Thursday, March 13, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, March 13, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's assault on Anbar continues, his two-day conference in Baghdad ended today and is only the latest in a long string of Nouri al-Maliki failures, WG Dunlop Tweets a report he should have filed -- it was worth filing,  Nouri executes 7 people, his political rivals get bad news from Baghdad courts and the Justice and Accountability Commission, and much more.

Poor thug Nouri al-Maliki.  He has no accomplishments to point to with pride -- despite two terms as prime minister.  And yet he wants a third term.

How to pose and preen before the people before the vote?

Well he could hold a meaningless 'terrorism' conference.

Before it started, there was so much hope.  Aswat al-Iraq noted days ago that this "2-day conference" was one where "invitations were extended to all world countries, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran"

How quickly the hopes fade.  Saudi Arabia?  Qatar? Tuesday brought news on those invites:

If you ever doubted Nouri al-Maliki's ability to lead, it's on full display right now.  Tomorrow is the big terrorism conference that Brett McGurk's endlessly praised Nouri for.  The State Dept's Brett has praised this effort to bring the region's countries together to address the issue.
But today comes the news that two won't be participating.  NINA reports Qatar and Saudi Arabia have decided not to participate.  This decision comes after Saturday's broadcast of Nouri al-Maliki's interview where he slammed Qatar and Saudi Arabia repeatedly.  (See Saturday's "Nouri 'celebrates' International Women's Day" and "Iraq snapshot.")
He couldn't even keep his big mouth shut until after the conference.

Wednesday, the bad news for Nouri just continued with Al Arabiya News reports, "The UAE recalled its ambassador to Iraq on Wednesday in protest against Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s accusations of Saudi Arabia that the kingdom supports terrorism."  Gulf Times noted:

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash handed ambassador Mowafak Mahdi Abboud a memorandum protesting Maliki’s “claims that Saudi Arabia supports terrorism,” the official Wam news agency said.
“Such remarks are false and not based on a proper assessment of the situation in the region concerning terrorism, especially as Saudi Arabia plays a significant role in combating all forms of terrorism,” said Gargash.

And Arab News reported, "Bahrain also strongly condemned Saudi bashing by Al-Maliki and his false accusations against the Kingdom."

Let's pause on Nouri's embarrassing failures and note what the conference came up with on their last day. NINA explains, "Baghdad first international anti-terrorism conference [. . .] recommended the conclusion of its works on Thursday to promote international cooperation, exchange of information, to respond to the demands of countries to handover of criminals, cooperation and take necessary measures to dying terrorism resources."

That's it?

A two-day conference and all they can come up with is: Exchange phone numbers?

Most people can accomplish that within ten minutes of entering a bar.

Two days to get digits on a cocktail napkin?

Even when you look for a Nouri success, you still come up with failure.

Yet Nouri's spokesperson Qassim Atta had insisted, "Baghdad conference of anti-terrorism will come out with the important results and recommendations to enhance the international desire to eliminate terrorism and to hold the countries supporting it."  Kitabat delicately phrases the conclusion and results of the conference as "modest."

Sadly, even a modest term like "modest" is overly generous.

Let's note a speech -- or the press release on a speech.  Click here for the speech in full by Nickolay Mladenov.  He is United Nation's Secretary-Genral Ban Ki-Moon's envoy in Iraq.  This is UNAMI's press release on Mladenov's speech:

Baghdad, 12 March 2014 – Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, today urged the political leaders of Iraq to put their differences aside and work together to address the terrorist threat that seeks to tear the fabric of Iraqi society. 

At the opening of the First International Counter-Terrorism Conference that started today in Baghdad, SRSG Mladenov noted that the conference can send an important message to the public, “a message of solidarity with a nation that has shown unparalleled resilience and a continuing commitment to build a democratic state at a moment when Iraq stands at a crucial cross-road on its journey towards stability and prosperity”. 
“Iraq will either succumb to violence, or come together and build a democratic state that protects human rights and is inclusive for all its citizens”, said Mr. Mladenov, adding that “finding ways to put an end to terrorism will not be easy, some difficult decisions will have to be made – but together the Government and people of Iraq, with the support of the international community, can find ways to do so”. 
Mr. Mladenov expressed the United Nations’ deepest sympathy to the Iraqi people for the terrible toll that they endure on a daily basis and honored the brave men and women of the Iraqi Security Forces who risk their lives every day to protect citizens from the threat of terrorism. 
He underlined that “the concept of human rights is one of the greatest assets in finding sustainable solutions to countering extremism and terrorism as well as the full community involvement in decisions relating to their security”. “Any comprehensive approach would be incomplete if it were not matched with broad political dialogue, inclusive economic and social policies and community reconciliation”, the UN Envoy noted. He also highlighted the utmost importance of “investing in police and security forces that have appropriate resources and are appropriately trained, while respecting the rule of law and human rights, in particular regarding arrests, detentions and trials”. 
Moving beyond the national level, SRSG Mladenov stressed that only within the framework of constructive regional and international cooperation, fight against terrorism can succeed. He reminded the audience of the establishment in 2005 of the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) saying that “through this Task Force the UN can assist Iraq in promoting its ability to contribute to the international effort to counter terrorism and implement the four pillars of the Global Counter Terrorism Strategy”. 
In concluding, Mr. Mladenov assured the Iraqi people that they were not alone and that “UNAMI and the United Nations in Iraq would continue to work with them and their elected representatives in promoting political dialogue and investing in its biggest resource, its citizens”.

We'll note the speech in another entry -- in full -- but it's too long for this one.

It's the only speech which will get significant attention because UNAMI has released it.  It won't get significant attention due to journalists hearing it in person.

See, another of Nouri's failures with this two-day conference?  The press.

Ghazanfar Laibi (Al Mada) reports that journalists were prepared to cover the conference in depth but were kept out and one of the reasons given was security snags leading one journalist to call the conference the most poorly organized and worst he'd ever attended. And while kept out of the conference proper, they were given press releases with meaningless data and access -- in an area described as "a narrow box" -- to file reports in a room with no internet lines or connections.  State TV, controlled by Nouri al-Maliki, Al-Iraqiya broadcast fluff.  That's not surprising, Deborah Amos wrote a paper on how Nouri used Al-Iraqiya to campaign in 2010 -- to illegally campaign -- in the parliamentary elections.

Kitabat explains that while every other news outlet  -- Iraqi and foreign news outlets -- was prevented from entering the main hall of the conference, Al-Iraqiya was allowed to enter and to interview various participants.  Ghazzanfar Laibi adds that one journalist -- not with Al-Iraqiya -- explains that not only were the journalists prevented from entering the conference to observe it but 'photo ops'?  They were all given one minute to take photos.  (All except Al-Iraqiya which roamed freely.)

AFP's WG Dunlop managed to find coverage despite being denied entry:

  • At the office after a successful morning of not being allowed into Iraq CT conference. Highlight: the falafel I bought on the way back.
  • Loaded, unattended M-16 later replaced by equally unattended Kalashnikov at an entrance to Iraq CT conference.
  • Soldier has left his loaded M-16 in guard shack at entrance to Iraq counter-terrorism conference.

  • Despite being widely discredited, fake bomb detectors still in use by Iraq counter-terrorism conference security.

  • Nouri needs to be prosecuted for using those 'magic wands' (fake bomb detectors).  For those unfamiliar with the magic wands, let's drop back to the June 8, 2010 snapshot:

    In November of last year, Rod Nordland (New York Times) explained the 'bomb detectors' in use in Iraq: "The small hand-held wand, with a telescopic antenna on a swivel, is being used at hundreds of checkpoints in Iraq. But the device works 'on the same principle as a Ouija board' -- the power of suggestion -- said a retired United States Air Force officer, Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, who described the wantd as nothing more than an explosive divining rod." They are the ADE 651s with a ticket price of between $16,500 and $60,000 and Iraq had bought over 1,500.  More news came with arrests on January 22: "Caroline Hawley (BBC Newsnight -- link has text and video) reports that England has placed an export ban on the ADE-651 'bomb detector' -- a device that's cleaned Iraq's coffers of $85 million so far. Steven Morris (Guardian) follows up noting that, 'The managing director [Jim McCormick] of a British company that has been selling bomb-detecting equipment to security forces in Iraq was arrested on suspicion of fraud today'." From the January 25th snapshot:

    Riyad Mohammed and Rod Norldand (New York Times) reported on Saturday that the reaction in Iraq was outrage from officials and they quote MP Ammar Tuma stating, "This company not only caused grave and massive losses of funds, but it has caused grave and massive losses of the lives of innocent Iraqi civilians, by the hundreds and thousands, from attacks that we thought we were immune to because we have this device."  Despite the turn of events, the machines continue to be used in Iraq but 'now' an investigation into them will take place orded by Nouri. As opposed to months ago when they were first called into question. Muhanad Mohammed (Reuters) adds that members of Parliament were calling for an end to use of the machines on Saturday.  Martin Chulov (Guardian) notes the US military has long -- and publicly -- decried the use of the machines,  "The US military has been scathing, claiming the wands contained only a chip to detect theft from stores. The claim was based on a study released in June by US military scientists, using x-ray and laboratory analysis, which was passed on to Iraqi officials." 

    Today the BBC reports police raids took place at "Global Tech, of Kent, Grosvenor Scientific, in Devon, and Scandec, of Nottingham. Cash and hundreds of the devices have been seized, and a number of people are due to be interviewed under caution on suspicion of fraud."  Michael Peel and Sylvia Pfeifer (Financial Times of London) add, "Colin Cowan, head of City police's overseas anti-corruption unit, said investigators were seeking further information from the public about the manufacture, sale and distribution of the devices. Det Supt Cowan said: 'We are concerned that these items present a real physical threat to anyone who may rely on such a device for protection'." 

    The magic wands were a con.  They did not work.  They weren't scientific but they were a con job.  This is from the  May 2nd (May 2, 2013) snapshot:

    The wands didn't work, they were never going to work.  The liar who sold them, and got rich off them, James McCormick, was convicted last month.   Robert Booth and Meirion Jones (Guardian) report, "A jury at the Old Bailey found Jim McCormick, 57, from near Taunton, Somerset, guilty on three counts of fraud over a scam that included the sale of £55m of devices based on a novelty golfball finder to Iraq. They were installed at checkpoints in Baghdad through which car bombs and suicide bombers passed, killing hundreds of civilians. Last month they remained in use at checkpoints across the Iraqi capital."  Today, Jake Ryan (Sun) reports, McCormick, who is 57, was sentenced to a "maximum ten years today."Robert Booth (Guardian) notes Saad al-Muttalibi ("adviser to Nouri al-Maliki) is insisting Nouri's considering suing on behalf of the victims.  Actually, the families of the victims should be suing Nouri for allowing those things to be used for the last years, even after the wands were globally revealed to be a joke.  The Belfast Telegraph notes that McCormick "showed no reaction as he was told his 'callous confidence trick' was the worst fraud imaginable."  Jake Ryan quotes Judge Richard Hone stating, "The device was useless, the profit outrageous and your culpability as a fraudster has to be placed in the highest category.  Your profits were obscene.  You have neither insight, shame or any sense of remorse."

    We long ago noted that Nouri's continued use of these magic wands after the conviction of James McCormick meant that Iraq couldn't sue (and win) for all the money they wasted purchasing this junk.  For there to be a successful lawsuit, Nouri would have had to responded by immediately pulling the wands and filing.  But that didn't happen.  Instead the dumb ass Nouri continued to use them even after a respected court found against the manufacturer and court testimony established these wands were worthless.

    It doesn't matter that they don't work.

    If you buy junk and use it, it's on you.

    Nouri lost the window for a lawsuit.

    The people of Iraq have not.  They can (and should) sue the Iraqi government for using magic wands at a time when bombs sweep Iraq daily.

    WG Dunlop got a story -- though he doesn't appear to have written it yet -- out of the conference by observing the lax security.

    The conference took place inside the Green Zone, that would be the same Green Zone that suffered a mortar attack today.  It was embarrassing, yet another failure to add to Nouri's long list of failures which is why he and his flunkies are by their rush to deny it even happened.  But a security source tells World Bulletin that, while "the shell didn't hit the presidential palace, which is hosting the conference," it did leave one man injured.

    Reporters weren't the only ones prevented entry to the conference.  Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports that Nouri also refused to allow rival politicians to take part including Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Ammar al-Hakim.

    When not shutting out his rivals from his photo-ops, Nouri gets them removed from the running.

    From the March 4th snapshot:

     We have little room here but Alsumaria is reporting that another arrest warrant has been issued against Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi -- this one calling him an enemy of the state.  We're bringing it up because it's thought that this is a series of warrants and that one not yet issued, but which may be issued, is for Moqtada al-Sadr, cleric and movement leader.
    I'm not accusing Moqtada al-Sadr of any crimes.  I don't believe Tareq is guilty of any.  But an Iraqi MP e-mailed about this story and the rumors in Parliament that Moqtada fled to Iran because he was tipped off that the Nouri had ordered the criminal court to prepare a warrant for him.
    Cleric and movement Moqtada al-Sadr announced his political retirement February 15th.  February 18th, he delivered a speech --  CounterPunch posted the speech in full  -- emphasizing his decision. February 26th,  NINA noted the rumors that Moqtada left Iraq today, "The sources noted in a press statement that Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr left today's afternoon the city of Najaf heading to the Islamic Republic of Iran in order to complete his religious studies and stay away from the political scene as he officially announced for all Iraqis."
    Again, I'm not accusing Moqtada of crimes.  I do accuse Nouri of using the courts to go after his political rivals.  And I'm noting this due to an e-mail from an Iraqi MP who believes that the warrant against Tareq (who's already been illegally convicted in Iraq and sentenced to the death penalty four or five times now) is part of a series of warrants Nouri has had the Iraqi courts prepare against his rivals.

    Today?  All Iraq News reports two candidates have been arrested and charged with terrorism.  The two are members of Saleh al-Mutlaq's coalition: Faris Fahad Taha al-Faris and Emad Ahmed Natah.

    al-Mutlaq, of course, was targeted by Nouri at the end of 2011.  And, of course, he was also targeted in February 2010 when Nouri's Justice and Accountability Commission refused to allow Saleh to run in the parliamentary election insisting the man who is now the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq was a "Ba'athist."

    Parliamentary elections are supposed to be held April 30th.

    MP Sabah al-Saadi won't be running.

    Has he decided he no longer wants to be in Parliament?

    No.  Iraq Times reports that the Baghdad judiciary that Nouri controls (that's not disputable although the press pretends it is -- even the State Dept has admitted that in open Congressional hearings) has announced they've determined he won't be able to run for re-election.

    al-Saadi is a rather famous MP so it's surprising that not one western news or 'news' outlet has managed to report on his being kicked out of the upcoming election.  Sabah al-Saadi was the MP and his criticism of Nouri resulted in Nouri going crazy.   September 22, 2011, Nouri swore out an arrest warrant for al-Saadi. Let's drop back to the September 20, 2011 snapshot:

    Meanwhile Dar Addustour reports MP Sabah al-Saadi is stating there is no arrest warrant out against him and that the claims of one stem from Nouri al-Maliki attempting to cover up his own corruption and he states Nouri has deliberately kept the three security ministries vacant and he charges Nouri is willing "to sell Iraq to maintain his hold on power."  Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) observes, "The increasing violence is likely to be taken as a further sign of political gridlock in the Iraqi government, in particular the inability of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to name permanent ministers for the key security posts 18 months after the March 2010 elections."

    For those who've forgotten (or never knew), Nouri's arrest warrant was received by Parliament and . . . nothing.  As an MP, al-Saadi has legal immunity (until his term is up -- if he can run for re-election it may be time for him to leave Iraq).  Only Parliament can remove that immunity -- check the Iraqi Constitution.  From the September 22, 2011 snapshot:

    Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports on Moqtada al-Sadr's criticism of Nouri al-Maliki swearing out an arrest warrant for Sabah al-Saadi claiming that criticizing Nouri is a threat to national security (see yesterday's snapshot). al-Sadr has called out the move and compared it to a new dictatorship and issued a call for the government to work on inclusion and not exclusion. Another Al Mada report notes Sadr declaring that Nouri needs to drop this issue and focus on the needed political work. It's noted that the Sadr bloc waited until Moqtada issued a statement to weigh in and that the Kurdish Regional Government President Massoud Barazni declared that the Kurdish bloc would not support a vote to strip al-Saadi of his immunity. As a member of Parliament, Sabah al-Saadi should be immune to Nouri's arrest warrant for the 'crime' of speech. Currently, the warrant exists but cannot be executed due to the immunity members of Parliament have. So in addition to filing charges against al-Saadi, Nouri and State of Law (his political slate) are also attempting to strip a member of Parliament of his immunity.

    The US State Dept has refused, for two work days in a row, to hold press briefings.  They haven't refused to take tax dollars and put them in their pockets.  When they finally do address the press again, maybe someone can ask them about how Nouri is using the courts and the Justice and Accountability Commission to eliminate his political rivals?

    Mishaan al-Jubouri is a former MP who is running in the upcoming parliamentary elections . . . or thought he was.  Kitabat reports Nouri's court issued an arrest warrant for al-Jubouri.  Dropping back to the April 12, 2013 snapshot:

    Al Mada reports that the Electoral Commission has denied Mishan al-Jubouri the opportunity to participate in the elections due to his criminal record.  His party also won't appear on ballots.  This is seen as a serious "blow" for Nouri who had been publicly promising he would pardon him and publicly embracing al-Jubouri in an attempt to take support away from Iraqiya (al-Jubouri is Sunni).  State of Law (and Nouri) are seen as anti-Sunni.  Alsumaria adds that the Electoral Commission was told by the United Nations that al-Jubouri could not run due to his criminal record and that, if he ran, they would stop elections in all of Salahuddin Province.

    Nouri lost use for al-Jubouri in the second half of 2013 and the pardon promise vanished.

    The Justice and Accountability Commission was supposed to have ended.  When Nouri signed off on the 2007 White House benchmarks, that was supposed to have ended the JAC.  It didn't because Nouri's a damn liar whose word cannot be trusted.  Which is why the Justice and Accountability Commission remains today and works overtime to eliminate Nouri's rivals.  All Iraq News notes Najih Hamoud has just been excluded.  From the April 30th elections?  No, from the Iraqi Football Association elections.  He's currently the head of it but the JAC has determined that he is or was a "Ba'athist" and, as part of "the process of DeBa'thification" have announced he cannot run.

    Again, deBa-athification was supposed to have ended in 2007 -- it was one of the White House benchmarks Nouri signed off on.  If there was a functional US Congress, they might hold hearings on this.

    When not using the Baghdad courts or the JAC to eliminate his political rivals, Nouri can always just have them put to death.  AFP reports Nouri had 7 prisoners executed today.  AFP misses a bit.  4 were killed for 'terrorism.'  3 for being 'Ba'athists,' among other things, supposedly.

    1 of the 3?  All Iraq News explains one was executed for "crimes such as killing the father of MP, Safiya al-Suhail, who was opponent for Saddam Hussein."  Where are the Western news or 'news' outlets?

    Nowhere to be found.  They can't even Nouri  pushing a bill which would allow fathers to marry off their daughters at the age of nine-years-old.  Felicity Arbuthnot (Dissident Voice) notes:

    Less than a month before the 11th anniversary of the illegal US-led invasion of Iraq, the near destruction of much of the country, heritage, culture, secularism, education, health services and all State institutions, the country is poised to revert “two thousand years” say campaigners.
    On February 25th, Iraq’s Cabinet approved a draft law lowering the age of legal marriage for females to nine years old.
    Iraq was, prior to the invasion, a fiercely secular country, with a broadly equal male, female workforce and with women benefiting from a National Personal Status Law, introduced in 1959, which remained “one of the most liberal in the Arab world, with respect to women’s rights.”
    The legal age for marriage was set at eighteen, forced marriages were banned and polygamy restricted. Cohesion between communities was enhanced and fostered by “eliminating the differential treatment of Sunnis and Shiites under the law (and erasing differentiation) between the various religious communities …” Women’s rights in divorce, child custody and inheritance were an integral part of the Law, with Article 14 stating that all Iraqis are equal under the law.

    When not trying to engage in human trafficking, Nouri likes to break international law and treaties which is why his War Crimes continue as he uses collective punishment on Anbar Province.  National Iraqi News Agency reports 130 civilians have been killed ("including women and children") and 740 injured in Falluja since the start of Nouri's assault according to Falluja General Hospital.  Anadolu Agency observes, "Since last December, the army has waged a major operation in Anbar with the stated aim of flushing out Al-Qaeda-linked militants.  Many local Sunni tribes opposed to Iraq's Shiite-dominated government, however, continue to voice anger over the operation's mounting civilian death toll."

    Today's violence?

    National Iraqi News Agency reports a battle in Anbar left Colonel Feras Hamoudi al-Sudani dead, a Mosul suicide car bomber took his own life and the life of 1 Iraqi soldier with three more left injured, 1 man ("teacher and restaurant owner") was shot dead in Muqdadiyah, Joint Operations Command announced they killed 24 suspects, a Kirkuk sticky bombing left one person injured, a battle in Ramadi left 3 Iraqi soldiers dead, a Mosul battle left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and another injured, 1 "intelligence officer and his driver were killed northwest of Baquba,"  Nineveh Inedependent Elections employee Mohammed Mu'aiyad was injured in a shooting near his Mosul home,  Alsumaria adds an eastern Baghdad bobming left two people injured, a suicide bomber took his own life while attacking a western Anbar bridge (it collapsed) and killing 4 people while leaving six more injured, a bombing targeting the Hawija Municipality Director's home left four people injured,  and a Sadr City bombing left four people injured.

    Lastly, Iraq has 18 provinces.  Had.  Today the number rose to 19.  National Iraqi News Agency reports:

    Head of Kurdistan Regional Government Nechirvan Barzani, signed the decision to transfer Halabja district to a province. so to be the fourth in Kurdistan region and ninetieth in the federal Iraq , As reported by a familiar source in Arbil to NINA today.
    Head of Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani earlier called on the provincial government to take the necessary administrative procedures to quickly convert Halabja to a province and not waiting for a response from the central government. 


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