Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, June 28, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue, Brett McGurk dances around the Senate, Haider al-Abadi suffers a legal set-back, Tony Blair is the talk of the UK, and much more.

Today, Brett McGurk, the Special Envoy to Iraq for Barack Obama, appeared before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee where he did a song and dance and gullible members of the Committee went along with it.

We may or may not return to the hearing in other snapshots this week.

But we'll note a typical example of the bulk of the hearing.

Senator Ben Cardin had a question he wanted to ask.  However, Ranking Member Cardin quickly forgot his question.

Watch as Brett avoids the question and repositions it to a topic he wants to talk about.

Ranking Member Ben Cardin:  The Sunni civilian population is justifiably concerned to their safety as it relates to the Shia militias.  What steps are we taking to protect the civilian population in these areas that we have been able to militarily reclaim?

Special Envoy Brett McGruk:  So, Senator, thank you.  This is a really -- it's been the primary focus of ours from day one.  On the positive side, so far in Iraq, no areas that have been retaken from ISIL, that have been liberated from ISIL has ISIL been able to retake.  And that's fairly significant given how difficult things are in Iraq.  What we've done from day one -- this really goes back to the fall of 2014.  You know, we're not in the business of reconstructing Iraq, of repeating the mistakes that were made in the past.  We've tried to revolutionize how we -- how we do this. We have a Prime Minister Abadi who is a real partner in Baghdad who believes in decentralizing power as much as possible and empowering local people.  So the fundamental example of this was in Tikrit.  Tikrit is a primarily Sunni city, an iconic city, in the heart of the mixed province of Saladin Province. It was entirely depopulated by ISIL in the summer of 2014.  It was a site of mass atrocities, thousands of people killed in mass killings.  Once it was liberated, through the coalition, we were able to flood resources to-to Tirkit through a stabilization fund that we established through the coalition.  And this stabilization fund is focused on the necessities of getting people back to their homes.  And returning people to their homes, it's important to recognize, we've looked at this historically and conflicts like this are the hardest things to do in the world.  It can take years of effort.  And, in Tikrit, by empowering the governor, by empowering local leaders, by making sure the resources are there, the returnees eventually reaches a tipping point.  And now we have almost the entire city is back on the streets of Tikrit.  They're local people, Tikritis, guarding the streets --

Ranking Member Ben Cardin: How do you deal with the Shi'ite militia?  How do they deal with it?

Special Envoy Brett McGurk: Well, it's a good question. First of all, Shia militias have to act under the control of the Iraqi government, the Iraqi state, that's a fundamental principle of the government of Iraq.  We think most of the Popular Mobilization Forces operate under the control of the Iraqi state but about 15 to 20% of them actually do not.  And those groups are a fundamental problem.  The number one thing we do is try to make sure they stay out of Sunni populated areas where they did cause real problems.  So in Tikrit, for example, Shi'ite militias are not inside the streets of Tikrit that's one thing that gave the population the confidence to return.  Uh, we have a principle when we support Iraqi forces in the military campaign: We will only support military forces operating strictly under Iraqi command and control.  That means that going up from the ground up an Iraqi chain of command  into a joint operations center where we're working with Iraqi commanders.  If there's a unit that's not operating under that structure, it doesn't get any support.

Ranking Member Ben Cardin:  Are you confident in Falluja will be able to maintain the safety of Sunni civilians?

Special Envoy Brett McGurk:  So Falluja, of course, just happened -- the last neighborhood was just liberated over the weekend.  We have about 80,000 displaced people.  Uhm, I'm meeting the head of one of the UN programs later this week.  They're hopeful that all of these IDPs will be under shelter by the end of this week and to begin returns next month.  What's also somewhat encouraging about Falluja is that the destruction of the city looks to be fairly minimal compared to other operations so we're hopeful that we can get the people of Falluja back to their streets as soon as possible, that the government can lead that process.  And of course these Shi'ite militia groups that operate outside the rule of law have to be outside the city otherwise people will not return.  So absolutely.  And we have a plan with local police Falluja police -- policemen from Falluja who have  been trained really since the last year are waiting to go back to-to guard their streets.  That's what we did in Tikrit and we're going to try in Falluja.

How does that deal with Falluja?

How does that address the War Crimes that have taken place in Falluja in the last few weeks.

How does it address reports on Sunday and Monday of Shi'ite forces burning homes in Falluja?

And there's no way in the world that, by the end of the week, the IDPs from Falluja are over 80,000 -- as the BBC reported here today and the UN stated 85,000 today-- and, no, they will not be "under shelter by the end of this week."

His spin distorts reality.  He did that under Bully Boy Bush, he does it under Barack.

“The screams, the cries, the smells and the stifling heat — this must be hell on earth.

Entire families abandoned in the desert. Aid community must not turn its back on Fallujah.

  1. Iraqi Sunni Woman killed by Shia Militias without guilt or charge
  2. Shia Ritual In Iraqi Sunni city to provoke our feelings This is an assault !

Ben Mathis-Lilley (SLATE) opens another useless article with this, "House Republicans have released another report about the attack against American compounds in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11 and Sept. 12, 2012, during which Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. citizens were killed."  The article is entitled "How Long Would The House GOP Have Investigated Iraq If It Treated Iraq Like Benghazi?" which is a stupid question.

An idiotic one.

If he wants to peer into the souls of the GOP, have at it.

But what is known is that the Republicans have criticized Benghazi.

The same way Democrats once criticized the Iraq War (before Barack became president).

So the better analogy, the better question is "Why didn't the Democrats investigate Iraq the way the Republicans did Benghazi?"

But that questions means we face reality: Most Democrats in Congress never gave a damn about Iraq except as something to use against Bully Boy Bush and other Republicans at election time.

They campaigned on it to win control of both houses of Congress in 2006 but they didn't do investigations in the House, then or since.

Just like Nancy Pelosi 'took impeachment off the table.'

Why are the Democrats so damn spineless?

If anything deserved a serious inquiry, it was the illegal Iraq War.

In England, they've had inquiries.  In fact, the Iraq War Inquiry is set to release its report (finally.)

Emily Allen (TELEGRAPH OF LONDON) explains:

The Chilcot Inquiry - also known as the Iraq War Inquiry - was set up in 2009 by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown to examine the UK's involvement in Iraq.
Its remit has been to examine the way decisions were made both before and during the US-led invasion, what actions were taken, and identify what lessons can be learned.

Not everyone in the British press will be invited to take part in "the official media event."  Nick Clark (Great Britain's SOCIALIST WORKER) reports:

Socialist Worker has been blocked from reporting from the publication of the Chilcot report into the Iraq war.
A press spokesperson told Socialist Worker last week that its reporters would not be given access to the official media event.
The Chilcot report is set to be published on 6 July. It is reported to contain heavy criticism of warmonger and former Labour prime minister Tony Blair for his role in launching the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The official publication event in central London will include a media “lock-in” where journalists will get a first look at the report’s executive summary.
There will also be a statement from the report’s author John Chilcot.
Despite applying for press access several weeks ago, Socialist Worker was told its reporter would not be allowed in due to “a limited number of spaces”.
Socialist Worker has consistently opposed the war on Iraq. We have reported from inside the anti-war movement since the launch of the Stop the War Coalition in 2001.
We exposed Blair’s lies while other newspapers fell in behind the war.

Journalists from many of those newspapers will have access to the event.

Currently, War Criminal Tony Blair is in the news.  THE DAILY MIRROR reports:

 The UN inspector whose team found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq tonight blasts Tony Blair over his decision to go to war.
On the ex-Prime Minister’s evidence to back joining US President George W Bush in the 2003 invasion, Mr Blix tells BBC1’s Panorama, Iraq: The Final Judgement: “Many people bring themselves to believe something they want to believe.”

Former Labour Minister Clare Short claims Mr Blair “made up his mind” to back Mr Bush, adding: “It was a manipulation by people determined to take military action.”

 Today, the US Defense Dept announced:

Strikes in Iraq
Fighter and remotely piloted aircraft and rocket artillery conducted 12 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

-- Near Bashir, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL weapons cache.

-- Near Beiji, a strike destroyed an ISIL mortar system, an ISIL vehicle and an ISIL tunnel system. And, another strike struck inoperable coalition equipment denying ISIL access of said equipment.

-- Near Fallujah, a strike struck a large ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL tactical vehicle, an ISIL front-end loader, seven ISIL vehicles, two ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL vehicle bomb, and an ISIL staging area, and damaged two ISIL fighting positions.

-- Near Hit, a strike destroyed an ISIL anti-aircraft gun and an ISIL weapons cache.

-- Near Kisik, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

-- Near Mosul, a strike suppressed an ISIL mortar position.

-- Near Qayyarah, three strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed three ISIL assembly areas, an ISIL vehicle, eight ISIL rocket rails, an ISIL headquarters and an ISIL weapons cache.

-- Near Tal Afar, a strike suppressed an ISIL mortar system.

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.

In other bombing news, the UN issued the following statement on a Monday Abu Ghraib bombing:

28 June 2016 – The United Nations envoy for Iraq has strongly condemned the suicide bombing yesterday that killed or wounded a number of civilians at a mosque in Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, noting that the attack showed the terrorists’ total disdain for Islam.
“This cowardly attack, happening during the holy month of Ramadan and as worshippers were gathered for evening prayers, shows the terrorists’ total disdain for Islam and rejection of its values,” said Ján Kubiš, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), in a statement issued today.
Also in the statement, he expressed his condolences to the families of those killed and wishes the injured a speedy recovery.

AFP reports Iraq's high court has ruled on two things.

First, we'll note that Salim al-Juburi remains Speaker of Parliament.


It's the same reason we cited back in April -- 131 MPs does not a quorum make.

The vote to oust him did not count.

The second one is even more hurtful to the anti-democratic White House which has been encouraging Haider al-Abadi (the US-installed prime minister) to create a new Cabinet.

As we've repeatedly noted, the Constitution does not allow for him to make that decision.

But worse for him, the court found the vote their illegal.


MPs were prevented from entering the Parliament to vote and guards were sent into the Parliament.

Saif Hameed, Stephen Kalin and Dominic Evans (REUTERS) quote legal expert Tariq Harb stating, "The five ministers who were approved by parliament at the April 26th session have lost their ministerial status. The prime minister must make a new nomination for parliament to vote on."

the telegraph of london