Monday, February 29, 2016

Iraq snapshot

Monday, February 29, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue, the US government announces US troops entering into combat in Iraq, the US Secretary of Defense reveals desire to send more US troops into Iraq, US House Rep Tulsi Gabbard endorses Senator Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Party presidential race, and much more.

So much for 'no boots on the ground.'  Barbara Starr (CNN) reports:

The U.S. Army's elite Delta Force operations to target, capture or kill top ISIS operatives have begun in Iraq, after several weeks of covert preparation, an administration official with direct knowledge of the force's activities told CNN.
The official said the group has spent the last several weeks preparing, including setting up safe houses, establishing informant networks and coordinating operations with Iraqi and Peshmerga units. It's the same strategy that Special Operations forces have used in previous deployments to combat zones.

For those who've forgotten (or never knew), US President Barack Obama promised June 19, 2014, "American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq, but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region, and American interests as well."

And they want more on the ground combat operations by US troops.  This was revealed at Secretary of Defense Ash Cater and Gen Joseph Dunford (Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) press briefing today at the Pentagon.

Q: Mr. Secretary, I actually, have a question for you. Mr. Secretary, you mentioned with regard to the counter-ISIL campaign that momentum as said, is now on our side. One of the big challenges looming ahead of course is Mosul.
Have there been some movements by the Iraqis to move some troops up closer to Mosul. I'm wondering if what your current thinking is about whether the U.S. role will have to be something closer to the fight when it comes time to take Mosul, in term of, you know, something beyond what they did, or is Ramadi more the model where the U.S. is continued with this current approach?

SEC. CARTER: Well, I will start and then ask the chairman to pitch in. We do -- out of working with the Iraqi forces to prepare forces for the envelopment and ultimately the seizure of Mosul, absolutely. We expect it to be like Ramadi in the sense that the Iraqi security forces under the control of the government of Iraq, Prime Minister Abadi, will be in the lead, but we will be enabling them.
And to just get to your specific question, will we do more to enable them as they go north? Yes, we fully expect to do that. And when we have the opportunity, the time, the place and the strategic effect that only then, yes.
That only the United States can do – we’ve indicated a willingness to do more and I expect that we will have opportunities to do that as we move north.

GEN. DUNFORD: Just very quickly Bob. I mean, where we are in the process, you know, the Iraqis have developed their plan. And so they have provided that to General McFarland. And now there is a process going on where General McFarland is looking at the Iraqi plan, working with the CENTCOM to make recommendations as to what we can do and the secretary has called it before, capability enhancements, things that accelerate the campaign.
I, like the secretary, think we would do more in Mosul than Ramadi just because of the order of magnitude of the operation up there in Mosul would indicate to me that we would have more U.S. support in Mosul than we did in Ramadi. And I will certainly defer to make those recommendations to the secretary sometime in the near future.
But I'd also, just on Mosul, say that the operations against Mosul have already started. In other words, you know, we're isolating Mosul, even as we speak, the same thing with Raqqa. So it is not something that will happen in the deep, deep future.
People have confused maybe when would Mosul be secure with when will operations start. I would tell you both, both in terms of the cyber capability as the secretary spoke about as well as operations to cut the line of communications and begin to go after some of the targets in and around Mosul, those operations have already started.

[. . .]

Q: I would like to see if I could pin you down a little bit on your statement that you are prepared to do more in Mosul.
Are you talking about more of the same, in other words, greater numbers of advisers? Or are you talking about qualitative change and specifically are you talking about putting advisers closer to the front line and are you talking about using forward air controllers to call in strikes?
And also, if I could ask you to be more specific on the cyber attacks that you're launching against ISIS.

SEC. CARTER: Let me -- let me start on the first one and then ask the chairman on both of them. With respect to the first one, I think we're talking about both, we're talking about more of the things that we did in Ramadi, but we are talking about additional things of the kind that we've offered previously but that weren't necessary in the case of Ramadi but might be helpful -- might well be helpful as Iraqi forces move north. And that includes, in addition to directly enabling Iraqi forces, some things like logistics and bridging and there are a whole lot of capabilities. So we fully expect to be doing more and differing in both scale and the kinds of things that we're doing.
With respect to cyber, I think you're referring to our use of cyber which we have talked about generally. In the counter-ISIL campaign in -- particularly in Syria to interrupt, disrupt ISIL's command and control, to cause them to lose confidence in their networks, to overload their network so that they can't function, and do all of these things that will interrupt their ability to command and control forces there, control the population and the economy.
So this is something that's new in this war, not something you would've seen back in the Gulf War, but it's an important new capability and it is an important use of our Cyber Command and the reason that Cyber Command was established in the first place.
Let me ask the chairman --

GEN. DUNFORD: The -- I mean, the secretary said that we'd have both, you know, an increase in quantity and quality. I would say on the -- on the quantity side, as I mentioned, the operation in Mosul is much bigger than Ramadi, and frankly, the training of the forces that are going to conduct operations in Mosul has already started. So we're already working with then.
But I think back to the theme of lessons learned like Afghanistan, we look at Ramadi, we've worked with the Iraqis very closely to take a look at the lessons learned, and there's a couple of things we want to do. One is we want to position ourselves to most effectively support combined arms for the -- for the Iraqis as they conduct operations, and the second piece is we want to make sure that we have uninterrupted flow of logistic support.
So when I -- when I make a recommendation to the secretary, it will really -- that's where the qualitative changes would be made. We take a really hard look at the lessons learned in Ramadi, say how do we best posture U.S. forces to enable what is an Iraqi operation, but how do we best posture up force is to make to combined arms are effectively delivered when and where the Iraqis need them to maintain momentum going into Mosul and then to make sure that they have the logistics support necessary to continue operations without what we would describe as an operational pause.
So that's where I think that both qualitative and qualitative discussion into play. It isn't fundamentally different than what we are doing in Ramadi, it's doing the things we were doing in Ramadi better, which is train Iraqi forces, provide combined arms and provide logistics support.
So the broad functions that we'll perform will be much the same. This still is -- and I would -- put an exclamation point at the end of the sentence -- this still is an Iraqi operation, but how we provide enabling support, I think, will be informed by the lessons learned. And I suspect there will be some changes. I certainly have seen some things we can do better.

The violence never ends in Iraq and, today, the United Nations issued the following:

Statement Attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the terrorist attacks in Iraq

New York, 29 February 2016

The Secretary-General condemns the recent atrocious terrorist attacks in Baghdad and Muqdadiya that killed scores of civilians and injured many more. He expresses his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims as well as to the Government and people of Iraq, and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured.
The Secretary-General is concerned that these cowardly attacks claimed by ISIL at funerals, markets, and places of worship are aimed at undermining the unity of the people of Iraq. He appeals to them to reject such attempts at fear-mongering.

The Secretary-General calls on the Government of Iraq to make sure that the perpetrators of these crimes are swiftly brought to justice. He reiterates the commitment of the United Nations to support Iraq in its work to promote national dialogue and reconciliation.

What is that about?

From Sunday:

XINHUA reports:

Two suicide bombers detonated themselves at the crowded popular Mreidy Market in the predominantly Shiite district of Sadr City in eastern Baghdad, killing and wounding dozens of people, according to an IS statement on the Internet, of which the authenticity could not be independently verified.
Earlier in the day, an Interior Ministry source told Xinhua that a booby-trapped motorcycle went off at the marketplace, which was followed by a suicide bomber blowing up his explosive vest at the scene.

Both attacks in Baghdad.  And one in Moqtada's neighborhood, a Shia stronghold.
How did that happen?
BBC News reports the Islamic State has already claimed credit for the bombings. Sinan Salaheddin (AP) counts 59 dead and around one hundred injured.
ALSUMARIA reports that Moqtada al-Sadr is calling for the Baghdad Brigade to defend the capital.  Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, is blaming the bombings on the security forces.  ALL IRAQ NEWS notes that the National Alliance (largest Shi'ite political body in Iraq) has condemned the bombings.  They also report Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited the bombing sites and denounced the attacks.

And today?

REUTERS notes, "At least 40 people were killed by a suicide bomber at a funeral in Iraq's eastern province of Diyala while a suicide blast at a security checkpoint in Baghdad's western outskirts killed eight members of the security forces, police said on Monday."  TELESUR notes, "The Islamic State group, which controls large parts of northern and western Iraq, claimed responsibility for the blast, according to a statement posted on the group's Twitter account."  AP observes, "The New York-based Human Rights Watch blamed the reprisal attacks on powerful militias within the Popular Mobilization Forces."
This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: ". If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article."  AP observes, "The New York-based Human Rights Watch blamed the reprisal attacks on powerful militias within the Popular Mobilization Forces."

Yesterday, the US Embassy in Baghdad published the following:

The Embassy of the United States of America is today releasing a fact sheet on the Mosul Dam, offering a detailed overview of the risk of a potential failure and, as a contingency, recommendations for how residents in Iraq should respond in the event of an emergency.

Mosul Dam faces a serious and unprecedented risk of catastrophic failure with little warning. Recognizing the gravity of this challenge, the Iraqi government under Prime Minister Abadi’s leadership is preparing to take actions to mitigate the potential threat of the dam’s failure, particularly following the Da’esh attack on the facility in August 2014. We welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to undertake all necessary measures to rapidly finalize and implement a contract in order to address the structural integrity of Mosul Dam. We would also like to acknowledge the considerable efforts of the Italian government in supporting ongoing efforts to stabilize the dam.

We have no specific information that indicates when a breach might occur, but out of an abundance of caution, we would like to underscore that prompt evacuation offers the most effective tool to save lives of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis living in the most dangerous part of the flood path in the event of a breach.  Proper preparation could save many lives. Therefore, in partnership with the Iraqi government’s early warning and public information efforts with respect to Mosul Dam, in the fact sheet we are providing recommendations to residents living near the Tigris River, to include:

  • Residents of Mosul, where the consequences would be the most severe, probably could avoid the initial flood wave by moving at least 6 kilometers from the current banks of the Tigris and avoiding all rivers and wadis feeding into the Tigris.
  • Residents of Tikrit probably could reach safety by moving at least 5 kilometers from the riverbank.
  • Samarra residents west of the riverbank probably could move roughly 6.5 kilometers away from the river bank to reach safety. Samarra residents on the east side of the river probably would need to flee farther — potentially around 16.5 kilometers — to avoid being cut off by multiple streams of water when the major irrigation canal floods.
  • Some parts of Baghdad would also be flooded, which could include Baghdad International Airport.

We are very encouraged that Prime Minister Abadi is already working with the United Nations to develop a detailed emergency notification plan and ensure that adequate infrastructure is in place to alert residents in the event of a breach. Just as buildings have fire alarms, there must be a way to alert people immediately in the event of a breach so they have time to respond. We have been providing some technical assistance to the government that we believe will augment this Iraqi-led effort and contribute to general public emergency preparedness, including for the citizens of Mosul.

The United States will continue to support Prime Minister Abadi and the Iraqi government in their efforts to address this critical challenge.

Read the Fact Sheet Here (PDF 54 KB)

HUFFINGTON POST has yet again printed the ravings of a convicted sexual predator.  We're not linking, we're noting how ashamed Arianna Huffington should be.  The predator -- arrested many times for his actions and only recently released from prison (September 2014) for his attempts to prey on young girls -- slams Hillary Clinton for not meeting him in 2002 and whines he'd never known an elected official who wouldn't shake hands with a constituent.

I am no fan of Hillary's but, if she knew he was sexual predator (he was already arrested twice by the time she wouldn't shake his hand and had served six months of probation), that might be why she refused to shake his hand.

There are serious problems with Hillary's support for the Iraq War (which went far beyond her 2002 vote to authorize it) but there's no point in running the loony thoughts of a convicted sexual predator, of a man who has served time for being a sexual predator.

HUFFINGTON POST's audience should include females under 18 -- this site reaches many females under 18 -- and that means you have a responsibility not to run the 'writings' of a sexual predator.  But if you think these writings are so important that you have to run them, the very least you can do is note at the top of the column: "Scott Ritter was arrested many times for being a sexual predator and served a prison term."  Failure to do so is promoting Ritter as a trusted voice.  Failure to do so is being complicit in any sexual predator crime the habitual offender commits.

On the topic of the repulsive War Hawk Hillary Clinton, John Chuman (INTIFADA-PALESTINE) publishes what he says is a letter from Hillary to Israeli Haim Saban:

“Quite frankly, Israel didn’t teach Hamas a harsh enough lesson last year. True to form, Obama was too hard on our democratic ally, and too soft on our Islamofascist foe.
 “As president, I will give the Jewish state all the necessary military, diplomatic, economic and moral support it needs to truly vanquish Hamas – and if that means killing 200,000 Gazans, then so be it.
 “We realist Democrats understand that collateral damage is an unavoidable by-product of the War on Terror, and me being a mother, grandmother and tireless children’s rights advocate does not mean that I will flinch even one iota in allowing Israel to obliterate every last school-cum-rocket launching pad in Gaza. Those who allow their children to be used as human shields for terrorists deserve to see them buried under one-ton bombs.”

In other election news, US House Rep and Iraq War veteran Tulsi Gabbard has endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders to be the Democratic Party's presidential candidate:

Gabbard appeared on NBC's MEET THE PRESS on Sunday and discussed her endorsement with host Chuck Todd.

Welcome back, we've spent much of the show talking about how divided the GOP has become, but there are also some fractures within the Democratic race and my next guest, Tulsi Gabbard, Congresswoman from Hawaii, Democratic National Committee Vice Chair, has been at odds with her boss, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz for months over the Democratic presidential debate schedule.
Congresswoman you're here because you have an announcement to make regarding your position at the DNC. Tell us.

Well first of all, I am resigning from the DNC so that I can support Bernie Sanders for president, and I'd like to tell you why. As a veteran and as a soldier I've seen firsthand the true cost of war. I served in a medical unit during my first deployment where every single day I saw firsthand the very high human cost of that war. I see it in my friends who now a decade after we've come home are still struggling to get out of a black hole.
I think it's most important for us as we look at our choices as to who our next commander-in-chief will be is to recognize the necessity to have a commander-in-chief who has foresight, who exercises good judgment, who looks beyond the consequences. Who looks at the consequences of the actions they are willing to take before they take those actions so that we don't continue to find ourselves in these failures that have resulted in chaos in the Middle East and so much loss of life.

CHUCK TODD:But you know it was just a month ago, and this is what sort of got us curious. A month ago, you said you think the next commander-in-chief needs to have a "military mindset." You said this during an interview on Fox News. Does Senator Sanders have a military mindset?

From what I've seen and from talking with him and from his record he does. And what that military mindset means is you go through an analysis process as you're looking at potential courses of action that you're gonna take and how and when we use our military power, and just as importantly when we don't use that military power.

That military mindset says you have foresight. You look at what are the results? What are the consequences of these actions? How will other actors in the area react to those actions? What will we then do? And you look and continue down the line so you know exactly what you're potentially getting yourself into before you make that decision that ends up costing us lives and treasure.