Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, January 19, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue, the United Nations notes abuses by the Iraqi government and by the Islamic State which the press rushes to reduce to abuses by the Islamic State, and much more.

Today, the US Defense Dept announced:

Strikes in Iraq
Attack, fighter, and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 21 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the Iraqi government:
-- Near Huwayjah, a strike struck an ISIL headquarters. 
-- Near Kisik, two strikes produced inconclusive results.
-- Near Mosul, five strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and an ISIL headquarters and destroyed an ISIL heavy machine gun, four ISIL fighting positions, and an ISIL cash collection point.
-- Near Qayyarah, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed three ISIL fighting positions.
-- Near Ramadi, nine strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit, damaged an ISIL petroleum oil and lubricant tank, and destroyed two ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL sniper position, an ISIL tactical vehicle, an ISIL bunker, and an ISIL tunnel entrance. 
-- Near Sinjar, three strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL heavy machine gun, and an ISIL assembly area.

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.

On the topic of air strikes, a new United Nations [PDF format warning] notes:

On 22-23 May, UNAMI/OHCHR received a report that airstrikes hit al-Najjar, al-Rifai and Sahaa areas in western Mosul in Ninewa, allegedly killing 30 civilians and wounding 62 others, including women and children.  UNAMI/OHCHR was not able to verify this report.
On 3 June, an explosion due to an airstrike in Kirkuk's Hawija district allegedly killed several ISIL fighters and civilians.  Some reports indicated that the structure was a storage facility for chemical fertilizers, while others reported that the warehouse was being used to build vehicle-borne IEDs.  A member of the Kirkuk Provincial Council was quoted by multiple local sources as stating that around 150 individuals, including women and children, were allegedly killed and wounded in the blast.  Pictures and videos have emerged in media and online showing an area purporting to be the blast site that has been almost completely flattened.  UNAMI/OHCHr was not able to verify the authenticity of the photos or the videos, nor the number of civilian casualties.
On 8 June, local sources reported that an airstrike in Mosul, Ninewa, caused 33 civilians casualties.  The report alleged that several residential neighbourhoods in al-Zuhour district were hit, killing 20 civilians, including seven children and nine women, and wounding 13 others, mostly women.  The source claimed that there were no ISIL members in the affected neighbourhoods. UNAMI/OHCHR was unable to verify the status of all the casualties nor who was responsible for the airstrikes.
On 11 June, an airstrike reportedly hit an ISIL target near a market in Hawija, Kirkuk.  According to a source, 10 civilians were killed and wounded in the incident.  Other reports mentioned more than 60 civilians killed and over 80 wounded.  UNAMI/OHCHR was unable to verify the exact number of casualties nor who was responsible for the airstrike. [In an article published by the Associated Press, a US Air Force official acknowledged the Hawija airstrike was by US forces, with no confirmation of civilian casualties. (accessed 11 June 2015).]

On 23 June, a house was allegedly targeted by an airstrike in Baiji district, Salah al-Din, which killed six civilians (including four children) and wounded eight others.  The house was reported to have been located close to a mosque which, at the time of the attack, was occupied by ISIL.  A local source from Baiji stated that the house was hit by mistake and that the target was the ISIL-occupied mosque.  The source however could not confirm who carried out the airstrike.

According to a source, on 1 July, 17 civilians, including our children and six women, were reportedly killed in an airstrike conducted in the al-Rifaie area of western Mosul, Ninewa.  11 other civilians were reportedly wounded.  UNAMI/OHCHR was unable to verify the status of all the casualties nor who was responsible for the airstrike.
On 31 July, up to 40 civilians may have been killed and over 30 wounded when three houses allegedly sheltering IDPs was hit by airstrike in Rutba, west of Ramadi, Anbar.  Official sources confirmed the incident and the number of casualties, which included 18 women and 11 children (under 14 years old).  The houses were targeted by military jets after receiving information that ISIL elements were allegedly inside the houses.  The governor of Anbar called for an immediate investigation of the incident.  On 3 August, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) in Iraq and Head of UNAMI issued a press release expressing serious concern at the reported airstrike, and called on the Government of Iraq to investigate the incident.
On the afternoon of 18 August, a man and his 12 year-old daughter were reportedly killed when an airstrike hit al-Minassa street, northern Mosul. The airstrike allegedly targeted a vehcile carrying three assistants to ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and a judge of an ISIL self-appointed court, who were all killed.  Around midnight on 24 August, an airstrike targeted a vehicle carrying ISIL elements in the Majmoua Thaqafiya area of northern Mosul.  The atack reportedly killed nine civilians, including one woman and a child, and wounded three other civilians.
In the early morning of 1 August, military jets allegedly carried out airstrikes in Zargali village, Warti sub-district of Rawanduz district, Erbil Governorate.  The airstrikes killed at least eight invdividuals and wounded 16.  Zargali village is home to around 27 families.  According to witnesses interviewed by UNAMI/OHCHR after the attacks, their village was attacked by Turkish military jets on suspicion that combatants from PKK or the Kurdish Workers' Party were present in the area.  However, they denied this and indicated that PKK combatants reside in a camp in the Qandil mountains.  The interviewees added that four different attacks occured on 1 August (from 3h50 a.m. to 6h35 a.m.).  The first attack reportedly consisted of two strikes; the second attack consisted of a single strike; the third and fourth consisted of four rockets each which hit simultaneously.  After the initial attacks, some residents left their homes and sought shelter in a nearby farm.  However, witnesses alleged that the ensuing attacks were directed at them and other fleeing residents.  Some individuals who tried to assist those wounded were killed or wounded by the later attacks.  The attacks destroyed six houses and killed farm animals.
On 3 September an airstrike hit a bridge in Jazeera al-Khaldiya, around 20 kilometres east of Ramadi, Anbar, killing 46 civilians and wounding 20.  Another source confirmed the incident but stated that the casualties were ISIL members. UNAMI/OHCHR was not able to confirm the number of casualties or their status.  On the same day, another airstrike reportedly hit a residential area in easter Ramadi, killing 28 civilians.  A single source reported this second incident and UNAMI/OHCHR was unable to verify it.
In the early morning of 20 September, an airstrike hit the al-Ghabat area of Mosul city, as a result of which five civilians (including two women and one girl) from one family were killed.  The family members were inside their homes at the time, which was close to an ISIL headquarters.  When that
headquarters was hit, weapons and other equipment inside exploded, causing damage to nearby homes and killing the family. Other sources reported that four civilian died in the attack (a 48-year-old man, a 20-year-old man, a 37-year-old woman, and a 13-year-old girl) while two civilians were seriously wounded . 
On 29 September, an airstrike was reported to have hit the former Sunni endowment building next to the Ninewa Governorate building, in central Mosul. According to some sources, the attack allegedly killed eight civilians (including two women) in addition to 19 ISIL fighters. Around 10 minutes later, as civilians were gathering in the area, another airstrike allegedly hit the same location, killing 12 civilians (including two children and a woman) and wounding seven, some critically. Other sources reported higher casualty figures. 
On 5 October, an airstrike mistakenly targeted a civilian house in Atshana village, east of Hawija and southwest of Kirkuk , that belonged to the Mukhtar of the village, killing eight persons from the same family, including several women and children and the Mukhtar himself. At 10h30 a.m. on 20 October, seven civilians were killed -- including three women and two children -- and one was seriously wounded when the minibus in which they were travelling was hit by an airstrike. The victims were all members of one family and were travelling from al-Qawsiyat village in Wana sub-district, Tal Kaif district, to Mosul.

The report's getting some attention.  THE ATLANTIC notes:

Thousands of civilians in Iraq have been killed, maimed, or displaced over the last two years, according to a new United Nations report. Between the start of 2014 and October 31 of last year, 18,802 Iraqis were killed, 36,245 were wounded, and 3.2 million were displaced. Islamic State fighters have enslaved about 3,500 others, mainly women and children, and forced hundreds of children to fight alongside the group’s militants.  

CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY puts it this way, "A new United Nations report has tried to count the civilian toll of continuing conflict in Iraq, largely at the hands of Islamic State militants, and the numbers are 'staggering'."  Ishaan Tharoor (WASHINGTON POST) words it like this, "The United Nations released a report this week detailing the "staggering civilian death toll in Iraq" over the past two years. It found that nearly 19,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the Islamic State's insurgency flared at the beginning of 2014, while some 3.2 million Iraqis have been displaced." At USA TODAY, John Bacon offers similar crap.

Nabih Bulos (LOS ANGELES TIMES) does a little better covering the report:

The violence has also displaced more than 3 million people, a full third of them school-age children, the report says.
It also documents a litany of abuses and human rights violations, whether at the hands of Islamic State or the sectarian militiamen fighting alongside the government to reclaim areas under the Sunni extremist group’s control.

Teresa Welsh (US NEWS & WORLD REPORTS) probably does the best job:

Iraqi forces and militia members battling the Islamic State group are allegedly responsible for abuses against civilians that have contributed to the chaos in the war-torn nation over a nearly two-year period, according to a new U.N. report.
Violence in the country has surged since the Islamic State group's rise in 2014: A U.S.-led coalition has been battling the extremists primarily through airstrikes, while security forces and militia members have waged a war further inflamed by sectarian tensions on the ground. According to Tuesday's report from the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, nearly 19,000 civilians have been killed and another 36,000 have been wounded in Iraq between January of 2014 and the end of October last year, with the Islamic State group bearing much of the blame.

Let's go to the report itself because truth is always the best protection from propaganda:

Violations and abuses committed by pro-Government forces
UNAMI/OHCHR has received reports of abuses and violations of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law perpetrated by pro-Government forces.
ISF and associated forces are bound to respect applicable international humanitarian law in the conduct of military operations.  UNAMI/OHCHR continues to receive information that some military operations appear to have directly targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure  or were carried out without taking all feasible precautions to protect the civilian population and civilian objects.  Reports received by UNAMI/OHCHR also indicate that some associated forces have been operating largely outside of Government control and have perpetrated abuses against civilians, including killings, abductions and destruction of property.

Iraqi forces and their actions include:

Police raids and arbitrary arrests
UNAMI/OHCHR received reports of IDPs, mostly from Kirkuk city, who were able to access safe areas but were subjected to arbitrary arrests in raids by security forces.  For example, on 3 June, security forces in Kirkuk conducted a raid in the Wahad Huzairan neighbourhood in Kirkuk city and arrested 71 IDPs on suspicion of terrorism or trespassing public grounds.  The arrested individuals were from Salah al-Din, Anbar, Basra, Diyala and Baghdad.  Such raids and arrests were frequent in the southern neighborhoods of Kirkuk city where there was a large number of IDPs.  The arrested individuals were oftentimes released after a day or two in detention.
On 16 July, security forces in Kirkuk conducted a raid in the Khadhra'a area, in the southwest part of the city.  Reportedly conducted as a precautionary measure, the raid took place the eve of the Eid holidays.  Seventy-nine individuals were arrested, most of whom were IDPs residing in Kirkuk city.  The security authorities allegedly had received information about suspected terrorist activities before and during Eid holidays.  Seventy-nine individuals allegedly had received information about suspected terrorist activities before and during Eid holidays.  The arrested individuals were released within two days and without any charge.
On 27 August, police forces conducted a raid in al-Askari neighbourhood, in the southeast of Kirkuk, and arrested 53 individuals, most of whom were IDPs.  They were detained in Domiz polic station and were released after a security screening and background check.
On 1 September, 42 individuals, most of whom were IDPs, were arrested during a raid in the Wahed Huzairan neighbourhood, a predominatly Sunni Arab area in Kirkuk city. A total of 31 individuals were arrested for not being registered, not having identification documents, or having fake documents.  Eleven others were reportedly wanted for suspected affiliation with ISIL.
On 22 September, security forces conducted a raid in Quriya area of Kirkuk city.  According to sources, the raid was conducted in neighbourhoods close to the Kirkuk government building, including Quriya, Shatorlu, Ommal Square, Almas and Sahat Tayran.  A total of 68 IDPs from different governorates were arrested, with a significant proportion coming from Tuz district in Salah al-Din.  They were arrested for various reasons, including illegal entry into Kirkuk, failure to register with the Ministry of Displacement and Migration (MoDM), and failure to present proper identification.  Another source stated that security concerns prompted the raid based on the proximity of a large number of IDPs to the Kirkuk government building.  According to security sources, all 68 were released on 22-23 September.

The report also notes:

Unlawful killings
UNAMI/OHCHR received a number of serious allegations of unlawful killings committed by ISF and associated forces.  These incidents included alleged attacks and reprisals against persons believed or perceived to support or to be associated with ISIL.
For example, on 9 June, a video was posted in social media showing a group of men, wearing what appeared to be Iraqi Federal Police uniforms, burning a cadaver and shouting sectarian chants. Sources informed UNAMI/OHCHR that the corpse was found near al-Alam sub-district in Salah al-Din, during the operations to liberate Tikrit, in February.  In the video, those seeting fire to the body were heard saying the deceased's name and that he was a Saudi citizen.  They were also heard saying that this was a gift for the people of al-Hasa and Qatif (areas in Saudi Arabia where there are a significant number of Shi'a Muslims).
In a similar incident, a video was posted online purporting to show members of the Shi'a Imam Ali Brigades burning the body of a man hanging by his feet in the town of Garma, northeast of Fallujah, in Anbar.  In the video the perpetrators accused the man of being a member of ISIL.  According to a local source, the video was shot in the town of Garma.  According to another local source, the man killed was a member of ISIL from Fallujah.  UNAMI/OHCHR could not independently verify the incident nor the authenticity of the video.

And it notes:

UNAMI/OHCHR received reports of abductions allegedly perpetrated by pro-Governmnet forces against Sunni tribes or individuals.
For instance, on 16 July,  a group of Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) members entered Jalludiyat village in Dujail district in Tikrit in Salah al-Din, and abducted 12 civilians from the Kharzraj tribe (which is a Sunni tribe) reportedly due to a tribal conflict between two families.  The brother of a tribal leader was among those abducted.
On 17 July, unidentified armed men abducted a civilian in the al-Askari area of Tuz Khurmatu district in Salah al-Din.  The victim was a Sunni Arab IDP from Sulaiman Beg sub-district, south of Tux Khurmatu.  On 18 July, unidentified armed men abducted another civilian in the al-Askari area.  The second victim was also an IDP from the Sunni Arab community from Hilewat village in Tuz Khurmatu district.  Sources strongly asserted to UNAMI/OHCHR that militia members were behind both these abductions.
On 28 July, armed militia members abducted three civilians on the main road between Abu Saida sub-district and Baquba.  The victims were Sunni Arabs from the Zuherat tribe and included the son of a tribal leader.
On 1 September, armed militia members wearing black uniforms stopped police and army vehicles that were transporting at least 40 detainees, all Sunni Arabs from Salah al-Din.  The militia stopped the convoy near Balad district, Salah al-Din, after firing warning shots into the air and at the tires of the vehicles.  They then physically assaulted an disarmed the security forces.  The abductees have been arrested in June for terrorism-related offenses and had been detained in the Brigade 17 Iraqi Army detention centre in Dujail, Salah al-Din.  Reports further stated that, at the time of their abduction, the detainees were being transferred to Baghdad.
In the early morning of 27 September, a convoy of 20 pick-up trucks carrying masked gunmen in military uniform arrived in the Alb-Tua'ma area of Hujjaj village, in Baiji district, Salah al-Din, and forcibly took at least 28 civilians from the area -- which is inhabited by members of the al-Jubour tribe.  The victims were all males from the al-Jubour tribe.  A source indicated that they were taken in a systematic manner, based on a list of names produced according to intelligence and security information.  All abductees allegedly had current or past affiliation with ISIL or family connections associated with ISIL.  Other sources reported that the masked gunmen who took the civilians were militia.
On 22 October, PMUs abducted at least 175 civilians from the Askari and Tin areas of Tuz Khurmatu district, Salah al-Din.  The victims were Sunni Arabs, who had been displaced to Tuz Khurmatu since June 2014.  The operation started at sunset, with people grabbed during house-to-house searches and in the streets, taken to PUMs facilities in Sulaiman Beg and Yengija village, and kept there for two days for questioning.  On 23 October, the bodies of three abductees (a Police officer and two civilians) were reportedly found in the Askari area.  Around 130 of the abductees were released; the others remained captive at the time of reporting.  The operation was conducted without arrest warrants or coordination with local authorities.

There's more and we'll be noting a little bit more tomorrow.

But it's past time to grow the hell up.

The mock outrage over ISIL's actions?

Tonight ABC aired a Marvel promo for an hour -- Captain America at 75.  And it included a million and one lies.  Chief among them, how brave it was for Captain America -- the comic book hero -- to take on Adolf Hitler.

It's a comic book hero.

It's not a person.

More importantly, a magazine decrying a foreign leader is always easy to do -- especially when the domestic government is against the foreign leader.

They also wanted praise, please note, for taking on Richard Nixon.

But Nixon wasn't shown in the comic book.  And our 'witness' told us that everyone knew it was Nixon even though Nixon wasn't shown.

Again, it's easy to slime a foreign leader.  (When they're despised -- justifiably so in the case of Hitler -- it's even easier.)  Guts might have been showing Richard Nixon when Captain America was decrying him -- guts for the artists doing the comic but not for the comic book hero who, again, is not a real person.

The Islamic State is a terrorist organization.

Documenting their abuses should be easy and something anyone can do without any great ethical challenge.

The United Nations report notes consistent patterns of abuse by the Iraqi government.

That needs to be spotlighted, it needs to be front and center.

You do not excuse away a government committing crimes against its own civilians.

You do not act as though that's nothing or that it's a sidebar.

It is the prime story.

Again, the Islamic State is a terrorist organization.

As such it commits crimes against people -- that's what makes it a terrorist organization.

The Iraqi government is supposed to serve (and protect) all the Iraqi people.

When it instead targets its own people, that is news.

The failure to properly report this goes a long way towards the growing divide between Arabs and others.  Arabs watched from 2010 on forward as the Iraqi government openly targeted Sunnis.  They saw little to no objection to this persecution.

The United Nations puts out a report that documents crimes by a terrorist organization (ISIS) and crimes against Sunnis by the Iraqi government and the western media again ignores the crimes of the Iraqi government or offers a brief sotto voice aside.

This is not acceptable.

It is silencing those suffering at the hands of the Iraqi government.

It is saying that Arabs are disposable and crimes against them can be ignored.

The most important piece of journalism on Iraq today is by Ahmed Rasheed and Saif Hameed (REUTERS) and it opens:

Iraq's parliament suspended its meeting on Tuesday amid protests by Sunni Muslim MPs over violence that targeted their community in eastern Iraq and left dozens killed in apparent retaliation for anti-Shi'ite bombings claimed by Islamic State.
Sunni lawmakers urged Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to disband and disarm the Shi'ite militias which they accuse of being behind the latest attacks in and around the town of Muqdadiya, 80 kilometres (50 miles) northeast of Baghdad.

Raad al-Dahlaki and Nahida al-Daini, two Sunni MPs from Diyala province where Muqdadiya is located, said 43 people had been killed over the past week and nine mosques fire bombed. Salah Muzahim, another MP, said the toll was over 40 dead.

The walk out is major news by itself.  The reasons for it, the background there is even more important.

Nouri al-Maliki's second term as prime minister of Iraq (2010 to 2014) is all about targeting Sunnis.  As Hillary Clinton noted in Sunday's Democratic Party debate, "If there is any blame to be spread around, it starts with the prime minister of Iraq, who sectarianized his military, setting Shia against Sunni."

This is not minor and the persecution continues under Haider al-Abadi.

It also needs to be noted that the militias are now the government.  As prime minister, Haider has brought them into the fold.

The Iraqi government also includes the KRG and Amnesty International has a new report noting the abuses there.  We'll explore that report in the next snapshot.

But when a government targets the civilians, that's news.  It's also outrageous and abuse that must be called out.

The following community sites updated:

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