In Iraq, the persecution of the Sunnis continues.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar (ISRAEL NATIONAL NEWS) notes:
Government forces and Shiite militias are being helped by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, fighting under the direct command of Kassem Suleimani, head of the Quds Force, aided by US-led coalition air power. Iran's goal is clearly the elimination of any Sunni presence in Fallujah, including both ISIS and the city's residents. Worst of all is the cooperation between the Western coalition members and Iran, together destroying a city that, as of last week, was home to an estimated 45,000 Iraqi civilians.
Human Rights Watch issued a press release today which opens:
(Beirut) – The announced investigation into allegations of abuse of civilians around Fallujah by Iraqi government forces is a test for the government’s ability to hold abusive forces accountable. Judicial officials should conduct this investigation transparently and impartially, assess command responsibility, and ensure protection for victims and witnesses.
Ahead of the offensive in Fallujah against forces of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that his government had taken measures to protect civilians. Human Rights Watch, however, has received credible allegations of summary executions, beatings of unarmed men, enforced disappearances, and mutilation of corpses by government forces over the two weeks of fighting, mostly on the outskirts of the city, since May 23. On June 4, 2016, in response to allegations of abuse, al-Abadi launched an investigation into abuses in Fallujah and issued orders to arrest those responsible for “transgressions” against civilians. On June 7, al-Abadi announced the “detention and transfer of those accused of committing violations to the judiciary to receive their punishment according to the law.”
“The Iraqi government needs to control and hold accountable its own forces if it hopes to claim the moral upper hand in its fight against ISIS,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director. “It’s high time for Iraqi authorities to unravel the web of culpability underlying the government forces’ repeated outrages against civilians.”
Human Rights Watch also expressed grave concern about reports of ISIS preventing civilians from fleeing Fallujah and allegedly executing and shooting at those who attempted to do so. Human Rights Watch is concerned about the presence of ISIS fighters among civilians inside Fallujah, perhaps amounting to human shielding, a war crime. But the presence of fighters among civilians does not absolve forces fighting ISIS from the obligation to target only military objectives and to take all feasible measures to avoid civilian harm, Human Rights Watch said. ISIS forces should allow civilians to leave areas under their control and not use civilians to shield its military objectives from attack, Human Rights Watch said.
Human Rights Watch directed questions about the composition of the investigative committee, its authority, and relation to the judiciary to five Iraqi government institutions in addition to the human rights section of the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq. A member of the parliamentary Human Rights Committee told Human Rights Watch that the committee had started its own investigation and was liaising with the investigation by the prime minister’s office, which remained secret. The other officials contacted did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
On June 3, Human Rights Watch received information alleging that members of the Federal Police and the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), an auxiliary fighting force created after ISIS advanced in June 2014, and that includes many pre-existing Shia militias, had executed more than a dozen civilians from the Jumaila tribe fleeing Sajar, a village north of Fallujah. Human Rights Watch spoke to five people, including two officials from Anbar governorate, who said they were protecting three surviving witnesses to the executions.
Three of those interviewed confirmed the account that a survivor gave on Tigris (Dijla) Channel television that a group consisting of Federal Police and PMF had separated men from women, marched the men to where the troops’ officers were, lined them up, and shot at least 17 of them, including one teenage boy. One person said that the incident took place on June 2. The PMF are, at least nominally, under the command of the prime minister.
One of the Anbar governorate officials provided Human Rights Watch with a list of names of those killed and said that the incident happened near the Sharhabil school in Al-Bu Sudaira neighborhood in the northern outskirts of Fallujah. The other Anbar official said that the witnesses met with senior Iraqi government officials on June 5, following which he said Prime Minister al-Abadi launched an investigation into the incident. A former Iraqi government official with good contacts in the security forces told Human Rights Watch, on June 5, that the investigation had already led to the arrest of a police officer whom survivors could name.
Another person who said he was in the Sajar area, 7 kilometers northeast of Fallujah, at the time told Human Rights Watch that on May 28, he saw Federal Police and PMF, including dozens of fighters from the Badr Brigades and Hezbollah (two prominent Shia militias in the PMF), fatally shoot civilians with white flags raised fleeing toward the government forces that day. He said that a fighter told him his superior officer had ordered the shootings. He also told Human Rights Watch he was in Saqlawiya around May 30. This person said a villager and several PMF fighters in the area told him that PMF fighters stabbed dozens of villagers to death with knives.
Human Rights Watch follows an earlier cry. Tuesday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein which included:
“There are extremely distressing, credible reports that some people who survive the terrifying experience of escaping from ISIL, then face severe physical abuse once they reach the other side,” the High Commissioner said. “Eyewitnesses have described how armed groups operating in support of the Iraqi security forces are intercepting people fleeing the conflict, separating the men and teenage boys from the women and children, and detaining the males for ‘security screening’, which in some cases degenerates into physical violations and other forms of abuse, apparently in order to elicit forced confessions. There are even allegations that some individuals have been summarily executed by these armed groups.”
When that alarm was raised, the US State Dept played dumb. They did so again today:
MR TONER: We can go to Fallujah, sure.
QUESTION: Okay. First of all, could you give us an update of what’s going on? And second, there seems to be, like, some sort of a campaign to aid the “Sunnis,” quote-unquote, in Fallujah in places like Saudi Arabia and other places. A spokesman for the ministry of interior in Saudi Arabia says we cannot stop people’s sentiments and so on. Are you concerned or would you sort of take this up with the Saudis to --
MR TONER: You – I’m sorry, just – I missed it. You’re saying that there seems to be a – yeah, sorry, sorry. Yeah.
QUESTION: No, two things. First of all, can you give us an update? And then I’ll follow up with --
MR TONER: Okay.
QUESTION: -- other one.
MR TONER: Sure thing, hold on one second. Apologize; my book has grown too large.
So as I think I said yesterday, Iraqi forces are making progress, are advancing on the city. I’d obviously refer you to the Iraqi authorities to speak more about what progress has been made. I do know that – and I think I’m speaking to your – maybe your second question – but we are concerned about the plight of civilians who are fleeing Fallujah, and I spoke about this yesterday. Our understanding is that ISIL [. . .] is holding tens of thousands of civilians hostage and under terrible conditions. Iraqi Security Forces are trying to screen those who are fleeing the city to ensure that [Islamic State] fighters are not hiding among these innocents – civilians. And it’s difficult work, but we expect it to be conducted in a way that respects human rights and the safety of these civilians who are fleeing the fighting.
QUESTION: And it seems that the Fallujah battle is stirring or polarizing the Sunni-Shia schism; and in fact, in places like Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-dominated countries are collecting contributions and money and so on being sent. Some fear that it might find its way to ISIS, or others fear that it will only exacerbate this --
MR TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: -- sectarian schism.
MR TONER: Well – and we’ve, again, talked about this the last couple of days. I mean, look, we’re obviously aware of the underlying dynamics and tensions inherent to this assault or this offensive to retake Fallujah. We understand Prime Minister Abadi has opened safe passageways for civilians to be able to escape. We’ve talked a lot about messages from Prime Minister Abadi as well as Ayatollah al-Sistani’s message that Iraqi Security Forces involved in this offensive should protect civilians and civilian properties.
We are troubled by reports that civilians in Fallujah and the surrounding area have been subject to torture or abuse and in I think some cases even murder. I know Prime Minister Abadi has pledged to investigate all credible reports and hold those accountable – the perpetrators. He’s issued clear instructions to Iraqi Security Forces, including the Popular Mobilization Forces, to protect civilians and respect their human rights. And we firmly support this approach.
I think that the Iraqi Government is saying the right things, pledging to do the right things, and we’re obviously working closely with them to ensure that they follow through.
QUESTION: Finally, are you troubled by reports that suggest that Iranian General Qasem Soleimani is giving personal advice or field advice to – personally to Prime Minister Abadi on how to conduct the Fallujah battle? Are you aware of those reports?
MR TONER: I mean, look, this offensive – we’ve seen the reports, certainly, and I acknowledge that we’ve seen them. We’re not in a position to confirm any of these images as accurate. We don’t know about his travel schedule or where he is. I’d have to refer you to Iranian authorities to speak to that.
The Fallujah operation though, writ large, is under the command and control of the Iraqi Government, and we’d refer you to them to answer any questions about that. But this is a large-scale operation involving tens of thousands of Iraqi forces and with the support of these Popular Mobilization forces, and thus far it’s a difficult fight. It’s a long fight. As we talked about, there’s – we’re watching closely reports of – credible reports of abuses on civilians, but thus far we’re hearing the right things from the Iraqi Government.
Are you hearing credible reports, spokesperson Mark Toner?
Or are you ignoring reality?
The same way the US government ignored the realities of abuse throughout Nouri al-Maliki's second term as prime minister of Iraq (2010 - 2014) allowed the situation to grow worse and worse until the Islamic State began to appear to be a viable alternative to some Sunnis in Iraq.
The US government will back anyone if they think it will help with regards to oil.
There are never real concerns for the people caught on the ground.
Today, the US Defense Dept announced:
Strikes in Iraq
Bomber, fighter, ground-attack and remotely piloted aircraft and rocket artillery conducted 18 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the Iraqi government:
-- Near Huwayjah, a strike struck an ISIL improvised weapons factory.
-- Near Beiji, a strike destroyed an ISIL vehicle-borne bomb.
-- Near Fallujah, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed 23 ISIL fighting positions, eight ISIL light machine guns, six ISIL heavy machine guns, two ISIL recoilless rifles, an ISIL supply cache and an ISIL rocket propelled grenade system and denied ISIL access to terrain.
-- Near Habbaniyah, a strike destroyed an ISIL vehicle.
-- Near Haditha, two strikes struck an ISIL staging facility and destroyed three ISIL vehicles and an ISIL weapons cache.
-- Near Kisik, a strike stuck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL vehicle and an ISIL tunnel system.
-- Near Mosul, three strikes struck three separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL assembly areas.
-- Near Qayyarah, five strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit, an ISIL weigh station, an ISIL beddown location, an ISIL headquarters and an ISIL meeting site and destroyed an ISIL weapons cache.
-- Near Ramadi, a strike destroyed an ISIL fighting position and an ISIL heavy machine gun.
-- Near Sinjar, a strike destroyed an ISIL rocket rail and an ISIL supply cache.
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.
On the airstrikes, Greg Jaffe and Loveday Morris (WASHINGTON POST) explain:
The White House is on the verge of releasing a long-delayed accounting of how many militants and civilians it has killed, primarily with drones, in countries where the United States is not at war. The list will include airstrikes in countries such as Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.
It will not include deaths in Iraq or Syria. Nor is it likely to mollify critics who say that Obama’s largely defensive, low-American-casualty approach puts too many civilians at risk and too often feeds resentment that benefits U.S. enemies. The report will mean little to Iraqis and Syrians in places such as Mosul, Ramadi and Raqqa, where the tragic consequences of American mistakes are often easily ignored and American precision bombs sometimes do not seem very surgical or precise.
In nearly two years of fighting in Iraq and Syria, U.S. officials say they have killed as many as 20,000 Islamic State fighters and caused only 41 civilian deaths. Military analysts and human rights activists said those figures are absurd. “They don’t pass the straight-face test,” said retired Col. Christopher Kolenda, who led troops in Afghanistan and served as a senior adviser to U.S. commanders there. He recently completed a study on civilian casualties for the George Soros-funded Open Society Foundations.
AIRWARS counts 8,768 air strikes in Iraq and 4,128 in Syria with a minimum of 1,278 civilians killed. To put just two faces on the many civilians killed in Iraq, last September, RADIO SAWA journalist Zaid Benjamin Tweeted this:
The following community sites updated:
the washington post