Monday, August 03, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Monday, August 3, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, protests continue in Iraq, the Parliament makes an announcement, Turkey continues bombing northern Iraq, Hillary Clinton's support for war on Iraq remains an issue, and much more.

Starting with the US presidential race (yes, the election does not take place until November 2016),
Stephen Zunes (at National Catholic Reporter) notes Hillary Clinton's still unexplained and unapologized for 2002 vote in support of war on Iraq:

Clinton is the only one of the five major announced candidates for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination who supported that illegal and unnecessary war, which not only resulted in 4,500 American deaths and thousands more permanently disabled, but hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, the destabilization of the region with the rise of ISIS, and a dramatic increase in the federal deficit resulting in major cutbacks to important social programs.
Her defenders have characterized her vote as a "mistake." However, it would have been a mistake only if she had pushed the "aye" button when she had meant to push the "nay" button. It was quite deliberate and the implications still raise serious questions.

Pope John Paul II and the National Council of Catholic Bishops, along with the leadership of virtually every major mainline U.S. Protestant denomination, came out in opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The Christian groups that supported Bush's call for war were essentially restricted to right-wing fundamentalists, thereby raising some serious questions as to where Clinton is coming from theologically.

For the record, saying it was a "mistake" is not an apology.  Yes, Hillary again said that last May.  To be clear, when it turned out Bill Clinton did have sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky and Hillary was throwing that lamp, Bill calling it a "mistake" would not have been seen by Hillary as an apology.  Nor should the country, the world, accept her use of the word "mistake" as an apology for voting for war on Iraq.

Though her negatives are increasing as she attempts to make a case for why she should be the Democratic Party's 2016 presidential nominee, some see her as presidential.  For example, H.A. Goodman (The Hill) makes a case that Hillary is very presidential . . . along the lines of Richard Nixon:

Regarding a penchant for hiding behind words and definitions, Clinton and Nixon share many of the same qualities. Like good attorneys, the words of both place great emphasis on technical legal definitions, rather than what the average American would describe as a lack of judgement. While Nixon's focus on "political containment" cost him the White House, a similar type of political containment could have motivated Clinton to engage in using a private server exclusively.
In 2015, Americans can access the Nixon Library and listen to "a portion of the approximately 60 hours of tape subpoenaed by the Watergate Special Prosecution Force (WSPF)." However, there will always be 18.5 minutes of missing tape, destroyed by someone within Nixon's administration, containing "incriminating evidence" that nobody will ever be able to hear. Clinton and her team unilaterally deleted 31,830 emails, without any oversight, and with the expectation that Americans simply trust that these emails never contained any classified or incriminating data. Basic logic dictates that if the recent investigation of four out of just 40 Clinton emails has already resulted in security failures, there's a good chance that more classified information and security breaches will be found within the 60,000 other emails.
Like Nixon, Clinton’s "political containment" could lead to an endless legal conundrum, culminating in a political figure being forced to acknowledge that questionable behavior wasn't done in the name of American interest, but rather personal interest. Ultimately, Democrats can't survive in 2016 with potentially classified emails floating around days before Election Day. Since more than 30,000 of her deleted emails are deleted -- but not gone, and still recoverable -- this aspect of the controversy adds an even greater element of uncertainty. "Political containment" is a dangerous thing in today's networked world, or as Clinton calls it, opting for "convenience."

Last week, the US State Dept released another trove of e-mails to and from Hillary when she was Secretary of State.  The release included an e-mail exchange with failed US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill in which Hill called the Iraqi people "truly a collective pain in the neck."

The true pain in the neck is people like Chris Hill.

Hill's reign was short.  After there was denying how badly he had bungled his mission, US President Barack Obama asked Hill for his resignation yet today, having secured a post at the University of Denver, Hill presents himself as an expert on Iraq.

As we noted in the July 25th snapshot, bombing is not helping Iraq and Iraq is not an empty field but instead a populated country with over 30 million people.  Barack's bombing campaign means bombs are falling on people.

If that's confusing to you, Airwars maintains US-led strikes on Iraq and Syria have killed between 489 and 1,247 civilians. Cora Currier (The Intercept) reminds, "Next Saturday marks the first anniversary of the United States’ bombing campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq. Over the past year, a U.S.-led coalition including Canada, France, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and other European and Gulf states has carried out over 5,800 airstrikes against the group in Iraq and Syria."

In related news, Samuel Oakford (Vice News) reports, "The UN said Monday that it is looking into reports that as many as 40 civilians were killed in an airstrike near Ramadi last Friday, an incident that could be the latest deadly attack to hit innocent bystanders in the campaign by the Iraqi government and a US-led coalition against the self-styled Islamic State (IS)."

Killing people is big business, as Kate Brannen (Daily Beast) explains:

The war against ISIS isn’t going so great, with the self-appointed terror group standing up to a year of U.S. airstrikes in Syria and Iraq.
But that hasn’t kept defense contractors from doing rather well amidst the fighting. Lockheed Martin has received orders for thousands of more Hellfire missiles. AM General is busy supplying Iraq with 160 American-built Humvee vehicles, while General Dynamics is selling the country millions of dollars worth of tank ammunition.

SOS International, a family-owned business whose corporate headquarters are located in New York City, is one of the biggest players on the ground in Iraq, employing the most Americans in the country after the U.S. Embassy. On the company’s board of advisors: former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz—considered to be one of the architects of the invasion of Iraq—and Paul Butler, a former special assistant to Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld.

On the topic of air strikes on Iraq, Al Bawaba notes that the Turkish government is denying that their bombing of northern Iraq has resulted in any targeting of civilians:

Turkish armed forces have rejected all allegations that it targeted civilians in recent airstrikes in northern Iraq.
Referring to some media reports that claimed several civilians were killed and injured during an airstrike by Turkish jets in Zargala village in northern Iraq, the military in a statement rejected the allegations and clarified that the airstrikes only targeted members of "separatist terrorist organization," the statement said.

Too bad for them, there is photographic evidence to the contrary.

  • The Turkish airstrikes were raised in today's State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Mark Toner.

    QUESTION: Turkey. On the Turkish airstrikes --

    MR TONER: I’m sorry, I missed the last part. Turkey and --

    QUESTION: Turkey. On the Turkish airstrikes.

    MR TONER: Turkish airstrikes.

    QUESTION: Yeah. They earlier this week – I think it was over the weekend or Friday, the airstrikes killed at least eight civilians in a village in northern Iraq. Do you condemn that?

    MR TONER: I talked a little bit about this last week, but we don’t want to see any civilian casualties and we take those kinds of reports very seriously. We want to see the PKK stop its attacks against Turkey and then for the Turkish Government to respond proportionately. We want to see all that violence end, and we want to see the efforts of Turkey but also the coalition’s efforts as well as the anti-ISIL groups fighting in northern Syria focus on combatting ISIL.

    QUESTION: Both the Turkish Government and the Iraqi Kurdistan government have said there were civilian casualties in this specific case. I want to say whether you will – see whether you condemn this and whether you believe what has happened, why the Turkish Government attacked the civilians which are clearly not PKK hideouts?

    MR TONER: Well, again, I don't know the specifics of these attacks, but often – not often, but sometimes, when you have airstrikes or civilians in the area, they can be affected, so – but these are airstrikes being carried out against PKK targets. And again, just going to the root of this, PKK has carried out attacks against Turkey. We have defended Turkey’s right to self-defense in this case, but we want to see the violence end, we want to see the PKK cease its attacks, and as I said, the Turkish Government to respond proportionately.

    As they did last week, the State Dept takes the position that Turkey has the right to bomb Iraq -- not the position that Iraq has the right not to be bombed by Turkey.

    From Saturday's snapshot:

    Protests also took place in northern Iraq's KRG where protesters gathered before the KRG Parliament to lodge their objections to the Turkish war planes dropping bombs on the region.
    All Iraq News reports that Haider al-Abadi publicly declared today that Turkey needs to respect Iraq's sovereignty.
    Alsumaria adds that he declared the PKK (the supposed target of Turkey) exists in Turkey and not Iraq and that the Iranian government is also opposed to the PKK but they (the Iranian government) have not bombed Iraq.

    The US says Iraq is an ally but they refuse to side with the prime minister they installed on this issue. More Iraqi voices are objecting each day (already the Cabinet of Ministers has objected).  In addition,  National Iraqi News Agency reports:

    MP, of the Kurdistan Alliance, Ashwaq al-Jaf described the Turkish bombing to the villages of the province of Kurdistan, as a violation of international norms and principles of human rights, "confirmed "the need not to make the innocent defenseless citizens as victims of a dispute between the Turkish government and the PKK

    Staying with violence, Margaret Griffis ( counts 141 violent deaths across Iraq today.

    In other news, All Iraq News reports, "Parliament Speaker Saleem al-Jobouri announced on Monday that parliament is going to host the former Deputy Prime Minister of Power Hussain al-Shihrestani and other former ministers of Electricity since 2003 next week, a parliamentary source said to AIN."  AIN also notes that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared today that he was going to begin an investigation of "the waste of public money."

    What's going on?

    As this photo at Al Mada demonstrates: Protests.

    Saturday's snapshot noted protests were sweeping Iraq.

    And they continued on Sunday.

  • Middle East Eye observes, "Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets in Iraq’s southern provinces on Sunday to protest the lack of services and electricity."
    Protesters called for action to be taken against “corrupt” government officials who they hold responsible for continued electricity outages, water cuts and rising unemployment rates.

    And they continued today with security forces in Najaf attacking the protesters.

    The protests were noted on today's Here & Now (NPR, link is audio) where anchor Peter O'Dowd spoke with McClatchy Newspapers Mitchell Prothero.  Excerpt.

    Peter O'Dowd: Is the deteriorating infrastructure in Iraq a bigger threat than ISIS is?

    Mitchell Prothero:  Well let's put it this way: one of the things whenever I speak with people who live in ISIS areas, the first thing they say is that immediately the public utilities and things get more efficient.  In a lot of cases, there isn't electricity because the government controls that.  But the trash gets picked up, water, bread, all this stuff comes out. You know, what people need to accept in the post-US invasion environment, the Iraqis have yet to put together a government that's, you know, anything vaguely closely to competent.  The infrastructure in Baghdad has never been improved, billions have been spent, mostly stolen and so, when you do get a spike, because 115, 118 degrees, that's not completely unusual this time of year, but when it pops up to 125 or so and you've basically lost the largest oil refinery in Iraq -- destroyed in fighting, and then you throw in that the government's bankrupt and fighting wars on  several different fronts, the whole thing just comes apart. 

    As Sheik (Dar Addustour) observes that the demonstrations by the people are needed because a corrupt institution does not correct itself without pressure.

    Winding down, today, the US State Dept issued the following:

    Media Note
    Office of the Spokesperson
    Washington, DC
    August 3, 2015

    Secretary of State John Kerry announced today at the Gulf Cooperation Council Summit in Qatar that the United States is providing nearly $62 million in additional humanitarian assistance to Iraqis who have been affected by violence and are in urgent need of assistance from the international community. This new funding brings the total U.S. humanitarian assistance for Iraqis in the region to more than $477 million since the start of Fiscal Year 2014.
    This funding aims to assist millions of Iraqi civilians affected by the conflict – including more than 3 million internally displaced persons and 370,000 refugees who have had to flee their homes since January 2014 – providing them with critically needed relief commodities, shelter, clean water, psychosocial services, medical services, livelihoods support, cash assistance, child protection, legal documentation, and other essential goods and services.
    A range of UN and international non-governmental agencies are receiving the funding, including the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and other international and nongovernmental organizations.
    For further information, please contact Danna Van Brandt,, or visit. PRM’s website.

     The above was noted in today's State Dept press briefing:

    QUESTION: Iraq?

    MR TONER: Yeah. I’m sorry, yeah.

    QUESTION: So you talked about like $600 million in aid.

    MR TONER: Yes. Hold on, let me get the exact – I don’t want to give you the wrong --

    QUESTION: Sure. Can you tell us specifically where that aid goes – what part of this goes for refugees or --

    MR TONER: Sure. So 62 million, you’re absolutely right. So it’s – this funding, as it often – often, our humanitarian assistance is funneled through and supports the activities of UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Children’s Fund – UNICEF, and the International Organization for Migration – IOM, as well as other international and nongovernmental organizations. It’s going to be critically needed relief, so water – clean water, rather – medical care, shelter, and other necessities by those most affected by the ongoing conflict. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees in the region. And we’re also going to – the money’s going to go to help provide assistance to host communities throughout the region who are also struggling to deal with the displaced as well.

    QUESTION: So the total is 477 million?

    MR TONER: That’s right.

    QUESTION: Does that make the U.S. the largest donor in Iraq?

    MR TONER: That is a fair question. I believe that’s correct, yes.