Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, February 8, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, the CIA will remain in Iraq, Tim Arango's report from yesterday continues to dominate Iraqi discussion in the US, several conservatives call the reported decision to scale back the US diplomatic mission an indication of policy failure, Camp Ashraf residents are being told to prepare for a move, Stan catches War Hawk Terry Gross pimping for War With Iran, and more.
After "ALL" US forces left Iraq, a number of Marines remain to guard the diplomatic missions (Embassy and consulates), a number of US service members remain to provide training (Nouri al-Maliki publicly stated that number was 700), Special Ops remain, the FBI remained and the CIA remain.  Today Greg Miller (Washington Post) reports which explains:

The CIA is expected to maintain a large clandestine presence in Iraq and Afghanistan long after the departure of conventional U.S. troops as part of a plan by the Obama administration to rely on a combination of spies and Special Operations forces to protect U.S. interests in the two longtime war zones, U.S. officials said.
U.S. officials said that the CIA's stations in Kabul and Baghdad will probably remain the agency's largest overseas outposts for years, even if they shrink from record staffing levels set at the height of American efforts in those nations to fend off insurgencies and install capable governments.

Although "agencies" have picked up the story and Russia' Interfax and Iran's Press TV as well, US outlets have studiously avoided the report.  Instead they focus on Tim Arango's New York Times report on the US State Dept's Iraq mission.  Yesterday on NBC Nightly News, Richard Engel (link is is text and video) attempted to push the notion that this was a cost-saving measure for the good of the American people, quoting US State Dept spokesperson Victoria Nuland insisting, "We're trying to do our best to save the American taxpayer money in the way we support our diplomatic personnel."

Aswat al-Iraq reported what US outlets wouldn't last month: "Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr clled his 'resistance' followers to be prepared to face the US Embassy in Baghdad, if they did not stop their breaches. In response to a question made to his followers, received by Aswat al-Iraq, he expressed rejection that US officials walk in Baghdad streets with their weapons."

Now since then, a US helicopter emergency landed in Baghdad (with another transporting the Americans away), reports of F-16 jets flying overhead are coming from the Iraqi Parliament and there is the drone issue which enraged Iraqis last week. Tuesday morning,Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reported that the US is stating that they are only flying planes and drones and helicopters in Iraq airspace to provide protection for the US Embassy in Baghdad (and its various consulates throughout the country). Parliaments Security and Defense wants answers as to exactly what the US is doing in Iraq's skies.

In this climate, a decision may (or may not have) been made. Equally true, we were informed last week that the US and Iraq were back in negotiations regarding the US military presence. If a pull out of diplomatic 'forces' is going to happen, at present, the American people have no idea whether this is happening on its own or as part of the negotiation process for US troops in Iraq.
But Victoria Nuland wants to assert that it's a cost-cutting measure? 
Strange that the billions didn't bother anyone in the administration until after Congress allocated them.   BBC News notes that the US Embassy in Baghdad alone cost $750 million and that the "huge diplomatic operations [. . .] reportedly costs $6bn a year" -- that doesn't count the embassy cost, construction was completed on that back when Ryan Crocker was the US Ambassador to Iraq.  Reportedly?  The current US Ambassador to Iraq, James Jeffrey, told a media roundtable in November of last year, "We are standing up an embassy to carry out a $6.5 billion program, when you throw in the refugee program as well as the actual State Department budget for 2012, of assistance in support for Iraq on a very broad variety of security and non-security issues.  The direct budget, operating and assistance (to Iraq), was $6.2 billion [and] a little less than $300 million [of] that goes to refugee and displace person programs."  Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) observes of the State Dept mission in Iraq, "It has a $6 billion budget, its on airline and three hospitals, and imports virtually all of its food.  Its central fortress, otherwise known as the Baghdad embassy compound, is nearly as Vatican City."  She quotes US Senator Patrick Leahy  calling the embassy "a relic before the paint was dry" and insisting that Congress may have to make cuts in the costs if the White House is unwilling to.  Writing it up for NPR, Eyder Peralta declared, "The Times story [Tim Arango] today as well as the Al Jazeera story from December mention a program run by the embassy, which trains Iraqi police officers. The program cost $1 billion last year and will cost about $500 million this year. Al Jazeera noted that an audit found there's no way to know whether the program is working." Al Jazeera noted that?  No, they didn't.  The error is Peralta's. An audit can only "find" what is there.  It's not an abstract, an audit is basic inventory, addition and subtraction.  No audit "found" what Peralta insists it did.  The Al Jazeera piece was published December 16th.  We're falling back to December 7th and the report we did in that day's snapshot on the House Oversight and Government Reform's National Security Subcommittee hearing -- US House Rep Jason Chaffetz is the Chair of the Subcommittee.
Appearing before the Subcommittee that day were the Defense Dept's Inspector General Gordon S. Heddell, the State Dept's Deputy Inspector General Harold Geisel, the acting inspector general of US AID Michael Carroll, the acting inspector general for the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction Steven J. Trent and the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen.
US House Rep Raul Labrador: Mr. Bowen, right now the police development program is the administration's largest foreign aid project for Iraq going forward.  And there's some evidence that the Iraqis don't even want this program. So have you or your staff asked the Iraqi police forces if they need the $500 million a year program that the Obama administration is planning to spend on the police development program?
SIGIR Stuart Bowen: Yes, Mr. Labrador, we have and we reported on that in our last quarterly report noting that the senior official at the Ministry of the Interior, Senior Deputy Minister al-Assadi said "he didn't see any real benefit from the police development program." I addressed that with him when I was in Iraq a couple of weeks ago and I asked him, "Did you mean what you said?"  And his response was, "Well we welcome any support that the American government will provide us; however, my statements as quoted in your recent quarterly are still posted on my website."
US House Rep Raul Labrador: So why is the administration still spending $500 million a year to provide this program?
SIGIR Stuart Bowen: There's a beliff that security continues to be a challenge in Iraq, a well founded belief, I might add, given the events of this week. Killings of pilgrims again, on the way to Najaf, on the eve of Ashura. The focus though on trying to address those problems has been a widely scattered, high level training program involving about 150 police trainers who, as we've seen again this week, are going to have a very difficult time moving about the country.
US House Rep Raul Labrador: So what other problems have you found with the police development program, if any?
SIGIR Stuart Bowen: Several.  Well, Mr. Labrador, we pointed out in our audit that, one Iraqi buy-in, something that the Congress requires from Iraq, by law, that is a contribution of 50% to such programs,has not been secured -- in writing, in fact, or by any other means. That's of great concern.  Especially for a Ministry that has a budget of over $6 billion, a government that just approved, notionally, a hundred billion dollar budget for next year.  It's not Afghanistan.  This is a country that has signficant wealth, should be able to contribute but has not been forced to do so, in a program as crucial as this.
We covered the November 30th House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the MiddleEast and South Asia in the December 1st snapshot and noted that Ranking Member Gary Ackerman had several questions. He declared, "Number one, does the government of Iraq -- whose personnel we intend to train -- support the [police training] program?  Interviews with senior Iaqi officials by the Special Inspector General show utter didain for the program.  When the Iraqis sugest that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States. I think that might be a clue."  The State Dept's Brooke Darby faced that Subcommittee. Ranking Member Gary Ackerman noted that the US had already spent 8 years training the Iraq police force and wanted Darby to answer as to whether it would take another 8 years before that training was complete?  Her reply was, "I'm not prepared to put a time limit on it."  She could and did talk up Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Interior Adnan al-Asadi as a great friend to the US government.  But Ackerman and Subcommittee Chair Steve Chabot had already noted Adnan al-Asadi, but not by name.  That's the Iraqi official, for example, Ackerman was referring to who made the suggestion "that we take our money and do things instead that are good for the United States."  He made that remark to SIGIR Stuart Bowen.
Brooke Darby noted that he didn't deny that comment or retract it; however, she had spoken with him and he felt US trainers and training from the US was needed.  The big question was never asked in the hearing: If the US government wants to know about this $500 million it is about to spend covering the 2012 training of the Ministry of the Interior's police, why are they talking to the Deputy Minister?
After 8 years of spending US tax payer dollars on this program and on the verge of spending $500 million, why is the US not talking to the person in charge ofthe Interior Ministry?
Because Nouri never named a nominee to head it so Parliament had no one to vote on.  Nouri refused to name someone to head the US ministry but the administration thinks it's okay to use $500 million of US tax payer dollars to train people with a ministry that has no head?
None of that raised a concern on the part of the US State Dept about spending but we're supposed to believe some magical change of the 'mission' now is the result of concern about spending?
Suadad al-Salhy, Francois Murphy and Andrew Heavens (Reuters) report that Brooke Darby's Adnan al-Asadi is declaring that curbs are about to be placed on contractors in Iraq and he states, "What the Interior Ministry worries about is that there is a giant army of these companies on the streets with their weapons."
The man whose report started it all appeared today on Morning Edition and discussed the article with Steve Inskeep. As Tim Arango explains on the program, the State Dept plan wasn't made, a year ago, in isolation. It was supposed to include a continued strong US military presence. Excerpt.
INSKEEP: So what happened?
ARANGO: It really is a remarkable thing that so quickly after the American troops left that the State Department realized that the embassy that they built is too big, is too costly and the situation on the ground means that they can't get out and do the things that they like to do to justify that cost.
INSKEEP: What do you mean the situation on the ground?
ARANGO: Well, there's two things going on. There's the persistent security problems that prevent diplomats from moving around as much as they'd like. And then what they didn't plan on was how the Iraqis would react as soon as the military left in terms of obstructing what they want to do. They immediately started enforcing customs regulations that the Americans were not accustomed to abiding by. And then there's the situation with the visas. Prime Minister Maliki now - his office has to approve all the visas for Americans. And so it's resulted in these lengthy delays.
INSKEEP: Lengthy delays in even getting the staff into Iraq. And then they have difficulty moving around once they're in Iraq?
ARANGO: Absolutely. There's a new kidnapping threat in the Green Zone. And as such is getting out of the Green Zone to interact with ordinary Iraqis, there's even new security procedures for moving around in the Green Zone which is probably one of the most fortified places in the world.
Repeating, Arango will point out that that the State Dept mission, planned throughout 2011, was supposed to go hand-in-hand with a larger US military presence in Iraq than what it currently is.  Without that, Arango indicates, the State Dept mission was an overreach. Kori Schake served on Bully Boy Bush's National Security Council and she argues (Foreign Policy) that this goes to a foreign policy failure:
It was an odd choice by the State Department to make Iraq the flagship of "smart power," given that the White House has consistently conveyed that President Obama just wants Iraq off the agenda. The president never invested in getting from Congress the resources necessary --- even if the State Department had the capacity to carry out its ambitious plans.
Nevertheless, the State Department's plan for maintaining two thousand diplomats -- protected and supported by 15,000 other civilian personnel -- was a terribly cost-ineffective program fraught with potential for disaster. Outside review of the department's plan by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Commission on Wartime Contracting, and every other outside source highlighted the crucial dependence on mobility that was both vulnerable and reliant on civilian contractors (the majority of them non-American) with the authority to use deadly force. Why the government of Iraq would grant immunity from prosecution to civilian contractors when it denied immunity to better trained military personnel was only one among many questionable planning assumptions.

Conservative commentator Max Boot (Commentary) offers:
So much for a "strong and enduring partnership" that has "our diplomats and civilian advisers in the lead." Those of us who argued for a continuing military presence were deeply skeptical the State Department would actually be able to main a mission of some 2,000 diplomatic personnel supported by an army of 15,000 or so contractors. The size of the task they faced was just too huge, and the State Department lacks the resources the military can bring to the task. Sure enough, the U.S. embassy has been having trouble stocking its vast chow hall and getting its personnel outside its fortified walls.
Turning to the issue of Iraqi women.  Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera -- link is video) reports that though the UN estimates 1 in 5 Iraqi women is physically abused.
Jane Arraf: Sarah doesn't like her children outside. A few weeks ago, she left her husband.  She's afraid he'll come back and kill her.  He'd hit her for years.  But last month, after getting angry with their son, he got out a police baton and started beating him. 
Sarah (translated by Jane Arraf): He said to me, 'Why are you looking at me?," and put his finger in my eye and wanted to pull it out. I ran out of the room and he kicked the door and got to me. With his baton, he beat me hard. When I collapsed and he saw me lying on the floor, he jumped up and down on me and stepped on my head and belly and said, "Die."
Jane Arraf: At the hospital, they told her she had a broken rib. She had photos taken of her injured but her husband told her he'd kill her if she went to the police.  Now she and her four child live with her mother. [. . .]  In a society Sarah where a woman leaving her husband for any reason is grounds for punishmnet, Sarah is one of the lucky few who have relatives willing to take them in. 
Jane Arraf's report is one of three disturbing reports on Iraqi women this week One of the many casualties of the illegal war is the rights of Iraqi women. Rebecca Burns (In These Times) speaks with the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq's Yanar Mohammed. Excerpt.

RB: OWFI members have been beaten and sexually assaulted while demonstrating, just like female protesters in Egypt. Why are women targeted in this way?

YM: They wanted us to feel ashamed. Our organization made sure that these demonstrations had a female face. We had our slogans, our banners, which we carried every single Friday. This was not approved by al-Maliki's government. And in an Arab society, if a woman is shamed, she is pushed out of the public arena. They expected that we would go hide in our homes and not show our faces to anybody. The same way in which women are forced to immolate themselves or made the victim of an honor killing, they wanted to force a political dishonoring on us in order to end us politically.

RB: How are the women who have been attacked in Tahrir Square faring today?

YM: All of them are back in the square. But we are very careful as to our whereabouts. Once we see security forces, we leave the square. We are not willing to be tortured again and again.

RB: Are you working to get women elected directly to Parliament?

YM: In Iraq, 25 percent of members of Parliament are required to be women, which is good. But more than half the women in Parliament are from the Religious Right. When we were beaten in Tahrir Square – 25 of us – not a single female Parliamentarian spoke out. In other words, those women are puppets.

Doug Moore (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) reports on a group of attorneys -- 12 Iraqi women and five US women -- who teleconference once a month:

The St. Louis lawyers hope that kind of moral support could help the Iraqi lawyers get women into more powerful positions in the legal system and in government. Islamic laws protecting women are inadequate or not enforced in a culture where men are in charge and women are treated as property. Domestic violence is often considered accepted practice.
[. . .]
[Nancy] Mogab said the ultimate goal is forming a group similar to a women lawyers' association here, and called on the Iraqi women to create a list of goals they want to accomplish.
"Together they will be able to provide a voice whereas a single lawyer can't do that there," Mogab said after the groups' third meeting earlier this month.
Law school classes in Iraq are an even mix of men and women, but there are very few women judges. And those who practice law have little influence in a male-dominated legal system.

Moving to the topic of Camp Ashraf, KUNA reports, "The United States on Tuesday urged the 3,400 residents of Iraq's Camp Ashraf to relocate immediately, as it is 'no longer a viable home for them'. Ambassador Dan Friend told reporters that 'We look forward to the first residents moving from Camp Ashraf to Camp Hurriya in the immediate future,' referring to a new camp the Iraqi government constructed for the Iranian dissidents who have occupied Camp Ashraf for the past 30 years. The camp was under US control until January 2009, when US handed over control to the Iraqi government." Ian Duncan (Los Angeles Times) adds:

Speaking in the European Parliament on Tuesday, Maryam Rajavi, the group's leader in exile, said residents of the camp were willing to move but were "demanding minimum assurances, namely a dignified and humane treatment at the new location."
"The EU, U.S. and U.N. should actively and immediately intervene to prevent turning of Camp Liberty into a prison," she said.

This push follows earlier news this week that some Camp Ashraf residents and their supporters found alarming.   Monday Fars News Agency reported that National Alliance MP Abbas al-Bayati appeared on al-Baghdadia TV. His statements were both explosive and embarrassing for the United Nations. According to al-Bayati, Iraq will be expelling the MEK (Iranian dissident group welcomed into Iraq decades ago). All will be expelled or sent to Iran, declares al-Bayati in direct conflict with what the United Nations has been stating in what will now be seen as stalling statements made by the international body as it attempted to buy time. This bad impression will take hold because al-Bayati denies that the UN has any supervision of Camp Liberty. He states, "No, the camp is under the control of Iraqi government and (the camp's control) has nothing to do with the United Nations. Iraq came to the decision to provide the UN with the reports of the camp and also let them visit the camp."

Though the US media has been ignoring it, you can't visit the US State Dept (I did last week) and not see the Camp Ashraf supporters gathered across from it. The MEK has Iranian-American relatives in this country (a large number in California -- many in US House Rep Bob Filner's district). Following the revolution in Iran, some members of the MEK went to Iraq. When the US invaded, the US military entered into negotiations with the approximately 3,400 residents of Camp Ashraf. The end result was that they became protected persons under international law and the Geneva Conventions. Though Nouri has given repeated promised to the US that he would protect the residents, that has not happened. He has twice launched attacks on the camp. They've now relocated to a new camp that some British MPs have described as a "concentration camp." The only defender the new camp (which has no medical facilities and Nouri al-Maliki is refusing to allow medical supplies in) had was the United Nations, which vouched for it so strongly based on a single, brief visit of the unnoccupied camp-to-be. That vouching now appears incredibly misinformed.

December 23rd, Human Rights Watch noted:

Human Rights Watch sent letters on December 15 and 16, 2011, to the governments of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Denmark and Sweden seeking their support for the appeal by Martin Kobler, the United Nations special envoy for Iraq,to the Iraqi government to extend a December 31 deadline for closing Camp Ashraf. Human Rights Watch also urged the governments to helpensure the safe transfer of camp residents for individual refugee status interviews, and respond quickly and positively to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's call for UN member states to indicate their willingness to accept Camp Ashraf residents for resettlement.
"Resolution of the Camp Ashraf situation requires the active involvement by other major players like the United States and the EU who can play a critical role in resettling Camp Ashraf residents and monitoring to make sure they are safe and are treated fairly," said Frelick.
The Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) was founded in 1965 as an armed group to challenge the Shah of Iran's government. In 1981, two years after the Iranian revolution, the group went underground after trying to foment an armed uprising against Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the former Supreme Leader of Iran. After a period of exile in France, most of the group's leaders relocated to Iraq in 1986 and established Camp Ashraf, although its top leadership remains in France.
Human Rights Watch called on all parties to allow international diplomats, UN agencies, and independent observers to be present to monitor every step of the transfer of these residents to a protected transit site, such as the former Camp Liberty at Baghdad's international airport. Human Rights Watch also urged the UN to continue monitoring the human rights and humanitarian situation after camp residents have been relocated to the transit site.
Human Rights Watch previously appealed to both the Iraqi government and the leadership of the MEK to cooperate fully with the UN to ensure the protection and safety of Camp Ashraf residents. Tension and mistrust between the MEK leadership and Iraqi security forces remain high following two violent incidents involving Iraqi security forces that led to the deaths of more than 40 Camp Ashraf residents, in July 2009 and April 2011. Human Rights Watch has repeatedly called on Iraqi authorities to refrain from using excessive force against Camp Ashraf residents, and for independent and transparent investigations to investigate the two incidents and any crimes committed during them.
The Iraqi government has not opened investigations into these incidents.
The UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials states that "law enforcement officials may use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty." The UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms provide that law enforcement officials "shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force" and may use force "only if other means remain ineffective." When the use of force is unavoidable, law enforcement officials must "exercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence."
Human Rights Watch has also called on the Iraqi government not to return the exiles to Iran against their will, saying they may risk torture or other serious abuse. Human Rights Watch has documented the prevalent use of torture in Iran, particularly against opponents of the government.
As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Iraq is bound to apply the principle of nonrefoulement. The UN's Human Rights Committee, which interprets the covenant, has explained this obligation as: "States parties must not expose individuals to the danger of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment upon return to another country by way of their extradition, expulsion or refoulement."
The Iraqi government has assured Washington that it would not forcibly transfer any member of the group to a country where they face a risk of torture.
In Iraqi government news, Al Mada reports that Nouri al-Maliki is attempting to rally MPs with State of Law (his political slate which came in second in the March 2010 elections) to push through a 2012 budget (yes, the 2012 budget should have been taken care of some time ago). Ayad al-Tamimi (Al Mada) notes that political leaders who attended yesterday prep meeting for a national conference are attempting to map out the post-US Iraq. As for proposed documents, Kurds present stated that the Erbil Agreement already maps out the steps necessary.

Following the March 2010 elections and Iraqiya's first place results, Nouri al-Maliki refused to allow Ayad Allawi (leader of Iraqiya) the chance at forming a government that his slate's win guaranteed. Nouri didn't want to give up being prime minister. Because the White House backed him, he was able to bring Iraq politics to a stand-still. Eight months of political stalemate followed during which Parliament met briefly once and that was it. There was no governing of Iraq taking place. Nor any efforts to move forward. (A White House friend has insisted in the last week that the reason the White House backed Nouri was because they needed to get started on negotiations for when most US troops left. That's a nice spin to their decision to back a thug.) Political blocs met in Erbil in November 2010 and the Erbil Agreement was hammered out. It was supposed to do a number of things for all actors involved. However, the minute it kicked in with Nouri being named prime minister-designate, he quickly disregarded the agreement. That's what's caused the political crisis. That's what the Kurds have been demanding Nouri agree to return to -- demanding since this summer. When Iraqiya announced their planned walk out December 16th, they were calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement. (The arrest warrant against Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi had not yet been issued at that point.)

Nouri (and his sycophants in the US) today like to insist the Erbil Agreement is unconstitutional. (A) They only made that claim after he used it to remain prime minister and (B)they're not legal scholars. The Erbil Agreement was not illegal or unconstitutional. But if Nouri and his pep squad want to keep insisting it was, they should grasp that means Nour's prime minister tenure is illegitimate. Al Rafidayn notes rumors that al-Hashemi has left the Sulaymaniyah villa he was staying in and is now in an undisclosed/unknown location.

Nouri is fearful of February 25th. Wael Grace (Al Mada) notes that the fear is that activists might take to Tahrir Square as they did a year ago. Nouri responded by (a) promising to cut his salary (no one ever followed up to see if that happened), (b) kicking the can -- insisting that he would address corruption in 100 days (100 days came and went and corruption in Iraq remains -- Nouri was saying earlier this month that it was as big a threat as terrorism) and (c) swearing he wouldn't seek a third term (his attorney has declared that promise to be non-binding). Grace speaks to Nouri's thugs that have been occupying Tahrir Square and running off the real protesters. One explains that he's a political activist with State of Law and he didn't get a seat in Parliament. These are Nouri's thugs. We noted that when they first appeared. Grace is the only journalist to pursue the story. If it were in English, it would be all over the internet.

Will the demonstrators show back up Feb. 25th (or more likely the 24th since they were protesting on Fridays after morning prayers)? Maybe so.

None of the demands were met. Basic services have not been met. Unemployment remains high and jobs scarce. People continue to disappear in the Iraqi justice system and more.  An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers reports that, over the weekend, a generator had to be moved when the landlady refused to allow it to be ket on her land.  Due to wiring issues and other things, the people ended up without electricity for two days.  The correspondent report on the frustration of the Iraqi people:
One of the angry people shouted "why does the government pay budget for the ministry of electricity?  Why does it pay salaries for unproductive employees?" and finally he asked simply "why don't they give us the money to manage our electricity problem instead of wasting money?" The last question was the most important one for me. It reflects clearly the disappointment of Iraqis. Obviously, we don't trust our government and our politicians in general because after even after eight years of collapsing Saddam's regime, our politicians failed in everything. They failed in providing services, they failed in forming a real national government, they failed in protecting Iraq and they failed in saving Iraqis lives. They succeeded only in one thing. They perfectly succeeded in dividing Iraqis.
A year later and all the problems are still present -- and more plentiful than before. The cry that may have scared Nouri the most last year -- remember the regime in Egypt was falling and numerous leaders were worried they would be next -- might have been the one about how they'd turned out to vote in the elections and nothing changed. They had the same prime minister, the same president, the same vice presidents (one, Adel Abdul Mehdi, has since resigned in protest of the corruption and the inability of the government to address it), so what was the point of 'democratic' elections?

16 days until Friday the 24th. Nouri's paranoia is well known. It'll be interesting to see what happens.
On the subject of violence, Aswat al-Iraq reports a Khanaquin Township sticky bombing targeting Sheikh Jabbar Husein claimed the sheikh's life and leaving three people riding with him injured and a Baghdad bombing left three people injured.
At World Can't Wait, Ray McGovern explores a US war on Iran (and gives too much credence -- my opinion -- to what Barack supposedly really, really wants -- stop listening to the people around him, when Samantha Power hyped Jeremy Scahill, that should have been the end of it, the embarassing punking JS received should have ended it for all). Stan makes a far more important catch.  Terry Gross was part of the selling of the Iraq War though she's supposed a lefty.  She not only sold it, she attacked Ehren Watada on her program.  Now she's hoping no one will catch her pimping for a war with Iran.  Stan caught her. She interviewed the New York Times' William Broad about his new book 
The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards.  Terry felt the need to bring up Iran and how it 'wants' a bomb. Broad explained to her slowly and carefully -- when she brought up Iran -- that there was no proof that Iran even wanted to make a nuclear bomb.  After this had been gone over at great length (see Stan's post), Terry does a mm-hmm "So is there an estimate of how far away they are from actually having a bomb?"  She goes back to insisting they want one even though it's just been explained to her that there's no proof of that. 
Yesterday we noted the family of Troy Gilbert. We'll close with more news of what they're enduring as they attempt to rescue their loved one's body.  Ginger Gilbert Ravella tells Brian New (KENS 5 -- link has text and video), "Someday my five kids are going to ask me, 'Did you do everything, did the government do everything to bring Daddy home?' I want to be able answer I did and they did absolutely everything." She is the widow of Maj Troy Gilbert, "During a 2006 mission near Baghdad, Maj.Gilbert was credited with saving twenty Americans under fire when he destroyed a gun truck from his F-16 jet. The Air Force pilot then turned around to attack another truck when the tail of his plane hit the ground."

Those attacking the US service members then took Gilbert's body from the plane. His widow remembers seeing photos of his body and an unopened parachute released by the enemy. In 2007, those who took Maj Gilbert's body released a video using his body for propaganda purposes. How did the US military walk away from this issue? A small amount of tissue was in the crashed plane and this tissue was identified as belonging to Troy Gilbert so the government has declared him found.

KSAT (link has text and video) explains, "However, the military was able to confirm Gilbert's identity using the tissue so his death was listed as 'accounted for.' Gilbert said that meant there is no active search to recover his body. His family says that's simply unacceptable."

Jim Douglas (WFAA -- link is text and video) reported on the issue by speaking to the fallen's parents, Ronnie and Kaye Gilbert, and they explained that they meet with the Defense Dept later this month where they will attempt to convince the military to change the qualification from "body accounted for." Unless such a change takes place, the US government insists that there is no need for a search, that the tissue counts as "found" and, apparently, that the body of Troy Gilbert can be carted all over the world and back and it's of no concern to the US government.