Thursday, November 12, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, November 12, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the UN Security Council hears about Iraq, John Kerry spins in public, the Peshmerga continue to try to take Sinjar, Nouri al-Maliki talks to the press, and much more.

Wednesday, the US Defense Dept offered:

Airstrikes in Iraq
Bomber, fighter, attack and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 17 airstrikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the Iraqi government:
-- Near Kisik, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position.
-- Near Mosul, a strike destroyed an ISIL fighting position.
-- Near Ramadi, three strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed three ISIL vehicles, an ISIL excavator, two ISIL heavy machine guns, two ISIL buildings, and an ISIL 23mm anti-aircraft artillery piece.
-- Near Sinjar, six strikes struck three separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed eight ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL command and control nodes, three ISIL vehicles, and 18 ISIL staging areas.
-- Near Sultan Abdallah, a strike destroyed an ISIL fighting position.
-- Near Huwayjah, four strikes struck an ISIL headquarters, an ISIL weapons cache, an ISIL logistical facility, and an ISIL security headquarters.

-- Near Albu Hayat, a strike struck a large ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two ISIL buildings, three ISIL weapons caches, and three ISIL fighting positions.

And the airstrikes were apparently so successful or so much fun that DoD announced today:

Strikes in Iraq

Bomber, fighter, attack and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 40 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

-- Near Albu Hayat, one strike, struck a large ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL command-and-control node and two ISIL weapons caches.

-- Near Kisik, two strikes struck two separate ISIL staging areas.

-- Near Mosul, one strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and wounded an ISIL fighter.

-- Near Ramadi, six strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed five ISIL buildings, an ISIL tactical vehicle, an ISIL excavator, two other ISIL vehicles, two ISIL bomb clusters, and denied ISIL access to terrain.

-- Near Sinjar, 24 strikes struck nine separate ISIL tactical units, nine ISIL staging areas, and destroyed 27 fighting positions, an ISIL heavy machine gun, an ISIL bomb, six ISIL assembly areas, two ISIL vehicle-borne bombs, two ISIL command and control nodes, an ISIL bunker, two ISIL caches, four ISIL staging areas, and suppressed an ISIL heavy machine gun.

-- Near Tal Afar, six strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit, three ISIL staging areas, an ISIL bridge, and destroyed an ISIL vehicle, an ISIL observation post, and two ISIL bunkers.

And the airstrikes will continue tomorrow.

They've gone on daily  since August . . .

of last year.

They've accomplished nothing of value and only a fool would think that they might.

At this late date, only a professional idiot would still hold out hope of something coming from these bombings.

Yesterday the United Nations Security Council heard about Iraq.  The UN notes:

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi faces “immense challenges” to his efforts to bring reconciliation and broaden the political process in his strife-torn nation, confronting obstacles from all sides, the top United Nations official in the country warned the Security Council today.
“Since taking office (a year ago), the Prime Minister has been struggling to exercise his authority while his opponents grow bolder,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Ján Kubiš told the Council, presenting the latest UN report on the country. “Meanwhile, the scope and impact of the reforms have not met public expectations.”
“Despite hopes that he would be able to move national reconciliation forward and bring the broader Sunni community into the political process, the Prime Minister's efforts have been obstructed by elements within all Iraqi components, the main reasons being lack of trust and vested interests.”

We'll note this from Jan Kubis' testimony:

Special Representative Jan Kubis:  In July, when the country was experiencing record high temperatures and repeated electricity cuts, popular demonstrations erupted to protest the poor delivery of services in Baghdad and the southern governorates. By early August, the demonstrations had grown in strength and numbers. The protests have recurred each Friday and are led by civil society groups and young people, who are demanding better services, better governance and an end to government corruption and mismanagement. The protesters' demands for reform gained momentum when, on 7 August, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani urged Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to take decisive action against corruption, improve the Government’s performance, reduce public sector expenditure and publicly name officials who are impeding reforms. On 9 August, Prime Minister al-Abadi announced a reform plan to address the economic and social needs of Iraq, counter corruption and strengthen democratic institutions. The plan included downsizing the Government to reduce public expenditure and improve State performance, abolishing the posts of Vice-President and deputy prime ministers as well as a number of senior officials in various ministries, reducing their salaries, protecting services, and judicial reform. The reform plan was unanimously endorsed by the Council of Ministers just hours after the Prime Minister's announcement. On 11 August, the Council of Representatives unanimously approved Prime Minister al-Abadi's first package of reforms and its own reform package to complement the Prime Minister's measures. The Council of Representatives also stated that the reforms should be in conformity with the Constitution of Iraq and other laws.  Following the endorsement by the Council of Representatives of the reform packages, Prime Minister al-Abadi began reducing the number of Government personnel. On 16 August, he ordered the immediate abolishment of his deputies' posts, the reduction of the Council of Ministers from 34 to 22 members and the dissolution of the Ministries of Human Rights, Women's Affairs, and Municipalities and Public Works. He also ordered the merging of Ministries with similar specialized functions: Science and Technology with Higher Education and Scientific Research; Environment with Health; Municipalities and Public Works with Housing; and Tourism and Antiquities with Culture. On 20 August, the Prime Minister announced a 90 percent reduction in the number of personnel dedicated to providing protection for Government officials. On 9 September, he announced the dismissal of 123 senior officials from their posts. They were to either retire or have their administrative status adjusted.  The Prime Minister also took steps to formalize the abolition of the posts of the Vice- Presidents. On 20 August, he ceased the payment of their financial entitlements and on 15 September, the Council of Ministers submitted to the Council of Representatives a draft law to aboli sh their posts. All three Vice - Presidents publicly stated that they considered the abolition of their posts unconstitutional. 8 . The Government took steps t o initiate inquiries into allegations of political corruption. On 15 August, the Presidency of the Council of Representatives referred to outstanding cases of corruption against staff in the Ministries of Defence and Commerce concerning the award of arms contracts. The day before, the Chairman of the Integrity Commission, Hassan al-Yassiri, had announced that travel bans had been instituted against those under investigation for corruption.

So there's real movement on the political front?  That's the story?


Special Representative Jan Kubis: Most of the priority legislation that would aid national reconciliation, however, remained pending in Parliament. Votes on the national guard law were postponed on 30 August and again on 7 September owing to disagreements between parliamentary blocs over its provisions. Additionally, no progress was made towards the enactment of a general amnesty law since its first reading on 5 July. Meanwhile, the National Reconciliation Committee of the Council of Representatives separated the Justice and Accountability and Banning of the Baath Party Act into two bills on 25 July. While the Council of Representatives concluded, on 30 July, the first reading of the draft law on the banning of the Baath Party, dissolved entities and parties, and the activities of racism, terrorism and takfir (charge of unbelief), no voting took place on legislation that would revise de-baathification measures. On 15 September, the Council of Ministers decided to withdraw and review all draft laws submitted to the Council of Representatives by the previous Government. This amounted to some 80 draft bills, including the draft anti-terrorism law of 2005.

Before US President Barack Obama became enthralled with airstrikes, he was fond of pointing out that the only answer to Iraq's various crises was a "political solution."  June 19, 2014, he was proud of declaring that publicly.

Yet when he began the current wave/latest wave of the Iraq War (August 2014, less than two months later), he was obsessed with bombings and completely forgot about the need for a political solution.

Bombing has passed for a 'plan.'

Who thinks Barack's 'plan' is working at this point?

Former prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki has waded into the discussion and called out the US.  He says there's no way the Islamic State could survive these bombings and fears some nations (he means the US in that "some") want to see the Islamic State succeed.

Barack looks like an idiot because he's set himself up to be.

In June 2014, he was full of talk about how this would require a political solution -- Iraq's crises -- and how this or that (military actions) would not fix the problems.

And the bombings weren't intended to.

Until Barack lost any interest in a political solution.

That was somewhere around the time the US State Dept began acting as an auxiliary to the US Defense Dept and you had Brett McGurk acting like Military Wanna Be McJerk and focusing on everything but the political issues at stake in Iraq (which can mainly be boiled down to a lack of inclusion).

Barack's 'plan' is a failure and he's got no one to blame but himself.

He needs to realize that as Nouri continues to serve him up to the press.

RT notes:

Nouri al-Maliki, who stepped down as the head of the Iraqi government last year and remains a vice-president, believes that Iraq was targeted by a “regional conspiracy” and is at risk of breaking up. He also said inviting Russia to target Islamic State targets in Iraq could play a positive part in the debacle.
Describing the effort of the international coalition led by the US to cripple ISIS fighters in Iraq, Maliki said it was “inefficient”.
“It's unbelievable and unacceptable that more than 60 nations comprising this coalition that have the most modern aircraft and weapons at their disposal have been conducting their campaign in Iraq for 14 months and IS still remains in the country,” he told RT's Arabic-language sister-channel Rusiya Al-Yaum.

Today, US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke at the so-called US Institute of Peace.

There, he pretended to be concerned and fair.  On Iraq, which he briefly noted, he zoomed in on the Islamic State and declared that their " fighters have been abducting, raping, and auctioning off women and girls, even teaching that the abuse of underage, non-Muslim girls is not only acceptable but a form of prayer, an expression of the will of God. That is how perverse this has become. And they have urged followers and affiliates from across the globe to murder their neighbors, to commit homicides and suicide at the same time."

At Wednesday's UN Security Council briefing on Iraq, Jan Kubis also noted the actions of the Islamic State.

Unlike John Kerry, Kubis didn't leave it at just the Islamic State.

Special Representative Jan Kubis:  UNAMI also continued to receive reports alleging that pro-Government armed groups and militias had perpetrated human rights violations. Members of the Sunni Arab community were targeted in particular, primarily in Diyala. On 12 August, approximately 50 members of the Sunni Arab community were abducted in Baquba District, Diyala Governorate; at least 17 of the bodies were found in the Diyala River later the same day. Many of the abductions reportedly took place at or near checkpoints manned by Iraqi security forces and associated forces. On 1 September, militia members allegedly abducted at least 40 persons of Sunni Arab origin near Balad District, Salah al - Din. The fate and whereabouts of the abductees are unknown. Reports were also received of persons in Peshmerga uniform destroying homes and structures in Sunni Arab-inhabited areas in Jalawla, Diyala Governorate, on or around 16 August. 

Poor John Kerry, such the hypocrite.

In other news, Charlie D'Agata (CBS Evening News -- link is text and video) reports:

Kurdish Peshmerga troops, backed by 36 American airstrikes, moved to take the town of Sinjar. They seized part of a highway used by ISIS to ferry supplies from Raqqa, its stronghold in Syria, to Mosul, an Iraqi city of more than 1 million people.
The battle to reclaim Sinjar began in the air. U.S. airstrikes pounded suspected ISIS targets throughout the day. Thick smoke hung over the city, and ISIS fighters lit banks of tires to try and block the bombers' visibility. 

On this topic, David Sim (IBT) announces, "Kurdish fighters, backed by US-led air strikes, have captured several villages in an attempt to retake the Iraqi town of Sinjar from Islamic State (Isis) militants who overran it more than a year ago. Thousands of Yazidis living in Sinjar were killed and enslaved by IS, causing the flight of tens of thousands of people. This focused international attention on the Islamist group's violent campaign to impose its radical ideology, and prompted the US to launch air strikes against the militants."

Of course, the announcement's a little late in coming since they've been attempting to retake Sinjar since before August 2014 -- if anyone bothers to remember that.

Sri Lanka's The Nation newspaper explains, "The town sits on an important highway Islamic State uses to ferry supplies from Raqqa, Syria to Mosul in northern Iraq. Islamic State seized the city last summer in a major offensive, widening its self-described caliphate to about an hour’s drive from the Kurdish capital, Erbil."  AFP adds, "Kurdish forces and the U.S. military said the number of Islamic State fighters in the town had increased to nearly 600 after reinforcements arrived in the run-up to the offensive, which has been expected for weeks but delayed by weather and friction between various Kurdish and Yazidi forces in Sinjar."

So 600.  And they need to undertake (another) massive mission?

How many Peshmerga have been sent in to take on the 600?

Jim Michaels (USA Today) reports there are 7,500 Peshmerga that have been sent in.

So basically, they've sent in 15 times the number of Islamic State fighters.

BBC News is alone in reminding of just how long this 're-taking' has actually already taken:  "The IS attack on Sinjar in August 2014 was one of the reasons the US began air strikes against IS positions in Iraq, amid a warning of genocide." Mike Giglio (BuzzFeed) reports:

To promote the offensive, Kurdish officials have put their press program on overdrive. They quietly arranged to have a flock of international journalists on hand for the offensive’s start, bringing them to Sinjar in convoys on Wednesday. Even a hashtag — #FreeSinjar — was a preplanned part of the operation. A KRG official pushed journalists to include it in their tweets; he requested to speak to at least one organization’s social media editor directly.
The public relations push may also be aimed in part at internecine politics. The PKK, the Turkish insurgent group classified as a terrorist group by the U.S. government, did much to stem the losses in Sinjar in August 2014 and halt the ISIS advance. PKK fighters have remained in the area, doing some of the most grueling house-to-house fighting to help clear ISIS from the town. But their presence has also rankled KRG leaders who suspect the group of wanting to carve out its own influence. The Sinjar offensive was reportedly delayed in part due to bickering between the peshmerga and PKK over who would be credited for the win.

For those who would like audio, Mike Giglio participated in a segment of PRI's The World today and you can click here (and scroll to mid-page) for Jim Muir's video report for BBC News.. Video, audio and transcript options are available with The NewsHour report Gwen Ifill anchored.