Monday, October 12, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Monday, October 12, 2015.  Chaos and violence continues, politicians gear up to spin, the KRG remains in turmoil, and much more.

Tuesday night, candidates for the Democratic Party's 2016 presidential nomination debate in Las Vegas.

People say a lot when they want the job, yeah
Lining up sideways around the block
"It's not for the money" she say to you
Almost convincing herself that it's true
"I'll take care of your dog when you're away"
"I don't mind working Saturdays"
"When you wanna work I'll work with you", she say
"And I'll go on working when you wanna play"
"Nothing gonna hurt you when I'm around"
"I'll keep my eyes wide open and my nose to the ground"
"I'll be like a mama with a baby cub"
People say a lot when they want the job
People say a lot when they want the job, yeah
People say a lot when they want the job
-- "People Say A Lot," written by Carly Simon, first appears on her album THIS KIND OF LOVE

Hillary Clinton, for example, has been making promises that  the editorial board of USA Today and Stephen Stromberg (Washington Post) find hard to believe since her new found objections to the TPP trade deal and the Keystone pipeline are so far from her previous positions and, back in June, Jake Tapper (CNN) offered "45 times Secretary Clinton pushed the trade bill she now opposes."

The former Secretary of State is facing serious competition from Senator Bernie Sanders who Alex Griswold (Mediaite) notes has stated that, unlike Hillary, his positions have remained "consistent."

Patrick Frye (Inquisiter) offers, "With the 2016 presidential candidates planning for the Democratic Debate, 2015 promises to be interesting since Bernie Sanders may bring up Hillary Clinton’s war record during the Democrat’s presidential debate being hosted by CNN. In return, Clinton will have to convince Democrats that making her the United States president has a reason or goal, although it’s uncertain whether or not she will have to dance around questions based upon the infamous email server incident."

And, indeed, he's been circulating his remarks from October 2, 2002:

Mr. Speaker, I do not think any Member of this body disagrees that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant, a murderer, and a man who has started two wars. He is clearly someone who cannot be trusted or believed. The question, Mr. Speaker, is not whether we like Saddam Hussein or not. The question is whether he represents an imminent threat to the American people and whether a unilateral invasion of Iraq will do more harm than good.
Mr. Speaker, the front page of The Washington Post today reported that all relevant U.S. intelligence agencies now say, despite what we have heard from the White House, that "Saddam Hussein is unlikely to initiate a chemical or biological attack against the United States." Even more importantly, our intelligence agencies say that should Saddam conclude that a U.S.-led attack could no longer be deterred, he might at that point launch a chemical or biological counterattack. In other words, there is more danger of an attack on the United States if we launch a precipitous invasion.
Mr. Speaker, I do not know why the President feels, despite what our intelligence agencies are saying, that it is so important to pass a resolution of this magnitude this week and why it is necessary to go forward without the support of the United Nations and our major allies including those who are fighting side by side with us in the war on terrorism.
But I do feel that as a part of this process, the President is ignoring some of the most pressing economic issues affecting the well-being of ordinary Americans. There has been virtually no public discussion about the stock market's loss of trillions of dollars over the last few years and that millions of Americans have seen the retirement benefits for which they have worked their entire lives disappear. When are we going to address that issue? This country today has a $340 billion trade deficit, and we have lost 10 percent of our manufacturing jobs in the last 4 years, 2 million decent-paying jobs. The average American worker today is working longer hours for lower wages than 25 years ago. When are we going to address that issue?
Mr. Speaker, poverty in this country is increasing and median family income is declining. Throughout this country family farmers are being driven off of the land; and veterans, the people who put their lives on the line to defend us, are unable to get the health care and other benefits they were promised because of government underfunding. When are we going to tackle these issues and many other important issues that are of such deep concern to Americans?

Where I'm confused is what the hell did Bernie ever do afterwards?

Or, for that matter, now that the US-led coalition is again dropping bombs on Iraq, where the hell is Bernie?

Oh, wow, in 2002, he spoke out?

I did too, Berns.

And I've spent my time since continuing to protest this ongoing illegal war.

What have you done, Bernie?

Ignored veterans issues -- as Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee -- to promote acupuncture?


What a proud moment for you, as a scandal was killing veterans, you were off pimping your pet projects.

Since August of 2014, Barack Obama's 'answer' for the crises in Iraq has been to drop bombs.

Today, the US Defense Dept announced:

Attack, bomber, fighter, remotely piloted aircraft and rocket artillery conducted 18 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the government of Iraq:
-- Near Baghdadi, one strike destroyed an ISIL vehicle.
-- Near Bayji, three strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units, destroyed an ISIL fighting position, and denied ISIL access to terrain.
-- Near Fallujah, one strike destroyed an ISIL anti-air artillery piece and an ISIL tactical vehicle.
-- Near Kisik, one strike suppressed an ISIL heavy machine gun position.
-- Near Mosul, one strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position.
-- Near Ramadi, seven strikes struck four separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL mortar system, an ISIL trench, three separate ISIL vehicle borne improvised explosive devices, two ISIL front-end loaders, an ISIL building, an ISIL vehicle, an ISIL tactical vehicle, an ISIL home-made explosives cache, denied ISIL access to terrain and wounded an ISIL fighter.
-- Near Sinjar, one strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two ISIL fighting positions.
-- Near Sultan Abdallah, one strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed and ISIL fighting position.
-- Near Tal Afar, one strike struck and destroyed an ISIL tactical unit.

-- Near Waleed, one strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL vehicle.

What's Bernie's response to that?

Hillary voted for the Iraq War and she's never addressed that.

She's offered mealy mouthed statements when pressed in public and her ghost written book offered a laughable account.

But she's never been held accountable for what she supported, for what she wanted.

The US is deeply in debt because of the Iraq War.

As for her change in positions, it's possible that she has had a change of heart.

I doubt it.

And it doesn't really matter.

She's pandering.

Bill Clinton pandered too.

But the difference was, he stood by what he said.

Hillary never does.

She offers promises and she never keeps them.

We'll address one in the next snapshot (one on Iraq).

But with the debate looming, it's a good time to remember what Carly says in "People Say A Lot," "Well it's a full time job to be a hypocrite."

Moving over to Iraq, Reuters reports that the Speaker of the Kurdish Parliament, Yousif Mohammed, was prevented from entering Sulaimaniyah -- where protests have been taking place by KRG government employees (including teachers) who are not being paid.  Reuters notes that Mohammed is a member of Goran (Change -- political party) and that the Kurdistan Democratic Party (the head of which is KRG President Massoud Barzani) have accused Goran of statements that have incited violence.

Let's deal with the issue of the KRG presidency first.

Massoud Barzani's ongoing presidency  remains a source of conflict.  The president of the KRG has been president for as long as the Constitution allows plus two years that the Kurdish Parliament voted to allow him (the vote took place in 2013).

Sunday, Goran (Change) joined the critics by insisting that he was fighting for personal power (in his fight to continue as president) and not fighting for the Kurdish people.

The PUK has made similar charges but are less easy to take seriously. (For example, Saturday  All Iraq News reported that PUK MP Farhad Qadir is insisting that the issue of who will be president of the Kurdistan Regional Government has been blocked by the KDP.)

Just as Barzani (and his family) control the KDP, Jalal Talabani's family controls the PUK (the current president of Iraq, Fuad Masum, like Jalal, is from the PUK party).

Goran is supposed to be the party of change.

Created with CIA seed money and assistance, the party emerged from nowhere and yet managed to replace the PUK as the second most popular party in the KRG.

The two-year extension came out of the June 30, 2013 meeting and perhaps it was foreshadowing that the session of the Kurdish Parliament erupted in violence with MPs fighting one another?

Barzani wants to remain president.

It's hard to see how he thinks that possible.

The above opinion was voiced earlier and resulted in over 200 e-mails accusing me of "turning on" (to cite one popular phrase) Massoud Barzani.

I haven't "turned on" anyone.

We're the critic here, we're not a fan newsletter.

Barzani, my opinion, is a more effective leader than Jalal Talabani ever could be.

Which is why he should step down.  Jalal was too clingy and refused to step down when a stroke left him unable to do his job.  For over a year, he hid out in Germany and clung to the presidency.  He's part of the reason Iraq fell apart.

Massoud Barzani should show the leadership that Jalal refused to.

If you've agreed to step down -- as was the case when the two year extension was voted on -- then you need to keep your word.

He can attempt to rally people to support his son, the current prime minister, for the job and I wouldn't say anything.

But for him to try to hold onto a position he agreed to vacate?

Barzani has been a very strong leader.

I can understand him or his supporters being nervous because the KRG is in a delicate position currently.

I don't believe a Talabani could rescue the KRG and feel, based on Jalal's past weakness, that they'd probably make things worse for the KRG.

But the next president could be a Barzani (just not Massoud) or a member of Goran or from some other political party.

Massoud Barzani has accomplished a great deal which is another reason he needs to step down.  He should not allow his legacy -- which is strong -- to be turned into "The Man Who Didn't Know When To Leave."

Loveday Morris (Washington Post) sums up the issues as follows:

At the center of the crisis is a political standoff between the dominant Kurdish Democratic Party, or the KDP, and the rival Movement for Change, or Gorran. The KDP accuses Gorran of fomenting a week of violent protests in which KDP offices have been attacked and at least five people have been killed. Gorran, in turn, says the KDP has flouted the democratic process to stay in power.

The Kurdish leadership also is struggling to maintain internal stability as a crippled economy has delayed salary payments to government employees and discontent is mounting. Meanwhile, the legitimacy of Iraqi Kurdistan’s leadership is also under question, with President Masoud Barzani accused of illegally extending his term after it expired in August.

Violence continued in Iraq today -- the US coalition continued bombing the countryside, for example.  In addition:

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