Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, June 23, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, NATO plans return to Iraq, no political solution as the crises impact everything including food supplies, bad 'reporting' circles Iraq, and much more.

Let's start with today's US State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson John Kirby.

QUESTION: Can we go to the war against ISIS?


QUESTION: Today the advisor to the supreme leader in Tehran, Ali Akbar Velayati, after meeting with the Syrian interior minister, said that there’s going to be meetings in Baghdad between Iraq, Iran, and Syria to consolidate efforts against ISIS. Would you object to including the Syrian Government in this process?

MR KIRBY: I think I would put this in the same area that we talked about when we talked about Prime Minister Abadi traveling to Tehran. It is understandable. And it’s not the first time, by the way, that Iraqi leaders have met – excuse me – with Assad regime leaders. But it – we understand. This is a sovereign country; we have to keep reminding ourselves, I find, to remind everybody that Iraq is sovereign. Prime Minister Abadi is the prime minister of a sovereign nation and we should expect that he’s going to have discussions and meetings and outreach with neighbors in the Middle East, particularly immediate neighbors. And so that’s the rubric under which we understand this meeting is occurring.

QUESTION: So you don’t object, let’s say, to cooperation between Syria, Iraq, and Tehran in fighting the same enemy that you are fighting?

MR KIRBY: We have – our position hasn’t changed. The Assad regime has lost legitimacy, has to go. And I think it’s important to remember in the context of this or any other meeting that it’s largely because of Assad that ISIL has been able to flourish and grow and operate and sustain itself inside Syria. And so I think it’s important to remember that. Nothing’s changed about our view on that. But we also understand that Prime Minister Abadi has obligations – security obligations – that he himself and the Iraqi people hold to be important. And if he’s having meetings with neighboring nations, the leaders of neighboring nations, in concert with that, well, that’s certainly his prerogative.

QUESTION: But, may I? If you’re saying that Assad is the source of all this terrorism, then I mean – or the main cause or continues to be a source of this terrorism, I mean, how are you really going to go after ISIS without a strategy to get rid of Assad?

MR KIRBY: Well, I didn’t say that Assad is the main reason why ISIL exists.

QUESTION: Well, this Administration has basically put it at his feet that ISIS was able to flourish and you just said that --

MR KIRBY: I did. Yes.

QUESTION: -- ISIS was able to flourish because of --

MR KIRBY: Absolutely. It’s been able to – one of the reasons it has been able to flourish inside Syria is that the Assad regime has lost all legitimacy. They are – they are not – they’ve – large swaths of ungoverned space inside Syria that ISIL has been able to take advantage of and to exploit.
The mission against ISIL – the coalition mission is against ISIL. Separate and distinct from that, nothing has changed about our longstanding belief that the Assad regime’s lost legitimacy and needs to go. We’ve also said repeatedly and consistently that there’s not going to be a military solution to that issue, that what needs to happen is a negotiated political settlement.

QUESTION: Is there any movement on that?

MR KIRBY: Well, it’s – we talked about this the other day, Elise. We continue to work at this. This is a tough problem in a very complicated area. Everybody understands that. But that’s what really needs to happen here. It’s not going to be solved militarily.

First on the above:

  • Freudian slip?State Dept. spox: "#[Iraq] is a sovereign country; we have to keep reminding ourselves." Remind ourselves?

  • Second, Elise is Elise Labott of CNN.

    And the thing to note about the above?

    Even when specifically asked about political efforts ("any movement on that?"), the administration can't answer.

    June 19, 2014 found US President Barack Obama insisting that there was no military answer for Iraq, that the only answer to the crises in Iraq was a political solution.

    Over a year later, they still can't point to any real progress on that front.

    Nor have they devoted significant time or effort towards helping Iraq reach a political solution.

  • Coalition airstrikes against terrorists increasing in Iraq & Syria: 50 over last 48 hrs, including 22 yesterday in Iraq. Via

  • That's the State Dept's Brett McGurk and he Tweets that nonsense near daily.

    He just never Tweets about efforts towards a political solution.

    Because there are none.

    The State Dept drops no 'diplomatic bombs' on Iraq.

    Today, the host of MSNBC's All In With Chris Hayes notes:

  • solution to the horror in Iraq is political reconciliation between Sunni and Shia. That is likely to take a very very long time.. <2>

  • And it will take even longer because there are no efforts at real diplomacy and real assistance on the part of the US government.

    Always, military efforts are made.

    Adrian Croft (Reuters), for example, offers:

    NATO is expected to announce soon a plan to advise the Iraqi government on reforming its security forces which are fighting back after collapsing in the face of an offensive by Islamic State fighters, NATO diplomats said on Tuesday.

    Iraq asked NATO for help training its security forces last December after Islamic State captured large parts of Iraq.

    NATO to return.  Still no diplomacy, but NATO to retur.

    And as diplomatic  efforts aren't made, the effects of the crises impact everything in Iraq -- not just the immediate safety of civilians but also the long range safety as well.

    In a new report for the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, Hadi Fathallah explains:

    Every day, Iraq inches closer to hunger. The United Nations estimates that approximately 4.4 million people across Iraq require food assistance. About 30 percent of Iraqis live below the national poverty line, and this number is much higher in the poorest districts. These communities are already struggling with limited resources and basic foodstuffs, a situation made worse by the growing number of internally displaced persons (IDPs). The country faces a stark and multifaceted food security challenge. In the short term, protracted conflict is generating localized food shortages. In the longer term, inflexible policies and government illiquidity are leading to decreased domestic food production and higher import dependency.
    In June 2014, with the Islamic State’s (IS) incursion into Salahuddin, Nineveh, Kirkuk, and Anbar—the breadbasket governorates comprising Iraq’s cereal belt—the country lost the majority of its annual wheat and barley harvests from these areas, which combined contributed over one-third of Iraq’s cereal production. About 1 million tons of wheat was lost in total. Moreover, of the harvest stored in government silos, much was expropriated by IS and transferred to Syria, and what the farmers kept was confiscated, bought at depressed prices, or left to rot. 

    The increasing number of IDPs, now estimated at around 3 million, together with about 250,000 refugees from Syria, has put an extra strain on the food supply and remaining strategic reserves in Iraq. The government has been unable to deliver food assistance to the displaced through its Public Distribution System (PDS) because of inflexible supply chains—preventing, for example, displaced Iraqis from Salahuddin’s Tikrit from collecting their monthly basket in Erbil or Baghdad. Government reserves of the main commodities in the PDS’s food basket are already understocked, and the government has not physically moved foodstuffs to IDPs’ destinations, where demand has spiked. Cash shortages have also prevented the government from replacing the physical commodities with cash transfers to those in need.  

    As the violence continues, Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts  98 violent deaths across Iraq today.

    Staying with the topic of death . . .

    Australian government trying to confirm reports of two of militant deaths in Iraq

    So the two are thought to have been killed in Mosul on Monday and the Australian government is trying to confirm these deaths on Tuesday

    And BBC quotes Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop declaring,  "Given the security situation in Iraq, it's difficult for our authorities to gain the kind of information that would be required to verify these reports."

    Contrast that with the immediate claims by the US government that a terrorist and a person of interest in the 9/11/12 Benghazi attack is dead from a US air strike in Iraq.

  • Pentagon says air strike in Iraq has killed an IS militant linked to 2012 attack on US diplomatic compound in Libya

  • BBC words it far better than some.

    And as a recording of a claim the US government is making, it may serve a purpose.

    We're just not overly interested in propaganda.

    An air strike, in Iraq, killed someone?


    Who did it kill?

    The Pentagon's claimed multiple kills in the nearly year long air bombing.

    Has claimed.

    I'm missing the verification aspect.

    Can someone explain that one to me?

    Where the US military goes to the site of a bombing and verifies who died?

    Maybe does some DNA recon?

    That happens when?

    Oh, right, it doesn't.

    So the Pentagon gets to claim whatever it wants.

    Maybe tomorrow they'll be in need of press and decide to claim a US war plane dropped a bomb on Big Foot?

    Richard Sisk (Military Times) explains:

    U.S. military officials are pushing back against charges that the air war against Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria has been ineffective and amounts more to a "drizzle."
    In Pentagon briefings and in Capitol Hill testimony, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, and others have responded that the campaign was killing ISIS fighters at a rate of about 1,000 per month, while taking "excruciating" pains to avoid civilian casualties. Up to 75 percent of the sorties flown have returned to base without firing weapons.

    If you're under criticism that your actions have accomplished nothing (and largely, the war planes have accomplished little of value), it would certainly be nice for you if you could claim that you killed someone important -- say a criminal behind the 9/11/12 Benghazi attack.

    And a jolly press that just goes along with your claims is certainly nice.

    What is known is that a US war plane dropped a bomb or bombs.  What is suspected is that someone was killed when they hit.

    No one knows who was killed.

    No one sent a team of US forces to inspect the site after.

    Let's stay with reporting or, rather, the lack of it.

    Reporters are supposed to report on what they see.

    So someone explain this nonsense from Walter Pincus or why the Washington Post let him yammer away.

    I was at the the hearing.

    We covered it:

    I was at the hearing and at that hearing and others because there is so little press coverage of Congressional hearings.

    So I should be grateful for Walter's report.

    So I should be grateful for Walter's report?

    It's not a report.

    He wasn't present.

    He didn't even watch it on the TV.

    He half-way discloses he's using a transcript.

    He fails to disclose whose transcript.

    It's probably the Pentagon's transcript -- this month's already revealed that the Associated Press is using Pentagon transcripts to 'report' on hearings.

    In what journalistic world is that okay?

    A) They're not reporting on they've seen or heard.

    B) They're taking the word of the government when, in fact, a reporter is supposed to be skeptical.

    Any Pentagon transcript I've ever seen has had serious errors.

    I don't mean typos.

    I do mean that while the DoD witness at the hearing is generally quoted accurately (and generously), the members of Congress are not really documented accurately in the transcript.

    So it's really offensive that so-called reporters are offering 'reports' based on second hand sourcing.

    Even sadder is when, like Walter Pincus, they try to 'liven' the transcripts up.

    "Dempsy shot back . . ."


    You're reading a transcript and you're trying to make it come to life?

    You have no idea the tone or the manner in which the remarks were made.

    You should be compelled to stick to repeating stiff verbs such as "said" throughout your summary of a transcript someone provided you with.

    And it's a very sad day for journalism -- in a century already full of these sad days -- when a reporter can get away with using a prepared transcript -- prepared by a body with bias -- to 'report' on that took place at a hearing they didn't bother to attend.

    elise labott
    the washington post