Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, December 22, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Ramadi is supposedly on the verge of liberation or 'liberation,'  Hillary Clinton's desire for a no-fly zone over Syria gets a robust reply, and much more.

What I'm trying to say is
It's time 
To get in the way
It's crazy 
That this thing is still going on
I can't believe
This thing's still going on 
And it goes
Na na na na na na 
I hate the war
Na na na na na na 
I hate the war
Na na na na na na
I hate the war
-- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)

This morning on CNN, reciter Barbara Starr made an ass out of herself with a recitation of factoids about Iraq which included 500 Islamic State fighters were thought to be holed up in Ramadi and that Haider al-Abadi, prime minister of Iraq, had amassed 10,000 troops to take them on as the Iraqi forces finally may be about to enter Ramadi (the last five months have been non-stop failure for them in this mission).  [In a report on CNN in the afternoon, she dropped the number of Islamic State fighters in Ramadi to 350.]  She failed to note how ridiculous the odds yet again were -- 20 Iraqi forces for ever Islamic State member and though she was eager to note that there was resistance in Iraq to US forces, she failed to pin down where that resistance comes from.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has signaled to the US government that he himself is willing to have US forces on the ground in combat.  He's also said this would be a hard sell.



Are the Kurds wanting the US out of Iraq?


Okay, then the Sunnis?


The Sunnis have been wanting more US involvement for years now.

The why of that goes to the hard sell.

Sunnis have argued more US involvement could end the persecution of the Sunnis.

Persecution by whom?

Hard line, radical Shi'ites.

Such as the one who leads the Bard terrorists -- popularly referred to as the Badr militia or Badr brigade.

(And let's all pretend we've never heard of the Badr brigade's death squads.)

I don't want US troops on the ground in Iraq.

And reasons for that desire include that this is Iraq's battle and the US government needs to stay out of it (and stop propping up the figure head government that they have imposed).

But Shi'ites like Bard terrorist leader Hadi al-Amiri don't want US forces on the ground for a different reason.

Their actions in 'liberated' areas have been destructive -- to put it mildly.

They have carried out attacks on Sunni civilians in the name of 'revenge' (the Islamic State is a Sunni organization).  They have burned Sunni homes, they have looted.

And they have killed for sport.

As Kirk H. Sowell noted in August at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:

Badr—founded in the 1980s in Iran, its continued supporter—is not only the most important of the various armed groups composing the Popular Mobilization Forces (Hashd). It also symbolizes how Iraqis’ hopes for a democratic country governed by the rule of law have given way to a political system that is expressly sectarian and increasingly resembles a garrison state. No other militia-political party was better prepared to capitalize on the collapse of Iraqi security forces in northern Iraq last June. Badr’s military commander, Ameri—who tried and failed to get an appointment as minister of defense or interior, in part due to U.S. opposition—has been transportation minister since Maliki’s second cabinet and is now a parliamentarian. Under the new government of Haider al-Abadi, Ameri was able to get a member of his party, Mohammed Salem al-Ghabban, confirmed as interior minister. Prior to leaving office, Maliki had made Ameri the military governor of Diyala—an informal appointment usually described euphemistically as al-masuul al-amani (the security official)—which he remains to this day.
Ameri, now on leave from parliament, has captured far more renown in his militia commander role than he ever did as a cabinet minister. In October 2014, Ameri was often described as the “leader” of the militia-led offensive to subdue Jurf al-Sakhr, a mostly Sunni area south of Baghdad, and consolidate Shia control around the capital. By February 2015 Badr had secured Diyala, whose narrow Sunni Arab majority is nestled between Baghdad and Iran. Badr and other militias sustained criticism that they were engaging in retribution attacks and attempting to cleanse the Sunni population from these areas. But the ministry of human rights—also held by a Badrist, Mohammed Mahdi al-Bayati—sent a senior official to speak at Badr’s February 16 celebration of their victory in Diyala and defend the conduct of the Badr-led Hashd.
Ameri’s military preeminence continued in March with the launch of the operation to liberate Tikrit and northern Salahuddin. Iran, through Badr, initially played more of a role in the offensive than Iraqi leaders did, and photos of the infamous Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani sometimes appeared alongside Ameri himself, dominating media coverage. Yet the militia-led offensive was forced to step back from Tikrit to let the U.S.-led international coalition conduct airstrikes against dug-in jihadis, allowing the formal security services—army and federal police—to lead the liberation of the city. Although Prime Minister Abadi initially held back the militias in Anbar out of fear of sectarian conflict, he gave way after the security forces defending the provincial capital of Ramadi collapsed on May 17. Ameri promptly took the lead as “field commander” of the new Anbar offensive, only to decide in early June—apparently entirely on his own—to shift focus to Fallujah, which lies between Ramadi and Baghdad. 
The videos of abuse are all over the internet.

Briefly, they were of momentary interest -- remember that?


From the March 23rd snapshot:

ABC News aired an important report March 11th and a second one March 12th. March 12's report is transcribed below:

David Muir: Now to new fall out after our ABC investigation last night. It involves the fight against ISIS known for those awful videos, lining up their victims on the beach.  And now a new concern.  Are some of the Iraqi forces -- trained and paid for by US taxpayers -- using techniques that are just as brutal?  Well the State Dept tonight responding to our report and ABC's chief investigative reporter Brian Ross back on the job tonight.

Brian Ross:  The State Dept called these scenes today serious and disturbing.  Brutal images of what appear to be Iraqi forces and militias carrying out, celebrating, torture and beheadings.  In this torture scene, two US weapons against the wall. This video shows two civilians, pleading for their lives, about to be shot dead.  A man with an American supplied weapon walks by, a gunman with what appears to be the insignia of Iraqi Special Forces caught on tape.

US State Dept spokesperson Jen Psaki: Their behavior must be above reproach or they risk being painted with the same brush as ISIL fighters.

Brian Ross:  The Pentagon says it has already cut off money to some Iraqi units because of gross human rights violations.  But Senator Patrick Leahy says the ABC News report shows the government should cut off money to more Iraqi units.

Senator Patrick Leahy: When you look at at the videos and look at the uniforms being worn, do we really want to say the US condones that?

Brian Ross: US officials tonight tell ABC News that America's top military leader Gen Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has repeatedly warned Iraqi leaders about the conduct of the Iraqi military and the militias that fight with them -- especially because the US is sending $1.5 billion to the Iraqi army and almost 3,000 American troops to help train them.

ABC News was reporting on them much to the displeasure of the White House -- and then the story was disappeared.

It popped up today on CNN's THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER when Jake spoke with US House Rep Tulsi Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran:

Jake Tapper: Congresswoman Gabbard, thanks for joining me.  ISIS took control of Ramadi in May, as you know, that was an embarrassing defeat for the Iraqi army.  If Iraqi forces do succeed in retaking Ramadi this time around, are you confident that this time they can keep ISIS out?

US House Rep Tulsi Gabbard:  Jake, I think it's too early to tell, quite frankly.  I think a lot's going to depend upon how the people there are treated by the occupying forces that will remain there after this battle is won  And that's a key thing that we've got to focus on here because we've seen in previous battles, as you've mentioned, with other cities, where the battle has been won but you've seen how the sectarian tensions have been completely gotten in the way, how the people there in these Sunni communities were persecuted and it allowed the space for ISIS to come back in and take over.

Jake Tapper:  The Pentagon says that the only role the US military is playing in this attempt to retake Ramadi is air support.  Should US troops being doing more?  Maybe on the ground hunting and killing ISIS fighters?

US House Rep Tulsi Gabbard:  Well I think generally what I have long called for is having these hubs throughout the region in different places where our special forces can operate from and conduct quick strike attacks against ISIS, al Qaeda and these other Islamic, extremist groups there in Iraq.  It's going to be critical -- especially in these Sunni communities that you empower the Sunni tribes -- that you equip them and you arm them so that they can fight these fights and then, more importantly for the longterm, that you have a plan in place to govern and secure these territories.  And this is why I've long called for a three-state solution -- arming and empowering the Kurds in the north, the Sunnis and the Shia, and having some form of a three-state semi-autonomous or autonomous region.  And I think similar is what's needed in Syria as well.

Jake Tapper:  Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, during the Democratic debate, we are where we need to be in the fight against ISIS.  Are we?

US House Rep Tulsi Gabbard:  I would heartily disagree with that.  We've got a strategy that's being executed that frankly doesn't make a whole lot of sense.  I've been calling for an end to the counter-productive, illegal war to overthrow the Syrian government of Asad and very clearly talking about how dangerous a no-fly zone in Syria would be.  We heard the President talk the other day about his opposition to a no-fly zone but at the same time we've heard from many of our presidential candidates how they're advocating for a no-fly zone.  I don't see how your head can be screwed on straight if you're pushing for a no-fly zone.  When we hear people like Chris Christie and Marco Rubio saying that they would shoot down a Russian plane that violates that no-fly zone kicking off a US - Russia war, kicking off an escalation to a world war or a nuclear war.  This is something that points to a very important issue which is the fact that our political leaders are not operating with a military mindset.  This is something that I and other young officers in the military learn early on in the military and that is that before you go out and execute a certain course of action, you've got to look at what are the consequences?  How will your enemy -- or other actors -- react to that course of action?  And, once they react, how will you -- what will your response to that be? And then what will their response to that be?  And continue to go down the line, layer by layer.  So if you look at what's happening in the Middle East now, the mess that we're in today, can be pointed directly, starting with the Bush administration, continuing today, with that lack of military mindset, that lack of foresight -- whether you're talking about overthrowing Saddam in Iraq, Qaddafi in Libya, the Arab Spring, [Hosni] Mubarak in Egypt and now Assad in Syria. 

Gabbard noted the persecution of the Sunnis.

Why can't Starr?

Today, Daniel Victor (NEW YORK TIMES) notes, "A new Miss Iraq was crowned in Baghdad for the first time since 1972 in a contest that faced fierce conservative opposition as well as reported death threats against some participants."

gets first beauty queen since 1972
Embedded image permalink

gets first beauty queen since 1972
Embedded image permalink

As THE WEEK noted:

 The Miss Iraq beauty pageant has been held for the first time in over 40 years, despite death threats and the dangers of Islamic State.
Shaima Qassem Abdelrahman, 20, became the first woman to claim the title since the first and last Miss Iraq contest took place in 1972. The economics student from Kirkuk is now eligible to represent the country at the Miss Universe contest.

That's more than worth noting.

Both for the risks involved for all the contestants.

For the "X" is puts on the back of the winner Shaima Qassem Abdelrahman.

For the courage of all the contestants.

Salim Essad (CNN) explains:

The pageant website and its Facebook page were inundated with death threats against the women -- so much so that the nearly 200 participants dropped to less than 10.
In the end, Qasim, 20, an economics major at the University of Kirkuk, received her crown to the applause of a supportive audience cheering her on for prevailing against the odds.

It's a big moment.

And it takes a big moron to mess it up.

It takes an idiot -- in fact, it takes a lot of idiots.  Hello, Mycah Hazel whose stupidity is republished by HUFFINGTON POST (where else) as she argues that Miss Iraq is a bold slap in the face of ISIS:

Nevertheless, the 2015 Miss Iraq competition proves not only that there is potential for an Iraq that is above violence but that there are already Iraqi women promoting and working towards this goal, by representing their country even amidst threats of death. There are people beyond government leaders who are seeking to defeat ISIS, not with bombs, but with smiles of Iraqi pride -- smiles of stronger caliber than any AK-47.

As Winona Ryder tells Ethan Hawke in REALITY BITES. "You're bravado is embarrassing."

Here's a clue for Baby Cum Pants Hazel, next time stop using Iraq to whore for the Democratic Party.  You're need to bring up the GOP only
demonstrates your gross ignorance.

As does your xenophobic and condescending statements about Iraqi "pride."

Baby Cum Pants Hazel needs to grasp that Iraq was a haven in the region when it came to women's rights -- before the US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein.

She also needs to grasp that the US government put in charge Shi'ite thugs -- intentionally, a country in shock can't fight back -- who decimated women's rights.  That the prime minister until 2014, Nouri al-Maliki, appeased his Shi'ite thugs by refusing to nominate a single woman to his January 2011 cabinet of ministers.

She needs to grasp that the women he did embrace spoke out against women's rights and tried to impose dress codes.

She needs to grasp that Iraqi women have been fighting not only bullets and bombs, but the US-led destruction of their rights.

And, guess what, Baby Cum Pants Hazel?

None of the above  -- nor the beatings and rapes Iraqi women endured in prisons under Nouri al-Maliki -- was carried out by the Islamic State.

So buy a clue and sit your tired ass down.

You thought you had something to share.

You didn't.

Next time, grasp that Iraqi women are strong and don't deserve your xenophobia or your attempts to use them as pawns to attack the Republican Party.

Before you compose more slash fiction for the Democratic Party, you damn well better grasp that Iraqi women have been fighting the US occupation's attacks on their rights for years now.  They've taken to the streets to do so.  If that's surprising to you, maybe it goes to your own inherent weakness.

Today, the US Defense Dept announced:

Strikes in Iraq
Attack, fighter, bomber, and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 17 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the Iraqi government:
-- Near Fallujah, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed a bomb-making facility and wounded two ISIL fighters.
-- Near Kisik, a strike suppressed ISIL rocket fire.
-- Near Mosul, seven strikes struck six separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL building, 12 ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL heavy machine gun, two ISIL vehicles, five ISIL bunkers, and seven ISIL assembly areas.
-- Near Qayyarah, a strike destroyed an ISIL excavator.
-- Near Ramadi, six strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units, denied ISIL access to terrain, wounded two ISIL fighters and destroyed four ISIL command and control nodes, four ISIL weapons caches, two ISIL buildings, and an ISIL vehicle bomb.

Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is a strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

Last week, US war planes bombed (and killed) Iraqi forces -- by mistake.  And today?  REUTERS reports, "About 20 people, including at least 12 civilians, were killed on Monday in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, in two air strikes that destroyed houses believed to be used by Islamic State militants, six eyewitnesses and a medical source said."