Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, February 11, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the assault on Anbar Province continues, the United Nations expresses concerns, PBS replaces their long running program The NewsHour with the brand new GossipHour, a newspaper is bombed in Baghdad, Samantha Power has a suggestion for Barack Obama's travel plans,  and more.

Yesterday, we noted how NPR's lust for death and gossip led them to 'cover' Iraq.  The fact that it was gossip?  Clams by the Iraqi government cannot be verified?  That's gossip.  It's especially gossip if you try to present it as 'fact.'  Proving the gossip value, Perez Hilton blogged about the people who died yesterday in a bombing and joined the other gossip queens and kings in presenting the dead -- with no proof -- as "terrorists."

 Judy Woodruff who once objected to cooking segments on CNN decided PBS was a little stuffy for her and she needed to sling some sass too so she offered this on tonight's NewsHour (PBS -- link is video, audio and text):

In Iraq, a group of insurgents-in-training accidentally set off their own car bomb, killing 21 people. Police say the would-be terrorists had gathered near the city of Samarra in an orchard, when the bomb exploded. In addition to those who died, two dozen suspects were arrested.

She offered that nonsense yesterday.  We waited until today to call her out because I wanted to see if The NewsHour's headlines intended to note another Iraq event?  Click here for this evening, and, no, they didn't.

What item am I talking about?  What didn't they note?

How about the Monday event that the US State Dept commented on?  The only Iraq event on Monday that they commented on?  We carried the statement in yesterday's snapshot but let's note it again since gossip outlets such as The NewsHour missed it.

Press Statement
Marie Harf
Washington, DC
February 10, 2014

The United States strongly condemns today’s attack on the convoy of the Speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, Osama al-Nujaifi, in Ninewa province. Speaker Nujaifi has been a strong partner of the United States’ efforts in Iraq and we are grateful that he was unharmed in the attack.
Today’s attack exemplifies the danger terrorist groups pose to all Iraqis, and the importance of Iraqi leaders from all communities working together to isolate militant groups from the broader population. The United States stands with the Iraqi people and will continue to work closely with Iraqi political and security leaders to combat those who commit such senseless acts.

Again, we gave The NewsHour until today.  They're not real smart when it comes to Iraq and they might have missed it.  Even the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq waited until today to weigh in:

Baghdad, 11th February 2014 - The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, strongly condemned the attack against the convoy of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Osama Al-Nujaifi, in the city of Mosul in Ninewa Province yesterday afternoon. 

SRSG Mladenov urged all leaders to "unite against terrorism, which is affecting all segments of the Iraqi society”. 
“I also take this opportunity to call on the people of Iraq to support the security forces, local authorities and the tribes of Anbar in their fight against terrorism and to provide humanitarian support to those affected by the fighting”, he said. 
“In addition, I call on all sides to help rebuild Anbar through investment and socially inclusive policies and to address the causes of violence through dialogue and the political process" he added. 
“Finally, I wish a speedy recovery to those who were injured in this incident”, Mr. Mladenov said.

So to be clear, The NewsHour can engage in gossip -- in fact, can excel in it -- but they can't handle news?

The big news item out of Iraq yesterday was the assassination attempt on the highest ranking Sunni official in the country, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.

In the US, this would be the same as two assassination attempts -- one on the Speaker of the House and one on the Senate Majority Leader.  That's because there's only one house in Iraq's national legislative body.

Further news value was that the attempt took place in a Sunni-dominant province (al-Nujaifi is a Sunni) and that the governor of the province is Atheel al-Nujaifi, Osama's brother.

What PBS can't grasp, the Latin American Herald Tribune does, "Osama, Iraq’s highest-ranking Sunni politician, and brother Atheel al-Nujaifi, the governor of Nineveh, were unharmed when a roadside bomb detonated as their convoy was passing in the Al Gafran area."

There's also news value in who attacked him?

That should lead to speculation.  Not speculation presented as fact, but questions should be asked.

Osama al-Nujaifi is a very popular Sunni figure -- his political slate is fielding many candidates in the expected April 30th parliamentary elections.  Nineveh is a Sunni-dominant province.  Osama's brother Atheel al-Nujaifi is not just the Governor of Nineveh, he's the re-elected governor of Nineveh.  He's very popular which is why the US government and 'seed money' (US taxpayer dollars misused by the US State Dept) were unable to have him unseated (in Anbar, the US government was able to buy the office of governor).

So who could be behind the attack.  Press TV offers one possibility:

Iran Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani says Takfiri groups carried out the terrorist bomb attack against his Iraqi counterpart, calling on Iraqi officials to maintain their national unity.
“I suspect that perpetrators of this [act of] terror are neither Shia nor Sunni Muslims but they are Takfiri groups who have been in Iraq for a while,” Larijani told reporters on Tuesday on the sidelines of a ceremony held to mark the 35th anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution.

PBS's newly branded GossipHour didn't find that newsworthy but then, more and more, they struggle to figure out what is actually news.

And when they treat death as a giggle, do the gossip mavens realize what's going on in Iraq?

I'm not talking about the ongoing assault on Anbar Province.  We'll get there but right now I'm talking about what's going on in terms of what the society's been encouraged to do.

As Nouri behaves like a blood thirty tyrant, you see echoes in Iraqi society.  You see an increasing lack of respect for rule of law and for guilt and innocence.

It is not expecting too much on any given day for US outlets to grasp innocent until proven guilty -- the notion of which is not only the basis for the US legal system but also enshrined in the Iraqi Constitution.  But when they toss that aside to have their giggles over the deaths of a group of people that the Iraqi government claims were 'terrorists,' they don't encourage rule of law or innocent until proven guilty.  Instead, they help spread mob rule and terrorism.

If no one stands up for innocent until proven guilty, how do you expect the notion to take hold in Iraq?

Shame on PBS and their GossipHour.

Moving over to the ongoing assault on Anbar Province, the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle notes:

The rising death count and stubborn refusal of al-Maliki to share power are no reason to abandon Iraq, especially after this country's legacy of involvement. Instead it's time for Washington to push hard for serious reforms that will finish a job it so clumsily began in the name of democratic change. 

It is past time for the White House and the State Dept to demand serious changes in the way Nouri al-Maliki rules Iraq.  However, the big consideration at the White House right now with regards to Iraq?  Whether or not US President Barack Obama should make a dart-in-and-out visit next month?

Barack will be in the region and there are certain elements (War Hawk Samantha Power among them) arguing that Barack should visit -- and get this for her reasoning -- to show support for 'ally' Nouri al-Maliki right before the April 30th elections.

The idea of accountability is one that escapes the blood thirsty Samantha Power.

James Rosen (McClatchy Newspapers) notes:

The Obama administration is shipping Hellfire missiles and providing intelligence, training and logistics to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who American analysts say is helping to fuel the al-Qaida resurgence through repressive measures against Sunni Muslims from his Shiite Muslim-dominated government.
"The primary and empowering causes of Iraq's current violence are not extremist movements or sectarian and ethnic divisions, but its failed politics and system of governance," Anthony H. Cordesman and Sam Khazai, analysts with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote in a draft e-book that the Washington research center is circulating. "These failures are led by the current Maliki government."

Nouri has caused the problems in Iraq -- Nouri and the White House.

He lost the 2010 parliamentary elections to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya.  Neither he nor the White House could respect the will of the people.  For 8 months, Nouri brought the country to a standstill as he refused to step down.  Meanwhile, the White House had US officials in Iraq brokering The Erbil Agreement, a legal contract outlining a power-sharing government that would require Nouri to make certain written concessions in order for the political blocs to give him a second term so that the 8 month political stalemate would end.

Nouri used the contract to get a second term and then refused to honor it.

By the summer of 2011, the Kurds, Iraqiya and movement leader and cleric Moqtada al-Sadr were publicly demanding that Nouri finally implement The Erbil Agreement.

He refused to.

This causes the problems.

No power-sharing meant Nouri staged a power grab and punished his political rivals -- mainly his Sunni political rivals, most infamously with his attacks on Iraq's Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.

The targeting of Sunnis -- politicians and citizens -- led to the protests, the ongoing protests that kicked off December 21, 2012.  Still ongoing.

 Last Thursday, Human Rights Watch released their report entitled (PDF format warning) "'NO ONE IS SAFE: Abuses of Women in Iraq's Criminal Justice System."

Former detainee Fatma:  All in all, I was tortured for seven days. They tied my hands, stripped my clothes and covered my legs with ice.  This was during the month of February, so it was very cold.  I felt like my fingers were broken from the cold, the beating, the cursing and the insults. A man handcuffed both of my hands and feet, and made me lay on my stomach. He took my clothes off.  He started to hit my face and eyes.  He pulled me by my hair.  I couldn't scream or move because if I moved the handcuffs would hurt my hands and legs. Then the man raped me.  

Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Director Sarah Leah Whitson:  The number of women in Iraq in prison right now is estimated to be just over a thousand, about 1100 women.  And the abuses that we've documented against them are often typical of the abuses that men often face which is torture, beatings usually designed to extract confessions.  But in addition, because they're women with the additional vulnerability, they have faced sexual assault and harassment.  

Former detainee Fatma:  You've just been raped, beaten and insulted and then they say they will do the same to your daughter if you don't confess what they tell you to.  What can you do then?  You will surely say that you committed those crimes.  You will say whatever they want to protect your child.  So the only option that prisoners are left with is to confess to crimes they didn't commit and hope they find a lawyer who will prove their innocence. 

Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Director Sarah Leah Whitson:  We found dozens of cases of women who said they signed confessions due to torture.  We have ourselves documented their torture on their bodies, seen the marks left behind.  We have talked to judges who themselves have verified being put under pressure to convict women without evidence.

Former detainee Fatma:  The judicial order for my release was issued in January, but then I stayed in prison for 25 more days.

Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Director Sarah Leah Whitson:  It is quite common -- not just for women, but also for men in Iraq who've been detained -- to be held beyond their detention, beyond the expiry of their sentences.  And I think it highlights the dysfunction of the Iraqi judicial system.

Former detainee Fatma:  I filed a complaint but I haven't seen any results. I was interviewed by the justice minister once.  He asked me what happened and I told him all of the details and that I didn't understand why I was tortured and raped. He said that they will look into my case and that they will take court action against those who abused me.  He also said they would compensate me for the torture I've been through and for the extra time that I spent in prison after I was supposed to be released.  But as of now, nothing has happened, and I'm afraid. 

Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Director Sarah Leah Whitson:  In Iraq still there is an abiding sense of immunity for the security services which is blessed and sanctioned there.  Until Maliki makes clear that he will not tolerate torture and abuse either in Iraq's prisons or Iraq's police stations, we can expect this to continue. 

The above is another reason the US needs a NewsHour and not a GossipHour.

Equally true, the report should have immediately triggered US Congressional hearings since these human rights violations are against the law and mean the US government cannot be funding the Iraqi government or providing it with weapons.

Ramzy Baroud (Al Arabiya Network) notes the report and offers:

Considering the charged political atmosphere in Iraq, the latest reported abuses are of course placed in their own unique context. Most of the abused women are Sunni and their freedom has been a major rallying cry for rebelling Sunni provinces in central and western Iraq. In Arab and Muslim culture, dishonoring one through occupation and the robbing of one’s land comes second to dishonoring women. The humiliation that millions of Iraqi Sunni feel cannot be explained by words and militancy is an unsurprising response to the government’s unrelenting policies of dehumanization, discrimination and violence.

Nouri, of course, responded to the protests against these government abuses by declaring war on Anbar Province.  The United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq issued the following today:

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 11 February 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
Over the last six weeks up to 300,000 Iraqis some 50,000 families have been displaced due to insecurity around Fallujah and Ramadi in central Iraq's Anbar Province. With the conflict in Anbar continuing, UN agencies continue to receive reports of civilian casualties and sustained hardship in communities impacted by the fighting and the influx of internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Iraq's Ministry of Displacement and Migration estimates that the government will initially need $35 million to address humanitarian needs caused by the Anbar crisis, including to provide food, bedding and other needs. Late last month the government's high level emergency coordination committee allocated $18 million to the Ministry of Displacement and Migration and a further $9 million to Anbar Province authorities to help the displaced persons.
UNHCR field staff report that displaced Iraqis are residing in schools, mosques and other public buildings and urgently need various humanitarian items. Pregnant women and children need medical care while all families are in need of drinking water, milk and other food aid, diapers, beds and cooking items.
Most of the displaced have fled to outlying communities in Anbar Province to escape the fighting while 60,000 persons have fled to more distant provinces. Thousands are now displaced to Salah Al-Din; authorities in Erbil report some 24,000 persons there, while some 6,000 persons are registered in Dohuk and Suleymaniyeh and others are in Tikrit, Babylon and Kerbala.
Along Iraq's distant frontier with Syria, there are now some 7,000 displaced Iraqis in Al Qaim, a border city where families need significant support. Al Qaim hosts some 5,000 Syrian refugees and supplies are becoming increasingly scarce.
As in other parts of the country, the IDPs in Al Qaim are mainly living in hotels and guest houses, although some are staying in the abandoned staff residences at an old phosphate factory. A UNHCR team that flew in from Baghdad found others living in an unheated school, where they stay in classrooms and cook in an improvised kitchen on a stove donated by the host community. We identified several chronic medical cases of diabetes and high-blood pressure as well as at least four pregnant women. Blankets and kitchen sets were provided from the stocks stored at the nearby Al Obeidy Syrian refugee camp
In a relief operation coordinated by the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq to support the Iraqi government's response, UNHCR has distributed more than 2,300 kits of core relief items and 175 tents various locations across the country. The International Organisation for Migration has distributed more than 1,600 kits including also mattresses and sleeping kits. ICRC has likewise distributed its core relief item kits to more than 800 needy families as well as water tanks and other supplies. UNICEF has so far distributed more than 1,250 hygiene kits and various water/sanitation supplies and plans to send 36 tons of hygiene kits, water and sanitation supplies into Ramadi, Heet, Haditha, Rawa, Ana and Al Qaim. UNWFP in cooperation with IOM has delivered more than 4,300 food parcels to various districts in Anbar hosting IDPs.
In addition to providing medical care, first aid and transportation, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society is very actively involved in the relief effort and has distributed food parcels and other items to more than 100,000 people. Iraq's parliament has also dispatched relief aid via the Ministry of Displacement. The Ministry of Displacement and Migration itself has dispatched more than 5,300 food rations, 9,000 blankets and more than 600 core relief item kits while more than 200 tents are on their way to Amiriat Al-Fallujah to increase accommodation capacity. National charities like Al-Ataba Al Hussainiyah have distributed cash assistance for all IDP families from Anbar province in Al-Zahra city in Kerbala (100,000 dinars for adults and 50,000 dinars for children) as well as transportation costs between Al Zahra city and Kerbala city and three meals daily. A UNHCR team from Baghdad recently visited Al Zahra city near Kerbala and found more than 1,500 IDPs residing there in a pilgrim camp, where ICRC has provided water tanks and other aid.
Other partners like the International Rescue Committee are active and supporting UNHCR's field work. Save the Children plans to conduct a child protection assessment in Shaklawa and Erbil, in northern Iraq.
Access and roadblocks remain a challenge. A consignment of WHO medical supplies has reportedly been detained at an Iraqi Army checkpoint since 30th January. Many bridges leading into the Anbar region have been destroyed and roads are blocked, complicating deliveries to communities hosting IDPs.
The some 300,000 new IDPs comes atop of Iraq's population of more than 1.1 million displaced persons who have still not returned to communities wracked by violence mainly during the 2006-2008 upheaval.
For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Amman: Peter Kessler on mobile +962 79 631 7901
  • In Baghdad: Natalia Prokopchuk on mobile +964 780 921 7341

On violence, through yesterday, Iraq Body Count notes 290 violent deaths so far this month.


National Iraqi News Agency reports an  a Baquba roadside bombing left two people injured,  a Mishada roadside bombing left 1 person dead and another injured, a Mosul roadside bombing left 1 woman and 1 child dead and a second woman injured, shellings left 5 people dead and thirty-one injured in Falluja, a mortar attack on Falluja Educational Hospital left one doctor injured, an al-Meshaheda roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police member and left two more injured, and  a Kirkuk roadside bombing left one woman injured.  All Iraq News notes a Baquba sticky bombing left 1 taxi driver dead.


National Iraqi News Agency reports an attack on a Jurf al-Sakar checkpoint which left eight federal police injured, two people were injured in a Jamjamal shooting, 1 person was shot dead in Baladiat,  a Hawija confrontation left 1 Sahwa dead, an Eina Village battle left 15 Iraqi soldiers dead, Joint Special Operations Command declared they had killed 17 suspects in Ein-Aljahsh Village, Joint Special Operations Command announced they had killed 7 suspects to the northwest of Ramadi,  a Tarmiyah battle left 1 Sahwa dead and two more injured, and 1 Turkmen was shot dead in Mosul.


National Iraqi News Agency reports  1 corpse was discovered in Sadr City.  Loveday Morris (Washington Post) pointed out earlier this week, "Scores of bodies have been dumped in Iraq’s canals and palm groves in recent months, reminding terrified residents of the worst days of the country’s sectarian conflict and fueling fears that the stage is being set for another civil war."

The shelling of Falluja Eductional Hospital was by Iraqi forces.  They've previously shelled Falluja General Hospital.  World Bulletin notes that "hospital doctors gave Iraq's Health Ministry a 24-hour deadline by which to intervene to stop the shelling of the hospital, threatening to stop working if their demands went unmet."

The US pretends these shellings are not taking place because they are War Crimes.  [You can refer to the International Committee of the Red Cross for the Convention (IV) relative to the Proection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949.]  Emma Daly (Crimes Of War) explains:

The concept of immunity, the rule that certain people and places should be “protected and respected” during wartime, can be dated back at least to 1582, when a Spanish judge suggested that “intentional killing of innocent persons, for example, women and children, is not allowable in war.” The Geneva Conventions of 1949 confirmed immunity for civilians, hospitals, and medical staff, and the 1977 Additional Protocols to the conventions state: “The civilian population and individual civilians shall enjoy general protection against the dangers arising from military operations.”
The absolute rule is that civilians must not be directly targeted for military attack. Furthermore, some individuals considered especially vulnerable  -- children under fifteen, the elderly, pregnant women, and mothers of children under seven -- are granted special protection and may, for example, be moved to safe zones exempt from attack by agreement of the warring parties. The wounded, sick, or shipwrecked, military personnel who are considered to be hors de combat, are protected, as are prisoners of war.
Hospitals, both fixed and mobile, ambulances, hospital ships, medical aircraft, and medical personnel --  whether civilian or military -- are also entitled to protection from hostile fire under the Geneva Conventions, provided that structures are marked with a red cross or red crescent and not used improperly or near military objectives, and staff are properly protected. Staff include not only doctors, nurses, and orderlies, but the drivers, cleaners, cooks, crews of hospital ships—in short, all those who help a medical unit to function. Some aid workers -- for example, Red Cross volunteers treating the sick and wounded on the battlefield -- are also covered, as are military chaplains. Other than hospitals, certain other buildings cannot be attacked. Places of worship and historic monuments are protected, as are civilian structures like schools and other objects that are not being used to support military activities. Under the 1954 Convention on Cultural Property important places of worship, historic sites, works of art, and other cultural treasures are likewise protected from attack.

"The hospital medical staff urges the health minister to immediately intervene to stop the targeting of the hospital," chief doctor Ahmed al-Shami said at a Tuesday press conference.

Reporters Without Borders issued a statement today which includes:

Reporters Without Borders condemns yesterday morning’s bomb attack on the downtown Baghdad headquarters of the Al-Sabah Al-Jadid newspaper, five days after it published a much criticized cartoon of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. The explosion caused a great deal of damage but no injuries.
The offending cartoon illustrated an article in the newspaper’s 6 February issue, which was about the demonstrations being organized this week to mark the 34th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution and which criticized Mohammed Hidari, an Iraqi mullah who supports the Iranian regime.
Much of the population and many politicians regarded the cartoon as an insult to the Iranian revolution and Iraq’s Shiite population, and demonstrators gathered outside the newspaper to demand an apology.
The newspaper published an apology on 9 February but it failed to defuse the hostility.
“Targeting a newspaper in this manner is unacceptable,” Reporters Without Borders said. “After being alerted by the newspaper’s management the day before the bombing, the authorities should have taken the necessary measures to protect its premises and staff, and to make it clear to the demonstrators that there was nothing illegal about the cartoon.
“The authorities must now investigate this criminal attack so that the perpetrators and the instigators can be arrested and brought to justice. It is crucial that all necessary measures are taken to ensure that journalists are safe.
“In the current climate of worsening relations between Shiites and Sunnis, the media must act responsibly and must not exacerbate tension unnecessarily. Nonetheless, this cartoon did not in any way constitute an offence to the Shiite community. Tolerance of different viewpoints is the basis of a democratic system.”

Yesterday, Fars News Agency reported, "Thousands of Iraqi people took to the streets in Baghdad to condemn the publication of a cartoon insulting Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei in Iraq’s Al-Sabah Al-Jadid newspaper."