Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, October 2, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri blusters about Turkish war planes, the US Defense Dept 'finds' money to pay for US troops in Iraq, Jalal does a listening tour, and more.
Yesterday, Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) broke the following news, "In its final act before leaving town earlier this month, Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) that failed to reauthorize the main mission of the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq (OSC-I), despite Pentagon warnings that the move could force the military to withdraw hundreds of U.S. troops who are still in Baghdad helping to develop the Iraqi security forces and working with them on counterterrorism.  The authority for U.S. forces to train and assist the Iraqi security forces expired Sunday."  Never fear.  When it comes to destruction, it will always be paid for.  Lolita C. Baldor (AP) reports that the Defense Dept has announced it has the money to cover the costs "in its temporary budget."  Of course, it does.  Of course.  Kristina Wong (Washington Times) adds that George Little, Pentagon spokesperson, declared the move was "a temporary bridge while we seek a longer-term way ahead for [the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq] in the fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which we expect to be taken up by Congress later this year."
Some day the broadcast media will cover what's going on.  It may be a 100 years from now, but some day they will.  In the meantime, we're supposed to pretend it's not taking place. 
Mike Prysner:  The whole strategy behind the US' so-called withdrawal of US forces from Iraq was the ability to leave in its place forces that would maintain and protect the interests of the US government, namely US control over Iraq's resources and the dividing up of Iraq's oil among various major British and US oil companies, and French and German as well.
The Iraqi government exists today, and the Iraqi forces exist today to maintain the status quo, to maintain the new government that the United States felt worthy of sending to leadership.
The security in Washington means that the interests are secured, that US bases are secured, that US contracts are secured. And if anything threatens that, they want the Iraqi government to crush it with violence, to torture people, to attack demonstrations and so forth.
We should remember that if the Iraqi security forces are not to the task that the US has assigned for them -- we have to keep in mind that President Obama himself said when he was giving the speech celebrating the end of the Iraq war, he said very plainly that our commitment to Iraq has not ended.
At Foreign Policy, Peter Feaver argues it's time to examine Iraq in terms of Barack.  Apparently, Feaver wasn't bowled over by the foreign policy 'analysis' The NewsHour provided last week (as Ava and I pointed out, PBS stacked the deck by inviting a reporter and an 'independent' analyst who Tweeted insults about Mitt Romney before his appearance on The NewsHour). I can agree with him on the issue of examining Barack's actions with regards to Iraq.  I don't agree with Feaver that Fred and Kimberly Kagan should be listened to on Iraq because they've "earned the right to a respectful hearing on" the topic.  But I will agree that they should be listened to since they are the immediate in-laws of State Dept's spokesperson Victoria Nuland.
It's always comical to watch the Cult of St. Barack huff and puff about the neocons and grasp how ignorant the Cult is and how unaware they are of just how many neocons populate Barack's administration.  Victoria Nuland, married to Robert Kagan) is one such neocon and she was Dick Cheney's right hand during the planning of the Iraq War.  Didn't stop the administration from giving her a job -- a high profile one in fact.  So if she speaks for the State Dept, and she does, Peter Feaver, there's the reason to listen to his sister-in-law Kimberly and brother-in-law Fred Kagan.  And for those who think she was working with the State Dept when she helped Cheney, no.  Just because the State Dept has vanished her Bully Boy Bush days doesn't mean we have done the same.  From November 24, 2004:
Kagan's wife works as Cheney's deputy national security adviser. That's Ms. Nuland' s title. So in effect, Ms. Nuland's employed by "team B" -- she's apparently not working on team B's campaign, but she works for team B. Potentially, Kagan has a vested interest in the outcome of the 2004 election.
As you may remember, back then it was NPR covering for Nuland, erasing her from the scene while letting Robert Kagan go on the air to explain what was wrong with then presidential contender John Kerry -- explain what was wrong from an 'independent' stand point because NPR didn't think the listeners had a right to know the man ripping apart Kerry and praising Bush wasn't so independent, that his wife was Dick Cheney's Deputy National Security Adviser.
Dick Cheney.  The name that still sends shudders down the spines of many Democrats.  But Barack let her and a lot of other neocons into the administration.
Iraq needs to be evaluated.  Don't express the press to rush to do that because evaluating requires facts and it's Iraq's Dar Addustour, and not NPR, that reported today on the New York Times article mentioning that the US just sent a unit of Speical-Ops back into Iraq and how there are negotiations between the White House and Iraq to returns US troops to Iraq in larger number.  Dar Addustour is referring to Tim Arango's report from last week, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."
Meanwhile AFP reports that Nouri's Baghdad-based government is calling for an end to the treaty between Iraq and Turkey that currently allows Turkish war planes to bomb northern Iraq (Turkey bombs what they say are suspected PKK camps).  Ali al-Dabbagh, Nouri's spokesperson, is quoted stating, "The cabinet decided to reject the presence of any foreign bases or forces on Iraqi land and to reject the entry of any foreign military forces into Iraqi land."   Ahlul Bayt News Agency continues that al-Dabbagh declared that the government recommends Parliament cancel any existing contract and refuse to extend any agreements.   The Tehran Times adds, "According to the Turkish parliament, the military is authorized to conduct operations inside Iraq's airspace under the pretext of targeting hideouts of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants. These operations have intensified after the withdrawal of the United States from Iraq, which is not yet capable of securing its airspace."  AFP notes, "A high-ranking Iraqi official said the decision was aimed at Turkish military bases in the north Iraq province of Dohuk, one of the three provinces that make up the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)" and that, "Ties between Iraq and Turkey have been marred by a flurry of disputes, including Ankara's refusal to extradite Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, who has been sentenced to death in absentia by an Iraqi court."  Reuters reminds that, "The Baghdad government's power over Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region is limited."   The announcement came as Al Jazeera reported, "Turkish security forces have killed 12 Kurdish rebels in fighting, including two women who attempted to infiltrate from neighbouring Iraq, local security sources said."
Just yesterday, September was hailed as the most violent month in Iraq in two years, while today violence continues as does fear and silence.  On fear, Alsumaria reports that in Basara accusations are being tossed around following the assassination last Thursday of former Governor (2005 to 2009) Mohammed Misbah Waili with some accusing a clan within the province and the clan accusing unnamed foreign powers.   On the silence, Mohamad Ali Harissi (AFP) reports that Sunday's violence (at least 33 dead, at least 106 injured, according to AFP's count) was met with silence and that no sympathy was expressed or violence noted on the websites of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani or Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi, that -- like the three politicians -- state TV channel Iraqiya focused on football and ignored the violence, that the bulk of the papers ignored the violence and the official government paper al-Sabah waited until page four to mention the violence and then under the headline "Bagdad Operations [Command] announces foiling an attempted terrorist plot with eight car bombs."  Al Rafidyan carries the AFP report here.  Today, Alsumaria reports the corpses of 3 men wearing fire fighter uniforms were found in Baghdad and that a Baquba roadside bombing left 2 people injured, an armed attack in Kirkuk that left 1 street cleaner and two other people injured, a Falluja roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another person injured, 2 corpses were discovered in Tirkt.   In addition, Alsumaria reports a Kirkuk armed attack which left 2 people dead.

On the subject of Kirkuk, All Iraq News reports that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq's Martin Kobler's deputy Gyorgy Busztin  met to discuss the issue of elections in disputed Kirkuk.  Fearing that no law will be passed in time for provincial elections, al-Nujaifi stated that they will leave it to the three presidencies (President of Iraq Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and al-Nujaifi) to resolve the issue.Considering the record for political resolutions in Iraq, that seems more than a bit optimistic.

Optimism is what Jalal Talabani seems full of currently as he works Baghdad.  Al Mada reports Talabani continues meeting with the leaders of various poltical partices, blocs and forces -- yesterday with the head of the National Alliance Ibrahim al-Jaafari and the head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Ammar al-Hakim.  Jalal is on a listening tour.   Which is fitting since his ceremonial post comes with few actual powers.

All Iraq News notes that Ammar al-Hakim talked about the need for a national dialogue when he met with Talabani.   Reallly?  Then maybe al-Hakim should have supported the call for a National Conference.  Remember that?  December 21st, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and President Jalal Talabani were both calling for a National Conference.  Nouri stalled it and circumvented it.  He couldn't have done that on his own.  Little Buddy Ammar helped him a great deal.   All Iraq News reports MP Mohammad Iqbal is calling on Talabani to pressure the blocs to modifty their course.  Nice suggestiong but when has Talabani ever had the spine to pressure anyone? 

It didn't have to be that way.  As NPR's Deborah Amos observed in the spring of 2010, speaking at Harvard's Shorenstein Center, the ground had been changing in Iraq in 2009 and early 2010 with a move towards secular parties.  Amos is the author of one of the finest books on the Iraq War,  Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East
Debora Amos:  It was quite possible as you looked at the new configuration that there would be a move away from the dominance of the Shi'ite parties. That there would be some reconciliation.  They [Iranian regime] were not happy about that and they have been very public about the fact that they want no Ba'athists -- [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad said this in a public speech, no Ba'athists will ever run Iraq again.  They clearly backed the Shi'ite religious parties and the politics of the country was shifting a bit.  In the middle of all of this arise one of the most remarkable politicians in Iraq and he's played all kinds of roles in that country including a spoiler.  And he dropped a political bombshell into the political process of that country and this was in January when Ahmed Chalabi's protege Ali Faisal al-Lami who is the executive director of the de-Ba'athification Commission, they blacklisted 500 candidates and they disqualified them by accusing them of either being Ba'athists or having links to the Ba'athist Party.  Not every name of the 500 was Sunnis but the attack was clearly against these new, secular, mixed parties.  That's where most of the names came from.  But there were enough Sunnis that this aggrieved minority felt what they were looking at was a witch hunt.  And that's the reaction that you're seeing now -- that they feel like they're being targeted.  What's interesting is both Chalabi and al-Lami are candidates themselves and they were running on the Shi'ite Islamist Party.  In talking to analysts about Iraq, what they say is it was a move worthy of Karl Rove because it was both brilliant and cynical at the same time. And what is showed was a complete understanding of the weaknesses of Iraq's political culture.  In addition, it took Washington completely by surprise.  They never saw it coming.  And so there reactions have been slow and ineffective.  And as the political theater has played out in Iraq, this election which should have been about corruption, about lack of services, about security, about the role of Iran, about the drawdown of American troops which -- all combat troops are to be withdrawn by August of 2010 -- what this election has become about what I said: Warning wind.  This could be the strategey -- this anti Ba'athist, 'Ba'athists are under the bed, Ba'athists are coming to get you' -- this could be the comeback strategy for the Shi'ite Islamist parties who have nothing to show in terms of services and governance but can certainly win on the votes of fear.  It is a complete reversal from where the country was  just a year ago.  And it shows how weak the political culture is that it could take an event like banning 500 political candidates to turn this whole election into a referendum on Ba'athists -- which was essentially rendered defunked in 2003.  It may propel these parties back into office but it is as likely to put off political reconciliation because we are as far away from that today as we were in 2007.
It could have been so different.  Political reconciliation still hasn't taken place.  It could have been so difficult.  Amos says the White House was taken by surprise.  Again, it's past time that this administration's actions with regards to Iraq were analyzed.
Why was Iraq ignored?  Why wasn't the White House able to provide Iraq with a stable ambassador?  Barack's been in the White House less than four years and he's had four nominees for Ambassador to Iraq -- three were confirmed (Chris Hill, James Jeffery and most recently Robert S. Beecroft) and one withdrew (Brett McGurk).  
Iraq needed stability.  Why was the White House unable to provide that?  The White House couldn't even provide an ambassador who could serve out a four year term.  Why did the White House refuse to back the Iraqi people who voted Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya first in the 2010 parliamentary elections, not Nouri's State of Law?  Why didn't the White House show respect for rule of law, for democracy and for free and fair elections?
Last week, John Barry's "'The Engame' Is A Well Researched, Highly Critical Look at U.S. Policy in Iraq" (The Daily Beast) posted:

Washington has little political and no military influence over these developments. As Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor charge in their ambitious new history of the Iraq war, The Endgame, Obama's administration sacrificed political influence by failing in 2010 to insist that the results of Iraq's first proper election be honored: "When the Obama administration acquiesced in the questionable judicial opinion that prevented Ayad Allawi's bloc, after it had won the most seats in 2010, from the first attempt at forming a new government, it undermined the prospects, however slim, for a compromise that might have led to a genuinely inclusive and cross-sectarian government."
It would be really great if the press could do their job and ask the questions that need to be asked but we really don't have a free and fair press in the United States.  We have a press that's encouraged to play favorites instead of encouraged to do their jobs which is how for two years they avoided asking the question of how, if the US government wanted to bring democracy to Iraq, the White House could ignore the Iraqis who went to the polls, risked violence to register their vote because they believed the lies of the US government.  They went to the polls, they voted and they found their votes overturned by the US government.
A real press, a functioning press, would've asked questions.  No one did.  Don't you find that strange?
Gail Collins can act like a trashy whore writing about the Romney family dog repeatedly in one wasted column after another, but she can't ask the needed questions?  She's a whore who works the street her pimp tossed her out on, don't mistake her for a journalist.
It's amazing that a unibrowed professional nutcase like Gail Collins is repeatedly allowed to waste the country's time telling and retelling the story of the dog while ignoring the Iraqi people and their will was overturned, how democracy was subverted and how that happened not in spite of but because of the White House.
Yeah, Barack's got a lot of questions to answer but, no, they won't ask the questions in the pretense that passes for a free and fair media in the United States.
Don't expect the questions at any of the faux debates this month either.  Nellie Bailey and Glen Ford are the hosts of the weekly  Black Agenda Radio (here for this week's broadcast) which airs on Progressive Radio Network each Monday from 11:00 am to noon EST.  This week, Black Agenda Report's Bruce Dixon addressed the so-called presidential debates.  Excerpt:
Bruce Dixon: The so-called Presidential Debate Commission is a private corporation founded by leaders of the two corporate parties, who choose the format, the location, the moderators and the questions, and who explicitly draw up the rules to exclude candidates and parties other than Republicans and Democrats.  Although the broadcast airwaves have existed longer than the sun and cable networks everywhere run beneath the public roads and streets, US law lets private corporations determine on their own what political messages reach the population by controlling news and demanding large sums of money for a few seconds of commercials. These large amounts of money can only be gotten from the same plutocratic shot calling individuals and corporations who make the careers of Republicans like Mitt Romney and Democrats like Barack Obama possible.  How irresponsible, how locked down, how deceitfully scripted and divorced from the real world in which most of us live are these presidential debates?  Besides everything the candidates agree upon, and who runs the so-called debate "commission," all you need to know is that one of the marquee sponsors of the 2012 presidential debates, and the 2008 ones as well, is an industry front group called the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.  Both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates are deep in the pockets of "clean coal," as they are in the pockets of Big Ag, Big Insurance, military contractors, Wall Street and other centers of real power.  One answer to the lack of real discussions presented us by the rigged "commission" on presidential debates will be Occupy The Debates, a project undertaken by Occupy activists in multiple cities, in which a live meeting will entertain live questions from a live audience.  Occupy the Debate's first scheduled public meeting will be in Denver CO, the same night as the first so-called "debate" between the two corporate candidates.  Occupy the Debates will be streamed live on the internet that evening, and will include the participation of Black Agenda Report co-founder Glen Ford.  Several occupy movements around the country are expected to follow suit and organize their own local events over the next few weeks. For more information on real debates on real issues, visit Occupy the Debates either on Facebook or at www.occupythedebates.org -- that's www.occupythedebates.org.
Lastly,  Senator Patty Murray chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (which holds a joint-hearing this week with the House Veterans Affairs Comittee).  Her office notes:

Monday, October 01, 2012 (202) 224-2834
Chairman Murray's Statement on IG Report Detailing Waste at VA Conferences
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, released the following statement after the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Veterans Affairs released a report on their investigation into two conferences in Orlando run by VA's Office of Human Resources and Administration.
"I am deeply dismayed by what the Office of Inspector General has found regarding these conferences. The blatant waste of taxpayer dollars and government employees improperly accepting gifts cannot, and will not, be tolerated.
"The IG report highlights failures in areas that have continually been problems for VA, including contracting and human resources. I expect the Department to act quickly to address these longstanding shortcomings."

Matt McAlvanah
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct