Saturday, January 23, 2016

Iraq snapshot

Saturday, January 23, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue, Barack gives more weapons to Iraq, still no move towards national reconciliation or a national guard, persecution of the Sunnis continue, Haider's Iraq is going bankrupt (financially, this time) and much more.

Today, the US Defense Dept announced:

Strikes in Iraq
Attack, fighter, and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 20 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the Iraqi government:
-- Near Kisik, six strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units, destroying 11 ISIL rockets, three ISIL vehicles and five ISIL assembly areas and suppressing an ISIL mortar position.
-- Near Makhmur, one strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL heavy machine gun and an ISIL fighting position.
-- Near Mosul, one strike struck an ISIL improvised explosive device factory.
-- Near Ramadi, six strikes struck three separate ISIL tactical units, and destroying an ISIL front end loader, two ISIL vehicle-borne IEDs, an ISIL staging area, three ISIL fighting positions, three ISIL heavy machine gun positions, an ISIL building and an ISIL vehicle and denying ISIL access to terrain.
-- Near Sinjar, four strikes struck three separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed five ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL mortar tube and two ISIL light machine gun positions.
-- Near Sultan Abdallah, one strike destroyed an ISIL vehicle.
-- Near Tal Afar, one strike suppressed an ISIL light machine gun 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.

News?  Mustafa Habib (NIQASH) addresses news in Iraq:

This kind of “news” is common on Iraqi social media. And it’s dangerous because for many Iraqis, social media websites, like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram to a lesser degree, have become a major source of political and security-related news. They do not trust mainstream media in Iraq, which is mostly considered to be partisan with much of it funded by political parties, religious bodies or other organizations pushing their own agenda. Many Iraqis say their most trusted source is word-of-mouth – relatives, friends, neighbours – so it makes sense that they would turn to social media, basically an expanded network of the latter, to get information they believe they can trust.

The media is highly partisan in Iraq -- and elsewhere -- but on Iraq, if this is news to you, refer to Deborah Amos' paper "Confusion, Contradiction and Irony: The Iraqi Media in 2010" which documented the way so much of the media is controlled in Iraq.

Mustafa Habib examines several stories that became popular on social media and influenced events in Iraq.

We'll note one:

Once a certain story gets picked up on Iraqi social media it is often rapidly disseminated further. The story about Sheikh Nimr’s execution was a prime example of this. It’s hard to know who posted the videos originally but it seems clear that the original user had an agenda.
Under the guidance of advisors from open source verification experts at the investigative network, Bellingcat, a team of bloggers from the Iraqi Network for Social Media who are also the founders of a Facebook page called Fake Posts, as well as journalists from NIQASH, took a closer look at some of these falsified reports on social media.
Using open source verification techniques like geolocation and reverse image search, the team quickly found that the first video, the one allegedly showing al-Nimr’s execution, had nothing to do with the Saudi cleric. The clip, watched by thousands of Iraqis, was actually the video of the execution of an Indonesian maid in Saudi Arabia and it was four years old.
The other video that supposedly showed al-Nimr’s body being thrown out of a helicopter after his execution was also something else: It was a video showing a member of Saudi police force falling out of a helicopter, most likely to his death, in 2013.

The original user had an agenda?


But let's not confine coverage to Iraq.

FOREIGN POLICY IN FOCUS and other ridiculous outlets -- front groups posing as news outlets -- certainly had an agenda as they suddenly discovered executions.

As was noted on Arabic media, FPIF was silent when the Iraqi government was killing the LGBT community members, when the Interior Ministry went into schools calling for violence against LGBTs, but suddenly it was interested in fairness.

It was noted that FPIF was silent when Sunni women and girls were wrongly imprisoned in Iraq and then beaten and/or raped in prison.

It was silent as Iraqi forces terrorized and killed Sunnis.

But FPIF and others were wetting their panties in public and beating themselves with chains over the execution of one Shi'ite cleric -- while ignoring the others executed in the same batch of executions.

Let's never pretend that some elements of the Iraqi media are the only ones with an agenda.

Tuesday, the United Nations issued a report on violence in Iraq. As we documented in that day's snapshot, many news outlets and 'news' outlets were pushing an agenda and not actually reporting.  As we pointed out:

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.

Friday, Aisha Maniar covered the report at TRUTHOUT:

The assault on the Iraqi people comes from all sides: ISIS, the Iraqi government and its security forces and related militias, coalition airstrikes and armed gangs cashing in on the prevailing state of anarchy. The UN report concedes that "The violence suffered by civilians in Iraq remains staggering," but with more than half of the report dedicated to atrocities carried out by ISIS, the Iraqi government gets off lightly.
A number of the human rights abuses ascribed to ISIS could equally be attributed to government security forces or related militias. For example, both ISIS and the government's popular mobilization units - mainly Shiite militias drafted into the fight against ISIS - have been open about their recruitment and use of child soldiers. In the latter case, not mentioned in the report, the use of child combatants could have serious implications for the United States, as these militias fall under the umbrella of an army that is trained and supported by the US. UNICEF expressed its concerns in June 2015, and called for "urgent measures" to be taken by the Iraqi government to protect children, including criminalizing the recruitment of children, and "the association of children with the Popular Mobilization Forces."

The report states that "systematic and widespread violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law" committed by ISIS could amount to "war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide." Others, including Human Rights Watch, have suggested that Iraqi government-backed militias in the fight against ISIS may have also committed war crimes. Kurds too have been accused of potential war crimes. Indeed, all parties to the conflict have committed crimes against humanity against the Iraqi people, and there must be no impunity for any of them. A report focused on human rights and the protection of civilians should not be politically biased toward any party.

Good for TRUTHOUT but let's not pretend that this is the dominant view the press is taking.  Even now, the UN reports is covered as 'agenda reporting' with outlets using it for war propaganda.

Again, calling out the Islamic State requires no bravery.

Noting that the latest prime minister that the US has installed in Iraq -- Haider al-Abadi -- continues to preside over a government that persecutes its only civilians?

That's apparently too much even for the supposedly strong and brave American media.

It does help keep so many news consumers uniformed.

Dina al-Shibeeb (AL ARABIYA ENGLISH) reports:

Mohammed Karbouli, a member of the Iraqi Security and Defense parliamentary committee, dismissed a recent report saying that 40,000 Sunnis were given the green light to join PMU, describing Sunnis as feeling continuously excluded.
Instead, the lawmaker said the reality is a far cry from the reported figure, putting the current total number of Sunni volunteers at merely 16,000 whereas Shiites in the PMU account for as much as 120,000 fighters.
“What we have – those who are receiving salaries – is a number that does not exceed 16,000 for all of the Sunni provinces,” Karbouli told Al Arabiya News.
Of the 16,000 figure, the western province of Anbar takes the lion’s share of 9,000 volunteer fighters, he said.

Anbar Province field and security commander is quoted discussing the promise of adding 50,000 Sunni fighters (never added) and the promise that the Parliament would create a National Guard (never created).

National Guard?

You  may remember US President Barack Obama was insistent on that back in June of 2014 on through August of that year.

It never happened.

He never forced it to happen.

This week the US State Dept signed off on another huge weapons deal/gift to the Iraqi government.  This one is for $2 billion.  Yet in the failed administration of Barack Obama, where everyone is diplomatically challenged, no one thought to pin any conditions on the deal.

There was no, "Haider, you promised a national guard, that's why we made you prime minister.  So you've got to create the national guard now to get this $2 billion deal."

Haider never has to keep any promises or actually bring about reconciliation in Iraq.

He's a failure across the board.

  • has $2b USD left of its budget! We are in January. 2016 is a game-changer.

  • It's January and the rich country of Iraq has $2 billion left in its budget.

    Haider doesn't appear to have ended corruption in Iraq, just accelerated it.

    He's also not protected the Iraqi people.

  • That's Haider's Iraq.

    Lastly, David Bacon's latest book is The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration.  This is from Bacon's new photo essay "THE WORKERS OF SAN QUINTIN VALLEY ARE NO LONGER WILLING TO BE INVISIBLE" (EQUAL TIMES and David's website):

    On 29 March 2015, US photographer and labour activist David Bacon followed a group of farm workers in the San Quintín Valley in the Mexican state of Baja California as they marched to the US border.

    Thousands of workers - who pick strawberries and tomatoes for the US market - went on a two-week strike in protest over their poverty wages. These farm workers, who mainly come from the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca and make up the bulk of the agricultural workforce in Baja, are paid about US$9 a day; they were demanding wages of about 300 pesos, or US$24.

    Growers bring over whole families, particularly Mixtec and Triqui indigenous peoples, to live in labour camps and housing notorious for poor conditions. The whole operation is reminiscent of the maquiladora [export assembly plants] industry, transplanted into agriculture.

    The big companies walked out of negotiations with the workers March, and signed contracts with government-affiliated unions that were not on strike. They promised 15 per cent pay rises for the workers, which is much less than what they were asking for.

    The biggest US distributor, Driscoll's, claimed its main grower, BerryMex, pays higher rates of US$5 to US$9 per hour - a highly dubious claim, according to activists. The growers want to move towards a code of conduct that avoids any negotiation or contracts with the striking union, the Alianza. At the same time, growers brought more workers up from southern Mexico to break the strike.

    In a final negotiation session between the workers' organisation, the Alianza, and the government on 4 June 2015, authorities announced a new minimum wage in San Quintín of 150 (approximately US$8.40), 165 (US$9.20) or 180 pesos (US$10) a day, depending on the size of the employer.

    But at the top daily wage of 180 pesos, a Baja field worker has to work for almost three hours to buy a gallon of milk. Workers also say the companies are not abiding by the agreement, and have announced their support for a boycott of Driscoll's berries.

    Fidel Sanchez, leader of the strike told Bacon:  "Consumers eat the fruits and the vegetables that these workers are producing, but know next to nothing about the workers themselves. This march, and the strike itself, show that workers are no longer willing to be invisible."