Falluja is not empty space. It is a big city in Iraq.
Over 300,000 people lived there and news outlets estimate that 100,000 civilians remain in the city today as Iraqi forces head towards the city.
As the assault on Falluja continues, Nancy A. Youssef (DAILY BEAST) explains:
According to U.S. estimates there are as many Iraqi Security Forces as Shiite militia forces around Fallujah or 20,000 in all. In Garma and elsewhere on the periphery of Fallujah, evidence has emerged showing Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps-backed Shia militia groups participating in the advance against ISIS. These militias include groups previously responsible for killing U.S. soldiers in Iraq—such as the League of the Righteous—and those expressly blacklisted by Washington as foreign terrorist entities, such as the Hezbollah Brigades. Another group spotted in battle is Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, whose secretary general Akram Ka’abi also sanctioned by the US Treasury Department as a terrorist. The Facebook page for that organization recently posted a photograph purporting to show Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, in the “Fallujah operations rooms” along with Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, the leader of the Hezbollah Brigades (and another US-designated terrorist) and Hadi al-Amiri, the head of the Badr Organization, which is another Iranian-backed militia, which yesterday announced its first casualty in the battle.
Phillip Smyth, a specialist on Shia militias at the University of Maryland, told The Daily Beast that these groups have “been using a lot of indirect artillery and rocket fire” against ISIS positions. “You have a new propaganda image from all of circulating on social media every day.” Moreover, the militias have been advancing on Fallujah, Smyth says, since since the summer of 2015. “We’re saying it’s an [Iraqi Security Force] operation when the main forces on the ground for months are the Iranian-backed fighters.”
Barack Obama, US President, loves to lie that he doesn't negotiate with terrorists (he does -- which is why The League of Righteous leaders were let out of US custody in 2009). Not only does Barack negotiate with terrorists, he provides US air support for them.
Terrorists? The US government can always cozy up to them.
Civilians in need?
They're never so lucky.
In all the reports filed on Falluja, civilians are either invisible or a footnote. One exception is a report by Al Jazeera which puts the focus on the civilians:
Speaking to Al Jazeera from Baghdad, the Norwegian Refugee Council's Becky Bakr Abdulla recalled stories told to her by families who managed to escape Fallujah, where the Iraqi army has shelled areas controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS) group since Monday.
"People basically are surviving on dried dates and water from the river," Abdulla said. "The only things these families managed to take with them were the clothes they're wearing and their IDs."
Abdulla explained that the few families who did escape the town in Anbar province had to traverse around 30km by foot and pass numerous checkpoints in order to reach safety.
Although the offensive was launched on Monday, Iraqi government forces have besieged the city and its suburbs for several months now, resulting in shortages of food and medicines.
At least 15 civilians have been killed so far during the offensive, sources told Al Jazeera.
When the bulk of the other 'reports' on Falluja today briefly note civilians, it's usually to note that the United Nations and/or the International Committee of the Red Cross is calling for civilians lives to be protected.
That's generally a single sentence in those 'reports.'
There's no effort to quote from either call.
Here's the ICRC's call:
All sides must do their utmost to protect and spare the civilians of Fallujah.Baghdad (ICRC) - Fierce fighting is underway around the Iraqi city of Fallujah, raising serious concerns about the well-being and safety of civilians still trapped in and around the city. The situation is particularly worrisome for the tens of thousands of men, women, children and elderly who remain stuck inside the town – the largest in Anbar province – who have already had very limited access to food, water and basic healthcare for the past two years.
"Fallujah must not be allowed to become another Ramadi," said the ICRC's head of delegation in Iraq Katharina Ritz, referring to a nearby town that was severely damaged and left scattered with explosive remnants of war after intensive fighting there earlier this year. Clearing Ramadi of explosive weapons and rebuilding its homes and disrupted water and electric systems could take months, if not years to complete.
"Civilians must be spared and allowed to leave Fallujah safely, while houses and other civilian infrastructure must not be targeted", Ritz continued. "People of Fallujah have already suffered enormously as a result of relentless fighting in the area. Humanitarian agencies must be given access to reach them and provide relief."
The ICRC has been seeking access to Fallujah for months, but has so far not been able to get the safety guarantees and commitment it needs by all parties. It stands ready to provide humanitarian assistance to communities affected by the violence.
For more information, please contact:
Ralph El Hage, ICRC Baghdad +964 7901 916 927
Krista Armstrong, ICRC Geneva +41 79 447 37 26
Also issuing a statement was The Norwegian Refugee Council:
As military operations to retake the besieged town of Fallujah continue, thousands of civilian families are trapped in the fighting with no safe route out, the Norwegian Refugee Council warned today. The lock-down for civilians trying to flee continued last night with no more families confirmed to have safely reached out of town.
As of Tuesday morning, up to 50,000 civilians are believed to be trapped in Fallujah since the military operations began yesterday. NRC’s staff working in displacement camps outside the town say only 80 families have managed to flee to safety just hours before the fighting began.
“Nobody else seems to have been allowed out of town; there are thousands trapped in Fallujah with intense fighting raging on their doorsteps,” said NRC’s Country Director in Iraq, Nasr Muflahi. “Families who have been suffering food and medical shortages over the last months now risk being caught in the crossfire and it is absolutely vital that they are granted safe routes out of there so that we can assist them. All parties to this conflict have to provide safe exits for civilians.”
The few families who have managed to flee to safety in displacement camps speak of a dangerous journey out of the town ahead of the military operations. They have sought safety in camps in Amiryiat Al Fallujah, around 30 kms away from Fallujah’s centre. NRC is present providing the newly displaced families with emergency water, food parcels and hygiene kits.
It is estimated that as many as 7,000 families will be internally displaced within Fallujah if the intense fighting continues. Iraq is facing a complex and multiple displacement crisis with more than 1.1 million people displaced inside Iraq last year alone. A staggering total of 3.4 million people are currently internally displaced across the country.
Becky Bakr Abdulla, Media Coordinator, Iraq.
firstname.lastname@example.org +964 751 501 9899
Karl Schembri, Regional Media Advisor, Jordan.
email@example.com +962 790 220 159
AFP actually quoted a sentence from the above release in this article. Tim Hume and Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) report on the UN statement and other civilian news here.
Ahmed Rasheed and Stephen Kalin (REUTERS) note:
The Association of Muslim Scholars of Iraq, a hardline political organisation formed in 2003 to represent minority Sunnis, on Monday condemned the campaign as "an unjust aggression, a reflection of the vengeful spirit that the forces of evil harbour against this city".
It said in a statement nearly 10,000 residents had been killed or wounded by government shelling over the past two years, which Reuters could not verify, and warned any victory would be "illusory".
The 10,000 is a conservative estimate and though REUTERS can't verify it the United Nations can but sits on those figures. Falluja has been bombed daily by the Iraqi government since January 2014.
These bombings were legally defined War Crimes which the world turned its eyes away from.
.The latest bombings?
Let's note the photos.
Moving over to another definition of Falluja, we quote ourselves from this morning:
A hard reality about Falluja is that it is a distraction.
It's red meat tossed out by Haider al-Abadi to distract the people.
Years from now, he'll be remembered as the man who sold out his country, who destroyed Iraq, who brought the IMF in.
They're happy to give money because it allows them to alter your financial system, to take control of it.
At CPI FINANCIAL, Matthew Amlot is practically wetting himself as he writes about what the IMF loan means:
A key component of the Staff-Monitored Program that led to this Stand-By Arrangement was that Iraqi authorities agreed to aim to reduce the non-oil primary deficit (i.e., the difference between non-oil revenues and non-oil expenditures excluding net interest payments) by four per cent of non-oil GDP between 2014 and 2016. According to preliminary estimates by the IMF, Iraq has already exceeded this target, reducing that deficit to 52 per cent of non-oil GDP in 2015 from 60 per cent in 2014.
[. . .]
Spending pressures could also be alleviated if the government follows a proposal by international oil companies to switch to production sharing agreements from current services contracts.
What the US government could never force through the Iraqi Parliament will now be forced upon them via 'conditions' of a loan.
Non-oil primary deficit and non-oil expenditures are cut phrases -- what they mean is that services to the public are getting gutted.
Again, the assault on Falluja is intended to distract from this.
There's a reason Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani repeatedly warned against taking money from the IMF.
AFP does a report on the distraction aspect today which includes:
"For Abadi, (Fallujah) provides not just a distraction but, if executed well, a demonstration of some level of effective command and control from Baghdad," said Patrick Skinner, a former CIA case officer who is now with The Soufan Group consultancy.
It is "not the same as good governance, but he needs whatever he can get right now," Skinner said.
As for the IMF, Omar Sattar (AL-MONITOR) reports:
[Kurdish Alliance MP Ahmed] Hama added, "The IMF conditions on Iraq in exchange for the loan favor the government, not the citizen, as these include the removal of subsidies on the ration card, fuel and social welfare in addition to tax increases. Everyone knows this and the government cannot deny it."
But the government does deny that the conditions IMF has imposed will be difficult to meet. Parliamentary parties, however, claim the opposite.
Economic expert Abdul Rahman al-Mashhadani told Al-Monitor that the SBA is similar to the 2004 agreement that Iraq signed but didn't uphold.
"The IMF will help provide the loan to Iraq from several parties: The IMF will provide $830 million; the World Bank, about $5 billion with an interest of 1.5-3%; and the rest will come from other organizations and countries and will be guaranteed by the IMF at an interest rate of 7.5- 8%, provided that Iraq repays the loan and its interest in a very short period of seven years," Mashhadani said.
"Among the conditions set by the IMF is that the government decrease subsidizing fuel prices and reformulate the budget terms and fund allocations to reduce government spending, especially in the operating budget. A large number of parliamentary blocs have rejected this on the grounds that the budget is a law that should remain untouched," he added.
Is it really a coincidence that so much of the western media ignores the civilian impact of the assault on Falluja while also ignoring the civilian impact of the IMF loan?
Or is just a lack of compassion?
Today, the US Defense Dept announced:
Strikes in Iraq
Attack, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 12 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:
-- Near Baghdadi, a strike destroyed an ISIL vehicle bomb.
-- Near Fallujah, four strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL light machine gun, an ISIL front end loader, an ISIL mortar system, three ISIL vehicle bomb storage facilities, two ISIL rocket positions and three ISIL mortar positions.
-- Near Kisik, a strike struck an ISIL improvised explosive device storage facility.
-- Near Mosul, four strikes destroyed two ISIL vehicles, an ISIL vehicle bomb, an ISIL mortar system and an ISIL fighting position and suppressed an ISIL mortar position.
-- Near Qayyarah, a strike struck two ISIL headquarters.
-- Near Sinjar, a strike suppressed an ISIL mortar 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.