Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, June 25, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the polls are not good for Barack, the Kurds are singing the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again," and much more.

Polls this week have not brought good news for Barack Obama.  For example, Andrew Dugan (Gallup) notes that 61% of respondents in a new Gallup poll "still support President Barack Obama's 2011 decision to remove nearly all U.S. troops from Iraq" but that this has fallen from 75% in October of 2011 and that the new poll was taken as Barack "has sent 275 military troops to help secure the U.S. embassy in Iraq and 300 military advisors to assist the Iraqi government."  This on the heels of the NBC-Wall St. Journal poll.  For those who missed that poll earlier this week, Carrie Dann (NBC News) reports 71% of the respondents in that poll describe the Iraq War as not "worth it."   Fox News announced the results of their latest poll today. Dana Blanton (Fox News) reports:

President Obama’s decision to send 300 special-forces advisers to Iraq leads most voters to believe a large number of combat troops will eventually go back there.
That’s according to a new Fox News poll released Tuesday.
The poll also finds that although most voters think the terrorist insurgents will win if the U.S. doesn’t help Iraq, a majority says it is more important to keep our troops out of Iraq than it is to stop the fighting.

This has not been a good news week for Barack.

Might it get even worse?

Some think so.

"But sooner or later, honest liberals will have to admit that Obama’s Iraq policy has been a disaster." That's an argument Peter Beinart made earlier this week in "Obama's Disastrous Iraq Policy: An Autopsy" (The Atlantic).  In the essay, Beinart sketches out events so many want to avoid.

We'll note this section on The Erbil Agreement which gave Nouri al-Maliki a second term after voters and the Iraqi Constitution didn't:

For the Obama administration, however, tangling with Maliki meant investing time and energy in Iraq, a country it desperately wanted to pivot away from. A few months before the 2010 elections, according to Dexter Filkins in The New Yorker, “American diplomats in Iraq sent a rare dissenting cable to Washington, complaining that the U.S., with its combination of support and indifference, was encouraging Maliki’s authoritarian tendencies.”
When Iraqis went to the polls in March 2010, they gave a narrow plurality to the Iraqiya List, an alliance of parties that enjoyed significant Sunni support but was led by Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite. Under pressure from Maliki, however, an Iraqi judge allowed the prime minister's Dawa Party—which had finished a close second—to form a government instead. According to Emma Sky, chief political adviser to General Raymond Odierno, who commanded U.S. forces in Iraq, American officials knew this violated Iraq’s constitution. But they never publicly challenged Maliki’s power grab, which was backed by Iran, perhaps because they believed his claim that Iraq’s Shiites would never accept a Sunni-aligned government. “The message” that America’s acquiescence “sent to Iraq’s people and politicians alike,” wrote the Brookings Institution’s Kenneth Pollack, “was that the United States under the new Obama administration was no longer going to enforce the rules of the democratic road…. [This] undermined the reform of Iraqi politics and resurrected the specter of the failed state and the civil war.” According to Filkins, one American diplomat in Iraq resigned in disgust.
By that fall, to its credit, the U.S. had helped craft an agreement in which Maliki remained prime minister but Iraqiya controlled key ministries. Yet as Ned Parker, the Reuters bureau chief in Baghdad, later detailed, “Washington quickly disengaged from actually ensuring that the provisions of the deal were implemented.” In his book, The Dispensable Nation, Vali Nasr, who worked at the State Department at the time, notes that the “fragile power-sharing arrangement … required close American management. But the Obama administration had no time or energy for that. Instead it anxiously eyed the exits, with its one thought to get out. It stopped protecting the political process just when talk of American withdrawal turned the heat back up under the long-simmering power struggle that pitted the Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds against one another.”

The agreement Peter's writing about is The Erbil Agreement.  Not only did it spit in the face of democracy, it did something even worse as time went on.  To get the political blocs to agree to sign off on this contract, the White House insisted the contract had their full backing.   The day after the contract was signed, Parliament finally held a session.  And, that day (November 11, 2010), The Erbil Agreement had the White House's backing as evidenced by a phone call Barack made.  From that day's 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." 

So then, that day, the contract had the full backing of the White House.

But Nouri used the contract to get his second term and then refused to honor what he had agreed to in writing, in the contract, to get that second term.  And the White House said and did nothing.  In the summer of 2011, Iraqiya, the Kurds, cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr began publicly demanding The Erbil Agreement be implemented as promised.

And the White House?

Said and did nothing.

And we could follow this through to all the later failures of the White House to back The Erbil Agreement (including May 2012 when the White House actively works to undermine it), but we've covered that before and we have a great deal to cover today.

Nouri signed a contract and broke his promise.  That's typical Nouri.  He has twice taken an oath to the Iraqi Constitution but refused to honor that oath by implementing Article 140 of the Constitution.  He breaks every promise.  Something as simple as buying weapons from Russia goes from the announcement of an over 4 billion dollar deal to months and months of on again off again -- all after a sales contract is signed -- because Nouri's word doesn't mean a thing.  He's known for breaking his word.

Despite Nouri's well known reputation for breaking his word, Barack wanted to make deals with Nouri this month.

Monday, June 16th, the New York Times explained the basics on The Diane Rehm Show (NPR):

Peter Baker:   That's the reason why President Obama's even thinking about, you know, potentially getting involved again in a place he really, really doesn't want to get involved in. 

Diane Rehm: How does he think he might be able to get involved? 

Peter Baker:  Well, for him, the first thing is trying to use this moment to leverage Prime Minister Maliki to be more inclusive, as we were just talking about, to reconcile to the extent he possibly can with the Sunni groups who have been marginalized, to take some of the political momentum out of ISIS as they are marching across Iraq. Then, in terms of military capacity, if he chooses to use it, he's not talking about boots on the ground, he says. He's talking about potentially air power, whether they'd be piloted aircraft or drone strikes, in addition to more intelligence, more equipment, more, you know advising kind of role.

It's Wednesday which means Nouri takes to TV to deliver his weekly 'I hate Sunnis and Kurds' speech.  He offered a twist today.  To form a national salvation government, Alsumaria quotes him stating, would be a coup against the Constitution.  DPA reminds:

The U.S. has pushed for an inclusive government in Baghdad, citing charges by minority Kurds and Sunnis that Mr. al-Maliki, a Shia, has marginalised them during eight years of rule.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry repeated the call on Monday during talks with officials in Baghdad.
Mr. al-Maliki, who has been in power since 2006, eyes a third term. 

Nayla Razzouk and Selcan Hacaoglu (Bloomberg News) add, "Politicians including former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi as well as Shiite leaders who had helped bring Maliki to power have called on him to step down to allow the formation of a unity government to counter the advance of Sunni militants threatening to break up Iraq. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has also urged Iraqi leaders to form a more inclusive government "  Patrick Cockburn (Independent) explains, "Mr Maliki is opposed by the Sunni, Kurds, several Shia parties, the US and the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the Shia spiritual leader. To have a chance of keeping his job he would need the full support of Iran, which does not want him to be replaced by a pro-American prime minister."   BBC's Richard Galpin offers an analysis which includes:

It was Mr Maliki's political rival Ayad Allawi who raised the issue of a national salvation government which the prime minister has so firmly rejected.
But it seems Mr Maliki is also firing a warning shot across the bows of the international community.
The United States in particular has been putting intense pressure on him to ensure a new government is formed as quickly as possible, with a broad spectrum of politicians.

NPR's Bill Chappell quotes Deborah Amos stating of the speech, "The prime minister lashed out, calling any attempts to form a unity government a coup against the constitution and Iraq's democracy. The U.S. has pushed for a more inclusive government, one that represents all religious and ethnic groups. Iraqi politicians widely blame Maliki for failing to reach past his Shiite Muslim political base."  Nouri's bellicose response may have been, in part, a reply to an interview John Kerry gave CBS News on Tuesday in which he noted (rightly) that Iraq has no government currently and also has military issues so US air strikes are not a possibility currently.  (They shouldn't be a possibility ever but at least they're not a possibility currently.)

Let's look at the text book example of how not to report.  This is from Lindsay Wise (McClatchy Newspapers):

Maliki said that a “national salvation” government wouldn’t be representative of the results of April’s parliamentary elections, which awarded his own party 92 of 328 seats.

Read more here:

The US is a nation which lacks math skills so why don't you try putting that into a very simple perspective: "The man whose party got roughly a third of the seats in Parliament is insisting that others be shut out."  Nouri lost.  He lost because he defined success ahead of the elections as winning a majority government.  That meant he could have his say.  That also meant he had to win many more seats than he did.  That makes him and his dream of a majority government losers.

Losers?  The Kurds are bound and determined not to be losers this go-round.  Tuesday, US Secretary of State met with Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barazni (pictured below with Kerry) as well as other Kurdish officials.

 Mark Tran (Guardian) reported:

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, has urged Kurdish leaders to stand with Baghdad as fighting continued for control of Iraq's largest oil refinery at Baiji.
Kerry flew to the Kurdish region on an emergency trip through the Middle East amid fears that Iraq faces disintegration under the onslaught by Islamist militants – the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) – backed by disgruntled Sunni tribes.

The problem with visiting Erbil?

It was the day after Kerry had visited Baghdad.

The US government repeatedly counts on the Kurds to smooth over, to compromise, to go along, etc.  And it rewards the Kurds how?  By making them the last item on the itinerary time after time.  The White House used the Kurds to sell The Erbil Agreement.  Do you know what the Kurds wanted most in The Erbil Agreement?

Article 140 implemented.

Kirkuk is disputed territory.  The oil-rich province is claimed by the KRG in the north and by the central government out of Baghdad.  Both groups maintain they have historical claims to the province.

How do you settle it?

The 2005 Iraqi Constitution outlined how to settle it.  Per Article 140, a census and referendum would be held in Kirkuk to determine its fate.

Nouri took an oath to the Iraqi Constitution when the Bully Boy Bush White House installed him as prime minister.  Article 140 states it should be implemented by the end of 2007.

That year came and went and nothing.  Because Nouri never keeps an oath or a promise.

In 2010, when the White House wanted to give Nouri a second term, the Kurds insisted that The Erbil Agreement include a clause promising Nouri would implement Article 140.

Just another broken promise.  Nouri used the contract to get a second term but he did not honor any of the promises he made in the contract.

In May 2011, the Kurds joined other groups in publicly demanding Nouri implement The Erbil Agreement.  The White House refused to assist -- the same White House that had said The Erbil Agreement had the full backing of the White House.  That promise, for the Kurds, came directly from US Vice President Joe Biden. Biden would play friend to the Kurds again May 2012.  That's when enough Members of Parliament had signed a petition calling for a vote on Nouri in Parliament.  If the vote went against Nouri, he would no longer be prime minister.  While those gathering the signatures followed the Constitution, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani did not.  Under pressure from Biden and Brett McGurk (among other US officials), Jalal agreed to 'invent' a new power not in the Constitution.  He was supposed to do nothing more than present the petition to the Parliament.  It's a ceremonial role, nothing more than introducing it.

Instead, he claimed he had the right to verify every signature and, if people said they'd signed it, he had the right to ask them are they sure they'd still sign it today?  If they said "maybe" or "no," he crossed off their signatures and then claimed the petition fell a few signatures short.

Immediately, within 24 hours, of this illegal stunt, Jalal fled to Germany with his press office insisting this was a life or death health matter.  No, turned out, it was elective knee surgery.  He hid out in Germany until the fall of 2012 when he hoped the issue had died down.

What had died down was Jalal's power.  The Iraqi Kurds include two powerful families: the Talabanis and the Barzanis.  One heads the PUK political party, the other the KDP.

One spoke of Kurdish autonomy as a dream that would never happen (Jalal), one sees Kurdish automony as a natural outcome (Massoud).

The White House this month failed to grasp that they were no longer dealing with Jalal.

December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 following Jalal's argument with Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot).  Jalal was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.  A handful of photos and one segment of video is all that confirms Jalal is still alive.  He apparently can't speak still which is why the family has refused to allow anyone to see him -- including MPs and including officers in his political party. Jalal's over.  Even if he had not had his stroke, he had two terms as President of Iraq and that's all the Constitution would allow him to have.

In fall of 2013, the KRG held provincial elections. Provincial or parliamentary, the outcome was always the same -- the two dominant parties would be the KDP and the PUK.  Until fall of 2013 when, in a major upset, Goran followed the KDP in getting the most votes and the PUK was in a very distant third. Jalal was seen as the problem in that election, his refusal to meet with party officers, his not being in Iraq, etc.  Hero Ibrahim, First Lady of Iraq and Jalal's wife, was forced out of her office in the PUK.  For the parliamentary elections held last April, the Talabani family agreed to record video of Jalal and release it to rally voters which it did.  But that's a one time trick only.

While the PUK struggles with Goran for second place in the KRG, Massoud Barzani and the KDP are in control.  The White House hasn't seemed to grasp the changes taking place.

Prior to Tuesday's visit with John Kerry, KRG President Massoud Barazni, Alsumaria reported, stated he intended to broach the topic of a fully independent KRG with Kerry (currently, the KRG is only semi-autonomous).  That's a sign of the changes.  Unlike Jalal, pretty words won't be enough for Barzani.

Back in February, the the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on Iraq. Appearing before the Committee was  the US State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Brett McGurk.  We've covered the hearing in the February 5th Iraq snapshot, February 6th Iraq snapshot and February 7th Iraq snapshot. At the hearing, this was said.

Brett McGurk:  Uh, Mr. Chairman, thank you for asking that question and for allowing me to put our response on the record. Uhm, as you said, the Kurdish people -- the PUK, the KDP -- have been among our closest friends in the region going back decades.  

But empty words don't do a thing for the Kurds.  And the population is seeing a long, long string of broken promises and outright lies that the US government has repeatedly and consistently made to them from the very beginning.

The very beginning of the relationship was documented by the US Congress in the Pike Report which the Congress quickly decided not to publish.  But it was leaked to the press and, February 16, 1976, The Village Voice published Aaron Latham's "Introduction to the Pike Papers."  Latham explained:

In 1972, Dr. Henry Kissinger met with the Shah of Iran, who asked the U.S. to aid the Kurds in their rebellion against Iraq, an enemy of the Shah.  Kissinger later presented the proposal to President Nixon who approved what would become a $16 million program.  Then John B. Connally, the former Nixon Treasury Secretary, was dispatched to Iran to inform the Shah, one oil man to another.
The committee report charges that: "The President, Dr. Kissinger and the foreign head of state [the Shah] hoped our clients would not prevail.  They preferred instead that the insurgents simply continue a level of hostilities sufficient to sap the resources of our ally's neighboring country [Iraq].  The policy was not imparted to our clients, who were encouraged to continue fighting.  Even in the context of covert action, ours was a cynical enterprise."
During the Arab-Israeli war, when the Kurds might have been able to strike at a distracted Iraqi government, Kissinger, according to the report, "personally restrained the insurgents from an all-out offensive on the one occasion when such an attack might have been successful."
Then, when Iran resolved its border dispute with Iraq, the U.S. summarily dropped the Kurds.  And Iraq, knowing aid would be cut off, launched a search-and-destroy campaign the day after the border agreement was signed.
A high U.S. official later explained to the Pike committee staff: "Covert action should not be confused with missionary work."

That is the root and start of a relationship where the US government repeatedly used and misled the Kurdish people and repeatedly lied and broke promises.

Talabani might have been willing to look the other way but with Article 140 not being implemented and with the White House supplying Nouri with weapons (something Massoud Barzani spoke publicly against and even traveled to the US to object to -- meeting with Congress and with the White House), Massoud Barzani is not willing to look the other way.

The Barzani family wants to see previous promises honored.  Until they do, they feel their loyalty is only to the Kurdish people.

Which is how a major scoop emerges this week.  Jaime Dettmer (Daily Beast) reported the White House had months of warnings about ISIS and the warnings were ignored.  And who's talking about this?  Dettmer reports:

The prime minister of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, Nechirvan Barzani, says he warned Baghdad and the United States months ago about the threat ISIS posed to Iraq and the group’s plan to launch an insurgency across Iraq. The Kurds even offered to participate in a joint military operation with Baghdad against the jihadists.
Washington didn’t respond—a claim that will fuel Republican charges that the Obama administration has been dangerously disengaged from the Middle East. Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki dismissed the warnings, saying everything was under control.
The Kurds’ intelligence head, Lahur Talabani, says he handed Washington and London detailed reports about the unfolding threat. The warnings “fell on deaf ears,” he says.

Again, not a good idea to short change the ones you depend on.  Raed Asad Ahmed and Rekar Aziz (Rudaw) report:

In Erbil, Kerry went into a meeting with Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani to urge the Kurds – who have no love lost for the Shiite Maliki and have said he must step down instead of seeking a third term -- to help in the formation of a new Iraqi government. 
Kurdish support will be key to hold Iraq together. 
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), on the other hand, has moved its Peshmerga military into vast territories outside its official borders to secure Kurdish-inhabited areas left vacant by a wholesale retreat of the Iraqi army. That includes the oil city of Kirkuk, which the Kurds consider the capital of a future state. Convincing the Kurds will be a tough sell for Kerry, because for years Erbil has had nothing but problems with Baghdad. 
In a CNN interview aired Monday, Barzani said “it is time now for the Kurdistan people to determine their future,” the strongest statement he has made regarding independence.

Dropping back to yesterday's snapshot:

National Iraqi News Agency reports a Syrian fighter jet bombed the city of Qaim in Anbar Province today resulting in 20 deaths and ninety-three people being injured.  And this is why Barack can't guarantee "mission creep."  Incidents like the bombing of Qaim -- which may or may not have happened -- can pull the US further into a country.
'Advisors' were in Vietnam and then came the Gulf of Tonkin incident involving the USS Maddox. William P. O'Connor (CounterPunch) noted in 2008:

According to President Johnson, the U.S.S. Maddox was fired upon by North Vietnamese forces. This so-called attack in international waters led to the direct and massive build up of American forces in the region. Many years after the Gulf of Tonkin resolution was passed, however, President Johnson said, “Hell, for all I know, we could have been shooting at a bunch of seals out there” (McNamara 141). The young soldiers in the field were not privy to such remarks.

In 2010, O'Connor noted:

After Kennedy’s assassination, his successor Lyndon Johnson never told the more than 150,000 U.S. casualties that his administration made up the “attack” on the U.S.S. Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin, which expanded the war. Johnson later joked, “For all I know they could have been shooting at a bunch of seals out there.” Determined not to be the first American administration to lose a war, the Executive Branch beat its breasts, twisted arms and waved the flag until Congress approved the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Johnson laughed and later called the resolution “grandma’s nightgown.” because he said, “It covers everything.” 
Today, Mohammed Tawfeeq, Holly Yan and Chelsea J. Carter (CNN) report:

Reports that Syrian warplanes carried out a cross-border attack on Iraqi towns this week is further evidence of the blurring between the two countries' borders as they face an offensive by Islamic extremists.
At least 57 Iraqi civilians were killed and more than 120 others were wounded by what local officials say were Syrian warplanes that struck several border areas of Anbar province Tuesday.

In response to the reported air strikes, Sameer N. Yacoub and Lara Jakes (AP) report John Kerry has issued a warning to Syria and quote him stating, "We've made it clear to everyone in the region that we don't need anything to take place that might exacerbate that sectarian divisions that are already at a heightened level of tension. It's already important that nothing take place that contributes to the extremism or could act as a flash point with respects to the sectarian divide."

In Brussels, Kerry took questions:

MS. [Jen] PSAKI: The final question is from James Rosen of Fox News.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I wanted to ask about two different facets of the Iraq crisis, if I may. First, I presume you saw the comments that Prime Minister al-Maliki made in his weekly address, in which he spoke of a “national salvation government,” quote unquote, as a coup against constitutional processes in Iraq and one in which he declared his refusal to participate. I wonder what you make of those comments, whether you regard them as helpful or not to the task of government formation in Iraq, and whether it is still the professed position of the United States Government that the Obama Administration is utterly disinterested in the question of whether al-Maliki stays or goes.
And the second facet of the crisis I’d like to ask you about is this: I wonder if the disclosure that Iran has been secretly flying drones over Iraq – from an airfield in Baghdad, no less – and has been secretly shipping literally tons of military equipment to the central government in Baghdad serves effectively to complicate the United States’ own evolving military operations and diplomatic mission in Iraq, and whether in fact it represents a widening of the war there.

SECRETARY KERRY: So let me take each question. With respect to the prime minister’s remarks about a so-called salvation government, that is not something that I discussed with him. That is not something that was on the table in the context of our meetings while we were there. In fact, there was no discussion that I had with any of the leaders there regarding a so-called salvation government. And I’ve heard reports about it, but I’m not sure exactly what it is that he rejected or spoke to.
What I do know is that in the prime minister’s remarks today he did follow through on the commitments that he made in our discussions. He clearly committed to completing the electoral process, he committed to meeting on the 1st of July and having the Council of Representatives come together, and he committed to moving forward with the constitutional processes of government formation. And that is precisely what the United States was encouraging. He also called on all Iraqis to put aside their differences to unite in their efforts against terrorism. That is also what we had discussions about.
So what he said today with respect to the things we talked about was entirely in line with the conversations that I had with him when I was there. And the constitutional process that we’ve urged all Iraqis to commit to at this time, we believe is critical to the ability to form a government.
Now, Iraqis will decide that. And the United States is not disinterested in what happens in a future leadership, but the United States is not going to engage in the process of suggesting to Iraqis who that ought to be. It’s up to Iraqis to make those decisions. And we have stated clearly that we have an interest in a government that can unite Iraqis that, like Grand Ayatollah Sistani said, will not repeat the mistakes of the past and go backwards but can actually bring people together. It’s up to Iraqis to decide who has the ability to do that and who represents that future.
With respect to Iran and its intentions and role in Iraq, frankly, you should best direct that question to Iran and to the Government of Iraq. But from our point of view, we’ve made it clear to everyone in the region that we don’t need anything to take place that might exacerbate the sectarian divisions that are already at a heightened level of tension. And so it’s very important that nothing take place that contributes to the extremism or could act as a flash point with respect to the sectarian divide. And --

QUESTION: Has the war been widened?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, widened from what? Widened from five minutes ago, an hour ago, yesterday? It’s been widened, obviously, in the last days with the reports of IRGC personnel, of some people from Iran being engaged in Iraq, with perhaps even some Syrian activities therein. And that’s one of the reasons why government formation is so urgent so that the leaders of Iraq can begin to make decisions necessary to protect Iraq without outside forces moving to fill a vacuum.

And again, President Obama is very, very clear that our priority is that government formation, and we’re going to take every step we can over the next days. We had conversations about it here. There are people here who will be encouraging that to take place. I know William Hague, the foreign secretary of Great Britain, will be traveling there. He will be having conversations. This is a multiple allied interest in having a unity government that can move Iraq to the future and pull it back from this precipice. And all of us remain hopeful that in the next days that can happen.

At today's State Dept's press briefing moderated by spokesperson Marie Harf, efforts were made to link Syria and Iraq.

QUESTION: In terms of all of you – you are helping Maliki to defend and to push back ISIL.

MS. HARF: We’re helping the Iraqi Government.

QUESTION: Well, correct. Maliki is shorthand for the Iraqi Government. So are the Syrians apparently, militarily, with these air strikes, and so are the Iranians. Is this a – is this problematic at all?

MS. HARF: Well, I think there’s a couple issues all tied up in that question. First, we know that ISIL is a threat to the entire region, including to Iran. We know that – we’ve talked about that over the past few weeks in this room and elsewhere on that front. But to be clear, one of the, if not the main, reason ISIL has been allowed to grow in strength is because of the Assad regime, because of the climate they’ve created in Syria. And it’s been a direct result of that.
So look, our interests in Iraq are to have as quickly as possible an inclusive government formed that can create a path forward and to help the Iraqi Government push back on ISIL.
In terms of these strikes, we obviously are aware of these reports. I don’t have any reason to dispute them at this point and, more broadly though, underscore the point that the solution to the threat confronting Iraq is not the intervention of the Assad regime, which, again, really allowed ISIL to drive into Iraq in the first place. But it’s the kind of solutions we’ve been talking about over the past few days.

QUESTION: But he’s actually doing something that might have a – that may have an immediate impact on the ground in Iraq.

MS. HARF: Well, everything he’s done over the past several years has led to this point where we are where ISIL is threatening Iraq.

QUESTION: All right. Well, two things --

MS. HARF: So again, I can’t underscore enough the culpability lying with the Assad regime for creating this climate that could allow ISIL to flourish.

Reuters notes, "Militants attacked one of Iraq's largest air bases and seized control of several small oilfields on Wednesday as U.S. special forces troops and intelligence analysts arrived to help Iraqi security forces counter a mounting Sunni insurgency."  Turning to some of today's reported violence, Alsumaria notes that the security forces are stating they killed 20 people and wounded fifty more via various air bombings throughout Tikrit, they also state they killed 12 people in Salahuddin Province via bombings, and an Ishaqi roadside bombing killed 4 Iraqi soldiers and left a fifth injured.  National Iraqi News Agency adds 1 corpse was discovered in Shula, 1 person was shot dead in Shurta al-Rabaa, Salahuddin Operations Command states they killed 1 rebel leader, rebels killed 4 Sahwa in Hawija, and security forces state they killed 36 people in Jurf al-Sakar.  All Iraq News reports Ad Hussein al-Jobouri was shot dead in an Erbil hotel, a Baquba battle left 2 Peshmerga dead, and a Jalawla mortar attack left 2 people dead and four more injured. AFP notes a Kirkuk car bombing left 5 people dead and twenty more injured.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 3156 violent deaths for the month so far.

Yesterday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing.  Ruth covered it in "Reflections on today's I.R.S. hearing" and, filling in for Kat at her sight, I noted it with "They did not follow the law (IRS scandal)."  Lastly, David Bacon's latest book is The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration  is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press). We'll close with this from Bacon's "CREATING COMMUNITY ON SKID ROW" (Equal Voice News):

LOS ANGELES, CA  (6-16-14) -- "I'm the people's general," says TC, explaining the nickname he's been given on Fifth Street.  He earned it by keeping the homeless residents of Los Angeles' Skid Row informed and educated, in part through the literature table he maintains next to the blue tarps of his tent.  Under the table are the donated clothes he collects, which anyone can take.

"I'm a soldier in the war on poverty," 'General' TC declares.  "I've been living here on Skid Row for two years, and I love it because I love the people - most of 'em, at least.  I don't like being homeless, and down here it can be hard.  But sometimes it can be beautiful too, because people are beautiful, now matter how down and out they may be."