsed by their entire cabinet in about 72 hours after the events of Ramadi – really has five key elements, all of which we’re going to discuss tomorrow. One, and very significantly, is mobilizing the tribes of Anbar (inaudible). Iraqis have been working to do this. They need help, and we’re ready to help. Since this plan was announced, 800 tribal fighters have been enrolled as volunteers to serve with a paycheck from the state, with a weapon to go out and join the fight alongside Iraqi Security Forces, again, in a coordinated, organized way, in a way that we can help. So that happened – those 800 fighters were formally enrolled at Habbaniyah just last week, and that is just a start. We have about 5,000 now enrolled in Anbar province. That number is going to keep going up.
So we’ll be talking to Abadi tomorrow about his plan for mobilizing the tribes of Anbar province, and most significantly how we and other coalition members can help. That’s pillar one.
Pillar two is recruiting new recruits into the Iraqi Army. And since this campaign started (inaudible) new recruits into the army. The soldiers that we have been training, for example, are already existing Iraqi army soldiers who we bring in (inaudible) our building partner capacity sites, and they go through substantial training with us and coalition partners.
This plan for liberating Anbar brings in new recruits into the Iraqi army. That’s been a real challenge for the Iraqis due to fiscal constraints and a real budget crunch that they’re facing, but they’re finding a way to do this. And specifically in their plan that they announced, it mentions the divisions in Anbar province, and particularly the 7th Iraqi Army Division out at Al Asad Air Base, where we are present with the Australians, with the Danes, doing an awful lot of training. So we think that is actually quite significant.
And our efforts out at Al Asad, up the Euphrates River about 30 kilometers from Ramadi, have actually been quite successful. We’ve been working there now – we didn’t get out there until about mid-November, where we’ve been working with three tribes in that area and with the Iraqi Security Forces. And if you look on a map of the Euphrates Valley, all the way from Jarabulus all the way down to Ramadi, the area where there’s a big green circle, where Daesh has been trying its hardest but without effect, is in that area between Haditha and Baghdadi, because the tribes are mobilized. We’re helping them and they’re working directly with the Iraqi Security Forces all through the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. And we think that’s been quite successful, and we’ll obviously be looking to see if we can replicate that elsewhere.
The third part of the Iraqi plan is to recall and refit the police, and particularly the police in Anbar province. We think there’s about 24,000 policemen. And immediately after the events of Ramadi, Prime Minister Abadi fired the police chief of Anbar province. He appointed a new provincial police chief who has the full support of the Anbaris and the Anbari provincial council, and that effort is now underway. And we think mobilizing the police will be critical because as areas are cleared, it’s going to be crucial that local police are there to maintain order as the army and military forces go on to take on additional objectives.
The fourth plank of this plan is an international stabilization fund, and this fund will be – it’s now finalized – and this will be a part of the discussion tomorrow. And we’ll have a little bit more to say about that tomorrow. But the idea of this – it was developed through the Stabilization Working Group through the coalition, but also with the United Nations and with the Iraqi Government in the lead, and it builds on best practices from around the world of where this has been done in the past. And I refer to the UN experts – we were just talking to some of them today – who are very eager to get this moving because they think it is based on very sound principles and very effective principles. But it’s focused on immediate, quick-hit projects. So if an area is cleared and after fighting and after a military campaign, it immediately needs to flush resources, to clean out the streets, to remove mines and IEDs, and basically to make areas livable again so people can come back. This has been a real problem, because the Iraqis are not able to access capital markets; they remain fairly cash poor and they’re not able to flood resources quickly to areas, which is really essential as areas are cleared.
So again, a lesson we’ve learned over the last eight months. This has been something we had to correct. We think the International Stabilization Fund corrects that, and we hand it to our colleagues in the Stabilization Working Group led by Germany and the UAE; also the UN team in Baghdad and our team at the embassy who have worked with Iraqis to get this up and running. It is now up and we’ll be looking for coalition contributions.
The fifth – finally, the fifth part of this Iraqi plan which is very important is that as they organize all forces in the country to be part of this effort – and as you may recall in the fall of Ramadi, the Anbari provincial council unanimously asked Popular Mobilization Forces to come into the province to help, primarily to help cut off roadways and logistical resupply routes into Ramadi. But it’s very important as this proceeds that all forces be brought under the command and control of the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi prime minister, and its something that is a fundamental element of the plan for Anbar province. It’s something that leaders, including religious leaders like Grand Ayatollah Sistani, speaks to quite frequently.
So those are the five core elements of this Iraqi plan. One, mobilizing the tribes; recruiting into the army; recalling of police; the stabilization fund to get resources to people quickly as areas are cleared after military conflict ceases and military operations cease; and the command and control over the forces.
In addition, there’ll be discussion tomorrow and also two days from now in Brussels about the tremendous humanitarian toll of the fighting and of the refugees that’ve flown, particularly out of Anbar province, as ISIL has gone on the offensive there. And that is something that the UN will be speaking to the (inaudible) when they’ll be making an appeal in Brussels in two days for specifically what they need. It’s probably around a range of $4- to $500 million. And we, of course, when Prime Minister Abadi was in Washington a few weeks ago, contributed an additional $200 million to the UN humanitarian efforts in Iraq, which are truly heroic efforts.
So again, tomorrow – it’s a time for the Small Group members of the coalition to get together to share information, to say what do we know now that we didn’t know in January – what is working, what is not working, what do we have to fix – and really kind of synthesizing all the different working groups to learn more about the network and then think ahead; as we look ahead to the next two months, to think about how we can really strangle and squeeze the network: the foreign fighters, the financing, and of course in the military sphere, particularly in the near term in this campaign in Anbar. And we’ll hear from Prime Minister Abadi about his campaign plan for Anbar province and where the coalition can help. And we’re already 

Hey!  Wake up!

That was long winded, wasn't it.

Brett had all the words in the world and used each at least 12 times.

But did you notice that it was military, military, military, military, Justice Dept on financing, military, military, military . . .

Did you hear him talk about the political solution?


All the words in the world to define what the US government was doing and not once did he offer that the government was actively involved in fostering a political solution.

Toy soldiers.

Little overgrown boys like Brett who like the uniform but were too scared of the thought of actually being in combat to serve in the military.

Now, as the middle age years thin out and vanish, they pretend like they were warriors, they recreate the jobs they have to make it appear that they're warriors.

Ashamed of their own past actions, they rush to play toy soldiers.

I don't define manhood as being a soldier.

Why would I in a world where so many women serve and sever outstanding well in the military?

But a lot of overgrown boys who never reached manhood grasp on to the idea/fear that they could have become men if only they'd enlisted.

And it's those and their sexual discomfort -- Brett McGurk, where's your Vanity Fair cover? -- that cause so much trouble and destruction around the world.

Kate Parkinson (CCTV -- link is video) reported on the conference.

Kate Parkinson:  The leaders of the Iraq, French and US delegations delivered an upbeat assessment of the Paris talks.  The US Deputy Secretary of State said Iraq and its allies are pursuing a winning strategy.

Antony Blinken: I emerge from this meeting confident that we will defeat them through our unity, our determination and our commitment to create a future of opportunity and peace for people in Iraq.

Kate Parkinson:  But despite the US-led coalition air strikes, Islamic State militants have recently made some significant gains in Iraq.  This video posted on social media shows ISIL flags flying in Ramadi after the city fell to militants last month.  It was the Iraqi government's biggest military setback in nearly a year.  At the meeting in Paris, Iraq's allies pledged support for an emergency plan adopted by Baghdad to try and quickly retake the city. Before the meeting, the Iraqi Prime Minister had accused the coalition of not doing enough to tackle ISIL -- also known as Da'ash -- or curbing the flow of foreign fighters crossing into his country.  But after the talks, Haider al-Abadi said he had received fresh commitments of help.

Haider al-Abadi: ISIL was not born in Iraq, it was not developed in Iraq but in Syria because of events that have nothing to do with the situation in Iraq.  They are supported by means from outside of Iraq, by external combatants.  We can make sacrifices to fight ISIL but, as I said, the international community, the international coalition has to support us, has to support us to destroy ISIL

Patrick J. McDonnell (Los Angels Times) offers:

Western governments have urged Abadi's Shiite-dominated administration to do more to bolster reconciliation with Iraq's disaffected Sunni minority. Some Iraqi Sunnis alienated from the central government have welcomed Islamic State, an ultra-fundamentalist Sunni movement that views Shiites as heretics.
The generally upbeat assessments offered in Paris were somewhat at odds with grim battlefield reports in Iraq and Syria. 

Lori Hinnant and James Keaten (AP) point out that the "conference offered no strategy beyond that which has yet to bear fruit, and none had been expected."

Some idiots like to say Haider's made moves.

He's not.

All he's done is offer words -- empty promises.

After the conference, Antony Blinken, Haider al-Abadi and France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius held a press conference.  Fabius declared, "Now another thing that struck me in this morning’s conversations is that the military strategy cannot be taken without the reconciliation policy and plans in Iraq. Everything is related. And this morning, we were able to reconfirm the necessary commitment on the part of the Iraqi Government in order to implement the reforms planned in order to meet the expectations of all Iraqis and to join them in the fight against Daesh."

You're a fool if you fall for that or you think it represents change.

Empty promises is all Nouri offered.

Nouri al-Maliki, the thug who brought Iraq to the brink in his second term -- his second term that should never have been.

Emma Sky is the author of The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq.   Fred Hiatt (Washington Post) explains just how important her book is when he writes:

Sky had come to believe that Shiite-Sunni combat was neither eternal nor inevitable. Before the war, rates of intermarriage had been high. She was heartened by the narrow victory of a nonsectarian electoral bloc — and dismayed when the Obama administration nonetheless backed, in the post-election scramble to form a government, the divisive, Iranian-backed prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. That decision, spurred in Sky’s view by the U.S. eagerness to disengage quickly, in turn guaranteed the subsequent failure to negotiate a treaty allowing some U.S. forces to remain.

He explains how important her book is by lying -- by lying -- about what it says.

It wasn't a post-election scramble.  The reality is Nouri lost the 2010 elections and refused to step down.

This prevented the newly elected government from moving forward, the Parliament from holding sessions.  Nouri brought the country to a stand-still for 8 months (this is what is known as the "political stalemate").

He was only able to do that because the White House backed him.

The White House then brokered a legal contract (The Erbil Agreement) to give Nouri a second term.

These are not minor events.

They are key to how Iraq ended up where it is today.

A lot of liars and lot of idiots -- especially in the United States -- refused to pay attention to Iraq after Barack was elected.  They don't know about how he released terrorists to get the terrorist group to release British citizens (four corpses one living) and they don't know about how Iraq came to be where it's at today.

Unlike those pathetic liars (Mike called one out here), I haven't had the luxury of a vacation from Iraq.  Every day, I have to write about Iraq here.  Every day.  So I'm really not the mood for these whores who come along and lie repeatedly -- Vox, we mean you -- and manage to trick people because so few were paying attention.

Today's crises are not a surprise and you can go back to 2012 where we repeatedly warned -- over and over, week after week -- what was coming.  And what was coming is what finally registered in 2014.  Welcome to the party.

Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) explains Haider al-Abadi was on the defensive at the conference today, "Abadi promised inquiries into why so many troops left behind large amounts of military equipment, and never fought against ISIS, amid claims that Iraq had a dramatic numerical advantage in the city."

He can -- and does -- blame every one else but in the end, as prime minister of Iraq, it's his job to defend the country.  He's making it very easy for Nouri al-Maliki to stage a coup and return as prime minister.

Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 456 violent deaths across Iraq today -- apparently they all missed Antony Blinken's announcement that the strategy was 'winning.'

the los angeles times