Thursday, October 29, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, October 28, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri al-Maliki moves to oust Haider al-Abadi, the Pentagon continues mulling tasking the US military with additional objectives in Iraq, and much more.

Alsumaria reports the State of Law coalition is threatening to withdraw confidence in Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Former prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki started State of Law for the 2010 parliamentary elections when he decided he didn't want to run on the Dawa ticket.  Dawa is his political party but, again, his political party wasn't good enough for him in 2010.  He couldn't control Dawa so he created State of Law.

And now State of Law has given al-Abadi an ultimatum.

Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) explains:

Under his [Abadi's] sweeping reforms, also intended to challenge a system blamed for undermining government forces in the battle against Islamic State insurgents, the three positions of vice president and three deputy prime ministers will be scrapped.
Those offices had become vehicles for patronage for some of the most powerful people in Iraq.
Some politicians say the measures are unconstitutional and overreach the powers of Abadi, who was emboldened by protesters who backed his reforms.

"Recent unilateral reform decisions created disagreements with the way Abadi is tackling the reforms issue and pushed around 60 members of the State of Law to send a message to Abadi urging him to include State of law in the discussions," said another MP.

State of Law states Abadni has 72 hours to respond to the issues they are raising.


They withdraw their support.

Which most likely means Abadi would fact a vote of no-confidence in the Parliament.

Such a move has not been made yet in post-2003 invasion Iraq; however, an effort was launched in the spring of 2011.

Nouri al-Maliki's failure to implement The Erbil Agreement led Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr, Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi, KRG President Massoud Barzani and others to team up and start the process.

They started the petition and collected the necessary signatures.

The next step was for Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to present the petition to Parliament.

Pressured by the US government, Jalal announced he had to vet the signatures first.

But he went further.

MPs were not only asked if they signed it, they were also asked if they would sign it still if they were presented with it right now.

Jalal claimed that some who had signed answered "no" to the second question so they could not be counted as signatures -- even though they signed.

He refused to present the petition to Parliament.

Then he fled the country to Germany with the lie that he needed to leave the country due to a life or death health emergency.

In reality, he had elective knee surgery.

Karma would bit Jalal in his fat ass over that lie.

December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 202012, he was moved to Germany.  He remained there for a year and a half.  When he returned to Iraq finally, he was still in no condition to face the Iraqi people.  Nor has he recovered sufficiently in the time since.

Again, karma bit him in his fat ass.

Ali Mamouri (Al-Monitor) offers this recent history on Dawa, Abadi and Nouri:

Prime Minister Abadi took office after a long political struggle. His predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki, insisted on a third term for himself, but part of the Dawa Party leadership, in addition to other political parties, opposed his candidacy. Maliki had become a burden in the eyes of some Dawa members because most of the other political movements refused to back him, and the party would not be able to form a government without entering into a coalition with other movements.
Unable to get rid of Maliki on their own, his Dawa opponents resorted to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to address the crisis surrounding the premiership, asking him to issue a decision to settle the dispute among the Shiite political class. On June 25, 2014, Sistani responded, stating, “I believe a new consensual prime minister acceptable to all parties must be elected immediately — a prime minister who can deal with all the political components of the country to save it from the dangers of terrorism, sectarian war and division.” 
Sistani’s statement suggested that he opposed Maliki’s nomination as well and wanted the Dawa Party — the largest bloc in the National Alliance, winner of the 2014 parliamentary elections — to nominate a candidate acceptable to the other parties. Thus, Abadi became prime minister through Sistani's indirect support. After Abadi took office, Sistani received him in Najaf on Oct. 20. The ayatollah had refrained for three years from receiving Maliki in protest of his mismanagement of Iraqi governance.
The Dawa Party is at the moment divided into two parts. Abadi’s bloc wants to preserve close relations with the United States, keep some distance between Baghdad and Tehran, avoid hostile relations with Saudi Arabia and bring about national reconciliation, including good relations with the Kurds and Sunnis. Maliki’s bloc, however, has explicitly aligned itself with Iran, is hostile toward Saudi Arabia and the United States to the extent of suggesting Abadi approach Russia and is unwaveringly pro-Shiite, including backing for Shiite militias. On Oct. 27, the Maliki bloc withdrew its support from Abadi following the prime minister's apointment of Imad al-Khersan as secretary-general of the Cabinet on Oct. 20. Khersan is an Iraqi American who worked with the US occupation administrator Paul Bremer as an American official after 2003.
The animosity between Abadi and Maliki has become conspicuous. In March, Abadi accused Maliki of having been reckless with the blood of the Iraqi people, a reference to the heavy loss of life inflicted by the Islamic State and other extremists during Maliki’s tenure. More recently, on Oct. 3, Abadi supposedly referred to Maliki as the “leader of necessity” who during elections squandered billions of dollars of Iraqi funds, dispensing the nation's wealth in the hope of attracting votes. Iraqis had also used the same term to describe Hussein. After several warnings from Maliki, Abadi's office issued a clarification Oct. 7 stating that “commander of necessity” was a reference to Saddam, not Maliki. Maliki’s office preferred to interpret the statement as an apology rather than a clarification.

The threat of a no confidence vote comes as Abadi moves forward with another unpopular move.  Zaid Sabah and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) note,  "Iraq is planning unprecedented salary cuts for senior civil servants, as a more than year-long war against Islamic State and the plunge in oil prices deepen the nation's financial crisis."

Meanwhile, Jim Michaels (USA Today) reports:

The Pentagon is considering plans that would place U.S. advisers closer to ground combat in Iraq and Syria in a move that could amount to a major escalation in its war against the Islamic State, a senior defense official told USA TODAY.
[. . .]
The options under consideration include placing U.S. advisers alongside local combat units in Iraq and embedding a small number of U.S. advisers with Syrian forces fighting the Islamic State, the official said.

This consideration was obvious in Tuesday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing covered in Wednesday's Iraq snapshot where we noted:

Certainly, the press reports on Tuesday's hearing haven't emphasized this reality.
But they've told you that the war in Iraq will increase in scope and size.
And while I don't doubt that will be the outcome, that's really not what was being said on Tuesday.
It is fair to say that Dunford and Carter will be recommending increased US troop participation in Iraq and Syria to Barack.
That's all that it's fair to say.
Carter's not the best speaker under ideal circumstances.
Badgered by Senator Lindsey Graham (and he was badgered -- more so than by Chair John McCain), Carter tends to struggle for words.
He stated things in the present and as though they were happening (again, he's not the best speaker).  But he also stated, in calm moments, that the president had asked for recommendations and was open to hearing them.
That Carter and Dunford want to increase participation of US troops in Iraq is not in doubt by the testimony.  But some reports are taking their statements and portraying this as the new policy.
Barack has not made any decision yet.
If he caught any of the hearings (or just a recap from a staffer), he knows where Carter and Dunford stand (as should the whole world).  But per the testimonies offered by both Carter and Dunsford, they have yet to make formal recommendations to Barack.

Last Thursday saw the announcement that US Master Sgt Joshua Wheeler had died from combat injuries.

This announcement was followed by multiple denials from the White House that US troops were in combat in Iraq.  In Tuesday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford spoke of the risks and, yes, combat US forces were already in in Iraq.

Missy Ryan (Washington Post) reports another person has broken with the official talking points:

But on Wednesday, Col. Steve Warren, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, described the mission in blunt terms. “We’re in combat,” he said, speaking via video feed to reporters at the Pentagon. “That’s why we all carry guns.  That’s why we all get combat patches when we leave here. That’s why we all receive imminent danger pay. So, of course it’s combat.”

Finally, on the topic of violence, the US Defense Dept announced:

Airstrikes in Iraq

Attack, bomber and fighter aircraft conducted 14 airstrikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the Iraqi government:

-- Near Mosul, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL heavy machine gun.

-- Near Ramadi, two strikes struck a large ISIL tactical unit and destroyed four ISIL fighting positions and two ISIL light machine guns.

-- Near Samarra, one strike destroyed four ISIL fighting positions.

-- Near Sinjar, four strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units, destroyed 11 ISIL fighting positions and suppressed an ISIL mortar position.

-- Near Sultan Abdallah, one strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position.

-- Near Tal Afar, four strikes destroyed eight ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL weapons storage area, an ISIL logistical facility and an ISIL staging area.

caroline alexander
bloomberg news