Thursday, January 30, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, January 30, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, over 1000 violent deaths since the start of Nouri's assault on Anbar, two government ministries are attacked in Baghdad, Americans agree the Iraq War produced no measurable success, and much more.

Pew's Richard Wilke Tweets on one of Pew's latest poll:

  • The Pew-USA Today poll is covered by Susan Page (USA Today).  Her breakdown includes, "On Iraq, Americans by 52%-37% say the United States mostly failed to achieve its goals. That is a decidedly more negative view than in November 2011, when U.S. combat troops withdrew. Then, by 56%-33%, those surveyed said the U.S. had mostly succeeded."  It was an illegal war and it was an unpopular war.  Public opinion turned on it firmly in the summer of 2005.  That is also when Cindy Sheehan staged her first Camp Casey outside Bully Boy Bush's Crawford, Texas ranchette.  Camp Casey was named after Cindy's son Casey who died serving in Iraq.

    Cindy's currently running for governor of California:

    Peace and Freedom Party of Los Angeles presents:
    Cindy Sheehan
    Candidate for California Governor 2014
    Also featuring:
    Poet Matt Sedillo   & Hip Hop artist Wil B

    Friday, January 31, 2014   6:00pm-9:00pm
    Peace Center West,  3916 Sepulveda Blvd
    Culver City, CA, 90230

    $10 Suggested Donation – no one turned away for lack of funds
    Reception, Meet and Greet the Candidate, Light Refreshments

    The illegal war accomplished little -- if anything -- worth praising.  AFP notes, "Violence has killed at least 917 people in Iraq this month, more than three times the toll for January 2013, according to an AFP tally based on reports from security and medical officials."  AFP's Prashant Rao Tweets:

  • Good for AFP for keeping their count but the gold-standard of non-governmental figures isn't AFP.
    Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 1037 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.  That leaves today's numbers and Friday's number before a final count for the month.

    Nouri al-Maliki's assault on Anbar Province didn't stop the violence.

    UPI insists, "Iraqi forces regained control of parts of two cities overrun by militants aligned with al-Qaida after intense fighting that's killed 850, officials said."  But to support that claim, all UPI offers is control of al-Nasaf ("on the western outskirts of Fallujah").  I'm sorry, is that considered good?

    Because when the assault started at the end of December, militias controlled no parts of Iraq.

    Since he started his assault, Nouri's lost territory.  Even if he regains it, he lost it to begin with.

    And that includes Baghdad, as Ann pointed out last night:

    Press TV reports, "Officials say Iraqi forces have retaken control of key areas in west Baghdad from militants amid a deadly standoff between militants and security forces."
    And note that the Baghdad areas were not "taken" until after Nouri started his assault on Anbar Province.
    Nouri al-Maliki is a crook and tyrant but, even worse, he's a jinx.
    Everything he does backfires.

    Baghdad -- where not one but two ministries were attacked today.  Jason Ditz ( points out, "But despite those modest gains, the city of Fallujah remains more or less entirely under AQI control, as well as much of Ramadi. The rest of the Anbar Province is largely in open revolt, with Sunni tribal leaders opposed to the Maliki government’s heavy-handed treatment of them."

    Today's violence?   National Iraqi News Agency reports  a bomb in the garage of Baghdad's Transport Ministry left 1 police member dead and "others injured," 2 assailants blew themselves up in the garage and then others tried to enter the Ministry and six were killed, 2 police members were killed and seven more were injured.  Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) reports on the attack on the Ministry of Transportation.   al-Salhy reports 24 deaths -- four were bombers who took their own lives, 2  were bombers who were shot dead, the other 18 were presumably security forces (though the report doesn't state that).  al-Salhy also notes 50 were injured.
    Tang Danlu (Xinhua) reports, "Gunmen stormed an office of Iraq's Human Rights Ministry in the capital of Baghdad on Thursday and seized a number of officials, a police source said.  The attack occurred before noon when eight gunmen broke into the office in al-Qanat area after a clash with the guards and took unknown number of officials as hostages, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity."  The garage is the Transport Ministry.  The other aspect of the attack is thought to be all the Human Rights Ministry.  The two are next door to one another.  Both were attacked today.

    That's what prime minister of Iraq and chief thug Nouri has brought with his assault on Anbar, violence everywhere.

    And he's also brought this:

    احد الجرحى الذين اصيبوا اليوم بسبب القصف المتعمد من قبل مليشيات المالكي التي تستهدف الاحياء السكنية في ،

    That's one of Nouri's victims today --  injured by his forces shelling Falluja.  NINA reports that hospitals have received 141 civilians have been killed in Ramadi and Falluja alone this month with another 509 injured and:  "He added that this can not be considered as final number because there are dead and wounded in areas which could not be moved to the hospital."  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 1037 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.  It's doubtful many counts will include the 141 civilians killed by the bombings and shellings from Nouri's forces.  NINA also notes military shelling left 3 civilians dead in Ramadi with eight more injured.

    Nouri al-Maliki is a War Criminal and collective punishment is a War Crime.  Daoud Kuttab (Crimes Of War) explains:

    Under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, collective punishments are a war crime. Article 33 of the Fourth Convention states: “No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed,” and “collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.” Israel, however, does not accept that the Fourth Geneva Convention or the Additional Protocols apply to the West Bank de jure, but says it abides by the humanitarian provisions without specifying what the humanitarian provisions are.
    By collective punishment, the drafters of the Geneva Conventions had in mind the reprisal killings of World Wars I and II. In the First World War, Germans executed Belgian villagers in mass retribution for resistance activity. In World War II, Nazis carried out a form of collective punishment to suppress resistance. Entire villages or towns or districts were held responsible for any resistance activity that took place there. The conventions, to counter this, reiterated the principle of individual responsibility. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Commentary to the conventions states that parties to a conflict often would resxort to “intimidatory measures to terrorize the population” in hopes of preventing hostile acts, but such practices “strike at guilty and innocent alike. They are opposed to all principles based on humanity and justice.”
    The law of armed conflict applies similar protections to an internal conflict. Common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 requires fair trials for all individuals before punishments; and Additional Protocol II of 1977 explicitly forbids collective punishment.

    Nouri's assault of Anbar was supposed to (a) deal with 'terrorists,' (b) be a swift operation and (c) demonstrate Nouri's skill.

    In fact, (a) it's left many civilians dead, injured and homeless (over 150,000 people have fled their homes -- they better not try to flee to Baghdad since the military is preventing anyone entering Baghdad from Anbar), (b) it started the last week of December and it's ongoing with no clear end in sight and (c) he lost control of Falluja, Ramadi, other parts of Anbar and also of Baghdad.


    The assault on Anbar has actually demonstrated that Nouri has no problem targeting civilians, that he utilizes collective punishment (an international recognized War Crime), that he's inept as well as criminal.

    Today's violence?

    National Iraqi News Agency reports a Sooq Shallal of Alshaab area car bombing killed 1 Iraqi soldier and left nine people injured, an armed attack in Kirkuk left 2 Asayish (Kurdish security force) dead, an armed attack in Buhriz left 2 police members injured, an eastern Baghdad (al-Talbiyah area) roadside bombing left five people injuredBabylon's Chief of Police, Hamza Atiya, survived a Hilla assassination attempt which left two of his bodyguards injured, a Kasra car bombing (Morocco Street) left 2 people dead and nine more injured, the Ministry of the Interior announces the Iraqi Air Force bombings in Anbar today killed 27 people,  and security forces boast they killed 24 suspects today on a highway in Anbar Province.

    Nouri's making promises in order to get a peaceful conclusion to the violence he initiated.  The answer, Nouri feels, is largely getting Sahwa to control Anbar.   Sahwa in Anbar are Sunni fighters.  Loveday Morris (Washington Post via Arizona Star) reports:

    To bring them on board, al-Maliki has recently said there is no limit on arming and equipping tribal fighters. Government spokesman Ali al-Moussawi said the Iraqi Cabinet has approved $3.4 million for tribesmen and more than $17 million for infrastructure projects in Anbar. “We are supplying them with more weapons and whatever they need,” he said. 
    But promises to incorporate fighters from the Awakening into the state security forces failed to materialize after the U.S. withdrawal. Facing cuts in salaries and threats from the al-Qaida militants they had fought, numbers dwindled to fewer than half the more than 100,000 men who made up the movement at its peak.

    The Sahwa are Iraqis (largely Sunni -- but not just Sunni according to then-Gen David Petraeus' testimony to Congress in April 2008) who were paid to stop attacking the US military and their equipment.  April 8, 2008, Senator Barbara Boxer noted they were being paid $182 million a year by US tax payers.  Nouri was supposed to pay them, he was supposed to integrate them -- mainly into the security forces but to find government jobs for those not integrated into the security forces.  The US government continued to pay a large number of Sahwas through 2010 as a result of Nouri's repeated refusals to pay the Sahwa.  In addition to failing to find them jobs and failing to pay them, Nouri also began issuing arrest warrants for various Sahwa members and leaders.

    And now he wants to be their friend and they just may be stupid to fall for that.  But the reality is Nouri needs them right now so he will promise them anything.  The thing about Nouri's promises though, they never seem to stick.  His word is worthless.  If pattern holds, he'll use the Sahwa to get some form of resolution to the crisis he kicked off and then he'll kick them to the curb.

    Mustafa Habib (Middle East Online) offers:

    The Iraqi government is facing not just one serious crisis but several. In less than a month the way that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has reacted to various disputes in the country has unleashed a series of crises. He has passed a national budget that is unacceptable to many including the Iraqi Kurdish and Iraqi oil producers, he has angered the heads of a number of provinces and sparked violent clashes in Sunni Muslim provinces by dispersing demonstrations in Anbar.
    To many, it seems that al-Maliki believes that the best way to respond to these crises is just to create another.
    “The 'creation of crises' really is the best description of the political situation in Iraq over the past four years,” Ninawa's governor, Sunni Muslim politician Atheel al-Nujaifi, told NIQASH. “It's brought the country to the brink of civil war more than once. I believe that the Iraqi people cannot cope with any more crises – especially because there really is no clear strategy for the future that might give them even a little hope.”

    Yes, that does describe Nouri, lurching from one crisis to another.  He lacks leadership skills as well as intelligence.  Remember the attack on Anbar is really an attack on protesters.   Al Arabiya News observes:

    Protests broke out in Sunni Arab-majority areas of Iraq in late 2012 after the arrest of guards of then-finance minister Rafa al-Essawi, an influential Sunni Arab politician, on terrorism charges.
    The arrests were seen by Iraqi Sunnis as yet another example of the Shiite-led government targeting one of their leaders.

    But the demonstrations have tapped into deeper grievances, with Sunnis saying they are both marginalized by the Shiite-led government and unfairly targeted with heavy-handed tactics by security forces.

    AFP notes, "It is likely to raise fresh concerns about the capabilities of Iraq’s security forces amid fears the April 30 general elections could be partially delayed, as was the case for provincial elections in April 2013."  Yes, AFP, we have repeatedly noted that here for weeks now.  Thanks for finally picking up on it.  Prashant Rao re-Tweets his boy-pal today letting the whole world laugh at him and AFP.  Those late to the party can refer to "A crackpot runs AFP, Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor" -- about how 'analyst' Reider Visser's half-baked analysis influenced Prashant Rao and Jane Arraf thereby making their calls as wrong as Visser's calls -- and while we'd long noted Visser didn't know what he was talking back, it wasn't until that moment that we realized Vissar had sanity issues -- he posted about how he was being followed around the world, and disrupted in libraries, and the FBI was posing as the State Dept and so much more.

    Today, Prashant re-Tweets Reidar Visser's latest 'analysis.'  Let's see how Visser does.

    First thing to note, the slots are being discussed, not candidates.

    The list of candidates will once again be vetted by the Justice and Accountability Commission -- a body that was supposed to have done work in 2005 and then vanished.  But Nouri used them in 2010 to kick out opponents.

    Reider offers the following on slots.

    Nouri's State of Law: 277
    cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr's Sadr bloc: 214
    Ibraiahm al-Jaafari's Islah: 205
    Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq's Ammar al-Hakim's Muwatin: 273
    Ayad Allawi's Wataniyya (formerly Iraqiya): 239
    Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq's Arab Iraqiya: 255
    Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi's Mutahhidun: 259

    Main thing to note, Ayad Allawi's far from the political death so many have insisted.

    Let's move over to stolen artifacts.  Yair Rosenberg Tweets:
  • Annals of chutzpah: Iraq seeks return of Jewish archive that it stole from the Jews. My latest in :

  • The Jewish archive is a trove of Jewish artifacts which were stolen by the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein.  Since the 2003 invasion all but a handful of Iraqi Jews have either left the country or been killed. This didn't happen overnight.  The current government did nothing to protect the Jewish population but thinks they have a right to the Jewish possessions. The White House insists that the archive must be returned due to a contract with the Iraqi government.  Stolen property can never be contractually negotiated.  You can only enter a legal contract over property with someone who is the rightful owner.  Yesterday, Ruth noted the Orthodox Union's press release on the issue:

    For Immediate Release                                                           Contact:
    January 29, 2014                                                                    Roslyn Singer, 212-613-8227

    The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations (OU), the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, commends Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) for introducing Senate Resolution 333, strongly recommending the United States renegotiate the return of the Iraqi Jewish Archive to Iraq. The OU also recognizes Senators Schumer, Kirk, Cardin, Rubio, Roberts, Kaine, Boxer and Menendez for their co-sponsorship and support for this important Senate Resolution.
    The Iraqi Jewish Archive is a trove of Jewish holy books and communal documents rescued from the flooded basement of Iraq’s intelligence building during the United States’ led ousting of Saddam Hussein in 2003.  The Archive, documenting 2,600 years of a Jewish Iraqi history, contains more than 2,700 books and other Jewish artifacts seized from oppressed Iraqi Jews and their institutions by the Hussein regime during the 1970s and 1980s. Sent to Washington, D.C., for restoration and now on display at the Smithsonian Institute, the Archive is scheduled to be returned to Iraq in June 2014 if no immediate action is taken to change the terms of the initial agreement with the Iraqi government.
    Nathan Diament, Executive Director for Public Policy for the Orthodox Union voiced his personal concern: “Due to the oppressive nature of Saddam Hussein’s regime, a once thriving Iraqi Jewish community of more than 150,000 people was reduced to no more than 60 persons by the time United States and coalition forces arrived in Bagdad in 2003. While the Hussein regime is no longer in power, these restored works documenting the Iraqi Jewish community, rightfully belong to that community now living in diaspora around the world, not the oppressive country from which they fled.
    The Orthodox Union thanks Senators Toomey and Blumenthal for their leadership and urges the Senate to pass this resolution in a timely manner.”

    Yair Rosenberg (Tablet magazine) ends his article on the issue as follows:

    Today, there is almost no one left in Iraq to appreciate the Torah scrolls fragments, kabbalistic works, and other rare gems found in the collection. But outside Iraq, there is a thriving Iraqi Jewish community in Israel and abroad. These descendants deserve to have their possessions returned to them, or at least made readily accessible, not put on display in a Baghdad museum where no Israeli can safely visit.
    What happened to the members of Iraq’s venerable Jewish community was a tragedy of profound proportions. Let’s not compound it by abandoning the best historical witness to the lives they led, the treasures they kept, and the world they lost.