Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, December 8, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, more bombs are dropped on Iraq (with no measurable effect), Turkey and Iraq continue to argue over Turkish troops in Iraq, Haider al-Abadi's position remains precarious, and much more.

Turkey has halted its deployment of troops to Iraq, AUSTRALIA ASSOCIATED PRESS reports.  But before you breathe a sigh of relief, Turkey's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mevlut Cavusoglu, states that the troops already in Iraq will not be withdrawn.

What's going on?

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, on Sunday, gave Turkey 48 hours to remove troops from Mosul. That ticking alarm clock is about to buzz.  So where do things stand?  SPUTNIK reports:

Turkish troops remain in Iraq despite a partial withdrawal, Iraq's Defense Ministry spokesman Nuseir Nouri told Sputnik Arabic.
In a convoluted statement, the spokesman first denied that Turkish troops were present in Iraq, then saying that there are troops protecting the camps training Masoud Barzani-linked fighters. On Friday, up to 150 Turkish military personnel had been deployed in northern Iraq's Nineveh province allegedly to provide training to the fighters.

Iraq's quickly become The Land of the Non-Withdrawal.  US troops are still there.  Now Turkish ones as well.

This has not set well with Iraqis and a demonstration took place today.  Seamus Kearney (EuroNews) reports, "Hundreds of protesters have gathered outside the Turkish embassy in Baghdad, demanding the withdrawal of Turkish troops from the north of the country."

It's hard to see how this non-withdrawal is going to please protesters.

And let's remember, this is Iraq and Turkey.

Iraqis were already outraged about Turkish war planes bombing northern Iraq.  Haider al-Abadi had called for that to end but the US government wanted it to continue.

Who won that battle?

The US government.

Leaving Haider humiliated.

Humiliation which may have egged on former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki who continues to be the subject of press and social media whispers -- specifically that he's planning an attempted coup that will restore him as prime minister.

He was a hideous prime minister.  That's not an endorsement of Haider al-Abadi.

Like Nouri, he's seen as a puppet of Iran.  (In truth, both men are as indebted and indentured to the United States government as they are to Iran.)

Tareq al-Hashemi, former two-term vice president of Iraq, has a column at MIDDLE EAST MONITOR on Iran and a recent event where Iranians stormed an Iraqi border -- an event that Tareq notes Iran would never have allowed to take place there and one that many suspect was a planned event on the part of the Iranian government:

The position of Al-Abadi’s government, which only made a useless statement, is one of collusion. If the government wanted to, it could have taken pre-emptive or subsequent measures to reinforce the border crossing with enough military forces that are capable of deterring the storming of the border when it noticed these suspicious gatherings. There is no doubt that the government monitors the growth of the gatherings over the past few days. The government also could have, at a later time, worked on containing them and forcing them to return, but it did not do so. 
We did, however, see the government use excessive force against the Iraqis displaced from Anbar. Didn’t the government hold up thousands of Iraqis and refuses, until this day, to allow them to enter the country through the Bazibir Bridge, west of Baghdad, even those who are sick, elderly, disabled, women and children? Didn’t the government deprive hundreds of thousands of displaced families from their right to return to their municipalities and areas of residence after they were liberated from [the Islamic State]’s control?

As most reading Tareq's column will grasp, those from Anbar were predominately Sunni.

That has always been the complaint against the central-Baghdad government when Nouri was in charge and remains the complaint to this day with Haider in charge:  The government persecutes Sunnis while protecting Shi'ites.

That's why the Islamic State got its foothold in Iraq to begin with.

It's also one of the continuing threats to the stability of Haider al-Abadi's government.

On the precarious Haider, Ramzy Mardini (WORLD POLITICS REVIEW) explains:

In early November, Abadi's efforts to implement a reform agenda that intended to tackle a corrupt and dysfunctional political system were decisively defeated in a unanimous vote in Parliament.  From then on, his reform initiatives, which were announced in the summer of 2015 in response to mass demonstrations in Baghdad and southern Iraq, will require Parliament's approval.  This limits any unilateral power the prime minister has to shape Iraq going forward.  Opposition to his proposed reforms exposed his vulnerability, which is now visible not only to the public but also to his political rivals.  Indeed, despite waging a war focused on reclaiming lost territory on Iraq's periphery, Baghdad is now preoccupied with a dangerous power struggle within the political establishment that Iran had worked for years to cultivate.
For Abadi, it is not the military threat posed by the Islamic State, per se, that looms over his premiership.  Instead, the real threat to his leadership, and perhpas to US interests to maintain an allied government in Baghdad, is an intra-Shi'ite contest for political authority.  This competition is occurring within a fragment government led by a prime minister who depends for his political survival on the very same forces threatening that survival.  Indeed, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki whose autocratic and sectarian leadership the West blames for Iraq's ills, has leveraged his prior relationships with pro-Iran Shi'ite militias and managed to make a potential comeback to threaten his successor.  Abadi also faces challenges to his authority from other Shi'ite figures aligned with Iran, who, at best, effectively limit his power, and, at worst, could attempt to unseat him.

Back to the issue of Turkey, Chas Freeman was the US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1989 to 1992.  Sputnik interviewed him about this latest crisis and he states, "The basic principles of international law are no longer respected in the Middle East.  This Turkish intervention reflects the breakdown of sovereignty and territorial integrity in the Levant catalyzed by the American invasion of Iraq, which was itself unauthorized under international law."

Monday,  ARUTZ SHEVA reported that Iraq's prime minister Haider al-Abadi has declared he will appeal the issue to the United Nations Security Council if Turkish troops are not removed.

Too late for him with Russia beating him to the punch in calling for a discussion. Eyewitness News notes, "The discussion was expected to follow a closed-door meeting of the 15-nation council on unrelated issues."

AFP reminds:

Relations between Moscow and Ankara have been tense since Turkish fighter jets shot down a Russian fighter jet on the Syrian border on November 24.
Since then, Russia has imposed sanctions on Turkey, including a ban on the import of some Turkish foods and a halt on sales of Turkish holiday travel packages -- a major blow to the tourist industry. 

The issue was touched on briefly at today's US State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson John Kirby.

QUESTION: John, on this, on Turkey-Iraq. Turkish foreign minister has said today that Turkey won’t send more troops to Iraq, but at the same time, they won’t withdraw the troops that they have in Iraq. Do you have anything on this?

MR KIRBY: Well, I’ve seen those reports, Michel. Again, as I said yesterday, this is an issue for Turkey and Iraq to continue to work out. We’re encouraged by the fact that their defense ministers have spoken. We want to see that dialogue continue. This is an issue that both of them, we believe, need to continue to discuss, work out.

QUESTION: And how do you view that Russia called the UN Security Council to discuss this issue?

MR KIRBY: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: That Russia has called the UN Security Council to discuss the Turkish --

MR KIRBY: We continue to believe that the best path forward here is for Turkey and Iraq to work this out bilaterally and to have discussions. And they have, and we’re encouraged by that. And as I said yesterday, we believe that this can and should be – and there should be no reason why it couldn’t be – resolved peacefully through dialogue and discussion. As I also said, we want – it’s important and I want to restate this as a sound principle, because it’s a principle that needs to be continually hit home. Iraq’s a sovereign country; and we want all efforts against ISIL inside Iraq to be done with the cooperation, in consultation with the Iraqi Government and with their full permission. That’s an important fundamental principle here to respect the sovereignty of Iraq and that won’t change going forward. But we believe that this is best resolved between Turkey and Iraq.

QUESTION: Do you mean that you don’t support discussing this issue and the --

MR KIRBY: No, what I said was, rather than tell you what we don’t support, let me tell you what we do support, and that is that we support Turkey and Iraq continuing to have a dialogue and working their way through this.

What they do support?

They supported Turkey.

The White House supported the bombs Turkey has dropped on northern Iraq and defended Turkey doing so -- all the while Haider and other government officials in Iraq objected.  The White House has backed Turkey's military infusion/invasion of Iraq as well.

What they won't back is anything that addresses the actual problems in Iraq.

Sunday night, US President Barack Obama gave his third speech from the Oval Office since being sworn in back in January of 2009 ("Watch the full video and read the President’s remarks:").

What did he say?

Nothing of any value.

A lot to scare any actually paying attention.

For example, let's note these bullet points the White House prepared.

President Obama's ISIL strategy abroad

That's how you defeat the Islamic State?

Only if you're an idiot.

Barack's a failure.

He's a failure because he can't speak the truth, he's a failure because he can't speak up, he's a failure because he wanted the title of president but didn't want to do the work.

Over a year ago, June 19, 2014, Barack told the world a political solution was needed.

Now he's too chicken to even note that reality.

So he offers a lot of b.s. that's supposed to make him look tough but only makes him look pathetic.

The only way you defeat the Islamic State is by robbing it of is very reason for existence -- the persecution of the Sunnis.

Quentin Sommerville (NEW STATESMAN) explains:

As Britain makes a decision on whether to bomb IS in Syria, as we are already doing in Iraq, we appear to have little understanding of why IS has become so strong and, indeed, why its support is growing. In our disgust at its medieval methods of torture and killing, it is easy to forget that IS is not merely tolerated but welcomed in its strongholds in Iraq and Syria. It is true that there are many foreign fighters in both cities but there are also Sunni Arab populations that regard IS rule as a better alternative to the Shia-led government of Iraq, Iranian-funded militias, the Kurds or the regime of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad.

The point is one Barack grasps verbally but one he fails to provide action for.  Instead of providing a diplomatic infusion, bringing all the agents to the table and hashing things out, he prefers to drop bombs and send in troops.

None of which will erase the Islamic State or what pops up to replace the Islamic State -- which popped up to replace al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

Today the US Defense Dept announced:

Strikes in Iraq
Fighter, bomber, and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 20 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the Iraqi government:

-- Near Huwayjah, four strikes struck three separate ISIL tactical units, wounded two ISIL fighters, damaged an ISIL trench, and destroyed an ISIL vehicle and an ISIL tunnel.

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

-- Near Mosul, a strike destroyed an ISIL excavator.

-- Near Ramadi, six strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units, denied ISIL access to terrain, and destroyed three ISIL ammo caches, 12 ISIL buildings, an ISIL command and control node, an ISIL sniper position, seven ISIL heavy machine guns, four ISIL staging areas, an ISIL mortar system, an ISIL tactical vehicle, an ISIL tunnel entrance, seven ISIL fighting positions, and two ISIL supply caches.

-- Near Sinjar, a strike destroyed an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Tal Afar, two strikes destroyed three ISIL weapons caches, nine ISIL bunkers, three ISIL tunnels, and an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Hit, a strike destroyed an ISIL homemade explosives facility and two ISIL vehicle bombs.

-- Near Qayyarah, two strikes destroyed an ISIL logistics facility and an ISIL vehicle bomb-making facility.

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.

These bombs have been dropped on Iraq since Augut 2014 by US war planes.

They've had no real effect other than terrorizing the Iraqi people and putting US tax payers further in debt for financial cost of a never-ending war.

Quentin Sommerville concludes his essay on the Islamic State with this, "The grievances in Iraq and Syria that allowed it to flourish have not been addressed and have only intensified – and appear to lie far beyond the reach of air strikes alone."


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