Monday, May 02, 2016

Iraq snapshot

Monday, May 2, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue, the shock from the breach of the Green Zone continues, US policy towards Iraq needs to be seriously examined, and much more.

William Rivers Pitt (TRUTHOUT) observes:

Here we are just about two years later, and US soldiers wearing boots are on the ground in Iraq and Syria. The Green Zone in Baghdad has been stormed. The latest US deployments are small, but floods always start with a drip. About 217 US soldiers have been sent to Iraq to augment the more than 4,000 troops already there, along with an additional 250 sent to the urban death zone that is Syria. They're going to a place where hospitals are deliberately destroyed; a medical facility in Aleppo was recently obliterated in an airstrike, killing 14 people. The US blamed the Syrian government, the Syrians and Russians blamed the US, and the dead lie still.
"We see a continual escalation with the now 250 additional troops," said Rep. Barbara Lee. "Whenever you have troops in harm's way, unintended consequences could occur. I'm very worried that our troops, while advisers, are still in the middle of the war and without authorization from Congress." Sen. John McCain, in a rare moment of sense, said, "We used to call it 'mission creep.' I've seen this movie before. It's called Vietnam."

US troops and millions of US tax dollars continue to flood into Iraq.

It's past time that American citizens start asking why and start asking what the policy is, what the plan is.

Today, John Hudson, Dan De Luce and Paul McLeary (FOREIGN POLICY) maintain:

When it comes to Iraq, the world’s attention has largely focused on the military campaign to uproot the Islamic State from its strongholds in Anbar province and Mosul. But the most consequential fight for the country’s future may be playing out in Baghdad’s Green Zone, not with bullets and bombs, but amid an unanswered cry for political reform to a deeply dysfunctional and sectarian state.
The Obama administration’s plan to defeat the Islamic State relies in part on maintaining a reliable political partner in the form of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who has so far struggled against vested interests to push through his plans to overhaul the government and fix what is widely decried as a sectarian free-for-all among Iraqi politicians.

And the three are right.

And that 'plan' is and has been wrong from day one.

That 'plan' is why Iraq is in its current state.

It's why Barack Obama has failed Iraq.

In 2010, Iraq held national elections.  Nouri al-Maliki was the prime minister, having been installed by the Bully Boy Bush administration in 2006 (due to their objection to the Parliament's choice of Ibrahim al-Jaafari).  In the 2010 elections, Nouri used every thing he could to try and win and yet he lost.

And yet he got a second term.

How did that happen?

Because Barack decided to give Nouri a second term.

First Nouri refused to step down.

All the whining about Iraq right now -- we'll get to it in a moment -- is just utter nonsense.

For over eight months, in 2010, nothing happened.

Nouri refused to step down after losing the elections and he brought the country to a standstill.

For eight months.

That was a crisis.

Those insisting today's a crisis have really short memories and a lack of context.

Barack had advice.

Samantha Power and Susan Rice loudly advocated for the democratic process in Iraq to be trashed and for Nouri to get a second term because, they both insisted, he would give the United States what they wanted.

What the US government has always wanted has been the hydrocarbon law passed.

The oil and gas law has always been first on the list.

It remains first on the list.

Nouri al-Maliki promised the Bush administration he could deliver it -- he even agreed to the 2007 White House benchmarks which included passage of the oil and gas law.

He never delivered.

But Barack -- like Bully Boy Bush before -- believed him.

So instead of demanding Nouri step down following the 2010 elections, the US government brokered The Erbil Agreement -- a legal contract that gave Nouri a second term in exchange for Nouri giving the political blocs what they wanted.

They sent Vice President Joe Biden to Iraq to sell it.  As Emma Sky has noted, he came off rather foolish and actually confused Iraqi politicians (see her book  The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq.) But he went to sell it and he did.

And the reason was because Nouri was going to give them what they wanted.

Not because Nouri was good for Iraq.

It was already known -- through the work of Ned Parker, among others -- that Nouri was running secret prisons and torture cells.

But Barack backed him and he got a second term.

In that second term, he terrorized and persecuted the Sunni population.

As soon as the bulk of US troops pulled out at the end of 2011 (the drawdown), he ordered tanks to surround the homes of Sunni politicians (Nouri is a Shi'ite -- and he's one of the cowards the fled Iraq decades ago, returning only after the US-led invasion of March 2003).

He even had an order issued for the Vice President of Iraq, Tareq al-Hashemi -- ignoring the Constitution and the legal process.  Bodyguards and secretaries of Tareq's would be tortured by Nouri's forces.  At least one bodyguard would die -- kidney failure from the beatings.

And that didn't prompt Barack to withdraw support.

Let's be clear that this was not hidden in real time.

This is not something that only came out after Nouri was forced out in 2014.

From the  March 22, 2012 snapshot:

Since December, those working for Tareq al-Hashemi have been rounded up by Nouri's forces.  At the end of January, Amnesty International was calling for the Baghdad government "to reveal the whereabouts of two women arrested earlier this month, apparently for their connection to the country's vice-president.  Rasha Nameer Jaafer al-Hussain and Bassima Saleem Kiryakos were arrested by security forces at their homes on 1 January.  Both women work in the media team of Iraqi Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi, who is wanted by the Iraqi authorities on terrorism-related charges."  Yesterday, al-Hashemi noted that his bodyguard had died and stated that it appeared he had died as a result of torture.
 Alsumaria notes Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi is calling for the international community to call out the death of his bodyguard, Amer Sarbut Zeidan al-Batawi, who died after being imprisoned for three months. al-Hashemi has stated the man was tortured to death. The photo Alsumaria runs of the man's legs (only the man's legs) appear to indicate he was tortured, welts and bruises and scars.  They also report that the Baghdad Operations Command issued a statement today insisting that they had not tortured al-Batawi and that he died of chronic renal.  They also insist that he was taken to the hospital for medical treamtent on March 7th and died March 15th. Renal failure would be kidney failure.  And that's supposed to prove it wasn't torture?
If you work for an outlet that just spits out what you are told and didn't actually learn a profession, yes.  Anyone with half a brain, however, apparently that's half more than the average journalist possess today knows to go to science.  The Oxford Journal is scientific. This is from the Abstract for GH Malik, AR Reshi, MS Najar, A Ahmad and T Masood's "Further observations on acute renal failure following physical torture" from 1994:
Thirty-four males aged 16–40 (mean 25) years in the period from August 1991 to February 1993 presented in acute renal failure (ARF), 3–14 (mean 5) days after they had been apprehended and allegedly tortured in Police interrogation centres in Kashmir. All were beaten involving muscles of the body, in addition 13 were beaten on soles, 11 were trampled over and 10 had received repeated electric shocks.
Out of that group? 29 did live. Five died.  I don't think the Baghdad Command Operations created any space between them and the charge with their announcement of renal failure as the cause of death.  But, hey, I went to college and studied real topics -- like the law and political science and sociology and philosophy -- and got real degrees not glorified versions of a general studies degree with the word "journalism" slapped on it.  So what do I know?

Or how about December 21, 2012:

After morning prayers, Kitabat reports, protesters gathered in Falluja to protest the arrests and Nouri al-Maliki.  They chanted down with Nouri's brutality and, in a move that won't change their minds, found themselves descended upon by Nouri's forces who violently ended the protest.  Before that, Al Mada reports, they were chanting that terrorism and Nouri are two sides of the same coin.  Kitabat also reports that demonstrations also took place in Tikrit, Samarra, Ramdia and just outside Falluja with persons from various tribes choosing to block the road connecting Anbar Province (Falluja is the capitol of Anbar) with Baghdad.  Across Iraq, there were calls for Nouri to release the bodyguards of Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi.  Alsumaria notes demonstrators in Samarra accused Nouri of attempting to start a sectarian war.

So what happened yesterday?  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports:

Iraq's Finance Minister Rafei al-Essawi said Thursday that "a militia force" raided his house, headquarters and ministry in Baghdad and kidnapped 150 people, and he holds the nation's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, responsible for their safety.

 Members of the al-Essawi's staff and guards were among those kidnapped from the ministry Thursday, the finance minister said. He also said that his computers and documents were searched at his house and headquarters. He said the head of security was arrested Wednesday at a Baghdad checkpoint for unknown reasons and that now the compound has no security.
Kitabat explains that these raids took place in the Green Zone, were carried out by the Iraqi military and that Nouri, yesterday evening, was insisting he knew nothing about them.    In another report, Tawfeeq quotes al-Essawi stating, "My message to the prime minister: You are a man who does not respect partnership at all, a man who does not respect the law and the constitution, and I personally hold you fully responsible for the safety of the kidnapped people." BBC News adds, "Rafie al-Issawi, a prominent member of the al-Iraqiyya political bloc, said about 150 of his bodyguards and staff members had been arrested on Thursday."  Nine in some reports, the Ministry of the Interior states 10.   

Now we could also highlight Nouri's assault on Iraq's LGBT community or his assault on reporters (kidnapped and tortured and sharing their stories with NPR and THE WASHINGTON POST).  We could note the torture and rape of Sunni girls and women in jails and prison.

But we have to short hand this.

Barack supported Nouri through all the above.

He even supported him when the world saw a massacre.

The April 23, 2013 massacre of a sit-in in Hawija which resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in and attacking the peaceful protesters (who they'd refused to allow to leave).  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll eventually (as some wounded died) rose to 53 dead.   UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

This happened in full view of the world's eyes and Barack continued to support Nouri.

So I find it frightening when Hudson, De Luce and McLeary write:

The Obama administration’s plan to defeat the Islamic State relies in part on maintaining a reliable political partner in the form of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who has so far struggled against vested interests to push through his plans to overhaul the government and fix what is widely decried as a sectarian free-for-all among Iraqi politicians.

I don't disagree with their call.

They're exactly right that this is what Barack is doing.

But it took Iraq to the brink when he did it from 2010 to 2014.

And it goes against everything Americans are supposed to believe about US foreign policy.

It needs to be discussed and it needs to be discussed publicly.

This policy -- this hypocrisy sold as 'real politik' -- led Iraq to the brink and gave rise to the Islamic State.

Before it's utilized again, in a democracy, citizens should debate it.

In June of 2014, June 19, 2014, after Nouri's crimes were so long we can't even cover the major ones in a snapshot, Barack finally began stepping away.

(In fairness, White House friends will point out that Barack refused Nouri's 2012 post-election call congratulating Barack on a second term -- Barack refused the call and it was routed to Joe Biden instead.  Though White House friends sell that as Barack 'rebuking' Nouri, I don't see it that way at all.  And it certainly didn't force Nouri to improve his behaviors in 2013 and 2014.)

Yet again, the White House is backing a failure and claiming that's necessary for success.

Success in Iraq should be beyond one single person.

And this 'plan' resulted in the current failure when it was used before.

This needs to be addressed and discussed.

Saturday, the followers of Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr stormed the Green Zone and then the Parliament on Saturday.  Sunday, his followers largely dispersed.

The breach of the Green Zone was (and remains) major news.  (THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR'S Scott Peterson has an interesting piece here.)

There are calls from some for thug Nouri to be returned to power.  (The Green Zone was not breached when he was prime minister for two terms.)

Phil Stewart (REUTERS) reports:

 Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is in a strong position despite political unrest in Iraq, thanks in part to battlefield successes and his commitment to a multi-sectarian state, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Monday.
“He seems to be in a very strong position. Obviously we support him strongly because of what he stands for,” Carter told reporters travelling with him shortly before landing in Germany.
Carter’s full-throated backing of Abadi, one of his most forceful to date, follows months of intense Iraqi political wrangling that has put the country on edge.

Abadi has attempted to replace party-affiliated ministers with technocrats as part of an anti-corruption drive. A divided parliament has failed to approve the proposal amid scuffles and protests.

Is that what he's attempted to do?

Does Phil Stewart feel he can tell the truth?

Last week, AL JAZEERA was shut down in Iraq and, most infamously, there's Ned Parker.  Ned was over REUTERS' Baghdad coverage until he was forced to leave the country due to death threats for reporting the truth and Haider al-Abadi not only failed to defend Ned Parker, Haider laughed about the whole thing publicly, he found it funny.

Phil Stewart has never filed a report examining Haider's nominees.  Not the failed set he nominated at the end of March or his more recent set.

The Iraqi press has covered the nominees and found them not to be technocrats but fat cats.

Jamal Hashim (XINHUA) notes a key detail Stewart avoids:

According to the Iraqi constitution, the country's political process was built on power-sharing system, also known as quota system, with the aim of allowing all Iraqi ethnic and sectarian factions to take part in the decision-making process.
"The power-sharing system was seen as a compromise to the deeply divided Iraqi sectarian and ethnic factions, who suffer from lack of trust after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003," said Ibrahim al-Ameri a lecturer of politics in a Baghdad college.

However, the power-sharing system, which also includes sharing cabinet seats, has long been criticized for prompting unqualified candidates and encouraging corruption.

That's a little more honesty than the western media has allowed.

Today, the US Defense Dept announced:

Strikes in Iraq
Attack, ground-attack and fighter aircraft conducted 18 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

-- Near Baghdadi, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and suppressed an ISIL mortar position.

-- Near Fallujah, four strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units, destroying two ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL heavy machine gun, an ISIL weapons cache, five ISIL tunnel entrances and four ISIL bunkers, and denying ISIL access to terrain.

-- Near Habbaniyah, a strike destroyed an ISIL vehicle, an ISIL bunker, 12 ISIL boats an ISIL fuel truck and denied ISIL access to terrain.

-- Near Hit, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL mortar system.

-- Near Kirkuk, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units, destroying three ISIL vehicles, two ISIL tunnel systems, three ISIL assembly areas and an ISIL command-and-control node and deniying ISIL access to terrain.

-- Near Kisik, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL tunnel system and two ISIL mortar systems.

-- Near Mosul, three strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and an ISIL financial center, destroying an ISIL mortar system and suppressing an ISIL mortar position.

-- Near Qayyarah, a strike destroyed an ISIL mortar system.

-- Near Sultan Abdallah, a strike destroyed two ISIL machine guns and two ISIL mortar systems.

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. Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike.