Monday, March 02, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Monday, March 2, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Haider al-Abadi and Iran launch an attack on Sunni-dominant Tikrit, they do so without US help, Amy Goodman clears a few moments to provide misinformation about Iraq (again), and much more.

The assault on Tikrit has begun.

Sunday, Dominic Evans (Reuters) reported that "Iraq's army and Shi'ite militia" were attacking Tirkit.

Nancy A. Youssef (Daily Beast) reports that the forces are being aided by the Iranian government but not the US one:

The U.S.-led coalition forces that have conducted seven months of airstrikes on Iraq’s behalf did not participate in the attack, defense officials told The Daily Beast, and the American military has no plans to chip in.
Instead, embedded Iranian advisors and Iranian-backed Shiite militias are taking part in the offensive on the largely Sunni town, raising the prospect that the fight to beat back ISIS could become a sectarian war.
The news is the latest indication that not all is well with the American effort against the terror group. On Friday, U.S. defense officials told The Daily Beast that a planned offensive against the ISIS stronghold of Mosul had been indefinitely postponed.

Jim Michaels (USA Today) adds, "Iran provides artillery and other support for a military offensive in Tikrit, according to a senior U.S. military official. He did not want to be named because he is not authorized to speak publicly about Iran's role."  Zaid Sabah and David Lerman (Bloomberg News) note:

Naim al-Aboudi, a spokesman for the Iranian-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, one of the main forces fighting around Tikrit, said that “the U.S.-led coalition has never decisively ended any battle.”
“We don’t trust the coalition and we don’t need their help,” he said by phone. 

Meanwhile Luis Martinez and Martha Raddatz (ABC News) offer, "A U.S. official told ABC News that this appears to be more of a 'tactical operation' and that Iraqi military elements involved do not appear to be well-coordinated."

Iranian help is not just support from afar in Tehran, it's on the ground in Iraq.  Paul McLeary (Defense News) notes, "Twitter came alive on Monday with photos of Iranian Quds Force commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani who is again in Iraq, directing Shia militias in their fight against IS militants."

The assault's just begun.  Already the warning signs are flashing bright red.  Bobby Ghosh (Quartz) reports:

There’s already cause for alarm. Early reports indicate that Shia irregulars are leading the assault on Tikrit, under the supervision of Hadi al-Amiri, nominally Iraq’s transport minister, but better known as the leader of the Badr Organization, an Iran-backed militia notorious for brutal torture and murder of Sunnis.

Apparently unsatisfied with having a surrogate in the battlefield, Tehran has also despatched to Iraq’s Salahuddin province—of which Sunni-majority Tikrit is a part—the notorious Qassem Suleimani, the general who supervises most of Iran’s proxies, from Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, to the Houthis in Yemen.

One of the world’s most dangerous men, Suleimani has had the freedom of Iraq for over a year, building and reinforcing Shia militias that have been murdering and terrorizing Sunnis with almost as much enthusiasm—if not with quite as much efficiency—as ISIL has been slaughtering civilians.

Mark Thompson (Time magazine) notes Haider spoke today:

He addressed the Iraqi people in a televised address Monday. “Today, God willing, we start an important military campaign to liberate the citizens of Salahuddin province which includes Samarra, Dhuluiya, Balad, Dujail, al-Alam, al-Door, and Tikrit and other areas in the province from ISIS,” al-Abadi said. 

More than just being suspicious of Haider, the Sunnis in Tikrit are right to be suspicious of the 'liberation' being attempted by the Shia forces.

Sheren Khalel and Matthew Vickery (Middle East Monitor) speak with a man, Kareem Abbas, whose Diyala Province village was 'liberated' by Shia forces:

According to Abbas, the massacre didn’t start until the day the Islamic State was pushed out. The Badr Brigade, an Iranian-funded Shiite militia with a force between 10,000 and 15,000, advanced on his village, and forced the Islamic State out of his hometown in a move the Iraqi central government called liberation.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has documented several cases of kidnap and summary executions by the Badr Brigade in Diyala province.
“Iraqi civilians [in Sunni areas] are being hammered by ISIS and then by pro-government militias in areas they seize from ISIS,” Joe Stork, HRW’s deputy Middle East and Africa director, said in a statement.
Visibly upset with hands shaking, Abbas tells MEE that on that first day militiamen gathered the villagers together, crosschecking their identification with names of known Islamic State fighters. Terrified, Abbas and other adult male villagers co-operated with the armed men.
“But then a man with a facemask approached the fighters,” Abbas explains. “He started screaming at them ‘Are you really doing this? We know they [the villagers] are not with the Islamic State. We are here to kill.’”
According to Abbas, the masked man raised his gun to the nearest villager and fired several shots at point blank range into the man – the rest of the militiamen started shooting indiscriminately. 

Dominic Evans (Reuters) quotes Iraq's Shi'ite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declaring Sunday of the Sunnis in Tirkist, "This is their last chance. If they insist on staying on their wrong path they will receive the fair punishment they deserve because they ... stood with terrorism."

With those kind of remarks, do you really think the Sunni population is safe in Tikrit?

UNAMI issued the following cautionary statement today:

Baghdad, 2 March 2015 – The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, urges all armed forces in Tikrit to do their utmost to spare civilians and to protect their security and safety in line with international standards. 

“Military operations reinforced by international and Iraqi air support must be conducted with the utmost care to avoid civilian casualties, and with full respect for fundamental human rights principles and humanitarian law”, Mr. Mladenov noted.  He also called on the Government and the international community to take urgent action to ensure that desperately needed humanitarian aid is provided and to ensure that all those who fled from ISIL can safely return to their homes.

Also issuing a statement was the Association of Muslim Scholars (statement via BRussells Tribunal):

The Association of Muslim Scholars in its Statement No. 1056 ,  issued on the 1st March 2015 charges the current government as well as the religious “marijiya”in  Nejaf  with the responsibility for the crimes committed by the sectarian militias.
The Association reiterated the truth of the fact it had previously stated that Abadi’s government is nothing but an extension of Maliki’s government in committing sectarian crimes  and that they are both Qassim Sulaimani’s diligent pupils, and part of his tools for putting into effect the Iranian project in the region.
AMSI attributed to eye witnesses in Al Muqdadiya in Diyala that the so called “popular mobilization militias” with the government police force in the area bombed the Tawfiq Ajjaj Mosque, after using it as a headquarters, in addition to last Thursday in the Al Hussayniya area, north of Baghdad, 19 extra judicial executions and kidnappings of displaced people from the Yathrib area in Sallahudeen were carried out by sectarian militias in the presence and full view of government security forces.

Finally, the Association  charged the current government, with full responsibility for these hideous crimes,  as well as the religious “marjiiya” in Nejaf,  for it is the “marjiiya” that called for the formation of the “popular mobilization militias” in the first place, and did not take any steps and precautions to keep them under control and prevent them from committing such crimes against innocent civilians.

Ben Wedeman and Mariano Castillo (CNN) note, "Iraqi forces approached Tikrit from several fronts, Iraqiya TV reported, engaging with ISIS north of the city at al-Alam and south of the city at al-Dour."

If you read "state TV" in a report, they're talking about Iraqiya.  This is not the political slate that won in 2010 -- Iraqiya, headed by Ayad Allawi.

The best English language overview of Iraqi TV is probably still [PDF format warning] "Confusion, Contradiction and irony: the Iraqi media in 2010."  The paper was written by NPR's Deborah Amos for Harvard's Joan Shorenstien Center on the Press.  From Deborah Amos' paper:

The dramatic conclusion of the parliamentary vote also played out on Iraqi TV screens when Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al‐ Maliki, appeared on the state‐run broadcasting service to announce he was challenging the results. Maliki’s political coalition had won 89 seats in parliament, well short of the winning formula of 163 seats. Maliki refused to accept that an alliance led by challenger Iyad Allawi had won more parliamentary seats than his bloc had.
These two Iraqi politicians shared similar backgrounds: a lifetime of working to overthrow Saddam Hussein, membership in underground political organizations, and being a part of Iraq’s majority Shiite community. Each had returned to Iraq when the Americ an military toppled Saddam. But in the 2010 national election, they had taken different political roads.
In the 2010 campaign, Maliki’s party was primarily a sectarian political list of Shiite candidates with a few Sunni political figureheads. In contrast, Allawi’s political coalition was a cross‐sectarian list. While Allawi is a Shiite, he headed a party consisting of Sunni political leaders from western and northern Iraq and some Shiite politicians who believed it was time to move beyond sectarian politics if Iraq is to achieve national unity.
In Iraq’s short history of free elections, Shiite candidates have a demographic advantage. Shiites are approximately 60% of the population, and Iraqis voted almost exclusively along sectarian lines in the 2005 national elections and the 2009 provincial vote. Maliki also had a media advantage. The state‐run national news network did not accept paid campaign advertisements, but freely broadcast extensive reports of Maliki’s election appearances and campaign speeches in evening news bulletins. On the eve of the vote, state TV broadcast a documentary highlighting the Prime Minister’s visit to security checkpoints around the capital. Maliki is widely credited with an improvement in the day‐to‐day security in the capital and in the south, but his pre‐election inspection of the security checkpoints was seen as a long campaign ad.
According to domestic media monitoring reports of state ‐ run television, Al ‐ Iraqiya, Maliki’s political coalition received by far the “highest positive coverage” when compared with all other political parties in the campaign.  When it came to the vote, Allawi demonstrated that sectarian voting patterns could be broken. A small percentage of Shiites voted for a party that included Sunnis on the ticket which helped deliver the two‐seat lead.  Prime Minister Maliki charged widespread fraud and demanded a recount to prevent “a return to violence.” He pointedly noted that he remained the commander in chief of the armed forces.
Was Maliki threatening violence? Was he using the platform of state ‐ run media to suggest that his Shiite ‐ dominated government would not relinquish power to a Sunni coalition despite the election results? His meaning was ambiguous, but his choice of media was widely understood to be part of the message. Iraq’s state run news channel, Iraqiya, is seen as a megaphone for Shiite power in Iraq, which is why Maliki’s assertion of his right to retain power raised international concerns.

Deborah is also the author of  Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East -- a book on the Iraq War that was a little too real for War Porn fluffer Thomas E. Ricks so he left it off his top ten books on Iraq -- but then none of his ten picks focused on the Iraqi people, did they?

Still with violence, Margaret Griffis ( counts 171 dead from violence in Iraq today with another 210 inured.  February ended last Saturday.  UNAMI has issued their totals for February:

Baghdad, 1 March 2015 – According to casualty figures released today by UNAMI, a total of 1,103 Iraqis were killed and another 2,280 were wounded in acts of terrorism and violence in February*.  The number of civilians killed was 611 (Including 30 civilian police), and the number of civilians injured was 1,353 (including 29 civilian police).

A further 492 members of the Iraqi Army (including Peshmerga, SWAT and militias fighting alongside the Iraqi Army / Not including casualties from Anbar Operations) were killed and 927 were injured.  
Baghdad was the worst affected Governorate with 1,204 civilian casualties (329 killed, 875 injured).  Diyala recorded 73 killed and 69 injured; Salahadin 39 killed and 54 injured; and Ninewa 40 killed and 17 injured. 
According to information obtained by UNAMI from the Health Directorate in Anbar, the Governorate suffered a total of 372 Civilian casualties (81 killed and 291 injured).  This included 23 killed and 196 injured in Ramadi and 58 killed and 95 injured in Fallujah.
“Daily terrorist attacks perpetrated by ISIL continue to deliberately target all Iraqis.  There are also concerning reports of a number of revenge killings by armed groups in areas recently liberated from ISIL.  I look forward to the results of the investigation initiated by the Government in the recent reported massacre which took place in Diyala province,” the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Nickolay Mladenov said.
He also underlined that an exclusively military solution to the problem of ISIL is impossible.  “I therefore welcome the consistent calls for unity by the President, the Prime Minister and the Speaker of Parliament.  Any effort to achieve unity through reconciliation must be based on the Constitution and the full participation of political, religious and community leaders from across Iraq,” the SRSG further stated.
*CAVEATS: In general, UNAMI has been hindered in effectively verifying casualties in conflict areas.  Figures for casualties from Anbar Governorate are provided by the Health Directorate and are noted above. In some cases, UNAMI could only partially verify certain incidents.  UNAMI has also received, without being able to verify, reports of large numbers of casualties along with unknown numbers of persons who have died from secondary effects of violence after having fled their homes due to exposure to the elements, lack of water, food, medicines and health care.  For these reasons, the figures reported have to be considered as the absolute minimum.

 In other news, Xinhua reports, "Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz said on Monday that Turkey will consider taking part in military operations by U.S.-led coalition forces to retake control of Mosul from jihadists in Iraq."  This appears to be more than the arms and supplies spoken of on Sunday.  Taking part in military operations usually means bombing or ground forces or something similar.

The issue was raised in today's US State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Marie Harf.

QUESTION: What about the statements made by Turkish officials that they are willing to help the Iraqi forces militarily to retake Mosul?

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen those either. Obviously, we are very focused on working with the Iraqi forces to continue training them, to keep getting them better equipped and better trained. Obviously, any operation on Mosul would be drive by Iraqi timing and what makes sense operationally.

QUESTION: Do you welcome any move by Turkey?

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen the comments, so I’m not going to welcome something I haven’t seen details of.

From spin to whoring, no whore like a Goody whore.  Remember that boys and girls.

Yes, Amy Goodman decided to 'talk' Iraq again.

"Noam Chomsky is our guest for the hour, the world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author of over a hundred books, MIT professor emeritus."

But there ain't no whore like a Goody whore.

She's got him for an hour on the so-called "war and peace report" and she waits on Iraq and when he's in the middle of providing a superficial and embarrassing answer, she cuts in with "We have 20 seconds."

For the hour!

But only limited time to discuss Iraq -- 20 seconds!

For the hour!

What a whore.

And Noam really needs to stop talking about things he knows nothing about.

He wants a public life because he's lonely (he's now a widow).  That's fine.

But talk about what you know.

And Noam knows plenty.

He just doesn't know s**t about Iraq and needs to find another topic.

Noam, you're too old for the Circle Jerk.

Patrick Cockburn is a lousy reporter.  This is the man, remember, who reported an Iraqi woman who had been stoned to death was "hanged."

Patrick Cockburn is loathed on Arab social media due to his bias against Sunnis.  The plus of this is he now is forced to acknowledge Sunnis in the commenatires he files.

Noam's got enough Arab problems of his own (Palestinian activists find him -- at best -- useless).  He really shouldn't try to Circle Jerk with Patrick Cockburn and the rest.

NOAM CHOMSKY: The U.S. wants to destroy ISIS, but it’s opposing every force that’s fighting ISIS. So, the main state that’s opposed to ISIS is Iran. They support the Iraqi government, the Shiite government. But Iran is, you know, on our enemies list. Probably the main ground forces fighting ISIS are the PKK and its allies, which are on the U.S. terrorist list. That’s both in Iraq and in Syria. Saudi Arabia, our major ally, along with Israel, is both traditionally, for a long time, the main funder of ISIS and similar groups—not necessarily the government; rich Saudis, other people in the emirates—not only the funder, but they’re the ideological source. Saudi Arabia is committed, is dominated by an extremist fundamentalist version of Islam: Wahhabi doctrine. And ISIS is an extremist offshoot of the Wahhabi doctrine. Saudi Arabia is a missionary state. It establishes schools, mosques, spreading its radical Islamic version. So, they’re our ally. Our enemies are those who are fighting ISIS. And it’s more complex.
ISIS is a monstrosity. There’s not much doubt about that. It didn’t come from nowhere. It’s one of the results of the U.S. hitting a very vulnerable society—Iraq—with a sledgehammer, which elicited sectarian conflicts that had not existed. They became very violent. The U.S. violence made it worse. We’re all familiar with the crimes. Out of this came lots of violent, murderous forces. ISIS is one. But the Shiite militias are not that different. They’re carrying out—they’re the kind of the—when they say the Iraqi army is attacking, it’s probably mostly the Shiite militias with the Iraqi army in the background. I mean, the way the Iraqi army collapsed is an astonishing military fact. This is an army of, I think, 350,000 people, heavily armed by the United States and trained by the United States for 10 years. A couple of thousand guerrillas showed up, and they all ran away. The generals ran away first. And the soldiers didn’t know to do. They ran away after them.

I'm sorry, did Noam just spit on the Arab world?

Yeah, he did.

And that's what happens when Patrick Cockburn is your go-to.

Elderly Noam is off his rocker.

The Islamic State took root for one reason -- Nouri al-Maliki's second term which was nothing but war on the Sunnis -- Sunni civilians, Sunni politicians, Sunni forces (the Sawha).

During all of this Noam said nothing.

For four years as this went down, he said nothing.

And now he wants to offer that "the Shiite militias are not that different."

Not that different?

They attacked Sunni women and children, they attacked gays and lesbians (and those who were not gay and lesbian but suspected of being it), they attacked reporters, they attacked . . .

Who didn't they attack?

And they got away with it.

That includes the Shi'ite thugs who make up the League of Righteous.

It was Alissa J. Rubin and company at the New York Times, not the 'sainted' Paddy Cockburn, who reported on US President Barack Obama making a deal with that group of terrorists, freeing their leaders from prison.

Like Cockburn, Democracy Now! has never talked about that reality.

They've never gone into The Erbil Agreement.

They've never done reporting of any consequence.

In fact, Friday, December 27, 2013, the Goody whore brought on Raed Jarrar to talk about Iraq.  He never mentioned the protests that were going on.  She never mentioned them.

As Ava and I pointed out Sunday, December 29, 2013:

It was so bad, it was embarrassing.
It was like sitting in an English Lit grad course where the topic was Edith Wharton and Raed's entire contribution was what he had gleaned from watching Martin Scorsese's film of The Age of Innocence.
It was Friday.  Protests in Iraq.
Never mentioned.
Even though the previous Sunday Nouri had threatened the protesters.
Even though he had attempted to attack them on Tuesday but a flurry of political meetings forced him to pull his forces out of Ramadi's sit-in sqaure.
Even though on the Friday Raed 'shared,' Nouri had already gone on Iraqi TV and announced that this had been the last Friday protest and that he would burn down the protest tents in Anbar.

I think that had been up for an hour before a friend who's in Beggar Media (meaning they're always asking you to donate) called and said (paraphrase), "So what if she didn't discuss the protests?  She discussed other things.  The protests aren't that important."  Could the New York Times have said it better?

These are protesters in Falluja on Saturday, December 28, 2013 -- the day after Goody's report.

They were protesting the Saturday dawn raid that Nouri's forces carried out on an MP.  MP Ahmed al-Alwani was illegally arrested.  But there's more.  Alsumaria reported that his home was stormed by Nouri's SWAT forces at dawn and that 5 people (bodyguards and family) were killed (this included his brother) while ten family members (including children) were left injured.

As conservative Max Boot (Commentary) put it, "If it’s the end of December or the beginning of January, it must be time for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to arrest another prominent Sunni politician."

The useless toy 'radicals' of the left refused to call out thug Nouri.  They crowned him a hero and acted as though he were Stalin and it was time for them to blindly worship yet again.

Barack was looking the other way too.  So they looked the other way for him.

Couldn't point out the reality that Nouri didn't win a second term as prime minister or that it was created for him by Barack.

Doing so would have made the crimes in Iraq look even worse if they were traced from thug Nouri back to the man who demanded Nouri get a second term as prime minister.