Monday, June 08, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Monday, June 8, 2015. Chaos and violence continue, Barack meets up with Haider, many insist Haider's working on a political solution (though you have to wonder if Josh Earnest can define "political solution"), Cindy Sheehan issues a plea, and much more.

Today, US President Barack Obama and Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi addressed the press briefly in a joint appearance.


US President Barack Obama:  And that’s why a lot of our discussion today will focus on how we can build on the thousands of Iraqi security forces that we have already trained; how we can coordinate more effectively in getting weapons into the hands of those who are prepared to fight ISIL on a timely basis; how we can ensure that the work that the Prime Minister has done to maintain an inclusive government in Baghdad continues. And in all of these discussions, what I found is that Prime Minister Abadi is very much committed to effective, inclusive governance.  And there’s a refreshing honesty, I think, on the part of the Prime Minister in recognizing that there remains a lot of work to be done.  But as long as the international coalition sustains its efforts, and as long as Prime Minister Abadi and the Iraqi government stay committed to an inclusive approach to gaining back territory from ISIL and then instituting governance that is inclusive and serves the people, I’m absolutely confident that we will succeed.

An inclusive approach to the government?

Is Barack unaware of the talk on Arabic social media that it's time to start protesting in Iraq again?

Such protests, if they took place, would make it much more difficult for Barack to lie that Haider's all about the inclusive.

He was selling that lie hard today -- in the joint-appearance with Haider as well as during a press briefing.  From the latter:

US President Barack Obama:  The final point that I emphasized to Prime Minister Abadi is the political agenda of inclusion remains as important as the military fight that’s out there.  If Sunnis, Kurds, and Shia all feel as if they’re concerns are being addressed, and that operating within a legitimate political structure can meet their need for security, prosperity, non-discrimination, then we’re going to have much easier time.  And the good news is Prime Minister Abadi is very much committed to that principle.  But, obviously, he’s inheriting a legacy of a lot of mistrust between various groups in Iraq -- he’s having to take a lot of political risks.  In some cases, there are efforts to undermine those efforts by other political factions within Iraq.  And so we’ve got to continue to monitor that and support those who are on the right side of the issue there.

Political inclusion is as important, according to Barack, as the military fight.

So how many diplomats has he dropped on Iraq?

How many Imaans who can preach inclusion and unity?

Today alone, the Defense Dept boasted of these air strikes in Iraq:

-Near Al Qaim, one airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroying an ISIL vehicle.
-Near Bayji, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and an ISIL bridge, destroying an ISIL vehicle.
-Near Makhmur, three airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit, an ISIL mortar position and an ISIL rocket position, destroying three ISIL heavy machine guns and an ISIL building.
-Near Sinjar, three airstrikes struck three ISIL tactical units, destroying four ISIL buildings, an ISIL heavy machine gun and an ISIL vehicle.
-Near Tal Afar, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and an ISIL heavy machine gun, destroying two ISIL buildings, an ISIL mortar system and an ISIL vehicle.

 Airstrike assessments are based on initial reports. All aircraft returned to base safely.

So if the political situation in Iraq is as important as the military, what has Barack done to aid it?  To foster a climate of unity?

At the  G7 conference, Josh Earnest, White House spokesperson, attempted to distort the meaning of a political solution.

Josh Earnest:  Uniting the diverse country of Iraq to confront the ISIL threat will be critical to their success.  And we’ve seen evidence of this approach when it comes to the efforts of Iraqi security forces to face down ISIL in Anbar Province.  The Prime Minister has received strong support from his multi-sectarian cabinet, but also from Sunni leaders in Anbar, that the deployment of a multi-sectarian force in Anbar Province against ISIL isn’t just important, it’s actually something that they specifically requested.  And they welcome the support of the international community for local Sunni fighters in Anbar and they welcome the decision from Prime Minister Abadi to deploy even Shia fighters and Kurdish fighters that are under the command and control of the Iraqi central government.  That’s an indication that Prime Minister Abadi’s multi-sectarian, inclusive approach is one that has the support of even Sunni leaders in Anbar Province.  Again, that is an indication that the strategy that we believe will be critical to their success is one that Prime Minister Abadi and other leaders in Iraq are committed to pursuing.

No, it's not and that's a ridiculous claim.

A) The Sunnis fighting the Islamic State in Anbar were largely fighting it for some time.  In some cases, they've been fighting since before Haider was even prime minister.

B) Sunnis fleeing Ramadi?  Sunni families are not allowed to enter Baghdad and the males of fighting age are forced to return to the area as fighters against the Islamic State.

Conscription isn't really a measure of national unity, it's just forced service.

We'll come back to Josh Earnest later, right now let's stay with Barack's press conference.

Kevin Liptak (CNN -- link is text and video) reports, "President Barack Obama said Monday his top national security advisers were still working to solidify training plans for Iraqi defense forces battling ISIS in their own country."  And he quotes Barack stating, "We don't yet have a complete strategy because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis."  Tom McCarthy (Guardian) notes:

The comments echoed the president’s assessment nine months ago, when he was asked at a White House news conference about how to defeat Isis militants in Syria.
“We don’t have a strategy yet,” Obama said then.

 BBC News quotes Barack declaring, "We want to get more Iraqi security forces trained, fresh, well-equipped and focused and [Mr] Abadi wants the same thing so we're reviewing a range of plans for how we might do that."

Abadi wants the same thing, does he?

But Kristina Wong (The Hill) reports today, "The U.S. mission in Iraq has stalled at one of five coalition training sites because the central government has not been sending new recruits, according to defense officials.  Baghdad has not identified or sent any new recruits to the Al-Asad air base in western Iraq for as many as four to six weeks, defense officials said Monday. "

If everyone's so committed, how do you explain that?

And how are you supposed to hear that news and not immediately think of the police training attempts in Iraq, by US forces, as the winter months bled from 2011 to 2012 and no police trainees showed up for the training?

Half a billion dollars set aside for that training (US tax dollars) and it never took place because Iraqis refused to show up for the training.

Back to Josh Earnest and his press briefing:

Q    Josh, what is the administration’s take -– it’s a fairly new development but it happened this weekend that Iraqi forces apparently were able to retake the city of Baiji.  And what does that say about the so-called will to fight?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Jim, we’ve seen these reports.  We’ve been unable to confirm them at this point.  And so we’re going to continue to try to learn more about what exactly is happening inside the city of Baiji.  It is our understanding that the Baiji refinery, which has also been the site of extensive fighting, is an area that continues to be contested and that is an area that has –- or that has been an area where military coalition airstrikes have taken place in support of Iraqi security forces.
What we continue to believe and what we’ll continue to support is the effort of Iraqi security forces that are under the command and control of the Iraqi central government pushing back on ISIL.  And there are a variety of ways that the U.S. and our coalition partners can support that ongoing effort.  We’ve talked about this quite a bit.  This is training and equipping; this is offering some military advice; and this includes the use of coalition military airpower that has proved to be a very valuable addition to the efforts of Iraqi security forces on the ground. 

And so we’re going to continue to learn more about what exactly has happened around Baiji City and we’re going to be continuing to support ongoing efforts in other parts of the country, including in Anbar Province, which has been the site of setbacks recently.  But we continue to be encouraged about the commitment of Iraqi security forces in Anbar to taking the fight on the ground to ISIL in that province and pushing them back.  And that will require sustained effort, and the United States and our coalition partners are working to determine what additional assistance we can provide to ensure the success of those efforts.

Oh, yes, Baiji.  Topic of our editorial at Third yesterday:

Editorial: What (still) matters in Iraq

They can't reclaim Mosul.

And they can't reclaim Ramadi.

But Iraqi forces did apparently reclaim Baiji. Or at least say they did.


Baiji came under attack a few weeks ago -- while prime minister Haider al-Abadi was in the US -- at the same time as Ramadi.

The immediate response was to bomb Baiji (and ignore Ramadi).

Baiji was more important than Ramadi for some reason.

And now it's more important than Mosul as well, judging by the effort to reclaim it.

Why is that?

What's so different about Baiji?

What CNN 'forgets' to inform you, AP tells you right in the  headline to Sinar Salaheddin's article: "Iraq: Troops Advance Against IS in Key Refinery Town."


Yes, this wasn't about the town or the people.

It was about a refinery.

As usual, the Iraq War remains about oil.


And if you're still not grasping the priorities, let's go to Richard Sisk's report for last week:

ISIS has begun using water as a weapon in eastern Anbar province by restricting the flow of water from a dam on the Euphrates River in Ramadi to government-held areas downstream, the Pentagon said Thursday.
"It's an example of ISIS' terror tactics," Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman said of the closing of most of the gates on the dam on the river skirting the southern edges of Ramadi, which fell to ISIS last month as Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) fled.
The fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) reportedly were opening only two or three of the 26 gates on the dam.
"The use of water as a tool of war is to be condemned in no uncertain terms," said Stephane Dujarric, a United Nations representative in Iraq. "These kinds of reports are disturbing to say the least."

But Ramadi wasn't the focus, the oil refinery in Baiji was.

Priorities, you understand.

Meanwhile, they've been a little optimistic in their progress reports.  Sunday, the Iraqi forces and Ministry of Defense were claiming they had liberated or 'liberated' Baiji.

As usual, there are simple claims and then a truth that's a little more complex:

  • IRAQ: Once again it appears that still hasn't been full captured by the ISF, despite media reports.

  • Yet yesterday, the Hash al-Shaabi militia's Muhammed al-Eqabi was quoted by CNN stating, "We can announce that Baiji city is completely liberated and the Iraqi flag was raised over the governor building."

    Meanwhile Margaret Griffis ( counts 63 violent deaths across Iraq today.

    In US politics, Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Hillary's Aiders" notes how Ralph Nader and Bernie Sanders are working overtime to increase support for Hillary Clinton.

    And lastly, we'll note this important item from Cindy Sheehan:

     Plea from Cindy

    Dede, Cindy and fellow Gold Star Mom Amy Branham before our first trip to Crawford. 8/6/05

    Dear Friend,

    It is with great concern but with hope that I write to you to let you know that my sister/best-friend/peace colleague, Dede Miller has recently been diagnosed with Stage 3, very aggressive and rare breast cancer.

    For a few months, she (and by extension as her primary support person, I) has been struggling with the monolithic bureaucracy of LA County "health" care. I have traveled from my home several times to LA to be with her. I can't see how a person can go through what Dede has had to go through alone.

    Dede has been by my side forever, not just since Casey was killed in Iraq. Dede, being a single person without children has been like a second mom to my kids and now the beloved Auntie to my five grandkids (she gets all the fun). However, since Casey has died she has been with me--getting arrested for peace; organizing Camp Casey and all of the other harebrained schemes I have come up with; campaign staff; and now my only co-worker in Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox and The Soapbox People's Network. 

    Back in 2005, Dede decided to leave corporate America to help me work for peace and now is finding it difficult (if not impossible) to survive with breast cancer AND fighting for her life to access basic services like medical care and disability (she doesn't qualify). Besides working for peace, we have been on the frontlines working for economic equality and social justice, and when we need it, it's not available. 

    Our family is working together to try and get Dede all the advantages she needs to heal herself from this terrible disease. We appreciate all of the well-wishes and healing thoughts, but we really don't need any more alternative therapy advice, we are exploring ALL options and know about these options.

    What we do need (besides your healing energy) are donations to give Dede this fighting chance to beat this awful (yet tragically) prevalent disease.

    One of our good friends, Jolie Diane, has set up this GOFUNDME page for Dede--please give what you can and/or share this campaign. 

    It's our most important campaign to date. Dede has been fighting for you full time, now please give her a fighting chance to continue in the struggle.
    PO BOX 6264
    VACAVILLE, CA 95696

    Love & Peace,

    Cindy Sheehan

    kristina wong