Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, January 13, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue, Barack Obama still has no plan for defeating the Islamic State, but he is sending more US troops to be boots on the ground, Hillary Clinton lashes out at Bernie Sanders and creates a windfall of support for Bernie, and much more.

Today, the US Defense Dept announced:

Strikes in Iraq
Attack, bomber, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 16 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

-- Near Kisik, four strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed three ISIL bunkers, an ISIL-used tunnel, eight ISIL assembly areas, an ISIL supply cache and six ISIL fighting positions.

-- Near Mosul, seven strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units, an ISIL headquarters building, an ISIL weapons storage facility, an ISIL security headquarters building, and an ISIL-used bridge, and destroyed an ISIL command-and-control node and nine ISIL fighting positions and wounded an ISIL fighter.

-- Near Ramadi, four strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL bunker, an ISIL vehicle bomb, two ISIL heavy machine guns, an ISIL vehicle and denied ISIL access to terrain.

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

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.

More military action from Barack Obama.

Did the US president miss Tuesday's House Armed Services Committee hearing?

How about when former CIA deputy director Mike Morell told US House Rep Tom MacArthur, "We really can't have military success without political solutions.  That has to come first."

That has to come first.

But the White House isn't working on that.

Wally covered the hearing at Rebecca's site with "Bungler Obama:"

 The main takeaway from yesterday's House Armed Services Committee hearing?

That there's no plan.

When it comes to addressing the Islamic State, there's no plan.

None at all.

"What is the real strategy?"

US House Rep. Loretta Sanchez asked that.


But no one has an answer.

Barack stated his 'plan' -- bombing -- in August of 2014.

There is no plan.

There is no strategy.

Forget that the emperor has no clothes on, he's not even breathing!!!!

US House Rep Loretta Sanchez was the Acting Ranking Member at the hearing and she did repeatedly ask where the plan was.  She's been doing that publicly for some time.

And yet the White House still doesn't have any real plan or strategy.

This was clear today when Secretary of State John Kerry laid out the State Dept's 2016 priorities in a lengthy speech.

Like a stupid elderly fool who would have plastic surgery to look younger (which he did), he babbled on endlessly about military and territory and all the other crap that has nothing to do with the State Dept.

We get it, John, Secretary of State isn't good enough for you.  You want to be Secretary of Defense.

How sad for the State Dept that they're headed by a moron who doesn't even value diplomacy.

First, Iraq.  I visited Iraq a couple of months ago.  It was my first time on the ground in five years.  I was there in Iraq for five years with the American embassy and before that with the Coalition Provisional Authority.  My sense is that, in Iraq, on the military side, there is progress.  But there are too big challenges. Two big challenges.  First, on the resource side, both the Iraqi government in Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government in Erbil -- both are heavily dependent on oil and oil sales.  And low oil prices are really crunching their ability to mobilize resources against the fight against the Islamic State.  It was very noticeable to me that the Kurdish leadership, who I have known since 2004, were generally concerned about their budget  abilities to sustain the fight against the Islamic State.  Some of the Peshmerga fighters had not been paid for three months.  But even in Baghdad, the authorities were concerned about the resources.  Second issue on Iraq, the politics of national reconciliation.  Mike Vickers just mentioned the importance of devolution and decentralization.  I certainly agree with that and I'm hopeful on that because the Sunni Arab leaders -- again, whom I have known since 2004 -- have really come around 180 degrees. They used to be in favor of a tight, strong central government. And now they are arguing for devolution of power.  That is what the Shia and the Kurds always wanted ten years ago.  For the first time, I have actually seen the Sunnis, the Shia and the Kurds in Iraq all talking about the same form of government.  That's new and that's hopeful. But at the same time, as events in Diyala, northeast of Baghdad, yesterday  showed, there is serious sectarian tension. The Islamic State yesterday exploded several car bombs in the weary city of Baquba and there was immediate concern among the local Sunni population that Shia -- irregular Shia militia -- would retaliate.  There was actually fear that they would attack Sunni Arab mosques. In order to mobilize Sunni Arabs to contain the Islamic State there must be efforts at national reconciliation.  And this is important because we don't want the Islamic State to be put down militarily and then revive as happened between 2011 and 2013.  I really don't want to see an Islamic State version 2.0.  It is important for the Americans to therefore maintain pressure on the Shia militia problem in Iraq.  There are Iraqis such as prime minister [Haider al-] Abadi,Ayatollah [Ali al-] Sistani -- a superb religious leader in the Shia community -- people like, on the Sunni side, Speaker [of Parliament Salim al-] Jabbouri who are all working or national reconciliation.  And so, in Iraq, we need to help mobilize resources for both the central authorities in Iraq, Baghdad, for the Kurdish regional government in Erbil.  And we have to be engaged on the national reconciliation, working with the gentlemen I have pointed out.

No, that's not John Kerry.  That's the former US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford testifying at yesterday's hearing.

Never once in his long, long speech today did John Kerry note the issues that bred the Islamic State, the issues that let it take hold in Iraq.

Instead, he just made a fool of himself yet again and should go down in history as a very lousy Secretary of State.

When John was a US Senator, he believed in checks and balances and soft power and diplomacy and could go on and on about them.

These days, he's just a bully.

What John Kerry couldn't be bothered with, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter noted in a throwaway today, "It's the diplomats and development experts who are helping the Government of Iraq follow through on rebuilding and restoring opportunity to Sunni regions so the local people have a future worth fighting for themselves."

Carter delivered his speech at Fort Campbell.  The main section of his remarks getting attention are these:

Throughout Iraq and Syria we are significantly constraining its ability either to defend or attack, and we are working with our partners to take advantage of every opportunity this presents. And the specialized expeditionary targeting force I announced in December is now in place and is preparing to work with the Iraqis to begin going after ISIL’s fighters and commanders, killing or capturing them wherever we find them, along with other key targets. 

SPUTNIK notes that the number is supposed to be less than 100 and that "The announcement goes against the Obama administration’s pledge to not place any additional 'boots on the ground' in the Middle East, as well as his stated goal of withdrawing from Iraq."

It's mission creep.

The numbers keep climbing and the amount of interaction on the ground keeps increasing.

PRESS TV notes that section of the speech as well:

The United States has deployed about 200 special operations forces to Iraq “to work with” the Iraqi military in the fight against the [Islamic State] terrorist group, according to US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.
"The specialized expeditionary targeting force I announced in December is now in place and is preparing to work with the Iraqis to begin going after ISIL's fighters and commanders," Carter said at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, on Wednesday.

Like PRESS TV, REUTERS goes with the number of approximately 200: 

While the force was expected to number only about 200, its deployment marks the latest expansion of U.S. military pressure on Islamic State. It also exposes American forces to greater risk, something President Barack Obama has done only sparingly.

CLARKSVILLE NOW has a photo essay on Carter's visit to Fort Campbell.

When does the White House plan to work on a political solution?

Barack insisted in June of 2014 that it was the only answer to Iraq's political crises.  

But he's never put an emphasis on it in what he insists is a plan to confront the Islamic State.

At the United Institute of Peace, Fred Strasser has a piece which opens:

Three years of public polling in Iraq by Mercy Corps has put hard figures to an often-cited theory about the spread and attraction of violent extremism. More than poverty, joblessness or any other dispute or social ill, it is the perception—or reality—of injustice that fuels support for armed opposition groups.
Sectarianism threatens stability and can feed on itself, but it’s incorrectly blamed as a key source of violence, according to a Mercy Corps report released last week and explored by an expert panel at a U.S. Institute of Peace on Jan. 6. The NGO’s data from face-to-face surveys shows that citizens primarily are driven to support armed opposition by feelings of exclusion from government decision-making and the poor services those authorities deliver.
The report, entitled “Investing in Iraq’s Peace: How Good Governance Can Diminish Support for Violent Extremism,” also outlines how civil society—a sector that didn’t exist in Iraq before 2003—is gaining the trust of Iraqis as a “growing medium for citizen action and voice.”
The report was released as Iraq wrestles with rolling back the extremist self-styled Islamic State, also known as ISIS, which controlled about a third of the country in June. Amid the fighting and displacement of 3 million people from ISIS-held areas, sectarian militias are gaining ground, taking advantage of the government’s weakness, according to Mercy Corps. Corruption remains rampant, and a fiscal crisis brought on by low oil prices threatens to further erode the government’s capabilities, the group said. The question of how to improve governance to curb support for violent extremism is critical to the future of Iraq, where the war effort has cost the U.S. more than $2 trillion, according to one study.
The most revealing aspect of the Mercy Corps research emerged from the resignation of Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki in August 2014, which occurred in the middle of the study, said Michael Young, a Mercy Corps senior advisor.
“This allowed us to see how opinions changed from before the resignation to immediately after,” said Young, who presented the report at USIP. “The most interesting finding to focus on is the group of people who identified themselves as Sunni Iraqis.”
From 2013 to 2015, Iraqis’ overall perceptions of government, civic engagement, health care, electricity provision and corruption registered steep declines. In the surveys, Iraqis said their ability to influence government had diminished and lawmakers didn’t properly represent them. Most Iraqis felt the government discriminated against their ethnic or sectarian group.
“The vast majority of people thought things were basically getting worse in their country,” Young said. Al-Malaki, who is a Shia Muslim, had been accused by Sunni Muslim politicians of, among other offenses, freezing them out of government, failing to provide services to Sunni areas of the country and attacking and killing demonstrators.
After al-Maliki quit, expectations for government performance rose and support for armed groups plummeted, even though the new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, also is a Shia. Among Sunnis, support for armed opposition groups immediately fell to 26 percent from 49 percent, and expectations jumped for how well government would deliver for them.
The results suggest that identity politics itself wasn’t the primary driver of support for armed violence, Mercy Corps said in the report.
“The government’s negligence in addressing underlying grievances and poor governance in areas where populations felt marginalized were significant factors in ISIS’s ability to gain control in parts of Iraq,” Mercy Corps reported. Even so, support for ISIS in the 2015 survey was generally very low.

In a failed state like Iraq, you can probably factor in that many more are disgruntled and aggrieved than will admit it to a pollster.

But when's Barack's so-called plan going to address any of the issues being raised?

Having committed the US to remain in Iraq past the point that he will be president, Barack seems to have little interest in addressing the problems.

Americans need to be asking what the strategy is?

They need to be asking what the end game is?

The world needs to know what it's going to take to finally get the US out of Iraq?

Or is it just that the US will never leave?

  • army crimes destroyed Sunni mosque () in crimes

  • When will the perceptions of Sunnis be addressed?

    In the US, the 2016 presidential race is underway.

    Jeff Zeleny Tweets:

  • Near silence in Pensacola arena when says Iraq was grave mistake. I recall being here for Bush in '04--loud cheers for Iraq

  • On the Democratic side, war monger Hillary Clinton wants the nomination. At REASON, Sheldon Richman explores Hillary's war mongering:

    Many things in her career could impose this special disqualification. Her vote for George W. Bush's criminal and lie-based Iraq war, for example, would be more than enough to rule her out. That political ambition now prompts her to express regret for her vote should count for nothing, especially in light of what is to be discussed below. When she says she learned her lesson, she lies.
    Likewise, her declaration of open-season on Syrian President Assad gave a boost to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda affiliates.
    But if no other horrors were on her record, one should be enough to bar her from office: Libya. It would be hard to find a better example of how one person can wreak havoc on a society and create far-ranging catastrophes beyond.
    In 2011 the U.S. government led a NATO air assault on Libya under doubly false pretenses. Falsehood number one was that Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi was threatening to wipe out hundreds of thousands of residents of Benghazi. As was noted at the time, including by the Defense Intelligence Agency, there was no evidence for this claim and much reason to disbelieve it. Falsehood number two was related to the first: that NATO's mission was to protect civilians, when in fact it was to help the rebel opposition overthrow Gaddafi's government, after which he was murdered extra-judicially by rebels.

    The result of the Libya intervention is well-known. The country is in chaos, with al-Qaeda- and ISIS-affiliated guerrillas running wild. With U.S. oversight, heavy arms from Gaddafi's arsenal flowed freely to rebels in Syria who either were bin Ladenites or alleged "moderates" eager to sell the arms to ISIS. Clinton brags that the intervention is a good example of "smart power," which speaks volumes about her.

    As polling indicates that Bernie Sanders is a viable candidate in the Democratic race, Hillary has begun attacking him.

    The attacks have apparently helped . . .

    Helped Bernie.

  • Clinton’s Attacks Backfire as Bernie Sanders Hauls in $1.4 Million in One Day