Friday, July 01, 2016

Iraq snapshot

Friday, July 1, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue,  Falluja's 'liberated' again, the UK is sending more troops to Iraq, Iraq's Shi'ite militias are up in arms that someone would dictate to them other than the government of Iran, and much more.

News from the United Kingdom this morning:

Good day for British govt to 'bury news' as UK domestic politics take priority: UK to send 250 more soldiers to Iraq

Emma Clark (SCOTSMAN) reports:

Scores of extra British troops are being sent to Iraq to help the country in its battle against the so-called Islamic State, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has announced.

Mr Fallon said almost 200 additional personnel and an engineering squadron will travel to the country, bringing the total number of British personnel in Iraq to 1,100.


A good question from Twitter:

ON Somme anniversary: UK sends 250 more soldiers to Iraq, Total there now 1,100 Did MPs ever sanction this number..where will it lead?

RT calls it "mission creep" for the UK.  It is mission creep for all.  Offering perspective, Dita Deboni (ONE VOICE) explains New Zealand's troops, UK troops and others:

So despite telling us there would be no troops sent to Iraq in 2014, and then telling us there would be a deployment – but no longer than two years - in 2015, we are now told, this week, that the Iraq deployment of our ostensibly non-combat troops will go on for another 18 months.
This announcement is not really much of a surprise, coming as it does after Barack Obama’s April announcement that the US would be sending an extra 217 troops to Iraq – as well as Apache helicopters and other more serious equipment of warfare. Days later it was announced the UK would do the same. Italy, Germany and France have all sent more troops to Iraq this year. 

There’s a total of over 7000 US and coalition troops, including New Zealand, on the supposed “advise and assist” role in the fight against ISIS across Iraq, Syria and Libya.  And those are the ones we know about. It’s understood there are many more American troops in Iraq than publicly declared, for example, including some of the country’s air forces.

Governments lie.

Then they take a minute to catch their breath.

And then they lie again.

Now remember what Dita's talking about regarding the number of troops while we note the US Defense Dept announcement yesterday:

Strikes in Iraq
Bomber, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft and rocket artillery conducted 19 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

-- Near Baghdadi, two strikes struck an ISIL staging facility and destroyed an ISIL bunker and suppressed an ISIL tactical unit.

-- Near Qaim, a strike struck an ISIL vehicle bomb facility.

-- Near Beiji, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two ISIL vehicles and an ISIL vehicle bomb.

-- Near Fallujah, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed 42 ISIL vehicles and denied ISIL access to terrain.

-- Near Habbaniyah, a strike struck a large ISIL tactical unit and destroyed 120 ISIL vehicles, an ISIL tactical vehicle and three ISIL vehicle bombs.

-- Near Haditha, a strike struck an ISIL staging facility.

-- Near Hit, a strike struck a large ISIL tactical unit and destroyed 13 ISIL vehicles and damaged another.

-- Near Mosul, four strikes struck four separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL vehicles and an ISIL supply cache.

-- Near Qayyarah, a strike destroyed eight ISIL rocket rails and five ISIL rocket systems.

-- Near Ramadi, a strike struck a large ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL heavy machine guns, an ISIL mortar system and an ISIL staging area and damaged two ISIL fighting positions.

-- Near Sinjar, a strike destroyed an ISIL heavy machine gun.

-- Near Sultan Abdallah, a strike destroyed an ISIL tactical vehicle.

-- Near Tal Afar, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

-- Near Waleed, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL vehicle and two ISIL weapons caches.

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.

These are the daily air strikes that US President Barack  Obama started in August of 2014.


And, as the US government wants us to know (even though it's not true), those air strikes do not kill civilians.

Handling the gossip column, Phil Stewart (REUTERS) passes on, "U.S.-led coalition aircraft waged a series of deadly strikes against Islamic State around the city of Falluja on Wednesday, U.S. officials told Reuters, with one citing a preliminary estimate of at least 250 suspected fighters killed and at least 40 vehicles destroyed."

Wow, so Wednesday's strikes killed 250 fighters.

And these strikes have taken place daily since August 2014.

How many members does the Islamic State have in Iraq?

Must be millions, right?

But earlier this week, at SALON, Patrick Cockburn noted, "The Iraqi army and security forces, for example, had 350,000 soldiers and 660,000 police on the books in June 2014 when a few thousand Islamic State fighters captured Mosul, the country’s second largest city, which they still hold. Today the Iraqi army, security services, and about 20,000 Shia paramilitaries backed by the massive firepower of the United States and allied air forces have fought their way into the city of Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, against the resistance of IS fighters who may have numbered as few as 900."

So with only a handful, approximately 30,000, in the country why are foreign forces needed?

Didn't the Iraqi forces do a wonderful job of liberating Falluja?

Well . . . not the first time it was announced.

But certainly, last weekend, it had done awesome completely it's mission (if you don't count War Crimes and intimidating the civilian population), right?

Except WORLD BULLETIN reports that a suburb of Falluja (3 miles from the heart of the city) just got 'liberated' yesterday.

Well someday, maybe, right?

At least Iraq is getting along with its neighbors, right?

Well . . .

RUDAW reports:

The Iraqi government has asked Saudi Arabia to stop interfering in its internal affairs in a strong statement a day after the Saudi foreign minister said that the Shiite militia group known as Hashd al-Shaabi must be disbanded.

The Iraqi ministry of foreign affairs said that “it condemns the repeated interference of the Saudi foreign ministry in Iraq’s internal affairs,” said Ahmed Jamal, the ministry spokesperson.

The statement from Baghdad comes a day after Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir said that the Shiite militia was a sectarian group backed by Iran and that it must be disbanded.

Why would anyone be bothered by Hashd al-Shaabi?

Ongoing War Crimes.

  1. Shia Militias crimes مليشات الشيعه قتلت 15 سني عراقي اثناء سجودهم بصلاة التراويح ببغداد ابو غريب ولم تذكرهم اي قناة
  2. 15 Iraqi Sunni civilian killed During Thier prayers by Shia Militias in Nour mosque Abu Ghraib

AL-MANAR reports, "The Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq issued on Thursday a statement to blast the stances of Saudi Foreign Minister's stances which asked for decomposing the PMF units."

Let's note Tuesday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing:

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.

If it often sounds, by the way, that Brett McGurk's statements conflict with John Kerry's, they do.

That's why we told you awhile back, John's being shut out by the White House and Brett's the go-to-guy.  In related news, Hillary Clinton's sent out feelers to Brett about being Secretary of State should she be elected president.

Back to the issue at hand, will the Shi'ite militias now be issuing a statement condemning Barack's Special Envoy?

Doubt it.

Nouri al-Maliki, when he was prime minister, banned the militias.  He made various organizations disband them or stated they could not participate in the political process.

He did that because he feared being overthrown.

The always oblivious Haider al-Abadi (the current US-appointed prime minister of Iraq) has no such thoughts.

He not only allowed them back into the process, he made them a part of the government.

They're now a part of the government that he can't control.

And they don't take orders from anybody . . .

Except some take orders from Iran, of course.

And Iraq's long take orders from Iran when it came to the Ashraf refugees.

Did John Kerry really call Iran "helpful" this week?

Yes, he did.

He'll hop into bed with anyone (that's why NEWSWEEK called him "the randy conspiracy buff" all those years ago -- though only the "conspiracy buff" angle was ever explored in commentaries after the fact).

And he hopped into bed with Iran.

Who's on top, John?

I know this not because it was on the news (though it was).  I know this from visiting members of Congress this week.  And those who advocate for the Ashraf community -- especially from my home state -- are furious with John for that statement.

They point out that the ones kidnapped have still not been returned and that the State Dept still provides no real information.

But, hey, John, you got a new sex partner and at your age, that is an accomplishment.

It doesn't help the persecuted Iranian refugees.

Hey, John, you think they might now ask you about the man you appointed to take care of this problem?

Your personal friend who had no experience in the area, pocketed his tax payer funded salary and then quickly went back into the private industry?

Yeah, I'm thinking so, too, John.

The Ashraf community.

Background:  As of September 2013, Camp Ashraf in Iraq is empty.  All remaining members of the community have been moved to Camp Hurriya (also known as Camp Liberty).  Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were  welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.)   In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So the US has an obligation to protect the residents.  3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf.  They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part.  A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday.   That was the second attack this year alone.   February 9th of 2013, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."  They were attacked again September 1, 2013 -- two years ago.   Adam Schreck (AP) reported back then that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.

The situation has not been addressed.  The Ashraf community continues to be targeted.  The US government legally owes them safe passage out of Iraq.