Thursday, June 12, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, June 12, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, criticism abounds, we explain why the White House needs to make Nouri the enemy, no US  troops on the ground Barack says, and more.

Before we get to Iraq, two things.  First, US House Rep Jeff Miller is the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  His office issued the following statement yesterday:

Jun 11, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.— After Senate passage of the Sanders-McCain veterans bill, Chairman Jeff Miller released the following statement:   
“I’m pleased the Senate has acted to address VA’s accountability and delays in care crises. Many of the provisions included in today’s Senate-passed bill are based on ideas that have already cleared the House, so I’m hopeful that both chambers of Congress can soon agree on a final package to send to the president’s desk.”  – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

I was asked why I was ignoring the above?  I hadn't seen it, no one working the e-mail account had seen it, it went to the spam folder.  We'll note another Miller press release at the end of the snapshot.  The VA scandal is a serious issue -- the American people take it seriously based on this week's polling -- and Miller has worked on the issue tirelessly.  He's a Republican, I'm not.  But I was not attempting to ignore or sleight him.  I'm really not into partisan nonsense these days.  Second, Ruby Dee has passed.  Actress, legend, activist, pioneer, writer, poet and so much more.  And we don't have space in this snapshot to really note her passing, I'm sorry. Iraq's on fire and I'm not even trying to work in two Congressional hearings I attended this week.  But Tavis Smiley will remember and honor the great Ruby Dee tonight on his PBS program Tavis Smiley

This morning, Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now! -- link is audio, video and text) declared, "Iraq is on the brink of disintegration. Sunni Islamist rebels have seized control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, as well as Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown, and Dhuluiya which is just 55 miles northwest of the capital of Baghdad. The rebels are now advancing toward Baghdad. Meanwhile, Iraqi Kurds have seized control of the northern oil city of Kirkuk. The Sunni militants are led by a group called ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. They now control a territory that stretches from the eastern edge of Aleppo, Syria, to Fallujah in western Iraq and now the northern city of Mosul. The sudden advance by the Islamist rebels has shocked the region. Earlier today, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the territorial integrity of Iraq is now in question."

This afternoon at the White House, US President Barack Obama declared, "We discussed the situation in the Middle East, and obviously the concerns that we have around Iraq and Syria.  Both our countries are potentially threatened by jihadists and freedom fighters, as they call them, that are going into Syria, getting trained in terrorist tactics and then potentially coming back to our countries and could end up being a significant threat to our homeland, as well."

"We" was a reference to himself and Abbot, Prime Minister of Australia.  The two met today to discuss various issues.  After the discussion, the two addressed the press.  We'll note this exchange between Barack and the Associated Press' Nedra Pickler:

Q    Mr. President, are you considering drone strikes or any sort of action to stop the insurgence in Iraq?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, this is an area that we’ve been watching with a lot of concern not just over the last couple of days but over the last several months, and we’ve been in close consultation with the Iraqi government.  Over the last year, we have been providing them additional assistance to try to address the problems that they have in Anbar, in the northwestern portions of the country, as well as the Iraqi and Syrian border.  That includes, in some cases, military equipment.  It includes intelligence assistance.  It includes a whole host of issues.
But what we’ve seen over the last couple of days indicates the degree to which Iraq is going to need more help.  It’s going to need more help from us, and it’s going to need more help from the international community. 
So my team is working around the clock to identify how we can provide the most effective assistance to them.  I don’t rule out anything, because we do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria, for that matter. 
Part of the challenge -- and I’ve said this directly to Prime Minister Maliki, and Vice President Biden has said this in his very frequent interactions with the Iraqi government -- is that the politics of Shia and Sunni inside of Iraq, as well as the Kurds, is either going to be a help in dealing with this jihadist situation, or it’s going to be a hindrance.  And frankly, over the last several years, we have not seen the kind of trust and cooperation develop between moderate Sunni and Shia leaders inside of Iraq, and that accounts in part for some of the weakness of the state, and that then carries over into their military capacity.
So I think it’s fair to say that in our consultations with the Iraqis there will be some short-term, immediate things that need to be done militarily, and our national security team is looking at all the options.  But this should be also a wakeup call for the Iraqi government.  There has to be a political component to this so that Sunni and Shia who care about building a functioning state that can bring about security and prosperity to all people inside of Iraq come together and work diligently against these extremists.  And that is going to require concessions on the part of both Shia and Sunni that we haven’t seen so far. 
The last point I’ll make -- what’s happened over the last couple of days I think underscores the importance of the point that I made at my West Point speech:  the need for us to have a more robust regional approach to partnering and training partner countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa.  We’re not going to be able to be everywhere all the time, but what we can do is to make sure that we are consistently helping to finance, train, advise military forces with partner countries, including Iraq, that have the capacity to maintain their own security.  And that is a long and laborious process, but it’s one that we need to get started. 

That’s part of what the Counterterrorism Partnership Fund that I am going to be calling for Congress to help finance is all about, giving us the capacity to extend our reach without sending U.S. troops to play Whac-A-Mole wherever there ends up being a problem in a particular country.  That’s going to be more effective.  It’s going to be more legitimate in the eyes of people in the region, as well as the international community.  But it’s going to take time for us to build it.  In the short term, we have to deal with what clearly is an emergency situation in Iraq.

Those remarks came up in today's State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Jen Psaki:

QUESTION: -- you just announced this aid for internally displaced people. Have any decisions been made about – or can you enlighten us on where the process is on what the President outlined with the Australian foreign minister in terms of the options being considered for assisting the Iraqi Government in dealing with the deteriorating situation?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, what you have seen – and I know you saw it, Matt, but just for the benefit of others, the President did speak to this just a little while ago, in the last hour. And what he said and made clear is that we’ve had a lot of concern, not just in the last couple of days but months. And what we’ve seen over the last couple of days is an indication that Iraq needs more help.
Our team is working overtime on a range of options that does not include, to be clear, boots on the ground. Secretary Kerry is clearly very engaged in these discussions, which are ongoing. And Deputy Assistant Secretary Brett McGurk, of course, is as well, given he’s on the ground, as well as a range of officials from the State Department. I don’t have anything to enlighten you on, given these are ongoing discussions. But the President made clear that in the short term there may be the immediate need for additional military assistance, and there’s an ongoing discussion about that.

QUESTION: So immediate means possibly by the end of the day or in the next --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not giving a timing indication. I think what he’s indicating is in the short term, in addition to the capacity building that we’re doing over the medium and long term.

QUESTION: Right. Do you have any thoughts about the Iranians saying that they’re willing to help defend the Shia community or defend Baghdad and/or, both, the Kurds taking control of Kirkuk? Do these developments cause you any concern?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me take the second one first. We support the steps taken between the federal government and the Kurdish regional government to cooperate on a security plan that will enhance the Iraqi army’s ability to hold positions and confront ISIL. We’re encouraging both Baghdad and Erbil to continue and further their cooperation, given the immediate threat that they’re all facing from ISIL on the ground.

So at this point, the official position is "no boots on the ground."

Barack is President.  Joe Biden is Vice President.  Let's note this:

 Biden noted the "internal threat" aspect being proposed and how these requires the US "to support the Iraqi government in its battle with all 'outlaw groups' -- that's a pretty expansive commitment."  He noted that it requires the US "to take sides in Iraq's civil war" and that "there is no Iraqi government that we know of that will be in place a year from now -- half the government has walked out." 
 "Just understand my frustration," Biden explained.  "We want to normalize a government that really doesn't exist." 

No, Joe didn't just Sally Langston Barack (reference to Shonda Rhimes' Scandal).

That's Joe speaking when he was Senator Joe Biden and chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  We covered the hearing in the April 10, 2008 snapshot -- it remains one of the most important hearings the Committee held on Iraq.  We were among the few to turn out for it.  The week had seen then-General David Petraeus and then-US Ambassador Ryan Crocker testify to several Congressional committees.  By the time Friday rolled around, the press may have been exhausted.

Too bad.  It was an important hearing.

When Joe spoke those words, the prime minister of Iraq was Nouri al-Maliki.

He's still prime minister right now, finishing his second term.

What's really changed is that as bad as Nouri's first term was -- and it was bad -- his second has been even worse.  And he's created more chaos and violence.

Joe's concerns in 2008 were valid.

They're only more valid today.

The White House needs to walk away from Nouri and not just because it's important to Iraq but also because it's important to the presidency.  We'll get to the second point later in the snapshot.

For now, back to Democracy Now!'s discussion on Iraq:

MOHAMMED AL DULAIMY: What I see is the failing of the whole system that the United States and its allies, they tried to build in Iraq. The whole democracy experiment in Iraq is in danger, as actually has been for a long time in danger, but now it’s more obvious to everyone. We are seeing now the consequences of a leadership of a sectarian regime that was ruling in Iraq for the past eight years, led by Mr. Nouri al-Maliki, and the lack of trust among his partners, corruption. All of that gave the way for radicals to rise and gave the chance to occupy a two million city, population city, in Mosul, the second-largest Iraqi city. All of this is threatening the integrity of Iraq, the unity of the country, and threatening Iraq to descend to a more like Syrian-like civil war.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And when you talk about the reign of al-Maliki and the sectarianism of his government, could you elaborate on that? Because clearly al-Maliki as a Shiite leader and the majority of the population of Iraq being Shiite, the United States has continued to back his rule there despite his clampdown on any kind of dissent.

MOHAMMED AL DULAIMY: Yes, we have enough evidence, actually, videos of speeches of Mr. al-Maliki himself, showing that this man is leading the country towards a civil war. His previous press conferences accusing his partners of terrorism, sometimes forging cases against them, as they say, led the country to high tension, causing Sunnis to go into streets to protest and to show their demands. Mr. al-Maliki refused most of these demands. And to the limit, he accused them of continuing some historical event that took place 1,400 years ago, about 1,400 years ago, and he said that the killers of Imam Husayn are still living among—he meant Sunnis—among the other party, which he meant Sunnis. Mr. al-Maliki has failed to build an Iraqi military that will respect human rights. I just want to say that fanatics, Islamists, feed on such human rights breaches. It helps them to further their cause and to win more recruits. This is what has had—happening in Iraq.
And you can see the videos of how the Iraqi army dealt with demonstrators in Hawija, how they killed men carrying sticks, only iron sticks, or sometimes carrying nothing. You could see the video, the brutality of the military. Mr. al-Maliki punished no one. Mr. al-Maliki always refuses to address these issues to de-escalate the sectarian tensions in Iraq. Mr. al-Maliki always also refused to disarm some Iranian-backed trained Shia militias like al-Asa’ib. These kinds of actions caused the Sunni community to live in a turmoil. And here I think that the United States, the administration, we, all of us, should speak loudly to stop the descent of the country into that civil war, to stop pushing ordinary people towards fanatics to join their lines just to defend themselves against an army that is willing to kill them all.

Mohammed Al Dulaimy is a name many should already know.  If you don't, think Sahar Issa or Laith Hammoudi.  They were among the Iraqi reporters working for McClatchy Newspapers.  They went out of their way and took great risks to let the world know what was really happening in Iraq.  Today, Al Dulaimy is seeking refugee status in the United States -- status which should be immediately granted.  He's the perfect example of why the program was created.

Ned Parker was also on today's broadcast of Democracy Now!  We'll be noting him later in the snapshot, his writing, but we'll wait for tomorrow to note his remarks from the program.

We will note what Iraqi Taher Hassan tells the Guardian about life in Samarra now that the rebels have taken over:

Everyone in Samarra is happy with the fighters' management of the city. They have proved to be professional and competent. We have water and power; there is a shortage in fuel because Maliki's forces have cut the bridges between Samarra and Baghdad. The fighters themselves did not harm or kill anyone as they swept forward. Any man who hands over his arm is safe, whatever his background. This attitude is giving huge comfort to people here.
Four days ago, Maliki's forces raided al-Razzaq mosque in Samarra, brought a few locals whom they picked up from different parts of the city and killed them in the mosque. What do you think the people's feeling would be towards these military forces? We have lived enough years of injustice, revenge and tyranny, and we can't stand any more.

There are new developments in Iraq.  For example, Mitchell Prothero (McClatchy Newspapers) reports:

 The Kurdish Regional Government in Irbil announced that its highly trained militia, the peshmerga, had taken complete control of the city of Kirkuk, which has long been a point of competition between its Arab and Kurdish residents, after the mostly Arab government security forces fled. The move makes the Kurds’ long sought goal of control over the city a reality.
“The whole of Kirkuk has fallen into the hands of peshmerga,” Kurdish spokesman Jabbar Yawar told Reuters. “No Iraqi army remains in Kirkuk now.”

Read more here:

Today was also the day Nouri wanted a state of emergency declared.

That is a very scary proposition.

Nouri could use it to restore order or to terrorize.

The latter possibility may explain why few members of Parliament bothered to attend the session.

There wasn't enough to hold a session.

The Guardian offers a photo essay on recent events.

The real indicator of how bad things are in Iraq?

Today's State Dept press briefing.

Jen Psaki:  Hi, everyone. Just have two items for all of you at the top. The United States is concerned that the deteriorating security situation is deepening the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, as we’ve been discussing in here the last several days. The International Organization for Migration estimates that the number of people displaced by the violence in Mosul and surrounding areas in recent days may have reached 500,000. They join an additional 430,000 people displaced by fighting in Anbar, as well as the nearly 1 million people who remain displaced from the war in Iraq.
We are announcing today we’re providing an additional $12.8 million to international organization partners working to meet the needs of internally displaced persons and conflict victims in Iraq. The new assistance will provide immediate relief by supplying food, shelter, and medicine for Iraq’s rapidly growing population of displaced people. This additional support includes $6.6 million to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for essential humanitarian supplies like blankets, tents, and hygiene items. And it provides 6.2 million to other international organizations for food and clean water, core relief items, and urgent medical care for the affected. These contributions are in part in response to an additional emergency appeal, the United Nations Strategic Response Plan of $104 million issued in March for Iraq.

With this announcement, the total U.S. humanitarian assistance to Iraq in Fiscal Year 2014 is more than $136 million. We urge other donors to help meet the critical needs outlined in this appeal. Since 2010, the United States has contributed to the United Nations, other international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations more than $1.1 billion in humanitarian assistance for Iraqi refugees and internationally displaced – internally displaced people.

That's right, Psaki opened with Iraq.

And, no, not replying to the first question a reporter asked -- she brought up Iraq without prompting.

The blame game.  Robert Parry (Consortium News via OpEd News) pulls his thumb out of his ass and sniffs it.  Barack's chief temple prostitute in the Cult of St. Barack wants you to know it's Bully Boy Bush's fault.  Take your sad ass off the stage, no one's buying from your whorish wares anymore.  Events in 2014 were just described by an Iraqi.  But Parry doesn't  care about Iraq or the Iraqi people.  He only wants his turn to nurse at Barack's crotch and he will lie, distract and whore in his foolish hopes that one day his mouth will be where it so longs to be.

We've been the Cassandra for years, pointing out what was happening in Iraq during Barack's first term. We've noted that overturning the will of the people -- the 2010 vote -- was dangerous to any democracy that might have been taking root but, more importantly, denying a people a voice in their government is going to lead to protests and if they're still not listened to then, it's going to lead to violence.

That's not me being psychic and it's not me blazing a new trail in political science.  It's basic understanding of how revolutions, rebellions and resistance work.

When people turn out to vote and their votes surprise everyone's expectations, it's a monumental moment.  It's reduced to nothing when, 8 months later, Barack has US officials negotiate The Erbil Agreement -- a legal contract to give Nouri a second term as prime minister.

When the only thing the people can hold onto is that this contract -- which nullified their voices -- means that there will be some progress.  The winning party, Iraqiya, for instance, will be rewarded with a new and independent national security council which will be headed by Iraqiya's Ayad Allawi.  The back and forth over who has the right to oil-rich Kirkuk -- the Kurdistan Regional Government or the central government out of Baghdad -- will finally be settled by implementing Article 140 of the Constitution.  So many promises in that contract.  The US brokered the contract and swore it had the full backing of the White House.  The Erbil Agreement ended the political stalemate that had lasted eight months and had prevented the formation of the government.  But the day after The Erbil Agreement was agreed upon and announced, there was a hiccup when the Parliament finally met.  From the November 11, 2010 snapshot:

Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports one hiccup in the process today involved Ayad Allawi who US President Barack Obama phoned asking/pleading that he accept the deal because "his rejection of post would be a vote of no confidence". Ben Lando, Sam Dagher and Margaret Coker (Wall St. Journal) confirm the phone call via two sources and state Allawi will take the post -- newly created -- of chair of the National Council On Higher Policy: "Mr. Obama, in his phone call to Mr. Allawi on Thursday, promised to throw U.S. weight behind the process and guarantee that the council would retain meaningful and legal power, according to the two officials with knowledge of the phone call." 

Guess what?  Barack's oral promises?  About as useless as The Erbil Agreement.  Those promises Barack made to get Allawi to support the deal?  Allawi never got to chair the National Council on Higher Policy.  Even though it's promised in The Erbil Agreement and was promised by Barack himself, Nouri never created it.  Nouri used The Erbil Agreement to get his second term and then refused to honor the other parts -- the promises he made to get others to agree to giving him a second term.

First, he stalled.  Then his people started declaring the contract -- the one that gave him a second term -- illegal and stating Nouri couldn't be bound by it.  By the summer of 2011, Iraqiya, the Kurds and Moqtada al-Sadr were publicly calling for Nouri to implement the contract.  By the spring of 2012, they, Ammar al-Hakim and others were calling for a vote of no-confidence in the Parliament.  They followed the process, they collected the necessary signatures. Jalal Talabani -- noted deserter who hasn't been in Iraq since December 2012 -- took it upon himself to 'create' a role -- not noted in the Constitution -- of vetting the signatures.  John Conyers is a US House Rep.  He's struggling with re-election this year because his petition contained signatures that were a problem (they weren't registered to vote, for example).

That is how you verify a petition.  Are the signatures from eligible people?  For the no-confidence vote, the signatures had to of Members of Parliament.  Jalal verified these signatures.  They were accurate.

But Jalal announced he'd also done something else, he'd asked (pressured?) if they still wanted to sign?  Jalal says -- though he released no proof -- that signers backed off.  They'd signed it at the time but didn't mean it now, a week or so later.

Guess what?

You sign a petition, you sign a petition.  You don't get to pull your name from it afterwards.  If MPs who signed now didn't want to vote no-confidence, they weren't bound by the petition to vote any way in a parliamentary vote.  The petition called for a vote on the issue, they signed it, that was the end of the story.  Until Fat Boy Jalal betrayed Iraq (usually, he just betrays the Kurdish region).  He made his announcement and then fled the country claiming he had a life threatening medical condition.  That later turned out to be elective surgery. Jalal's a long term liar.

But the votes were denied, The Erbil Agreement was denied, the Parliament was denied.  And throughout most of this, protests took place.

When your vote doesn't matter, when your legislative body is foiled in its attempts to represent you, when a leader refuses to honor a contract and when your protests accomplish nothing, what is left but violence?


Unlike Robert Parry, Ned Parker's broken important stories in the last decade.  At the Los Angeles Times, for example, Parker repeatedly broke news of Nouri's secret prisons (a detail Robert Parry's had a real hard time finding).  This is from Parker's "Who Lost Iraq?" (POLITICO):

It was the April 2010 national election and its tortured aftermath that sewed the seeds of today’s crisis in Iraq. Beforehand, U.S. state and military officials had prepared for any scenario, including the possibility that Maliki might refuse to leave office for another Shiite Islamist candidate. No one imagined that the secular Iraqiya list, backed by Sunni Arabs, would win the largest number of seats in parliament. Suddenly the Sunnis’ candidate, secular Shiite Ayad Allawi, was poised to be prime minister. But Maliki refused and dug in.
And it is here where America found its standing wounded. Anxious about midterm elections in November and worried about the status of U.S. forces slated to be drawn down to 50,000 by August, the White House decided to pick winners. According to multiple officials in Baghdad at time, Vice President Joseph Biden and then-Ambassador Chris Hill decided in July 2010 to support Maliki for prime minister, but Maliki had to bring the Sunnis and Allawi onboard. Hill and his staff then made America’s support for Maliki clear in meetings with Iraqi political figures.
The stalemate would drag on for months, and in the end both the United States and its arch-foe Iran proved would take credit for forming the government. But Washington would be damaged in the process. It would be forever linked with endorsing Maliki. One U.S. Embassy official I spoke with just months before the government was formed privately expressed regret at how the Americans had played kingmaker.

Let's also note Parker's "Iraq: The Road to Chaos" (The New York Review of Books):

Meanwhile, instead of producing a decisive outcome, the 2010 election left the country deeply divided. The vote was a near draw between Maliki and Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc, and it took nine months of negotiation and heavy involvement from both the Americans and Iranians to forge a new “national unity” government. According to the compromise reached, it was to be headed by Maliki with important cabinet positions allocated to Iraqiya, including the vice presidency and the ministries of finance and defense. Allawi himself would head a new military and political council, a step the US had strongly pushed for. But as soon as the new government was seated, Maliki refused to relinquish control of the defense and interior ministries, and thwarted the establishment of Allawi’s council. He eventually chased his Sunni vice president and finance minister away with the threat of arrest warrants. As Maliki saw it, his political survival depended in part on ruthlessly limiting his opponents’ power, and he could not leave himself exposed to enemies, whether Shiite Islamist rivals or members of the Sunni opposition. 

Okay, so we've dismissed with the faux left of the Cult of St. Barack.

At the right-wing media critique site Newsbusters, Jeffrey Meyer offers one critique:

Al Qaeda-affiliated militants have seized control of two cities in Northern Iraq, including Mosul the nation’s second largest and Tikrit, the hometown of Sadaam Hussein. Despite the increased violence, all three network morning shows did their best to downplay or ignore the Obama Administration’s Iraq policy for potentially contributing to the violence. 
On Thursday, June 12, ABC, CBS, and NBC all provided extensive coverage on the latest violence on and the danger of the radical Jihadists taking over parts of Iraq. However, only NBC briefly noted President Obama’s decision to quickly withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. ABC didn't use the word "Obama," and the only CBS reference to the president was to fret that the administration has "no current idea" on whether or not to send in military support to aid the Iraqi government.

Did Barack withdraw too soon?

We've argued no.  In fact, we've noted that a drawdown is not a withdrawal, we've noted a Special-Ops brigade was sent back into Iraq in the fall of 2012. Others on the left have ignored Iraq.  They'll have fun trying to scramble together an argument.

But 'withdraw' too soon?  That's an endless debate with no real answer, just opinions.

The thing that matters in the above 'al Qaeda linked.'

That would have been bad at any time.  With Barack surrendering five Taliban prisoners, this is coming at a really bad time for the White House.  Barack's favorability rating has reached an all time low and Pew finds those with an opinion on the prisoner swap tend to object (43%) rather than support the deal.

His numbers can get a lot worse.

The White House and the State Dept need to be explaining how this is not a Syrian issue but an Iraq one. They could follow the reporting of Greg Botelho (CNN):

After the military was overrun, it was dissolved -- along with Iraq's defense and information ministries -- by Paul Bremer, the top U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq.
That left hundreds of thousands of troops suddenly out of work. Those with ranks of colonel and above -- who knew the most about strategy, tactics and more -- were hit even harder, as they weren't entitled to severance packages and couldn't work for the new Iraqi government.
Then they had to go somewhere.
According to Fawaz Gerges, a professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science, "hundreds, if not thousands, of skilled officers of Saddam Hussein's ... joined ISIS."
That means this militant force -- even as it is supplemented by foreign fighters -- is trained and knows Iraq well. And its leaders may be more organized, strategically savvy and adept at fighting than some in Iraq's current military.

What Botellho is reporting is already accepted at the State Dept.  They just need to work harder on getting that information out there.

This is an Iraq issue, most fighters are Iraqi, this is a violent development but it is not an unexpected one.  If the administration is unable to make these basic points, Barack's going to tumble even more in the polls and Democrats are going to lose even more in the mid-terms.

Now I don't care a great deal about the elections and I certainly haven't spent the last six years excusing Barack's errors, mistakes and abuses. But I do care about Iraq and, it just so happens, right now for a brief moment, so does the White House.  They can use this violence as an opportunity to address real issues and start real conversations or they can let the events overwhelm them.

If they're going to take control of the issue, that's going to mean finding another fall guy.

US Speaker of the House John Boehner (link is video):  Back in January, I urged the President to get engaged with what's going on in Iraq.  And this week, we've seen big cities in Iraq overrun with terrorists.  The Obama administration's failure to reach a Status Of Forces Agreement continues to have serious consequences for Iraq and American interests in the region. 

No, not Boehner.  But his remarks today are going to harm the White House.  He ends his remarks with, "And what's the President doing?  Taking a nap."

That's what the White House will let stand?  Barack took a nap and missed Iraq?

The reality is, as we've stayed for the last four years now, the problem is Nouri al-Maliki.

The White House doesn't need to create a fall guy, they only need to shine the light on the problem.

If you click here, you can see Fred Kaplan discussing how Nouri's created the problems in the last four years.  Or I hope you can.  I'm going to embed the video but it's not playing right now.  I'm arguing with a friend on a second phone -- a CNN friend -- about the video not playing so maybe they'll have it fixed by the time this snapshot is up.

Hopefully, you'll be able to stream Kaplan on CNN's Newsroom from earlier today.  If not, here's an excerpt from his latest column at Slate:

As the U.S. pullout began under the terms of a treaty signed in 2008 by then-President George W. Bush, Maliki, the leader of a Shiite political party, promised to run a more inclusive government—to bring more Sunnis into the ministries, to bring more Sunnis from the Sons of Iraq militia into the national army, to settle property disputes in Kirkuk, to negotiate a formula on sharing oil revenue with Sunni districts, and much more.

Maliki has since backpedaled on all of these commitments and has pursued policies designed to strengthen Shiites and marginalize Sunnis. That has led to the resurgence of sectarian violence in the past few years. The Sunnis, finding themselves excluded from the political process, have taken up arms as the route to power. In the process, they have formed alliances with Sunni jihadist groups—such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, which has seized not just Mosul but much of northern Iraq—on the principle that the enemy of their enemy is their friend.

Fred Kaplan and I disagree on pretty much everything.  On Nouri's harm to Iraq we can find consensus. That's the White House's first clue that they've got to shine the light on Nouri al-Maliki.

And shining that light on Nouri would take the heat off Barack.  Kevin Rawlinson (Guardian) reports on Hillary Clinton's reaction:

She added that Obama was setting out preconditions to Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, before there could be any question of providing the military support the latter was seeking. Iraqi forces, she said, should take the lead in fighting Isis.
"Maliki has to be willing to demonstrate unequivocally that he is a leader for all Iraqis, not for a sectarian slice of the country," she said.

But Nouri can't be trusted to keep promises.  Not with his record of breaking them.

Today's violence includes, National Iraqi News Agency reports a clash near Kirkuk's al-Manzila left photographer Kamran Najem Ibrahim dead and fourteen peshmerga injured, the corpses of 12 Iraqi soldiers were discovered near Shirqat Village,, 2 military officers and 2 university professors were shot dead in Tikrit, 10-year-old Ahmed Mohammed Ibrahim (nephew of MP Qutaiba al-Jubouri) was shot dead in Baiji, Army Aviation says they killed over 70 suspects in Salah al-Din Province, and several Mosul homes belonging to Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi were blown up (yesterday saw the Mosul home of al-Nujaifi's father blown up).

Again, US House Rep Jeff Miller is the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  His office issued the following on Tuesday:

Jun 10, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.— After House passage of H.R. 4810, the Veterans Access to Care Act, Chairman Jeff Miller released the following statement:  
“The news about VA’s delays in care crisis just keeps getting worse. The recent deaths of at least 23 veterans have been linked to delayed VA medical care. Another 35 veterans have died while awaiting care in the Phoenix area alone, 57,000 veteran patients have been waiting at least 90 days for their first VA medical appointment, and an additional 64,000 veterans appear to have been denied appointments after requesting them. I cannot state it strongly enough – this is a national disgrace. But for our veterans it is something more – a national emergency. I appreciate the urgency that House leadership displayed in moving this crucial legislation so quickly. I hope the Senate will move swiftly on similar legislation so VA can begin to restore trust with the veterans it is charged with serving.” – Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs