Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, April 8, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri continues bombing the homes of civilians, the IHEC wants voters to risk their lives while the IHEC itself stays safe and sound, John Kerry appears before a Senate Committee days after the Inspector General notes the State Dept can't account for $6 billion but only one senator wants to ask about that, and much more.

Supposedly, Iraq's going to hold elections April 30th.  It may be the last chance for peace, provided Nouri can be ousted.   Hamza Mustafa (Asharq Al-Awsat) reports:

Opponents of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki broadened the coalition of groups seeking to prevent him winning a third term in office on Monday, as the campaign for the parliamentary elections at the end of this month reaches its peak.
Moqtada Al-Sadr, the leader of the Shi’ite Sadrist Movement who announced his retirement from politics in February, returned to the political scene on Saturday in a meeting with the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), Ammar Al-Hakim, aimed at coordinating the positions of the ISCI and Sadr’s Al-Ahrar bloc in the run up to the elections on April 30.
Analysts say Al-Ahrar is likely to win the backing of voters and politicians who have previously backed Maliki’s State of Law Coalition, the other leading Shi’ite bloc, partly because the founder of Maliki’s Al-Da’wah Party was Moqtada’s uncle, the revered Shi’ite cleric Mohammad Baqir Al-Sadr.

Dar Addustour reports that IHEC's Muqdad al-Shuraifi held a press briefing with the Supreme Security Committee in Baghdad today  in which he announced that not all areas of the Sunni-dominated Anbar Province will be able to vote because the IHEC will not send staff and supplies into areas they deem unstable. That's hilarious and sad at the same time.  Baghdad will be allowed to vote, its inhabitants will vote in polling stations throughout the city.  But Baghdad's experienced high levels of violence -- see-sawing with Falluja in the last nine months for who was most violent.  But Baghdad will be allowed to vote.

March 31st,  All Iraq News reported, "The employees of the Independent High Electoral Commission in Siniya district of nothern Tikrit have resigned due to the threats of the armed groups."

But Tikrit will be allowed to vote.

It's really hard to believe that the decisions are really just about fear of violence.  It's hard to believe that the strong opposition to Nouri isn't part of the reason.  (Yes, Tikrit is Sunni dominant.  It saw protests against Nouri -- as did Sunni dominant Mosul.  But the protests were nothing like the ones which took place in Anbar.)

But if it really is about fear of violence, possibly it's about the fear that Nouri's military will start bombing the polling centers.

After all, today NINA reports, "23 civilians killed and wounded due to the resumption of indiscriminate shelling by army forces of the residential neighborhoods of Fallujah city today."  Five dead -- including one child -- and eighteen injured.  And when does the world call out Nouri's assault on the civilians of Anbar?  Every day brings news of more people in Falluja killed and wounded by Nouri's bombing of residential neighborhoods.  This is a War Crime.  Sometimes, as over the weekend, it also includes bombing of hospitals in Falluja.  War Crimes as well.  But the same White House that wants to convince you that Putin is 'evil' but they really, really care about human rights?  That same White House is arming Nouri al-Maliki and looking the other way as he terrorizes the people.   Anadolu Agency quotes Falluja General Hospital spokesperson calling today's shelling "the most violent."  Iraqi Spring MC reports that the military is also shelling residential areas in Abu Ghraib's Khudayr Zawbaa Village.   But there's silence from world leaders.  No one will condemn it and the White House keeps providing thug Nouri more weapons.  And they aren't the only ones.  All Iraq News reports, "Iraq will purchase 12 Mothballed L-159s combat planes from the Czech military."

Nouri's armed to the teeth.  It's the Iraqi people who are defenseless.

And now certain areas of Anbar will be robbed of their legal right to vote.

This complete nonsense.  April 29th will see the security forces vote early across Iraq -- and probably ome of the elderly.  Right now, the IHEC should be working on mail-in ballots for any area they're about to rob of the right to vote.

It's really telling that instead of working to find an alternative means to ensure everyone has the chance to vote, the IHEC immediately works to shut down the vote.

Kitabat notes that there's talk of alternative voting centers.


If it's not safe enough for polling stations in certain areas, how do you expect people from those areas to travel -- by foot or by car -- to alternative areas?

That's insane and, if it happens, a lawsuit needs to happen.

The IHEC has security.  With security, they're not comfortable in certain areas but they think an alternative is having many people travel through those 'unsafe areas'?

That's insane.

If they're not opening the polling centers in an area because of 'violence,' then they don't need to shift the burden onto the people living in those areas.

The IHEC want them to hike through these 'unsafe areas'?

The IHEC needs to do mail-in ballots for those in 'unsafe areas' or they need to face a lawsuit for requiring people to go through areas the IHEC declares unsafe just to exercise their legal right to vote.

Iraq Times reports that there will be 45 voting centers in Iraq but outside of Anbar Province for those who have fled Anbar due to the violence.

Dar Addustour notes the rumors that Moqtada's bloc is uniting with Ammar al-Hakim's Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and with Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi's bloc to create a coalition that would be large enough to prevent Nouri al-Maliki from getting a third term. Yesterday, Kitabat reports on a new rumor that Moqtada, Ammar al-Hakim and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi have a secret agreement to band together to form a coalition government after the election -- one that would leave Nouri in the dust.

On the elections, As Sheik (Dar Addustour) pens a column  where he offers that the Independent High Electoral Commission has done little to nothing with regards to raising awareness about media and harnessing it.  He points out that voters need to know who's running, what the issues are and that media can provide this information.  He points out that increased information should lead to increased participation.  Not everyone has access to the internet, he notes, and there is also a literacy problem that demands more work be done by and with the media.

Those are very good points.

The IHEC doesn't seem up to its job.  They've only distributed 80% of the new electronic cards to the voters.  20% of those eligible to vote have not received their cards.  22 days until the election is supposed to take place and the cards still haven't all been distributed.

Yesterday, Diana Moukalled (Asharq Al-Awsat) noted:

Iraqi MP Hanan Al-Fatlawi banged her hand on the table during a TV program on which she appeared, speaking angrily but effortlessly, and said: “For every seven Shi’ites killed, we want seven Sunnis [killed] in their place.”
Of course, the seriousness of the situation which compelled Fatlawi to make such a statement is diminished by her words. An Iraqi parliamentarian has dismissed the authority of the constitution and the law to declare that the time has come to implement the principle of “an eye for an eye” to manage the sectarian conflict that is currently raging in Iraq.

The media uproar which followed the Iraqi MP’s comments did not deter her or encourage her to retract her comments, and the echoes of her statement remained loud in the public arena. To top it off, Fatlawi is a member of the State of Law parliamentary coalition led by Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki.

Today, Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) notes Hanan al-Fatlawi's remarks and another politician's remarks:

Furthermore, politician Mishaan al-Jabbouri, who lives in exile in Syria, made various pre-election calls for the “liberation of Iraq from the Kurdish occupation.” A number of in-absentia judgments over terrorism accusations were passed against Jabbouri over these statements.
Such statements are nothing new for the Iraqi electoral scene. For years, politicians have taken advantage of national and sectarian affiliations to gain support, and there has been a continuous dispute in Iraq over ruling out candidates because they did not meet the condition of “good conduct” required by Iraqi law. In fact, the Iraqi judiciary has strongly defended the decisions to rule out potential candidates.
It should be noted that some decisions to exclude candidates from elections in the past were made over statements that were less extreme than those made by Fatlawi and Jabbouri. The majority of these decisions were made based on cases that were not yet legally settled.

It is rather amazing that the IHEC -- which is supposed to be over this, especially after their walk out and return -- hasn't banned both people from running.

Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi (Arab News) observes, "The Iraqi parliamentary elections are due at the end of this month and the Egyptian presidential elections next month. The Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki wants a controversial extension to his two-term rule deemed as unconstitutional by many. Al-Maliki wants to stay in power and have greater control over decision-makers in Baghdad. It is here that the ballot box supports an illegal move. Al-Maliki will obviously argue that the elections would be the litmus test of democracy in Iraq. Elections are, without a doubt, a crucial element of democracy, but can be misused to stoke racial, religious and sectarian divisions. The question under these circumstances is whether they truly reflect the will of the people."

Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 176 violent deaths for the month so far -- that's only the first seven days.  
The violence continues today.



 National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 person was shot dead in NairiyahDiyala Province Police Chief Jamil al-Shammari announced they killed 7 suspects6 people were shot dead in EmsherfaBaghdad Operations Command announced they killed 25 suspects south of Baghdad2 police members were shot dead in southern Mosul, a Ramadi battle left 2 Iraqi soldiers dead and four more injured1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Mahmudiya,  1 person was shot dead in Sadr City, and the Ministry of the Interior announced they killed 1 suspect in Falluja.  Alsumaria reports that 1 Sahwa leader was shot dead in a village south of Tikrit, and a home invasion south of Mosul left the sister of a police officer dead.  All Iraq News adds Colonel Zuhair al-Jawari and his driver were shot dead in Beji.


 All Iraq News notes 1 police member was kidnapped in Beji.  


Alsumaria reports that 1 corpse was discovered dumped in eastern Baghdad (stabbed to death).   Iraqi Spring MC reports the corpses of 6 of Nouri's soldiers were found in the Euphrates River today.

  • has finally lost it. What is happening to this world? Legalizing child marriage? Legalizing marital rape?

  • March 8, 2014, International Women's Day, Iraqi women protested in Baghdad against Nouri al-Maliki's proposed bill which would allow father's to marry off daughters as young as nine-years-old, strip away the need for consent to sex,  and would strip custodial rights from mothers.  Mina Al-Droubi (Majalla) explains, "The proposed law breaches several international conventions, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, through its legalization of marriage for girls from the age of nine—even allowing girls younger than this to be married with their parent’s approval—and boys at 15. Article 104 of the draft law permits unconditional polygamy and Article 101 legalizes marital rape."  Isabel Coleman (Foreign Affairs via BRussells Tribunal) points out:

    The shocking prospects of Iraqi child brides as young as nine, legally sanctioned marital rape, and restrictions on a woman’s ability to leave her own home have also caught headlines around the world. UN officials have denounced the legislation, as have civil society groups such as Human Rights Watch. And they should continue to do so. International bodies, including the United Nations and the World Bank, which recently signed a loan agreement with Iraq to finance important infrastructure improvements, should express their unambiguous concerns. The United States should also be unequivocal in denouncing the bill. Nongovernmental organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch should continue to track the issue closely.

     Ayad Allawi, a former Iraqi prime minister, warned on Tuesday that approval of the law would lead to the abuse of women. "It allows for girls to be married from nine years of age and even younger," he said. "There are other injustices [contained in it] too."
    [. . .]
    Hanaa Edwar, a well-known activist and head of the charity Al-Amal ("Hope" in Arabic), has campaigned against the law as a setback for women's rights in a country that has struggled since the 2003 invasion.
    "It turns women into tools for sexual enjoyment," she said. "It deletes all their rights." 

    This morning in DC, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing to discuss the US active duty and reserve forces.  Senator Carl Levin is the Chair of the Committee.  Senator James Inhofe is the Ranking Member.

    Chair Carl Levin:  The Department’s fiscal year 2015 budget request proposes end strength reductions through fiscal year 2017 that would leave the nation with an Active Army of 450,000, or 20 percent less from its wartime high of 569,000; an Army National Guard of 335,000, or 6 percent less than its wartime high of 354,000; and the U.S. Army Reserve at 195,000, or 10 percent less than its high of 205,000. But these end strength numbers assume that the defense budget caps will be increased by $115 billion for fiscal years 2016 through 2019.

    Appearing before the Committee were Gen Ray Odierno (Chief of Staff of the Army), Gen Frank Grass (Chief of the National Guard Bureau) and Lt Gen Jeffrey Talley (Chief of the Army and Commanding General of the US Army Reserve Command).

    In his opening remarks, Odierno broke from his prepared statement.

    Gen Ray Odierno:  Before I start, I just want to let the Committee know as soon as we're done with the hearing, I'll be traveling to Fort Hood to visit with the soldiers, family, commanders, those wounded and will attend the memorial service tomorrow.  Things continue to progress there.  I'm satisfied  that -- with the over all -- as we continue to investigate and look at this -- I'm satisfied that if we had not implemented some of the lessons learned in 2009, the tragedy could have been much worse than it was.  However, we still have much to learn about what happened and why and what we have to do in terms of our mental health screening assessments as well as taking care of our soldiers.  And the Army is committed to  thoroughly understanding what we must do and the actions we must take.  And we look forward to reporting to you what we have found as we continue and conclude our investigations at Fort Hood.

    Those were his remarks on last week's Fort Hood shooting.  Eleanor Goldberg (Huffington Post) sums it up,  "On Wednesday afternoon, Ivan Lopez, 34, opened fire at Fort Hood in Texas, killing three and injuring 16 before turning the gun on himself. The violence was particularly disheartening because Fort Hood was the site of the worst mass killing at an American military installation, which left 13 people dead and more than 30 injured in 2009."  Will Weissert and Danica Coto (AP) report, "On Friday, authorities formally identified the dead as 39-year-old Daniel Ferguson, of Mulberry, Fla.; 38-year-old Carlos Lazaney-Rodriguez, of Puerto Rico; and 37-year-old Timothy Owens, of Effingham, Ill."

    I wasn't at that hearing, a friend who was passed it on.  I was at today's Senate Foreign Relations hearing wasting my time -- or rather the Committee and John Kerry wasting my time.  Secretary of State John Kerry was the only witness appearing before the Committee.  Senator Robert Menendez is the Committee Chair and Bob Corker is the Ranking Member.

    The hearing was a joke, a really bad joke.

    Kerry denounced Venezuela's government for making 'dangerous choices.'  But Kerry didn't say one damn word about the War Crimes going on in Iraq.

    The US government is making dangerous choices -- but in doing so, they're making very clear that they don't give a damn about democracy or -- more important to the world -- they don't give a damn about humanity which is why they installed and propped -- and continue to prop up.

    Kerry tried to  boast, "No other nation can give people the confidence to come together and confront some of the most difficult challenges in the same way that we are privileged to do."

    They're not giving people that.  Kerry can pretend all he wants but all the US government is demonstrating is what it demonstrated under Bully Boy Bush, a crass disregard for human rights and the law.

    Kerry had the nerve to denounce Russia for "contrived" excuses.  Forget the Iraq War -- and the lies the US government -- including Democrats in Congress -- told.   Kerry screamed for war on Syria based on 'gassing' people to death with 'chemical weapons.'  But as Seymour Hersh's "The Red Line and the Rat Line," published by The London Review of Books over the weekend makes clear, Kerry, Barack Obama and others were engaged in propaganda to sell a war.  (Somebody slide the article over to Senator Ben Cardin -- his deep stupidity might be mitigated were he to read Hersh's report.) (For more on Hersh's report see Mike's "Can dickless Robert Parry go to a nursing home already?" and  Elaine's "Sy Hersh" -- also Marcia's "Polio" covered polio in Iraq.)

    The State Dept wants approximately one billion for Iraq for the next fiscal year and the hearing was on the budget.  But Kerry didn't want to discuss the big ticket item.  No one did.  Only one senator even said the word "Iraq."

    Yet . . .

    On the eve of the anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime on April 9, 2003, the U.S. Embassy advises U.S. citizens to restrict movements around Baghdad, including travel through Baghdad International Airport.  U.S. government and Embassy-affiliated personnel are restricting their use of the Baghdad International Airport through April 12.  Beyond this date, American citizens are encouraged to evaluate all travel plans after reviewing the latest Embassy messages.  If you have an emergency, please call the American Citizen Services emergency line at 0760-030-4888 or 0770-443-1286.
    The U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens in all areas of Iraq, including the IZ, maintain a heightened sense of security awareness and take appropriate measures to enhance personal and operational security at this time.  U.S. citizens are advised to keep a low profile; vary days, times, and routes of travel; and exercise caution while driving and entering or exiting vehicles. 

    You may recognize the above in bold.  You may think it's the warning the US Embassy in Baghdad issued
     that we noted in yesterday's snapshot.  It's not.  It's the warning that the US Embassy in Baghdad issued today.  It's so dangerous that they have repeated the warning.

    But John Kerry didn't care and he didn't care to address Iraq.

    Here's his full testimony on Iraq, "We've issued more special immigration visas in Afghanistan -- and in Iraq, incidentally -- than at any previous year."  That was in reply to an Afghanistan question from Senator Jeanne Shaheen.  However, when she asked him about Iraq?

    He didn't have a word for it, not even "incidentally."

    He did say this.

    Secretary John Kerry:  And I want to thank you for the way this Committee stands up for an active internationalist American foreign policy.  I spent enough time in Congress to know not to call anything that costs billions of dollars a bargain.  But when you consider that the American people pay just one penny of every tax dollar for the $46.2 billion in this request, I think it's safe to and if you ad OCO [Overseas Contingeny Operations] it's 50.1 -- I think it's safe to say that in the grand scheme of the federal budget, when it comes to the State Dept and USAID, tax payers are getting an extraordinary return on their investment.

    Pretty big words in many ways but especially when Friday brought the news of the State Dept being unable to account for $6 billion.  If you're late to the topic, refer to the report by Karen DeYoung (Washington Post).

    Only one senator wanted to raise the issue of the $6 billion missing dollars.

    Senator Jeanne Shaheen: On a note that is not so positive, last week it came to light that the State Dept's Office of Inspector General  has discovered that over the past six years contracts worth more than 6 billion dollars have lacked complete and -- in some cases -- no records and that many of the files for contracts supporting our US mission in Iraq couldn't be located.  So I was wondering if you could tell us what actions the State Dept is taking in response to the concerns that have been raised by the Inspector Generals?

    Secretary John Kerry: Well let me begin by saying that the, uh, we hadn't had an Inspector General at the State Dept for [stops speaking to turn around and ask his staff a question] . . .  What?  [Continues testimony] for three-and-a-half years or more there was no Inspector General.


    The stupidity.

    There's no  excuse for it.

    There wasn't an inspector general for Barack's entire first term.

    After January 2008, there was no State Dept IG in Bully Boy's Bush's final year of occupying the Oval Office.  Since January 2008 until September of 2013, the office was empty.

    Now I might not want to own up to that before Congress too if I was in violation of the 1978 law requiring an IG.

    Four years and nine months.  That's the answer if you're just speaking of Barack's tenure as US president.  But the actual answer is that the US State Dept was without an IG for five years and eight months.

    It's really sad (a) that Secretary Kerry didn't know the answer on his own and (b) that his staff he consulted mid-answer didn't know the correct answer.

    Senator Jeanne Shaheen:  And I appreciate your swift action to try and --

    Secretary John Kerry:  I decided that we needed -- It's important, it's an important part of oversight.  So I hired Steve Linick who is our current Inspector General who came from FHFA [Federal Housing Finance Agency] but who's also been a former federal prosecutor is an outstanding attorney and person for the job.  And-and I welcome the oversight.  That's number one.  Number two, I began this process looking at our liabilities.  It came from my time here on the Committee [prior to becoming Secretary of State, Kerry was the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee] -- when I traveled to Afghanistan and saw the contracting and recognized the corruption that existed in Afghanistan itself and other problems.  So when I first came in, I told folks we've got to really get a handle on what's happening here.  What we found is -- and what this Inspector General report confirms -- is that there have been some problems in just paper work management.  We know where the money -- No money, no six billion dollars has been lost. We-we --- The money is accountable. But it's keeping up with the paperwork.  Part of the problem is, we have learned, and this is really important to the budget process, every single entity of government where we're managing contracting is under-resourced, under-staffed and it's hard to keep up with the paper.  You say, "Well why not go electronic?"  Well some of these places electronic isn't exactly an option -- Afghanistan or some other places.  But it takes people and so we are under-resourced with respect to that.  But we are on it the Deputy Secretary of State for Management is pursuing this and we will have a report for the Inspector General showing exactly where they are and where they are going and this is a good process. And I think people should welcome this kind of oversight and process and get on top of things. 

    mushreq abbas

    the washington post
    karen deyoung