Friday, October 30, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Friday, October 30, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Canada's war planes have apparently bombed Iraqi civilians again, the Ashraf community is again attacked, the heavy rains have returned, and much more.

In Iraq, there's been another attack on Iranian dissidents.

UNHCR issued the following statement:

UNHCR statement on today's attack on vicinity of Baghdad International Airport, including Camp Liberty, in Iraq

News Stories, 29 October 2015
UNHCR strongly condemns today's rocket attacks in the vicinity of Baghdad International Airport, which have also hit adjacent Camp Hurriyet (Camp Liberty), reportedly causing injuries to dozens of people of concern and some 20 deaths.
Camp Liberty is home to around 2,200 people of concern to the Office. The authorities have evacuated the injured to Baghdad hospitals. The full extent of the casualties and damage to the camp is still being ascertained.
"This is a most deplorable act, and I am greatly concerned at the harm that has been inflicted on those living at Camp Liberty," said High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. "Every effort must continue to be made for the injured and to identify and bring to account those responsible."
The residents of Camp Liberty previously lived at Camp Ashraf.
    For more information on this topic, please contact:
  • Adrian Edward in Geneva, on mobile +41 79 557 9120
  • Ariane Rummery in Geneva, on mobile +41 79 200 7617

This attack was on the Ashraf community.   Background:  As of September 2013, Camp Ashraf in Iraq is empty.  All remaining members of the community have been moved to Camp Hurriya (also known as Camp Liberty).  Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were  welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.)   In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So the US has an obligation to protect the residents.  3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf.  They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part.  A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked.   That was the second attack of 2013.   February 9th of 2013, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."  They were attacked again September 1, 2013 -- two years ago.   Adam Schreck (AP) reported back then that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.

This is a travesty, the latest attack.

The State Dept did respond with something more than their usual 'we call on both sides' b.s.  They issued the following:

Press Statement
John Kerry
Washington, DC
October 29, 2015
The United States strongly condemns today’s brutal, senseless terrorist attack on Camp Hurriya that killed and injured camp residents. Our condolences go out to the families of the victims, and we hope for the swift recovery of those injured.
We have been in touch with senior Iraqi officials to ensure that the Government of Iraq renders all possible medical and emergency assistance to the victims. We also urge the Government of Iraq to provide additional security for the camp’s residents and to find the perpetrators and hold them accountable for the attack, consistent with its obligations under the December 25, 2011 agreement with the United Nations.
We are consulting with the Government of Iraq to ascertain the full extent of this unprovoked attack.
No matter the circumstances, on this point we remain absolute: the United States remains committed to assisting the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in the relocation of all Camp Hurriya residents to a permanent and safe location outside of Iraq. We call on more countries to assist in responding to this urgent humanitarian situation by welcoming camp residents for relocation and by contributing to the fund established by the United Nations to support their resettlement. The Department, through its Senior Advisor for MEK Resettlement, will remain actively engaged in the international effort to relocate the residents of Camp Hurriya to safe, permanent locations as soon as possible.

The US government needed to make that statement and they need to do a great deal more.  This was addressed in the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing of October 7th (covered in the October 10th snapshot).  We'll note this exchange:

Senator Angus King: Several times you gentlemen used the term "the US made assurances," the term "solemn promise,""guarantee," and Col Martin, you mentioned a card.  What did that card say?  I'd like to know specifically: what assurances were delivered, by whom and when?

Colonel Wesley Martin [Retired]: Yes, sir.  This was the protected persons status under the Geneva Convention.  And I have a copy of it.  If you give me a second, I can find it real quick.

Senator Angus King: Well I'd like to know what is says.

Colonel Wesley Martin:  Okay. 

Senator Angus King: What I'm searching for here is what are the assurances specifically and who delivered them and when.  I think that's a fair question given that seems to be the premise of this discussion.

Colonel Wesley Martin: "This card holder is protected person under the agreement of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Should the assigned person" uh, it's a little blurry "should an incident occur, we request that the person contact the [US] military police brigade."  And then it goes on the agreement that they made: "You are being offered your release from control and protection in exchange for your promise to comply with certain regulations."  And it clearly states they are protected, they will not be -- they will not be arrested, they will not be harmed.

Senator Angus King: What did they have to do?

Colonel Wesley Martin: And what they had to do, sir, is go ahead and sign an agreement --

Senator Angus King: That's when they were moved from Ashraf to Liberty?

Colonel Wesley Martin: No, sir. That was a whole set of different promises.  If I may, sir, Senator McCain, [holding clipped stack of papers], if I could, I'd like to make this submitted for the record.

Senator Angus King: Well you can make it for the record but I want to know who made assurances -- 

Colonel Wesley Martin:  Yes, sir.

Senator Angus King (Con't): -- and what those assurances were.  And saying they were protected person under the Geneva Convention isn't a promise that the US will take you in.  I just want to understand what the promise is that we're being urged to honor.

Colonel Wesley Martin:  Yes, sir.  I understand.  The first one is they would be protected and they would remain at Camp Ashraf.  That was 2004. That was with the US State Dept in agreement with the United States Dept of Defense and [then-Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld was the person that finally approved it -- but working with the State Dept.  The person that issued those cards, working with the Embassy, was US Brigadier General David Phillips [. . .]

The US government made a promise and it has refused to honor it.

The Ashraf community could be resettled from Camp Liberty to outside Iraq in the blink of an eye.

At one point, John Kerry had tasked his friend with this assignment.

Despite holding the post for over a year, his friend didn't do anything but sit on his ass and collect a check.

Resettling less than 4,000 people does not require a year or even six months.

If the White House had the will, the desire, to resettle the Ashraf community, they would have been re-settled some time ago.

We'll note two Tweets on the topic:

  • US must airlift ALL the Camp Liberty refugees out of Iraq tonight. No more ifs and buts!

  • Struan Stevenson was a Member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014 and is an advocate for the Ashraf community.  Judy Chu is a member of the US House of Representatives and has repeatedly spoken out on behalf of the Ashraf community.

    If more would join their voices, the Iraqi government might keep their word to protect the Ashraf community until they can be resettled outside of Iraq.

    Staying with violence, Wednesday, the US Defense Dept announced the latest bombings in Operation Inherent Failure:

    Airstrikes in Iraq

    Attack, bomber and fighter aircraft conducted 13 airstrikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the Iraqi government:

    -- Near Huwayjah, two strikes struck two separate ISIL weapons and staging areas.

    -- Near Mosul, one strike destroyed an ISIL artillery piece.

    -- Near Ramadi, two strikes struck a large ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL recoilless rifle, two ISIL rocket rails, eight ISIL boats, two ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL heavy machine gun, suppressed an ISIL heavy machine gun, and denied ISIL access to terrain.

    -- Near Sinjar, three strikes destroyed 33 ISIL fighting positions.

    -- Near Sultan Abdallah, two strikes destroyed an ISIL fighting position and suppressed an ISIL mortar position.

    -- Near Tal Afar, three strikes suppressed two ISIL mortar positions and an ISIL heavy machine gun position.

    On the topic of these 'precision' strikes, CBC reports:

    Canadian fighter planes have now been connected to a second airstrike in Iraq that has been reviewed by the Pentagon for possible civilian casualties, CBC's the fifth estate has learned.

    [. . .]

    The Pentagon review, conducted in December, looked at a joint Canadian-Australian bombing raid on a "suspected weapons factory" in Fallujah, Iraq, on Dec. 21 in which a woman and a child were seen on video emerging from the site after the airstrike.

    The child was picked up by someone on a motorcycle and transported to hospital. The woman lay down on the side of the road, according to an internal Pentagon report obtained by the fifth estate.

    This is the second case of alleged civilian casualties linked to Canadian bombers. The first, on Jan. 21 in Kisik in Northern Iraq, was dismissed by the Canadian military as non-credible.

    Bombs dropped on Iraq are not falling on empty acres.  And these bombs also are not 'smart' and able to distinguish civilians from the Islamic State.

    The bombs are killing people and, yes, people include civilians.

    The suffering never stops for the Iraqi people.

    Today, heavy flooding met with a lack of public services in Iraq to creating flood waters.

    AFP grasps the distinction between a misfortune due to an act of nature and the injustice when people are harmed as a result of a government doing nothing:

    Torrential rain caused chaos across several parts of Iraq on Thursday, with the water causing thigh-high flooding on some Baghdad streets and damaging camps for the displaced.
    The storm that hit Baghdad on Wednesday evening was unusually violent and the first after a long, dry summer.
    The poor condition of infrastructure in Baghdad, the second largest city in the region with an estimated population of more than eight million, resulted in spectacular flooding.

    Knee high flood waters in parts of Baghdad are not a result of nature, not a misfortune.
    They are an injustice.
    Even more so for the displaced living in tent cities.

  • Iraqi Spring MC Tweets these photos from an Anbar refugee camp:

    : صور متداولة لمعاناة نازحي محافظة الأنبار التي تزداد مع اقتراب فصل الشتاء.
    Embedded image permalink
    Embedded image permalink
    Embedded image permalink
    Embedded image permalink

    AFP reports, "A three-year-old girl died when she was swept away by the water at a camp for displaced people near Tuz Khurmatu, about 220 km north of Baghdad, officials said."

    Iraq's leaders have had years to address the crumbling infrastructure.  (Crumbling from age, yes, but also from targeted bombings by the west.)

    Ahmed Omar, a refugee at the al Amal camp, told the BBC, "This is not fair.  Parliament, officials, government, we are your people. We are your people, You sold us out."

    Some outlets are saying this is rare -- this flooding -- and something of a surprise.

    Have they ever paid attention?

    We could go over the rainy season and what happens every year if I felt like spoon feeding lazy 'reporters' who can't -- or won't -- do the job they're paid to do.

    But we'll provide one example.  This is from November 19, 2013's "Nouri's Iraq: Flooding and killing:"

    A child died today as a result of them -- a four-year-old boy in Hilla.

    Top photo on this Al Mada page of photos is of the flooding in Baghdad.

    al mada

    Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports there is a current rush to restore the damns in southern Iraq to prevent a repeat of last year's massive flooding.  If Iraq had a real leader -- and not Nouri al-Maliki -- these dams would have been restored in the dry season and there'd be no mad dash, a year later, to fix what should have already been addressed.

    Again, this is not rare, this is the rainy season.  

    This week's reports have forever thug and former prime minister (2006 to 2014) Nouri al-Maliki walking off with $500 billion in stolen funds -- including $250 billion that was aid from foreign countries and intended to be spent on, for example, reconstruction.
    For eight years, Nouri had the chance to improve Iraq's public infrastructure by providing adequate sanitation and sewage.  
    Instead, his son has high priced digs in London and a fleet of sports cars.  
    This despite the fact that the only job the son's held has been the government job Nouri gave him.
    But the al-Malikis live large as a result of all the funds stolen from the Iraqi people.
    Heavy rains are a misfortune.
    The standing water, the tent cities?  
    They're an injustice.
    And the latest cholera epidemic?
    Tie it into Nouri's refusal to do public works projects and deliver potable water to the people.
    Again, an injustice.

    The longer Haider al-Abadi is prime minister (he took the post in the fall of 2014), the more Nouri's failures become his own.

    The Economist offers a look at Haider's 'accomplishments' and it's not pretty.

    We'll note one section:

    He took to Facebook to announce the opening to traffic of the Green Zone, the chunk of central Baghdad the Americans turned into a government enclave in 2003 and which has bunged up the capital ever since. But he only opened a single one-way road, disrupted by so many checkpoints that the old routes are still faster.

    And, check the archives, we called that out -- and the press pretending something important was happening -- in real time.

    The supposed-to-be skeptical western press has instead turned out to be the most gullible of all.

    Click here to watch talk show host Rachel Maddow make an ass out of herself by completely misunderstanding what was actually happening and grasp that she's just one of many.