Monday, November 25, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Monday, November 25, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, the United Nations Security Council pretends to be interested in Iraq, this includes a fake hearing, another Iraqi journalist was killed over the weekend, US Senator Patty Murray holds a hearing in Seattle tomorrow to address the needs of challenged and disabled children of military families, and more.

We're starting with the United Nations.  We'll be discussing how the UN Security Council is lazy, ignorant and wasteful.  But first, Nickolay Mladenov offered testimony this morning.  He heads UNAMI and he's UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's representative in Iraq.

He noted early on, "The security situation continued to worsen, with almost daily attacks by terrorist and armed groups against civilians and the Iraqi security forces.  Along with rising casualty figures, forced displacement on a sectarian and ethnic basis has re-emerged in several governorates."  Today, Jason Ditz ( reports, "Sectarian bombings continue apace across Iraq in general and the capital city of Baghdad in particular, killing almost 200 in the past week and showing that rather than slowing down, the summer violence is actually speeding up as winter approaches."  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed Saturday, "The U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq estimates at least 979 Iraqis -- 852 of them civilians -- were killed in October alone."  For a Reuters graph of the UN fatality figures, refer to Geoffrey Ingersoll's report for Business Insider.

And possibly the most important thing he told (read to) the UN Security Council was about the ongoing protests.

Nickolay Mladenov:  Protests continued in Anbar, Nineveh, Salah al-Din, Kirkuk and Diayala governorates in the form of unified Friday prayers.  Compared to the past reporting period, the protests assumed a lower profile, owning in part to increased attention to the protesters' demands by newly elected local administrations. Indeed, the Anbar Governorate Council elected Sabah Karhout, a member of the Arab Iraqiya party, as its chair, and Ahmed Khalif al-Dulaimi, a member of the Muttahidoun party, as Governor.  In Ninewa, the Governorate Council re-elected Atheel al-Nujaifi, a known supporter of the protestors and brother of the Speake of the Council of Representatives [Osama al-Nujaifi], as Governor.  On 5 October dialogue between the Government and the protestors resumed following a meeting between the Prime Minister [Nouri al-Maliki] and the Governor of Anbar, who was nominated by the demonstrators to represent their interests.  While the meeting was described as positive and fruitful by the Prime Minister's office, no progress has been announced to date in addressing the demonstrators' demands.  

Could the lazy foreign (non-Iraq) press register that?

"While the meeting was described as positive and fruitful by the Prime Minister's office, no progress has been announced to date in addressing the demonstrators' demands."

Can they register that?  AP, Reuters, AFP, etc, can you register that.

Because these outlets keep pimping the lie that Nouri has met protesters demands.

He's not met them and even UNAMI notes that Nouri's office spins but there is no progress.

The protests passed the 11 month mark last Friday.

The non-Iraq outlets ignored it.  But there's a chance, a small one, that AP, AFP, et al might actually report on the protests next month.  That's because December 21st will be the one year anniversary of the protests, 12 months of continuous protesting.  So there's a chance, a small one, that non-Iraqi outlets might finally give some serious attention to these protests.

If they do, let's hope they remember what the United Nations Security Council was told today:   "While the meeting was described as positive and fruitful by the Prime Minister's office, no progress has been announced to date in addressing the demonstrators' demands."

Nothing they've 'reported' in the last months has indicated there are even aware of that reality.

Here's a little more reality from National Iraqi News Agency, Nouri's security forces arrested Sheikh Mehdi Ziad today a "member of the coordinating committees in Samarra and preacher of the sit-in of Samarra."  His home was raided and he was arrested "without knowing the reason for his arrest."

As protesters are killed and the leaders are arrested (repeatedly on both), where is the world press?

Prashant Rao heads AFP's Baghdad bureau which should mean he's interested when Nouri's forces arrest the leaders of the protests.

Should mean that.

But there's no Tweet on that.

He did, however, make time to note this very important issue:

  1. The only solace in being a Bulls fan now is that the Lakers decided they're not interested in contending, by signing Kobe to a $48mn deal.

They do something.

I don't know that anyone would call it reporting, but they do busy themselves with trivia.

Last January, the International Anti-Occupation Network issued a call for support:

The protesters are justly demanding:
1. The immediate release of detained protesters and dissident prisoners.
2 . A stop to the death penalty.
3. The approval of an amnesty law for innocent detainees.
4. The abolition of anti-terrorism laws (especially Clause 4 used to target them).
5. The repeal of unfair rulings against dissidents.
6. Fair opportunities for work based on professionalism.
7.The end of the use of all military command based on geographic areas.
8. The provision of essential services to all areas in Iraq neglected by the state.
9. The holding of all … governmental officials, army or security units who have committed crimes against dissidents accountable, especially those who have violated the honor of women in prisons.
10. A U.N.-sponsored population count.
11. An end to marginalization, a stop to agitating divisions between ethnic and religious groups, and a stop to the house raids without legal warrant based on the information of secret informers.
12. A stop to financial, administrative and legal corruption.
13. The combating of sectarianism in all its forms by returning religious buildings and all religious properties to their rightful owners, and the abolishment of law No. 19 of 2005.

The prisoners, the disappeared.  Secret prisons in Iraq, false arrests.  "False arrest" is the correct term. You're married to Gary and there's a knock on your door one day when Gary's out.  You open it, it's the Iraqi police.  They want Gary for some reason.  You're suspected of no crime but you're hauled off and tossed into the prison and detention system because the Iraqi police can't find Gary.  That happens over and over in Iraq.

It's from the US government actually.  They started this illegal practice.  They did so by having the US military act worse than mobsters -- the mob's a little more respectful of families than the US government which ordered US forces to grab the wives of suspects and throw them behind bars to hold them as hostages until/unless the suspects came forward.

This practice of arresting family members continues.  (But there's no effort to release the innocent family member if the suspect comes forward or is caught elsewhere.)

Testifying to the UN Security Council today, Mladenov that UNAMI has been allowed to visit and inspect the prisons and detention centers under the Ministry of Justice.  They found, he testified, "overcrowding and lack of adequate health services."  He also noted that there was "a lack of special programs for female detainees and prisoners to ensure their reintegration into society after release."

This is a standard comment from whomever is the head of UNAMI.  Let's not another one, a more disturbing one, "UNAMI has not yet been granted access to detention centers under the authority of the Ministry of the Interior.  UNAMI nevertheless received reports of abuse, mistreatment and, at times, torture of many detainees and prisoners in those facilites prior to charge and transfer to facilities under the authority of the Ministry of Justice, in particular with regard to persons detained under the Anti-Terrorism Law Number 13 of 2005."

Let's be clear, torture is continuing in Iraq.

But let's be even more clear.  Outside of Iraq, people often miss this point.

That's especially true with some in the US.

Iraq has a different executive branch system than the US.  While cabinet heads, such as Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebaria have their equivalents in the US like Secretary of State John Kerry, there are very real differences.

Chief among them, if John Kerry does a job US President Barack Obama doesn't approve of, Barack will ask for his resignation and Kerry will deliver it.  Should Kerry fail to do so, Barack would just cut Kerry out of the loop.

The way things are set up in Iraq are different.  Let's pretend John Kerry is an Iraqi.  Nouri nominates  him to be Minister of Oil.   The Iraqi Parliament then votes.  If they vote to confirm him, Kerry is the Minister of Oil.  If Nouri's unhappy with Kerry's performance, he can ask for a resignation.  Kerry can refuse.  If Kerry refuses, Nouti's next step is to go to the Parliament and ask them to strip Kerry of his post.  Nouri attempted this from the end of 2011 to May 2012 with both Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq and Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.

The Parliament refused to do so.  Both al-Mutlaq and al-Hashemi remain in their posts until their terms end.

If Kerry refused to step down as Minister of Oil and the Parliament refused to vote him out of that post, Nouri would be stuck with John Kerry.

Nouri didn't feel his Cabinet (violation of the Constituion).  He instead did a power grab by refusing to nomiate people to head the security ministries. Ayad Allawi, head of Iraqiya, immediately called it that but the foreign press dismissed that assertion and insisted, in January 2011, that Nouri would fill his Cabinet in a matter of weeks.

Back in July 2012, 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 three positions remain unfilled.  All this time later, they're empty.  This allows Nouri to control them.  He puts a puppet in as 'acting' minister (no approval from Parliament so they have no job protection and do Nouri's bidding).

Nouri doesn't control the Ministry of Justice.

UNAMI was able to inspect and visit the prisons and detention centers under the Ministry of Justice.

But what did Nikolay Maladenov say?  "UNAMI has not yet been granted access to detention centers under the authority of the Ministry of the Interior."

That's prisons and detention centers under Nouri's control.

Nouri's refusing to allow the United Nation to have access to those.  Nouri and only Nouri because he's over the Ministry of the Interior as a result of his power grab.

We'll note another statement the head of UNAMI made -- this one when he spoke briefly to reporters after (he spoke to the press for less than three minutes).

Nickolay Mladenov:  I strongly believe that we need to have a focus on the forthcoming elections that have been scheduled for April 30th.  The government and the political parties have agreed to have that date on time and I do believe that it is vital that this date be observed properly by all and UNAMI will continue to invest heavily in in supporting the Electoral Committee in Iraq as well as working close with all the authorities to make sure that the election is done in a proper and transparent manner and in the timeframe that has been stipulated by law.

Of the UN Security Council, Matthew Russell Lee (Inner City Press) reports:

After the UN Security Council much belatedly issued a press statement Monday on the carnage in Iraq, Inner City Press asked the Council's president and then Iraq's Permanent Representative what had taken so long.
Just as the Security Council has not met or even had a briefing about Libya and militias in Tripoli killing dozens of civilians, there is a similar resistance to admitting how un-solved Iraq is after intervention. But Iraq's Permanent Representative Mohamed Alhakim told Inner City Press that his country had been asking the Council to issue a statement. 
Inner City Press asked, so it was only the US opposing it? 
He replied that, "We wanted a clear" statement. "Sometimes a mixture of different" approaches "and we were against that." We said, "please come up with something unified, strong,  target the organizations and countries" behind the terrorism, which "has support of money."

We'll note the statement in a moment.

First though, no more attending this nonsense for me.  Because this was the first briefing of new UNAMI head Nickolay Mladenov, I attended this one.  I'd attended the previous ones by Martin Kobler.  It was a waste of time.  We'll cover it but I don't plan to attend any more.

My time is of value to me.

I thought things might change with Mladenov.  It hasn't.  He's not the problem with this issue, the problem is the United Nations Security Council.

They have time and money to waste as they demonstrate with each Iraq briefing.

The UNAMI head, whomever he or she is (they've all been men so far, way to be progressive UN), shows up, sits down and then reads -- near word-for-word -- from a report that was actually given to the Security Council days before.  This usually takes about 22 minutes.  It is followed by what I like to consider the Iraqi rebuttal -- where an Iraqi officials reads a statement for about thirty minutes filled with fairy tales and spin.  I never bother transcribing that but, if you're interested, here's how the UN reported the Iraqi rebuttal:

Following his briefing, Mohamed Alhakim ( Iraq) said his country was sparing no efforts to involve all segments of Iraqi society in the political process and resolve all lingering problems in the framework of national reconciliation.  His Government aimed to build a strong economy, based on its “enormous” human resources and by taking advantage of its natural resources.

“ Iraq continues on the path of democracy to build its institutions,” he said, noting Parliament’s recent passage of the election law and its plans to hold national elections on 30 April 2014 — a milestone that would mark the fourth time in 10 years that Iraqis would choose their representatives.  Welcoming the Council’s adoption of resolution 2107 (2013) on the situation between Iraq and Kuwait, he reiterated Iraq’s commitment to fulfilling provisions related to the search for missing Kuwaitis and the return of Kuwaiti properties.  He also highlighted the “excellent and developing” relations between his country and Kuwait.

Turning to Syria, he said the conflict there had significantly increased the frequency of terrorist attacks in Iraq, as extremist armed groups linked to Al-Qaida had crossed the shared border and obtained both arms and financial aid from individuals, organizations and countries.  He called on the Council to carry out its responsibility to take appropriate actions, to consider such behaviour terrorist activity, and bring the perpetrators to justice.  “The humanitarian situation in Syria and the Syrian refugee camps in neighbouring countries are in dire need of international assistance,” he stressed.

On the political front, he said Iraq had participated in the Geneva I Conference and supported efforts by the Joint Representative of the Secretary-General and the Arab League to bring disputing parties together to negotiate at the Geneva II Conference.  He urged that measures be taken to support Iraq in the fight against terrorism, in line with the 2006 United Nations global strategy.  He also pressed States to help Iraq bring the perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of those reprehensible acts to justice.

And then?

If we hurry, we can usually catch the two to five minute briefing that the UNAMI head gives which is never that surprising having heard the presentation already.

It's a waste of time.

I can read the testimony (silently) to myself as opposed to hear the UN official read it out loud.  If the lousy group that makes up the UN Security Council ever did a damn thing, it might be worth attending. But they have no questions and they have no statements and they sit their like lumps as the official reads the lengthy statement which their offices received days prior.

They have no comment, they have nothing to say.

Why are they even there?

More importantly, why is the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Envoy to Iraq required to leave Iraq and travel several times a year to read a written statement to this group of people who have no interest in Iraq?

Is the Security Council too stupid and ignorant or just too lazy to be expected to read the written report (credited to Ban Ki-moon)?

It seems a bit much to fly Mladenov all the way from Baghdad to New York just so he can read a report that the Security Council should have already read themselves.

Again, if they ever had a question, if they ever had a comment, it might make sense.

It does not make sense for this ignorant and uninformed body to just sit there with nothing to say.  If you have the head of UNAMI (United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq) in front of you, why aren't you asking questions?  Since you're being read an overview, why aren't you asking for additional details?

Because the Security Council is just marking time.

And everyone's time is wasted by flying someone in from Baghdad to read from a written report that's already been provided to the members of the Security Council.  After the breifing, the head of UNAMI met with five UN members who asked questions about Iraq -- some serious, some just being polite.

The trip to New York from Baghdad is a waste of time.  But the UNAMI head is obligated to make it.  I'm not.  And I don't plan to attend any more.  We'll just quote from the report -- the same report the UNAMI head reads to the Security Council.

To sit through a so-called Security Council briefing is to grasp just how right Matthew Russell Lee is, the Security Council doesn't give a damn about Iraq.

After saying nothing during the session (and looking bored), the Security Council did issue a statement.
The United Nations News Centre noted this afternoon:

Following Nicholay Mladenov’s briefing in which he presented two of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s reports, the 15-member Council stressed the need to bring those responsible for the violence to justice and called on Governments to cooperate with Iraqi authorities to hold the perpetrators to account.
“The members of the Security Council underlined the need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice,” the body said in a statement to the press.
The attacks deliberately targeted locations where civilians congregate, including schools and places of worship, the Council said, extending its condolences to the families, as well as the people and Government of Iraq.
It also acknowledged the efforts of the Iraq security forces that are also being targeted in ongoing attacks.
“The members of the Security Council strongly expressed their support for the continued efforts of the Iraqi Government to help meet security needs of the entire population of Iraq,” according to the statement.    

Really, do they care?  Enough to issue a statement, a weak one, kind of stupid one.  Violence has been on the rise all year, it was rising last year and now they're concerned?


Violence continued in Iraq today.  National Iraqi News Agency reports a Baghdad sticky bombing left one person dead and another injured, a Tikrit roadside bombing injured a married couple, 1 Ministry of Justice employee was shot dead in Baghdad, a Baquba sticky bombing left one person injured, an armed attack in Mosul left 2 Iraqi soldiers dead, a Mosul suicide car bomber took his own life and the lives of 2 Peshmerga while leaving six more injured, another Mosul suicide car bomber took his own life as he targeted the SWAT headquaters leaving 1 SWAT force and 5 civilians dead while fourteen more civilians and four SWAT were left injured, a downtown Baghdad bombing left 18 people dead and thirty-six injured, and a Baghdad car bombing (northeast) has claimed 3 lives and left fifteen more people injured.

Dropping back to last night for the assassination of journalist Alaa Idwar:

Alaa Idwar apparently did not work for a local station.
All Iraq News quotes a source stating, "The victim used to work as a cameraman in Nineveh al-Ghad channel and he quit his job after receiving threats of killing him in case he remained working in the channel."
They also report another detail, he was an Iraqi Christian.
That makes him a member of two targeted groups in Iraq: Journalists and Christians.

Iraq's Journalistic Freedoms Observatory has issued a release on Alaa Idwar.  The JFO notes that they hold military and security forces responsible for not providing security -- not providing security as journalists have faced increasing threats and violence in Mosul for the last two months.  They note that armed forces -- who do not provide their identities -- have also prevented journalists from doing their jobs, interfering with the reporters efforts to report what is taking place. 

They call for the federal government to conduct an investigation and to do so quickly.  They note that Alaa Idhar's death follows the murder of five other journalists in Mosul.  He was shot three times -- once in the head, once in the stomach and once in the chest.  He wasn't far from his home when the attack took place.  Alaa was 41-years-old and had begun his TV journalism career in 1999.  In later years, he added photography and frequently free lanced including for Al Jazeera.  

The JFO notes that security forces found a "liquidation list" containing forty-four names, all of them journalists.  In a statement today, Reporters Without Borders noted the assassination:

Reporters Without Borders condemns cameraman Alaa Edwar’s murder yesterday in Mosul, the capital of the northern province of Nineveh. Employed by Nineveh Al-Ghad, a local TV station supported by the provincial authorities, Edwar was gunned down hear his home in the northern suburb of Al-Majmoaa Al-Thakafiya.
Aged 41, Edwar was shot three times in the head and chest by unidentified gunmen and died on the spot. He had previously worked for Al-Rashid TV and for other TV stations as a freelance cameraman.
“We offer our heartfelt condolences to Edwar’s family and colleagues,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We are very concerned by the decline in security for news providers in Iraq, especially in Nineveh province. Edwar was the fourth journalist to have been gunned down in similar circumstances in Mosul in less than two months.
“The identity of those responsible is still unknown in all of these cases. We urge the national and local authorities to deploy the resources needed for independent investigations so that both the perpetrators and instigators of these shocking murders can be brought to justice. Investigators should not rule out the possibility of links with the victims’ work as journalists.”

Lastly, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Her office issued the following:

FOR PLANNING PURPOSES                        CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Monday, November 25th, 2013                                          (202) 224-2834

SEATTLE: TOMORROW: Murray to Meet With Military Families, Children with Disabilities Not Covered by TRICARE

Despite state laws that require behavioral health coverage, military health plans currently deny care to many military children with disabilities

(Washington, D.C.) – Tomorrow, November 26th,  2013 at 10:00 AM PT, U.S. Senator Patty Murray will join military families and local behavioral health experts at the Haring Center at the University of Washington in Seattle to discuss legislation she introduced this week which would ensure that military families’ health plans provide adequate coverage for children and loved ones with disabilities.  The amendment requires TRICARE, the Department of Defense health program for members of the military and their families, to provide coverage for behavioral health treatments, including applied behavior analysis (ABA).   

Under current TRICARE policies, many children are denied coverage for ABA and critical behavioral health treatments, and those children who do receive care often receive less than the prescribed treatment.  That places TRICARE behind the curve of thirty-four states and the District of Columbia, which require coverage of ABA as a medically necessary service for most children with a developmental disability. 

There are 360,155 TRICARE beneficiaries in Washington state.  CDC estimates that 1 in 88 children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which would often be treated through applied behavior analysis (ABA), and medical costs for children with autism spectrum disorder are estimated to be six times higher than for children without autism spectrum disorder.  In addition to medical costs, intensive behavioral interventions for children with autism spectrum disorder can cost $40,000 to $60,000 per child per year.

A one-page summary of Sen. Murray’s legislation is available here.

WHO:          U.S. Senator Patty Murray
                                 Military families impacted by the law
         Dr. Ilene Schwartz, Director of the Haring Center, University of Washington
         Col. Dave Slotwinski, President of the WA State Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America

WHAT:        Murray will meet with military families, local behavioral health experts to discuss her amendment ensuring access to health coverage for children with disabilities

WHEN:        Tuesday, November 26th, 2013     
          10:00 AM PT

WHERE:     The Haring Center
                      University of Washington Medical Center (South end of the UW campus)
                      Seattle, WA 98195

murray illustration
Sean Coit
Press Secretary
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray

RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office