Monday, November 02, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Monday, November 3, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the US government continues bombing Iraq, the United Nations releases their monthly death toll for Iraq, Parliament turns on Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and much more.

US President Barack Obama continues to bomb Iraq to 'liberate' it.  The US Defense Dept announced the following strikes today:

Airstrikes in Iraq

Attack, bomber, fighter, ground attack and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 17 airstrikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

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

-- Near Habbaniyah, one strike destroyed an ISIL fighting position and an ISIL tactical vehicle.

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

-- Near Makhmur, one strike destroyed an ISIL fighting position.

-- Near Mosul, three strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL heavy machine guns, three ISIL fighting positions, and suppressed an ISIL mortar position.

-- Near Ramadi, four strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit, and destroyed two ISIL tactical vehicles, an ISIL vehicle bomb, two ISIL command and control nodes, four ISIL buildings, two ISIL fighting positions, and denied ISIL access to terrain.

-- Near Sinjar, five strikes struck three separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed three ISIL vehicles, an ISIL mortar system, an ISIL weapons cache, and two ISIL fighting positions.

-- Near Tal Afar, one strike destroyed an ISIL vehicle and an ISIL fighting position.

The Defense Dept always alleges that all bombs landed on the Islamic State.  That's only sometimes the truth.

But read the above and grasp (a) the Iraq War is never ending and (b) a couple of hundred thousand were spent by US taxpayers for the Tal Afar strike alone and all it can really claim is that it "destroyed an ISIL vehicle."

Saturday saw the end of October which means it's time for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq to release their monthly totals:

Baghdad, 1 November 2015 – According to casualty figures released today by UNAMI, a total of 714 Iraqis were killed and another 1,269 were injured in acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict in October 2015*.

The number of civilians killed was 559 (including 25 civilian police), and the number of civilians injured was 1,067 (including 43 civilian police).
A further 155 members of the Iraqi Security Forces (including Peshmerga, SWAT and militias fighting alongside the Iraqi Army / Not including casualties from Anbar Operations) were killed and 202 were injured.
“Once again, these figures illustrate the suffering of the people of Iraq from terrorism and conflict,” the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Ján Kubiš said. “I am hopeful that the this suffering of the Iraqi people will come to an end with the support of the international community,” he added.
Baghdad was the worst affected Governorate with 1,150 civilian casualties (298 killed, 852 injured). Diyala suffered 92 killed and 141 injured, Ninewa 86 killed, Salahadin 28 killed and 40 injured, and Kirkuk 39 killed and 7 injured.
*CAVEATS: In general, UNAMI has been hindered in effectively verifying casualties in conflict areas. UNAMI could not obtain the casualty figures for the month of October from the Anbar Health Directorate. In some cases, UNAMI could only partially verify certain incidents. UNAMI has also received, without being able to verify, reports of large numbers of casualties along with unknown numbers of persons who have died from secondary effects of violence after having fled their homes due to exposure to the elements, lack of water, food, medicines and health care. For these reasons, the figures reported have to be considered as the absolute minimum.

Like the war itself, the monthly death tolls never end.

Maybe some are confused by this?

It can be confusing keeping track of Barack's many wars.  To avoid any confusion, we'll include Bill Press (The Hill) explaining the basics:

Sending the first ground forces into Syria comes on top of June’s decision to dispatch an additional 450 troops to Iraq, for a total of 3,500, and last month’s announcement that American troops would remain in Afghanistan through the end of 2017. 
That makes three wars at one time under Obama’s administration: a rekindled war in Iraq, an extended war in Afghanistan, and a new war in Syria, with no end in sight. In fact, it’s looking more and more like Syria could become Obama’s Vietnam. 

Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) added to the list, " In addition to the wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, the U.S. continues to carry out drone strikes across the globe, from Pakistan to Yemen to Somalia."

On Democracy Now!, Phyllis Bennis addressed the fact that the announcement of increased US troop participation (announced Friday) from the White House came not from the president but from the White House spokesperson.

AMY GOODMAN: And then, the announcement of the U.S. putting boots on the ground in Syria, and would continue to do this in Iraq and Afghanistan, came in an almost offhand way. It wasn’t the president making a formal announcement on Friday; it was Josh Earnest, the press secretary. And before that, it was Ash Carter in a hearing in the Senate, almost a offhand comment.

PHYLLIS BENNIS: Right. I think that what we’re seeing here is an effort—we heard it in the words of Josh Earnest, that—an effort to claim this is not an escalation. It is clearly an escalation. Now, it may well be that there have been special operations forces, CIA agents and others on the ground in Syria already. We can assume that’s the case, given that the priority of U.S. strategy has involved training and arming various militias, some of which never existed, and then they tried to create a new militia that would be pro-Western, pro-American, democratic, secular, anti-Assad, but not too much because it mainly should be anti-ISIS—very specific categories. They couldn’t really find exactly those militias, so last year they decided to create such a militia, train it, arm it, send it in to fight. And as we know, the result of that was the $500 million—half a billion dollars of our tax money—that went to arm and create a militia that was supposed to be 5,400 people, started with only 120, because that’s all they could find. They trained them, sent them in to fight. Half of them immediately defected. The other half—well, 54—who went to fight, very quickly were either captured, defected, killed, so that when the officials testified in Congress and were asked, "So, how many are left?" the general said, "Well, it’s a very tiny number." And when pushed, he admitted it was four or five—not four or five hundred, but four or five. So this is the kind of failure that we’re seeing in these efforts. I think what we saw with the language used by the White House spokesman, by the secretary of defense, was designed to say, "This is just more of the same. This isn’t different, even though we’re now acknowledging that there are boots on the ground." Maybe it’s because they wear sneakers, because they’re special forces, so it’s sneakers on the ground. But the key question here is, this is an escalation.

Also weighing in on the announcement -- and Barack avoiding making it -- is Aaron MacLean (Washington Free Beacon):

But as cynical as most of us have become about the national security policy of this White House, it did nevertheless seem jarring that rather than announce the deployment himself, the president left the task to the Pentagon and to the ironically named Josh Earnest. The White House spokesman certainly earned his paycheck on Friday, explaining to a skeptical press corps how Barack Obama sending American troops to Syria (!) was no big deal, and achieving Thomistic levels of nuance in his insistence that “combat” is completely different from a “combat mission.”

Iraq's facing more than violence, of course.  There is the political instability.  Today, it's even effected US puppet Haider al-Abadi.

Ahmed Rasheed, Michael Gregory and Mark Heinrich (Reuters) report that the Parliament has put the brakes on the Iraq prime minister's reforms or 'reforms.'

How so?

They've voted to prevent him from unilaterally (and unconstitutionally) implementing reforms.

And they did so, Matt Bradley and Safa Majeed (Wall Street Journal) report, in a "unanimous vote."

As anyone who's paid attention to Iraq in the last years should grasp, that means the end of Haider's reforms or 'reforms.'

Parliamentary approval will be hard to come by -- as it has been since 2006.

Back in June 2014, US President Barack Obama began pressing for Iraq to create a national guard.  And to this day, that proposal remains blocked in Parliament.

That is but one example.

The Iraqi Group for Stategic Studies' Wathiq al-Hashimi tells Reuters he believes the next move could be a vote of no-confidence.  State of Law MP Hussein al-Maliki tells the Wall Street Journal, "What happened today was like an alarm for withdrawing confidence from the prime minister and the cabinet.  We are all with the reforms, but these should be within the constitution and shouldn't exceed the constitution or overlap with parliamentary authority."

Former prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki created the State of Law coalition and remains its leader.  It's become a given among his insiders that Nouri wants to return to the post of prime minister.

AFP observes, "A dispute between parliament and Abadi could further hinder reform efforts by the premier, who has already struggled to effect signficant or lasting changes."  MWC News adds:

Saad Jawad, a professor of political science and a senior fellow at the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics, said Abadi had failed since August to take constructive measures to enforce the reforms in time.
"Unfortunately, he did not take advantage the support the Iraqis gave to him. He kept on speaking without taking measures. This is his problem," said Jawad. "Gradually, his enemies started to undermine his move."
When Haider still had power, the US government failed to press him to work on the political solution.

That's the only thing that will defeat the Islamic State.

But Haider can't find or broker political solutions -- can't or won't -- and he can't even protect the Iraqi people from cholera.

James Cullum (Talk Radio News Service) explains, "The World Health Organization has mobilized over a half million doses of cholera vaccine (OCV) to counter an outbreak in war-ravaged Iraq. The inoculation effort, now in the preparation stage, will target 250,000 displaced persons to spreading over 62 refugee camps."

  • The US government might have raised some good will by focusing some aid on addressing the cholera epidemic.  Then again, after their use of immunizations as a cover in Pakistan, the US government leading on antidotes and immunizations probably would have been immediately suspect.

    Sunday, the State Dept's Brett McGurk Tweeted the following:

  • Returned to for consults in , , , as multiple offensives launch against terrorists in & .

  • It was pretty straightforward but it produced the only question about Iraq in today's State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau.

    QUESTION: Iraq?

    MS TRUDEAU: Sure.

    QUESTION: Brett McGurk tweeted that he is now in Iraq or he would be in Iraq shortly. He mentioned three cities where he will be meeting, two of them Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, and Baghdad. So can you talk about the meeting that he would have in Sulaymaniyah and Erbil? Anything that you have to share with us?

    MS TRUDEAU: I’m not going to preview his meetings. But we’ll see if we can get you a readout, perhaps, after.

    QUESTION: Is it related to the Kurdish presidency crisis?

    MS TRUDEAU: Again, that’s a good effort. I’m not going to preview his meetings. If there’s anything to read out afterwards, we’ll get back to you on that.

    While she won't talk, the world can't stop talking about global train wreck Tony Blair.  Yes, it's another week of headlines for the walking, talking tabloid scandal Blair.

    The disgraced former prime minister of the United Kingdom remains a War Criminal at large.

    Some, however, see the knoose tightening.

    Those who feel Blair will soon be arrested will no doubt feel even more that way with the latest allegations.

    Ben Riley-Smith (Telegraph of London) reports:

    Ministers in Tony Blair’s government were told to “burn” a private document warning that the Iraq War was illegal, it has been claimed. 
    A 13-page legal note from Lord Goldsmith, then-attorney general, produced in the run-up to war suggested it could be challenged under international law.
    However senior figures were told “burn” and “destroy” the document after it was circulated, according to the Mail on Sunday.  

    BBC News notes Blair's spokesperson dismisses the reports as "nonsense."

    The latest scandal comes as the world is still rejecting Blair's non-apology last week.

    Pakistan's News International offers a typical reaction in a letter to the editor from Masood Khan:

    Millions of people dead, injured or displaced, a country devastated for ages – and you just say, ‘sorry’? What if this were the other way around – Iraqi forces invading and occupying Britain and America and later saying: sorry. But as Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has very correctly spotted, ‘Blair’s spin operation’ had swung into action as Sir John Chilcot prepares to publish the long-awaited enquiry report into the Iraq war. One thing is for sure, it is the Chilcot report that forced Tony Blair to spill a few beans of truth, otherwise till the recent past he was the only person on this globe to defend the invasion. I am sure a war crime tribunal can get far more facts from the people who planted, planned and executed the invasion in a systematic way and then forgot to put the genie of sectarianism back in the bottle.

    The faux apology didn't take.  And now he's facing even more public criticism.  He should get used to it.  This is the lot for War Criminals.

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