Thursday, June 25, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, June 25, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the State Dept has "nothing on that" when asked about the arrest of a journalist, an Iraqi dies learning to fly an F-16, and much more.

Derek Jordan (Sierra Vista Herald Review) insists, "The Iraqi pilot whose F-16 fighter jet crashed north of Douglas Wednesday night was part of a group of Iraqis being trained by the Air Force to fly F-16s in the fight against Islamic State terrorists."

The training is part of the deal that comes with the F-16s and the training aspect was in place as far back as 2008.  It predates concerns over the Islamic State (you can check the reporting of Elizabeth S. Bumiller, among others, for reports on the F-16 deal).

US State Dept spokesperson John Kirby noted the time issue when asked about the death in today's State Dept press briefing:

QUESTION: On Iraq, specifically about this F-16 – Iraqi F-16 that crashed in Arizona, obviously part of the Iraqi pilot training program, have you reached out or has there been any contact with the Iraqi Government? Because there are rumors out there that the Iraqi pilot who died was actually someone named – and this is unconfirmed – Mohammed Hama, the son of a prominent Iraqi Air Force general, which is why I ask if there’s been any contact with the Iraqis to confirm his identity.

MR KIRBY: Well, first, our thoughts and prayers go to the family. This is a tragic accident, obviously. I don’t have any more detail about the identity of the pilot, and that’s something that I would, as you might understand, refer you to the Iraqi Government to speak to.

QUESTION: Since the State Department has authority over the foreign military sales of these jets, do you know when and how many jets are expected to be delivered – the F-16s are expected to be delivered to Iraq?

MR KIRBY: There’s – the whole program covered 36 jets, and as I understand it, they have taken possession of about a dozen of them. So there are still others in the program that still are in the delivery process.

QUESTION: Possession in the United States or possession --

MR KIRBY: Possession in the United States.

QUESTION: And putting on your old military cap there, were these brand new jets, or were these sort of repurposed, used jets?

MR KIRBY: I’d have to get back to you, Justin. I don’t know exactly what serial number they all had and how fresh they came off the assembly line.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that?


QUESTION: Several weeks ago, actually, it was mentioned that it was expected that the rest of these jets would be handed over to the Iraqis. Do you have a timeline on when that would happen?

MR KIRBY: I don’t have a timeline for the remainder that they don’t have. But obviously, it’s an ongoing sales program. It’s not being handed over to them. And I just don’t have a schedule of exactly what the deliveries are going to look like.

QUESTION: It was just I know that the Iraqi authorities were quite keen to get them up and running in Iraq, because obviously, all of the fight against ISIL.

MR KIRBY: Sure, sure. Yeah. I mean, everybody shares a sense of urgency about helping Iraq deal with the threats that the country is facing inside their borders. These jets are a component of that ability for them to fight ISIL, but I just don’t have any more detail on the schedule of deliveries.

QUESTION: John, these airplanes were supposed to be delivered some time back. What is the cause of delay? Is it lacking – a lacking training program? What is causing the delay in delivering these airplanes to Iraq?

MR KIRBY: Well, your question connotes that there is a delay. I mean, it’s a 36-aircraft buy, and typically, on a purchase that size they’re not all delivered all at once. As I said, they are in possession of about a dozen of them. There are others still in the delivery process. It’s not a matter of delay. This is a sort of – it’s not uncommon or atypical for – especially when you’re buying something as big as fighter jets, for it to --


MR KIRBY: -- for there to be a time component here in terms of when they’re delivered. So I wouldn’t necessarily say there’s been a delay. And again, they’re taking possession here in the United States. We’ve talked about that before, and that’s where the training is occurring.

QUESTION: To your knowledge, do the Iraqis – are the Iraqis able to get some Russian fighter jets, like Sukhois or old Sukhois or anything like this? Are they using now in their air force Russian-made fighter jets?

MR KIRBY: I am not an expert on the Iraqi order of battle and their air force. You’re asking can they? Of course they can. It’s a sovereign country. They can buy --

QUESTION: I understand they can --

MR KIRBY: But I don’t know what – I mean, that’s a great question for the Iraqis to speak to, the components and the elements of their air force. They expressed, obviously, a significant interest in the F-16, which is a very capable aircraft, obviously. And so we’re working with them on the delivery of those aircraft and training their pilots on how to fly them. That’s our focus, and the Iraqis can speak to the other things that they’re buying for their own national defense.

The Sierra Vista Herald Review portrays the program as necessary to combat the Islamic State because . . .

That state of the art air brigade the Islamic State has?

It's overkill in terms of response.

It's overkill in terms of expectations.

This week has seen a number of Iraqi commanders and military forces sound off in the press about the failures of Barack Obama.

The US President is far from mistake free.

But the criticism has been that he's not given enough weapons, that he's not given enough support?.

They do realize he's the President of the United States, right?

He's not serving the Iraqi people.

And when in history has any domestic military felt they had the right to whine that they weren't getting enough assistance from any other country?

Iraq's security forces are supposed to be responsible for the protection and safety of their country.

They've never managed to pull it off but it is their job.

Any assistance they may receive is just that: Assistance.

It's 'in addition to' -- the primary responsibility remains on them.

I don't fear the criticism is fair of Barack at all.

It's criticism rooted in greed and entitlement.

But mainly it's about refusing to take ownership of your own failures and instead pushing them off on others.

If the Iraqi military is unhappy with the equipment they have, they need to take that up with the Iraqi leaders and officials who have failed them.

Where are all those weapons they bought from Russia, for example?

October 9, 2012, with much fanfare, then prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki signed a $4.2 billion dollar weapons deal with Russia.  He strutted and preened and was so proud of himself.  Yet shortly after taking his bows on the world stage, and with Parliament and others raising objections, Nouri quickly announced the deal was off.

Then it was back on.

But the scandal refused to go away. As 2012 came to a close, the Iraq Times stated Nouri was offering up his former spokesperson  Ali al-Dabbagh and others to protect the truly corrupt -- the truly corrupt -- according to members of Parliament -- including Nouri's son who got a nice little slice off the deal.  These charges came from Shi'ite MPs as well as Sunnis and Kurds.  Even the Shi'ite National Alliance  spoke  out.  All Iraq News noted National Alliance member and one-time MP Wael Abdul Latif  called for Nouri to quickly bring charges against those involved in the corruption.

Never happened.

And the laughable Haider al-Abadi, new prime minister, supposedly committed to ending corruption, has yet to go after those officials who stole millions from Iraq.

So if you're part of the Iraqi security forces and you're unhappy with the equipment you have you can point fingers at two groups of people: (a) those security forces who tend to drop their weapons and abandon their tanks the minute they feel the Islamic State is looking at them and (b) the corrupt officials who used the billions in oil dollars not to protect the country but instead to line their own pockets.

As we've repeatedly noted, Iraq's annual revenues could make a billionaire -- each year -- out of nearly the entire estimated population.

Instead, year after year, so many Iraqis live in poverty.

The Iraqi people need an accounting of who's been stealing their money.

Margaret Griffis ( counts 174 violent deaths across Iraq today.

Back to today's State Dept press briefing:

QUESTION: On Iraq – yeah. On Iraq, yesterday I asked about the arrest of a journalist by the Kurdish security forces. I don’t know if you have anything for the report for me. And a second one is there is a kind of a crisis of the President Barzani’s term. It will come to an end in August and there is a kind of a problem like how – what is going to happen. What is the position of United States Government? Would you prefer having an election despite the security challenges, or a status quo just to extend his term because of the security situation as they would claim that?

MR KIRBY: I don’t think we’re going to make statements from here about internal Iraqi politics.

QUESTION: But democracy is something that you – I mean, elections – you are – it’s something that you are talking about always.

MR KIRBY: Writ large, generally, yes. We’re in favor of government that is responsive and representative of the people that occupy a state, but I am not going to get into internal Iraqi politics and discussions from the podium.

QUESTION: What about the journalist arrest? Do you have that, any --

MR KIRBY: I don’t have anything on that, no.

The State Dept never has "anything on that" unless they're trying to shame a government the US opposes.  If it's Iran or Russia, they have plenty "on that."

But when it's a government that they're propping up, they never "have anything on that."

You may remember the days in April when they spent time shaming the governments that they didn't like as part of  'World Press Day' and how they even issued this statement:

The U.S. Department of State launched its fourth annual “Free the Press” campaign today as part of the Department’s efforts to honor the fundamental importance of a free and independent media in the days leading up to World Press Freedom Day on May 3.
As in years past, the Department will profile on a daily basis journalists or media outlets that are censored, attacked, threatened, disappeared or otherwise oppressed because of their reporting. The purpose of the campaign is to speak out for reporters who otherwise cannot; to call on governments to protect the right to free expression; and to emphasize our own commitment to promoting free expression here in the United States and around the world.
From April 27 to May 1, the Department Spokesperson will highlight emblematic cases of journalists or press outlets under threat around the world at the Daily Press Briefing. The cases will be profiled on and they will be tweeted out using the hashtag #FreethePress.
For more information, please contact Chanan Weissman at or 202 647 4043.
For more information on the State Department’s work on democracy, human rights, and labor rights follow @State_DRL or @HumanRightsGov, or visit

Yet two months later, asked about a journalist being arrested in Iraq, they have not one word to say,  they "have nothing on that."

Final topic,  David Bacon's latest book is The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration.  This is from Bacon's "California Appeals Court Rules Farm Worker Law Unconstitutional" (Working In These Times):

FRESNO, CA -- On May 18 in Fresno, California, the state's Court of Appeals for the 5th District ruled that a key provision of the state's unique labor law for field workers is unconstitutional.  Should it be upheld by the state's supreme court, this decision will profoundly affect the ability of California farm workers to gain union contracts.

At issue is the mandatory mediation provision of the state's Agricultural Labor Relations Act.  Using this section of the law, workers can vote for a union, and then call in a mediator if their employer refuses to negotiate a first-time contract.  The mediator, chosen by the state, hears from both the union and the grower, and writes a report recommending a settlement.  Once the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) adopts the report, it becomes a binding union contract.

Associate Justice Stephen Kane, in a 3-0 ruling, said the law illegally delegates authority to the mediator.  The Fresno district of the appeals court is well known for its conservative bent.  United Farm Workers Vice President Armando Elenes immediately announced that the union would appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.

The case has attracted the attention and support of some of the country's most powerful conservative and anti-union organizations.  Some have intervened to file briefs challenging the law.  Others have joined with the grower in this case, Gerawan Farms, in an elaborate campaign to remove the United Farm Workers as the bargaining representative for the company's workers.

Workers say they already feel the impact of the challenge to the law.  According to Ana Garcia Aparicio, "At this company we've had many issues and injustices. This is the reason it is so important for us that our contract be implemented."