Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Tursday, January 28, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the assault on Anbar continues, Barack Obama wants to arm Nouri al-Maliki in spite of this, Barack offers a brief mention of Iraq in tonight's State of the Union address and can't even get the facts right on that, and more.

Tonight, US President Barack Obama again wasted everyone's time with a dopey speech that meandered and challenged the listener to remain awake.  The State of the Union Address was carried live on ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS -- no doubt creating a windfall for The CW's Supernatural -- a show Ava and I once described as "like really bad gay porn where the leads forget to take their clothes off."

What Barack forgot in his marathon speech was foreign policy.  As Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) observes, "A rambling, 80+ minute State of the Union Address tonight gave President Obama an opportunity to lay out his foreign policy positions, but 60 minutes into the talk he hadn’t touched the matter at all."

Here's his full remarks on Iraq:

When I took office, nearly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, all our troops are out of Iraq.

Two sentences.

Two sentences and Baby Barack -- so coddled and fawned over -- couldn't even tell the truth.

And I think what we have to do is continue to work with the Iraqi Army and others to insure they understand the basic techniques of counterinsurgency. And so I think we continue to do that. We have a very small element on the ground that works in the embassy that has some expertise that can continue to help in these areas. And I think it’s important that we do that.

"And I think . . ."  That's US General Ray Odierno speaking January 7th at the National Press Club.  "A very small element on the ground that works in the embassy . . ."

All are out?

No, they're not.  And there's two children in the last 14 days who've noted on Twitter that their fathers are going to Iraq.  To serve in Iraq.  Not sure whether those children are refer to openly serving in Iraq or to Special-Ops, we haven't included them in the snapshots. What we have noted (repeatedly) from a September 2012 report by Tim Arango (New York Times) is this:

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.        

Yet Barack declared what?

US President Barack Obama:  When I took office, nearly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, all our troops are out of Iraq.

Is he that stupid or just lying?

He's the commander in chief of the military.

Let's hope he's lying and not so stupid that he doesn't know troops are in Iraq.

Another speech, another lie.  Richard Nixon lives on in the body of Barack Obama.  In fact, the Democratic Party might want to consider staging an exorcism.

Defense World explains, "Iraq has requested a sale of AH-64E APACHE LONGBOW Attack Helicopters and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $6.2 billion.  The proposed sale is divided into two separate contracts, valued at $4.8 billion and $1.37 billion, respectively." Jeremy Binnie (Janes) adds, "Iraq has requested another 500 AGM-114 Hellfire laser-guided air-to-surface missiles at an estimated cost of USD82 million, the US Defense and Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced on 23 January 2014."  Cheryl K. Chumley (Washington Times) notes:

Congress has 15 days to object to the sale — which wouldn’t be the first U.S.-Iraqi arms deal, AFP said. Earlier this month, the United States announced a plan to ship thousands of M-16 and M-4 assault rifles and accompanying ammunition to help Iraq’s government withstand a militant uprising in the west of the country. U.S. officials have also suggested American forces could help train Iraq’s military, perhaps in a third country.
Some on Capitol Hill oppose the sale of weapons to Baghdad, worrying that the country might let Iran cross into its airspace to help the Syrian regime — and funnel weapons and supplies to President Bashar Assad’s forces.

Where's the objection in the US?  Where's the bravery?  Does, for example, the Institute for Policy Study exist today as anything other than an obituary forum for famous dead people?  I don't see how you can be "a community of public scholars and organizers linking peace, justice and the environment in the U.S. and globally" and stay silent on this potential weapons sale.

Their silence makes Nate Rawlins (Time magazine) and his parroting (as opposed to reporting) look at least timely.

Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) notes, "There’s still objection [to the sale] though, and it comes from Iraq’s political opposition. Iraqiya’s top Sunni politician, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, has hired a DC lobbyist to specific fight against selling arms to his government."  Ditz' link goes to Rosie Gray of BuzzFeed who notes:

With his country descending deeper into sectarian violence, Iraqi deputy prime minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, the second highest-ranking Sunni politician in Iraq, hired independent consultant Sam Patten for “political consulting services related to the client’s electoral program in the Republic of Iraq,” according to documents filed with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agent Registration Act on January 18. According to the contract, Patten intends to work for Mutlaq until May (after the parliamentary elections at the end of April) at a rate of $20,000 per month. Patten previously worked for former Georgian prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili. The contract shows that Patten will be working not just for Mutlaq himself but for the al-Arabiya Movement, a political coalition led by Mutlaq that will be running candidates in the elections in April. The contract allows for a “win bonus” of $100,000 if “expectations are exceeded” at the end of the contract. 

Arming Nouri with more weapons?  When we know what he's done in the past and we don't even have to go to long ago past, just last year is proof enough.

The Iraqi Constitution notes that protesting is a right and freedom that all Iraqis can exercise if they so choose.  That's found in Article 38.

But Nouri doesn't follow the law.  So when the current wave of protests started over a year ago on December 21, 2012, his response was his usual response: call protesters "terrorists" and refuse to listen to the outcry of the Iraqi people.  And, of course, use the security forces to attack the people.

 January 7th, Nouri's forces assaulted four protesters in Mosul,  January 24th,  Nouri's forces sent two protesters (and one reporter) to the hospital,  and March 8th, Nouri's force fired on protesters in Mosul killing three.  All of which were just rehearsals for  the April 23rd massacre of a peaceful sit-in in Hawija which resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll rose to 53 dead.  UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

Eight children are dead because of Nouri al-Maliki and Barack Obama.  And no one wants to talk about that.  Not in the US, anyway.  Not supposed peace organization, not alleged think tanks.

Not everyone was slient though.  Thamer Hussein Mousa wasn't silent.  He was there.  He was one of the many peaceful protesters wounded.  His son was among those killed. The BRussells Tribunal carried his eye witness account of what went down:

I am Thamer Hussein Mousa from the village of Mansuriya in the district of Hawija. I am disabled. My left arm was amputated from the shoulder and my left leg amputated from the hip, my right leg is paralyzed due to a sciatic nerve injury, and I have lost sight in my left eye.
I have five daughters and one son. My son’s name is Mohammed Thamer. I am no different to any other Iraqi citizen. I love what is good for my people and would like to see an end to the injustice in my country.

When we heard about the peaceful protests in Al-Hawija, taking place at ‘dignity and honor square’, I began attending with my son to reclaim our usurped rights. We attended the protests every day, but last Friday the area of protest was besieged before my son and I could leave; just like all the other protestors there.

Food and drink were forbidden to be brought into the area….

On the day of the massacre (Tuesday 23 April 2013) we were caught by surprise when Al-Maliki forces started to raid the area. They began by spraying boiling water on the protestors, followed by heavy helicopter shelling. My little son stood beside me. We were both injured due to the shelling.

My son, who stood next to my wheelchair, refused to leave me alone. He told me that he was afraid and that we needed to get out of the area. We tried to leave. My son pushed my wheelchair and all around us, people were falling to the ground.

Shortly after that, two men dressed in military uniforms approached us. One of them spoke to us in Persian; therefore we didn't understand what he said. His partner then translated. It was nothing but insults and curses. He then asked me “Handicapped, what do you want?” I did not reply. Finally I said to him, “Kill me, but please spare my son”. My son interrupted me and said, “No, kill me but spare my father”. Again I told him “Please, spare my son. His mother is waiting for him and I am just a tired, disabled man. Kill me, but please leave my son”. The man replied “No, I will kill your son first and then you. This will serve you as a lesson.” He then took my son and killed him right in front of my eyes. He fired bullets into his chest and then fired more rounds. I can’t recall anything after that. I lost consciousness and only woke up in the hospital, where I underwent surgery as my intestines were hanging out of my body as a result of the shot.

After all of what has happened to me and my little son – my only son, the son who I was waiting for to grow up so he could help me – after all that, I was surprised to hear Ali Ghaidan (Lieutenant General, Commander of all Iraqi Army Ground Forces) saying on television, “We killed terrorists” and displaying a list of names, among them my name: Thamer Hussein Mousa.

I ask you by the name of God, I appeal to everyone who has a shred of humanity. Is it reasonable to label me a terrorist while I am in this situation, with this arm, and with this paralyzed leg and a blind eye?

I ask you by the name of God, is it reasonable to label me a terrorist? I appeal to all civil society and human rights organizations, the League of Arab States and the Conference of Islamic States to consider my situation; all alone with my five baby daughters, with no one to support us but God. I was waiting for my son to grow up and he was killed in this horrifying way.
I hold Obama responsible for this act because he is the one who gave them these weapons. The weapons and aircrafts they used and fired upon us were American weapons. I also hold the United States of America responsible for this criminal act, above all, Obama.

"I hold Obama responsible for this act because he is the one who gave them these weapons."

And yet Barack is preparing to further arm Nouri al-Maliki.

Stephen Zunes (National Catholic Reporter) offers this history:

At the end of December, Iraqi forces violently attacked a protest camp on the outskirts of Ramadi, killing 17 people. Human Rights Watch noted how the government's raid "seemed intended more to provoke violence than prevent it." Indeed, al-Qaida, despite lack of popular support even within the Sunni heartland, was able to take advantage of public anger at the crackdown to launch its unprecedented assaults on major urban centers in the Anbar province. The Obama administration responded by expediting additional military aid to the Baghdad regime.
This was the fifth major incident during 2013 in which security forces fired upon and killed peaceful protesters. A recent Amnesty International report noted how during the past year thousands of Iraqis were detained without credible charges, hundreds were sentenced to death or long prison terms after unfair trials, and "torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained rife and were committed with impunity." Even parliamentarians are not immune from imprisonment on dubious charges, and extrajudicial killings have made Iraq the second most deadly country in the world for journalists.

And we don't even have to go back to the past to see how Nouri uses these weapons on the American people.  We can just look at what's taking place right now in Nouri's assault on Anbar.   World Bulletin notes, "Some 650 people have been killed or injured and 140,000 displaced by indiscriminate army shelling in Iraq's western city of Fallujah, Iraqi Parliament Speaker Osama Nujaifi said Monday."

And what does the US government do?

Largely hold Nouri's hand and engage in a little under the sweater groping.  The US Embassy in Baghdad notes the the State Dept's Brett McGurk wrapped up 'diplomacy' January 12th:

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Brett McGurk completed a visit on Saturday to Baghdad where he met with national and local leaders from across the political spectrum to discuss the security situation in western Iraq. McGurk's itinerary included meetings with  Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Speaker Osama Nujaifi, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh Mutlaq, Deputy Prime Minister Husayn Shahristani, head of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, Ammar al-Hakim, and members of the Council of Representatives from the Iraqiyya and State of Law blocs. He also conferred with prominent leaders from Anbar province, including Governor Ahmed Khalaf, Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, and former Minister of Finance Rafa al-Issawi.

And now?  Deputy Secretary of State William Burns is taking meeting.  Nouri's official government website announces his meeting with Burns today and declares the focus of the meeting was on combating terrorism. According to Nouri, he has the full backing of the US with Burns declaring that the assault Anbar has nothing to do with sectarianism.  NINA has an English language report on the statement (the statement's in Arabic). Burns also met with Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.  NINA reports:

A statement by the Office of the Speaker of the House , " Najafi said that during the meeting the importance of a political solution to the crisis in Anbar, and to stop the bombing and the return of displaced people to their homes .
He stressed that " the tragic situation in Fallujah and exposed him innocent unarmed daily as a result of indiscriminate shelling represents a flagrant violation of human rights," according to the statement .
The two sides also discussed the " parliamentary elections , and agreed on the need to hold them on schedule." 

As Kitabat observes, Burns heard contradictory narratives in the two meetings. (They also note Burns met with Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari today but don't include any details of that meeting.)  Last week, Osama al-Nujaifi visited DC and met with many US officials.  Ali Abdelamir (Al-Monitor) reports:

“US officials’ opinions and positions were much more intractable than I had expected before getting to Washington,” said Nujaifi to Al-Hayat. Several MPs from the delegation accompanying the Iraqi parliament speaker stated that they were surprised by US officials. The latter expressed, for the first time, angry opinions about Maliki's performance and specifically about the current crisis in Iraq and its flare-ups in Anbar. They told Al-Hayat that they heard Secretary of State John Kerry, Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama clearly criticize Maliki, in front of Nujaifi and the accompanying delegation (which did not include Shiites), regarding the management of the current crisis. The MPs also indicated that the US officials were concerned that Maliki’s campaign in Anbar was a maneuver to postpone elections and impose new conditions that contradict democracy.
US officials seemed concerned about the activities of armed groups in Anbar, the confrontation with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the ensuing assistance to Iraq, including equipment, weapons and information. Yet, they also voiced their fear that the military campaign in Anbar would turn into a settling of political scores and a human tragedy, accompanied by tens of thousands of displaced persons and refugees, especially after the Iraqi army’s shelling of Fallujah and Ramadi that led to the death of civilians.
Nujaifi clearly expressed his fears and concerns in a speech addressed to an exceptional political American and Iraqi audience in the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington. “At this point, Iraq is at a crossroad and the United States must help it in its transition into a successful democratic state,” he said.

al-Nujaifi's speech at the Brookings Institution is last Thursday's snapshot.  UPI offers:

Given that Maliki needs AH-64s in the air now so he can mount all-out assaults on the jihadist-held areas of Fallujah and Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, and that he needs major victories over al-Qaida before parliamentary elections scheduled for April 30, it's possible the leased Apaches may be sent into combat as soon as they're delivered, possibly flown by mercenaries.

Dr. Bessma Momani is an associate  professor at the University of Waterloo, a member of the Centre for International Governance Innovation and the Brookings Institution.  Saturday, she addressed the arming of Nouri in a column for the Toronoto Star:

Local tribes in Anbar province did not welcome Al Qaeda forces into their towns in the past weeks and months, but the Baghdad government run by Maliki will take advantage of long-standing local despair and reaffirm its power and control over this restless province.
The Maliki government is up for re-election this spring and its support base in Baghdad has lived through an already horrific year of terrorist attacks. To shore up his base in the centre of the country, Maliki will want to flex his muscles both politically and militarily.
Unfortunately, Maliki has been given an international green light to bomb and annihilate Al Qaeda forces in Anbar. The Iraqi leader wants to raise his credentials as a strongman who can control the vast countryside; we can expect him to take a scorched-earth approach to the pounding of Anbar province. The result will be a high rate of civilian death, destroyed infrastructure and resentful families and locals throughout the province.
Fixing this situation by hammering Anbar province into submission will have enormous blowback. The Iraqi operations will further alienate communities and towns in Anbar from the centre. This will be a catastrophic mistake. The international community is misguided to think a military solution will fill a political vacuum.

Momani is Canadian.  Where's the American opposition to arming Nouri?  To giving him more weapons to use against the people of Iraq?

Al Arabiya Net quotes a Falluja resident who was fleeing with his family, "Now we're going to areas outside Falluja to save our children, families and women from the indiscriminate shelling." Saturday,  Alsumaria quoted medical sources who explain that the residential neighborhoods in Falluja are being targeted and that many citizens are being killed and injured.

Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports that the MPs stressed today in the Iraqi Parliament that there is no "military solution" to Anbar, there is only a "political solution."  They noted that the use of the military had only increased tensions and inflamed the crisis   NINA reports security sources tell them seven civilians were wounded in the military bombing of Falluja today.

Let's stay with violence.  All Iraq News notes a Babel bombing left two Iraqi soldiers injured.  National Iraqi News Agency reports 2 civilians were shot dead in Baquba, "the body of a man belonging to the police Intelligence" was discovered in the streets of Kirkuk (gunshot wounds), an Albu Alwan police station was blown up, a Shora roadside bombing left one police officer injured,  an armed clash in al-Qa'im between security members and rebels left 2 rebels dead, a Ratba roadside bombing left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and three more injured, a Baaj roadside bombing left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and two more injured, a Mosul armed attack left two Iraqi soldiers injured, security forces killed 3 suspects in Shura and Qayyarah,  and an Arab Jbour Village bombing claimed the lives of 5 Iraqi soldiers and 1 Sahwa.  Iraq Body Count counts 987 violent deaths so far this month through Monday.

Turning to the topic of the Ashraf community,  Iraq's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the following today:

 The Cabinet approved today January 28, 2014 on Iraq's contribution with the amount of half a million dollars to a trust fund proposed by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on October 23, 2014 to cover costs related to transporting the residents of Camp Liberty (formerly known as Ashraf) to a third country.
Iraq fulfilled its international and humanitarian obligations to transport Ashraf residents to Camp Liberty, waiting for the implementation of international commitments to resettle the Camp Liberty residents outside Iraq.
The government's decision reaffirms its position on the need to resettle the residents of Camp Liberty in third countries outside Iraq according to the commitments and understandings between Iraq and the United Nations.

Many will doubt Nouri's word on providing money for this issue since he's repeatedly failed to provide security for the Ashraf community.  The Ashraf community?  As of September, Camp Ashraf in Iraq is empty.  All remaining members of the community have been moved to Camp Hurriya (also known as Camp Liberty).  Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were  welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. 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."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.)   In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So the US has an obligation to protect the residents.  3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf.  They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part.  A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday.   That was the second attack this year alone.   February 9th of this year, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reported, " 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."  They were attacked again September 1st.   Adam Schreck (AP) reported that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.  In addition, 7 Ashraf residents were taken in the assault.  Last November, in response to questions from US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee, the  State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Brett McGurk, stated, "The seven are not in Iraq."  McGurk's sworn testimony wasn't taken seriously.  Once a liar and a cheater . . .

The US Embassy in Baghdad issued the following on McGurk's January 11th visit to Camp Liberty:

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk visited Camp Hurriya in Baghdad on January 10, accompanied by Gyorgy Busztin, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and officials from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). DAS McGurk met with senior representatives from the Mujahedine-e-Khalq (MEK) as well as survivors of the attack on Camp Ashraf and reiterated the importance the U.S. Government places on the safety and security of Camp Hurriya.  He noted that in meetings with senior Iraqi officials the U.S. will continue to press the Government of Iraq (GOI) to buttress security inside the camp, and welcomed the commitment to install additional t-walls following the next Camp Management meeting among camp residents, UNAMI and the GOI. DAS McGurk stressed the urgency of relocating the residents of Camp Hurriya to third countries as soon as possible and noted the full-time efforts of Jonathan Winer, Senior Advisor for MeK Resettlement, towards that objective. Given the special challenges involved in addressing these issues, DAS McGurk expressed deep appreciation to UNAMI and UNHCR for their work and ensured ongoing U.S. Government support of their efforts.