Saturday, February 09, 2013

Protests grow and an Iraqi woman is arrested for the crime of marriage?

Through Friday, February 8th, Iraq Body Count counts 122 deaths from violence in Iraq so far this month.  Alsumaria reports a Mosul roadside bombing injured one federal police officer.  All Iraq News reports the wounded toll has risen to three federal police officers.

Meanwhile the protests continue to grow.  What was "hundreds and hundreds" in December turned to "thousands and thousands" in January and is now millions.  Kitabat reports that yesterday some protesters in Anbar Province announced their intent to march to Baghdad next Friday.  All Iraq News notes National Alliance MP Qasim al-Araji is calling out the plan to stage a sit-in in Baghdad.  The Ministry of Interior (run by Nouri al-Maliki since he never nominated anyone to head it) had its own announcement.  Alsumaria reports that today it was declared their intent to crack down on any protest -- anywhere in the country -- that they felt was a threat or lacked a permit.  Al Mada notes that the spokesperson for the Anbar protests, Sayad Lafi, states that the protesters have written Baghdad seeking permission to pray in the city on Friday and return the same day.  On protests, Liz Sly had a very good report for the Washington Post yesterday. (It went up late at the website Friday -- we note it in yesterday's snapshot -- and makes the print version today.)  The report has been picked up by Ya Libnan and by the San Diego Union-Tribune.  From her report:

 The Friday protests have also drawn huge crowds in towns and cities across the Sunni provinces, as the passions of the Arab Spring collide with the bitter legacy of the Iraq War.
The demonstrations first erupted in December in response to the detention of the bodyguards of a Sunni minister in Maliki’s coalition government, which reinforced widespread Sunni perceptions he’s intent on eliminating his Sunni political rivals. But they have evolved into a far deeper expression of the many grievances left unresolved when U.S. forces withdrew a little over a year ago, ranging from abuses committed disproportionately against Sunnis by the Iraqi security forces to what Sunnis perceive to be an unequal distribution of power among the sects.
With their huge turnouts, these largely peaceful demonstrations have the potential to present a far bigger challenge to Maliki’s hold on power than the violent and still stubbornly persistent insurgency, which continues to claim scores of lives every month without any discernible impact on the political process. 

Adil E. Shamoo offers his take for IPS (via CounterCurrents):

In recent weeks, large and frequent demonstrations across the Sunni areas of Baghdad and in the cities of Ramadi, Mosul, Samara and Tikrit, have demanded improved living conditions, an end to government discrimination against former Baathists, and a nullification of the de-Baathification laws. Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni deputy prime minister echoing others, has demanded the resignation of the Nuri al-Maliki’s government. And the Sunni speaker of parliament, Osama al-Nujaifi, in January called for an amnesty law to free Sunnis detained on what Sunnis say are discriminatory charges of terrorism.
The prime minister, while releasing some female prisoners, has called for the demonstrations to cease in the interest of national security. He is bolstered by counter-demonstrations demanding the maintenance of the status quo, and rightfully expressed fears of any Baathist return to power.
Mr. al-Maliki has had an historic opportunity to unify Iraq and move it forward economically. He may still have time, but he must start by ending the violence and changing his own policies, including the use of authoritarian and undemocratic methods to govern. Iraqis have suffered too much.

In other news, the Iraq Times reports a man has been arrested in Erbil for the rapes of 14 young girls.  AFP quotes the head of the Kurdish security forces, Tareq Nuri, stating, "Some families kept the subject of the rapes to themselves because of the conservative traditions of the city."  The girls were all between the ages of 6 and 9-years-old, All Iraq News notes, and many were badly beaten.  This as Al Mada notes that Simon Dawud and the man she was with have been arrested.  The young Yezidi girl was kidnapped, the family insisted creating an international scandal, their eleven-year-old daughter taken by some strange man.  But Rudaw reported days ago that Simon stated she was 15 and that she left to get married to a Sunni Muslim.  She told Rudaw, "I voluntarily escaped [my family] and decided to run away with Hassan Nasrulla.  I told him, if you don't take me with you I will create big trouble for you.  Then he was left with no choice but to take me.  I am 15 years old." The law requires her to be 16 to marry so her elopement with Nasrulla may be in doubt.  She escaped her family, she told Rudaw, because they were attempting to force her into an arranged marriage.  Now Al Mada reports that she and Hassan Nasrulla have been arrested.  All Iraq News notes that female MPs are calling for an end to violence against women in Iraq and for Iraqi women to lead the way out of the political crisis by solving the problems that the male officials have thus far failed to.

The following community sites -- plus Cindy Sheehan, War News Radio, the Guardian, Jody Watley, Adam Kokesh, Jane Fonda, Media Channel, Susan's On The Edge, Tavis Smiley, and the Pacifica Evening News -- updated last night and today:

  • The e-mail address for this site is

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    Camp Ashraf: The US failure

    The number killed and wounded vary but all outlets are reporting on an attack on the former residents of Camp Ashraf.  Trend News Agency says 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reports, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release." Who are these people targeted?

    Approximately 3,400 people were at Camp Ashraf when the US invaded Iraq in 2003.  They were Iranian dissidents who were given asylum by Saddam Hussein decades ago.  The US government authorized the US military to negotiate with the residents.  The US military was able to get the residents to agree to disarm and they became protected persons under Geneva and under international law.

    Despite that legal status and the the legal obligation on the part of the US government to protect the residents, since Barack Obama was sworn in as US president, Nouri has ordered not one but two attacks on Camp Ashraf resulting in multiple deaths.  Let's recap.  July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observes that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."

    Under court ordrer, the US State Dept evaluated their decision to place the MEK on the terrorist list and, September 28th, they issued the following.

    Office of the Spokesperson
    Washington, DC
    September 28, 2012
    The Secretary of State has decided, consistent with the law, to revoke the designation of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) and its aliases as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under the Immigration and Nationality Act and to delist the MEK as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224. These actions are effective today. Property and interests in property in the United States or within the possession or control of U.S. persons will no longer be blocked, and U.S. entities may engage in transactions with the MEK without obtaining a license. These actions will be published in the Federal Register.
    With today's actions, the Department does not overlook or forget the MEK's past acts of terrorism, including its involvement in the killing of U.S. citizens in Iran in the 1970s and an attack on U.S. soil in 1992. The Department also has serious concerns about the MEK as an organization, particularly with regard to allegations of abuse committed against its own members.
    The Secretary's decision today took into account the MEK's public renunciation of violence, the absence of confirmed acts of terrorism by the MEK for more than a decade, and their cooperation in the peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf, their historic paramilitary base.
    The United States has consistently maintained a humanitarian interest in seeking the safe, secure, and humane resolution of the situation at Camp Ashraf, as well as in supporting the United Nations-led efforts to relocate eligible former Ashraf residents outside of Iraq.

    CNN notes of today's assault, "The rocket and mortar attack occurred at Camp Hurriya, a onetime U.S. base formerly known as Camp Liberty, which is now the home of the Iranian exile group Mujahedin-e-Khalq. Accounts of the number of people killed and wounded in the attack vary."

    The National Council of Resistance of Iran released the following this afternoon:

    Mrs. Maryam Rajavi called on the US President and the UN Secretary General to immediately return the residents to Ashraf
    At 05:45 this morning, local time, camp Liberty was attacked with missiles and mortars. Until now 6 residents including a woman were martyred and more than 50 people injured. The injured are at critical condition and the number of martyrs may rise. One of the 6 residents died two hours after the attack due to delay in transfer to hospital. The names of martyrs are: Pouran Najafi, Yahya Nazari, Akbar Azizi, Mostafa Khosravi, Mehdi Abed and Hadi Shafiei. Aid and ambulances for transfer of injured were not available in the early hours of the attack. The generator of Iraqi Clinique was also hit and is not functioning and the electricity has been cut off. Iraq’s prime ministry has ordered the Iraqi forces to prevent transfer of injured to hospitals with few vehicles which the residents had brought to Liberty from Ashraf.
    During the past year, despite residents’ insistence and frequent approach to the US and UN officials, the government of Iraq cruelly prevented transfer of residents’ medical equipment from Ashraf to Liberty.  

    Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera) has a video report here.  She speaks with the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq, Martin Kobler, who states, "We want to avoid bloodshed and that's why we entered into the agreement with the government of Iraq -- because there was immediate violence in December 2011.  That's why I'm so shocked what happened today because these people have to be protected."  The United Nations News Centre noted:

    Camp residents were previously situated at Camp Ashraf in eastern Iraq, but were relocated last year, in line with an agreement signed in December 2011 between the UN and the Iraqi Government.
    “The Secretary-General calls on the Government of Iraq, which is responsible for the safety and security of residents of both Camp Liberty and Camp Ashraf, to promptly and fully investigate the incident and bring perpetrators to justice,” said Mr. Ban's spokesperson in a statement. “He has repeatedly stated that violence and provocation are unacceptable.”
    Mr. Ban also reiterated the UN's strong commitment to continue its long-standing efforts to facilitate a peaceful and durable solution for residents of both camps.
    The High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, expressed his shock about the attack calling it “a despicable act of violence.”
    “I call on the Iraqi Government to do everything it can to guarantee security to the residents,” he said. “The perpetrators must be found and brought to justice without delay.”
    In a news release, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said it is closely liaising with the Government on the response to the incident, including medical assistance to the wounded.

    Press TV notes, "The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that Camp Liberty should be used as a transit center for the MKO members to other countries." And here's the UNHCR press release on that:

    UNHCR Chief Guterres strongly condemns deadly attack on Camp Liberty in Iraq
    9 February 2013 The High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres expresses his shock about this morning's mortar attack on Camp Liberty in Iraq that reportedly killed six and wounded dozens.
    "I strongly condemn this attack," Mr. Guterres said, noting that the residents of Camp Liberty are asylum seekers undergoing the refugee status determination process and thus entitled to international protection. "This is a despicable act of violence."
    "I call on the Iraqi Government to do everything it can to guarantee security to the residents," he said. "The perpetrators must be found and brought to justice without delay," he said.
    The High Commissioner also calls on all countries to help find urgent solutions for the Camp Liberty residents.
    Mr. Guterres expresses his deep condolences to the families of the victims.

    Al Jazeera notes that the spokesperson for the European Union has conveyed condemnation for the attack from High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton.

    So the United Nations, the European Union . . . Where's the US government?

    See, this is why 60 Minutes and others shouldn't do puff pieces.  Secretary of State was Hillary Clinton.  At least 50% of her job was restoring confidence in the State Dept internally.  Starting with Colin Powell's lies, morale at the State Dept took a deep hit and needed to be restored.  They needed someone who could restore the image and Hillary did that.  She was a political star and she deserves credit for using all of that star power to boost morale and to give the Dept meaning internally.  That's why John Kerry is the perfect choice to replace her.  He has the tools to build on the restoration she's done.  He lacks her star power but so does pretty much everyone else.  He does have stature himself, significant stature, and he's known for being methodical.  So he will hopefully do a wonderful job of picking up the baton and moving forward on that topic.

    But 50% of a job isn't a job.  In other areas, Hillary didn't do so well.

    That does include Camp Ashraf.  She dragged her feet and ignored a court order.  Yes, with the approval of the White House but I'm not evaluating them right now, I'm evaluating Hillary.  Over a year passed and the courts had to give her another deadline.  This one she managed.  October 1, 2012 was the new deadline.  As we've noted above, September 28th, three days before the deadline, the State Dept finally acted.

    Apparently the foot dragging on that was not followed by quick action.  As Jane Arraf notes in her report, there's very little effort to welcome the Ashraf residents around the world.  The US government gave the Ashraf residents protected status.  It is incumbent upon the US government to work to arrange visas for these residents.  Some will most likely refuse to leave.  Those who turn down a genuine offer are on their own.  The US government's extension of protected persons status only extends up to the moment that a way out is presented.  If a resident refuses to take the way out, he or she can remain in Iraq where Nouri will most likely deport them to Iran.

    The foot dragging by the State Dept and the White House is appalling.  Today, the residents were yet again attacked.  That can't continue to happen.  The residents need to have real offers to leave, real visas.  And after that, the US government is done.  You can't help someone leave if they choose to stay.  You'd think the US government would work quickly on this issue so that they could dispense with their own legal obligations.

    And just as I was about to hit "publish" a State Dept friend called to say they had just issued a statement:

    Press Statement
    Victoria Nuland
    Department Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
    Washington, DC
    February 9, 2013

    The United States condemns in the strongest terms the vicious and senseless terrorist attack that took place this morning at Camp Hurriya killing 6 people and injuring dozens more. We offer our condolences to the families of the victims and hope for the swift recovery of those who were injured.
    We understand the Government of Iraq has undertaken to promptly investigate the attack. We call on it to earnestly and fully carry out that investigation and to take all appropriate measures to enhance the security of the camp consistent with its commitment and obligation to the safety and security of the camp's residents. The terrorists responsible for this attack must be brought to justice.
    We are consulting with the Government of Iraq and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) on the circumstances surrounding this tragedy, and we remain committed to assisting the Government of Iraq and UNAMI in their efforts to implement the December 25, 2011 agreement.

    You can file it under "better late the never" or you can keep it in the folder marked "foot dragging."

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    Friday, February 08, 2013

    Iraq snapshot

    Friday, February 8, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, protests continue in Iraq, protesters call for an end to tyranny, bombings are condemned, War Criminal Colin Powell remains in focus, and more.

    All week long we've been noting the 10th anniversary of War Criminal Colin Powell presenting lies to the United Nation (February 5, 2003) to justify the war on Iraq.  Simon Black (Sovereign Man) remembers he was stationed in Kuwait when Powell lied:

    It all came crashing down ten years ago today. On February 5, 2003 Colin Powell, four-star general turned US Secretary of State, made a case to the United Nations that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
    Now, I won’t bother delving into the inaccuracies of the intelligence he presented. In Powell’s own words, making that presentation to the UN was “the lowest point in [his] life” and a “lasting blot on his record.”
    For me, it was pivotal. At that instant, I knew without doubt that my government had reprehensibly lied through its teeth. And if they were lying about this… what else were they lying about?
    Everything, it turned out.

    Norman Solomon has been addressing Powell's lies all week (including this column).  He is a guest on FAIR's CounterSpin which began airing today.

    Norman Solomon:  I would contend that Powell's speech at the UN was perhaps the most mendacious speech by a UN diplomat in the last several decades.  And its power was only manifested because, with very few exceptions, the corporate US mass media fell all over themselves to praise it as a brilliant tour de force

    Janine Jackson:  Well a couple of days ago, you debated the man who prepared that UN speech, Colin Powell's former aid Lawrence Wilkerson, on Democracy Now! and it was fascinating.  Even now --  Wilkerson has, I know, renounced or walked back his feelings on that speech -- but even now, he still insists, you know, that it's terribly lamentable but we were all wrong.  And when you said, 'No, everyone wasn't wrong. You know, the Institute for Public Accuracy, Scott Ritter, other folks including FAIR weren't wrong," Wilkerson's argument in his defense was to say, "When I said 'we,' I meant those in government -- not people like him" -- meaning you -- "or Scott Ritter or anybody else who were protesting that Iraq didn't have WMD at the time."  That sounds to me like he's saying only people in government have standing to think about policy or be heard on policy. 

    Norman Solomon: The reality was that not only did the Bush administration and many of their go-to-war allies among Democrats in Congress ignore the information and critique from Scott Ritter and Hans von Sponeck and other UN weapons inspectors as well as many independent progressive media outlets and protesters in the United States.  And they trashed us to be honest and cast all sorts of aspersions and said that we were ignorant and disloyal and all the rest of it.  So when, ten years later, we have the Chief of Staff for Colin Powell during the lead up to the war and when it was going on now telling me on live national television on Democracy Now! that I had failed to call him and inform him that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq?  I mean, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. It's just I felt that I had been pulled down Alice In Wonderland's rabbit hole.

    Janine Jackson:  Yes, exactly.  He wouldn't have listened to you and yet somehow you were meant to alert him to the realities of the -- of the holes in that evidence.  It was a kind of bizarre line of argument.  And it seems as though there's really no sanction.  Not only has being right about Iraq's lack of WMDs not encouraged journalists to grant legitimacy  to those groups that were right -- they've stayed on the margins --  there really also seems to be no sanction in journalism for being so wrong about something that was so devastating and so horrific.  And we see that because the same way of approaching official claims seems to be in place, intact.

    International Law and Human Rights expert, professor Francis A. Boyle addressed Powell's lies on this week's Global Research News Hour (link is audio).

    Francis A. Boyle:  These were all lies.  Everyone knew it at the time.  Powell knew it.  Right now, Powell is just shedding some imperial crocodile tears over his report.  Powell aided and abetted a Nuremberg crime against against peace, against Iraq, for which we unanimously convicted [former Supreme Court appointee to the US Oval Office Bully Boy] Bush and [former UK Prime Minister Tony] Blair at the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal.  The two of them are international criminals -- Bush, Blair and I would say Powell too for aiding and abetting.  And they should be apprehended and prosecuted by any state that gets a hold of the three of them.

    Michael Welch:  Yes.  And it's interesting because the major media, they held at the time, Mr. Powell -- and I suppose continue to hold these individuals in high reverence and seem to be just allowing that meme of "well it was just a mistake" to continue.  So is there --

    Francis A. Boyle:  Well this is a joke too.  This is a joke too in that it's well known that when he was a Major in Vietnam in the army, Powell helped cover up the My Lai Massacre.  So there's nothing, I mean this guy was a bootlicker from the beginning -- which is  how he got his position.  I think he wanted to work for Al Hague and then bootlicked his way up the bureaucracy  there.  So he's been a sycophant and a boot licker and now a War Criminal. 

    Iraq has been slammed today with multiple car bombings resulting in what Sinan Salaheddin (AP) calls "the bloodiest day in more than two months" while Duraid Adnan (New York Times) emphasizes that Iraq has "witnessed bombings now on seven consecutive Fridays."   CBS and AP count at least 30 dead.  BBC News notes over 80 injured, two bombings in Baghdad and two in Hilla.  Press TV explains of the Baghdad assualt, "Iraqi security and medical sources reported that bombings targeted a crowded bird market in the Kadhimiyah neighborhood of the capital, Baghdad, just after 9:00 a.m. local time (0600 GMT) on Friday."  In another filing, Press TV notes, "Security sources say the first bomb exploded at the main entrance to the market, and as panicked crowds tried to flee the area, the second device went off. " On the Baghdad assault, AFP reports, "Glass and shrapnel was scattered across the scene, an AFP journalist said, while pools of blood had formed on the ground and a chain-link fence was badly mangled. Several nearby cars were completely destroyed, and while passers-by scanned the wreckage, security forces tried to bar journalists from interviewing people in the area or taking pictures or videos."  Before they were stopped from filming, AFP's Ali al-Saadi and Khalil al-Murshidi filmed this video of the aftermath.   Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) explains, "That type of market tends to be very busy on Fridays, part of the weekend in Iraq, and have been targeted in the past by attackers."  Hou Qiang (Xinhua) notes, "An official with the local police station told Xinhua on condition of anonymity that the area is a Shiite Muslim community and has seen many attacks launched by the Sunni insurgents."

    Turning to the Hilla assault,  RTE notes, "A further 13 people were killed in two car bomb explosions at a vegetable market in the Shia city of Hilla, 100km south of Baghdad."  Kareem Raheem, Ali al-Rubaie, Suadad al-Salhy, Isabel Coles and Jon Hemming (Reuters) quote eye witness Habib al-Murshidi stating, "I was shopping when I heard the first explosion.  I was scared and tried to reach my car to run away but before I got in the second explosion went off.  I saw many people, women and old men lying on the ground which was covered with blood and scattered fruit and vegetables."  All Iraq News reports of the two car bombs that one car was paked in a garage and the other near the market

    Al Jazeera, the Christian Science Monitor and PRI's Jane Arraf Tweets on another bombing:

    1. Blast near Karbala near Dawa headquarters, PM Maliki's party, kills 2, police say. At least 31 dead in three Friday attacks.

    Another car bomb - near Karbala. At least 2 dead, 6 wounded in latest bombing of Shias. Demos in Sunni areas rail against PM Maliki.

    Of the Karbala bombing, Alsumaria notes it took place at noon local time and also damaged cars and buildings.

    Foreign Office Minister : 'Deeply saddened' to learn of today’s terrorist attacks in

    The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq issued the following:
    Baghdad, 8 February 2013Following the series of bombings that today hit popular and crowded places in Baghdad’s Khadimiya neighbourhood and in Shomali in Babel province, killing and injuring dozens of innocent victims, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG) Martin Kobler said that “perpetrators of these heinous and horrible acts are ruthless criminals whose sole goal is to push the country back to sectarian violence”.
      The SRSG appealed to the Iraqi leaders to unite and work together in order to stop once and for all the language of violence from spreading. “It is their duty and responsibility to sit together to see what can be put in place to stop this heinous, horrible violence,” he added. “It is the duty of the Iraqi leaders to find a solution to the current political stalemate in the country.”

    Ken Hanly (Digital Journal) quotes Omar al-Faruq stating, "I have been here for 45 days waiting for my dream to become a reality.  I dream that Maliki will be tried, the same way as Saddam."  He was protesting in Ramadi and he is only one of the many protesters taking to the streets of late.   Iraqi Spring shares photos of the Ramadi protest.

    1. Khalisi School in Ramadi المدرسة الخالصية في الانبار
    2. Khalisi School in Ramadi المدرسة الخالصية في الانبار
    3. Khalisi School in Ramadi المدرسة الخالصية في الانبار

     Alsumaria notes that Anbar Province demonstrators have condemned the bombing and are calling for the government to implement their demands or resign.  Al-Shorfa adds that the spokesperson for the Mosul protesters, Ghanem al-Abd, also condemned the attacks.  World Bulletin explains,  "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, is facing mass protests by disenchanted Sunni Muslims and is at loggerheads with ethnic Kurds who run their northern region autonomously from Baghdad."  For the seventh week, protests continue in Iraq with today being dubbed "NO to the Tyrannical Ruler."  Morning Star quotes Samarra's Sheik Mohammed Jumaa declaring, "Stop tyranny and oppression.  We want our rights.  You will witness what other tyrants have witnessed before you."    Kitabat reports protests today in Anbar, Mosul, Salahuddin, Kirkuk, Diyala and Baghdad and that protesters are calling Nouri the Pharaoh of Iraq (it's not a compliment) and noting that his State of Law didn't win the 2010 parliamentary elections but he used the Erbil Agreement to grab the post of prime minister then disregarded the partnership agreement.  Najaf demonstrators called this morning for Article IV of the Constitution to be gutted ('terrorists' arrests -- if you can't find your suspect, arrest a relative).  Alsumaria notes "hundreds" demonstrating in Kirkuk and demanding that Nouri's government resign if they are unable to meet the demands of the protesters.  Sinan Salaheddin (AP) notes protesters in Falluja and Ramadi again "blocked the main highway to Jordan."   On the Ramadi protests, Omar al-Shaher (Al-Monitor) reports:

    Amid the clamor caused by the ongoing protests in Anbar province in western Iraq, which are nearing their 50th day, demonstrators have pitched huge tents and blocked traffic on the highway linking Iraq to Jordan and Syria. The protest organizers said that the main square was attracting a million people each Friday, including many participants from thousands of miles away, who require food and a place to sleep.
    On one such Friday, 200 sheep were slaughtered to provide demonstrators with food. On another Friday, ​​the city of Hit, located 50 miles west of Ramadi, served demonstrators 2,000 dishes of meat and rice for lunch. The demonstration’s organizers said that Friday lunch meals can cost upwards of $60,000.
    Qusay Zain, a spokesman for the protest, said that tribal leaders in Ramadi compete to serve lunch to protesters, despite the exorbitant costs. "This time, many tribal leaders in Anbar have taken honorable stances,” he said.

    Liz Sly (Washington Post) observes, "With their huge turnouts, these largely peaceful demonstrations have the potential to present a far bigger challenge to Maliki’s hold on power than the violent and still stubbornly persistent insurgency, which continues to claim scores of lives every month without any discernible impact on the political process."   Neoconservatives Kimberly and Frederick W. Kagan have written an opinion piece on the protests for the Washington Post:

    Eighteen days of protests in Egypt in 2011 electrified the world. But more than twice that many days of protest in Iraq have gone almost unnoticed in the United States. Iraqi army troops killed five Sunni protesters in Fallujah on Jan. 25, after a month of anti-government protests in Anbar, Nineveh and Salahuddin provinces and elsewhere for which thousands turned out. Al-Qaeda in Iraq and Iranian-backed Shiite militias are re-mobilizing. Iraq teeters on the brink of renewed insurgency and, potentially, civil war.
    This crisis matters for America. U.S. vital interests that have been undermined over the past year include preventing Iraq from becoming a haven for al-Qaeda and destabilizing the region by becoming a security vacuum or a dictatorship that inflames sectarian civil war; containing Iranian influence in the region; and ensuring the free flow of oil to the global market.
    While tensions have risen over the past two years, the triggers for recent eruptions are clear. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, had the bodyguards of Finance Minister Rafie al-Issawi, who is Sunni, arrested for alleged terrorist activities on Dec. 20 — almost exactly one year after he ordered the arrest of Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi’ssecurity detail. Hashimi fled to Turkey and is unlikely to return soon to Iraq, where he was sentenced to death after Maliki demanded his trial in absentia for murder and financing terrorism.
    The threat to Issawi, a moderate technocrat from Anbar, galvanized Iraqi Sunnis, who rightly saw Maliki’s move as sectarian and an assault on government participation by Sunnis not under the prime minister’s thumb. Three days after the arrests, demonstrations broke out in Ramadi, Fallujah and Samarra. Three days after that, a large protest closed the highwayfrom Baghdad to Syria and Jordan. The popular resistance spread to Mosul on Dec. 27.

    Meanwhile Iraqi President Jalal Talabani remains out of the country.  Late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot), Jalal Talabani had a stroke and was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently. [Saad Abedine (CNN) reported talk that it was a stroke the day the news broke (December 18th) and January 9th, the Office of President Talabani confirmed it had been a stroke.]  The January 30th snapshot noted that Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani visited Talabani in the Germany -- Barzani was enroute to Davos -- with Barzani stating that Jalal's health was improving.  Talabani's website explains the the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq, Martin Kobler, conveyed congratulations on Tuesday, noting Jalal's progress and that his health had stabilized.

    Turning to the United States, yesterday saw John Brennnen appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee in his pursuit of the post to be Director of the CIA.  It was covered in "Iraq snapshot," "Thoughts on today's Senate Intell hearing (C.I.),"  Ava's  "The disgraceful Dianne Feinstein (Ava)," Wally's "Brennan likes torture (Wally)" AND Kat's "Brennan tries to weasel."  On that hearing, Jon Schwarz Tweets:

    As you listen to the Brennan hearing, remember 6 years ago Jay Rockefeller explained senators have no power vs the CIA:

     In addition, Ruth reported on a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in "If Leon Panetta told the truth . . .."  And, still on the Senate, Senator Patty Murray's office notes the following on veterans' spouses:

    Friday, February 8th, 2013
    CONTACT: Murray Press Office

    Murray Discusses Challenges for Military Spouses at Symposium in Tacoma
    (Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) discussed employment challenges and opportunities for military spouses at the 2013 Military Officers Association of America's Military Spouse Symposium in Tacoma.  The event, titled "Keeping a Career on the Move," brought service members, veterans, and military spouses together with local business experts and employers.  Senator Murray's remarks focused on the challenges that military spouses face to support their loved ones and her personal experiences from growing up in a military family.  As the former Chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Senator Murray is a leader in Washington on issues to service members, veterans and their families. 
    The full text of Senator Murray's speech follows:
    Thank you Admiral Ryan for that kind introduction.
    “I’m so pleased to be here today as part of this important event, and I have to say that it is so great to see that so many of you came out today to access the resources, advice, and experts that MOAA has made available to help you all in what I know can be trying times.
    “So of course I want to thank MOAA and all the people who have volunteered their time and energy to make this event possible.
    “But first and foremost, I want to thank all of you.
    “Now, often times when I thank the spouses of service members I get the same modest answers back.
    “I hear – “oh don’t thank me, thank my husband or thank my wife” - or I hear “it’s not that big of a deal.”
    “But the truth is - it is a big deal.
    “So I do want to start by thanking all of you for the unprecedented sacrifices that you – and all military spouses – have made over the last decade.
    “Thank you for picking up and moving your family – time and time again – in every corner of the country in order to be with your loved one.
    “Thank you for braving the uncertainty that every new day brings when a spouse is in harm’s way.
    “Thank you for not only being Mom or Dad - but for sometimes being either, or both, when the situation calls for it.
    “Thank you for juggling schedules, and practices, and homework when there is so little time in the day, and for making ends meet when money is tight.
    “And finally thank you for being courageous enough, and self-assured enough to ask for help when you need it.
    “For coming to an event like this to figure out how the country that your family is sacrificing for can help provide you with the skills and training to find work or to get into school.
    “I know it’s not easy.
    “But I also know from my own life that reaching out can really pay off in the long run.
    “As some of you may know, I grew up in a military family.
    “My father fought in World War II, was one of the first on the beaches of Okinawa, received a Purple Heart, and came home from war to start a big family in Bothell.
    “Growing up, I was not only a twin, but I was one of seven children…..
    “So as you can imagine, personal space among us kids was a concept we didn’t quite grasp.
    “But we were a close family - not only because we slept and ate elbow-to-elbow - but also because we were a loving family that had food on the table and lived a relatively secure life.
    “But when I was 15, things for my family changed.
    “My father, who had up until that point run a five and dime store on Main Street in Bothell, fell ill, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and within a few short years he could no longer work.
    “Suddenly everything fell to my mother.
    “My mother who now found herself with 7 children, a husband whose medical bills were mounting, and very few of the skills she needed to go out and find a job that would actually pay her well enough to support our family.
    “For a little while we relied on food stamps.
    “For even longer my siblings and I thought there was no way we would be able to leave our family and go off to college.
    “But my mother was brave enough to reach out for help – and thankfully the country her husband had sacrificed for was there to answer her calls.
    “Through a program established by the federal government my mom was able to enroll in courses at Lake Washington Vocational School where she got a two year degree in accounting that helped her find work that would support our family.
    “It allowed us get back on our feet.
    “It got us through a very difficult time.
    “And because that support was there for my mom and for our family, today those seven kids have grown up to be a school teacher, a lawyer, a homemaker, a computer programmer, a sports writer, a firefighter, and a US Senator.
    “So these days, whenever I talk to military spouses - who not only faces similar difficulties, but who also must constantly worry about the safety of their loved one.
    “It forces me to ask – are we as a nation there for today’s families the way we were there for mine?
    “What are we doing to keep today’s military spouses and their children above water?
    “The answer is that we are doing some, but not nearly enough.
    “I’m happy that in recent years we have expanded many of our employment efforts so that they don’t just focus on veterans and active-duty military members, but also on military spouses.
    “In some instances this has worked well.
    “We have seen many spouses take advantage of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, an Army program that works with Fortune 500 companies that pledge to hire our military spouses.
    “And now that we have expanded it to the spouses of servicemembers in the Air Force, Navy, and Marines - it is having an even greater impact.
    “We have also seen spouses utilize the Military Spouse Career Center which has centralized many important resources online.
    “But for other programs, like the Transition Assistance Program that I helped expand, we still have to get the word out that military spouses can also take advantage of the training program.
    “And for other federal programs like MyCAA we have been able to attract many military spouses, only to see the government cut back benefits because of limited resources.
    “So the truth is that our response to the hardships and the unique situation that you all find yourselves in has been uneven at best.
    “And there are still many things that can be done.
    “For one, I believe that we need to do a better job of reaching out to corporate America on the benefits of hiring military spouses.
    “We talk a lot about, and I authored legislation on, how to help employers understand the skills your spouses gained through their military service.
    “But we also have to do more to help them understand what you bring to the table.
    “Like your spouses, you are all used to the sacrifices and compromises that come with being a team player, you understand hard work and the day-to-day discipline it takes to succeed both at home and on the job, and importantly, you are resilient and resourceful in ways that I’m sure few other job candidates are.
    “These are qualities we have to get across to companies large and small.
    “Second, we need to do more to provide opportunities and support for the children of military families.
    “One area that I have been working on is in helping military families with children who have disabilities.
    “Believe it or not, today many of the behavioral therapies for children with autism, Down syndrome, and other disabilities are not covered by TRICARE. I’m fighting to change that.
    “I’m also working to ensure that school districts like the ones here in the Tacoma area that are at a disadvantage because they are on or near federal land – and don’t have the tax base that other schools have – get the support they need.
    “Over the years, I have worked to get millions for the Clover Park school district here which has faced these challenges and has been affected by steep declines in enrollment due to parents moving and long-deployments.
    “These school districts are in every part of the country – and they need federal support.
    “And finally, we need to offer more opportunities like this one today.
    “Opportunities for you to join with your peers to swap stories about everything from help wanted ads to help finding a babysitter.
    “And to meet with experts on how you can translate your diverse and sometimes even disorganized work history into a resume that will get noticed.
    “To learn more about interview techniques and tips.
    “To hear about workforce training programs and the skills needed to find a job in the in-demand careers in your communities.
    “And to come together the way only our nation’s military community can to ensure that everyone has someone to lean on.
    “I applaud you all again for your determination to keep your families and your careers going in what are often difficult days.
    “And I promise all of you that I will continue to fight for federal programs that help military spouses, that create opportunities for you to succeed, and that ensure that we as a nation are there for you and your family, just like it was there for my own family.
    “Thank you for having me today.”

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