Monday, June 29, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Monday, June 29, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, a US Congressional delegation visits Iraq, Haider accepts a resignation, Sunni civilians remain targeted by their own government, and much more.

Al Bawaba carries one of today's most important stories:

At least 71 civilians have been killed and 90 injured since the beginning of Ramadan due to the repeated shelling of Fallujah city in Iraq’s western Anbar province, a local medical source said Monday.
On June 23, Anbar’s provincial council called on the Iraqi army to refrain from shelling civilian areas of Fallujah, which is currently held by the Daesh militant group.
Ahmed al-Shami, chief doctor at the Fallujah Educational Hospital, told Anadolu Agency that the hospital’s emergency room had received 71 dead and 90 injured, “mostly women and children,” since the beginning of Ramadan on June 18.

The War Crimes, the never ending War Crimes.

Oh, whatcha gonna do when time runs out on you
Run down, ghost town
Barren pastures all around

How y'gonna explain it to your grandkids
Where did the mountain go
How y'gonna tell them you sold it
Where did the mountain go

-- "Chalice Borealis," written by Carole King and Rick Sorensen, first appears on her Speeding Time

How you going to pretend a decade from now, as the world recoils in horror over the then-past crimes, that you didn't know what was going on?

Yes, the White House pretends not to know.

They have to.

These actions -- the Iraqi military bombing civilians homes in Falluja -- meet the legal definition of War Crimes.

Recognizing them means the White House would have to halt all arm shipments to Iraq.

That's even if you set aside the Leahy Amendment.

Treaties and international law recognized by the US government demands that the shipments be stopped if the government is attacking civilians.

So the White House looks the other way.

What's the American people's excuse?

And let's stop pretending that people don't know.

These bombings began under Nouri al-Maliki in January 2014.

They continue under Haider al-Abadi.

They got a flurry of western media attention briefly -- on September 13th when Haider announced they had stopped.

Then the western press, so silent on the bombings for months, rushed to cover the announcement.

And then fell back into silence when, the next day, September 14th, the bombings continued.

There is no excuse for the silence.

And ten years from now, lots of luck explaining that silence.

The youth can be very unforgiving.

They've often not experienced serious regret.

Things are often very clear cut to them.

And the fact that the left in the United States refused to call out the bombing of civilians in Iraq?

Lots of luck defending your silence then.

For 18 months and counting, these attacks on Sunni civilians, attacks carried out by the Iraqi military, have gone on.

Today, AFP reports:

Iraqi premier Haider al-Abadi has “retired” the army’s chief of staff, the most senior officer removed since jihadists overran large parts of the country last year, his spokesman said Monday.

General Babaker Zebari “has been retired” on Abadi’s orders, Saad al-Hadithi told AFP, without providing further details.

All Iraq News, citing a source in the Ministry of Defense, maintains that Zibari is the one who decided to retire and the decision was made "to enjoy retirement because he is getting too old."

Poor Haider, it could have been his big moment.

Could have been.

Dropping back to Saturday's snapshot:

The laughable Haider al-Abadi is in the news again today.  AFP reports:

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Saturday that Iraqi forces made an “unauthorized” withdrawal from Ramadi last month, leading to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group’s takeover of the Anbar provincial capital.

“The withdrawal of the forces from Ramadi was unauthorized -- the orders were the opposite. The forces had to resist, and if they had resisted, we would not have lost Ramadi,” Abadi said in televised remarks.

I seem to recall a similar point made by US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and how Haider and various underlings strongly objected to the remarks.
It's becoming obvious, by the way, that Haider is not in charge of the military.

And today, once it was revealed that the resignation was not on the orders of Haider, it just became even more obvious how little power Haider has over the military.

Speaking of little power, the US Defense Dept announced today:

Airstrikes in Iraq
Attack, bomber and fighter aircraft conducted 17 airstrikes in Iraq, approved by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense:
-- Near Beiji, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and land features denying ISIL a tactical advantage, destroying an ISIL vehicle.
-- Near Habbaniyah, two airstrikes struck an ISIL logistics compound and an ISIL staging area.
-- Near Haditha, an airstrike struck an ISIL large tactical unit.
-- Near Makhmur, two airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units, destroying an ISIL building and an ISIL heavy machine gun.
-- Near Mosul, two airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units, destroying an ISIL building and an ISIL vehicle.
-- Near Sinjar, three airstrikes struck three ISIL tactical units and three ISIL heavy machine guns, destroying four ISIL buildings.
-- Near Tal Afar, five airstrikes struck four ISIL tactical units and three ISIL bunkers, and also struck land features to deny ISIL a tactical advantage. Two ISIL mortar firing positions, an ISIL heavy machine gun and an ISIL vehicle were destroyed.

All of these bombings, all these months of bombs dropped on Iraq, and it means nothing in terms of progress.  It's reducing the country to ruins but it's not accomplishing much of anything else.

That's because these strikes were supposed to free up space for the Iraqi government to work on a political solution.

But they haven't done that.

They didn't during Bully Boy Bush's 'surge' and they're not doing it during Barack's air strikes.

Alsumaria reports that Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi met with Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani in Erbil today and the two issued a statement noting that the only way to successfully defeat the terrorists (Islamic State) is via a political solution and process that brings all segments of Iraq to the table and follows the Constitution.

Those who pay attention will note this is very similar to the 2011 through 2012 positions of Allawi and Barzani -- when they joined with many others (including Moqtada al-Sadr and Ammar al-Hakim) to insist on a political solution.

Nouri al-Maliki was prime minister then and it's a sign of how little has changed under Haider al-Abadi that we're seeing the same summer repeats play out yet again.

Another sign of how ineffective Barack's 'plan' is?  Sgt William Reinier (Fayetteville Observer) reports:

The 82nd Airborne Division took command of the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command – Iraq, from the 1st Infantry Division during a transfer of authority ceremony in Baghdad, Iraq, June 28.

Yes, the bombings have gone on so long that it's time for a new US team to take over.

At what point does Barack demand Haider work on a political solution?

He's the one, June 19, 2014, who insisted the only answer was a political solution.

For basically a year now, he's been willing to send US troops into Iraq while looking the other way as no progress is made on the political solution.

He's risking American lives and doesn't have the guts to demand that Haider al-Abadi live up to his side of the effort?

And increasingly, this is resulting in more and more criticism.  La Salle University in Philadelphia's associate professor Michael J. Boyle (at the New Jersey Star-Ledger) notes:

In May, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter caused a firestorm when he noted that the collapse of Iraqi government forces in Ramadi was not due to a lack of manpower or resources, but rather the "will to fight" ISIS. The Obama administration quickly swung into spin mode, calling the advances of ISIS a "setback" but insisting that the territory could be retaken soon. Yet the hard truth is that the recent gains of ISIS have laid bare the flawed assumptions of President Obama's Iraq strategy and the dishonesty with which it has been sold to the American people.

Since September 2014, the United States has engaged in an aerial bombing campaign against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria, destroying more than 6,278 targets. The Obama administration rushed back into Iraq by a sense of moral outrage at the horrific abuses committed by ISIS, but its instinctive response – to crush a group described as an evil and a "cancer" by prominent administration officials – did not lend itself to an effective military strategy or produce a long-term plan to reconstruct the Iraqi state.  

The frustration with the White House mounts.

And while it refuses to address a political solution, others in the US government are not shy.

US House Rep Stephen Lynch is part of a Congressional delegation visiting Iraq currently.  Kimberly Atkins (Boston Herald) reports:

“We are trying to help the Sunni who are fighting with ISIS right now,” Lynch said.
But that help will require building a coalition strong enough to take on the terrorist network, a tough task of skillful diplomacy to bring together disparate groups — Shia fighters in Baghdad, Kurdish militia in northern Iraq and Turkish fighters battling ISIS on its border with Syria.
“They have not worked together, these three factions. There is very little trust there,” Lynch said. “But the military experts think they have to work together if they have any hope of beating ISIS.”

Senator Joe Donnelly is also part of the delegation and he tells Brian Francisco (Journal Gazette), "With more than 3,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and more on the way, I felt it was critical to hear directly from our commanders on the ground and our Iraqi allies Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish about the current strategy. We also discussed what role the U.S. and our coalition partners in the region should play going forward."

Say a little prayer till they all get home
Say a little prayer till they all get home
I knew when we woke up
You would be leaving
You knew when you left me
It might be too long
That kiss on your shoulder
It's me looking over
Close to your heart
So you're never alone
Say a little prayer till they all get home
Say a little prayer till they all get home

-- "Till They All Get Home," written by Melanie (Safka) and first appears on Melanie's Crazy Love

US House Rep Tulsi Gabbard is part of the delegation and she Tweeted the following:

  1. Thank you for welcoming us

Senator Tim Kaine Tweeted:

  1. CODEL was in Erbil yesterday. Met w/Kurdistan Regional Government PM & President

The delegation also includes US House Rep Brian Higgins, Tim McGovern and Peter Welch.

With Margaret Griffis ( counting 157 violent deaths across Iraq today, a political solution is needed even more than a year ago.

Mosul fell over a year ago.  A Parliamentary committee has been tasked with determining what happened.  Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports that Nouri al-Maliki has now twice refused to answer the committee's questions.  Such behavior should probably result in his being removed as one of Iraq's three vice presidents.