Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, February 5, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, attacks in Baghdad scare the politicians, the Anbar assault continues with Nouri planning to hide behind Sunnis because he's lost so many soldiers in the Iraqi army, Brett McGurk spins for Congress, Jen Psaki tries to pretend 7 years isn't a big time to wait on a promise, and much more.

Nouri al-Maliki is the chief thug and prime minister of Iraq and his assault on Anbar Province continues. Ramzy Baroud (International Policy Digest) offers an explanation at how arrived where they are now:

Mostly Muslim Sunni tribesmen were fed up with the political paradigm imposed by the Americans almost immediately upon their arrival, which divided the country based on sectarian lines. The Sunni areas, in the center and west of the country, paid a terrible price for the US invasion that empowered political elites purported to speak on behalf of the Shia. The latter, who were mostly predisposed by Iranian interests, began to slowly diversify their allegiance. Initially, they played the game per US rules, and served as an iron fist against those who dared resist the occupation. But as years passed, the likes of current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, found in Iran a more stable ally: where sect, politics and economic interests seamlessly align. Thus, Iraq was ruled over by a strange, albeit undeclared troika in which the US and Iran had great political leverage where the Shia-dominated government cleverly attempted to find balance, and survive.
Of course, a country with the size and history of Iraq doesn’t easily descend into sectarian madness on its own. But Shia and Sunni politicians and intellectuals who refused to adhere to the prevailing intolerant political archetype were long sidelined -- killed, imprisoned, deported and simply had no space in today’s Iraq- as national identity was banished by sect, tribe, religion and race. Currently, the staff of the US embassy stands at 5,100, and American companies are abandoning their investments in the south of Iraq where the vast majority of the country’s oil exists. It is in the south that al-Maliki has the upper hand. He, of course, doesn’t speak on behalf of all Shia, and is extremely intolerant of dissidents. In 2008, he fought a brutal war to seize control of Basra from Shia militias who challenged his rule. Later, he struck the Mehdi Army of Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr in a Baghdad suburb. He won in both instances, but at a terrible toll. His Shia rivals would be glad to see him go.
Maliki’s most brutal battles however have been reserved for dissenting Sunnis. His government, as has become the habit of most Arab dictators, is claiming to have been fighting terrorism since day one, and is yet to abandon the slogans it propagates. While militant Sunni groups, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, have indeed taken advantage of the ensuing chaos to promote their own ideology, and solicit greater support for their cause, Iraq’s Sunnis have suffered humiliation of many folds throughout the years long before al-Qaeda was introduced to Iraq --  courtesy of the US invasion.

The assault on Anbar is only a more public and more extreme version of what Nouri's carried out for years.  He's done so with the criminal participation of the US government.  And now the US government is actively involved in War Crimes.

"While al-Qaeda in Iraq has been powered by prison breaks and the Syrian civil war, it has also been fueled by the alienation of much of the Sunni population from the Shi’a dominated government in Baghdad," declared US House Rep . Ed Royce today.  "Al-Qaeda has become very skilled at exploiting this sectarian rift; and Maliki’s power grab has given them much ammunition.  This is a point that Ranking Member Engel and I underscored with President Maliki when he visited Washington last fall."

He was speaking this morning at the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  Royce is the Chair of the Committee and US House Rep Eliot Engel is the Ranking Member.  Appearing before the Committee this morning was  the US State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Brett McGurk.

In his opening remarks, Chair Ed Royce cautioned, "But Iraqis should know that their relations with Iran and the slow pace of political reconciliation with minority groups raise serious Congressional concerns.  While he may not be up to it, Maliki must take steps to lead Iraq to a post-sectarian era."

We're going to note some positions expressed from others.  We'll start with the Ranking Member.  Please note, I usually only add (in brackets: "[]") to illuminate what's being said.  But War Hawk Engel is not going to get to lie here.  He can offer his opinion, and he does, but when he lies that all US troops are out of Iraq?

We're not going to play that game.  We're also not ever going to include his crocodile tears.

Like Hillary Clinton, Engel voted for the Iraq War.  If you feel her clarification that her vote was wrong -- but after Gates' book who can believe her when he reveals she lied to the American people with regards to the so-called "surge" of US troops into Iraq because she was trying to get votes -- you should also be aware that Engel has never apologized.  So he should cry for the American dead, he should be haunted by them.  He voted for an illegal war.  That said, the people killed in Falluja when the US military was ordered to attack twice in 2004 matter as well.  Even if Engel doesn't think so.

Ranking Member Eliot Engel: Iraq continues to be ravaged by sectarian violence and the situation's getting worse.  Last year, more than 8500 Iraqis were killed in bombings, shootings and other acts -- the most since 2008.  I should note that on Monday of this week, the senior leadership of al Qaeda excommunicated and disowned their affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria -- ISIS -- as a result of that group's tactics in Syria. For the purpose of this hearing, ISIS remains a threat to stability in Falluja, other areas of Anbar Province and the whole of Iraq.  Some may argue that the lack of an enduring US presence in Iraq  has contributed to the resurgence of violence -- especially in Sunni terrorism related to al Qaeda.  But let's be honest, the dire security situation in Anbar Province is much more about Iraqi politics than it is about the United States.  In any case, the direct use of US military force in Iraq is virtually unthinkable at this point.  We've withdrawn from Iraq and we aren't going back.  Although we no longer have boots on the ground [except for Special-Ops and the 100 or so Brett McGurk noted today were guarding the Embassy and its diplomatic staff and, as Brett noted, various 'trainers' and persons who facilitate the selling of weapons], the US does maintain a huge stake in Iraq's security.  And I believe we should continue to provide appropriate assistance  to the Iraqi military and their fight against ISIS.  But we must also recognize that the current situation in Anbar cannot be resolved through military means alone. An all-out assault on Falluja by the Iraqi security forces would play right into the hands of ISIS, reinforcing the perception among Sunnis that they have been systematically victimized by Prime Minister Maliki's Shia-led government.  To defeat al Qaeada, the Iraqi government must take a page  out of our playbook from the Iraq War and enlist moderate Sunni tribes in the fight.  I understand that [US] Vice President [Joe] Biden recently discussed this issue with Prime Minister Maliki encouraging him to incorporate tribal militias fighting al Qaeda into security -- into Iraqi security forces and to compensate those injured and killed in battle.  By taking these steps, I'm hopeful that Maliki can begin to bridge the widening sectarian gulf  in Iraq.  

Did Joe Biden talk to him?  I'm really tired of  Joe and his talk right now and probably going to let it rip on him next week.  But for now, we'll note that Joe  did do that.  As he's done repeatedly and, apparently, ineffectively since 2009.  In other words, he's accomplished nothing and is still trying the same tactics which is a complete waste of time.  Iraq is now on him in the minds of Americans.  He might want to try something new real quick or he might want to accept the fact that the destruction of Iraq will be hung around his neck should he choose to run for the presidency.

US House Rep Ted Poe:  al Qaeda's resurgence is directly related to Prime Minister Maliki's mishandling of his government.  Incompetence and corruption seem to be the norm.  The centralized power alienated the Sunnis and brought back Shia hit squads. He has allowed Iranian supportive operatives to kill MEK Iranian dissidents [the Ashraf community] now on seven occasions without consequences. The last time you were here, Mr. McGurk, you testified before my Subcommittee and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's Subcommittee, I predicted that there would be another attack.  Seven days after you testified in December, Camp Liberty was attacked again.  All this chaos has created an environment ripe for al Qaeda.  al Qaeda's re-establishing a safe haven to launch attacks outside the region.  That is a totally unacceptable trend.  The question is: What is the United States going to do?

Now we'll note another opinion expressed:

US House Rep Brad Sherman:  In the 1940s, we occupied countries no one doubted our right to occupy. We took our time, we created new governments and those governments created new societies.  At various other times, we've invaded countries, achieved a limited objective or as much as could be achieved at reasonable cost and we left.   The first example of that was Thomas Jefferson's military intervention in Libya.  In Iraq and Afghanistan, we established a bad example. The world -- and even some in the United States -- doubted our right to occupy, so we hastily installed [Hamid] Karzai in Afghanistan and in Iraq we installed a structure which is now presided over by Mr. Maliki.  It is not surprising that Afghanistan and Iraq continue to be problems since we hastily handed over governance to those who are ill prepared. Iraq is not the most important Arab state strategically.  It does not become more important in the future because we made a mistake in the past that cost us dearly in blood and treasure.  We should not compound that mistake.  On the other hand, Iraq is important in part because of its proximity to Iran which I believe is one of the greatest threats to our national security. Finally, I agree with several of the prior speakers that we need to, with regard to Camp Liberty and the T-Walls

T-Walls are basically barrier walls which would protect from bombs placed outside the walls and which would also heighten security within the camp.

If you don't understand how inept the White House and the State Dept are, let's do a walk through.  Starting with the October 3rd snapshot which reported on that day's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.  We'll again note this exchange between Senator John McCain and  the State Dept's Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman as well as Committee Chair Robert Menendez' follow up.

Senator John McCain:  In the situation as it relates to the Camp Ashraf people, we know that they were Iranian dissidents.  At one point,  they were designated as a terrorist organization.  But the United States government, it's true, gave them an assurance that if they moved [to Camp Liberty] they would be protected.  We know that the Iranian influence has increased in, uh, in Iraq.  In fact, we know now that Iraq is alive and well and doing extremely well moving back and forth across the two countries.  Now there was a murder of, I believe, 51 people who were members of this  camp and many of them had in their possession guarantees from the United States of America that they would not be harmed.   What-what lessons -- First, are these facts true?  And, second, if they are true, what message does that send to people who we say will be under our protection?

Wendy Sherman:  Senator, uh, I share your, deep concern about what happened, uh, at Camp Ashraf.  This was a vicious attack in September 1st and many lives were lost.  And the US continues to press the government of Iraq at every opportunity, at very senior -- at the most senior levels to ensure the safety and security of residents at Camp Hurriya where many of the MEK were moved for better safety.  We strongly and swiftly condemned the attack.  We of course extend  our condolences to the victims' families and we are working with the government of Iraq and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, UNAMI, to peacefully and voluntarily transfer the surviving residents to safety at Camp Hurriya on September 12th.  And we are working for the protection of the people in Camp Hurriya because we do not want a repeat of this.   So, to date, the government of Iran -- of Iraq has moved in over 700 large T-walls, over 500 bunkers, over 600 small T-walls and nearly 50,000 sandbags.  UN monitors visit the camp daily in accordance with the MOU to asses human rights and humanitarian conditions.  But I must say, Senator, the real answer to this, to the safety and security of all the people in the camps -- who wants to live in a camp? -- is resettlement to third countries to get out of Iraq and to get out of harms way.  And I would call on all the people who are here today representing the rights and the interests of the MEK and the leaders of the MEK in the camps and in Paris, uh, to allow this resettlement to go forward because until the resettlement happens safety and security is going to be a risk.  We will do everything in our power to keep people safe in these camps.  But, as you point out, the al Qaeda threat is increasing in Iraq and it is difficult.

Senator John McCain:  And I hope that this issue will be raised with the Iraqi government.  And we in Congress may have to look at the kind of aid and how we are extending that to Iraq if this kind of thing is going to be countenanced by the Iraqi government.  I don't -- I've used up all my time.  And I thank you for your response.

Chair Robert Menendez: Before I turn to Senator [Edward] Markey let me echo what Senator McCain has said in this regard.  And I put out a statement in this regard, I also talked to our Department.  You know, America went to the MEK and we said, 'Disarm and we will protect you.'  And then we ultimately left and that protection has not been there.  You can put up I don't care how many tons of sand bags but when elements of the Iraqi forces actually may very well be complicit in what took place, sand bags aren't going to take care of the problem.  And I agree with you that resettlement is a critical part.  Maybe the United States could be part of leading the way in saying to a universe of these individuals that in fact you can be resettled to the United States.  And that would get the rest of the world to offer further resettlement. But it is unacceptable to lose one more life when American commanders gave these individuals a written guarantee towards their safety.  And it sends a message to others in the world that when we say we are going to do that and we do not, they should not trust us.  And for one thing that this Committee can do since it has jurisdiction over all weapon sales is that I doubt very much that we are going to see any approval of any weapon sales to Iraq until we get this situation in  a place where people's lives are safe.   

They moved them there, they just refused to put them up.  But don't worry, insisted the State Dept, they're going up immediately.

No, they aren't.  And the US government is obligated under the Geneva Conventions to maintain the safety of the Ashraf community as long as it is in Iraq.

November 13th, Brett McGurk appeared -- we reported on that hearing in the November 13th snapshot, the November 14th snapshot and the November 15th snapshot.  Like that hearing, we'll be covering today's in multiple snapshots.  This following exchange is from the November 14th snapshot.

US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher:  You believe them that that there's really a security reason that they haven't put those T-walls up at Camp Liberty?

Brett McGurk:  No, I do not think that there are legitimate security reasons that the T-walls have not been put up.

US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher: You sounded to me when I was listening to you -- and I listened very closely to what you said -- that we can't blame the leadership -- the Maliki leadership for the lack of security at Camp Liberty?

Brett McGurk:  Uh, no.  And in fact my conversation with Maliki was that you need to get as many T-walls into that facility as possible without any excuses.  Period.  Full stop.  So I -- if I -- You may have heard me say something differently but I --

In November, the promised T-Walls were still not up.  In the December 26th snapshot, we noted a statement from State Dept spokesperson Jen Psaki which included:

We continue to call on the GOI to take additional measures to secure the camp against further violence, including by immediately installing additional protective barriers, such as bunkers and t-walls. 

Wait?  You're still calling, in December, for the T-Walls to go up?  The ones the State Dept said in October were going up?

The next month, in the January 28th snapshot, we noted the US Embassy in Iraq's press statement which included:

He [Brett McGurk] 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.

And today we learn that T-Walls are still not up.

The same conversations take place over and over with no results from Nouri al-Maliki.  So why are the conversations happening?

No, I'm not saying shoot him the way they did int he past.  (Though no one will mourn the death of Nouri whenever it comes.)  I'm saying you stop arming him.  You stop taking, "I'm going to do it."  He wants a helicopter?  Let him put up all the T-Walls first.  Then give him one.  For the second one?  Don't swallow his "I'll work on it" about national reconciliation.

He agreed to that formally in 2007 to keep US funding.  And he never followed up on it.  The de-Ba'athifcation was supposed to end.  That was a promise he made the US government.  And not something that was supposed to take years to end.  It was supposed by 2008.  It never has.

Why are you arming him?

Not only is hurting the Iraqi people, it is hurting the government's prestige and strength around the world as various world leaders look on and watch Nouri get what he wants from the US government without ever following up on any promises he makes to them.

If I'm the government of Algeria, for example, why should I worry about keeping my word in any dealings with the US government when Nouri al-Maliki has at least a seven year pattern (going back to 2007) of failing to live up to his promises and yet still getting billions of US aid to his country as well as weapons?

The White House looks weak and ineffectual because that's how it's acting.  And it's shameful and embarrassing but, most importantly, it is contributing to the deaths and injuries of thousands of Iraqis.

And with all these failures, the one Brett wanted to focus on was the flights over Iraq from Iran to Syria (supposedly providing Syria with weapons)?

That's the issue that Brett says is " where the Iraqi government has not done enough"?  Not the failure to protest the Ashraf community?  Not the failure to end the de-Ba'athifcation process as Nouri promised he would in 2007?

Repeating, the White House looks weak and ineffective.  Even journalists are bringing it up now.  Today Jen Psaki presided over the State Dept press briefing and the State Dept spokesperson Psaki got asked about another promise made but never kept.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about your efforts regarding having a hydrocarbon law and why is it being held up. And how does that affect all the contracts that many American companies have already signed with the north – with the northern region of Kurdistan?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think broadly speaking on the specific – excuse me – hydrocarbon issue, I’d have to connect you with one of our experts on that, and I’m happy to.


MS. PSAKI: As you know, our position has long been that we believe that all of these contracts and any revenue should go through the central government, and that’s been the case we’ve continued to make. But obviously, the Media Note we sent was pretty detailed, and if you have a specific question about an energy resource, I can connect you with some experts.

QUESTION: Well, I do, because one of the main stumbling blocks and the points of contention between the central government and the regional government of Kurdistan is basically the hydrocarbon law that has been held up for the past --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- I mean, for the past six years or so. So, I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, why don’t we connect you with someone --


MS. PSAKI: -- from our Iraq desk who can get into more level of detail about specific forms of energy.

The hydrocarbons law?  Go look at the 2007 benchmarks Nouri signed off on?  He promised in 2007 to see that was passed.  Seven years ago.  The White House looks ridiculous.

Again, we're not done with today's hearing. It is important and we will cover it in two more snapshots (including tomorrow's).  But let's move to the Iraqi people who are suffering now and who will suffer even more when/if the US government makes good on Brett McGurk's revelation at the hearing today that the White House wants to send even more Apache helicopters and Hellfire missiles as well as fifty more drones.  By the way, Brett's a liar, a cheap liar.  And his lie today that the tribes will be the ones leading an attack on Falluja and just be backed by the military.?

What Anbar tribe leader or member will be flying any of the existing helicopters?  Or over the Hellifre missiles.  Oh, that's right, they won't be.

They'll be cannon fodder.  And there's primary reason for that which is a cheap little hustler like Brett will never tell.  The Iraqi military is thinned out.  The assault on Anbar has led -- as the 2008 assaults on Basra and the Sadr City section of Baghdad -- to numerous defections.  Nouri tried arresting some in early January and had to drop that plan because arresting those who walked out only made more Iraqi soldiers walk off the job.  This was before the reports/spin/rumors that 'al Qaeda in Iraq' had enough weapons to destroy the government -- more weapons than Nouri's government.

Nouri doesn't have the forces to take Falluja based on the desertion rate in the Iraqi military currently and it's a little whorish that Brett McGurk before Congress and didn't inform them of that but Brett's a little whorish anyway, right?

As the assault on Anbar Province continues, things heat up across Iraq including a curfew gets imposed on Tikrit, Mosul's curfew is extended -- for 7 more days, and a section of Baghdad's already sealed off Green Zone gets further sealed off.

The Green Zone is the 'secure' area of the capital where the US set up headquarters during the invasion and initial occupation.  It's where the US Embassy is today as well as many of the Iraqi government buildings and where many of Iraq's 'elite' (such as Nouri) live. Marcy Casey and Cortini Kerr (Foreign Policy) note that the Parliament is also in the the Green Zone.  The Green Zone never suffers from lack of electricity the way the rest of Baghdad -- or the country, for that matter -- so often does.

Iraqis deride it as where politicians hide out to.   But the fortified part of the capital isn't so fortified.  NINA reports:

Foreign Ministry announced that " one of the terrorists riding a motorcycle bombers tried to enter the security perimeter of the building of the ministry at about nine in the morning but he blew himself up at the first external checkpoint of the Ministry headquarters .  

And then came the car bomb outside the Foreign Ministry. Seven people dead and more injured.

Then the Ministry of the Interior spokesperson Saad Maan announced that "the number of victims of the bombings which occured today near the Ministry of Foreign [Affairs] by two suicide bombers reach 20 dead and 28 injured."  All Iraq News also notes the statement and that both bombings are now identified as suicide bombings by the Ministry.  Laura Smith-Spark, Jomana Karadsheh and Saad Abedine (CNN) observe, "Conflicting accounts have emerged, with initial reports from security sources indicating all three of the morning blasts were car bombings."  Kareem Raheem (Reuters) reminds, "The blasts came a day after two rockets were fired into the Green Zone, home to the prime minister’s office and Western embassies, and are likely to heighten concerns about Iraq’s ability to protect strategic sites as security deteriorates."

The US Embassy in Baghdad issued the following today:
February 5, 2014
U.S. Embassy Baghdad
Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release                                                     

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad condemns the vicious terrorist attack today on the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  We extend our sincere condolences to the families of the victims, to Minister of Foreign Affairs Hoshyar Zebari, and to our colleagues and friends at the Ministry, and hope for a rapid recovery for those who were injured.

The United States stands with the Iraqi people and will continue to work closely with the Government of Iraq to combat those who commit such senseless acts.   

National Iraqi News Agency reports 3 Baghdad car bombings left 1 person dead and eight more injured, in an update on this attack it is noted that the death toll rose by 9 (to ten) with a total of thirty-two injured,  a Baghdad car bombing in al-Saha district left 2 people dead and ten injured, an oil pipeline outside of Tikrit was blown up, a suicide bomber (wearing an explosive belt) and a car bombing attacked a west Mosul police station leaving five police members injured, a suicide bomber attacked the al-Shurta army headquaters and took his own life as well as the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers with six more left injured,  a Baghdad bombing (Dora district) left six people injured, the Ministry of Defense announced security forces had "killed 35 members of the terrorist organization 'Daash'," a Mosul car bombing left four SWAT members injured, a suicide tanker bombing north of Tikrit left the bomber dead as well as 3 Iraqi soldiers and 7 police members, an Abi Tammam bombing left three people injured, a Jisr Diyala roadside bombing left 3 people dead and five injured, a Katyusha rocket attack on central Baghdad (Haifa Street) left six people injured, a Sharqat roadside bombing left 1 military officer dead and five other people injured, 2 Iraqi soldiers were shot dead at an eastern Mosul checkpoint (Zebour), a suicide bombing attack on a Baghdad checkpoint (Karada Mariam) claimed the life of the bomber and 2 Iraqi soldiers, 1 police member and 1 civilian, another suicide bomber in Baghdad's Karada Mariam district blew himself up and killed 1 civilian and left five more injured,  and a Baghdad car bombing near the Baghdad Municipality left 1 person dead and four more injured.  All Iraq News adds 3 corpses were discovered in Basra. Alsumaria adds that there was a mortar attack on a Nineveh Province prison northwest of Mosul.

On "another suicide bomber in Baghdad's Karada Mariam district blew himself up and killed 1 civilian and left five more injured, " this was at the Ibn Zanbour restaurant.  AP explains that the "nearby falafel restaurant frequented by officials and visitors waiting for security escorts to take them inside the Green Zone, a walled-off area that houses the prime minister's office and the U.S. and other foreign embassies."

Above is  22 dead from the attack on the ministry (20 dead from spokesperson plus 2 dead -- the suicide bombers) and plus the ones in the paragraph above that comes to 101 dead.  There's also 127 noted as injured.

Duraid Salman and Ammar al-Ani (Alsumaria) note Nouri announced today that the assault on Anbar is "nearing the end."

Which means what?

Two more weeks?


Iraq's supposed to hold parliamentary elections April 30th.  Those ballots have to start being printed March 1st.  That's 23 days from now.

As the assault continues, into its third month, this started in December, Karl Vick (Time magazine) asks:

What has changed? Not as much as hoped from a U.S. investment of well over $1 trillion. Iraqis no longer have an American occupation to resist, but combatants find ample fuel in the sectarianism that claimed  50,000 lives there from 2006 to 2008. The situation is aggravated on the one hand by the exclusionary performance of the Shiite-heavy government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s, and the resurgence of Sunni extremism in the heavily sectarian civil war in neighboring Syria, which has spilled across the border. Last month Iraq’s deputy interior minister said al-Qaeda-linked forces now back in Fallujah, 44 miles west of the capital, held weapons “huge and advanced and frankly enough to occupy Baghdad.” 

Today, the US State Dept issued the following:

Joint Statement of the Iraq-U.S. Joint Coordination Committee on Energy

February 5, 2014

The Governments of the Republic of Iraq and the United States of America reaffirmed their commitment to joint cooperation in the areas of oil production and export, natural gas, electricity resiliency and reliability, clean energy, and critical energy infrastructure protection during the second meeting of the Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) on Energy, held February 5, 2014 in Baghdad.
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Dr. Hussain Al Shahristani chaired the meeting with U.S. co-Chairs Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman and Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs at the State Department Carlos Pascual.
During today’s meeting, both sides reiterated the significance of Iraq’s future energy sector development and its contribution to greater economic prosperity, as well as the valuable role that Iraq plays in providing a steady flow of petroleum resources to global markets. Both sides lauded Iraq’s offshore installation of the central metering manifold platform for the new single point moorings (SPMs) and recognized Iraq’s bold plans to increase further its oil production and exports.
The delegations discussed Iraq’s Integrated National Energy Strategy; opportunities to strengthen production and export infrastructure in order to meet Iraq’s mid- and long-range export goals; Iraqi and U.S. lessons learned in the field of natural gas capture and distribution; and best practices from the United States and the region.
The two sides discussed the importance of improving the protection of critical energy infrastructure for oil, natural gas, and electricity installations. To this end, Iraq and the United States are embarking on a significant new area of cooperation by having experts from the U.S. Departments of Energy and State work with Iraq to develop approaches to protect Iraq’s energy infrastructure from terrorist attack or natural disaster.
The two governments discussed the importance of supporting Iraq’s efforts to harness its vast natural gas resources. They reviewed the status of Iraq’s work to capture natural gas that is currently flared and redirect it to meet Iraq’s growing energy demand. We have agreed to form a new working group under the JCC focused on combining mobile power generation technologies with reduction in gas flaring. We hope to engage both government and industrial actors in bringing forward rapid, deployable solutions. The delegations also discussed continued efforts to build Iraqi Government capacity to oversee and regulate the natural gas sector, including through programs under the Department of Commerce’s Commercial Law Development Program. The U.S. delegation discussed the current development of shale gas resources and its impact on international markets.
For its part, the United States expressed its continued support of Iraq’s energy sector, committing to workshops and technical assistance that built upon the success of earlier programs. One such earlier program provided 230 key engineers and managers in Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity on best practices in energy security, operations, maintenance, and safety. We have agreed to form a new working group under the JCC on the roles energy efficiency and renewable energy can play in meeting electricity needs, including energy efficient standards and business models for renewable energy.
The JCC on Energy was established by the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement between Iraq and the United States to strengthen the two nations’ strategic partnership on a variety of initiatives. The United States hosted the first JCC on Energy in Washington, DC, on April 23, 2012 at the Department of Energy. The November 1, 2013 meeting of the Higher Coordinating Committee, chaired by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Vice President Joseph Biden, reaffirmed the value of the JCC on Energy. The Republic of Iraq and the United States committed to convening the next JCC on Energy in Washington, D.C., at a date to be agreed.

Quickly.  In yesterday's snapshot, I stated, "Oil. Well someone might want to inform the State Dept that currently Iraq's shipment of oil to Jordan has ceased due to the assault Anbar. Maybe that will give our 'diplomatic geniuses' -- who, remember, are now the government department responsible for Iraq -- a needed push to attempt to stop the assault on Anbar."

Proof insisted an e-mailer.  I had none.  I was going by what a US Senator told me in private yesterday.  But today, today, you've got a news story on it.  Raheem Salman, Ahmed Rasheed, Isabel Coles and Jason Neely (Reuters) report: "Trucked exports of oil from Iraq to neighboring Jordan have been halted due to deteriorating security in Anbar province where militants have overrun the city of Falluja, an oil ministry spokesman said."  There's your proof.

Now this:

US House Rep Jon Runyan:  Today's hearings will focus on technological incentives  initiatives of the Veterans Benefits Administration as well as the secondary effects of those initiatives.  Specifially, we'll hear information on the status of the Veterans Benefit Management System 6.0 release and the Veterans Relationships Management System including E-Benefits.  We will also address the recently implemented secure electronic transition of service treatment records between health care artifacts in the image management solution in the Dept of Defense and VA's VBMS.  Additionally, the Subcommittee will seek information on VA's Work Credit System within the new electronic framework of their regional offices and the national work que, the propose rule of VA as it relates to the standardized forms. Many of these technological advances will reduce the reliance on paper processes and were designed to simplify and streamline the VA's services to veterans, their families and survivors.

I would like to cover that hearing, I was at it this afternoon.  There may or may not be time for it tomorrow.
If there's not, I'll see if there's a chance of covering it at Third on Sunday.  And he was speaking this afternoon as he Chaired the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs.

jomana karadsheh

saad abedine