Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, December 11, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Moqtada al-Sadr's supporters take to the streets of Baghdad and Basra, tensions continue between Baghdad and Erbil, we go over the Memorandum of Understanding between the US and Iraq (and do so slowly for the Cult of St. Barack), the State Dept loved al Qaeda in Iraq when Barack wanted war on Libya but they feel differently today, and more.
In Basra and Baghdad today, protests took place against Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.  Al Mada reports photos of Nouri were burned and he was denounced loudly.  As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Nouri used a Monday speech allegedly about human rights to attack Moqtada al-Sadr -- cleric and movement leader.  Dar Addustour adds "thousands" poured into the streets in Baghdad at two o'clock in the afternoon.  As they marched to a central location, Muzaffar Square, they chanted slogans.  Nouri can take comfort in that his wasn't the only photo burned -- there were also a few photos of former leader Saddam Hussein that were set on fire.   All Iraq News notes that as the protests took place, Moqtada al-Sadr issued a statement noting that the Iraqi army must be armed but not via corrupt deals (like the Russian deal Nouri signed and then called off) and that all arms must be to defend Iraq and not used to attack Iraqis.  Please note that all three previous links have a photo of the turnout in Baghdad, it was huge.  Just how large it was may be best captured in the photo Kitabat runs.  At the Basra protest, Sheikh Khalid al-Issawi tells Al Mada that the protest is to convey the outrage over Nouri's verbal attack on Moqtada while, in Baghdad, Sheikh Taha Altablawbawi explains that the people of Sadr City, elders, intellectuals, children, all, are serving notice that attacks on Moqtada al-Sadr will not go unnoticed and will result in a response. Protester Sam Abdul-Mahdi tells Alsumaria that this is the start of protests in Basra and that Nouri should retract his attack on Moqtada.  The Iraq Times reports that Nouri ordered helicopters to fly overhead during the Baghdad protest and that some Sadrists saw that as an attempt at intimidation.
Al Mada reports that Iraqiya is warning that if changes do not take place in Iraq quickly, popular uprisings will take to the streets.  Protests were taking place around Iraq in January.  Demonstrators were calling out the disappearance of their loved ones into the 'justice system,' they were calling out the lack of jobs and the lack of basic services.  This swelled into the massive protests that took place across Iraq February 25th.  Iraqis took to the streets and, in Baghdad, Nouri sent his forces to attack.  Iraqi reporters were kidnapped by the police after covering the protests, they were then tortured and forced to sign statements saying they had not been tortured.  Haidi al-Mahdi was one of those reporters.  It was after the protests, he and some other reporters were ordering lunch and seated a table when Nouri's forces barged over, used the butt of their guns to strike people and rounded up Haidi and the other reporters.
NPR's Kelly McEvers interviewed Hadi for Morning Edition after he had been released and she noted he had been "beaten in the leg, eyes, and head." He explained that he was accused of attempting to "topple" Nouri al-Maliki's government -- accused by the soldiers under Nouri al-Maliki, the soldiers who beat him.  Excerpt:
Hadi al-Mahdi: I replied, I told the guy who was investigating me, I'm pretty sure that your brother is unemployed and the street in your area is unpaved and you know that this political regime is a very corrupt one.
Kelly McEvers: Mahdi was later put in a room with what he says were about 200 detainees, some of them journalists and intellectuals, many of them young protesters.
Hadi al-Mahdi: I started hearing voices of other people.  So, for instance, one guy was crying, another was saying, "Where's my brother?" And a third one was saying, "For the sake of God, help me."
Kelly McEvers: Mahdi was shown lists of names and asked to reveal people's addresses.  He was forced to sign documents while blindfolded.  Eventually he was released.  Mahdi says the experience was worse than the times he was detained under Saddam Hussein.  He says the regime that's taken Sadam's place is no improvement on the past. This, he says, should serve as a cautionary tale for other Arab countries trying to oust dictators. 
Hadi al-Mahdi: They toppled the regime, but they brought the worst -- they brought a bunch of thieves, thugs, killers and corrupt people, stealers.
As the protests continued, Nouri's thugs only grew more violent and, with the exception of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and CNN, those outside of Iraq rushed to look the other way.  This allowed the political assassination of Hadi to take place on September 8, 2011.
Mohamed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported, "Hadi al-Mehdi was inside his apartment on Abu Nawas street in central Baghdad when gunmen shot him twice with silencer-equipped pistols, said the ministry official, who did not want to be identified because he is not authorized to speak to media."  It was a political assassination. Hadi continued to champion, organize and participate in the Friday protests.  Over a year later, no one has been arrested.  There were video cameras on the street outside Haidi's apartment.  His killer(s) would have been on camera.  It's apparently been to Nouri's own self-interest not to arrest the killer(s) of Hadi al-Mahdi.
All Iraq News notes that MP Awad al-Awadi (with the Sadr bloc) has delcared that they have seen no improvement in Nouri's government since the talk of a withdrawal of confidence vote in the Parliament.  

Al Mada observes that, come April, Nouri will have been prime minister for seven years and that during this time, Iraq has seen no imporvement in the average Iraqi's life and that the policies implemented favor elites and indicate the emergence of yet another strong-man leader, one who seeks to control everything.  Nouri has ignored the Constitution, the article explains, and has openly, since 2009, stated his intent to change the rules as he attacked diversity and pluralism as well as attacking the role Parliament is supposed to play in law making and oversight.  The article notes his attacks on Iraqi protesters, his demanding recounts in 2010 when he was unhappy with the results,  the concerns about how he will behave after the people vote in the provincial elections (scheduled for this April), his secret prisons and much more. 
Along with everything else,  tensions continue between Baghdad and Erbil over Nouri and his Tigris Operation Command forces.  Rudaw speaks with KRG Chief of Staff Fuad Hussein.  Excerpt:

Rudaw: Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, is taking stronger positions against Kurds day after day, but the Kurds insist on negotiations. What is the reason behind this soft policy of the Kurds?

Fuad Hussein: Kurdish soft policy is not a result of weakness, but rather from the belief that problems can be solved through negotiations. However, Kurds also have prepared for a war, in case it happens.

Rudaw: Is Maliki willing to solve the problems through negotiations?

Fuad Hussein: We have had many negotiations with Maliki, and signed many agreements. But the problem is that he does not abide by the agreements. What is clear is that Maliki is preparing for war. When he prepares for war, the Kurds have the right to prepare for self-defense.
All Iraq News adds that a spokesperson for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan political party declared today that Nouri is only interested in blaming the Kurds and aggravating the situation, not in resolving it.  Meanwhile Ben Van Heuvelen (Washington Post) reports that the US government is seriously concerned that the developing relationship between the KRG and the government of Turkey could strengthen the independence of the Kurdistan Regional Government:
Kurdish and Turkish leaders have had a budding courtship for the past five years. But now Turkey is negotiating a massive deal in which a new Turkish company, backed by the government, is proposing to drill for oil and gas in Kurdistan and build pipelines to transport those resources to international markets. The negotiations were confirmed by four senior Turkish officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of political sensitivities.
 "Turkey hasn't needed to ask what we think of this, because we tell them at every turn," said a senior U.S. official involved in Middle East policymaking, speaking anonymously because he was not authorized to talk with the press. The official said any bilateral energy deals with Kurdistan would "threaten the unity of Iraq and push [Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki closer to Iran."
As we've noted here repeatedly, the Kurds need to stop trusting the US government.  Since Barack Obama became president, the Kurds have been repeatedly lied to, made to sacrifice with the promise that Nouri would as well only to find out that they gave in but Nouri didn't.  For Nouri to have a second term as prime minister, the US government brokered the Erbil Agreement.  They had to do that because Nouri didn't have the votes for a second term.  So the US government drew up this agreement wherein the political blocs allowed Nouri a second term and Nouri allowed each political bloc various concessions.  The White House, in November 2010, swore that this contract was legal and binding and had the full force of the US presidency behind it.  So the political blocs signed on.  Then Nouri used the Erbil Agreement to get his second term and then he trashed the Erbil Agreement.  He refused to follow it.  And the White House didn't complain and didn't object.  The White House doesn't give a damn about the Kurds.  The White House continues to court the puppet Nouri.  When you put a crazy insane person in charge of a country (as Bully Boy Bush did in 2006 and as Barack did again in 2010), you have to make sure crazy is happy all the time or he could explode.  He's the spoiled child throwing the tantrum that the White House rushes to comfort while ignoring other people in the room.  We've said it before, it's past time for the Kurds to stop trusting the US government.  It has betrayed the Kurds non-stop since 2009.  It will continue to do so.
Moving on to the topic of violence, Alsumaria reports that an armed attack in Baquba today claimed the life of 1 Sahwa,  and Abbas Abdul Hadi Tai was shot dead (repeatedly) in his Diyala Province home, he is the brother of the Deputy Officer of the Islamic Party. All Iraq News adds that an armed attack in Mosul left 1 police officer dead and another injured.   And Alsumaria notes a Baghdad suicide car bombing has claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers and left two more injured. 
This morning, the US State Dept issue the following:
Victoria Nuland
Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
December 11, 2012
The Department of State has amended the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 designations of al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI) to include the following new aliases: al-Nusrah Front, Jabhat al-Nusrah, Jabhet al-Nusra, The Victory Front, and Al-Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant. The Department of State previously designated AQI as an FTO under the Immigration and Nationality Act and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under E.O. 13224 on October 15, 2004. The consequences of adding al-Nusrah Front as a new alias for AQI include a prohibition against knowingly providing, or attempting or conspiring to provide, material support or resources to, or engaging in transactions with, al-Nusrah Front, and the freezing of all property and interests in property of the organization that are in the United States, or come within the United States or the control of U.S. persons.
Since November 2011, al-Nusrah Front has claimed nearly 600 attacks – ranging from more than 40 suicide attacks to small arms and improvised explosive device operations – in major city centers including Damascus, Aleppo, Hamah, Dara, Homs, Idlib, and Dayr al-Zawr. During these attacks numerous innocent Syrians have been killed. Through these attacks, al-Nusrah has sought to portray itself as part of the legitimate Syrian opposition while it is, in fact, an attempt by AQI to hijack the struggles of the Syrian people for its own malign purposes. AQI emir Abu Du'a is in control of both AQI and al-Nusrah. Abu Du'a was designated by the State Department under E.O. 13224 on October 3, 2011, and by the United Nations under UN Security Council Resolution 1267 on October 5, 2011. Abu Du'a also issues strategic guidance to al-Nusrah's emir, Abu Muhammad al-Jawlani, and tasked him to begin operations in Syria.
The United States takes this action in the context of our overall support for the Syrian people. We have provided approximately $50 million in non-lethal assistance to the unarmed civilian opposition and nearly $200 million in humanitarian assistance to those affected by the violence in Syria. The violent, sectarian vision of al-Nusrah is at odds with the aspirations of the Syrian people, including the overwhelming majority of the Syrian opposition, who seek a free, democratic, and inclusive Syria and have made clear their desire for a government that respects and advances national unity, dignity, human rights, and equal protection under the law – regardless of faith, ethnicity, or gender. Extremism and terrorist ideology have no place in a post-Asad Syria, and all responsible Syrians should speak out against al-Qa'ida and other extremist elements. By opting for the use of force against its own people, the Asad regime has created the circumstances that attract the violent extremists of al Qa'ida, who seek to exploit civil strife for their own purposes. The sooner the political transition to a post-Asad Syria begins, the better it will be for the Syrian people and the region.
In a ridiculous press conference at the State Dept today, Victoria Nuland insisted that it was the responsibility of Syrians to know the 'intent' of those wanting to help them.  Not since Bully Boy Bush claimed to have seen the naked soul of Vladimir Putin by looking into Putin's eyes has such a stupid statement been made by the US government.  Arwa Damon and Tim Lister (CNN) offer, "Rebels in brigades fighting around Aleepo have told CNN that the move is a miscalulation.  Their argument goes something like this: 'The U.S. and the West in general have given us next to no help while we've witnessed thousands die at the hands of Bashar al-Assad's heavy weaponry and dominance of the skies'." It would, of course, be too much to expect Arwa Damon to point out the obvious: US government says al Qaeda in Iraq bad in Syria but armed them for Barack's war on Libya.   John Glaser (Antiwar.com) reports the move was unpopular within Syria and notes that US government's decision to recognize what they have called "Syria's main opposition group" is the US government recognizing "largely another exile group without strong roots inside the country, and vehemently rejected by the armed rebel groups fighting the Assad regime on the ground in Syria."
In yesterday's snapshot, we covered the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department of Defense of the United States of America.  Angry, dysfunctional e-mails from Barack-would-never-do-that-to-me criers indicate that we need to go over the Memo a little bit more.  It was signed on Thursday and announced that day by the Pentagon.   Section two (listed in full in yesterday's snapshot) outlines that the two sides have agreed on: the US providing instructors and training personnel and Iraq providing students, Iraqi forces and American forces will work together on counterterrorism and on joint exercises.   The tasks we just listed go to the US military being in Iraq in larger numbers.  Obviously the two cannot do joint exercises or work together on counterterrorism without US military present in Iraq.
This shouldn't be surprising.  In the November 2, 2007 snapshot -- five years ago -- we covered the transcript of the interview Michael R. Gordon and Jeff Zeleny did with then-Senator Barack Obama who was running in the Democratic Party's primary for the party's presidential nomination -- the transcript, not the bad article the paper published, the actual transcript.  We used the transcript to write "NYT: 'Barack Obama Will Keep Troops In Iraq'" at Third.  Barack made it clear in the transcript that even after "troop withdrawal" he would "leave behind a residual force."  What did he say this residual force would do?  He said, "I think that we should have some strike capability.  But that is a very narrow mission, that we get in the business of counter terrorism as opposed to counter insurgency and even on the training and logistics front, what I have said is, if we have not seen progress politically, then our training approach should be greatly circumscribed or eliminated."
This is not withdrawal.  This is not what was sold to the American people.  Barack is very lucky that the media just happened to decide to take that rather explosive interview -- just by chance, certainly the New York Times wasn't attempting to shield a candidate to influence an election, right? -- could best be covered with a plate of lumpy, dull mashed potatoes passed off as a report.  In the transcript, Let-Me-Be-Clear Barack declares, "I want to be absolutely clear about this, because this has come up in a series of debates: I will remove all our combat troops, we will have troops there to protect our embassies and our civilian forces and we will engage in counter terrorism activities."
So when the memo announces counterterrorism activies, Barack got what he wanted, what he always wanted, what the media so helpfully and so frequently buried to allow War Hawk Barack to come off like a dove of peace.
In Section Four of the Memo, both parties acknowledge that to achieve these things they may need further documentation and that such documenation will be done as attachments "to this MOU."  Thse would include things like "medical reports" for "dispatched personnel."  Oh, some idiot says, they mean State Dept personnel.  No, they don't.  The US is represented in this Memo by the Defense Dept.  This refers to DoD personnel.  They may also need an attachment to go over "procedures for recalling dispatched personnel," and possibly for covering "the death of dispatched personnel with the territory of the host country."  The Memo can run for five years from last Thursday (when it was signed) and, after five years, it can renewed every year afterwards.  US troops could be in Iraq forever.  The kill clause in this differs from the SOFA.  The 2008 SOFA had a kill clause that meant, one year after notification of wanting out of the SOFA, the SOFA would be no more.  The Memo doesn't require lead time notice.  Instead, "Either Participant may discontinue this MOU at any time, though the Participant should endeavor to provide advance notice of its intent to discontinue the MOU to the other Participant."
Again, Barack got what he wanted.  He'd stated what he wanted in 2007.  He got it.  If your life's goal is to cheer Barack -- that is the goal of the Cult of St. Barack -- start cheering and stop whining that Barack's been misrepresented.  The Memo gives him everything he wanted so, for Barack, it's a victory.  For those who believe in peace, for those who believe the US military should be out of Iraq, it's a tragedy.
More time and space and we'd be covering the Central Bank and the preparation for April's elections as well as Victoria Nuland on the proposed oil and gas law in Iraq.  Instead, we'll close by noting radio in the US.  Susanna Hoffs' Someday came out this summer.  Kat raved over it here.  It is a great album and Susanna's finest.   Susanna's a guest on NPR's World Cafe today and she talks about the new album and performs two songs from the album live.  (She also performs a cover of Jackie DeShannon's "When You Walk In The Room.")  Susanna first came to public attention as a guitarist and vocalist with the Bangles whose hits include "Manic Monday," "Walk Like An Egyptian," "In Your Room," "Eternal Flame," "Hazy Shade Of Winter," "If She Knew What She Wants" and "Walking Down Your Street."