Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, December 19, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Jalal Talabani is said to be in better condition and prepping to transfer to Germany, a report from UNAMI notes the lack of progress on human rights, rumors float that Iraq's failing power grid is actually about to be obsolete, we look at the government report about the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, and more.
Today a report was released on the September 11, 2012 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi that resulted in the deaths of Tyrone Woods, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Chris Stevens. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee had a classified briefing today on the report. The unlcassified version has been [PDF format warning] posted online at the State Dept's website.
It's a damning and disturbing report that will probably most disturb those State Dept employees stationed overseas and their families -- including the largest State Dept mission overseas, the one in Iraq. As noted on page two of the report, "With State Department civilians at the forefront of U.S. efforts to stabilize and build capacity in Iraq, as the U.S. military draws down in Afghanistan, and with security threats growing in volatile environments where the U.S. military is not present -- from Peshawar to Bamako -- the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) is being stretched to the limit as never before."
It's hard to tell which details are the most disturbing? Take the death of the Ambassador Chris Stevens. His body can't be found -- is he alive or dead, at this point no one knows -- and, page 25 notes, after "many and repeated attempts to retrieve the Ambassador having proven fruitless and militia members warning them the SMC could not be held much longer, the Annex team departed the SMC, carrying with them the body of IMO [Sean] Smith." They left before Stevens was found -- dead or alive. Six people (presumably Libyans, labeled "good Samaritans" in the report) would find him later in the same area that "many and repeated attempts" failed to find him. He would be taken to the Benghazi Medical Center (the report states he was dead when he arrived but doctors attempted to revive him for 45 minutes) and when the US Embassy in Tripoli was notified that Stevens had been taken to the hospital? "There was some concern that the call might be a ruse to lure American personnel into a trap. With the Benghazi Medical Center (BMC) believed to be dangerous for American personnel due to the possibility attackers were being treated there, a Libyan contact of the Special Mission was dispatched to the BMC and later confirmed the
Ambassador's identity and that he was deceased."
It was not safe for American diplomats and those working with the diplomatic coprs to be stationed in Libya. It was not safe and they should not have been there. Magnify that 100 times and you have Iraq where the State Dept has its largest presence.
It was so dangerous in Libya that when the call came in that Ambassador Stevens was at the hospital -- remember, his whereabouts were unknown for hours -- the US was unable to send an American to a hospital to see if it was Stevens and if was alive or dead. That is appalling. That is a sign of how tremendously unsafe it was.
The report notes that Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were killed in "an Annex building," which "came under mortar and RPG attack." Sean Smith and Chris Stevens apparently died from smoke inhalation. The description of the two of them them in a so-called safe house which was under fire and with only one ARSO-I (Assistant Regional Security Officer-Investigator) to attempt to protect them is shocking and chilling.
Among the findings in the investigation led by former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Retired General Mike Mullen (former Chair of the Joint Chiefs)?
The attacks were security related, involving arson, small arms and machine gun fire, and the use of RPGs, grenades, and mortars against U.S. personnel at two separate facilities -- the SMC [Special Mission Compound] and the Annex -- and en route between them. Responsibility for the tragic loss of life, injuries, and damage to U.S. facilities and property rests solely and completely with the terrorists who perpetrated the attacks. The board concluded that there was no protest prior to the attacks, which were unanticipated in their scale and intensity.
There is so much incompetence on display. Let's note one section.
About 2150 local [time], the DCM was able to reach Ambassador Stevens, who briefly reported that the SMC was under attack before the call cut off. The Embassy notified Benina Airbase in Benghazi of a potential need for logistic support and aircraft for extraction and received full cooperation. The DCM contacted the Libyan Presidnt and Prime Minister's office to urge them to mobilize a rescue effort, and kept Washington apprised of post's efforts. The Embassy also reached out to Libyan Air Froce and Armed Forces contacts, February 17 leadership, and UN and third country embassies, among others. Within hours, Embassy Tripoli charted a private airplane and deployed a seven-person secruity team, which included two U.S. military personnel to Benghazi.
At the direction of the U.S. military's Africa Command (AFRICOM), DoD moved a remotely piloted, unarmed surveillance aircraft relieved the first, and monitored the eventual evacuation of personnel from the Annex to Benghazi airport later on the morning of September 12.
Let's again note this is the unclassified report. Additional details are in the classified report. If there are additional details to the above, they need to be revealed immediately because, as it stands, everything in the two paragraphs above except for Chris Stevens' phone call, is wrong -- not a little wrong, life-threatening wrong.
The scramble being described above is for an extraction. As the public report reads, extraction was the priority. A US Ambassador is on the phone with you telling you that his consulate is under attack and the line goes dead and your first throught is "extraction"?
No, not if you're following protocol. Protocol wasn't followed as the unclassified report presents events. Let's be clear, even with the extraction, protocol wasn't followed. The scramble being described for several hours inside Libya but outside Benghazi? Did no one receive training or did they just ignore training? There are SOPs in writing [Standard Operation Procedure outlines] of what to do in these cases. There should have been no scramble on extraction, the existing SOP should have been followed and if someone was too stupid to know what that was, again, it is written down. But extraction shouldn't have been the Tripoli staff's chief concern. A consulate was under attack and the safety of the people at the consulate (and annex) should have been the primary concern. Doesn't matter if a number of them were CIA (and there were a number of CIA present). Attempting to secure their safety should have been the primary focus for Tripoli with extraction being the secondary focus -- a distant second.
There was no knowledge of what was going on, who was alive, who was dead, and you're focused on extraction? Let's remember too that Tripoli wasn't under attack.
Valerie Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, wouldn't have made the mistakes that appear to have been made (the classified report will have more details and may explain the above). When he was going up against Sadam Hussein, he wouldn't have been channeling all efforts into an extraction while other Americans in the country were under attack. This is appalling.
This is disgusting for the message it currently sends State Dept employees who are overseas. Let's take Iraq. There's an attack on the US in Basra. Baghdad gets the call and instead of addressing the attack and trying to ensure the security and safety of those under attack, Baghdad runs around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to figure out how to order an extraction for Baghdad.
That is insane. Public hearings start tomorrow. This needs to be addressed and US diplomatic staff and those working to protect them in foreign countries need to know that, if an attack takes place, the response will be to rescue them, not for the unattacked to figure how to quickly leave the country.
As we move over to Iraq, let's stay with government reports. The Kuwait Times offers "US reducing military presence in Kuwait" and that's misleading. Their report is based on a Congressional Research Services report [PDF format warning] entitled "Kuwait: Security, Reform, and US Policy." In fairness to them, they are documenting a report -- not about the US leaving Kuwait -- that is either sloppily written or intentionally misleading. Has the number of US troops in Kuwait (which borders Iraq) gone down? They've dropped down to 13,500 which is what was expected. The CRS report notes, "A staff report of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee published June 19, 2012, said that the United States will keep about 13,500 troops in Kuwait as of mid-late 2012 -- somewhat less than 25,000 there during the U.S. presence in Iraq." We covered that report in the June 19th snapshot, it's [PDF format warning] "The Gulf Security Architecture: Partnership With The Gulf Co-Operation Council." So what has changed since that report was published?
Nothing. Nothing has changed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee report was published. If there was news to be found, it was some time ago. 15,000 as the high point has been true throughout 2012. The report in the Kuwait paper makes you believe there's been a development -- and that attitude can be found in the CRS report but that's not accurate.
Another issue -- and like the one before, it came up in the e-mails to the public account. DM raises this job listing on Kolkata. The listing is under the heading "Labor jobs for US Army in Kurdistan." It's full time, requires knowledge of English (but not Kurdish) and promises "Labor jobs in Kurdistan for US Army good salary Free food Accomadtion reasonable service charge . . ." This isn't a job for a member of the US Army. That of course wouldn't be posted by a third party. DoD would do the assingments. What it appears to be is a job (or jobs) in the KRG that would be assisting the US Army. And, if the ad is correct (and I have no reason to believe it's not), what it appears is that the US government is looking for cheap labor to work with the US Army in the KRG.
The Kurdistan Regional Government is three semi-autonoumous provinces in nothern Iraq. Many people live there and it is where Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and First Lady Hero Ibrahim Ahmed make their home. Today's Iraqi news cycle continues to be dominated by news and speculation about Jalal. The 79-year-old was rushed to a hospital in Baghdad late Monday evening. Nouri al-Maliki's spokespeople have stated Talabani was suffering a stroke. Talabani's people have not identified the health issue.
This morning, All Iraq News reported that First Lady Hero Ibrahim Ahmed issued a statement on her husband's condition noting that it is improving and crediting Divine Providence and the medical team for the improvements. She denied that he was in a coma and stated that a team of doctors from Germany were due to arrive shortly and that they would be working with local doctors (led by the Chief of ICU Dr. Ayad Abass) and a team of British doctors who had already arrived. She stated that there was no plan to transfer her husband to another country for medical treatment. Hurriyet Daily News notes that "Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan offered to send ambulance plane to Iraq to bring Talabani for treatment in Turkey." Despite the assertion of the First Lady, All Iraq News quoted one of Talabani's doctors saying they are planning to move him to Germany on Thursday. Kitabat also reports that there is a plan to transfer Talabani. Hours later, everyone was reporting that transfer would take place. Al Jazeera quoted Najmaldin Karim ("governor Iraq's Kirkuk city who is also part of the president's medical team) stating that the move would take place "within 24 hours." BBC News quotes Talabani's spokesperson Barazan Sheikh Othman stating that he will leave Baghdad for Germany either tomorrow or Friday.
Al Mada notes that most recently he was in Germany (back in June) and stayed there until September. At the time, it was stated that he was having knee surgery. (Which may be true.) The Iraq Times and Kitabat are both reporting that insiders are saying the collapse Monday night followed a verbal altercation with Nouri al-Maliki. According to an unnamed source or unnamed sources with Talabani's office, Nouri arrived last Monday evening at Talabani's office and as the political crisis was discussed, Jalal called for Nouri to lower the rhetoric (as he has done publicly) but he was referring to what Nouri was stating to him at that moment. This call to lower the rhetoric was met by a "violent explosion" from Nouri who called into question whether Jalal was able to be impartial or neutral. Nouri is said to have brought up the effort last spring to seek a no-confidence vote on Nouri in Parliament. Jalal is said to have remained civil, asked that Nouri consider the options for resolving the crisis, Nouri was shown out and as soon as he was out of the office, Jalal complained of ill health.

Naseer al-Ani is part of the president's staff and Kitabat reports on the press conference he held Turesday evening at Baghdad's Medical City Hospital noting Talabani remained in intensive care but stated he was doing better. In the press conference, he continued the policy of not identifying the president's condition and of not using the term "stroke." As Turkish Weekly notes, "a health emergency" is the popular term used by Talabani's staff. Adam Schreck (AP) observes, "Talabani's doctors have not formally said that the 79-year-old statesman suffered a stroke, though several government officials have publicly confirmed that is the case." Citing an unnamed medical source, All Iraq News states that Jalal moved his hand this morning and that this is seen as a good sign by his team of doctors. The Voice of Russia quotes one of Jalal's staff, media official Barzan Sheikh Othman, stating this morning, "Thanks be to God, the president is in good condition and he is improving hour after hour."
Dar Addustour points out the conflicting reports yesterday and it most likely will be that way again today. Deutsche Welle notes, "He has suffered poor health in recent years, traveling to the US for heart surgery in 2008 and being treated for dehydration and fatigue in Jordan in 2007." Deutsche Welle also notes, "As a Kurd, he is seen as a mediator to bridge divisions between the country's majority Shiite and minotiry Sunni Muslim communities." And that role being empty has some worried. As Ruth noted last night:
Jalal Talabani is a Kurd. The top positions of power in Iraq are the prime minister, the speaker of Parliament, and the president. Since 2006, Iraq's Constitution is voted into effect at the end of 2005 and Parliamentary elections are held then as well, the presidency has gone to Mr. Talabani (a Kurd), the Speaker has been a Sunni (since 2011 it has been Osama al-Nujaifi), and a Shi'ite has been prime minister (Nouri al-Maliki). Because of that division, which is not required in the Constitution, it is assumed that should Mr. Talabani step down before his term expire or should he pass away, the replacement selected by Parliament (not the temporary one before Parliament can vote) should be a Kurd. As C.I. explains in the snapshot, leading contenders are said to include Hoshyar Zebari who is the current Foreign Minister and the deputy in Mr. Talabani's political party (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) Barham Salhi.

If Talabani has to step down and isn't replaced by a Kurd, that could cause tensions, said Marina Ottaway, a senior associate in the Middle East program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington policy group.
"Talabani was a mediating influence because he managed to keep a foot in both camps," Ottaway said in a telephone interview. "There's no doubt he's a Kurdish nationalist, but he also was Iraq's president and he managed to straddle the line."
Talabani's health, UPI noted, is an issue now because there is a "risk of a deterioration in Iraq's fractious and often violent politics centers of a simmering confrontation between government forces controlled by Prim Minsiter Nouri al-Maliki and Peshmerga fighters of the semiautonomous Kurdish enclave over disputed territory in nothern Iraq." Tensions between Baghdad and Erbil have never been greater. You have the unresolved issue of oil because Nouri never passed that oil and gas law he promised he would back in 2007 when he signed off on the White House benchmarks. Oil companies prefer the KRG at this point. That angers Nouri. The Constitution decreed, Article 140, that disputed areas in Iraq would be resolved by census and referendum..Nouri became prime minister in 2006, the constitution mandated he fix the issue by 2007. He refused to implement Article 140. His promise had been written into the Erbil Agreement (US-brokered contract that ended the 8 month political stalemate during which Nouri threw a public tantrum because Iraqiya got more votes than Nouri's State of Law). On top of those crises, Nouri recently sent the Tigris Operation Command forces into the disputed areas which the Kurds saw as Nouri attempting to use force to claim the disputed provinces for Baghdad.
Nuri al-Maliki's government in Baghdad, dominated by Shia Muslims, has unwisely pushed Turkey into this oily Kurdish embrace. Mr Maliki's close ties to Iran and support for President Bashar Assad in Syria have angered Turkey's government and convinced it not to rely on Iraq. The refuge offered by Turkey to Tariq al-Hashemi, Iraq's vice-president, who was sentenced to death in absentia by a court in Baghdad in September, has also upset Mr Maliki, who has duly insulted Turkey's leaders. In November his government expelled Turkey's state oil company from a block in Iraq, plainly out of political spite. In December he ordered his air-traffic controllers to deny landing rights to Turkey's energy minister, Taner Yildiz, who was en route to Erbil for an investor conference.
Iraq's central government seems bent on wrecking the Kurds' thriving oil industry, saying that their regional government has no legal authority to export oil independently or sign contracts with developers. The government in Baghdad has delayed payments to Iraqi Kurdistan's oil producers, who say they are owed about $1.5 billion. Some explorers fret that they will never recoup their cash. Pars Kutay, an executive at Genel Energy, a Turkish oil-producer in Kurdistan, says that depending for payment on Iraq's central authorities is like "pumping oil into a black hole". Kurdish oil exports are now said to have collapsed to around 30,000 b/d.
For six long years, Nouri al-Maliki has been prime minister and Iraq's got very little to show for it. In terms of investment? Joao Peixe (Oil Price) observes, "It has been nine years since US-led forces toppled Saddam Hussein's dictatorship in Iraq and yet due to various deep-routed problems few have capitalised on plan's to revive the nation's economy or rebuild its infrastructure. Even specialists in frontier markets are giving the Middle Eastern state a wide berth." Back in the early days of the war, after the US bombing had destroyed (further destroyed) Iraq's infrastructure, there were promises about how it would be fixed and fixed quickly. Iraqis still lack basic public services today. Alsumaria reports that the electriticy crisis has become the puzzle with no solution and that Iraq continues to depend upon Iran for importing electricity. Meanwhile the Iraq Times reports that despite claims that next year will see a marked improvement in electricity, officials are saying the reality is that the power grid is in danger of collapsing and that the Dawa political party (Nouri's political party) is decieving the people about the coming problems. The Gulf News observes, "Yet, despite being a country with large oil reserves wealthy enough to guarantee a steady income for its people, Iraq has failed to utilise this resource efficiently. As a matter of fact, the political changes in the country have only brought about an increase in corruption and an alarming misuse of public funds."
Nouri certainly hasn't brought safety to Iraq. Nor has he protected human rights. UNHCR released the "Report on Human Rights in Iraq: January to June 2012" today. We'll cover the report tomorrow. Today, we'll note this from the UN News Centre:
The United Nations human rights chief today called on Iraq to move towards abolishing the death penalty, saying – in response to the latest periodic report on Iraq's human rights record – that the rate of executions in the country this year "cannot be justified."
"I would like to stress that, under international law, the death penalty is permitted in very limited circumstances, including after trial and appeal proceedings that scrupulously respect all the principles of due process," said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, in her comments on the Report on Human Rights in Iraq: January to June 2012, released today.
"The number of executions so far in 2012, and the manner in which they have been carried out in large batches, is extremely dangerous, cannot be justified, and risks seriously undermining the partial and tentative progress on rule of law in Iraq outlined in this report," she added, according to a news release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI).
Iraq, which retains the death penalty for a large number of crimes, executed 70 people in the first six months of this year, compared to 67 for the whole of 2011, and 18 in 2010, according to the 46-page report, produced by UNAMI – a UN political mission established by the UN Security Council in 2003 at the invitation of the Government of Iraq – in cooperation with OHCHR.
"I encourage the Iraqi Government to declare a moratorium on all executions, with a view to abolishing the death penalty in the near future," Ms. Pillay said.
The human rights chief also called on the Iraqi authorities to address other "serious human rights violations" highlighted in the report, which, as with earlier reports, reflects information gathered by UNAMI from the mission's on-site monitoring.
Dropping back to yesterday's snapshot:
Kitabat reports that, according to Nineveh Province Governor Ethel Nujaifi, a young girl was raped by a lieutenant in the Iraqi military. A judge ordered the officer's arrest but the Iraqi military has refused to turn him over. The Ministry of Defense is the one refusing. (The Ministry of Defense is headed by Nouri al-Maliki since he refused to nominate someone for the post and allow Parliament to confirm the nomineee.) Still on the topic of rape, Kitabat reports that Iraqiya MP Hamid al-Mutlaq revealed today that federal prosecutors have presented pre-liminary evidence to the Supreme Judicial Council that, prosecutors argue, prove that women are being raped and tortured in Iraqi prisons. As we noted when this scandal was breaking, Nouri has been very lucky and able to walk away from many scandals unscathed but Iraqis will not let this one pass by. Instead of attacking those who brought it up publicly, Nouri should have been announcing that he was addressing it and fixing it.
On the rape, Alsumaria reports Major General Ali Furaiji, commander of the Iraqi army's second division, declared today that the rape is being exploited for political purposes. They need to learn how to damage control. The first words out of your mouth are sympathies for the rape victim -- especially when she's under the age of 18. At CounterCurrents, Dirk Adriaensens covers the prison issue noting:




On 12 December the Sadrist movement submitted a request to the Public Prosecutor to issue an arrest warrant against the Minister of Justice Hassan Shammari and other officials in the ministry, for preventing the Iraqi MP's from visiting prisons after they received information about the existence of torture and rape of some of the inmates.

Justice Minister Hassan Shammari responded on 13 December by filing a lawsuit against the Liberal bloc deputies for "overriding" the staff of the ministry during performing their duties, demanding the political blocs to "refrain from pushing the ministry into their conflicts," he said, and added that "the ministry will not remain silent on abuses against its staff."

Despite the fact that the House of Representatives voted on 20 November to form a committee to investigate the situation of female detainees, the problem has not been solved. Although there are leaked judicial reports that indicate the involvement of security personnel in systematic torture and rape of women prisoners, the Committee didn't find a real case of rape, only "threats of rape".

The Iraqi Interior Ministry denied in a report of 28 November that women are arrested without arrest warrants and tortured to extract confessions against their husbands. The Ministry said that all detainees had been lawfully arrested with legal arrest warrants issued by the judiciary system, and invited the local and international committees to visit its detaining centers to verify these "lies and false allegations."

The Parliamentary Commission on Human Rights held on 28 November the executive bodies of prisons fully responsible for the proven cases of torture against detainees, and called on women who were released to start legal proceedings to condemn the officers and persons who assaulted them. The Interior Ministry denied the accusation of such "heinous acts" and called upon the local and international committees to verify the allegations related to the conditions in detention.

On 21 November The Ministry of Justice denied it is responsible for the torture and rape of women to obtain confessions, indicating that the interrogation operations conducted in prisons are the responsibility of the Ministries of Defence and Interior.

And that is Nouri's Iraq. And that is Nouri's fault. And if the Ministry of Defense or Interior is responsible, who would be the person responsible? Did you guess Nouri? You're right. Back in July, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support." Those positions have remained empty. So he is in charge of the ministries. Are you starting to get why, a few weekends back, Nouri threatened to have MPs discussing the abuse arrested?

Through Monday, Iraq Body Count counts 186 people killed by violence in Iraq so far this month. IBC's count for this (ongoing) month is already greater than the official count by the Iraqi government ministries for November's death toll. Violence continued today. Alsumaria reports 1 Peshmerga and 1 civilian were killed in a Kirkuk attack, 1 employee of the Ministry of Industry was shot dead outside of Baghdad, and that, in Anbar Province, assailants who kidnapped 1 contractor and six oil workers got into a clash with Iraqi soldiers leaving two soldiers injured.