Tuesday, November 13, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, questions for Jalal Talabani in Parliament, Nouri continues Operation Command Tigris, the Parliament does work to block Nouri from a third term, the confusion around the weapons deal with Russia continues, the actions of Petraeus have now resulted in a raid/search last night and a statement from the US Secretary of Defense today, and more.
It's not really about sex, it's about a CIA Director stepping down three days after a presidential election. Supposedly, a CIA Director stepping down to avoid being compromised on national security issues. It's about a CIA Director putting himself in the spotlight with actions that apparently threatened US security.
Was Petraeus a risk for blackmail? I think a strong case could be made for that and I didn't believe that until I read the report today by Sari Horwitz, Kimberly Kindy and Scott Wilson (Washington Post). According to the report, his "closest advisers" told the journalists that Petraeus had no plans to resign even after he admitted the affair to the FBI. What changed? When he found out that the affair was going public, he decided to resign. He wasn't bothered by it being known by the FBI or others in the government. But he didn't want it to go public. If the report is accurate, that would indicate that there was the potential for blackmail and that does make him a security risk.
There are other issues as well. It's about how the White House could not have known about the investigation or the impending resignation prior to the election. It's about how Petraeus is a potential security risk and the administration -- as far as we know currently -- had no idea that was the case. It's about what happened in Benghazi. Especially since the mistress is now all over YouTube in an October speech she gave where she asserts that the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi September 11, 2012 -- the attack that killed Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods, Sean Smith and Chris Stevens -- was a result of the CIA holding Libyan prisoners. Here's one example at YouTube.
Paula Broadwell: I don't know if a lot of you heard this but the CIA Annex had actually -- had taken a couple of Libyan militia members prisoner and they think that the attack on the Consulate was an effort to get these prisoners back.
And that could be the tip of the iceberg. If Broadwell's claims about the CIA holding detainees in Benghazi also turns out to be true, that whole separate scandal is potentially far bigger, as keeping that secret, along with the administration's already shaky history of truth-telling on Benghazi, could suggest there really was a cover-up in the wake of the attack on the consulate, that the Obama Administration lied about ending the use of CIA black sites, and got their own ambassador killed in doing so. The possible fallout of all that, even coming after the presidential election, is virtually unfathomable, and as a part of the story continues to center on a sordid affair the real information about very really issues seems to be coming out as well.
In addition, Kevin Johnson, Jim Michaels and Carolyn Pesce (USA Today) reported this afternoon, "On Monday, FBI agents searched the Charlotte, N.C., home of Broadwell, who is also Petraeus' biographer. Broadwell had high security clearances as part of her former job as a reserve Army major in military intelligence. But those clearances are only in effect when a soldier is on active duty, which she was not at the time she researched the biography. FBI spokeswoman Shelley Lynch said agents arrived shortly before 9 p.m. at Broadwell's home. Lynch declined to elaborate on what prompted the search." And Andrew Tilghman (Navy Times) reports that General John Allen is now the focus of an investigation. The US Defense Dept issued the following statement from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta today:
On Sunday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation referred to the Department of Defense a matter involving General John Allen, Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.
Today, I directed that the matter be referred to the Inspector General of the Department of Defense for investigation, and it is now in the hands of the Inspector General. I have informed the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The House Armed Services Committee has also been notified.
While the matter is under investigation and before the facts are determined, General Allen will remain Commander of ISAF. His leadership has been instrumental in achieving the significant progress that ISAF, working alongside our Afghan partners, has made in bringing greater security to the Afghan people and in ensuring that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists. He is entitled to due process in this matter.
In the meantime, I have asked the President - and the President has agreed - to put his nomination on hold until the relevant facts are determined. I have asked both Senators Levin and McCain that the confirmation hearing on General Allen's pending nomination to be Commander of United States European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe be delayed.
The President has nominated General Joseph Dunford, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, to succeed General Allen at ISAF. I respectfully requested that the Senate act promptly on that nomination.
These are real issues and that's why it was the topic on the first hour of The Diane Rehm Show today, Diane and her guests Mark Jacbosn (Truman National Security Project), Michael O'Hanlon (Brookings), Evan Perez (Wall St. Journal) and Rachel Smolkin (POLITICO) discussed the issues involved. With any story, someone will always go smutty (such as John R. Talbott at Huffington Post today). Equally true, there will always be shrieking harpies like Thomas E. Ricks who are more devoted to an individual (always a man, in Ricks' case) than they are to the truth so they will clutch-the-pearls and pretend that there's no story there and someone's being persecuted. Spare us all from the Drama Queens like Thomas E. Ricks.
Oliver Stone: Well the American media has come up with narrative that he's an American hero who was betrayed by the woman. He takes the fall. It's the classic. It sales well. It's a good soap opera. But it's not true. I see no evidence of his heroism. There has been no success in Iraq. The so-called 'surge' has been over-hyped by the media as a success when, in fact, Iraq was trashed almost from the beginning to the end. And it was in worse shape when he left. He didn't leave it well. And then when he went to Afghanistan, he -- First of all, he conned Obama into adding 30,000 troops -- was in Afghanistan with a plan that he'd win with this counter-insurgency program. Well where is it? Where are the results? They're non-existent. Afghanistan is worse off. He's supervised the Predator explosion [the Drone War] and the missiles not only into Pakistan and Afghanistan. And he's exaserbated the entire region and the people that are there are going to hate us, more so for civilian damage, collateral damage. And top of it, he's built up this reputation -- I mean, first of all, as a military man, I really think he's overdoing it as a show man because he goes in front of Congress to talk about the counter-insurgencies wearing -- if you notice, the ribbons grow every year. He's got now like a regular fruit salad up here [holds right hand to left pectoral] and it's disgusting. General [George] Marshall who was one of the greatest heroes of WWII is famous for having been a modest man and going in front of Congress and wearing hardly anything
Piers Morgan: I mean he had this reputation as King David --
Oliver Stone: Very much so.
Piers Morgan: That was what a lot of people in the forces -- and didn't always mean it as a compliment
Olive Stone: No.
Piers Morgan: It meant as he was slightly regal.
Oliver Stone: But success? America values success. What's success in Iraq and Afghanistan? He's left many weeping widows out there. And it's not worked, counter-insurgency. Our involvement in a foreign country -- whether it's Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq I, Iraq II -- it doesn't work. We go in, we have a lot of money, we make a lot of friends -- temporary friends -- they know we're leaving. And when we leave, which they know we will leave, they value their lives so they are our tempory friends.
Oliver Stone: In American media, they're praising him as a hero. I don't see the hero. I see a misguided policy in Iraq, an even more misguided policy in Afghanistan. I don't think the 'surge' worked, I think that was a lot of media hype. And I -- And I -- And I don't trust his credientials. He never was in Vietnam but he wrote -- He made his reputation writing about counter-insurgency in Vietnam -- in which his main recommendation, a US military man told me, was, "You know what? Get the press on your side." That was his counter-insurgency proposal. And he's very good at that. So when he appears on Congress, I don't know if you saw the rows of medals the first time, he appeared.
Gayle King: I saw them, yes.
Oliver Stone: He seemed to woo the Congressmen. They were falling at his feet. The military worship in this country has reached unhealthy proportions.
On videos. A number are asking that we note a video report. I agree that normally we would. We're not noting it. "Off the record" is off the record. I don't think the person discussing an e-mail they received from a _____ at ____ (military institution) grasped what they were doing on camera. That is great work. But someone still in the military? That person would be off the record for a reason. He or she could be drummed out. Could be punished. I like the person doing the report and we have noted the person before and will many times again and this is surely a topic I support and believe in. But I don't think the person doing the report grasped that he or she had just outed someone and, if not outed, started an investigation on the base. I'm hopeful that no one else will notice. I think we're the last website left in the US that gives a damn about that issue. So I doubt it will be amplified by others. But I really think that report needs to be taken down and edited. My opinion. When someone in the military tells you something that could get them in trouble and they tell you it is off the record, you don't need to be sharing what base they're on and what position they hold. It is very easy, from there, to narrow down the _____s on the base and to check their computer history and determine which one it is without even asking any witnesses (who are also identified indirectly, if you think about it). If this confused you, we'll note it Saturday without noting what installation, what rank or where the report came from.
Onto Iraq and the never-ending political crisis where tensions remain high among the various political blocs. Yesterday, Alsumaria reported that State of Law MP Sami al-Askari is calling Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi a failure and he told Alsumaria that the Kurds are playing up the Sunni - Shi'ite divide. Today Kurdistan Alliance MP and leader Muhsin al-Sadoun tells Alsumaria that al-Askari's remarks are not helpful and that the suffering that has taken place has been under Nouri al-Maliki's leadership as people have increasingly lost confidence in the government's ability to provide as a result of the vast corruption and the failure to provide security. al-Askari hasn't stopped trashing politicians. Al Rafidayn reports he went on Alsumaria television tonight and trashed Iraqiya's Osama al-Nujaifi who is the Speaker of Parliament. He stated that al-Nujaifi is indebted to the Kurds who pushed for him to be Speaker of Parliament, implying that he does their bidding. Iraqiya came in first in the 2010 parliamentary elections. After Nouri refused to honor the Constitution and give up the post of prime minister and Jalal was bound and determined to remain prime minister, that only left one post for the political bloc that got the most votes. Iraqiya was always going to get the spot and al-Askari knows that, he's just attempting to inflame tensions with his bitchy nature.
Yesterday Al Mada reported that Kurdistan Alliance MP Mahma Khalil had announced 150 members had signed on to the bill to limit the prime minister to two terms. At the start of 2011, when Iraq had protests going on across the country about Nouri's inability to deliver basic services or jobs and the disappearance of so many into Iraq's 'justice' system, Nouri announced he would not seek a third term. Almost immediately this was retracted though outlets like the New York Times that rushed to 'report' Nouri wouldn't seek a third term went on to 'forget' to report that the pledge had been withdrawn. Since then Nouri's attorney has repeatedly reminded the press that there is nothing that can prevent Nouri from seeking a third term. The proposed bill is an attempt to make it illegal. Among those who support this proposal? Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc.
Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) reports on the bill and notes, "Since the last American troops left Iraq nearly a year ago, the country's Shi'ite, Sunni Muslim and ethnic Kurdish parties have been caught up in a power-sharing stalemate that has left key oil and investment laws paralyzed in parliament. Kurdish parties, the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc and even some rivals in Maliki's own Shi'ite coalition failed earlier this year to trigger a vote of no confidence against a prime minister whom they accuse of consolidating power at their expense." Failed or were betrayed? Iraqiya MP Hamza Allrtani tells All Iraq News that the people should not forget that when the political blocs came up with a plan to withdraw confidence and merely needed Talabani to pass it on to Parliament, Jalal refused to do so. Dar Addustour adds that Kurdish MP Moahmmed Chihod is calling for Jalal to appear before Parliament to give a status report on his months -- since the middle of September -- of talks with political blocs to resolve the crisis. Meanwhile All Iraq News reports Jalal has declared his support of Nouri al-Maliki.
Al Mada reports that he is attempting to swarm Kirkuk with Operation Tigris. (Operation Tigris has been going on for weeks now.) Nouri has declared that the Peshmerga (Kurdish force) is in violation of the law and the Constitution by providing protection and refusing to surrender areas to his army. Those who've paid attention will remember that General Ray Odierno warned of this. It's a shame the White House refused to listen to him and took the word of the idiot Chris Hill instead. (Yes, I know, after Robert Gates set up a meeting between Odierno and Hillary Clinton, she took the issues to the Cabinet. By then, however, it was too late.) Kirkuk is disputed territory. This issue of Nouri sending in forces to disputed territory has raised its head before. In the past, the US military would mediate. What happens now?
The US press ignores it but we've covered it here. It is a major issue. He's sending the Iraqi military into disputed and oil-rich Kirkuk. In October of 2008, Corey Flintoff (NPR's All Things Considered -- link is text and audio) explained, "The potential wealth has made Kirkuk a tormented city ever since oil was discovered in 1927. Today the city's three main ethnic groups, Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens, are vying for demographic and political control." The Kurds claim Kirkuk as their own. And, at present, that's a solid claim. Does the KRG deserve Kirkuk?
Right now, it probably does. Baghdad does not. That's not taking sides on ethnic or historical grounds. That's noting that Iraq's Constitution (written and passed in 2005) outlined how Kirkuk would be resolved in Article 140: a census and referendum. Both would be held by the end of 2007. Nouri becomes Prime Minister of Iraq in spring of 2006. And refuses to implement Article 140. One of the things he promises in the contract known as the Erbil Agreement (2010) is that he will implement Article 140. Nouri has still refused to implement Article 140. When Nouri refuses to honor the Constitution he took an oath to uphold, that means, by default, the other side looks better.
This struggle has been ongoing and many think tanks have weighed in. Dropping back to the July 26, 2011 snapshot for more on this issue:
Of greater interest to us (and something's no one's reported on) is the RAND Corporation's report entitled "Managing Arab-Kurd Tensions in Northern Iraq After the Withdrawal of U.S. Troops." The 22-page report, authored by Larry Hanauer, Jeffrey Martini and Omar al-Shahery, markets "CBMs" -- "confidence-building measures" -- while arguing this is the answer. If it strikes you as dangerously simplistic and requiring the the Kurdish region exist in a vacuum where nothing else happens, you may have read the already read the report. CBMs may strike some as what the US military was engaged in after the Iraqi forces from the central government and the Kurdish peshmerga were con-
stantly at one another's throats and the US military entered into a patrol
program with the two where they acted as buffer or marriage counselor.
(And the report admits CBMs are based on that.) Sunday Prashant Rao (AFP) reported US Col Michael Bowers has announced that, on August 1st, the US military will no longer be patrolling in northern Iraq with the Kurdish forces
and forces controlled by Baghdad. That took years. And had outside actors.
The authors acknowledge:
Continuing to contain Arab-Kurd tensions will require a neutral third-party
arbitrator that can facilitate local CMBs, push for national-level negotiations,
and prevent armed conflict between Iraqi and Kurdish troops. While U.S.
civilian entities could help implement CMBs and mediate political talks, the continued presence of U.S. military forces within the disputed internal boundaries would be the most effective way to prevent violent conflict between Arabs and Kurds.
As you read over the report, you may be struck by its failure to state the obvious: If the US government really wanted the issue solved, it would have been solved in the early years of the illegal war. They don't want it solved. The Kurds have been the most loyal ally the US has had in the country and, due to that, they don't want to upset them. However, they're not going to pay back the loyalty with actual support, not when there's so much oil at stake. So the Kurds were and will continue to be told their interests matter but the US will continue to blow the Kurdish issues off over and over. Greed trumps loyalty is the message. (If you doubt it, the Constitution guaranteed a census and referendum on Kirkuk by December 31, 2007. Not only did the US government install Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister in 2006, they continued to back him for a second term in 2010 despite his failure to follow the Constitution.)
[. . .]
Page nine of the report notes that the consensus of US military, officials, analysts, etc. who have worked on the issue is that -- "given enough time -- Arab and Kurdish participants will eventually have a dispute that leads to violence, which will cause the mechanism to degrade or collapse."
The report notes that, in late 2009, Gen Ray Odierno (top US commander in Iraq at that point) had declared the tensions between Arabs and Kurds to be "the greatest single driver of instability in Iraq." It doesn't note how the US Ambassador to Iraq when Odierno made those remarks was Chris Hill who dismissed talk of tensions as well as the issue of the oil rich and disputed Kirkuk.
Operation Command Tigris is seen as a way for Baghdad to take control of Kirkuk. Al Mada notes that Kurdistan Regional President Massoud Barzani has been attempting to work out a unified opposition position with Jalal on this issue. Barzani issued a statement declaring that public opinion is against it and that they have waited for Talabani to solve the issue but no solution has come forward and what is taking place is unconstitutional. The statement is posted on the Kurdistan Regional Government's website. In the statement, Barzani notes that there were concerns and fears about the formation of the so-called Operation Command Tigris and it does nothing to help with the application of Article 140. Instead, Operation Command Tigris was formed with intentions and goals that go against the hopes of the Kurds, against the democratic process and does nothing to help the Baghdad-government and KRG get along. Barzani notes that he waited so that Talabani would have an opportunity to put into play promises he had made about stopping the situation; however, that has not come to be. All Iraq News points out that State of Law MP Jawad Albzona immediately declared Barzani's statement to be wrong and inaccurate.
Not in the statement but also pertinent, Nouri's refused to fund the peshmerga in the latest federal budget which has caused additional problems. Today Al Monitor offers an article translated from Azzaman which notes the conflict:
For their part, the Kurdish parties organized a demonstration in Kirkuk against what they described as the militarization of civil society and the deployment of the Tigris forces, formed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in Kirkuk.
Meanwhile, political sources inside Kirkuk told Azzaman that Kirkuk's population is living in terror, fearing the outbreak of armed clashes between the Tigris forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Asaish forces.
The sources said that dozens of foreign companies, especially Turkish ones, have suspended their activities and closed their doors because of the security situation. They said that the city's trade activities are experiencing a downfall.
The sources explained that the North Oil Company (NOC), which is composed of Kurdish elements, has upped the level of surveillance on oil wells and NOC department buildings in Kirkuk for fear of attack on the part of the Tigris forces, but the sources said that oil production is still normal.
Alsumaria adds that Lt. Jabbar Yawar, spokesperson for the Ministry of the Peshmerga, declared today that they would be forming two commands of the Peshmerga to lead the 12 brigades and Yawar says the development is not related to Operation Command Tigris. Currently, All Iraq News reports, Martin Kobler, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy in Iraq, is in Kirkuk discussing numerous issues including the upcoming provincial elections.
October 9th, Nouri al-Malki, prime minister of Iraq, was posing and preening on the world stage as he signed a $4.2 billion weapons deal with Russia. Over the weekend, the deal began to fall apart. Even within the Iraqi government, confusion as to what has taken place continues. Al Mada reports that Rahim Taha Taiawi took his own life last night. The teacher shot himself inside his Salahudding Province home. Why? He was said to have been in shock over Nouri's announced decision to cancel the food-ration card system. The man was said to have been worried how he would provide for his family without the system (he had 14 children). Al Mada notes that Iraq's provinces have witnesses mass demonstrations against the announced decision.
The deal was never popular with Iraqis and why would it be? Iraq still lacks dependable electricity and potable water. The food-rations program has been repeatedly cut in the items provided (and may now be gutted altogether). The people are not being served. And yet $4.2 billion was going to Russia?
StrategyPage notes, "Iraqi prime minister Maliki led the Iraqi delegation to Russia and supervised the final negotiations and signing of the deal. But once back in Iraq Maliki found himself under heavy criticism for buying weapons Iraq did not need (like 30 Mi-28 helicopter gunships.) Maliki critics pointed out that the biggest security problem Iraq had right now was Islamic and Sunni nationalist terrorists. " Alsumaria reports the head of Parliament's Integrity Committee Baha Araji states that the Committee contacted the Russian Ambassador on Monday and conveyed that corruption was their primary concern. With unnamed insiders saying 'heads could roll' over the corruption it would appear that Iraqi officials are thought to be among the corrupt (this was also a thread of Saturday's reporting). Kitabat notes that some fingers are pointing at the various Iraqi 'dignataries' who accompanied Nouri on the trip to Russia. For those who've forgotten, business people were among those traveling with Nouri as was the acting Minister of Defense, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Trade and the Chair of the Foreign Investments agency. ABC News Radio notes increased speculation that the talk of the contract being broken may be an attempt to renegotiate. Ivan Safronov and Yelena Chernenko (Worldcrunch) reviews rumors that the US wanted the deal called off and quotes multiple unnamed Russian sources including one "military source" who states, "The Americans didn't fight in Iraq for so many years to then give away the weapons market to Russia." RIA Novosti speaks with Ali Musawi, a spokesperson for Nouri, who denies rumors that the US government forced the breaking of the contract, "We are a sovereign state and we would not give into pressure. What's more, there was no pressure from Washington."
Those rumors swirled yesterday as well. If indeed this is a negotiating attempt, it's really not one to run with because Nouri has enough problems when it comes to business. Not only has Nouri's bluster and threats harmed relations with ExxonMobil and Total, Ventures reports Heritage Oil is bailing on Iraq and handing its "49% stake in the Miran gas field" to Genel Energy.
So why are the ordinarily conservative companies pushing Baghdad this way? Because the contract terms in the south are miserly -- ExxonMobil, for example, earns a measly $1.90 for each barrel it produces above and beyond a quota. That is not a respectable upside in the high-risk-high-reward fossil-fuels business. And Kurdistan is offering better terms. So, in a letter last month, Exxon told Baghdad that it hopes to have sold its stake in the supergiant West Qurna I oil field by December. For Kurdistan, the strategy is clear. In part by getting its oil industry scaled up, it hopes "to carve out more autonomy," says Joost Hiltermann, deputy Middle East director for the International Crisis Group. "That's the minimum. Ideally they want to be independent. They make no bones about that." (In an article (paywall) in Foreign Affairs, Hiltermann argues that "the Kurds will remain stuck in Iraq, but more and more on their own terms.") In line with that aim, the Kurds are reported to be in advanced talks with Abu Dhabi National Energy for a majority stake in a producing oilfield called Atrush.
Again, Iraqis should be concerned about the business face Nouri is presenting to the world. He's threatening companies, he's saying contracts worth billions of dollars are off, he's already a question mark for his refusal to honor an internal contract (the Erbil Agreement) and he's not seen as stable.
In the United States, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Her office issued the following today:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Contact: Murray Press Office
Murray Applauds Senate Passage of Veterans Cost-of-Living Increase
Sen. Murray fought hard to secure passage after an unnamed Republican blocked the traditionally non-controversial bill in September
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, announced that a bill to provide a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) of 1.7% for America's veterans has passed the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent. Senator Murray fought hard for COLA passage, after an unnamed Senate Republican blockedthetraditionally non-controversial bill in lateSeptember.The Veterans COLA will affect several important benefits, including veterans' disability compensation and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children. It is projected that over 3.9 million veterans and survivors will receive compensation benefits in Fiscal Year 2013.
"A cost-of-living increase for our veterans is well deserved," said Senator Murray. "Particularly in this difficult economy, our veterans deserve a boost in their benefits to
help make ends meet. I am so glad we were finally able to move forward with passage of this bill. Caring for our nation's veterans should never be a partisan issue."
The COLA is designed to offset inflation and other factors that lead to the rising cost of living over time. The COLA rate will match the annual increase provided to Social Security recipients and is based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index.