Thursday, February 06, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, February 6, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Human Rights Watch releases a report on the Iraqi government's abuse of Iraqi women, the White House has managed to alienate the Kurds, we look at Brett McGurk's Iraq testimony (where he lied, where he omitted), and much more.

US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:  In addition to the biggest issue, which is that we don't have al Qaeda on the run, there are two issues which I continue to be very concerned about.  The first is the safety of the residents of Camp Liberty.  They still have very little protection.  When last you testified, Mr. McGurk, 192 T-walls were up.  Then the big progress, supposedly, is that 43 T-walls are now up in addition.   This is out of 17,500 T-walls. T-walls save lives.  Put them up.  Number two, the Iraqi Jewish archives.  Ted Deutsch and many other members are very concerned, don't want them to be shipped back.  The Iraqi government incorrectly states that these papers are theirs.  That is not true.  And we hope that you continue to work on that.  And the bigger issue that brings us together is that obviously since the departure of our troops, al Qaeda's re-emergence has caused Iraq to take a very worrisome turn for the worse.  We've sacrificed so much blood and treasure there to watch it descend into full sectarian violence and an al Qaeda safe haven.  So we've got to rebuild our influence there.

That's Ros-Lehtinen speaking at yesterday's House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.  The sole witness appearing before the Committee  was US State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Brett McGurk.  Committee Chair Ed Royce and Ranking Member Eliot Engel were among those noted in yesterday's snapshot.  We'll be covering the hearing for several snapshots.

Yesterday we noted the T-walls and we'll use Ros-Lehtinen to recap on that and to note other topics as well.  We jump to her questions for McGurk and there aren't any ". . ."  in the exchange we're noting below but please note she asked three questions and we grab one here and two more later and the three were asked at once and they were answered at once by McGurk.

US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen::  On the issue of T-walls at ,Camp Liberty why have there been only 235 out of 17,500 T-walls put up?  And why have we only seen an addition of 43 since our November Subcommittee hearing?  Can you please commit that you will put extra effort in saving lives there?

Brett McGurk:  On Camp Liberty, on specifically the issue of T-walls, I have, again, made a number of trips to Iraq and every time I go, from Maliki on down, I raise the issues of T-walls.  We got T-walls moving back into the camp, earlier this month.  They stopped.  I raised it again last Thursday with the Iraqi National Security Advisor.  I understand this morning, T-walls are moving into the camp again.  I visited the survivors and residents of Camp Liberty earlier this month.  I told them I promised I would do everything I could.  I also urged them to do everything they could and that meant showing up at these camp management meetings where plans are made to move the T-walls into the camp.  This is an issue I'm going to continue to stay on top of.

How lucky for him that the T-walls, he 'understands' started going up again Wednesday morning when he was to appear before the Committee on Wednesday afternoon.

This is nonsense.  We went over this yesterday.  The Congress was told by the State Dept in October that the remaining T-walls would be put out.  Brett McGurk himself repeated that to the Congress in November.  The State Dept issued a statement in December saying the T-walls were going up.  They still weren't.  In January, it was the US Embassy in Baghdad, noting McGurk's visit to Camp Liberty, that said the T-walls were going up.

It's a shame no one asked Brett McGurk what his 'understanding' really meant.

Did someone pass on that Nouri says now they'll go up.  What does his answer mean?

And since the world -- including the European Union -- think he's a liar for his November testimony on the kidnapped Ashraf residents and who has them?  Since the UN didn't call him a liar but did put out a statment (again) contradicting his claims on that, why should we believe him now?

And if he's before Congress again in a few months and the T-walls are still not up, does anyone tell him that he's doing a lousy job and suggest that it's past time the State Dept stopped wasting time and money repeating actions and statements that do not effect any change?

Or are we all supposed to stand there rooting for Brett and the State Dept to win the longest marathon ever?

In her opening remarks, Ros-Lehtinen noted the Jewish archives.  These were discovered by the US military shortly after the start of the Iraq War, they were discovered submerged in watery basement.  These artifacts are Jewish artifacts.  Many were stolen from them by Saddam Hussein's government.  Many they were prevented from leaving with.  The artifacts came to the US to be restored so that they could be preserved for the future.

Nouri al-Maliki has insisted that his government has the right to these documents which include the Torah which, last time anyone checked, was not an official document of the Iraqi government.  Also, last time anyone checked, the number of Jews in Iraq could be counted on one hand -- a direct result of the post-invasion Iraqi government's refusal to protect the Jews of Baghdad.

After the documents were restored, they went on exhibit last year.  The US National Archives and Records Administration not only displayed them, they digitized them.  The National Archives notes:

Startling evidence of the once vibrant Jewish life in Iraq came to light in May 2003 — over 2,700 books and tens of thousands of documents were discovered in the flooded basement of the Iraqi intelligence headquarters by a US Army team.
The remarkable survival of this written record of Iraqi Jewish life provides an unexpected opportunity to better understand this 2,500-year-old Jewish community. For centuries, it had flourished in what had generally been a tolerant, multicultural society. But circumstances changed dramatically for Jews in the mid-twentieth century, when most Iraqi Jews fled and were stripped of their citizenship and assets.

As Jewish people from around the world came to view them, one Iraqi woman whose family fled to Israel found her report cards from when she was a little girl.  Others found records and belongings of their parents.

This is not the property of the government Iraq.  This was personal property which was systematically stolen by a government of a country that has historically persecuted the Jews.

Those decades of persecution are why it so offensive to so many Jewish people around the world that this cultural heritage is going to be handed over to the Iraqi government.

The White House and the State Dept lamely and wrongly assert that they have to return it.

Their argument is that an agreement was made that the US would restore the documents and then hand then hand them to the government of Iraq.

But you can't enter into a property contract with anyone other than the owner of the property or a legally designated representative of the owners of the property.

The Iraqi government has no claim of ownership.  They also were not contracted by the world's Jewish community to represent the property on their behalf.

This is stolen property.

As we already noted, Ro-Lehtinen stated, "The Iraqi government incorrectly states that these documents are theirs."  That's what she was referring to when she said it.  Here she is asking about it (again, she asked three questions all at once during the questioning, we're splitting it up and splitting Brett McGurk's responses up).

US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen::  The Iraqi Jewish Archives, you have been engaged in discussions with the Iraqis on this issue and your staff has spoken with representatives, the Iraqi Jewish Diaspora and the Jewish community as a whole.  But could you give us an update on progress of these discussions?  Have there been alternative plans proposed?

Brett McGurk:  On the -- on the Jewish archives,  uhm, as you know, this a very sensitive topic.  Uhm, I've been working directly with the Iraqis on this.  I was just in Iraq and raised it with those officials in charge of the file.  We are engaged in sensitive negotiations with the Iraqis.  Uhm, in the coming weeks the Director of Iraq's Archives and Library will be coming to the United States and, again, I hope to report progress on this  But we're engaged  and it's a sensitive investigation but I will keep you fully informed of those talks. 

How about you explain what you're talking about?

Brett McGurk is not talking about the archives being turned over to the Jewish people -- though he did  mislead Congress on just that in 2013.  What he's talking about is handing them over to Iraq and then maybe something will be done like it can tour every few years in the US.

Ros-Lehtinen is very much concerned about this issue.  She's not joking or pretending.  She's not the only one in the House -- in fact every Democrat and Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee believes the documents should be returned to the Jewish community.  There's also sizable objection in the US Senate to these documents being wrongly handed over to the Iraqi government.  In the Senate, Senator Chuck Schumer has been one of the leaders on attempting to prevent this from happening.

But when Brett starts making his pleasing bleets, he needs to be stopped.  He needs to be asked specifically what he's discussing.  Ros-Lehtinen was at the hearing where he lied.  She was out of the room when he was forced to clarify his remarks to explain there was no talk of these documents being turned over to their rightful owners.

He's real good about offering false flattery and 'shaping' his responses, he's just not so good about telling the truth.

Let's note this exchange.

Chair Ed Royce: You were just in Baghdad meeting with Iraqi officials.  You state that you detected for the first time acknowledgement that government of Iraq missteps may have made the problem worse.  And as I noted in my statement, this is not the feeling that Ranking Member Engel and I received when we -- when we raised this issue with the [prime minister] of Iraq in our meeting. So, that was a few months ago. I am somewhat encouraged by this but how encouraged should we be?  Because our concern has long been that this lack of reconciliation is compounding the problem seriously

Brett McGurk:  I have found, frankly, Mr. Chairman, an attitude among the Iraqis that was similar to the tactics that we used in the early part of the war that the security problem was simply a security problem and not a problem that was fused with economics and politics.  And we had a series of conversations over the course of last year as the, uh, ISIL attacks increased, in which Iraqis saw this mainly as a security problem.  All I can say is that I've been there twice, uh, this month.  Uh, since  the infiltration of ISIL into Falluja and Ramadi.  And I have heard from across the board, from the prime minister on down that unless you enlist local Sunnis in those areas, you'll never defeat and isolate ISIL and we've seen that now manifested in a commitment the Iraqi Cabinet has passed a number of resolutions saying tribal leaders and fighters will be given full benefits of the state and most significantly Prime Minister Maliki has made a commitment that tribal fighters who oust ISIL from these areas will be incorporated into the formal security services of the state: the police and the army.  That did not happen with the Awakening fighters that we worked with in 2007 through 2008.  So that is a very significant commitment.  We now need to stay on the Iraqis to make sure that they follow through.

People sat through that crap.  Some nodded.  In agreement?

'Awakening' are Sahwa, also known as 'Sons Of Iraq' (or 'Daughters Of Iraq' for the much smaller numbered female counterparts).  The then-top US commander in Iraq, Gen David Petraeus, explained the Sahwa.  We reported on it in the April 8, 2008 snapshot:

Today The Petraeus & Crocker Variety Hour took their act on the road.  First stop, the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Gen David Petraeus and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker are supposed to be providing a status report on the Iraq War.  They didn't.  In fact, Petraeus made clear that the status report would come . . . next September.  When the results are this bad, you stall -- which is exactly what Petraeus did. 
The most dramatic moment came as committee chair Carl Levin was questioning Petraeus and a man in the gallery began exclaiming "Bring them home!" repeatedly.  (He did so at least 16 times before he was escored out).  The most hilarious moment was hearing Petraeus explain that it's tough in the school yard and America needs to fork over their lunch money in Iraq to avoid getting beat up.  In his opening remarks, Petraues explained of the "Awakening" Council (aka "Sons of Iraq," et al) that it was a good thing "there are now over 91,000 Sons of Iraq -- Shia as well as Sunni -- under contract to help Coalition and Iraqi Forces protect their neighborhoods and secure infrastructure and roads.  These volunteers have contributed significantly in various areas, and the savings in vehicles not lost because of reduced violence -- not to mention the priceless lives saved -- have far outweighed the cost of their monthly contracts."  Again, the US must fork over their lunch money, apparently, to avoid being beat up. 
How much lunch money is the US forking over?  Members of the "Awakening" Council are paid, by the US, a minimum of $300 a month (US dollars).  By Petraeus' figures that mean the US is paying $27,300,000 a month.  $27 million a month is going to the "Awakening" Councils who, Petraeus brags, have led to "savings in vehicles not lost".  Again, in this morning's hearings, the top commander in Iraq explained that the US strategy is forking over the lunch money to school yard bullies.  What a pride moment for the country.

At that hearing, Senator Barbara Boxer noted that the US was spending $182 million each year ($18 million a month) to "Awakening" Council members and "why don't we ask the Iraqis to pay the entire cost of that program"?

Had Boxer not asked that basic question, the US government would not have attempted (repeatedly) to stop paying for Sahwa.

It's cute the way Brett thinks he can get away with rewriting history.  2009, specifically May 2009, is when it all goes to hell.  So sorry but Bully Boy Bush is not in the White House.  If this is news to you, you can refer to Heath Druzin's "'Sons of Iraq' still waiting on promises" (Stars and Stripes) from May 2009.

Today, Brett and other liars want to whine, "Oh, if only Nouri . . ."  No.

It was the current administration that stood by and did nothing as the Sahwa were targeted, as they weren't paid, as they weren't absorbed into the security forces, US President Barack Obama didn't do one damn thing.

This includes when Sahwa leader Adel Mashhadani was arrested.  From March 2009, Barack did nothing.

W-w-ait!  Barack and the White House only began insisting dropping the Sahwa was a mistake this past summer!

That is true.  It took the idiots that long to realize it.

But Adel al-Mashhadani was still alive then.

January 21st, just last month, Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reported on the latest rounds of executions in Iraq and noted, "The statement quoted the justice minister, Hassan al-Shimari, as saying those executed included Adel-al-Mashhadani, a former anti-al-Qaeda Sunni leader in Baghdad who was sentenced to death in late 2009 for murder and kidnapping."

Isn't that something, singing the importance of the Sawha for months now and doing nothing -- not even lodging a complaint -- to keep Adel al-Mashhadani from being executed.

Let's note another exchange.

Ranking Member Eliot Engel:  It was my opinion when the Chairman and I met with Mr. Maliki, it was my opinion that he was a good listener but I didn't think he provided too much in terms of answers to the questions that we had -- one of which was overflights.  I think that he just came to listen but really didn't come to put his head together with us an help solve the problem

Brett McGurk:  Uhm-uhm, I found Congressman that since the Prime Minister's trip, that your meeting with him, other meetings he had here on the Hill, uh, he spent about two hours with President Obama in the Oval Office.  Uhm, he got a very direct message on a number of issues and we have seen some fairly significant changes from that visit and so I want to thank you for the meeting you had with him and I think you made an influence on some of the issues we'll discuss on Camp Liberty, we've seen some changes, and, particularly, a need for a holistic strategy to defeat ISIL and enlisting the Sunnis into the fight at the local level we have seen some fairly dramatic and significant changes from that visit.

Have we seen changes?  Or does Brett just love to keep saying "holistic" whenever he appears before Congress?

Nouri's done nothing "holistic."

He lies all the time.

The protests that kicked off December 21, 2012 and that have continued for over a year was the expression of outrage that slowly built up.  In the fall of 2012, the first reports emerged of women and girls in Iraqi prisons and detention centers being tortured and raped.

Parliament investigated and found that to be true and Nouri did his usual -- he stayed silent thinking he could ignore it.

What happens in the prisons is always what gave the protests their deeper meaning.  Yes, the lack of jobs and the lack of public services were important.  But with Sunnis targeted for arrests, with Sunnis disappearing into the 'legal' system, the torture and rape of women and girls was the last damn straw.

Why is the State Dept never made to respond to that issue when they appear before Congress?

Human Rights Watch notes today:

 Iraqi authorities are detaining thousands of Iraqi women illegally and subjecting many to torture and ill-treatment, including the threat of sexual abuse. Iraq’s weak judiciary, plagued by corruption, frequently bases convictions on coerced confessions, and trial proceedings fall far short of international standards. Many women were detained for months or even years without charge before seeing a judge.

The 105-page report, “‘No One Is Safe’: Abuses of Women in Iraq’s Criminal Justice System,”documents abuses of women in detention based on interviews with women and girls, Sunni and Shia, in prison; their families and lawyers; and medical service providers in the prisons at a time of escalating violence involving security forces and armed groups. Human Rights Watch also reviewed court documents and extensive information received in meetings with Iraqi authorities including Justice, Interior, Defense, and Human Rights ministry officials, and two deputy prime ministers.

“Iraqi security forces and officials act as if brutally abusing women will make the country safer,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “In fact, these women and their relatives have told us that as long as security forces abuse people with impunity, we can only expect security conditions to worsen.”

In January 2013, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki promised to reform the criminal justice system, beginning with releasing detained women who had judicial orders of release. A year later, the brutal tactics of security forces remain essentially the same and hundreds of women remain in detention illegally.

This is not a secret.  Again, Parliament investigated this in 2012 and found it to be true.

Why has the US Congress failed to probe it, failed to even demand answers from State Dept witnesses appearing before it?

Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) covers the Human Rights Watch report and notes:

The vast majority of the more than 4,200 women detained in Interior and Defense Ministry facilities are Sunni Muslims, according to figures provided by the prime minister’s office. But women of all sects are subjected to the abuses documented in the report, Human Rights Watch said.
The group found that women are detained not only for crimes they are said to have committed, but also to harass male family or tribe members, a practice that amounts to collective punishment for alleged terrorist activities, Human Rights Watch said. 
Some are held for months or even years after judges have ordered their release, the report says. Even if they are freed unharmed, they are frequently stigmatized by their families and communities, because they are perceived to have been dishonored, it says.


Why does this State Dept not care about women?

Why is John Kerry on some sort fanatical mission with regards to Israel and Palestine when he needs to be focused on Iraq?

Or have we all forgotten that the State Dept is over the US mission in Iraq?  That transition, from DoD to State, took place in the fall of 2011.  And State has been given billions of taxpayer dollars to oversee this mission.

But John Kerry is unhinged and goes from attempting to lead and market a war on Syria, to believing he's the messiah who will bring peace to the Israelis and Palestinians?  And all he really ends up doing is insulting both parties.

In the most recent past, special envoys were created to work on the issues regarding the plight of the Palestinians.

Kerry needs to be doing his job and his chief focus is supposed to be on Afghanistan and Iraq -- those are the State Dept's two big budget items.

Back to the hearing.  Again, Ros-Lehtinen asked three questions at once and Brett McGurk responded to all three in one response.  But we've divided it up here to zoom in on various details.

US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen::  And thirdly, on al Qaeda's resurgence, a lot of us this is due to the failure in the Iraqi government and Iraqi leadership since we left the country.  There are national elections planned in Iraq in April.  We were successful after the surge in getting the government to participate in more inclusive power-sharing government that kind of mollified the Sunnis in Iraq and left al Qaeda marginalized.  Then after we left, the Iraqis took another step backwards.  Now it is the Sunnis who are marginalized drawing many to al Qaeda.  What steps are we taking to ensure that the Sunnis are participating in these elections and that Iraq can return to that sort of power-sharing government we saw in the post-surge Iraq?  And continuing with the Sunni-Shia issue, we've seen over the last  few days that the Iraqi military has been bombarding Falluja which was overtaken by al Qaeda late last year presumably preparing for an assault; however, the Shi'ite dominated government  cannot successfully take Falluja on its own without the help of the Sunni tribal leaders in the region.  Can you describe the current Maliki government and these leaders?  And do you think Maliki will be able to gain their support given Maliki's crackdown on Sunnis in Iraq for these past few years?  Thank you sir.

Brett McGurk:  On the issue of elections and Sunni participation, as I said in my testimony, we are focused to holding election April 30th.  This will be the third full term elections for a four year government -- the first one in December 2005,  uh, and then 20, uh, 10 and this year.  As you, uh, may know, the head of the main Sunni coalition, Osama [al-] Nujaifi was in the United States two weeks ago.  He had meetings with the President, the Vice President, he met the Secretary of State at his home.  Uhm, so we are very focused on making sure that the elections happen, that they produce a genuine and credible result and that they allow a government to form that reflects the makeup of Iraqi society with all represented.  In Falluja, as I described in my testimony, the plan is to have the tribes out in front but with the army in support because this is -- they face -- ISIL is an army.  They have heavy weapons, they have 50 caliber sniper rifles.  They are very well trained and very well fortified.  So we have to have the Sunni's tribal local people out in front but they will require security support.  And General [Lloyd] Austin was in Iraq last week and in talks with Iraqi military leaders.  We are advising the military commanders as best we can, building  on the lessons that we learned in these areas for tactical and strategic patience for planning and to make sure that civilian casualties are minimized.

That's interesting.  It's not full response or a truthful one but it's interesting.

We've already noted Nouri's threats to hold the April 30th elections in only some provinces.  From last month's "Will Nouri call off elections in provinces he's unpopular in?" (January 25th):

Duriad Salman and Ammar al-Ani (Alsumaria) report al-Nujaifi gave two interviews today, the first to Sky News and the second to Alsumaria.  Osama al-Nujaifi noted Nouri cannot continue to act unilaterally, that there are checks and balances in the system and he was concerned that Nouri thinks he's "singular" when it comes to decision making and that this could lead Nouri to attempt to postpone the upcoming election citing "poor security."  Nouri did just that last year.  And he wasn't supposed to.  He ruled that Anbar and Nineveh could not vote.  Under pressure from the US, specifically Secretary of State John Kerry, Nouri relented and, months later, allowed the two provinces to vote.
He never should have been allowed to postpone them.  He doesn't have that power.  The Independent High Electoral Commission is the only one that does and, as their name notes, they are supposed to be "independent."
If Nouri tries to keep provinces from voting, it will be worse than last time and it will be worse then cancelling the election all out.  It will be corrupt.
He penalized the two provinces he was most disliked in last year.  Those were provincial elections, citizens were voting on who to represent them in their provincial governments (think state governments if you're in the US and confused).  These parliamentary elections are like federal elections.  And if Utah wasn't allowed to vote to send people to the House and Senate, it wouldn't be a real election in the US.
In a later report, Duriad Salman and Ammar al-Ani report that the 'independent' commission is now saying that one or more provinces could be prevented from voting in the parliamentary elections.

Seems like Congress should have been informed of that.  I'm not aware of any US outlet that's reported on the above.  But it is news in the Arab press.  And it should have been addressed by Brett McGurk in the hearing in response to the question.

Today was like every other day in Iraq of late, violence spread out around the country with an emphasis on Baghdad.

National Iraqi News Agency reports a Baghdad sticky bombing (Tayran square) left two people injured,  a Baghdad sticky bombing (Shaab district) left three people injured, a Baghdad car bombing (Karrada district) left five people injured, a Baghdad car bombing (Camp Sara area) left four people injured, 2 Baghdad car bombings (Hurriah area and Battol area) left thirteen people injured, a Baghdad car bombing (Jamelah neighborhood) left 1 person dead and seven more injured,  a Baghdad car bombing (Jkok area -- NINA notes this was the 7th Baghdad car bombing) left six people injured,  an attack on a Rifaii checkpoint left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and another injured, a Baquba car bombing claimed 1 life and left nine people injured,  security forces in Jurf al-Sakhar state they killed 3 al Qaeda in Iraq members, 2 Shabaks were shot dead in Mosul, a grenade attack on a central Mosul checkpoint left three police members and four civilians injured, 1 police member was shot dead at a Muqdadiya checkpoint, Dr. Jalil Ibrahim al-Obeidi was kidnapped from his Baquba private clinic (he is also the Director of Baquba Hospital), two oil tanker drivers were kidnapped and their tankers bombed "on the road linking between Salahuddin and Mosul," security forces shot dead 1 suspect in Tikrit, the Ministry of the Interior killed 1 "gunmen" entering Iraq from Syria,  and Joint Operations Command shot dead 2 suspects in Mosul.

All Iraq News adds that a father and son were shot dead in a sheep market in western Mosul and that an attack on Badush prison in Mosul left 1 guard dead, three more injured, 3 prisoners dead and five more injured.

We've repeatedly noted here the many back stabs from the White House to the Kurdish leadership.  This was tolerated -- embraced -- when the top Kurd was Iraqi President Jalal Talbani.  He's not been heard from in over a year and the rumors of his death or impending death never cease.

Yes, Senator Joe Biden had a good relationship with the Kurds.

Vice President Joe Biden, however, thought that good earlier relationship meant he could screw them over.  Let's put this as simply as possible.  Nouri al-Maliki is a spoiled rotten brat who throw one tantrum after another.  Joe Biden spends far too much humoring Nouri (who never keeps a promise) and expecting the Kurds to wait patiently until Nouri's calmed down and Biden can speak with adults.

But Nouri never calms down.

And the Kurds get screwed over and over.

The US worked hard to keep the Barzani family in the shadow of the Talabanis.

Those days are gone.  By 2011, when Jalal was still in good health, KRG President Massoud Barzani was emerging on the world stage as the Kurdish leader.

The Kurds have been disrespected -- as they have been historically by the US government.

And Barzani's not Talabani.  He's not going to be so easily bribed.

We've gone over this repeatedly here.  The US press never seems to catch on but I can't post a thing on the Kurds here without three State Dept friends calling and asking what I'm basing the analysis on?  And then slowly starting to agree that the US is losing the Kurds.  Too slowly.

Friday, we noted the latest insult.  And I was told by all three State Dept official referred to in the previous paragraph that I was interpreting it wrongly.  To which I said, "Maybe so, but I don't think so.  We'll just have to wait and see."  From Monday's snapshot:

Friday's snapshot noted US Vice President Joe Biden's phone call to KRG President Massoud Barzani, carried the White House statement and I pointed out, "It's a shame that they [the White House] have more concern over pleasing Nouri than they do over the safety of the Iraqi citizens."  Today Rudaw reports:

Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani has postponed a planned visit to Washington this week because of other commitments, said his chief of staff, Fuad Hussein.
“President Barzani told Joe Biden (the US vice president) that because of some other commitments he couldn’t visit Washington at this time,” Hussein told Rudaw. “That is why the visit was postponed.”

That's only surprising if you weren't paying attention.  In 2012, Barazni made clear his opposition to the US giving Nouri F-16s.  And today?  Not only are those going to be handed over, helicopters and Hellfire missiles are being provided to Nouri.  And on top of all of that, Joe Biden wants to hold Nouri's hand and reassure him while telling Barzani that concessions (to Nouri) need to be made.

President Massoud Barzani is a much admired figure in the KRG and he's a leader on the world stage but Biden wants to treat like an errand boy and hand him a grocery list?

Of course, Barazni's insulted.  And that's before you get to the White House's historic betrayal of Baraniz on the 2010 US-brokered Erbil Agreement that they used Barazni's name and reputation to sell and then refused, after everyone signed the contract, to stand by it.  Yeah, it's about time Barzani put some distance between himself and the US government.

Maybe even a brief spell will force the White House to take Barzani a little more seriously?

Again, the three told me I was wrong.  Even faced with the truth, they can't admit it.  They each did make a plea that went something like: 'For the good of everyone, please stop writing about this.'

The good of who?

The Kurds?

They're not helped by the silence.

Only Nouri is helped by the silence.

And I also pointed out that I don't work for the US government and I don't take orders from this administration.

Now apparently the US press does because it was one thing to ignore the growing tensions for months and months but when the visit got killed?  Everyone knew what was going on.

But it's left to Ayub Nuri and Rudaw to address the topic the US press shies from:

Many people were baffled this week by the sudden news that Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani was not going to Washington. Barzani’s supporters said it was the Kurdish president who had cancelled the visit. Others laughed and said, “Who could cancel on the president of the most powerful country in the world?” From the US there was no explanation, and out of Kurdistan only came conflicting reports.
But who snubbed who isn’t really the issue. The real question is: How do the Kurds see America today.
Ten years ago the Kurds saw America as an ally, and America regarded them as friends. The Kurds joined America’s war and contributed to Saddam Hussein’s downfall. Kurdish Peshmarga and security forces offered the Americans intelligence, advice and guidance. Kurdish politicians and ministers went to Baghdad and put into service their two decades of experience to rebuild the Iraqi government.
What did they expect in return? A democratic Iraq that America had promised everyone. But ten years on, not only have the Kurds not seen a democratic country that respects their rights, they in fact feel it is often America -- not Baghdad -- that is acting against them.

What kind of 'learning curve' is the White House on because they're on year six and they still don't know what they're doing?

While you ponder that, be sure to check out Alexandra Di Stefano Pironti's "President Barzani Continues Diplomacy with Key European Partners" (Rudaw) which went up tonight.

Brett McGurk should have been asked and pressed on how this administration managed to piss off the Kurds?

We'll continue with the hearing in tomorrow's snapshot.

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