Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, August 4, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the Yazidis carry out their revenge attacks to do their part to continue the circle of violence, Tony Blair's War Crimes gather attention, Haider al-Abadi appears to be just another Nouri by another name, and much more.

Worldwide, he may have been so minor that he's seen as Bully Boy Bush's lapdog but in England, he remains a focal point, rallying cry and all around nuisance.  War Hawk Tony Blair's crimes are not forgotten or buried.  The Telegraph of London explains:

 Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn has suggested that Tony Blair could be made to stand trial for war crimes over the invasion of Iraq.
The veteran left winger said the 2003 conflict was an "illegal war" and that the individuals who "made the decisions that went with it" should face justice. 

The remarks were made during an interview with BBC's Newsnight.  ITV notes this of the interview:

Asked whether Blair should be tried for war crimes, Corbyn said: "If he's committed a war crime, yes. Everyone who's committed a war crime should be.
"I think it was an illegal war, I'm confident about that, indeed (former UN secretary general) Kofi Annan confirmed it was an illegal war, and therefore he has to explain to that."
Pressed on whether he personally wanted to see Blair put on trial, Corbyn said: "I want to see all those that committed war crimes tried for it, and those that made the decisions that went with it."

Corbyn is far from alone in terming Tony Blair a War Criminal.  And the Iraq War has attached itself to Tony Blair in a way that rarely happens.  Henry Kissinger is haunted by his crimes and basically fenced in, unable to travel freely throughout the world for fear of being arrested.  This appears to be the fate that awaits Blair at a minimum.

But there are those who believe and/or hope that Blair will stand trial for his War Crimes.  Jeremy Corbyn's words will give them some encouragement and validation.  Of the interview, Nicholas Watt (Guardian) adds:

Corbyn said he expects the eventual publication of the Chilcot report will force Blair to explain his discussions with President Bush in the runup to the war.
He said: “The Chilcot report is going to come out sometime. I hope it comes out soon. I think there are some decisions Tony Blair has got to confess or tell us what actually happened. What happened in Crawford, Texas, in 2002 in his private meetings with George [W] Bush. Why has the Chilcot report still not come out because – apparently there is still debate about the release of information on one side or the other of the Atlantic. At that point Tony Blair and the others that have made the decisions are then going to have to deal with the consequences of it.”

He hopes it comes out soon?

Not a smart move to count on the Chilcot report.  The Iraq Inquiry stopped holding hearings in 2011. The report was supposed to have come out long ago.

Instead, four years later and still no report.

Four years later and nothing.

Patrick Wintour (Guardian) reports:

An impatient David Cameron will demand Sir John Chilcot names the date by which his report into the British invasion of Iraq will be ready for publication.
The prime minister is expected to tell Chilcot he wants to see the report as soon as possible. “Right now I want a timetable,” he told journalists.

Cameron, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, points out that he cannot force the independent body that is the Iraq Inquiry to release the report but he can ask for a date for when the body will release the report and thereby create a timetable.

Dropping back to the Tuesday, July 21st snapshot:

Alsumaria offers video of a Baghdad protest that took place on Monday as people gathered to demand the release of artist Namir Abdel Hussein who was arrested in a sweep that included the security forces arresting over 700 hotel workers when the hotels were stormed.
Why were they stormed?
The Shi'ite militias are again in charge, that's why.
And they don't like a Baghdad night life.
This happened repeatedly under Nouri -- and it was illegal then.
Now it's happening under Haider al-Abadi.
But let's keep pretending he's representing some form of change and a new direction for Iraq.
The Ministry of the Interior, Monday night, announced that they had released the artist as well as the hotel workers. 

Friday, Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) covered the subject:

Despite official declarations such as that of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi July 20, the attacks and violations have not stopped. Before storming the nightclubs, a military force raided the Union of Writers Club in Baghdad June 19 and attacked a group of writers on accusations of alcohol consumption.
On July 25, an unidentified military force stormed a family restaurant in central Baghdad and attacked patrons.
The rule of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (2006-2014) witnessed an array of similar attacks that targeted the same type of sites as well as liquor stores. These places are currently confined to the Karrada district of central Baghdad by the constant attacks against them elsewhere and amid the spread of a religious tide in the rest of the capital’s districts.
Some of these attacks have turned deadly. In July 2014, armed militias carried out a terrifying massacre, killing about 30 women in a residential apartment in Zayouna district in eastern Baghdad that they claimed were showing "immoral behavior."
In the latest incident, as in all of the previous ones, the Interior Ministry formed a committee under Abadi's direction to investigate the issue, but no investigations have been announced, and the ministry has not produced any perpetrator of an attack on public freedoms for prosecution, implying some sort of solidarity with the perpetrators.
Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry claimed that bars and nightclubs are under constant attack because they were never granted official licenses to conduct business.
Such licenses are usually granted by the Iraqi Ministry of Tourism, which, ever since the change of the political system in Iraq after the US occupation in 2003, has granted no official licenses to sell alcohol or open establishments dedicated to alcohol use. Iraq's Law No. 6 of 2001 regulates these places and was preceded by Law No. 82 of 1994.


Nothing's really changed in Iraq.

Haider al-Abadi replacing Nouri al-Maliki was supposed to mean change.

But there's been no change.

For example, today, Al Arabiya News reports:

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Affairs, Bahaa al-Aaraji, said the former government of Nouri al-Maliki has wasted around $1 trillion of public funds.
“The former government (of Maliki) has wasted around $1 trillion. $800 billion came from Iraq’s oil budget since 2004 till 2014 while $200 billion came from donations and aid,” Aaraji told reporters on Friday according to a report by Asharq al-Awsat.

Nouri is a thug.  And he needs to be held accountable for all the money he fleeced.

But it's doubtful he will be.

Despite receiving applause for supposedly attempting to address corruption, new prime minister Haider al-Abadi has done damn little.

Address it?  He can't even answer a basic question.

This was obvious last April when Der Spiegel's Susanne Koelbl interviewed him:

SPIEGEL: Iraq is at war, but it is not the only crisis affecting the country. Many residents of Baghdad use the word "thieves" when they talk about your politicians. How corrupt is your government?

Al-Abadi: We have problems and the way I am dealing with them is to start by admitting them. Corruption is a huge issue. It has to do with the society, which has changed -- both during the times of Saddam Hussein's regime and after. Also, the sanctions had an adverse effect on society in nurturing this culture of corruption. During the 1960s or 1970s, bribery was very rare in Iraq. The number of government employees was very small and usually they were the elite. But then they incorporated millions of people into the government -- not to better run the state, but to control the people. We are in the process of implementing a number of processes and procedures that aim to curb the extent of corruption.

SPIEGEL: One of your first actions after you took office was to close the office of your predecessor's son, who is said to have provided huge government contracts to people who were ready to pay the most for them. Young college graduates claim they had to pay officials $10,000 to $20,000 in order to obtain government jobs. Why should Iraqis have any faith in this government?

Al-Abadi: We need to flip the system. Four years ago, the government tried to stop the corruption at the Passport Office, where people pay $400 to $500 just to get their passport issued. Every day they were arresting so many people and it did not have much of an effect. But if you ease the procedure, for instance making the document available online, it puts an end to it altogether. I don't want to fill our prisons with people who ask for petty cash while we are facing this major terrorist threat to the country. I want to keep these prisons for the actual criminals who are killing people or for people who are stealing vast amounts of money from the people. I want to change how we run the government in Iraq.

Did you notice it?  Serious talk.

Until the interviewer notes Ahmed al-Maliki, Nouri's son.

He never comments on that: "One of your first actions after you took office was to close the office of your predecessor's son, who is said to have provided huge government contracts to people who were ready to pay the most for them."

He just sidesteps it, ignores it.  He's asked "how corrupt is your government" and responds directly without any offence.  But he can't answer about Ahmed al-Maliki?

Let's stop pretending anything's changed with regards to Haider.


There's a lot of pretending going on.

For example, at The Conversation, Tyler Fisher, Muslih Mustafa, Nahro Zagros want to note a year since Mount Sinjar, when Yazidis were trapped on the mountain and being attacked, the incident that led Barack to start bombing Iraq.  The three write:

The crisis in Sinjar is subsiding, and the Peshmerga have gradually retaken some of the areas that IS had overrun. But the atrocities are still a relentless daily reality for thousands of Yazidis still in captivity, for those in precarious refugee camps and for their relatives abroad, bereaved or longing to be reunited.

Several thousand remain in the mountains, cut off from humanitarian aid – and the threat of annihilation has not abated.

Credit to the three for not pretending all Yazidis were rescued.

How sad that Barack's actions last August have still not paid off.

But there's another detail and Mitchell Prothero was noting it in his Here & Now interview yesterday.

Sinjar itself?

Still under Islamic State control all these months (12) later.

Twelve months after Barack began bombing Iraq and nothing has changed.

Sinjar remains occupied, Yazidis remain trapped.

Some do.

Some practice vengeance. 

Khales Joumah (Niqash) covers this under-reported aspect of the story:

A combination of airstrikes and ground action by a number of different forces has seen the Islamic State, or IS, group expelled from parts of the territory. And supposedly those areas would now be safe enough for the residents to return to, if they were alive and able to. However, as is happening in other areas of the country where the IS group's activities only deepened existing enmities between different ethnic and religious groups, there are acts of revenge occurring and extrajudicial “justice” being meted out.
Yazidis who lived in the area say that their Arab neighbours didn’t help them when the IS fighters arrived and, in fact, in some cases, collaborated with them. The Iraqi Kurdish military have been faced with similar accusations and criticised for using the security crisis for their own ends – that is, claiming more land in northern Iraq under the guise of protecting locals.
As a result the situation in the Sinjar area is extremely confused. The upshot of the IS group's murder, kidnapping, abduction and destruction is more murder, kidnapping, abduction and destruction.
“All the houses in our village look as though a violent earthquake destroyed them,” says Ahmad Ali, who is originally from the Arab village of Sibaya, north of Sinjar mountain.
In January the 34-year-old fled the village along with 14 members of his family because Yazidis attacked them.
Amnesty International reported at the time that the Yazidi militia “killed 21 civilians, half of them elderly men and women and children, in what appear to have been execution-style killings, and injured several others, including three children. The gunmen also abducted some 40 residents, 17 of whom are still missing and feared dead”.
Ali now lives near the Rabia district and in a telephone interview he told NIQASH that he recently watched acts of vengeful destruction with binoculars.
“In the space of a week, bulldozers, protected by the Yazidi militia, demolished all the village houses, including the school, the health clinic and the mosque,” Ali reports. “Then they went to a nearby village called Sayer. There are other villages that will have the same fate,” he concluded.

Nothing changed -- even the cycle of revenge remains the same.

Yet today's big news?

BBC reports:

The RAF Tornado mission against Islamic State militants in Iraq is to be extended by an extra year, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said.
The jets - due to be disbanded last March - are to be kept in service until "at least" March 2017 to continue air strikes, he said on a visit to Iraq.

No real success to point to from August 2014 to the present but the plan or 'plan' is to continue this through at least March 2017.

Anyone going to have the guts to ask: Why?

Bill Van Auken (WSWS) reminds:

It was only a year ago that Obama told the American public that he was ordering air strikes in Iraq and sending in a small contingent of Special Operations troops for the sole purpose of rescuing the Yazidis, a small religious community in northern Iraq, from a supposedly imminent massacre at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
This Sunni Islamist militia had overrun roughly a third of Iraq the previous month, routing US-trained Iraqi troops that fled in disarray. This debacle was the product of the past US interventions, which had killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and left behind a shattered society divided along sectarian lines.
ISIS itself bore the stamp “Made in the USA,” having enjoyed the backing of the CIA and Washington’s principal regional allies, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, in the war for regime change in Syria. It was also strengthened by the 2011 US-NATO war to topple and murder Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. That neocolonial enterprise relied upon similar Al Qaeda-linked Islamist militias, many of whose members—along with huge stocks of captured Libyan weapons—were funneled into Syria.

The fate of the Yazidis has long been forgotten. Subsequent attempts were made to sell the new war as an existential struggle against terrorism—that is, against the very terrorists the US had been supporting in Libya and Syria—exploiting the fate of captive Americans beheaded by ISIS.

A year, billions spnet, so many killed and nothing to show for it.

Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 37 violent deaths across Iraq today.

mushreq abbas