Saturday, September 19, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Saturday, September 19, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Turkey continues dropping bombs on Iraq, cholera continues to claim lives in Iraq, Haider al-Abadi has some popularity issues, Human Rights Watch notes the Shi'ite militias crimes, and much more.

Turkish War Planes dropped bombs on northern Iraq today killing at least 55 people -- though, strangely, it's only Sky News that can put the term terrorists in quotes while Reuters and others present claims of who was killed as fact.

These bombings terrorize villagers and destroy farms -- often killing Iraqis in the process.

But by all means, pretend that the lies of the Turkish government are facts.

By all means, pretend that people aren't living where the bombs are dropped and being terrorized.

It was last week when AFP pretended that fat ass Ibrahim al-Jaafari spoke for anyone.

Fat Coward Ibrahim was stripped of being prime minister by the Bully Boy Bush White House.  Since then, he's just been a laughable coward in Iraq.

He's the Foreign Minister -- a thankless job.

And he told AFP that he just wished the Turkish government would coordinate the attacks with the Baghdad-based government.

Haider al-Abadi, Prime Minister of Iraq, had already decried the bombings and the fact that they are an attack on Iraqi sovereignty.

But AFP ran with the remarks of Coward Ibrahim.

He's a coward and his remarks confirmed him as a coward.

Iraqis are opposed to the bombings and, as previous bombings by Turkey over the years have demonstrated, they tend to turn on Iraqi politicians who provide cover for the bombings while they tend to support those who speak out against the bombings.

Even thug Nouri was, when prime minister, able to boost his popularity by condemning Turkey sending War Planes to bomb northern Iraq.

Haider al-Abadi has yet to withdraw his objection to these bombings.

It would be politically stupid for him to do so.

And yet, last weekend, AFP presented the claims by fat coward Ibrahim al-Jaafari as the voice of Iraq.

The 68 year-old coward has often presented himself as the voice of Iraq -- even during the 23 years he lived in Iran after fleeing Iraq.

Yes, fat ass and coward Ibrahim is one of the many, many US-appointed leaders who only returned to Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

Now the coward, who Bully Boy Bush denied a second term as prime minister, is a lowly Foreign Minister -- and, of course, a coward.

As a major player in the Dawa political party, the fat coward did have the ability to improve the lives of the Iraqi people.  But that was never his concern.

Reuters notes today, "Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered daily water tests and other measures on Saturday to contain an outbreak of cholera that has killed at least six people in Baghdad's western outskirts."

Yes, the annual cholera outbreak.

As we noted September 13th:

When Nouri was prime minister, this time of the year was infamous for something.
Even when the western press began ignoring it, this time of year meant cholera outbreaks.
And the Ministry of Health has announced there are 12 cases of cholera currently.
Why the cholera outbreaks?
Because of the lack of potable water.
Instead of fixing the public infrastructure, the Iraqi government has taken the attitude that the people can have unsafe water and it's up to them to boil the water before consuming it.

Annual cholera outbreak.

And Ibrahim's never used his position to demand the public infrastructure be fixed/improved.

He's a fat ass who stuffed his pockets with money but he failed to ever work for the Iraqi people.

AFP quotes Ministry of Health spokesperson Rifaq al-Araji insisting, "Some people are drinking directly from the (Euphrates) river and the wells. The river water is polluted because the level is too low."

That seems like a secondary reason, doesn't it?

The people are drinking from the river and wells.

Maybe if they had potable water . . .

A country whose yearly budget is in the hundred billion range and has around 30 million citizens should be able to provide potable water.

AFP chooses to overlook that and instead of doing reporting just serves up press releases passed off as journalism.

Again, Haider al-Abadi's smart enough to know not to risk the ire of the Iraqi people by stating it's okay for a foreign country (Turkey) to bomb Iraq or send combat forces into Iraq.

Haider needs popular support because he's lost so much political support.

Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports that Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi is on a mission to stop the bleeding of Shi'ite political support Haider is currently experiencing -- a decline in support that's also accompanied with rumors that Haider will be removed as prime minister.

The effort to oust Haider?

He skipped out on Parliament this month.  He arrived at the building and was about to enter the session when he bailed.

Why has continued to be a mystery.

Iraq Times reports that State of Law allegedly had a plan to oust Haider. Nouri al-Maliki, Medhat al-Mahmoud and Judge Alaa al-Saadi were planning to spring a trap on Haider during the session.

Turning to some of today's violence, All Iraq News notes an al-Nahrawan bombing left six people injured.  Xinhua adds:

In Iraq's northern central province of Salahudin, two suicide bombers drove their explosive-laden vehicles near the positions of the security forces and allied militias and blew them up in Iraq's largest oil refinery near the battleground town of Baiji, some 200 km north of Baghdad, a provincial security source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
Dozens of IS militants immediately followed the two huge blasts sparking heavy clash with the troops, the source said.

At least two security members were killed and five others wounded by the blasts and the following clash, he said without giving details about the casualties among the IS militants.

We'll close with Human Rights Watch:

(Washington) – Iraqi government-backed militias carried out widespread destruction of homes and shops around the city of Tikrit in March and April 2015 in violation of the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Militiamen deliberately destroyed several hundred civilian buildings with no apparent military reason after the withdrawal of the extremist armed group Islamic State, also known as ISIS, from the area.
The 60-page report, “Ruinous Aftermath: Militia Abuses Following Iraq’s Recapture of Tikrit,” uses satellite imagery to corroborate accounts of witnesses that the damage to homes and shops in Tikrit, and the towns of al-Bu ‘Ajil, al-Alam, and al-Dur covered entire neighborhoods. After ISIS fled, Hizbollah Battalions and League of Righteous forces, two of the largely Shia pro-government militias, abducted more than 200 Sunni residents, including children, near al-Dur, south of Tikrit. At least 160 of those abducted remain unaccounted for.
“Iraqi authorities need to discipline and hold accountable the out-of-control militias laying waste to Sunni homes and shops after driving ISIS out,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director. “Abusive militias and their commanders acting with impunity undermine the campaign against ISIS and put all civilians at greater risk.”
Ahead of the campaign, Shia militia leaders had promised revenge for the June 2014 massacre by ISIS of at least 770 Shia military cadets from the Camp Speicher facility, near Tikrit. In videos of home demolitions, Shia militiamen curse Sunni residents and invoke Shia slogans.
The militias are part of the Popular Mobilization Forces, consisting of several dozen Shia militias, which the government created in response to the rapid ISIS advance across Nineveh and Salah al-Din provinces in June 2014.
The militias receive government salaries and weaponry but act in loose coordination with one another and with the Iraqi army and other security forces. On April 7, the Iraqi cabinet recognized the Popular Mobilization Forces as a distinct security force under Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s command.

Satellite imagery corroborated witness accounts that destruction of buildings occurred primarily after pro-government forces had routed ISIS and the Iraqi army left the area to militia control. Damage from government and US-led coalition airstrikes and artillery or by ISIS during its nine-month rule prior to March was limited.


Friday, September 18, 2015

Help Detroit Public Television…“Show the World How Detroit Performs”

Detroit's Public Television Channel 56 notes:

Help Detroit Public Television…“Show the World How Detroit Performs

Share this live, on-air/online, primetime event from downtown Detroit with your network everywhere.

Need Twitter copy?  Here goes.

Amazing Detroiters are lighting up Motown live, right now #dplive @detroitperforms @detroitpublictv  Enjoy! Share!

We’ll be running the program online all weekend long.  Ping folks during the show or at any point this weekend.  Enjoy the show!

Detroit Performs LIVE - TONIGHT at The Fillmore
Can’t Make It? Watch The Live Stream from 7:30 – 9:30 P.M. at

If you are not already headed downtown to attend Detroit Performs LIVE at The Fillmore, but still want to be a part of this amazing event, we have you covered. Beginning at 7:30 P.M., we will be live streaming the concert, beginning with a red carpet preview and concluding with a special MOTOWN LEGEND you definitely do not want to miss. How can you watch, you ask? By visiting, of course!

Hosted by popular jazz flutist Alexander Zonjic, who will also serve as music director, the event will showcase beloved Detroit stars such as Jessica Hernandez, Bettye LaVette and Ty Stone, as well as a mix of vocalists, instrumentalists and musicians and some PBS favorites, such as ROXANNA and Italian tenor, Pasquale Esposito—all live on stage. In addition, an interactive gallery will bring together some of Detroit’s best established and emerging artists in various art forms, such as sculpting, photography, drawing, and more, including visual artists Dominic Pangborn and Pete Coe, photographer Amy Sacka, sculptor Austen Brantley, as well as the Vision Male Vocal Ensemble from the Detroit School of Arts.

Detroit Performs Live is much more than a concert; it’s the story of Detroit’s vibrant cultural mix, and of Detroit Public TV’s power to bring it all together in the heart of downtown, thanks to the support of funders like the MASCO Corporation, IXITI, and others and of partners like YOU. I look forward to sharing this incredible night with you.

The fun begins at 7:30 P.M., and we encourage everyone to follow us on Twitter (@detroitperforms) for live updates from The Fillmore.

Rich Homberg
President and CEO
Detroit Public Television
248-640-4169 - @RichHomberg -


Detroit Performs Live is this FRIDAY. Do you have your ticket yet? Don’t miss Jessica Hernandez, Ben Sharkey, Bettye LaVette and other Detroit Stars at the FILLMORE-Sept. 18. For more information, visit

‘This report is yet another reminder that it is far past time for President Obama to come to the table and work with Congress to transform the VA into an organization worthy of those it serves.’

US House Rep Jeff Miller (above) is the Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.  US Senator Johnny Isakson (below) is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  


The two Chairs issued a joint-statement today.

Contact: Amanda Maddox (Isakson) 202-224-7777
Friday, September 18, 2015
Tim Mantegna, (Miller), 202-225-3527
Joint Statement on Independent Assessment of VA
‘This report is yet another reminder that it is far past time for President Obama to come to the table and work with Congress to transform the VA into an organization worthy of those it serves.’
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and U.S. Representative Jeff Miller, chairman of the Senate and House Committees on Veterans’ Affairs, respectively, released the following joint statement on the independent assessment created under Section 201 of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014:
“When we requested an independent assessment over a year ago, many of the failures at individual hospitals were well-documented. However, we all feared that they were just the tip of the iceberg. This in-depth review justifies those fears, and validates Congress’ efforts for years to investigate and uncover the many serious issues preventing the Department of Veterans Affairs from providing America’s veterans with quality, timely healthcare. The VA can no longer deny that its problems, as outlined in this report, are deep-seated and systemic. From delays in care and scandal cover-ups, to rampant unaccountability and a lack of leadership, the VA is an organization challenged at every level.
“This is not just another report to sit on a shelf collecting dust. Failing to act on its findings would be a great disservice to the men and women who have worn the uniform and to the values that make our nation great.
“We know that the Commission on Care will be closely examining these assessments and recommendations, and we look forward to the commission’s plan to end this continuing national tragedy. As the assessment confirms, fixing the VA will require a lot of time and hard work. This report is yet another reminder that it is far past time for President Obama to come to the table and work with Congress to transform the VA into an organization worthy of those it serves.”
The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 114th Congress.

Isakson is a veteran himself – having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 – and has been a member of the Senate VA Committee since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson’s home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the military as well as more than 750,000 veterans.

Isakson: No Lifting of Sanctions until Iran Releases American Prisoners, Recognizes Israel’s Right to Exist


Senator Johnny Isakson is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Committee and his office issued  the following yesterday:

Contact: Amanda Maddox, 202-224-7777
Thursday, September 17, 2015
Marie Gordon, 770-661-0999
Isakson: No Lifting of Sanctions until Iran Releases American Prisoners, Recognizes Israel’s Right to Exist
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today voted for an amendment to block President Obama from lifting existing sanctions on Iran until the Iranian regime releases American prisoners held in Iran and also recognizes Israel’s right to exist.
Today’s vote was the latest in a series of votes in the Senate over President Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran. Isakson strongly opposes the Iran nuclear deal.
“Requiring Iran to release the Americans that it has wrongfully imprisoned and also recognize Israel as a state before we lift sanctions is the right thing to do.
“The administration’s agreement with the Iranian regime is built on a policy of ‘trust, and don’t verify,’ and it is my great fear that this approach will end in tragedy. The United States has negotiated away all of its leverage to hold Iran accountable by releasing existing sanctions at the outset. If Iran cheats on its end of the deal, it is unclear what our strategy for resuming sanctions will be.  And sanctioning Iran for future acts of terrorism and human rights violations will become more difficult under this deal. Furthermore, only time will tell what is included in the secret side agreements between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency – details that Congress and the American people were not allowed to read for ourselves.
“I am disappointed that Senate Democrats have blocked the American people’s elected officials from taking a final vote on this deal.
“For the security for my country and the rest of the peace-loving world, I reject the president’s dreadful agreement with Iran.”

Description: Description: cid:image001.gif@01CB9C61.36E8FA70
Press Secretary

131 Russell Senate Office Building | Washington, DC 20510
phone: 202.224.3643 | fax: 202.228.0724

Visit Johnny’s website to learn more about his work in the Senate and to sign up for his newsletter.

Iraq snapshot

Friday, September 18, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the League of Righteous blames Turkey (while an outlet refuses to call them the League or to acknowledge their past history), the Senate has serious concerns about the battle to defeat the Islamic State, and much more.

Senator Claire McCaskill: I'm worried like the rest of my colleagues and there have been a number of questions on this already -- about the train and equip mission. And there's good news and there's bad news about the American military.  The good news is that if you give them a job, they figure out a way to get it done.  The bad news is that sometimes you give them a job and they are not willing to say when it's not going to work.  At what point in time, General Austin, do you envision us admitting that while all good intentions and on paper all of the work was done but the job of finding willing fighters that can be screened appropriately when you have the vast majority who feel victimized by the current situation in Syria are running for the exits?  At what point and time and what is the discussion ongoing about the $600,000,000 you're requesting for next year?  That seems very unrealistic to me in terms of a request.  If at this juncture, we've successfully completed five to six [trainees]?  And if that last information you said you had, Ms.[Christine] Wormuth, was a hundred -- you said "more than a hundred" -- what is the number?

Under Secretary Christine Wormuth: Senator McCaskill, it's between a hundred and a hundred-and-twenty.

Senator Claire McCaskill:  Okay.

Under Secretary Christine Wormuth:  Basically.

Senator Claire McCaskill: So we're counting on our fingers and toes at this point when we had envisioned 5400 by the end of the year.  And I -- I'm just worried that this is one of those instances where the good news about our military is dominating -- 'we can do this, we can do this' -- and the practical realities of this strategy aren't being fully embraced. 

Gen Lloyd Austin: Uh, thank you, uh, Senator. Uhm, you know, I-I absolutely agree with you, we have the finest troops in the world and they will figure out a way to get the job done one way or another.  And-and again, what our Special Operations Forces have done in-in northern Syria is -- They didn't wait for the uh-uh-uh new Syrian force program -- our train and equip program -- to fully develop.  At the very outset, they began to engage uh elements like the YPG and-and-and-and enable those elements.  And they are making a difference on the battlefield.  So-so -- And there are tens of thousands of the - of the YPG out there that are right now fighting ISIL.  So because the -- uh, the new Syria train and equip program is slower getting started than we'd like for it to be, that doesn't mean that we're not creating effective fighters on the battlefield.

Senator Claire McCaskill:  I just want to make clear, Gen Austin, I mean, I know the Chairman [Senator John McCain] feels strongly about the [2007 Iraq] surge and there were a lot of tremendous American heroes that were part of that surge but the other part of the surge we don't talk about as frequently is that we paid a lot of people.  We paid a lot of people to help us during the surge.  Is this money that we're setting aside for train and equip, would it be better off in direct compensation to some of that YPG force? 

Under Secretary Christine Wormuth: Senator McCaskill, can I try to address this a little bit?  As-as Gen Austin said, we are -- we are reviewing the program and we are looking at a range of options.  Our train and equip program is part of a broader effort that we're prosecuting with the YPG, with the Syrian-Arab coalition and so on.  And-and we're looking at how to have our train and equip program, uh, effectively enable those other efforts.  And I think as we go forward and look at what our options are, we'll absolutely want to look at the resources we've requested for the next year and how that fits in. But the forces that we are training while right now are small in number and clearly are not going to reach the numbers that we had planned for are nevertheless getting terrific training and very good equipment and as such be able to be force multipliers of those other, uh, groups on the ground that have been very effective like the Syrian-Arab coalition --

Senator Claire McCaskill:  I just -- If we end up at the end of the year with us bragging about the difference between 100 and 120 [trainees], it's time for a new plan.

Under Secretary Christine Wormuth: And I certainly do not mean to be bragging.  We-we -- The program is very much smaller than we hoped.

Senator Claire McCaskill:  Yeah.

Under Secretary Christine Wormuth:  We're not bragging. 

As noted in Thursday's snapshot, Wednesday saw Gen Lloyd Austin and DoD's Under Secretary Christine Wormuth appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee.  The Committee Chair is Senator John McCain and the Ranking Member is Jack Reed.

Many observations were noted throughout the hearing -- such as this:

Senator Jeff Sessions:  We have to acknowledge this is a total failure. It's just a failure and I wish it weren't so  But that's the fact.  And so it is time to -- way past time to -- react to that failure.  I just would say the whole idea that we've got to wait for the locals to take ownership and to take the lead and do this kind of activity without any leadership, support sufficient from the United States or our allies is also a failure.  They're not able to organize well.  Mosul has fallen. There are divisions in Iraq that make it very difficult.  So I just wish it weren't so but I'm afraid that's the reality we are dealing with.  We now have, I believe the UN says, 4 million refugees, 7 million displaced persons. It's obvious to me that this is a humanitarian catastrophe.

Whether or not Iraqis can lead (I would suspect that they can), the splits are real and getting worse.

Reuters quotes the leader of the League of Righteous, Qais al-Khazali, stating "The biggest enemy of Iraq now is Turkey, and this enemy is the first and one of the biggest benefactors of Iraq's riches."

He insists that his group had no part in kidnapping the 18 people from Sadr City earlier this month.

And Reuters -- which idiotically doesn't even call the group the League of Righteous -- goes along with that.

Despite the fact that the League kidnapped how many people during earlier phases of the Iraq War.

Despite the fact that US President Barack Obama made a deal with the League to release their leaders who were in US custody in exchange for the release of 5 British hostages (only one was released alive -- Peter Moore -- the four other British citizens kidnapped by the League of Righteous were dead when they were turned over: Jason Crewswell, Jason Swindelhurst, Alec Maclachlan and eventually Alan McMenemy.).

I'm missing that in Reuters' report.

That kidnapping was mentioned in the State Dept's "2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices:"

Five British men (a computer expert and four bodyguards) were kidnapped in 2007. Peter Moore, the computer expert, was released unharmed on December 30, while the bodies of three of the four bodyguards were returned on June 19 and September 3 to the United Kingdom. The whereabouts of the fifth man remained unknown at year's end. Fifteen Americans, four South Africans, four Russian diplomats, and one Japanese citizen who were abducted since 2003 remained missing. There was no further information on the 2007 kidnapping of the Ministry of Science and Technology acting undersecretary, Samir Salim al-Attar.

For more on the League, we'll drop back to the June 9th snapshot:

This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."

Considering the above, I'm confused as to why an article on kidnapping and the League would include the League's denial of involvement with the kidnapping but not note their past use of kidnapping.

I'm also confused as to why they aren't labeled "terrorists" by Reuters when the Islamic State so frequently does garner that label.  Kidnapping, extortion and murder sounds like terrorist tactics and if the label "terrorism" is going to be applied to one group, it needs to be applied to all groups acting in the same manner.

I also don't remember an earlier skittishness on the part of Reuters when it came to covering the League.

Maybe this new found skittishness to call out Shi'ite thugs goes a long way towards explaining why the Iraqi government can still not be inclusive towards Sunnis, can still not establish a National Guard, can still not include Sunnis in the security forces despite sorely needing them?

This was touched on in a roundabout way in Wednesday's hearing as Gen Lloyd Austin lamented to Senator Mike Rounds, "You're right, sir, we would like to see a lot more forces available to be trained.  And we're encouraging the government of Iraq to recruit those forces, bring them on board, so we can get them in the training centers.  And what we've discovered -- not discovered, we knew this going in -- is that those forces that have been trained by us are doing, uh, are doing pretty well on the -- on the battlefield."

AP's Sinan Salaheddin Tweets:

  • Describing fighting in 's Beiji, leader of AAH Shiite militia: "Real guerrilla war; from house to house, but even from room to room."

  • That's liberation?

    Because it reads like intimidation.

    And that's before you factor in the looting the Shi'ite militias do when 'liberating' an area.

    State of Iraq for Sunnis today?

    : Shiite militias kill a Sunni from Anbar displaced people in Baghdad .

    : Shiite militias kill a Sunni from Anbar displaced people in Baghdad .

    These are the actions that make so many question what the real purpose of the Iraq government is when it comes to the Sunni population.

  • We'll close with this from John R. Schindler's New York Observer essay entitled "Obama's Messy Iraq Intelligence Scandal:"

    It’s happening again. A White House fumbling with the violent mess of Iraq finds itself surrounded by mounting accusations that it’s played dirty games with intelligence. A Pentagon facing charges that its analysts have skewed assessments on Iraq to tell top policymakers what they want to hear, rather than what is really happening in that troubled country.
    If this sounds terribly familiar, it should. Only a dozen years after the George W. Bush White House was buffeted by allegations that it had “cherry-picked” intelligence to justify its 2003 invasion of Iraq, Barack Obama is facing similar accusations. Intelligence Community analysts alleged that, in the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom, they were pressured to exaggerate Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. Now, analysts claim that they have been pushed to present Obama’s war against the Islamic State as more successful than it really is.

    Only the most optimistic Obama backers still portray that year-long air campaign (its proper name is Operation Inherent Resolve) as adequate, and most security experts agree that the Islamic State is winning the war on the ground, thanks in part to an American-led air war that is bombing too little and too cautiously. There is no indication that Western airpower is anywhere near inflicting decisive pain on the Islamic State, while our Iraqi partners, who serve as the ground anvil for the U.S. airborne hammer, increasingly feel left in the lurch by Obama.

    Schindler offers some observations regarding Wednesday's hearings.  (I agree with most including Gen Lloyd Austin.  We shared similar impressions the first time Austin testified to Congress after taking over from Gen Ray Odierno in Iraq.  Austin is a politician, not a general, and lying is his default setting.)

    Thursday, September 17, 2015

    Iraq snapshot

    Thursday, September 17, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, whatever happened to reconciliation in Iraq, the Senate hears of 'progress' on the battle with the Islamic State, and much more.

    Senator John McCain:  It's been one year.  It's been one year since President [Barack] Obama spoke to the nation about the threat posed by ISIL and increased US military operations against this.  Many of us believe that the goal the president laid out, "to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL"  is right. Many of us agree with a military strategy that seeks to empower local forces in Iraq and Syria to combat ISIL with US and coalition training, equipment, assistance and air power.  One year into this campaign, it seems impossible to assert that ISIL is losing and that we are winning.  And if you're not winning in this kind of warfare, you are losing.  Stalemate is not success.  It is accurate that we have conducted thousands of air strikes against ISIL trucks and fighters, bunkers and buildings.  This conjures the illusion of progress. But what effect has that had?  ISIL has lost some territory on the margin -- mainly to Shi'ite and Kurdish forces -- but ISIL has consolidated control of its core territories and expanded its control in Syria.  It continues to dominate Sunni Arab areas in both Iraq and Syria.  It maintains control of key cities like Mosul, Falluja and Ramadi -- and efforts to retake those territories appear to have stalled entirely. 

    That stark assessment came Wednesday morning at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.  The witnesses were the Defense Dept's Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth and CENTCOM commander Gen Lloyd Austin.  McCain is the Committee Chair and Senator Jack Reed is the Ranking Member.

    At one point, as barrel bombs and refugees were being discussed (McCain never acknowledged or mentioned the barrel bombs being used by the Iraqi government on the civilians in Anbar), McCain exclaimed, "I've never seen a hearing that is as divorced from the stark realities of every outside expert and what you're saying."

    That led to this exchange:

    Chair John McCain:  So everything is really going well?

    Gen Lloyd Austin:  No, sir, that's not --

    Chair John McCain: So if things aren't going well and we've had "setbacks," and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says it's tactically stalemated  and you think everything is going well pursuing the strategy and tactics on the ground that we are, Gen Austin, I respectfully disagree. I respectfully, fundamentally disagree. This is an abject failure.  The refugees are the result of it.  This is a result of leaving Iraq.  And you were there at the meeting when [former prime minister Nouri al-] Maliki told Senator [Lindsay] Graham and I that if the others agreed, he would agree to keep a residual force there and we never gave him the forces that we wanted to leave behind which then set [in train?] the US departure completely from Iraq and set  the table for the catastrophe that we are seeing.

    Others noted not just the failure in terms of battles but also the failure in terms of inclusion within Iraq's forces.

    Ranking Member Jack Reed: Now one of the things that has been suggested -- not only suggested bur recommend strongly to the Iraqi government -- is they create National Guard units -- Sunni units as well as others -- but formerly allied with the government.  And that legislation is bogged down in their Parliament, is that accurate?

    Gen Lloyd Austin: That's correct, sir.

    Ranking Member Jack Reed:  So we could do more essentially if the Iraqis were willing to make some changes in their policies.  For example, we could at least contemplate the use of avisors with these National Guard -- Iraqi National Guard units -- to be brokers in terms of distributing equipment as well as tactical advice.  Is that something that's possible as we get cooperation?

    Gen Lloyd Austin: It's clearly possible, sir.

    Ranking Member Jack Reed: Is it something you would consider if --

    Gen Lloyd Austin: Yes, sir, it is.

    Ranking Member Jack Reed:  And one of the factors too, and this is a constant source of inquiry, is that, in fact, recently the Iraqi Parliament, I think, rendered a scathing report about Prime Minister Maliki's leadership or lack of leadership effectively suggesting that whatever he said couldn't be trusted.  Is that, you know, your estimate of his role leading up to this crisis over many years?

    Gen Lloyd Austin:  Sir, what we saw from the former prime minister was increasingly sectarian behavior and a number of bad decisions that led to the atrophy of his security forces. 

    Ranking Member Jack Reed:  And, in fact, according to this report that I've seen in the media, they attributed most of the blame for the disintegration of Iraqi security forces at Maliki's door step and no one else.  Is that at least accurate for most of the feeling in Iraq?

    Gen Lloyd Austin:  I'd say that it was primarily his responsibility -- his responsibility and those he appointed in key leadership positions enabled that as well.

    The National Guard proposal was first publicly floated by Barack over a year ago.  The Parliament has repeatedly kicked the can on the issue.  Then, last week, came the formal opposition to the plan from the Shi'ite militias.  The proposal now appears dead.

    And equally dead any attempts at reconciliation and inclusion.  Alsumaria reports today that Ayad Allawi (Shi'ite politician who headed the non-sectarian Iraqiya) is calling on the Arab League and the United Nations to assist with national reconciliation in Iraq.  All these years later, this has still not taken place and Nouri al-Maliki's second term actually made things worse.

    Barack referred to the importance of national reconciliation early on but then that got shoved aside.  Possibly that's why Allawi doesn't call for help from the US government or, specifically, from Barack?

    Or maybe it's Barack's many lies to Ayad Allawi?

    Such as The Erbil Agreement -- the US-brokered contract in November 2010 which gave Nouri a second term as prime minister in exchange for Nouri making concessions to various political blocs.  Barack said that contract had his full backing.  When Nouri, at the first Parliament meeting after the contract was signed, insisted it would have to wait, Allawi and others walked out.  Barack personally called Allawi and swore the contract had the full backing of the US government and the White House in particular.

    And then?

    After that got Allawi to return to Iraq, Barack pretended like the contract never existed.

    You can only break your word so many times before people lose faith in you.

    Faith is being lost over the claims of 'progress' and 'success' in Iraq.

    This came up repeatedly during the hearing.

    Chair John McCain:  Published media reports suggest that the CIA's estimates of ISIL's manpower has remained constant despite US air strikes which suggests that either they were wrong to begin with or that ISIL is replacing its losses in real time.  Neither is good.  Indeed this Committee is disturbed by recent whistle-blower allegations that officials at Central Command skewed intelligence assessments to paint an overly positive picture of conditions on the ground.  We are currently investigations these allegations which we take with the upmost seriousness.  The Department of Defense should as well.  And if true, those responsible must be held accountable.

    Cooked intel -- a problem in the lead up to the war on Iraq, a problem in the continued selling of 'success' in the continued war on Iraq.

    We'll note this exchange from the hearing.

    Senator Claire McCaskill: I understand from your testimony, Gen Austin, that you can't comment on the IG investigation this accusation that people are putting pressure on intelligence analysts to change the tenor of their reports.  It's a serious allegation that strikes at the core of our government in terms of our ability to oversee and make decisions around the use of our military. I want to say, at the end of this investigation, when you can discuss it, I just want to put on the record that I, for one, am going to be watching very carefully about any potential retaliation against any of the men or women that may have come forward with allegations.  It is incredibly important that whistle-blowers be protected in this space and -- depending upon what the investigation finds -- I understand that maybe there are other factors that I am not aware of -- but I just want to put on the record that I will be paying very close attention to how these whistle-blowers are treated in the aftermath of this investigation.

    Gen Lloyd Austin: I absolutely share your concerns, Senator, and you have my uh-uh-uh -- I will assure you that we will do everything in our power to ensure that the whistle-blowers remain protected and that there is no retaliation.  

    We'll note some other moments from the hearing in the next snapshot.

    Turning to reports of violence . . .

    Wednesday's reported violence included . . .

    Alsumaria reports that the PKK is stating their female brigade has killed 16 Turkish soldiers at the border Iraq and Turkey share.  They also note that Turkish warplanes bombed northern Iraq and the bombs burned orchards and large areas of forest land.  Xinhua reports, "An Iraqi aircraft bombarded IS positions in the IS-held city of Rutba, some 370 km west of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, leaving 10 people killed and 16 others wounded, a provincial security source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity."

    Meanwhile, September 2nd saw 18 people kidnapped in the Sadr City section of Baghdad.  The 18 were 1 Iraqi interpreter and 17 Turkish workers.  Reuters reports two of the 18 have been released.  Alsumaria notes they were released near a hospital under construction in Basra.

    Still on Wednesday, NINA reports that local residents in Mosul state that the Islamic State "executed on Wednesday Imam and preacher of a mosque in central Mosul."  Alsumaria also notes that there were kidnapping and assassination attempts at the Ministry of Education yesterday and that this led to explosive temperatures and an altercation between MPs in the cafeteria of the Parliament.

    And today Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports that 2 Baghdad suicide bombings have left at least 21 people dead.