Thursday, July 21, 2016

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, July 21, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue, the UN notes the humanitarian crisis, a response may or may not result in people getting helped, the Iraqi military is caught on video executing a bound young boy, there's an update on the Ashraf community, Pretty Lashes John Kirby forgets to announce a live broadcast at the State Dept website today, the UK fundraising for prosecuting War Criminals continues, and much more.

The disaster that is newly 'liberted' Falluja has many concerned about what happens to the city and citizens of Mosul when Iraqi forces attempt to 'liberate' it from the Islamic State which has held it since June of 2014.

The conflict in has severe humanitarian consequences Nearly 1/3 of the population –10,000,000 people– need aid
Too many people in Iraq are still suffering
Nearly one third of the population of Iraq –10,000,000 people– need aid. Despite limited resources, WHO has so far provided emergency health kits & 10 mobile clinics this year. But that's not enough.

We don't hear much about this but there are 1.5 million internally displaced children in alone.

Yesterday, the United Nations announced:

One of the top United Nations officials in Iraq is warning that an expected military operation in Mosul will lead to the largest and most dramatic humanitarian crisis in the world, which could impact as many as 1.5 million civilians.
“The impact of the Mosul military campaign on civilians will be devastating,” said Lise Grande, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq. “Mass casualties among civilians are likely and families trying to flee are expected to be at extreme risk.”
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is asking for an additional $284 million to start preparing food, water, emergency shelter and medical assistance, and other immediately needed aid.
Military operations by the Government of Iraq and its allies to retake areas from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are already forcing hundreds of thousands of civilians, including more than 85,000 people from Fallujah, to flee their homes in search of safety.
More than 3.3 million Iraqis are currently displaced across the country and as many as 2.5 million more people may become newly displaced along the Anbar and Mosul corridors and in Mosul city in the months ahead. 

SWISSINFO CHANNEL reports Switzerland has donated the US equivalent of $1 million dollars.  Canada pledged $158 million.

Yesterday, in DC, Secretary of State John Kerry insisted, "I am pleased to announce that, by securing more than $2 billion of pledges that we know will be forthcoming, we have exceeded our expectations and the conference is by all measures successful. Within that total is more than $450 million for humanitarian assistance, much of which is going to go directly to the most recent UN humanitarian appeal.  I’m very proud to say that the United States, each of the countries here, have donated significant – hundreds of millions of dollars, and I think when we finished just making our commitments, we were well over half a billion dollars, and now we are over the – excuse me, were well over half a billion and close to the full billion, and now we’re over the billion."

Sorry to interrupt the chorus of "We Are The World" but how will it be ensured that the money goes to those in need?

Kerry's comments included, "The goal of our pledging conference is to raise money to help Iraqis in four priority areas: humanitarian aid, de-mining, immediate stabilization, and longer-term recovery."

These would have been questions to pursue but Elise Labbot didn't.

CNN's reporter got the first question -- when you're the State Dept's pet you get those sort of favors -- and immediately turned a briefing on Iraq into Turkey.

No one was surprised.

When everyone's whispering -- true or false, I don't know -- that you're sleeping with John Kerry, presumably, you're calling the shots.  He is after all married (to a very good friend of mine, so watch your back, Elise, if the rumors are true and say prayers of thanks that you don't live in China).  And if the rumors aren't true, stop pretending flirting is part of a reporter's arsenal.

Iraq's attending this conference with government officials.  Presumably their hands are out.

And Iraq is one of the most corrupt countries in the world and has been for over a decade -- see the rankings on Transparency Index.

Great to meet university students - they're angry at Iraq's politicians for stealing their future.

Yes, the students are angry, as are the people of Iraq.

Iraq is an oil rich country raking in billions in oil revenues each year -- billions more than they have millions of people.  Yet government corruption is so great that this oil rich country now has to beg the International Money Fund for dollars.  You don't catch oil rich Saudi Arabia doing that.

Where is the money going?

That's an important question also in terms of who benefits.

Iraqi forces paid by the government?

  1. Meanwhile in , the security apparatus who the govt put in power & trained are also executing 11 yr old boys

The video shows a young boy, hands bound, on the ground, surrounded by Iraqi forces.  They circle him, then step back and then shoot him dead.

Are these to be the beneficiaries of 'humanitarian' aid?

If the footage going to finally force the US government to publicly rebuke the targeting of Sunni civilians?

Will this War Crime register anywhere?

In related news, today a meeting will be held in the US.  The State Dept issued the following:

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
July 19, 2016
U.S. Secretary of State Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter will host foreign and defense ministers of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL in Washington D.C., on July 21, 2016, for the first joint ministerial of the Counter ISIL Coalition.
More than 40 members of the Coalition will assemble to review the campaign to date, and strategize how to further accelerate ISIL’s demise.
It will include a detailed discussion of priorities for the Coalition’s multiple lines of effort, including its working groups on political-military coordination, combatting foreign terrorist fighters, counterterrorist financing, counter-messaging, and stabilization of liberated areas, to increase the momentum of the campaign.
With the recent liberation of Fallujah and other parts of Anbar Province in Iraq, as well as the advances around Manbij in Syria, this is a key moment to continue to set core ISIL on a lasting, and irreversible, path to defeat.
The Coalition’s Small Group regularly meets to synchronize and enhance combined efforts to counter ISIL. The last meeting of Coalition foreign ministers took place in Rome, Italy, on February 2, 2016, and the last meeting of defense ministers took place in Brussels, Belgium, on February 11, 2016.

We'll include that in full since spokesperson John Kirby has 'forgotten' to include it in any press briefing this week (Monday or Tuesday, there was no briefing on Wednesday).  If he had included, he might have noted the meet-up would be live broadcast on the State Dept's website.

Starting when?

Well I guess that's what John Kirby's paid to announce, now isn't it?

Oops, someone forgot to work their to-do list.

In other news, Turkey's back to bombing Iraq.  These bombings were supported by the US government but objected by the Iraqi government.  In the name of bombing 'terrorists,' Turkey has killed and wounded thousands of Iraqis living in northern Iraq -- most of them in villages and living on farms.  It's destroyed homes and farms.  But that's what happens when a blustering idiot is in charge of a country.  Recep Tayyip Erdogan has survived a military attempted coup.  While the president's power was in question, airstrikes on Iraq were put on hold and they even called the Turkish troops in Iraq back to Iraq.  (Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is among those who have been demanding that the troops leave Iraq.)  AP reports the Turkish government is claiming to have killed 20 'militants' with yesterday's War Planes.  If things went as usual that means they probably killed at least 3 children.

Dropping back to Tuesday's snapshot:

Starting with War Criminal Tony Blair, Nicole Stinson (DAILY STAR) reports:

The Iraq War Families Campaign Group launched an online appeal to the raise £50,000 to "bring to justice those responsible for the war and the deaths of our loved ones" earlier today.
In the less than a day they have managed to attract 1,428 backers.
They now have their sights on raising £150,000 to cover legal costs.

THE MIRROR adds, "It comes weeks after the Chilcot report tore into Mr Blair, other leading politicians and senior officials over their actions before, during and after the conflict, in which 179 British service personnel died."  Adam Taylor (WASHINGTON POST) notes, "Blair came under renewed scrutiny after the release of the Chilcot inquiry. The report included evidence suggesting that he had misrepresented intelligence ahead of the war. In one memo from July 2002 before the war, Blair writes to President George W. Bush that 'I will be with you, whatever' -- which many took as implying that he would support the war, no matter the opposition."

But while those injured by Tony Blair have to crowd source to get money for legal bills, Robert Mendick and Ben Farmer (TELEGRAPH OF LONDON) explain, "Taxpayers will be obliged to pay all Tony Blair’s legal bills if he is sued by the families of soldiers killed in Iraq."

Should the families prevail in court and win?  RT reports:
Roger Bacon, whose son Matthew was killed serving in Iraq, told RT that any money raised in a civil case by military families against Tony Blair will be donated to the Iraqi people to improve their lives.
Matthew Bacon, a British Army major, was killed by a roadside bomb while traveling in a lightly-armored Snatch vehicle in Iraq in 2005.
His bereaved father described to RT his awe at the staggering success of the Iraq War Families Campaign’s crowdfunding drive to fund a full legal examination of the Chilcot Report for evidence challenging the legality of the war.

Lastly, 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.

This week, the UNHCR has issued an update:

Update on the implementation of solutions for residents of Hurriya Temporary Transit Location (TTL)
• The relocation of residents of the Hurriya Temporary Transit Location (TTL) out of Iraq continues to maintain momentum, with more than 1700 residents having now been relocated to a situation of safety in third countries. This represents a significant milestone: more than half of the residents registered by UNHCR have now been successfully relocated.
• Prospects for relocating all residents out of Iraq in 2016 are at their most buoyant since international efforts to find solutions began in 2011. UNHCR is supporting a steady and growing stream of movements out of Iraq in coming months. It is hoped that the process will be completed well before year end.
• This progress has been achieved with the cooperation of the residents who have proceeded with the relocation process despite difficult circumstances, including the attack on 4 July 2016, which fortunately did not result in any casualties.
• Ongoing success in the implementation of solutions has also been assisted by the residents’ commitment to meeting the bulk of the associated costs, particularly for long term support of all residents relocated out of Iraq who have no access to state-sponsored assistance. This commitment is crucial to the ongoing implementation of solutions for the group.
• UNHCR deeply appreciates the measures taken by some countries to relocate residents to situations of safety and security. Albania’s exceptional contribution to this humanitarian endeavour merits special note, as Albania has received a significant proportion of the residents who have been relocated. Likewise, the United States has been actively supporting the relocations in a number of ways, and without those sustained and concerted efforts, the progress reported here could not have been achieved.
• Despite noteworthy progress made over the last two years, UNHCR maintains its call upon States to find ways to offer long term solutions for the residents in the Hurriya TTL and to do so with urgency. This appeal should be read in light of the potential for more attacks on the Hurriya TTL, as has been recently witnessed. This emphasizes the need for quick and pragmatic action on the part of States to ensure that these people are very swiftly relocated to a situation of safety and security.
• UNHCR continues to call upon the Government of Iraq to take all possible measures to ensure the safety and well-being of residents, including ensuring access to life saving medical treatment and assistance with the provision of goods and services to enable the residents to make arrangements for their own protection.
• UNHCR also recalls the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Iraq and the United Nations explicitly recognizes that residents benefit from the principle of non-refoulement.

UNHCR, Geneva, 19 July 2016