Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Iraqi government's embrace of militias

There's a new development today in the kidnapping of three Americans in Iraq. Sunday, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) broke the news that 3 Americans were missing in Iraq. Monday,  CBS NEWS and AP reported, "A group of Americans who went missing over the weekend in Iraq were kidnapped from their interpreter's home in Baghdad, according to an Iraqi government intelligence official."

Today, Susannah George (AP) reports that "two powerful Shiite militias are top suspects" in the kidnapping:  Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Saraya al-Salam.

In October of 2014, Samuel Oakford (VICE NEWS) reported on the militias:

The group most familiar to Americans is likely the Baghdad-based Mahdi army of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Officially disbanded in 2008, Sadr's forces are once again active under the name Saraya al-Salam, or the "Peace Brigade."
Other groups, like the Badr Brigades, trace their roots to the 1980s, when they were first backed by the government of Shia-dominated Iran. The Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous), an offshoot of the Mahdi Army, is considered among the most powerful of the Shia militias, and reportedly maintains ties to members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard.
A spokesperson for Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq told reporters in June the militia's troops "are fighting side by side with the government's forces on all fronts," and openly admitted that they wore military uniforms, calling it "logical."
"There is a lot of close collaboration, these Shia militias are [sometimes] operating as formal Iraqi forces, wearing uniforms and driving military vehicles," Sunjeev Bery, Advocacy Director for Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, told VICE News. "It's difficult to know how much of the Iraqi central government's limited victories against ISIS are the result of the Shia militias, but they are a core part of the central government's strategy. That's what's most disturbing."

Meanwhile, there's this Tweet.

  • For those who've forgotten, to be a part of the political process, groups were supposed to eliminate their militias.  That requirement is no longer enforced and Haider al-Abadi, prime minister of Iraq, is happy to bring militias into the government's embrace.

    ROLLING STONE.  A number of e-mails are arriving about Sean Penn's interview with the drug lord.  I didn't read the article.  I have no interest in reading the article.  I've not commented here on it.  I don't plan on commenting on it.  But Martha and Shirley brought up a complaint that is all the e-mails about how the drug lord was given some form of oversight of the article.  The complaints there are interesting and I think uninformed -- rightly or wrongly those who are misunderstanding tend to cite Bob Somerby.

    I do not care for Jann Wenner.  I am furious with him over his rank sexism.  This is not a secret (nor a surprise to him).  The easiest thing in the world right now would be my being silent and letting him boil in his own mess.

    But I'm going to be fair instead.

    If you've ever been in ROLLING STONE, you know that you are called, prior to the publication, and everything you have said -- that's being quoted -- will be read back to you and you will be asked to confirm it.  It's always struck me as a stupid policy.

    But it's how the magazine has avoided lawsuits from the very beginning.

    Even their campus rape story that imploded followed that procedure.

    As described (complained about) in the e-mails Martha and Shirley cited, that appears to be what ROLLING STONE was doing with the drug lord.  If so, that is the policy at the magazine and has always been the policy.  It is not new.  It is not some special deal given to the drug lord.  All quotes are confirmed prior to publication.

    That is not allowing a drug lord -- or anyone -- to vet copy.  It is the magazine making sure -- prior to publication -- that the source states they are being quoted accurately.

    That's really all I have to say on the matter.

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