Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, December 23, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the Ramadi effort has already hit a snag, the Islamic State is popular in Mosul, Barack Obama finally weighs in on the persecution of Iraqi Christians, and much more.

Susanna Capelouto and Hamdi Alkhshali (CNN) note, "Iraq's military is just a half-mile away from the ISIS-held government compound in Ramadi in Iraq's battle to retake the city from the terrorist group, the head of Iraq's joint forces said on state television."  Maher Chmaytelli (REUTERS) adds, "Iraq's army chief was quoted on Wednesday as saying he needed only days to drive Islamic State from Ramadi, the city whose fall in May exposed the weakness of the Baghdad government and dampened hopes of restoring control in the north and west."

But the march to success, as has repeatedly been the case so far, hit a bit of a snag.

 Ghassan Adnan and Matt Bradley (WALL ST. JOURNAL) report:

A new push by Iraqi forces to retake Ramadi appeared to stall Wednesday in the face of resistance from Islamic State fighters, a day after government troops made quick progress toward the center of the strategic city just 60 miles from the capital.
By Wednesday afternoon, Iraqi forces had paused within 800 yards of a former government compound in the city center that they are aiming to recapture, said Gen. Talib Sheghati, head of Iraq’s Joint Operations Command which coordinates with the U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic State.

Gen. Sheghati said the Iraqi forces were working to defuse bomb-rigged homes and buildings, land mines and improvised explosive devices buried under roadways.

The Iraqi forces vastly outnumber the Islamic State in Ramadi.

But even that's not apparently enough to get them to press forward.

This morning,  Falih Hassan and Kareem Fahim (NEW YORK TIMES) reported that even more Iraqi troops are being sent to Ramadi (yesterday, there were 10,000 -- for the 350 Islamic State fighters) and that, according to US military spokesperson Col Steven Warren, "there had been no significant developments in the battle to reclaim the city."

All of those forces, a bridge via the US and bombings from war planes?

Still not enough, apparently.

Today, the US Defense Dept announced:

Strikes in Iraq
Attack, bomber, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 24 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

-- Near Huwayjah, one strike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

-- Near Habbaniyah, five strikes struck four ISIL staging areas and an ISIL headquarters.

-- Near Mosul, eight strikes struck six separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL building, an ISIL crane, an ISIL bulldozer, two ISIL excavators, two ISIL vehicles, five ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL heavy machine gun, an ISIL light machine gun and an ISIL checkpoint and wounded an ISIL fighter.

-- Near Ramadi, four strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL bunker, 19 ISIL fighting positions, three ISIL sniper positions, an ISIL anti-air artillery piece, four ISIL rocket-propelled grenade positions, two ISIL recoilless rifles, two ISIL grenade launcher positions, two ISIL heavy machine gun positions, three ISIL command-and-control nodes, two ISIL bed-down locations, an ISIL staging area, cratered an ISIL-used road and denied ISIL access to terrain.

-- Near Sinjar, one strike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

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

-- Near Fallujah, one strike destroyed an ISIL bunker.

-- Near Kisik, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed three ISIL fighting positions.

-- Near Tal Afar, one strike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

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 one 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.

Those war planes, bombing non-stop since August -- of 2014!  And achieving so little -- so little that some might even argue they've achieved nothing.

in the terminal where dreams
let so many tickets through
when strangers look in faces
and see somebody there they knew
you might meet me tomorrow
as all the lights are blooming green
and you're feeling a little lonely,
a little sad, a little mean
remember a place
inside of that hotel
where you could do anything you want to do
you couldn't tell
If it's more trouble than it's worth
ah, this is more trouble than it's worth
-- "Living It Up," written by Rickie Lee Jones, first appears on her album Pirates

More trouble than it's worth?


June 19, 2014, US President Barack Obama insisted that Iraq's crises required a political solution.  But he's refused to address that issue.  He's poured everything into a military approach and ignored diplomacy.

And there's been no real advance.

Ruth Pollard (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD) explains:

 Even if Iraqi forces were to reoccupy all of the areas now controlled by IS and the Syrian city of Raqqa – now its unofficial capital – was liberated, without serious reform a group like the IS and all the chaos it causes will just re-emerge from the ashes, warns says Zaid al-Ali, an Iraqi lawyer and author of the book The Struggle for Iraq's Future.
"Without serious security sector reform and serious justice sector reform in Iraq there is absolutely no point engaging in any of these initiatives," says Ali, also a visiting lecturer and fellow at Princeton University.
Instead of dealing with the threat of Islamic State militants by undertaking military and police operations based on good intelligence, Iraqi forces were randomly rounding people up, arresting them and forcing them to pay bribes to get out.
"The justice system is equally shambolic … in most cases the most senior leadership of [IS] get away scot free while the people who cannot afford to pay bribes are left behind," Ali says.

The government's persecution of the Sunnis is why the Islamic State got its foothold in Iraq to begin with.  As world governments ignored the targeting of Sunnis, the only group that appeared to stand up for them was the Islamic State.

Whis is why Shane Dixon Kavanaugh (VOCATIV) reports:

Research published by IIACCS, a reputable polling firm in Iraq, shows that support for ISIS among residents living in Mosul, the nation’s second-largest city, has steadily increased since it fell to the terror group 18 months ago. The survey also found that residents’ doubts about the Iraqi Army, and about the aggressive anti-ISIS air campaign led by the United States, are lingering.
Nearly 40 percent of people surveyed said ISIS represents their views and interests. That’s up from just 10 percent in June 2014, the month the militants seized control of the city. Around 34 percent of participants said that they now support the Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate and 39 percent would like jihadists to maintain control of Mosul.

You have to address the root causes.  If you don't, you will never defeat the Islamic State.

Embedded image permalink

Children carry through the streets
A brilliant painted star
Angels gather 'round the hearth
Strumming on guitars
Men of great renown and faith
Say prayers on boulevards
It's the night before Christmas
But you don’t have to be an angel
To sing harmony
And you don't have to be a child
To love the mystery
And you don’t have to be a wise man
On bended knee
The heart of this Christmas is in you and me
The night before Christmas
The night before Christmas 
-- "The Night Before Christmas," written by Carly Simon, first appears on the soundtrack for Nora Ephron's THIS IS MY LIFE

On this topic, Saif Hameed (REUTERS) reports:

With Christmas falling this year a day after Prophet Mohammad's birthday, the city of Baghdad is holding Christmas celebrations in a sign of brotherhood with Iraq's hard-pressed Christian community.
Fireworks will illuminate the Tigris river every night of the week and a 25-metre (82 feet) Christmas tree has been set up in Zawraa public park. In Zayuna camp, in the east of the city, children listened to Christmas carols on Wednesday and danced with Santa Claus to Iraqi songs. 

And about there, reporting ends and whoring begins.

They're all whoring.  One outlet after another.

The Islamic State, we're told has destroyed life for Christians in Iraq.

They apparently believe news consumers are so stupid that they can't remember a year ago or two.

Every year, the press has reported how difficult things are for Iraqi Christians.

Long before the Islamic State emerged, the troubles were via Shi'ite militias.

Barack has long been accused of avoiding the persecution of Iraqi Christians -- among others.  But this year, he issued a statement.

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Statement by the President on Persecuted Christians at Christmas

During this season of Advent, Christians in the United States and around the world are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  At this time, those of us fortunate enough to live in countries that honor the birthright of all people to practice their faith freely give thanks for that blessing.  Michelle and I are also ever-mindful that many of our fellow Christians do not enjoy that right, and hold especially close to our hearts and minds those who have been driven from their ancient homelands by unspeakable violence and persecution.
In some areas of the Middle East where church bells have rung for centuries on Christmas Day, this year they will be silent; this silence bears tragic witness to the brutal atrocities committed against these communities by ISIL. 
We join with people around the world in praying for God’s protection for persecuted Christians and those of other faiths, as well as for those brave men and women engaged in our military, diplomatic, and humanitarian efforts to alleviate their suffering and restore stability, security, and hope to their nations.  As the old Christmas carol reminds us:
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.

So there you have it, when he can't blame the persecution on the Islamic State, he has nothing to say.  When he can blame it on IS, he rushes to finally weigh in.

Changing topics, Taylor Weatherby (HOLLYWOOD LIFE) notes:

Congrats are in order for Shaima Qassem Abdulrahman! The 20-year-old student was recently crowned Miss Iraq, becoming the first to receive the honor since 1972. But as her country is facing some turmoil, Shaima’s win comes with several death threats for her involvement with the competition. Despite the scary circumstances, the newest Miss Iraq is hopeful that her title will have a positive affect on all Iraqi women.

Kate Storey covers the for ELLE here.  Faisal Al Yafai (THE NATIONAL) finds the whole thing to be a sham and offers:

It is a country where, while young Iraqis walk down a catwalk, it is still unsafe for women (and men) to walk down the street.
Where the number of women in work has plummeted since the US invasion. Where female political representation, though mandated by law, is contorted by political parties. Where the legal system cannot provide justice for the crimes committed against women by both Iraqis and Americans.
It isn't clear how any of those issues will be progressed by young girls wearing nice clothes and parading on a stage in front of judges. Nor is it especially clear how their doing so constitutes a “celebration of life”.