Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, October 10, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, claims are treated as fact by the ridiculous NBC News and AFP, Hillary continues to pretend that the 2008 SOFA is the responsibility of Bully Boy Bush (no, it's her responsibility as well and Barack's and Joe's and . . .) and we're going to start calling out 'fact checkers' who lie about what took place in 2008, the US Senate holds a hearing on Iraq with a focus on the Ashraf community, and much more.

NBC News insists, "Iraqi military plans to retake the city of Ramadi from ISIS militants for the first time in months, officials said."  AFP quotes Anbar Council Member insisting, "If operations continue at this pace, I expect the liberation of Ramadi to be possible by the end of the month."

Oh, what wonderful propaganda that almost makes the months long effort to retake Ramadi (begun in May) seem like it might be a success soon.


Let's drop back to Alice Fordham report for NPR's Morning Edition (link is text and audio  and transcript) yesterday:

FORDHAM: That's Army Colonel Lawrence al Issawi. He says they're holding ground but aren't strong enough to actually push ISIS back. A major offensive was expected four months ago to take back the provincial capital, Ramadi. I ask defense minister Khalid al Obeidi in Baghdad why that never happened.

KHALID AL OBEIDI: (Speaking Arabic).

FORDHAM: He tells me, "we can't lose any more soldiers," and, "you endanger civilians by going in before your forces are ready." But he won't say when they might be ready, although Iraqi officials cite a dire financial situation and massive corruption in the military as obstacles to fighting ISIS. To get an idea of what's going to be needed, I meet a soldier who's been fighting close to Ramadi.


FORDHAM: He won't give his name because he's afraid of his commanders but tells me it's not like the government or coalition isn't doing anything. He recently had American training, and they armed his unit, too.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: (Through interpreter) They transfer us to Ramadi. We spent two days there. We liberated from 30 to 40 kilometers.

FORDHAM: Liberated the outskirts from ISIS, that is. And following heavy casualties, reinforcements arrived. But he says the officers are still a problem.


FORDHAM: They take bribes to let people go on leave and flee themselves as soon as the battle heats up. Food and water are scarce. Plus, he too says ISIS just has way more men and weapons and uses devastating car bombs in battle.
How long do you think before Ramadi is retaken?

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: (Through interpreter) Ramadi retaken will last from seven to eight years.

AFP's really been an embarrassment when it comes to reporting or 'reporting' from Iraq for some time now.

Let's stay with cheap liars long enough to note the ongoing disgrace that is Hillary Clinton.

BBC News reports the craven and cranky candidate is firing back at Jeb Bush -- Bush is trying to win the GOP's 2016 presidential nomination, Cranky feels she's owed the 2016 Democratic Party's presidential nomination:

On Tuesday Mr Bush accused the Obama administration of a "premature withdrawal" of US forces from Iraq in 2011, with "grievous" costs.
Mrs Clinton replied by saying it was Mr Bush's brother George W Bush who, as president, negotiated a US withdrawal.

Barack attempted to do another Status Of Forces Agreement to keep US troops in Iraq beyond 2011 (and they actually were but can't continually waste time spoon feeding the stupid and uninformed -- Ted Koppel attempted to in real time on both NPR and NBC).

In 2014, Katie Sanders (PolitiFact) noted ABC News' Martha Raddatz:

Martha Raddatz, ABC’s chief global affairs correspondent, was wearing her TV pundit hat when she said Allen’s idea for a strategy "makes me think back about what the Obama administration originally wanted."

"They wanted 10,000 troops to remain in Iraq -- not combat troops, but military advisers, special operations forces, to watch the counterterrorism effort," she said. "So perhaps they'd go that way, but it would be a tough one."

She evaluated Raddatz' remarks and concluded:

Raddatz said the Obama administration originally "wanted 10,000 troops to remain in Iraq -- not combat troops, but military advisers, special operations forces, to watch the counterterrorism effort."
For a period, at least, the Obama administration did envision leaving 10,000 troops in Iraq past the Dec. 31, 2011, pullout of forces. That number went down to about 5,000 before negotiations stalled amid a legal snare over immunity of American forces in Iraqi courts.

Her claim is accurate but needs additional information. We rate her claim Mostly True.

Now let's deal with an issue -- a fact -- that PolitiFact and other fact checkers have repeatedly ignored.

Cranky Clinton likes to say Bully Boy Bush negotiated the SOFA.

It was his deal, she and other cheap trash insist.

I'm sorry, I didn't join the Cult of St. Barack so I never took an oath to lie for him.

So in my best Cher "Follow This You Bitches" manner . . .

Here's reality that cheap trash doesn't tell you.

The SOFA is a treaty.

The Iraqi Parliament voted on it and approved it.

All US treaties must be approved by the US Senate.

Senator Hillary Clinton was among the first to point that out and campaigned -- in 2008 -- on the promise that she would demand a Senate vote on any SOFA.

As the rudderless and leaderless Barack so often did in 2008, he copied Hillary.

He made that a promise as well.

Joe Biden, while Hillary and Barack were going back and forth, had already dropped out of the campaign for the 2008 Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

But he also was the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

We covered the April 10, 2008 hearing he chaired -- did anyone else?  Again, follow this, you bitches.

Joe told the Bush State Dept witnesses that the treaty would require Senate confirmation.

And when Joe joined Barack's campaign as his running mate, the campaign promised on their website that any treaty would require a vote by the Senate.

Hillary was a senator when the treaty went through (Thanksgiving Day, 2008).  So was Barack.  So was Joe.

Where was the damn vote?

There was no vote.

If Hillary's unhappy -- she's always unhappy, look at the corners of her mouth, it's the mouth of a person whose had a miserable life -- she needs to put on her big girl panties and take a hard look in the mirror.

Saying Bully Boy Bush negotiated the treaty?

That's one half of the damn story.

The other half is that Hillary, Barack, Joe and so many others broke their public promise to demand a Senate vote.

And please note, I can also list Democrats in the House of Representatives in 2008 who publicly stated the Senate would have to vote.

Instead, they rolled over.

So the reality is that this is the treaty that Bully Boy Bush (by action) and Democrats like Hillary (by inaction) pushed through.

Stop pretending otherwise.

From nonsense to reality . . .

Retired Col Wesley Martin shared today, "I remember back in the seventies, there used to be this little cartoon of a pair of goldfish in a blender and they're in the water.  And there's this little button for the blender -- they're waiting for it to be turned on. And one  goldfish says to the other, 'I can't handle the stress.'  That's what it reminds me of, for the residents."

He was offering testimony on the Ashraf community moved from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty and still not resettled outside of Iraq.

For a more detailed view, we'll note this.

Senator Jack Reed: This morning, our hearing focuses on Iranian influence in Iraq and the plight of the nearly 2,400 residents at Camp Liberty in Iraq -- members of the Iranian dissident group the Mujahadeen-e-Khalq or MEK. The Iranian dissidents at Camp Liberty are in an increasingly perilous situation having repeatedly come under attack.  And these attacks, which have killed more than 100 MEK members since 2009, clearly indicate the threat to this group from Iran and Iranian-backed militias seeking to eliminate and silence these dissidents.  The deteriorating security situation in Iraq only highlights the urgent need to find safe refuge for these individuals outside that country.  The United States have had a special relationship with the MEK dating back to the height of the Iraq War in the mid 2000s.  This stems in part from the MEK's agreement at the US military's request to disarm and move into Camp Ashraf in north eastern Iraq.  The US military extended under the Geneva Conventions to the Camp Ashraf residents.  However, as the United States drew down its forces consistent with its obligations under the 2008 security agreements signed by President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki, US forces were no longer well positioned to provide for the safety and security of the Camp Ashraf residents.  In December of 2011, the government of Iraq signed a memorandum with the United Nations in which the Iraq government committed to ensure the safety and the security of these residents as part of the process of relocating them to Camp Liberty outside Baghdad to facilitate the settlement process.  However, the United States, through the State Dept, has had to repeatedly press the government of Iraq to live up to its obligations to provide for the safety and well being of the Camp Liberty residents and Camp Liberty residents remain in fear that the government of Iraq will extradite them to Iran at Tehran's request. The State Dept now is the lead US government agency advocating on behalf of the Camp Liberty residents. And the State Dept is working the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to find resettlement options for these residents outside of Iraq. It is my understanding that as of the beginning of this month, nearly 800 Camp Liberty residents have been processed by the UNHCR and resettled outside of Iraq.  Unfortunately, this resettlement process has dragged on for years and much more still needs to be done to find homes for the remaining Camp Liberty residents. I would urge all participants in the resettlement process to cooperate fully to advance the resettlement of these very vulnerable individuals.  One issue that I expect will arise this morning is whether the United States should accept more Camp Liberty residents for resettlement.  While the MEK was removed from the list of foreign terrorists organizations in 2012, group members continue to be barred from admission to the United States because of their Tier Three status under US anti-terrorism laws.  Nonetheless, I understand that the administration has adopted a policy that would allow Camp Liberty residents to be paroled in the United States if they renounce their affiliation with the MEK.  Under this policy, some 29 Camp Liberty residents have ultimately resettled in the United States making the United States one of the larger recipient countries for these refugees.  I hope the testimony of our witnesses this morning will help shine a light on what more can be done to accelerate the resettlement process so that the residents of Camp Liberty can be brought to safety outside of  Iraq once and for all.

Senator Reed was speaking at this morning's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.  He is the Ranking Member of the Committee, Senator John McCain is the Committee Chair.  The witnesses appearing before the Committee were retired US Gen James Jones, former US Senator Joe Lieberman and retired US Colonel Wesley Martin.

"We wouldn't be sitting here today,"  Gen James Jones declared, "if we'd just had an airlift.  The, uh, there's just some other points I think are outrageous.  The officers -- the Iraqi officers that led the attack on Camp Ashraf and killed -- are responsible for the killing of women and children -- are the ones responsible for dealing with Camp Liberty today. And you talk about an insult?  Adding insult to injury? It's incredible.  And I just -- I just find it unbelievable that this problem has not been resolved three or four years ago.

Noting the Albanian government specifically for taking in a large number of residents, Jones wanted to clarify a point, "By the way the cost for relocation is being born by the MEK.  It's not being born by us, it's not being born by the UN.  Money's been allocated.  I forget the number, but it's [amount whispered to him] $20 million of their funds to relocate their wives, their sisters, their brothers, their family members and their colleagues."

Senator Thom Tillis also wanted to clarify a point.

Senator Thom Tillis: I want to be clear then.  So they're living in horrible conditions every day, worrying about whether or not they're going to be alive the following day.   And these are people who peacefully disarmed --

Col Wesley Martin:  Yes, sir.

Senator Thom Tillis (Con't):  -- and protected American soldiers when we came into Iraq.  And we made a promise that we would take care of them.

Col Wesley Martin:  That is correct, sir.

Let's stay with clarification a bit more.

Senator Joe Manchin: Let me ask another -- and, Gen Jones, this might be to you. In your testimony, you cited the three most lethal events occurred in 2009 to 2013 during prime minister Maliki's time in office.  Since Prime Minister Abadi took office in 2014, have there been any changes in the situation in Camp Liberty when it comes to the security or resettlement?  Have you seen any changes?

Gen James Jones:  Uhm, I'd defer to Wes for the details but, uhm, uh, I think the attacks have been less -- lessened.  But the fact that the Iraqi military who are regularly in the camp are still the ones who conducted the raids in previous years -- and the killings -- is indicative of the kind of pressure that they want to keep on the citizens in the camp.  Wes, you may have more details?

Senator Joe Manchin:  Has it improved is what I'm asking?

Col Wesley Martin:  It hasn't improved and --

Senator Joe Manchin:  It has not?

Col Wesley Martin:  It has not.  And it has not deteroriarted.  They're still in that blender [70s comic reference, noted earlier] waiting for that button to be pushed.  Abadi.  He's the prime minister. But he's in a very precarious position because Maliki still controls Dawa [political] party, Maliki still has the ear of Tehran and, as you recall, Maliki was forced out only after ISIS took over major parts of the country.  Both, uh, the Ayatollah in Iran and President Obama were blessing him for a third term which was against the Constitution -- the Iraqi Constitution -- but he was force out when [Iranian] General [Qassem] Soleimani went to him and said, "You have to step down."  And then a member of his Dawa party was brought up. Abadi has made a lot of great promises.  There are demonstrations going on throughout Iraq.  He's drawing the support of them. [C.I. note: That's what the western press largely says, it is not, however, the truth.  The protesters are clear that they do not feel Abadi's doing anything other than offering empty promises.]  He's drawing the support of, uh, [Grand] Ayatollah [Ali al-]Sistani. And surprisingly he's drawing the support of the Mahdi army with Moqtada al-Sadr.

Senator Joe Manchin:  I have another one.  This is a most difficult question.  It's when the State Dept de-listed the MEK as a foreign terrorist organization in 2012, it stated, "The Department does not overlook or forget the MEK's past acts of terrorism including its involvement with the killings of US citizens in Iran in the 1970s and an attack on US soil in 1992.  The Department also has serious concerns about the MEK as an organization particularly with regard to allegations of abuse committed against its own members."  How has the MEK addressed the concerns raised about potential abuse of its own members since the de-listing, sir?

Col Wesley Martin: Since the de-listing, it hasn't needed to be addressed.  In this same document that [former] Governor [Tom] Ridge provided Senator McCain -- I'll get you a copy of it -- I addressed that thoroughly. I investigated those -- when I was the Base Commander military policeman -- I went and investigated those allegations of abuse and along with a lot of other allegations.  They were unfounded.  What I found, while I was there, and since then, the MEK is the most lied to and --

Senator Joe Manchin:  Is the State Dept corrected its findings?

Col Wesley Martin:  No, sir. This report [the Ridge one] was generated when [the State Dept's] Julia Frifield sent to Congressman [Ed}] Royce a repetition of the previous lies and all the omissions. 

We'll leave that aspect there -- I've not read Ridge's report.  I'm comfortable sharing what Martin testified to that he saw but the discussion of a report (that I've not read) isn't something I'm eager to get stuck on.  We will note that the report was a response to claims of abuse and the report states no abuse took place.

I'm not a Joe Lieberman fan but we're not ignoring him.  We'll note a section of his testimony in the next snapshot.

For now, we'll close this snapshot's coverage of the hearing by noting the reference to recently reported comments and developments.

Chair John McCain: A Shi'ite leader was quoted yesterday as saying that the United States air strikes were ineffective so therefore they needed the Iranian and the Russian assistance.  What-what-what is your assessment of the Iranian influence now in Iraq and how it may more endanger the lives and welfare of the residents of the Camp?

Gen James Jones: Sir, my -- as I mentioned in my prepared remarks, I was present when the former King of Saudi Arabia issued his warning about then-prime minister Maliki which was proven to be correct.  It was my hope that the new prime minister and the leader of Iraq would -- would have shown more appreciation for the sacrifice that was made on behalf of his country by the United States.  I-I think that such statements are not only insulting to our commitment but also just show-show how deeply the Iranian influence has, uh, permeated the, uh, Baghdad, the capital of Iraq and it's leadership.  Unfortunately.

Chair John McCain: Suppose that the Russians begin air attacks in Iraq.  What-what-what -- One, what does that mean?  And, two, what should the United States reaction be?

Gen James Jones:  Well the United -- in my view, it means, uh, unless-unless the Russians, uh, agree to join the, uh, the international, uh, coalition and cooperate under the air tasking orders and, uh, and bring a certain military competence in coordination to the fore, you run the risk of having chaos in the skies. Uhm, the United States, with all -- with all due respect, the United States should do everything in its power, I think, to avert that situation and to make sure that what's happening in Syria does not happen in the skies over Iraq regardless of whether the prime minister welcomes the addition of the Russians. 

Chair John McCain:  But he does have a point about the effectiveness of the air campaign against ISIS.

Gen James Jones:  Yes, it-it does in the sense that the United States has made its decision as to what it's going to do.  My understanding is that we're re-looking at our commitment and we'll hopefully ramp it up a bit more.  As you know, my personal belief is that the longest road to victory here is, uh, is purely an air campaign, uhm, but if that's all that we have, we ought to make it a massive air campaign.

Chair John McCain: Didn't we learn in a campaign that you and I were long ago engaged [Vietnam] that incrementalism doesn't work and air campaigns alone doesn't work?

Gen James Jones:  That's correct.