Thursday, October 22, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, October 22, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, a US service member is a combat fatality in Iraq, rumors of a coup, and much more.

Starting with TV:

  • GPS will present a primetime special on America in Iraq. Airs Monday at 9 pm ET on CNN. I'll be holding a Facebook chat on issue noon Monday

  • Long Road to Hell: America in Iraq hosted by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria airs Monday on CNN and CNN International

    That's this Monday.  We'll hopefully have time to note it again.

    Staying with CNN, Barbara Starr reports:

    The information still coming in, very sketchy, but a short time ago, a US official directly familiar with the information told CNN there has been one US military fatality in this hostage mission overnight in Iraq. Apparently US Special Operations Forces were ordered into this mission to rescue a number of Kurdish hostages. We're told the estimate is that some 70 Kurdish hostages were rescued.  The Kurds, of course, are in northern Iraq.  This is a group that the US has -- the US military has especially been working very closely with.  I think it is safe to assume that there were some Kurdish elements there on the ground with the US troops -- they do work hand in hand.  But this would be, to the best of our knowledge, the first US combat fatality on the ground in the war against ISIS.  US troops are not on the ground in combat under President Obama's orders.  They have gone in a couple of times into Syria on the ground for hostage rescue missions, for capturing high value targets, but this is not something that we have yet seen -- a US service member potentially killed on the ground in this war against ISIS.

    James Rosen and Mitchell Prothero (McClatchy Newspapers) add, "It was also the first time that American combat troops have undertaken a ground mission in Iraq since President Obama sent the first of 3,000 troops back there 16 months ago with orders that limited their activities to training, advising and equipping Iraqi soldiers."  Missy Ryan, Mustafa Salim and Thomas Gibbons-Neff (Washington Post) report, "In a pre-dawn operation, soldiers from the Army’s Delta Force, supporting a team of elite Kurdish soldiers, descended on a militant compound in the town of Hawijah, where officials believed that dozens of Kurdish fighters known as peshmerga were being held captive."  DoD noted:

    U.S. Special Forces supported an Iraqi peshmerga operation earlier today to rescue about 70 hostages from an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant prison near Hawijah, Iraq, Defense Department Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters at the Pentagon this afternoon.
    American Special Forces personnel carried out the planned operation at the request of the Kurdistan regional government after learning through intelligence sources that the hostages faced imminent mass execution, Cook said.
    The Special Forces mission was consistent with Operation Inherent Resolve’s counter-ISIL efforts to train, advise, and assist Iraqi forces, he emphasized.
    One U.S. service member and four peshmerga soldiers were wounded when ISIL extremists fired on U.S. and Iraqi forces during the rescue, he said, adding the U.S. service member was medically treated but later died.

    The recovered hostages were placed with the Kurdistan Regional government, Cook said, adding that no hostages died during the rescue to his knowledge.

    Richard Sisk ( observes, "The death of the American, whose service branch was not immediately disclosed, was the first combat fatality suffered by the U.S. in the campaign against ISIS and as such raised questions about the U.S. mission in Iraq and President Obama's pledge not to commit 'boots on the ground' to the fight."

    The death was raised at today's US State Dept press briefing.  It so unnerves the State Dept that they made an error in their transcript (first "MR TONER" below should actually be "QUESTION"):

    MR TONER: I just wondered if you have anything on the operation – rescue operation happened in Hawija by – in cooperation with the Kurdish special forces. Were there any American hostages rescued there?

    MR TONER: Well, you’re talking about, of course, the rescue mission that took place – right, exactly – on the ISIL prison in Hawija, Iraq. My counterpart, Peter Cook, I think is briefing on this shortly or if not concurrently. But in answer to – specific answer to your question, no, I’m not aware that there were any U.S. citizens, which I think you were asking about. Now, understanding was that it was about 70 hostages, 20 of them were members of, we believe, Iraqi Security Forces, and that’s as much information as I have.

    QUESTION: Right. If you have any information on that, was that the first rescue mission operations being conducted by United States forces in cooperation with Iraq? Is that the one – first one in Iraq, I believe?

    MR TONER: I believe it is the first – you’re saying hostage rescue?

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MR TONER: I believe it is, but defer to others who know more about that. But I think that’s correct.

    Mark C. Toner had nothing to offer.

    But how could he?

    Isn't this the start -- or at least the public recognition -- of the mission creep so many warned about when Barack began sending US troops into Iraq as 'trainers' in August of last year?

    The Iraq War has not ended.

    Barack Obama will leave the White House in January 2017 with the Iraq War still going.

    This despite his portraying himself as against the Iraq War (only before it started -- check the public record) and thundering "We want to end the war" to the Cult of St Barack over and over in 2007 and 2008.

    "We" apparently didn't include him.

    He had the power to end it.

    He chose not to.

    The Iraq War continues.

    The sink hole that is the war continues to drain lives and money.

    Iraq could be rebuilt so easily for a fraction of what Barack is now spending dropping bombs on the war torn country.

    Tom Bowman (NPR's All Things Considered, link is audio and will also be transcript tomorrow) noted, "The operations raises questions about the role of the estimated 3,000 US forces who deployed to Iraq over the past year.  White House and Pentagon officials have repeatedly said they're only there on a train, advise and assist mission and only working out of Iraqi bases.

    Back to the press briefing.

    QUESTION: Right, okay. I just wondering if you have – you expressed really concern about the media closure in Georgia, I think. I just wondering if you have the same thing in – on Kurdish region, which is the same problem happening there. And I hear there were some communications with the Kurdish officials, including the Kurdish representative office here in Washington with the Iraq desk people, and also in Erbil. So have you got any conclusion why the media offices were closed or shut down by security forces in Erbil?

    MR TONER: Well, I don’t have any updates on the situation or – and I wouldn’t really attempt to speak on behalf of the authorities in Iraqis Kurdistan region. I would say the same general principles apply is that we certainly want to see a full, open, unfettered media exist in any country or any region, including Kurdistan. And we would be concerned, I think, about any restriction in a given region’s or country’s media environment. So we’re always big believers, if you will, in the importance of media access and, as I said, a variety of media outlets. And that’s not just specific to Kurdistan but certainly all over the world. And I’ve said this before and that continues to be our message and is clearly – is our message to – when we speak to authorities about the situation.

    QUESTION: But specifically on this one, you had communication with the Kurdish officials. What did you get from them? Why it happened? I mean, is there anything that you can tell us publicly?

    MR TONER: I don’t, and I don’t want to – as I said, I am very hesitant always to speak on behalf of another government or another – of our interlocutors. I would just allow them to characterize.

    QUESTION: I’m talking about that – your position, because you’ve talked to them, to the Kurdish officials on – specifically on this issue.

    MR TONER: Right.

    QUESTION: And I just wondering what was their response and also what was – do you believe is there any excuse or any way of justification closing – shutting down a media – independent media channel in Erbil?

    MR TONER: Again, without specifically talking about this case, there’s very few occasions or instances that justify shutting down any media outlet, and we can talk about those – I mean, incitement, that kind of thing certainly. But any professional media outlet that’s simply carrying out its mission or its mandate, we would be concerned about shutting that outlet down. But I don’t have anything specifically to say about this case. I just – all I can say is that we’ve made those concerns clear to Kurdish authorities.

    What Toner didn't want to address?  Noted in the Tweet below.

  •  Back to the press briefing.

    QUESTION: (Inaudible) on Iraq?

    MR TONER: Sure thing, sir. Yes, absolutely. Go ahead.

    QUESTION: There are press reports saying that former Prime Minister Maliki and his followers are 
    pressuring the Prime Minister Abadi to resign or to remove him. Did you see these reports?

    MR TONER: Honestly, I have not seen those reports. I’d have to look into that. We believe Abadi is – Prime Minister Abadi is doing a good job in carrying out his mandate, trying to create a more unified and inclusive government in Iraq. But I – I’m not aware of those specific reports.

    How serious are the rumors?

    Congress was told this month that Haider al-Abadi wouldn't last long.

    But most outlets chose to ignore that news.

    missy ryan