Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, September 23, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Haider al-Abadi backs off his reforms or 'reforms,' just in time for the Pope's US visit President Barack Obama remembers Iraq, the cooked intel story is not going away, and much more.

Today, the State Dept's Deputy Sex Addict Brett McGurk Tweeted:

  • Today with , confirmed $75M for acute needs of Iraqi IDPs & named a special coordinator for 's minorities.

  • And to think, all it took was a face-to-face with the Pope for US President Barack Obama to finally recognize the refugee crisis other countries have been noting for weeks.

    Brett's giddy Barack named a special coordinator for Iraq's minorities?

    Apparently, Brett'll use any excuse to whip it out (but didn't we already know that).

    Otherwise, why not grasp that this "special coordinator" will be about as effective as the ridiculous Daniel Fried who was John Kerry's "Special Advisor on Camp Ashraf" from November 2011 until January 2013 -- and accomplished nothing.


    If you're in doubt, this week former US House Rep Patrick Kennedy penned a column which included:

    My uncle, President John F. Kennedy, managed to negotiate a nuclear deal with a hostile adversary (the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, signed with the Soviet Union in August 1963) while actively supporting, in both rhetoric and to the tune of tens of billions of dollars in funding, the cause of democracy in Eastern bloc countries. In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan took the same approach with the USSR by signing the INF Treaty while redoubling the U.S. commitment to democracy behind the Iron Curtain. This strategy kept faith with America's deepest-held values and most vital interests. Sadly, today our government has not pursued a similar course with respect to Iran.
    While my former colleagues in Congress have now given President Barack Obama the votes he needs for a nuclear deal, what's been equally worrisome has been the near total abdication of America's moral authority on promoting democracy and human rights in Iran, both of which were under assault even during the nuclear talks, when we had maximum leverage.
    [. . .]
    The U.S. can start by taking prompt action to protect thousands of Iranian dissidents who languish like sitting ducks in an Iraqi camp we swore to protect but didn't, for fear of alienating the regime from the negotiating table. With the deal done, one would think the Obama administration now has the leverage to save these souls who cast their lot with a secular, democratic, non-nuclear Iran. After years of ambushes and massacres at the hands of Iran-supported forces, these brave men and women should be protected from further attacks at the ironically named Camp Liberty. We must make clear to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that he is responsible for the protection of these Iranian dissidents, and they must be brought to the safety of third-party nations.

    The deal is done, but America's interests and values endure. We must now use the imminent passage of the nuclear pact to renew America's unique commitment to the ideal of democracy and human rights in Iran and stand with the Iranian people and not their oppressors.

    For approximately 14 months, Fried held a role that tasked him with relocating less than 4,000 people.

    And he failed.

    He failed and no one cared and the press didn't even muster a yawn.

    For those who've boarded the plane late, here's an overview on the Ashraf community.  As of September 2013, Camp Ashraf in Iraq is empty.  All remaining members of the community have been moved to Camp Hurriya (also known as Camp Liberty).  Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were  welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.)   In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So the US has an obligation to protect the residents.  3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf.  They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part.  A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday.   That was the second attack this year alone.   February 9th of this year, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."  They were attacked again September 1st.   Adam Schreck (AP) reported that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.  It was during that attack that the 7 hostages were taken.

    The seven remain missing -- though John Kerry and Brett McGurk have insisted to Congress that they know where the 7 are -- and the Ashraf community still needs homes outside of Iraq.

    So Pope Francis comes to the US and suddenly Barack finds another job to create where an advisor will do nothing and accomplish nothing?

    What a proud moment for us all.

    Barack delivered empty words June 19, 2014 when he insisted the only answer for Iraq was a political solution.

    There's no political solution all this time later.

    And the latest US-installed puppet, Haider al-Abadi, is a joke.

    Nour Malas (Wall St. Journal) reports on Haider's reforms or 'reforms' and how Haider's well covered press announcements have not resulted in action -- but Haider "has backtracked" from his promises.

    There is still no National Guard.

    The main thing with the Guard?  This was going to bring Sunnis into the process.

    Persecuted under Nouri al-Maliki, this was going to bring in Sahwa and other elements.

    But apparently, Shi'ites in control do not want Sunnis in the military.

    You may remember the refusal of the Baghdad government to arm the Sunni fighters in Anbar Province -- the months of refusal and foot dragging and only when the US Congress began talking of arming the Sunnis directly did Haider finally start providing the Sunni fighters with arms.

    Malas notes that Iraqi and US officials blame Haider for failing to get Parliament to pass legislation creating the National Guard.

    Malas details how, even operating in secret (and unconstitutionally), Haider was unable to wrest control of Dawa (Shi'ite political party) from former prime minister (and forever thug) Nouri al-Maliki.  And how this and other events have led Haider to back away from his claims and promises.

    Haider held a meeting with Shi'ite military officers and Iran's Qasem Soleimani (Quds Force commander and designated a terrorist by the US government) in which he announced he would propose no more reforms with regards to the military.

    Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing (covered in the Thursday and Friday snapshots) and one topic was raised frequently.  An example.

    Committee Chair John McCain: Indeed this Committee is disturbed by recent whistle-blower allegations that officials at Central Command skewed intelligence assessments to paint an overly positive picture of conditions on the ground.  We are currently investigations these allegations which we take with the upmost seriousness.  The Department of Defense should as well.  And if true, those responsible must be held accountable.


    Senator Claire McCaskill: I understand from your testimony, Gen Austin, that you can't comment on the IG investigation this accusation that people are putting pressure on intelligence analysts to change the tenor of their reports.  It's a serious allegation that strikes at the core of our government in terms of our ability to oversee and make decisions around the use of our military. I want to say, at the end of this investigation, when you can discuss it, I just want to put on the record that I, for one, am going to be watching very carefully about any potential retaliation against any of the men or women that may have come forward with allegations.  It is incredibly important that whistle-blowers be protected in this space and -- depending upon what the investigation finds -- I understand that maybe there are other factors that I am not aware of -- but I just want to put on the record that I will be paying very close attention to how these whistle-blowers are treated in the aftermath of this investigation.

    The cooked intel story is not going away and in the latest development Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo (New York Times) report Gregory Hooker's role:

    As the senior Iraq analyst at Central Command, the military headquarters in Tampa that oversees American military operations across the Middle East and Central Asia, Mr. Hooker is the leader of a group of analysts that is accusing senior commanders of changing intelligence reports to paint an overly optimistic portrait of the American bombing campaign against the Islamic State. The Pentagon’s inspector general is investigating. 

    Although the investigation became public weeks ago, the source of the allegations and Mr. Hooker’s role have not been previously known. Interviews with more than a dozen current and former intelligence officials place the dispute directly at the heart of Central Command, with Mr. Hooker and his team in a fight over what Americans should believe about the war.

    Earlier this week,, Shane Harris and Nancy Youssef (The Daily Beast) reported on what was being cooked:

    In some cases, analysts were also urged to state that killing particular ISIS leaders and key officials would diminish the group and lead to its collapse. Many analysts, however, didn’t believe that simply taking out top ISIS leaders would have an enduring effect on overall operations.

    Amnesty International has an online petition regarding Iraq:

    One year after the take-over of Mosul by the group calling itself Islamic State (IS), Iraq is experiencing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

    Sectarian violence has spiraled to a level not seen since 2006-2007, the worst period of civil strife in the country’s recent history. IS’s territorial gains have been accompanied by widespread war crimes, including mass killings, abductions, rape and destruction. Hundreds of thousands of people, mainly religious and ethnic minorities, have been forced from their homes. Some 2.8 million people have been displaced by the conflict. Many are living in dire conditions, as the Iraqi central government and Kurdish authorities, as well as the international community, have struggled to provide for even the most basic needs of the growing number.  Many of the displaced have also been denied access to safe areas by both the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) acting out of security concerns but also on sectarian and discriminatory grounds.
    At the same time, Shi’a militias acting with impunity and outside any legal framework, but with the backing of Iraqi government and government forces have been carrying out reprisal attacks against Sunni communities, including mass killings, abductions and destruction of Sunni villages.

    Sign our petition to call on the Iraqi central government, the Kurdistan Regional government and the international community to protect civilians and put an end to human rights abuses

    Call on the Iraqi government  and the Kurdistan Regional government to:

    • Ensure that all allegations of abductions, hostage-taking, enforced disappearance, unlawful killings, including extrajudicial executions and other summary killings, torture and other ill-treatment by members of pro-government militias and members of the security services or armed forces are investigated promptly, thoroughly, transparently and independently;
    Call on the Iraqi central government, the Kurdistan Regional Government and the International community to:

    • Make concerted efforts to ensure that adequate protection and humanitarian assistance including shelter, food, water, sanitation and essential medical assistance is provided to those displaced by the conflict, and that they are allowed a safe passage to safe shelter.
    • When transferring or receiving weapons, adopt a preventive approach and strict safeguards in order to mitigate and remove the substantial risk of the arms being used directly by the intended recipients, or through diversion, to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law

    If you'd like to sign the petition, click here.