Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, November 10, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, bombs continue to fall on Iraq, the US government may be prepared to pay pennies for the deaths of civilians but neither they nor the Pentagon press corps want to acknowledge Sunday's civilian deaths, the IMF prepares to take over Iraq, and much more.

The violence never ends in Iraq.  Today, the US Defense Dept issued the following brag:

Strikes in Iraq

Bomber, fighter, and attack aircraft conducted 16 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

-- Near Albu Hayat, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL homemade explosives cache, two ISIL fighting positions, and an ISIL boat.

-- Near Fallujah, one strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL vehicle and suppressed an ISIL anti-air artillery piece.

-- Near Ramadi, four strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed three ISIL heavy machine guns, 15 ISIL weapons caches, an ISIL tactical vehicle, an ISIL mortar, an ISIL building, damaged another ISIL building, and denied ISIL access to terrain.

-- Near Sinjar, seven strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed 30 ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL light machine guns, and an ISIL command-and-control node.

-- Near Tal Afar, two strikes destroyed six ISIL fighting positions and suppressed an ISIL light machine gun position.

The bombs keep falling but the White House tries to pretend the war is over.

  • At today's US Defense Dept press briefing, Pentagon spokesperson Peter Cook was asked about the airstrikes.

    Q: And in terms of the figures that have come out in the last week that the U.S. is carrying out 95 percent of the airstrikes in Syria, 78 percent of the airstrikes if you include Iraq and Syria -- are those figures accurate? And does the U.S. still plan to shoulder the -- the -- the bulk of these airstrikes? Or are you trying to get other allies to pick up some of the air war?

    MR. COOK: Well, as you know, Jennifer, we continue to work with the -- with a substantial and large coalition, and those coalition members are contributing in a host of ways -- not just in terms of aircraft.

    But -- but some of those nations -- many of those nations -- do continue to engage in airstrikes on behalf of the coalition. But that's not all they're doing.

    Some have provided bases with which to carry out the fight against ISIL. Some have provided financial support for this effort, training, as well. So there's a whole host of ways in which these coalition members have -- have stepped up.

    Yes, it's true, the United States has conducted most of the -- a significant number of the -- of the airstrikes to date. There have been more than 8,000 to date.

    Spin, spin, spin.

    That's what Cook served up and what the American press swallowed.

    No one raised the issue of Sunday's deaths.

    National Iraqi News Agency reported "the International Coalition Aircraft" launched an airstrike in Mosul which killed "11 civilians, including six children, and wounding five others."

    Barbara Starr and her contemporaries aren't interested in shaking the boat.

    They just want to parrot whatever lie the Defense Dept feeds them.

    Spin, spin, spin.

    They don't want reality.  Earlier this week, Press TV notes, "The Pentagon is ready to compensate the families of Iraqis killed by American bombs during US airstrikes against purported Daesh (ISIL) positions there, a new report says."  They're cribbing from Kate Brannen's Daily Beast report which notes:

    The Pentagon is about to get a $5 million fund to pay the Iraqi families of civilians killed by American airstrikes. It’s a big change for the U.S. military, which has yet to publicly acknowledge accidentally killing or wounding any innocents in the country even after 3,586 airstrikes targeting the so-called Islamic State.

    The US government, repeating "has yet to publicly acknowledge accidentally killing or wounding any innocents."

    But they do and now they've got the slush fund to toss a few pennies at the family members of the dead and wounded in an attempt to shut them up.  Al Bawaba explains:

    The fund for Iraq falls under a program that is actually intended for Afghanistan-- dubbed the Commanders’ Emergency Response Program (CERP).
    Under CERP, US commanders can approve up to $2,500 per person or damaged property, but higher-ups are allowed to sign bigger sums if needed.
    This means the US could hand out up to 2,000 “condolence payments” to Iraqis over the next year.

    Pennies tossed at the families of the dead and wounded in an attempt to assuage guilt.

    In other violence on Monday, Press TV reports a Sabaa al-Bour bombing left 3 people dead and eight more wounded, a bombing in Baghdad's Husseinia neighborhood left 3 more dead and seven more injured, a third Baghdad bombing left 2 people dead and seven more injured while 2 people were shot dead in Baghdad.  Alsumaria reports two security officers were shot in Basra, 1 Peshmerga was shot dead outside Kirkuk,

    There's talk of other shootings -- of US involvement in other shootings.  But the Pentagon is denying this.

    Q: There's a media report today that alludes to the fact that there are U.S. Marine snipers in Fallujah taking out ISIS.

    Are you -- are there any U.S. Marines in Fallujah working as snipers? Or I guess, in Anbar, operating as snipers, to your knowledge?

    MR. COOK: To my knowledge, there are not -- I was made aware of that media report, and my understanding is that it's not accurate, that there are no Marines operating in that way.

    Q: Are there any U.S. Marines acting as snipers, I mean, anywhere in Iraq? Are you -- I guess even, any service of any snipers?

    Is there anything to it that -- to this report at all?

    MR. COOK: You know, honestly, I asked about this specific -- or I was made aware of this specific report, and was told that there's nothing to support the stories.

    So, that's -- that's the only reference I know of, and again, my understanding is that it's not an accurate report.

    If you paid close attention, Cook denied the "specific" allegation but did not deny that US Marines might be snipers "anywhere in Iraq."

    Spin, spin, spin.

    There's success in Iraq.

    Just around the corner.

    Yes, you know it's quagmire time when they again trot out that tired cliche.

    Back to the DoD press briefing.

    Q: This morning, Colonel Warren said in Baghdad that ISIL was losing ground and he was talking to reporters, I think at the embassy in Baghdad, Iraqi reporters, and he said that the Iraqi security forces get much of the credit for that. Is the Pentagon satisfied that the Iraqi security forces have worked out all of the issues that have been raising concerns over time and that they are now poised to go ahead and make the push against the Islamic state that many had hoped they would make before now? Or is this just another step in the process?

    MR. COOK: I think -- I'm not sure exactly what Steve was referring to, but I think we've been pretty clear, the secretary's been pretty clear that the Iraqi security forces -- some in particular have made significant strides forward, but that overall, that there's still deficiencies. That's one reason they need support from the United States.

    Some of their forces, the counter-terrorism forces have shown particular skill and resiliency. Those forces in particular that have received recent U.S. training have shown advances on the battlefield, but the Iraqi security forces obviously still need enhancements, still need additional training and -- and they need to improve their overall effectiveness.

    But I think it is safe to say that some of them have shown strides, but this is going to be a step in the process. I don't think the government of Iraq would say that their security forces are where they need to be at this moment in time.

    Q: Just a really quick follow-up. Does the training process for the U.S. shift to get them to them to the next level or is it sufficient for what is needed from them now? And if, of course, they demonstrate the need for more advanced training down the road, the U.S. would invest more money in that process?

    MR. COOK: I think we're dealing with the situation we have right now. The training that's taking place right now is designed to improve their -- enhance their effectiveness. A good example, some of the training they're getting right now in dealing with the IEDs around Ramadi, counter-IED training, good example of specific U.S. capabilities that are being brought to bear, that kind of training for Iraqis.

    But there's -- if there need to be adjustments going forward, I'm sure there will be. But we're working closely with our Iraqi counterparts to make that happen. And again, some of their units have shown greater effectiveness and resiliency than some of their others, and those in particular that have received some of that U.S. training have proven to be the most effective in the battle space in recent weeks.

    Fred Lambert (UPI) documents many claims that Iraqi forces are on the verge of entering Ramadi.

    And maybe they are.

    They've only been trying to since May, after all.  At some point, they're bound to have to be on the verge of entering Ramadi.

    As Mitchell Prothero (McClatchy Newspapers) observed earlier this week:

    Iraqi forces’ hopes of recapturing the city of Ramadi from the Islamic State have stalled, largely because their efforts to cut resupply routes into the city of nearly 1 million have failed.
    Iraqi planners had hoped a cordon around the city, the capital of Anbar province, Iraq’s largest, would prevent the Islamic State from being able to prepare for a long siege. But local military commanders, residents and analysts say the Iraqi forces were unable to maintain the cordon and that the Islamic State has been able to resupply.

    Iraqi officials have announced a new operation to retake the city nearly every week since the Islamic State routed its defenders last spring. But despite the vows, it’s become clear that the government has neither the manpower nor the training to conduct an offensive in a huge city that remains packed with civilians. The Islamic State apparently has succeeded in keeping civilians from fleeing.

    Meanwhile, Alsumaria reports that Baghdad is opening its  doors to some refugees from Anbar Province.  This might seem a good thing except for the fact that Haider al-Abadi, prime minister of Iraq, has long claimed Baghdad was already open to Anbar refugees.

    Equally true, countries around the world are taking in refugees from the region and northern Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government, has taken in over two million refugees.

    All that's happening in Baghdad is what the law should have always allowed -- a point many Iraqi MPs have already made.

    In other news, they pretend to be in awe of the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani but they ignore him frequently.  He has repeatedly warned in the last months against foreign money and how it could be used to control Iraq.

    No one in charge listened.