Thursday, June 27, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, June 27, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Martin Kobler calls out the violence (while madly packing), Hoshyar Zebari delivers a major speech to the UN Security Council, Iraq is taken off Chapter VII (but it's not the celebration moment some see it as), we look at The Erbil Agreement and Ayad Allawi's comments to the BBC about "the Americans," and more.

Today in New York, at the United Nations Security Council, Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari spoke at length about Iraq and leaving Chapter VII.  Excerpt.

Minister Hoshyar Zebari:  Mr. President, at the outset, allow me to thank you for holding this important meeting.  I should also like to express my thanks and my appreciation to the countries that sponsored this resolution and contributed to its enrichment as well as to our friends, the member of the Security Council, that voted to adopt it.  I cannot fail to express my country's gratitude to the Secretary General for his report and document S/2013/357 which contains important proposals and analyses as well as the efforts of the United Nations Mission for Assistance in Iraq -- UNAMI -- led by Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mr. [Martin] Kolber for its efforts in fulfilling the requirements of its mandate in Iraq, as well as to the state and government of  Kuwait for it's support and assistance to Iraq to emerge from the provisions of Chapter VII.  [. . .] Mr. President, your august council is meeting today to adopt a resolution which falls within the context of a number of resolutions and measures taken by the Security Council to remove Iraq from under the provisions of Chapter VII of the United Nations' charter.  In carefully looking at the past few years, we can see how far Iraq has come along the path of constructive cooperation with the objective of enabling it to finally fulfill all of its obligations under Security Council resolutions.  Our foreign policy and international relations have mainly focused on the means of ridding the people and the country of Iraq of the burden placed by those resolutions.  Such burdens would never have been imposed on Iraq had it not been for the aggressive policies of the former regime, policies of waging wars against its neighbors and internally repressing its own people.  Those resolutions have been an obstacle on Iraq's road toward progress, prosperity and regional and international integration.  In looking back at our achievements over the past few years and Iraq regaining its international standing, as it was prior to the adoption of Resolution 661 of 1990, we take note of a crucial resolution: Resolution 1762 of 2007 which ended the mandate of the United Nations condition on Monitoring, Verification and Inspection  Commission -- UNMOVIC.  That resolution strengthened the sovereignty of Iraq and lifted the weight of political constraints from the country.  It was a resolution that paved the way for Iraq's return to the regional and international communities and contributed to the stability of our region.  That resolution represented the international community's recognition of the correct approach taken by Iraq in fulfilling its obligations in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation.  It is with great pride that Iraq currently chairs the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.  This confirms the validity of the path that Iraq has taken -- particularly following the ratification of the Additional Protocol to the Safeguard Agreements for the International Atomic Energy Agency -- IAEA -- and the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.  Mr. President, your esteemed council further decided in its Resolution 1859 of 2008 to review those resolutions pertaining to the situation between Iraq and Kuwait and the situation in Iraq in order to identify together  the mutual obligations corresponding to the international community as represented by your esteemed council and those of Iraq.  As result the Security Council adopted three important resolutions on the 15th of December 2010: Resolutions 1956, 1957 and 1958.  According to which, all of Iraq's obligations were ended with the exception of three issues relating to the situation between Iraq and Kuwait.  Namely, one, the issue of missing Kuwaitis and property; two, the maintenance of border markers; and, thirdly, that of compensation.  With regard to the first issue, significant progress has been achieved within bilateral cooperation between the two countries.  None of that cooperation would have been achieved without serious cooperation by the Iraqi authorities.  We shall continue to do so, we shall continue that endeavor.  And we will increase the pace of that cooperation in the coming period.  Now that the issue has been moved to the provisions of Chapter VI of the charter by your latest resolution.  In regards to the second issue, the maintenance of border pillars, markers, Iraq and Kuwait have reached a mechanism through the establishment of the joint-ministerial committees and put in place the necessary measures as indicated in security Resolution 833 of 1993.  In this regards, may I refer to the letter of the Secretary-General to the President of the Security Council of 6-12-2013 referring to the end of the mission entrusted to him under Resolution 833 of 1993, "Therefore, on that basis, Iraq has now fulfilled all of its obligations under that resolution."  As for the issue of compensation, Iraq is committed to pay the percentage decided by the Security Council based on the mechanism as set by the United Nations Commission on Compensation and this has been included in United Nations Security Council resolution 1956 of 2010 under the mechanism of the successor arrangement for the Iraq development fund. We, therefore, believe, Mr. President, that Iraq -- by the Security Council's adoption of this latest resolution -- Iraq has fulfilled all of its obligations as provided by Security Council's resolutions adopted under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.  We believe that today's date, June 27 of 2013, will be a landmark, a milestone, in the history of relationship between Iraq and the international community.

 That was a lengthy excerpt.  But it's a major step, the lifting of Chapter VII, and it also gives you an overview of the narrative the Iraqi government wants out there.  Iraq was placed under Chapter VII as a result of its invasion of Kuwait in 1990.  Today there was a unanimous vote. 

All Iraq News reports the news was greeted in Baghdad with celebrations: "launching fireworks and raising the Iraqi flags in addition to organizing motorcades that spread flowers and sweets [to] citizens in Baghdad," according to a statement from Acting Mayor of Baghdad Abdul Hussein al-Murshidi.  Press TV quotes Nouri al-Maliki declaring, "Iraq is now free from the constraints imposed by the follies of the dictatorial regime."  I don't think that statement helps a great deal.  "Follies"?  Seriously, that's what you're going to call the attack on Kuwait?

And it's supposed to be a wonderful day for Iraq but, if you're honest, it's just a slightly better day.  Chapter VII did not go 'poof' and disappear.  It's been replaced with a new resolution which, as the United Nations notes, "called on the Iraqi Government to continue searching for Kuwaiti nationals and property missing since Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion, but terminated provisions in earlier texts that allowed the military enforcement of the measures under Charter VII of the UN Charter. "  It's been moved from Chapter VII to Chapter VI.

After the session, Hoshyar Zebari addressed the press (and spoke in English).  "Today there was a very, very important Security Council resolution on Iraq - Kuwait relations.  And this resolution is a historical resolution for Iraq and it's a success for the United Nations and for the two countries.  In fact, Chapter VII and the sanctions on Iraq have become something of the past.  And, as I said in my statement, we are concentrating more on the present and the future in Iraq - Kuwaiti relationship."

He hailed it as "an example for other countries to resolve their disputes between peaceful means."

He hailed many things.  Not at the press conference, but in his remarks to the Security Council, he hailed provincial elections -- 2009 and the ones that have taken place so far this year.  He spoke of how provincial elections allowed the people to pick their government.  He didn't speak of the 2010 parliamentary elections.  But he did mention the planned 2014 parliamentary elections.  That was interesting.

I don't blame him for not sighting the problem plagued 2010 elections which were only resolved with a legal contract, The Erbil Agreement, which was then broken (by Nouri al-Maliki) and created the ongoing political crisis in Iraq.  One of so many crises in the country.

 Iraqiya won the 2010 elections (so one of their members should have been made prime minister if the country's Constitution had been followed and US President Barack Obama hadn't insisted Nouri al-Maliki get a second term).  The leader of Iraqiya is Ayad Allawi.  He Tweeted today:

The started and continued with disorder leading through waves of crises.

But it was a Tweet yesterday that got some attention from the Iraqi press.

The absence of cabinet bylaws and power-sharing is a couple of many abuses of the by the Iraqi PM.

Among the outlets reporting on that Wednesday Tweet Thursday afternoon were All Iraq NewsRudaw reports:

Ayad Allawi, the man who is not Iraq’s prime minister despite winning at the 2010 polls, blames the country’s violence and instability on an incompetent government, badly trained forces and a constitution that he says was forced on Iraqis by American invaders.
“All the killings and bombings are happening and the security forces aren’t able to cope, because they are unprofessional and there is no proper military hierarchy,” Allawi said in a Facebook Q&A with fans.
“The the security forces are built and run by certain political groups and the government itself admits that these forces have been infiltrated and are incapable of doing their job,” says Allawi, insisting that an army should be trained for protection of all Iraqis, not just those with certain religious or ethnic backgrounds.
Allawi, Iraq’s first prime minister after the invasion and once seen as the “strongman” who would put the country back together, has been sidelined ever since he was swindled out of his victory at the 2010 polls.
I read an incredibly stupid post at a website today.  I'm being kind and not naming it (it's not a blog, it's a website of a magazine that's been around for decades).  The post insisted that Americans all needed to focus on ____ (foreign country) and that Americans "owed it" to _____ focus on it.  Really, because US forces didn't get sent there.  They were sent to Iraq, or did the idiot forget that?  (If I named the idiot -- we have a lot of Arabic readers -- the idiot would be targeted as a Zionist because of their organization which is another reason not to name or link to the post.)   There are numerous ways to respond to that would-be Joan of Arc.  I'll offer three quickly.

1) If you want to burn at the stake, step on up, honey, but don't try to pull me with you.

2) You don't go for seconds until you've cleaned your plate.

3) Have you looked at Iraq?  If the US owes anything to another country right now, I'd argue the biggest debt -- certainly debt of attention -- is to Iraq.

I'm so tired of these people selling their new wars while refusing to even acknowledge the mess their War Hawk ways have created in Iraq.

The person has no idea what's going on in Iraq.

Others who have a slight idea argue The Erbil Agreement isn't important.

If you don't think that's important, you're suffering English press damage.  The Arabic press has never fogotten it.  Rudaw, by the way, isn't Arabic.  It's a Kurdish press. And even they are talking about it.

Most Americans have no idea about the agreement or that it exists.  Of those who do know, too many think it's unimportant.

More than anything else, The Erbil Agreement is why the US standing in Iraq is so low today. 

Iraqis were even more thrilled by candidate Barack Obama than Germany or other countries.  They thought Iraq would have a friend.  This man who was opposed to the Iraq War (not quite true -- he gave a 2002 anti 'dumb war' speech but by 2004 was telling the New York Times that, had he been in the Senate in 2002, he might have voted for the resolution to go to war with Iraq). And he charmed Nouri al-Maliki in their face-to-face. 

But then came the lead up to the 2010 elections.  Gen Ray Odierno was sounding warnings (he was the then-top US commander in Iraq).  He could see Nouri's State of Law potentially losing and, he worried, if that happened what happens if Nouri refuses to step down.

The White House had the ear of then-US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill who was a disaster and would be asked to step down from his post as a result of the 2010 election aftermath.  Chris Hill was fired, let's be really clear on that because Hill keeps popping up as an Iraq 'expert' in the media.  He was fired.  He was fired for the job he did. 

Chris was whining about Odierno doing this or that.  Chris felt that Odierno got media attention and the media liked Ray better and if someone would tell mean ol' Ray Odierno to stop talking to the media, they might listen to him.

Instead of telling Chris to take the thumb out of his mouth and stop whining, Barack went along with all of Chris' demands.  And probably because Odierno's reports weren't good.

They were truthful, they were reality-based.  But they didn't make you want to smile the way Chris Hill's eternal progress reports did.  There was no reality to the report Hill passed on. 

And sure enough, Nouri was a thug.  In March the elections were held and second place Nouri refused to step down.  Not for a day, not for a week.  For over eight months.  Setting the record for that time.

Though he'd lost, Nouri wasn't going to step down.  And as the stalemate continued, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to Barack and told him it was time to stop listening to Chris Hill and that he really needed to listen to Ray Odierno.

This stalemate?  That's why Iraqiya wants a caretaker government in place when the 2014 elections (which could become 2013 ones if they're moved up) are held.  They don't believe Nouri will step down if he loses again.  Why would they?  He's already demonstrated once that he wouldn't.

For a little over eight months, things were at a stand still.  But Barack was still backing Nouri (Samantha Power swore Nouri was the best shot at stability in Iraq -- proving that she's not only dumb, she's deadly).  So Barack has US officials pressure the other Iraqi leaders into giving Nouri a second term.  How?  The Constitution is clear, Nouri's out.

The Erbil Agreement went around the Constitution.  It was a contract between the leaders of the political blocs.  The US officials were saying, 'Look, there's no prime minister.  Nothing's going forward, your Parliament has only had a roll call in 8 months, there are no meetings, there is no Cabinet.  Nouri has refused to budge for 8 months.  It's up to you to be the mature ones and show leadership and allow Iraq to move forward by letting Nouri have a second term.  But, in exchange for giving him this second term, you can ask for things your constituents want.  And we'll write it up and it'll be a legally binding contract with the full backing of the US government."  So the political leaders signed on.

And Nouri ran with the agreement long enough to be named prime minister and then shredded it and refused to honor any of the promises he had made in it.

This is why Iraqis lost faith with Barack.  The US government played dumb and didn't say a word.  And ever since then the political crisis has been about The Erbil Agreement and Nouri's refusal to implement this power-sharing agreement. 

Last week, Sarah Montague (BBC Hardtalk) did one of her hard hitting interviews where she takes an adversarial position.  This interview was with Ayad Allawi, leader of Iraqiya.  And what seemed to frustrate her the most was how he kept talking about "international community" when clearly he meant the US government but he repeatedly avoided naming it.

Sarah Montague:  But you were voted, your party got the most seats.

Ayad Allawi: Yes.

He went on to blame Iran and she went on to get very frustrated.  (Iran is a part of the story.) 

Sarah Montague:  You chose to go into that government [Nouri's government].

Ayad Allawi:  No, we chose because the alternative, after seven months of not forming a government, we thought Iraq needs a government.  And the alternative was a power-sharing agreement between us and Mr. Maliki and the Dawa Party.  So we signed the power-sharing agreement [The Erbil Agreement] --

Sarah Montague:  Was that a mistake?

Ayad Allawi:  It was not honored, unfortunately -- neither by the Islamists, Mr. Maliki and his  nor by the international community who supported the power-sharing agreement.  But this was not honored, unfortunately.  We stayed in the Cabinet for a period of time until we saw that there were no intentions at all to implement the agreement and by then the demonstrations started in Iraq in 2011 ---

Sarah Montague:  But do you accept -- do you accept that part of the problem is that you couldn't control your own party? That, if actually, Iraqiya formed a bloc that  was together and which you could control then you could have had more influence than you chose to?

Ayad Allawi:  No, because there were some interferences from outside powers to prevent this from happening.

Sarah Montague:  You say you picked up a lot of votes -- Sunni votes -- do you recognize that they may feel let down by you now?

Ayad Allawi:  I don't think so.  We -- We tried and this was really an opportunity that the Sunnis elected a Shi'ite and this shows that they are not sectarian.

Sarah Montague:  They elected you.  And you're a secular Shia, you brought Sunnis along and you tried to reach across these sectarian divides?

Ayad Allawi:  -- know what happened and what happened was very, very clear, that there was Iranian influence on certain parties in Iraq, they were objecting to the Iraqiya taking over. They were to the extent of threatening.  And that's why I'm saying that lots of leaders tried to intervene [. . .] by explaining to Iran that this is not the way to interfere in Iraq.  But the Iranians never budged really.  And unfortunately, what went with this was the international scene, international community, agreed to Iran and we then had to agree because we can't leave the country without a prime minister --

Sarah Montague:  You say the international community, the Americans?  Are you saying the Americans should have stood up to Iran?

Ayad Allawi:  Yes, democracy. The Americans.

Sarah Montague:  Do you feel let down by the Americans?

Ayad Allawi:  They let down the political process, they let down the democratic process in doing so, the Americans.

Sarah Montague:  Realistically, what could they have done?

Ayad Allawi:  They could have used their office to not keep on pressuring us and others and the Kurds to accept Nouri al-Maliki as a prime minister.

Sarah Montague:  They should have said 'no' even though the majority of the Shi'ites --

Ayad Allawi:   They should have said that we respect the Constitution.  Iraq was still under Chapter VII.  The [UN] Security Council supported the elections and supported the results of the elections.  And then they changed their minds once Iran started to behave in a very aggressive way against Iraqiya.

Sarah Montague:  . . . [stumbles for words] It sounds as if you're saying, "Look I didn't get my way! The Americans should have put me in! And --"

Ayad Allawi:  No, no, no, no.  The Iraqi people voted me in, not the Americans.  And the Americans, unfortunately, I don't know why, they agreed to what Iran was saying, they blocked the way of Iraqiya to take over.  So this is really very simple. This is what happened.

Let's again note John Barry's "'The Engame' Is A Well Researched, Highly Critical Look at U.S. Policy in Iraq" (Daily Beast):

Washington has little political and no military influence over these developments [in Iraq]. 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."

Just because most US outlets refused and refuse to cover what happened doesn't change the fact that Iraqis, that the Arabic region, knows exactly what happened and it's not a good view of the United States that they've been left with.

Now maybe in some sort of cold and 'realpolitk' manner, people could live with it if it had resulted in improvements for the Iraqi people.  But it hasn't.

The violence is but one example.  And what an example of the lack of leadership in Iraq the violence is.   Through Tuesday, Iraq Body Count counts 511 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.  And today?  National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 man was shot dead in Mosul and his mother was left injured, and an armed clash in Mosul left 2 Iraqi soldiers deadAll Iraq News notes a Mosul store that sells alcohol was targeted with a bombing today leaving 6 people "killed and injured."

As bad as that violence is, and it is bad, it was only morning-to-mid-day violence.  More was to come.  BBC News reports Baghdad cafes were struck by bombings, "The bombs went off on Thursday evening when the coffee shops were filled with people watching a football match."  Reuters counts "at least 22" dead.  Today, the United Nations noted:

The recent wave of violence in Iraq is taking a toll on human rights in the country, according to a United Nations report out today which recommends that the Iraqi Government implement measures in a range of areas, including police training and women's and children's rights.
According to the report, which covers the period from 1 July to 31 December 2012, at least 3,200 civilians were killed and more than 10,000 injured in 2012 in a reversal of the trend that had seen violence decline in recent years. The report warns that the upturn in armed violence requires greater civilian protection and strengthening of human rights institutions in the country.
“The return to high casualty figures means that much more needs to be done to protect civilians,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Martin Kobler.
“We have consistently urged Iraqi leaders to engage in dialogue and develop policies that address the root causes of the problem. Too many innocent lives have been lost,” he said.
The report, produced by the Human Rights Office of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) in cooperation with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), stresses that more needs to be done to ensure financial, medical and other forms of support reach victims of violence.
It also notes that the Iraqi Government has yet to respond to UN and international calls for a moratorium on the death penalty.
“Weaknesses in the criminal justice system mean that the death sentence is often handed down under questionable circumstances in Iraq,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay. “With 123 prisoners executed in 2012, there is a great risk that the worst miscarriages of justice imaginable are taking place here.”

 On the violence, Al-Shorfa reports, "Scores of people wounded in attacks that hit Iraq the past two weeks have been transferred to European hospitals for treatment, the Iraqi government said Thursday (June 27th)." Once upon a time (following the October 31, 2010 attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad), Nouri was publicly attacking France and other governments for providing medical treatment and more.  No word from Nouri today as the actions admit what most people already knew: Iraq's limited hospital beds are already full.

At the very end of today's US State Dept press briefing, handled by spokesperson Patrick Ventrell,  Iraq popped up:



QUESTION: Yeah. There has been a really horrific spike in the violence in Iraq with so many killed, but also some Iraqi politicians saying that they should open the discussion again for a new security agreement with the United States. Will the United States be sort of receptive to such an idea?

MR. VENTRELL: I hadn’t seen that particular point, or I’m not sure if – I’d have to refer you to the Embassy if they have more information on that. But we’ve been very clear about our concern about continued violence and the need for an end to sectarian attacks, and we’ll continue to make that point.

QUESTION: So other than condemning the violence, are you doing anything to sort of help mitigate --

MR. VENTRELL: Our Embassy is – our Embassy and our experts here in Washington are very engaged, continue to work with all the parties on – to try to be – help there to be as much cooperation as possible between different political groups so that Iraqis can work out their differences through the political system, and that’s really the key here.

AFP quotes the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler stating today, "I am very concerned at the end of my two years, because sectarianism increases, violence increases."  Kobler may or may not really be concerned.  But is the United Nations really concerned?  It's a question worth asking because AFP explains, "Kobler told AFP from his residence in Baghdad's heavily-fortified Green Zone ahead of his departure from Iraq to take up a new post as UN special envoy to the Democratic Republic of Congo."  Kobler's leaving and no one's been named as a replacement.  This is the worst time for Iraq in the last few years and there's not Special Envoy named as the current Special Envoy exits the country to take another post.

We know who's exiting.  Who might be increasing their presence?   Reuters quotes Gen Martin Dempsey, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stating yesterday,  "We've made a recommendation that as we look at the challenges faced by the Lebanese armed forces, the Iraqi security forces with a re-emerging Al Qaida in Iraq, and the Jordanians, that we would work with them to help them build additional capability."  AP's Qassim Abdul-Zahra reports on this today and notes that the drawdown at the end of 2011 left "About 100 military and civilian Department of Defense personnel remain in Iraq as an arm of the American Embassy to act as liaisons with the Iraqi government and facilitate arms sales."  A vast improvement over yesterday's AP report (not by Adbul-Zahra).

From the DoD transcript, here's Dempsey exact words:

We have a mil-to-mil relationship with the Lebanese armed forces now.  I've had since I -- since I commanded CENTCOM, actually, about four or five years ago.  And we've made a recommendation that as we look at the challenges faced by the Lebanese armed forces, the Iraqi security forces with a re-emerging al-Qaeda in Iraq, and the Jordanians, that we would work with them to help them build additional capability.  But this -- when you say would we send the United States Army or the United States military into Lebanon, I'm talking about teams of trainers, and I'm talking about accelerating foreign military sales for equipment for them.  This is -- this is about building their capability, not ours.

Courtney Kube (NBC News) adds:

 "Militarily, what we're doing is assisting our partners in the region, the neighbors of Syria, to ensure that they're prepared to account for the potential spillover effects," Dempsey said during a briefing, citing the recent announcement that the U.S. left some Patriot missile batteries and F- 16s in Jordan to aid that country's defense.
Dempsey said the U.S. military is already working with the Iraqi military, the Lebanese armed forces, and Turkey.

The agreement is the Memo of Understanding.  It's a shame the press refused to cover it in real time.

Late to the party?  Food's all gone but you can make yourself a drink.  From the April 30th snapshot:

December 6, 2012, the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department Defense of the United States of America was signed.  We covered it in the December 10th and December 11th snapshots -- lots of luck finding coverage elsewhere including in media outlets -- apparently there was some unstated agreement that everyone would look the other way.  It was similar to the silence that greeted Tim Arango's September 25th New York Times report which noted, "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 [US] General [Robert L.] Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."

Tim Arango had major news (granted, it was buried in a report) and everyone pretty much ignored it. (Tom Hayden didn't -- but even the editorial board and the 'fact checkers' at Tim Arango's own paper ignored his report.)  Tim Arango's report came out right before the debates.  But, as Ava and I noted in our debate coverage, none of the moderators ever asked about it or even seemed aware of it.

The moderators were uninformed.  Worse, so were the 'fact checkers' of the debates.  October 23, 2012, the morning after the last Barack - Romney debate, "The only thing worse than the debate itself (Ava and C.I.)" went up.  In it, Ava and I take on the so-called 'fact checkers' with regards to Iraq:

In the meantime, in the real world,  Tim Arango (New York Times) reported September 26th:

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.

That directly relates, USA Today, to the fact check you're supposed to be conducting.  You're ignorant and you're not alone.  CNN concludes their Iraq fact check with "Each man's attacks are rooted in fact. The Obama administration did attempt, unsuccessfully, to extend the presence of a scaled-back U.S. training mission in Iraq, while Romney has said Washington should have kept a considerably larger force in Baghdad."  D-d-did they, CNN?  Did the Obama administration attempt, unsuccessfully, to extend the presence of a scaled-back U.S. training mission in Iraq?  And, more importantly, are they still trying?

Yes, they are.  But don't expect CNN to tell you about that.  And don't expect Andrea Mitchell and NBC's Truth Squad to tell you the truth either.  Like CNN, they find both were accurate, "The president was referring to an Oct. 8, 2012, speech that Romney gave criticizing the 'abrupt' withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq, but the Republican didn’t explicitly say the U.S. should have more troops there. Romney is right that the administration tried and failed to get an agreement that would have allowed a small force of U.S. troops to remain for several years."  But is it accurate to ignore that the White House continues to pursue negotiations on sending US troops back into Iraq?  No, it isn't.

Or anyone else.  Shashank Bengali (Los Angeles Times) does a better job than many, noting the attempt by Barack to extend US troops beyond 2011: "But the negotiations fell apart over Iraq’s unwillingness to grant U.S. soldiers immunity from prosecution. The last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq in December."  That last sentence is where Bengali is lost.  US troops remain in Iraq -- to guard the diplomatic staff, as 'trainers,' Special-Ops and -- as the Iraqi press has been reporting for weeks now -- searching planes coming through Baghdad International on their way to Syria and on the Syrian border.

Susan Cornwell and Lucy Shackelford (Reuters) also fail the fact check:  "The last U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq last December, ending a war launched in March 2003. At the height of the war, there were more than 170,000 U.S. troops there. Last year Obama did try to negotiate an agreement with Iraq that would have kept some U.S. forces in the country as trainers, but the two governments failed to reach an agreement over giving American soldiers legal immunity."

Not only do the two forget that negotiations are ongoing, not only do they forget that US troops are still there but we believe Susan Cornewell was present a few months back at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing when the over 15,000 US troops that were moved to Kuwait from Iraq so that they would be right on the border, ready to go back in, were discussed.  We believe Susan sat to our right.  Maybe we're remembering wrong.

John Glaser ( falls into the camp of noting that Barack tried -- past tense -- to get an agreement.  John misses the fact that the negotiations continue.

All the people above -- even USA Today -- can take comfort in the fact that they're not the idiot Jason Linkins who apparently never knew that the administration tried to negotiate an extension.  Jason's an idiot so he 'reports' at Huffington Post.  As Peter Feaver (Foreign Policy) noted yesterday:

According to Michael Gordon: "Mr. Biden also predicted that the Americans could work out a deal with a government led by Mr. Maliki. 'Maliki wants us to stick around because he does not see a future in Iraq otherwise,' Mr. Biden said. 'I'll bet you my vice presidency Maliki will extend the SOFA' he added, referring to the Status of Forces Agreement the Obama administration hoped to negotiate."

They wanted it and they still do.  Hey, where's Brett McGurk?

Any member of the press want to answer that one?

We do realize Brett did the work around in 2008 when it came to the immunity issue, right?  We all know that?  On the left, we guess we don't since so many of the left pimped for Brett even after the sex and journalism scandal (don't sleep with sources and don't let your lover vet your copy).

So where's Brett right now?

Another question: Where's the New York Times' fact check?  Right here.  And everyone above can feel superior to the so-called paper of record.  We knew the circulation had dipped again but who knew that this was true even among the paper's reporters?  Apparently, Michael Luo, Michael Cooper, Michael D. Shear, Richard A. Oppel Jr, Jeff Zeleny and the others doing the fact check, not one of them actually reads their own paper.

Tim Arango (New York Times) reported September 26th:
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.

That was actual reporting.  And yet his own peers at the paper are unaware of it.

If the debate -- the "dull-bate" a stand up on the phone just called it -- last night was bad, the only thing worse has been the 'fact checking.' 

Even the New York Times 'fact checkers' ignored what Tim Arango had reported.  The press failed.  Did they fail because they were stupid or did they fail because this was another attempt to help the US government send troops to Iraq?  I guess your call on that depends on whether you see the press as imbeciles or liars.
But their inability to report the truth is exactly why one of the most important institutions in this country is held in such low regard by the American people.
(And for those who didn't know?  Because the press wasn't telling -- the American press.  Brett McGurk was already in Iraq as the Iraqi press was reporting.  As far as Americans knew, in June of 2012, he withdrew his name from nomination for US Ambassador to Iraq.  And that was it for Brett.  But the reality is that he's billed as the Assistant Secretary of State.  Not at the State Dept's website.  They don't mention that he's in Iraq there, they don't mention that he works for the State Department.  But he's in Iraq and that's how he's presented to the Iraqi officials he meets with, "Assistant Secretary of State."  You have to wonder how much lying this administration thinks it can get away with?  I've never known an administration before to lie about any non-CIA employee being in a country, especially when they've been there for months and will be there for months and are meeting with that country's leaders.)

In yesterday's snapshot, we covered some of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing.  Ava covered it last night with "Elijah Cummings -- bald face embarrassment," Wally with "Managing the IRS' real estate portfolio? (Wally)" and Kat with "Was the witness able to understand."

US House Rep Bill Flores noted in a hearing this morning:

As today is National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day, I would like to take a brief moment to address those veterans experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder who may be in attendance or listening. Hope and healing is possible.  And I encourage you and all of those suffering to reach out for help.  You can call 1-800-273-TALK, that's 1-800-273-8255, and press "1" for veterans.

He was speaking at the start of the House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.  I wasn't present.  When I mentioned to a friend that I wouldn't be there (due to Zebari and the UN), he said he was going and he'd pass on anything he thought was the most important aspect of today's hearing.  To him, that was the most important aspect (he's a veteran) and I thank him for sharing that.

On hearings, J. Russell George is an Inspector General with the Treasury Dept and he has been noted in numerous snapshots because he testified at hearings I've attended.  He is not above criticism.  No one is.  (That includes me.)  And I have criticized him and strongly called him out on some things.  But there's a push to blame him.  It's the latest attempt of crap from the Democratic Party.  It appalls me to see how desperate and disgusting my party has become.

The spin is that George misled.  That's one part of the spin, one attempt.  First off, we were at those hearings and he didn't mislead.  Political groups were targeted.  After the hearings started, we usually said, community wide in our reporting, that political groups were targeted.  We didn't say "just conservatives."  What was exposed was that groups who were right or left but seen as not worshiping Barack had problems with the IRS in terms of tax status.  Ava especially emphasized this in her reports.

Some Democratic politicians (and their ugly mouthpieces on MSNBC) want to pretend like the month of May didn't happen and Congressional hearings didn't reveal this fact.  That's a lie.

The second part of the spin is that George failed to do his job.

Maybe.  If you're looking at an investigation he did and you can back up that claim, go for it.

But that's not what they're saying.  What they're saying is he failed to unearth targeting of left organizations.

This is so disgusting.  I was appalled at the lies under Bully Boy Bush when Valerie Plame was outed.  Republicans refused to deal with reality and lied -- LIED -- to make it appear that what took place was less outrageous.

Now some Democrats are doing the same.  George is an IG.  His division gets a complaint and he investigates it.  He is not spying on the IRS.  He is not there 24 hours, seven days a week, trying to monitor all of their actions.  When he examines something -- true of any IG of any department -- they are examining the specifics of a complaint.

What some Dems in Congress are currently doing in attacking George is disgusting.  To be real honest, he seems like a nice and unassuming person.  I feel bad when I have to call him out.  But I'm calling out for things he did.  I'm not inventing a role for him to play.

Oversight of the IRS is supposed to take place within the IRS.  The IG is not there for oversight.  No problems should escalate to the IG, honestly.  By the time that's happened, the IRS officials in charge should already have been aware of a problem and addressing it.  That's their job.

If some Dems want to whine that they don't feel that left groups getting targeted was given enough attention, that's on the IRS.  George did not get a complaint on that.

J. Russell George is getting smeared for partisan reasons.  That needs to stop and Americans need to start demanding that members of Congress act a little more mature.


qassim abdul-zahra