Iraq was slammed by violence today with Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) counting 56 dead with 32 alone killed by an al-Khales car bombing. Ahmed Rasheed, Michael Gregory and Allison Williams (Reuters) quote al-Khales police captain Mohammed al-Tamimi declaring, "The driver begged police to be allowed to park his vehicle in order to buy medication from a nearby pharmacy and five minutes later it (the bomb) went off and caused huge destruction."
That was one of three major bombings. AFP reports ten people died in another "bombing in Zubayr, near Basra in southern Iraq, was claimed by the Sunni extremist Islamic State group, which has controlled swathes of the country since last year but was thought to have little reach in the deep Shiite south" while a third bombing left five people dead in Hosseiniyah.
In other violence, Alsumaria notes a Kirkuk roadside bombing left two Peshmerga injured and Dawn Ennis (The Advocate) reports:
More horrifying atrocities against men believed to be gay have come to light in occupied Iraq, where Islamic militants from ISIS have executed four men by tying them up and tossing them from the rooftops of high-rise buildings.
Extremists in Mosul executed two Iraqi men in this fashion simply for being gay, local sources reported to the ARA News website. Another report claimed the same fate befell two men in Nineveh, for the same “crime.”
A civil rights activist in the region told ARA News the judgment of who is gay is based on “superficial information without any investigation.”
US President Barack Obama's plan or 'plan' to address the Islamic State and rescue Iraq has yielded no positive results and remains Operation Inherent Failure.
Mosul fell to the Islamic State in June 2014.
It remains under the control of the Islamic State.
In April of 2015, Ramadi fell to the Islamic State.
It remains under the control of the Islamic State.
But unlike with Mosul, with Ramadi there's an effort to liberate Ramadi.
How long has the operation to retake Ramadi been going on?
Haider al-Abadi's government is attempting to portray reclaiming a stadium -- not in Ramadi -- as a victory.
All these months later, the Iraqi government now controls a sports stadium.
That's what passes for 'success' in Iraq.
Fred Fleitz (Fox News) offers:
In Iraq, ISIS took the city of Ramadi last May despite being outnumbered 10-1 by the Iraqi army. Iraqi officials said they would retake the city “in days.”
Four months later, there is little prospect of this or an assault to retake Mosul which was supposed to occur last spring. This is due to the weakness of Iraq’s army and President Obama’s refusal to allow U.S. military advisers or special forces leave their bases and accompany Iraqi forces into the field.
Operation Inherent Failure.
June 19, 2014, Barack insisted the only answer to Iraq's crises was a political solution.
Yet in all the time since, there's been little effort to address Iraq's crises which include the long targeting of the Sunni population.
They remain excluded.
For over a year now, Barack and others in the administration have insisted that Iraq needs a national guard but the draft law remains a bill as Parliament refuses to pass it due to objections over a Sunni force.
In a surprising development today, Judit Neurink (Independent) reports:
The Iraqi government has embarked on secret talks with Sunni militia figures and former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime in an attempt to secure crucial Sunni support in the fight against Isis.
After a first meeting in the Qatari capital Doha early last month, a second round of talks took place in Tanzania two weeks later, and three more sessions are planned, according to well-informed Iraqi sources who were party to the talks but requested anonymity because of their sensitive nature. The Independent has seen photographs of the meeting in Tanzania, which showed representatives from Western and African governments alongside officials of Iraq’s Shia-led government. The US and the UN are mediating the talks.
The Doha conference, of course, was used by State of Law to target the Sunnis.
They attempted to use the participation of Salim al-Jabouri in the conference as an excuse to strip him of his post as Speaker of Parliament.
State of Law was created by -- and is run by -- Nouri al-Maliki who was prime minister from 2006 through 2014 and used his post to persecute the Sunnis.
Haider al-Abadi was installed as the new prime minister in the fall of 2014 in an attempt to reset the clock and pull Iraq back from the brink.
During his year and counting as prime minister, he's accomplished very little but flapped his gums a great deal.
For example, protests started (re-started) months ago.
The spark was the lack of electricity in 100-plus degree days.
Ghaith Abdul-Ahad (Guardian) reports:
More than a decade after the US invasion – and more than $40bn (£26bn) of investment later – Iraqis must still make do with limited electricity. In a country with one of the world’s largest oil reserves, this is a matter of great exasperation for locals.
“People here get a few hours of electricity every day, so when the current comes there is a huge demand: everyone plugs in their fridges and air conditioners, the old network is overloaded and transformers fry and cables melt,” said Faris. “We work three shifts, 24 hours a day, trying to patch up the old network and we can’t keep up.”
When summer temperatures peak above 50C (122F), it’s a matter of life and death – a far more emotive issue than Isis and the sectarian divide. This summer, as temperatures surged and tempers frayed, thousands of people staged a series of protests, pressing into city centre squares to denounce the corruption that riddles the system.
All these months later, all these grand pronouncements from Haider later, and the electricity issue is still not addressed.
But Haider did announce, over the weekend, that he'd accomplished something to meet the demands of the people.
Sunday, AFP reported that Haider al-Abadi, prime minister of Iraq, declared that opening the Green Zone to the public is part of his fulfilling his promise to the Iraqi people.
Strange, I don't require any signs carried by the protesters in recent months that called for opening the Green Zone.
And, of course, it's not really that open. As AFP noted, "The measure offers limited access to the vast area, with most streets still requiring a special badge [. . .]"
But there's a bigger issue, isn't there?
One AFP ignores for reasons unknown.
Is the Green Zone open to all Iraqis?
It can't be.
Not when Baghdad isn't open to all Iraqis.
Or have we forgotten that Sunnis in Anbar Province have been repeatedly denied entry to Baghdad over the last months?
AFP apparently forgot.
Not everyone was so willing to toss aside facts and common sense. Alap Naik Desai (Inquisitr) explains the results of the 'grand opening,' "However, many excited Iraqis who rushed to get a glimpse of the territory left disappointed. This is because severe restrictions, still in effect, prevented the majority of Iraqis access to most of the area. This didn't stop the PM taking credit for the initiative.
Haider's full of words.
It's in actual action that he's lacking.
The US State Dept also has the gift of gab.
Today's State Dept press briefing found spokesperson Mark Toner offering lots of words -- few possessed any real value.
QUESTION: Just two questions on Syria and Iraq.
MR TONER: Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: The first one: The Kurdish groups in Syria and both in Iraq – the Iraqi Kurdish president has issued a statement. They both welcome the presence of the airstrikes by Russian – by Russia in Syria. Aren’t you concerned that some of your very best partners are now welcoming the Russian airstrikes?
MR TONER: Well, again, we have great respect for the Iraqi Kurds in the fight that they’re waging against ISIL in Iraq. Our position on Russian airstrikes, I think, has been made painfully clear over the last four or five days since the very first airstrikes were carried out. We said many times that we would welcome a constructive role for Russia if it takes the fight to ISIL. Thus far, we’ve not seen that that’s the case. We’ve seen no indication that they’re actually hitting ISIL targets – ISIL targets.
QUESTION: Is it constructive if --
MR TONER: Please, go ahead, sir.
QUESTION: Is it constructive if Russia supports the Kurds in Syria or the Kurds in Iraq?
MR TONER: Is it constructive if – it’s constructive if --
MR TONER: It’s constructive if Russia wants to, as I said, live up to what it’s saying, live up to its words with action, which is – it says it wants to take the fight to ISIL. We’ve not seen that thus far. Frankly, what we’ve seen thus far is that Russia’s decision to undertake military action in Syria and intervene in that civil war that’s taking place between Assad and the moderate Syrian opposition – frankly, we consider it a strategic mistake. If they are serious about taking the fight to ISIL, then, as I said, we can find a role – or we can see a role for them to play constructively, certainly within the context of de-conflicting any action that they may be taking against some of the targets that we’re also hitting.
Our primary purpose here is to support those groups in northern Syria – Kurds, Arabs, others – who are waging successful attacks against ISIL, dislodging them from some key strongholds and frankly clearing ISIL out of that territory. That remains our focus. We’re part of a 60-some-odd member coalition doing that. If Russia wants to play in that sphere, then we would see a role for them, but we don’t see that yet.
QUESTION: Could you comment on a report in The New York Times that the United States is coordinating with Turkey to open another front in northwestern Syria, and perhaps even get closer to where the Russians are bombing? Could you comment on that?
MR TONER: No, I’m not going to get into – I’m not going to confirm those reports. I mean, obviously, we’ve been working with some of these groups in northern Syria for some time, continuing to provide them support – both the Department of State, nonlethal assistance, DOD, train and equip. We’re going to continue those efforts, but I’m not in a position to really speak to those reports in The New York Times.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) you said – you’re going to continue that? I thought there was a pause or some kind of a hiatus in the train and equip program because it was so – it was not --
MR TONER: I think that they’ve – they’re looking at --
QUESTION: Is that over? This is probably better asked to the Pentagon.
MR TONER: No, I’m not clear on that, actually, but I would refer you to the Department of Defense. My understanding was that they’re looking at how to rejigger it, improve it, but --
QUESTION: All right. And then I hesitate to ask this here, but – rather than have a colleague ask at the Pentagon, but you just said that, in response to an earlier question with – about Russia about de-confliction on targets that we may also be hitting. Are you aware of any shared targets that --
MR TONER: No, that’s – sorry if I was unclear about that point.
QUESTION: So --
MR TONER: We’re trying to hit ISIL targets. We’ve not see that Russia is doing that yet.
QUESTION: So then what is de-confliction?
MR TONER: Sorry.
QUESTION: You just don’t want planes running into each other? Is that – is that what it is?
MR TONER: I mean, we want to avoid those kinds of tragic incidents, yes. And certainly, that’s – on a really tactical level, yes, that’s one of the concerns.
MR TONER: But also there’s other concerns as well in this battle space. I don’t really want to speak to it in my capacity, but – yeah.
QUESTION: But would it also involve Russian airstrikes against targets that you do not believe are ISIL or al-Qaida affiliates? Does that also fall under the de-confliction idea, or is this something that’s kind of not – better to ask the Pentagon?
MR TONER: No, I mean, I would say – I mean, that’s – look, that’s been made abundantly clear both in the political sphere as well as in the tactical level. We don’t want to see Russia hitting some of the Syrian opposition forces that we believe they’ve struck.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, does de-confliction also go to Russian planes flying into Turkish airspace, something like that?
MR TONER: Yes, that certainly involves that.
QUESTION: So in terms of that specific incident, again realizing that this might be better directed at the Pentagon, has there been any diplomatic activity other than just what the NATO statement, which I think we’ve all seen, with the Russians – between the U.S. and the Russians about this incident or these – this – these incidents?
MR TONER: So I did try to check on this before. There’s been no follow-up to the de-confliction – I hate that word, but to the efforts at – to de-conflict that started – began last week, I think on Thursday. There’s been no follow-up to that, but obviously we made clear our concerns about this --
QUESTION: No, I’m not talking --
MR TONER: -- in the NAC – right, in the NATO --
QUESTION: Right. No, I’m talking about aside from NATO and aside from --
MR TONER: Right. Not that I’m aware of, no.
QUESTION: -- the de-confliction talks, you don’t know if there’s been any contact, direct contact, between you and the Russians?
MR TONER: Direct contact, no. I don’t believe so.
QUESTION: Because the Secretary spoke about how the Turkish foreign minister called him on Saturday, I think he said, after the first incident.
MR TONER: That’s right, that’s right.
QUESTION: So you’re not aware of anything since then?
MR TONER: No.
QUESTION: So Mark, are you saying to the best of your knowledge they have not spoken about the Russian flights into Turkish airspace?
MR TONER: To my knowledge, no. Now again, I don’t know if our embassy in Moscow has approached the Russian Government. To my knowledge, that has not happened between DOD, but again, to my knowledge. I’m not aware of any --
QUESTION: I mean between Kerry and Lavrov.
MR TONER: Not to my knowledge, no; they haven’t spoken.
QUESTION: Mark, on the same topic. Do you have the same concerns of Russian cooperation with the Iraqi, like Russia targeting ISIS in Iraq like you have in Syria, or it is different story? Because they have a cooperation in Baghdad. That’s what the Prime Minister Abadi said, like for sharing intelligence.
MR TONER: Yeah, sharing intelligence. But I frankly haven’t seen them actually voice any kind of willingness to actually hit ISIL targets in Iraq. Frankly, that’s a question better asked of the Iraqi Government and how they would feel about actually active Russian attacks in that space.
QUESTION: Right, but they authorized, they welcomed – actually both regional government of – Kurdish Regional Government, also Baghdad. But what is your concern? Do you have the same thing, or you think if Iraqis is not concerned so you’re fine with that?
MR TONER: Well, it’s a sovereign country. They can certainly make those kinds of decisions. Our concern, again, is we’re active in that same space. We’re obviously working, closely advising the Iraqi military we believe with some success over the past year, certainly, to take the fight to ISIL in Iraq. So I can’t really speak to any hypothetical role that Russia may play in that struggle.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, one more on that last one.
MR TONER: Please go ahead, yeah.
QUESTION: You have many forces in Iraq that you are cooperating with – I think the Iraqi Government, Sunnis, and the Kurds. And the recent month is the Kurdish officials, they were concerned about the amount of ammunitions and also the weapons they have received from the United States, it’s really decreased to not – they have not received the share that they – was provided by Pentagon to them.
MR TONER: You’re speaking about --
QUESTION: The train and equip program.
MR TONER: No, no, no, but which group in particular?
QUESTION: The Kurdish group in Iraq, not in Syria. So one of the Kurdish official – I think the chancellor of the council of – security council of Kurdistan – he said that we have not received anything from United States since May. So --
MR TONER: I’m not aware of any lapse in our efforts to supply them. I’d have to check on that. And frankly, it might be a better – question better directed to the Department of Defense.
QUESTION: So I asked the Department of Defense the same issue.
MR TONER: There you go. What did they say? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, they said that’s – that we have sent everything to Baghdad, but that’s for the diplomatic mission.
MR TONER: Well, that is – I mean, that is a critical element of our effort there. We’ve said – we’ve been pretty adamant about the fact that command and control rests with the Iraqi Government. That said, we’ve seen a real effort on the – part of the Iraqi Government, the Iraqi military, and frankly, no lapse in getting that equipment, ammunition, whatever, supplies out to those who need it. So I honestly can’t speak to this particular case. I just don’t have the --
QUESTION: What do you – do you mean, like, those who needs – that they are fighting? You mean maybe they are sending more to Sunnis because they are fighting extensive – in Peshmerga front lines --
MR TONER: We have – again, I – we’ve made that very clear. And frankly, we believe that it is indeed the case where the Iraqi Government is doing a good job at disseminating those supplies to those who are actually fighting the fight against ISIL – Kurds, Sunnis, whoever. Some of these local forces on the ground that are quite effective. I’ve just seen nothing; I don’t know. I can’t speak to any lapse in supply or equipping the Kurdish forces. I just don’t --
QUESTION: Right. Will you take it that seriously, that – these concerns by the Kurdish official, that they are not getting anything from Baghdad?
MR TONER: I mean, obviously, we would – we would obviously take something like that – a comment like that with concern. I just said I don’t have any information about it. I can look into it, but I don’t have anything to – I don’t have any facts or any figures here to refute that.
The last word goes to CNN's Arwa Damon who again notes an import report published last week.
robert h. reid