Saturday, October 10, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Saturday, October 10, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the PUK political party appears willing to stir up and incite in the KRG, Congress discusses the Ashraf community, concern is expressed over exactly how long Haider al-Abadi will remain prime minister of Iraq, and much more.

Wednesday, former US Senator Joe Lieberman declared, "I will just say briefly that the very fact of this hearing is important today because the greatest because the greatest enemy of the people in Camp Liberty is invisibility."

What was he talking about?

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 Sunday.   That was the second attack this year alone.   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.

Those in Iraq remain persecuted.

Lieberman was testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday (we covered part of the hearing in the Wednesday's Iraq snapshot).  Senator John McCain is the Chair of the Committee, Senator Jack Reed is the Ranking Member.  Lieberman was one of three witnesses appearing before the Committee.  The other two were  retired US Gen James Jones  and retired US Colonel Wesley Martin.

The topic was the Ashraf community still trapped in Iraq at Camp Liberty.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen: [. . . ] and to our witnesses for testifying to what I also believe is a travesty and that we have not lived up to the commitments that we have made to the people who are now at Camp Liberty.  I was in Iraq back in 2009 and we heard about this issue.  And I've had a chance to see the video -- a video of one of the attacks on Camp Liberty and the people being murdered.  So I think it's an area where we need to do much more to address what has happened there.  And I don't understand why people who have relatives here are not able to come and join their relatives and be resettled in America.  So I guess I appreciate that I'm asking you all for a subjective analysis of why the resettlement has been so slow.  But is it just beauractric foot dragging?  Is it because it has not risen to the level of some of the people at State who can make it happen to put pressure on Iraq to release the residents of Camp Liberty?  Or is there something else going on?  And General Jones or Senator Lieberman, I don't know if either of you have a perspective on that?

General James Jones: Senator, I don't know the answer to that.  All I know is that for the last several years, things that look like they're finally going to move are replaced by another obstacle. The-the delisting of the MEK [a decision then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made under pressure from the US courts] would be the end of it but it was replaced by another listing [a  designation by the Dept of Homeland Security classifying the MEK as "third tier" -- a listing that is in violation of the court order served on then Secretary of State Clinton] -- that was, somewhat, in my view arbitrary.  But it has served to delay the process even more.  I don't think the Iraqi government has been particularly helpful.  They-they play cat and mouse with the residents.  Sometimes they deny food, they deny protection, they turn off the water, they don't take out the trash or garbage for days on end.  It's just a constant problem.  But I really think that the real answer is for someone in authority to just make a decision, "Enough, we're going to do the right thing.  We made a commitment to these people.  We didn't live up to it. It's time to finish it."  And I think it's that simple.  It's a humanitarian gesture. I frankly don't care what the Iranians think about this.  I think it's the right thing to do.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen:  Senator Lieberman, one of the things I have heard from relatives of people at Camp Liberty that they're very concerned about is this requirement that they renounce MEK and concerned about what that might mean in the future and if somebody could use that and come back to address their ability to come back and live in the United States?  I've not had anybody explain that to me adequately why that is something people are being requested to do.  Have you had anybody explain to you why that's so important?

Senator Joe Lieberman: I have not.  First, Senator Shaheen, let me thank you for the leadership that you've shown on this matter. You've been a real great advocate for the people in Camp Liberty and I know their families and friends appreciate it a lot.  This requirement of renouncing membership in an organization that is no longer considered a threat or a terrorist organization by any means -- and really there are questions of whether it should ever have been on the list of terrorist organizations seems to me to be very unAmerican.  It's like a -- it's a belief test. It seems contrary to the First Amendment.  And the truth is that there are a lot of people there in Camp Liberty who've had a long history with the MEK.  As I mentioned, they're-they're freedom fighters.  I mean, they were against the Shah [of Iran] for part of the revolution and then they turned against the Ayatollah because they replaced one dictatorship with a worse dictatorship.  So I have never -- to what extent members of Congress can to push the State Dept to explain that or really to rescind that because it's an unfair obstacle and you've made a good point: It's going to raise insecurity in the minds of people coming into the country that somehow this is going to come back three, four, five years from now and they may be subject to deportation. I-I would say to you, Senator King, the State Dept if they were here now would not question the promises made to the residents of Camp Ashraf and then Camp Liberty.

Senator King?

Lieberman was referring to an earlier and lengthy exchange that took place which included King noting that no one from the administration was present to testify.

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: 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 --

Senator Angus King: But it is your position that this Geneva Convention of being a protected person constitutes a solemn promise of the United States to look after these people indefinitely? 

Senator Joe Lieberman: Part of this was -- correct me, Wes -- that these people gave up their arms.  They were disarmed.  And that was part of a post-Saddam [Hussein] policy in Iraq.  Gen Odierno was actually involved in some ways -- not at the higher level he ultimately reached -- but he was on the ground in these negotiations.  I'll tell you, Senator King, to me one of the most compelling -- I've had it happen two or three times -- most compelling moments in my own understanding -- or getting more understanding of what happened here was to hear leaders of the US military -- including Gen Phillips, but that includes people on up who were Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time standing up and saying at a public meeting, 'We made a promise to these people and we broke it.'  I mean -- 

Senator Angus King: Well all I'm looking for was what was the promise, when was it made and who made it?  Perhaps you could submit that for the record?  That's what I'm interested in.

Colonel Wesley Martin:  We can do that, sir.

Senator Angus King: I'd appreciate it.

Colonel Wesley Martin:  And matter of fact, I just did.

Senator Angus King: The other -- the other piece that I want to follow up on is that I'm a little uncomfortable with this hearing because we don't have anyone here from the administration.  I'm old enough to realize that they're are always two sides to every story and you've made a very strong case.  In fact, the case is so strong, you have to wonder why isn't this -- what wasn't this taken care of some time ago?  And there must be some reason and I would like to hear -- perhaps, Mr. Chairman, we could solicit the comments of the administration, the State Dept or the Dept of Homeland Security to determine why this hasn't been dealt with?  I'm just -- Again, I'm not taking any side here but I-I-I'm uncomfortable not hearing both sides of the situation.

Colonel Wesley Martin:  Yes, sir.  If I may, Congressman Dana Roehbacher offered them the chance of what you speak of. I would be at the table along with Colonel Gary Marsh and a representative of the State Dept.  They refused. I would love to sit at a table in front of you ladies and gentlemen and go through the issues with the US State Dept.  Every time we have made that offer, they've refused.  Earlier your question was the promises, the series of promises, especially in 2012 from [Secretary of State's Special Advisor on Camp Ashraf] Dan Fried that these actions would be taken to get them out of harms way.  He came to us.  And General Jones was on the phone calls as well as myself, [former FIB Director] Louis Freeh, [former Pennsylvania] Governor [Tom] Ridge, [former Governor of Pennsylvania] Ed Rendall, [former Governor of Vermont] Howard Dean and many others -- and [retired General and former Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] Hugh Shelton and others actually.  And 'we will do this, we will do this.'  And even one of the promises: "We're going to be out at that Camp on a continual basis."  And I have that one in writing in this packet.

Senator Angus King: Well I understand.  And I understand that the circumstances have changed because of Iran's influence in Iraq at this moment and that that raises the level of, as you said, stress in this situation and, perhaps, urgency.  I fully understand that.  I just want to get some of the details and some of the background.  And I want to understand why -- if it's so obvious -- we should do this that it's not being done.  

King's time had run out.  Committee Chair McCain attempted to clarify a point.

Chair John McCain:  I will just mention, Senator, that we have been trying for years to get the State Dept to react -- correspondence, meetings -- every method that I know of besides a Congressional hearing -- to try to get this issue resolved and these people who are now in greater and greater danger what we promised them.  And, I've got to say Colonel Martin, you didn't exactly describe it.  That was in return for -- That guarantee was in return for their giving up their weapons and in giving up their weapons we said we would guarantee their safety and gave them, under the Geneva Conventions. But that doesn't mean anything other than that the United States used that as a rationale for guaranteeing their protection.  And it's been going on now for years and -- Go ahead, General, go ahead, please.

Gen James Jones:  I just wanted to say that we have worked diligently with the administration on a regular basis, on a daily basis.  All of Colonel Martin's reports have been sent both to the National Security Council and the State Dept.  And there are three of us at the table but it's part of a larger group including six former Ambassadors, a former Director of the FBI, a former Attorney General, 8 five-star generals, one former Speaker of the House, four former governors, six members of Congress, one White House Chief of Staff, 

Some may have been bothered by McCain's clarification/lecture. But at least it wasn't like his September 29th outburst during an Armed Services Committee hearing when Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was not prepared to get too outraged (publicly, anyway) over cyber propaganda aimed at US (or 'US' -- most are offshore) companies when the US is doing the exact same thing.  This prompted a loud lecture from McCain that "glass houses" is not an argument for doing nothing.  (Which, for the record, is not the point Clapper was making.  He was attempting to say both sides engage in corporate espionage and he wasn't willing to grandstand on the topic as a result.)

One of the moments from the hearing that should especially be noted?

Colonel Wesley Martin:  [Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-]Abadi, as I mentioned before, is very weak.  And this is a golden opportunity for the United States to pressure him into allowing the residents to leave and for us to bring all the residents here. As I mentioned, there are enough families throughout the United States, we can absorb all of them. And when you think of all the torment and all the horror  they have had to go through for the past three, four years especially --  well since 2009 -- and yet they still remain loyal hoping that we will be able to do something to lift them out of that tyranny.  It's time to bring them out.  And it's only a matter of time before the fight between [former Iraqi prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-]Maliki and al-Abadi is going to come to a head.  And I fear Maliki has the strong support of the militias, Abadi will be out.

On the struggle between Haider and Nouri, J. Matthew McInnis (National Interest) offered this near the end of last month:

Following Abadi’s August 9 decision to eliminate Nouri al-Maliki’s position as vice president (which still needs judicial approval), Maliki made a well-publicized visit to Iran, meeting with Supreme Leader Khamenei’s senior foreign policy advisor, Ali Akbar Velayati and other Iranian officials. The prime minister is rightly worried that Tehran is plotting a Maliki restoration, perhaps by using the Iranian-aligned Iraqi Shia militia groups under Soleimani, such as Khataib Hezbollah, that are deepening their grip on large parts of the Iraqi’s security forces amidst the government’s campaign against ISIS.

The violence never ends in Iraq.

  • | Sunni Iraqi Preacher Abdelmalek al-Saadi: Iraqi fleeing Sunni cities in not from Daesh only but also from coalition missiles

  • In addition, AP reports that a Husseiniya car bombing left 8 people dead and "nearly two dozen" injured. Isabel Coles (Reuters) notes 3 people are dead in the third day of protests in the Kurdistan Region which also saw "several offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)" torched.

    The KDP and Goran (Change) are the two main political parties in Iraq following the last KRG elections.  The once might Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) has slid to three.  That slide may be why the PUK is making statements that seemed time to inflame the outrage (which is over the lack of payment of government employees -- as a result of Baghdad continuing to withhold the KRG's percentage of the national budget).  All Iraq News reports that PUK MP Farhad Qadir is insisting that the issue of who will be president of the Kurdistan Regional Government has been blocked by the KDP.

    Not all protests have turned violent.  Outside of the KRG, the Friday protests continued.

  • Outrage over ‘war crime’ as US bombs kill 22 people in an Afghan hospital (Judith Orr)

    This is from Great Britain's Socialist Worker:

    Outrage over ‘war crime’ as US bombs kill 22 people in an Afghan hospital

    by Judith Orr

    The aftermath of the Kunduz hospital bombing in Afghanistan
    The aftermath of the Kunduz hospital bombing in Afghanistan (Pic: MSF)

    US bombs killed 22 people in a hospital in Kunduz in northern Afghanistan last Saturday. The dead included 12 doctors and ten patients. 

    The hospital was run by charity Medicines sans Frontiers (MSF).

    Lajos Zoltan Jecs, an MSF nurse based in the hospital, described the carnage as the US plane circled and bombarded them.

    He said, “It was absolutely terrifying. There are no words for how terrible it was. In the intensive care unit six patients were burning in their beds.”

    The coordinates of the hospital had been regularly given to Nato and the Afghan government. MSF said these were last communicated on 29 September. 

    As missiles designed to blow up tanks were fired on the hospital, staff contacted US and Afghan officials in desperation.

    They explained that health care workers and patients were in the hospital being attacked.

    The bombing carried on for a further half an hour.

    The US changed its story on the bombing after international outcry.

    First it dismissed the dead as “collateral damage”. Then it said the bombing was carried out to protect US forces. Finally it claimed Afghan troops called in the air strikes.

    Hamdullah Danishi, the acting governor of Kunduz, confirmed the hospital was not an accidental target.

    He claimed that Taliban were in the hospital’s “vast garden” which he said justified the bombing.
    MSF is demanding an investigation of what it is treating as a war crime.

    Friday, October 09, 2015

    Silence on Shi'ite militia violence, gossip when they think the violence can be pinned elsewhere

    Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports a Baquba police member states mortar attacks on Diyala Province villages left 35 dead with forty-five more people injured.

    AP has no idea who carried out the attack but immediately rushes in to blame the Islamic State: "The official did not speculate on who may be responsible for the attack, but the Islamic State militant group has claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in the volatile province."

    Others aren't so sure.

  • Shia militias crimes bombed Sunni civilians yesterday by mortars to displaced them by force 50 civilian killed &injured Diyala

  • So AP could have just as easily have written: "The official did not speculate on who may be responsible for the attack but the Shi'ite militias have been responsible for attacks to displace Sunnis."

    Is it an accident?  A knee-jerk response?

    When the press rushes to blame the Islamic State (a terrorist group to be sure but not the only ones responsible for the violence in Iraq)?

    One might think so were it not for the continued refusal to cover the violence of the Shi'ite militias.

    When's the last time the western press reported on Hawija?

  • Even when photos exist, the western press looks the other way.

    It's as though they can only cover the violence that might be Islamic State related.

    But then again, when Ned Parker covered the violence of the Shi'ite militias, he was threatened, his photo was shown on Shi'ite television programs and he had to leave the country while Haider al-Abadi (prime minister) made jokes about it.

    In other news, Lisa DeBode (Al Jazeera) reports:

    A prominent women’s rights advocate will urge the U.N. Security Council next week to help fight sex trafficking in Iraq by pushing Baghdad to legalize shelters for women fleeing abuse and enslavement.
    Yanar Mohammed, an Iraqi activist who founded an underground network of safehouses for women trying to escape violence, announced Wednesday that she plans to testify before the council on Oct. 13 about how Iraq’s ban on shelters of this type puts women and girls in danger.

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  • Thursday, October 08, 2015

    A twittering fool tries to rewrite Iraq

    Like the liars, the stupid are always with us.

  • Under George W. Bush the US government lost and cannot account for $11 billion in during 2007. Why isn't investigating?

  • I know where I was in 2007, 2008, etc -- at Congressional hearings addressing this and at Senate Democratic Policy Committee held hearings addressing this issue.  I know it because we attended them and we reported on them here.

    They usually didn't even get a mention on the evening news but they took place and, again, we covered them -- check the archives.

    And I know why the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction was created and that Stuart Bowen Jr. headed it.

    And I know it was under Barack Obama that the office was killed.

    Over the wishes of many in Congress -- Democrats and Republicans.

    And over the wishes and stated concerns of Bowen.

    And I know that Democrats in Congress, in the House, repeatedly voiced concern as the mission in Iraq was turned over to the State Dept -- then under Hillary Clinton.  They voiced concern about the waste of money -- the millions being allocated for training police, for example, when the 'acting' head of the Ministry of the Interior said they didn't want the training.

    I know the House Foreign Affairs Committee was very concerned with Hillary's inability to answer questions about funding -- needs and spending.  I know that the Committee publicly expressed their distaste in hearing after hearing over the lack of transparency from State on the budget.

    I know they expressed concern over the fact that the State Dept has no Inspector General over it.

    I know that Hillary would go her entire four years as Secretary of State resisting Congressional oversight and with no Inspector General to review her actions.

    I know John Kerry, in his initial appearances before Congress once becoming Secretary of State, promised there would be an Inspector General and made sure that before his first year in office concluded, someone had been appointed Inspector General.

    What I don't know is why some idiot who Tweets thinks they can ignore history -- or maybe they're just too stupid to know this history -- or too lazy -- it's a lot of work attending Congressional hearings and sitting through all that nonsense?

    It's so much easier to offer some idiotic Tweet that's both uninformed and bitchy.

    And I know that a lot of idiots will rally around the Tweet because they never did the work required and never followed Iraq or, honestly, ever cared about Iraq.

    But now they trot it out to use as a political football or -- more often -- a political hammer to smash over someone else's head.

    I know that if you check our archives, we called out in real time Barack's backing of thug Nouri al-Maliki during 2010's 8 month long political stalemate -- and issue the stupid can speak of because they weren't paying attention.

    I know that we charted the disintegration of the security situation.

    I know that we called out Nouri throughout and didn't wait until Barack turned on him publicly in June of 2014.

    I know a great deal about Iraq because we never walked away from the topic.

    But by all means, Twittering fool, let's pretend that you somehow followed the topic, somehow paid attention when your Tweets repeatedly demonstrate that you're a hack whose sole interest in Iraq is how you can use it.

    You didn't send up the call when Nouri's Ministry of the Interior was targeting Emos who they connected with vampires (seriously, that's what the police handed out in Iraqi schools) and gays.

    You didn't cover one damn topic.

    But by all means, to attack the Benghazi investigation and a Republican member of Congress (who wasn't even in Congress when the Iraq War started), Tweet your stupidity because you know it will be embraced by the especially deeply stupid.

    Jean-Marc Mojon and Raji Nasser (AFP) notes, "Baghdad: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bullish entry into the Syrian conflict has worked wonders for his popularity in neighbouring Iraq, where some await 'Hajji Putin' like a saviour."

    If popularity is a zero sum game -- and, yes, sometimes it is -- then that means other leaders are less popular in Iraq.

    Barack Obama?

    He's been unpopular for some time.

    A silly American fool on Twitter might not grasp that.

    In March of 2013, activists in Samarra put their message on display.

    From Samarra من سامراء

    "Obama, If you Cannot Hear Us Can you Not See Us?"

    The following month, Sunnis would be slaughtered at a protest elsewhere.

    April 23, 2013 massacre of a sit-in in Hawija which resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll eventually (as some wounded died) rose to 53 dead.   UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

    Barack's inability to stand up to Nouri al-Maliki during the second term -- one Barack gifted Nouri with after Nouri lost the 2010 elections -- probably goes a long way towards explaining the warm reception that Putin is receiving currently.

    The following community sites -- plus NPR and Jody Watley -- updated:

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  • Wednesday, October 07, 2015

    Iraq snapshot

    Wednesday, October 10, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, claims are treated as fact by the ridiculous NBC News and AFP, Hillary continues to pretend that the 2008 SOFA is the responsibility of Bully Boy Bush (no, it's her responsibility as well and Barack's and Joe's and . . .) and we're going to start calling out 'fact checkers' who lie about what took place in 2008, the US Senate holds a hearing on Iraq with a focus on the Ashraf community, and much more.

    NBC News insists, "Iraqi military plans to retake the city of Ramadi from ISIS militants for the first time in months, officials said."  AFP quotes Anbar Council Member insisting, "If operations continue at this pace, I expect the liberation of Ramadi to be possible by the end of the month."

    Oh, what wonderful propaganda that almost makes the months long effort to retake Ramadi (begun in May) seem like it might be a success soon.


    Let's drop back to Alice Fordham report for NPR's Morning Edition (link is text and audio  and transcript) yesterday:

    FORDHAM: That's Army Colonel Lawrence al Issawi. He says they're holding ground but aren't strong enough to actually push ISIS back. A major offensive was expected four months ago to take back the provincial capital, Ramadi. I ask defense minister Khalid al Obeidi in Baghdad why that never happened.

    KHALID AL OBEIDI: (Speaking Arabic).

    FORDHAM: He tells me, "we can't lose any more soldiers," and, "you endanger civilians by going in before your forces are ready." But he won't say when they might be ready, although Iraqi officials cite a dire financial situation and massive corruption in the military as obstacles to fighting ISIS. To get an idea of what's going to be needed, I meet a soldier who's been fighting close to Ramadi.

    UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: (Speaking Arabic).

    FORDHAM: He won't give his name because he's afraid of his commanders but tells me it's not like the government or coalition isn't doing anything. He recently had American training, and they armed his unit, too.

    UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: (Through interpreter) They transfer us to Ramadi. We spent two days there. We liberated from 30 to 40 kilometers.

    FORDHAM: Liberated the outskirts from ISIS, that is. And following heavy casualties, reinforcements arrived. But he says the officers are still a problem.

    UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: (Speaking Arabic).

    FORDHAM: They take bribes to let people go on leave and flee themselves as soon as the battle heats up. Food and water are scarce. Plus, he too says ISIS just has way more men and weapons and uses devastating car bombs in battle.
    How long do you think before Ramadi is retaken?

    UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: (Through interpreter) Ramadi retaken will last from seven to eight years.

    AFP's really been an embarrassment when it comes to reporting or 'reporting' from Iraq for some time now.

    Let's stay with cheap liars long enough to note the ongoing disgrace that is Hillary Clinton.

    BBC News reports the craven and cranky candidate is firing back at Jeb Bush -- Bush is trying to win the GOP's 2016 presidential nomination, Cranky feels she's owed the 2016 Democratic Party's presidential nomination:

    On Tuesday Mr Bush accused the Obama administration of a "premature withdrawal" of US forces from Iraq in 2011, with "grievous" costs.
    Mrs Clinton replied by saying it was Mr Bush's brother George W Bush who, as president, negotiated a US withdrawal.

    Barack attempted to do another Status Of Forces Agreement to keep US troops in Iraq beyond 2011 (and they actually were but can't continually waste time spoon feeding the stupid and uninformed -- Ted Koppel attempted to in real time on both NPR and NBC).

    In 2014, Katie Sanders (PolitiFact) noted ABC News' Martha Raddatz:

    Martha Raddatz, ABC’s chief global affairs correspondent, was wearing her TV pundit hat when she said Allen’s idea for a strategy "makes me think back about what the Obama administration originally wanted."

    "They wanted 10,000 troops to remain in Iraq -- not combat troops, but military advisers, special operations forces, to watch the counterterrorism effort," she said. "So perhaps they'd go that way, but it would be a tough one."

    She evaluated Raddatz' remarks and concluded:

    Raddatz said the Obama administration originally "wanted 10,000 troops to remain in Iraq -- not combat troops, but military advisers, special operations forces, to watch the counterterrorism effort."
    For a period, at least, the Obama administration did envision leaving 10,000 troops in Iraq past the Dec. 31, 2011, pullout of forces. That number went down to about 5,000 before negotiations stalled amid a legal snare over immunity of American forces in Iraqi courts.

    Her claim is accurate but needs additional information. We rate her claim Mostly True.

    Now let's deal with an issue -- a fact -- that PolitiFact and other fact checkers have repeatedly ignored.

    Cranky Clinton likes to say Bully Boy Bush negotiated the SOFA.

    It was his deal, she and other cheap trash insist.

    I'm sorry, I didn't join the Cult of St. Barack so I never took an oath to lie for him.

    So in my best Cher "Follow This You Bitches" manner . . .

    Here's reality that cheap trash doesn't tell you.

    The SOFA is a treaty.

    The Iraqi Parliament voted on it and approved it.

    All US treaties must be approved by the US Senate.

    Senator Hillary Clinton was among the first to point that out and campaigned -- in 2008 -- on the promise that she would demand a Senate vote on any SOFA.

    As the rudderless and leaderless Barack so often did in 2008, he copied Hillary.

    He made that a promise as well.

    Joe Biden, while Hillary and Barack were going back and forth, had already dropped out of the campaign for the 2008 Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

    But he also was the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    We covered the April 10, 2008 hearing he chaired -- did anyone else?  Again, follow this, you bitches.

    Joe told the Bush State Dept witnesses that the treaty would require Senate confirmation.

    And when Joe joined Barack's campaign as his running mate, the campaign promised on their website that any treaty would require a vote by the Senate.

    Hillary was a senator when the treaty went through (Thanksgiving Day, 2008).  So was Barack.  So was Joe.

    Where was the damn vote?

    There was no vote.

    If Hillary's unhappy -- she's always unhappy, look at the corners of her mouth, it's the mouth of a person whose had a miserable life -- she needs to put on her big girl panties and take a hard look in the mirror.

    Saying Bully Boy Bush negotiated the treaty?

    That's one half of the damn story.

    The other half is that Hillary, Barack, Joe and so many others broke their public promise to demand a Senate vote.

    And please note, I can also list Democrats in the House of Representatives in 2008 who publicly stated the Senate would have to vote.

    Instead, they rolled over.

    So the reality is that this is the treaty that Bully Boy Bush (by action) and Democrats like Hillary (by inaction) pushed through.

    Stop pretending otherwise.

    From nonsense to reality . . .

    Retired Col Wesley Martin shared today, "I remember back in the seventies, there used to be this little cartoon of a pair of goldfish in a blender and they're in the water.  And there's this little button for the blender -- they're waiting for it to be turned on. And one  goldfish says to the other, 'I can't handle the stress.'  That's what it reminds me of, for the residents."

    He was offering testimony on the Ashraf community moved from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty and still not resettled outside of Iraq.

    For a more detailed view, we'll note this.

    Senator Jack Reed: This morning, our hearing focuses on Iranian influence in Iraq and the plight of the nearly 2,400 residents at Camp Liberty in Iraq -- members of the Iranian dissident group the Mujahadeen-e-Khalq or MEK. The Iranian dissidents at Camp Liberty are in an increasingly perilous situation having repeatedly come under attack.  And these attacks, which have killed more than 100 MEK members since 2009, clearly indicate the threat to this group from Iran and Iranian-backed militias seeking to eliminate and silence these dissidents.  The deteriorating security situation in Iraq only highlights the urgent need to find safe refuge for these individuals outside that country.  The United States have had a special relationship with the MEK dating back to the height of the Iraq War in the mid 2000s.  This stems in part from the MEK's agreement at the US military's request to disarm and move into Camp Ashraf in north eastern Iraq.  The US military extended under the Geneva Conventions to the Camp Ashraf residents.  However, as the United States drew down its forces consistent with its obligations under the 2008 security agreements signed by President Bush and Prime Minister Maliki, US forces were no longer well positioned to provide for the safety and security of the Camp Ashraf residents.  In December of 2011, the government of Iraq signed a memorandum with the United Nations in which the Iraq government committed to ensure the safety and the security of these residents as part of the process of relocating them to Camp Liberty outside Baghdad to facilitate the settlement process.  However, the United States, through the State Dept, has had to repeatedly press the government of Iraq to live up to its obligations to provide for the safety and well being of the Camp Liberty residents and Camp Liberty residents remain in fear that the government of Iraq will extradite them to Iran at Tehran's request. The State Dept now is the lead US government agency advocating on behalf of the Camp Liberty residents. And the State Dept is working the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to find resettlement options for these residents outside of Iraq. It is my understanding that as of the beginning of this month, nearly 800 Camp Liberty residents have been processed by the UNHCR and resettled outside of Iraq.  Unfortunately, this resettlement process has dragged on for years and much more still needs to be done to find homes for the remaining Camp Liberty residents. I would urge all participants in the resettlement process to cooperate fully to advance the resettlement of these very vulnerable individuals.  One issue that I expect will arise this morning is whether the United States should accept more Camp Liberty residents for resettlement.  While the MEK was removed from the list of foreign terrorists organizations in 2012, group members continue to be barred from admission to the United States because of their Tier Three status under US anti-terrorism laws.  Nonetheless, I understand that the administration has adopted a policy that would allow Camp Liberty residents to be paroled in the United States if they renounce their affiliation with the MEK.  Under this policy, some 29 Camp Liberty residents have ultimately resettled in the United States making the United States one of the larger recipient countries for these refugees.  I hope the testimony of our witnesses this morning will help shine a light on what more can be done to accelerate the resettlement process so that the residents of Camp Liberty can be brought to safety outside of  Iraq once and for all.

    Senator Reed was speaking at this morning's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.  He is the Ranking Member of the Committee, Senator John McCain is the Committee Chair.  The witnesses appearing before the Committee were retired US Gen James Jones, former US Senator Joe Lieberman and retired US Colonel Wesley Martin.

    "We wouldn't be sitting here today,"  Gen James Jones declared, "if we'd just had an airlift.  The, uh, there's just some other points I think are outrageous.  The officers -- the Iraqi officers that led the attack on Camp Ashraf and killed -- are responsible for the killing of women and children -- are the ones responsible for dealing with Camp Liberty today. And you talk about an insult?  Adding insult to injury? It's incredible.  And I just -- I just find it unbelievable that this problem has not been resolved three or four years ago.

    Noting the Albanian government specifically for taking in a large number of residents, Jones wanted to clarify a point, "By the way the cost for relocation is being born by the MEK.  It's not being born by us, it's not being born by the UN.  Money's been allocated.  I forget the number, but it's [amount whispered to him] $20 million of their funds to relocate their wives, their sisters, their brothers, their family members and their colleagues."

    Senator Thom Tillis also wanted to clarify a point.

    Senator Thom Tillis: I want to be clear then.  So they're living in horrible conditions every day, worrying about whether or not they're going to be alive the following day.   And these are people who peacefully disarmed --

    Col Wesley Martin:  Yes, sir.

    Senator Thom Tillis (Con't):  -- and protected American soldiers when we came into Iraq.  And we made a promise that we would take care of them.

    Col Wesley Martin:  That is correct, sir.

    Let's stay with clarification a bit more.

    Senator Joe Manchin: Let me ask another -- and, Gen Jones, this might be to you. In your testimony, you cited the three most lethal events occurred in 2009 to 2013 during prime minister Maliki's time in office.  Since Prime Minister Abadi took office in 2014, have there been any changes in the situation in Camp Liberty when it comes to the security or resettlement?  Have you seen any changes?

    Gen James Jones:  Uhm, I'd defer to Wes for the details but, uhm, uh, I think the attacks have been less -- lessened.  But the fact that the Iraqi military who are regularly in the camp are still the ones who conducted the raids in previous years -- and the killings -- is indicative of the kind of pressure that they want to keep on the citizens in the camp.  Wes, you may have more details?

    Senator Joe Manchin:  Has it improved is what I'm asking?

    Col Wesley Martin:  It hasn't improved and --

    Senator Joe Manchin:  It has not?

    Col Wesley Martin:  It has not.  And it has not deteroriarted.  They're still in that blender [70s comic reference, noted earlier] waiting for that button to be pushed.  Abadi.  He's the prime minister. But he's in a very precarious position because Maliki still controls Dawa [political] party, Maliki still has the ear of Tehran and, as you recall, Maliki was forced out only after ISIS took over major parts of the country.  Both, uh, the Ayatollah in Iran and President Obama were blessing him for a third term which was against the Constitution -- the Iraqi Constitution -- but he was force out when [Iranian] General [Qassem] Soleimani went to him and said, "You have to step down."  And then a member of his Dawa party was brought up. Abadi has made a lot of great promises.  There are demonstrations going on throughout Iraq.  He's drawing the support of them. [C.I. note: That's what the western press largely says, it is not, however, the truth.  The protesters are clear that they do not feel Abadi's doing anything other than offering empty promises.]  He's drawing the support of, uh, [Grand] Ayatollah [Ali al-]Sistani. And surprisingly he's drawing the support of the Mahdi army with Moqtada al-Sadr.

    Senator Joe Manchin:  I have another one.  This is a most difficult question.  It's when the State Dept de-listed the MEK as a foreign terrorist organization in 2012, it stated, "The Department does not overlook or forget the MEK's past acts of terrorism including its involvement with the killings of US citizens in Iran in the 1970s and an attack on US soil in 1992.  The Department also has serious concerns about the MEK as an organization particularly with regard to allegations of abuse committed against its own members."  How has the MEK addressed the concerns raised about potential abuse of its own members since the de-listing, sir?

    Col Wesley Martin: Since the de-listing, it hasn't needed to be addressed.  In this same document that [former] Governor [Tom] Ridge provided Senator McCain -- I'll get you a copy of it -- I addressed that thoroughly. I investigated those -- when I was the Base Commander military policeman -- I went and investigated those allegations of abuse and along with a lot of other allegations.  They were unfounded.  What I found, while I was there, and since then, the MEK is the most lied to and --

    Senator Joe Manchin:  Is the State Dept corrected its findings?

    Col Wesley Martin:  No, sir. This report [the Ridge one] was generated when [the State Dept's] Julia Frifield sent to Congressman [Ed}] Royce a repetition of the previous lies and all the omissions. 

    We'll leave that aspect there -- I've not read Ridge's report.  I'm comfortable sharing what Martin testified to that he saw but the discussion of a report (that I've not read) isn't something I'm eager to get stuck on.  We will note that the report was a response to claims of abuse and the report states no abuse took place.

    I'm not a Joe Lieberman fan but we're not ignoring him.  We'll note a section of his testimony in the next snapshot.

    For now, we'll close this snapshot's coverage of the hearing by noting the reference to recently reported comments and developments.

    Chair John McCain: A Shi'ite leader was quoted yesterday as saying that the United States air strikes were ineffective so therefore they needed the Iranian and the Russian assistance.  What-what-what is your assessment of the Iranian influence now in Iraq and how it may more endanger the lives and welfare of the residents of the Camp?

    Gen James Jones: Sir, my -- as I mentioned in my prepared remarks, I was present when the former King of Saudi Arabia issued his warning about then-prime minister Maliki which was proven to be correct.  It was my hope that the new prime minister and the leader of Iraq would -- would have shown more appreciation for the sacrifice that was made on behalf of his country by the United States.  I-I think that such statements are not only insulting to our commitment but also just show-show how deeply the Iranian influence has, uh, permeated the, uh, Baghdad, the capital of Iraq and it's leadership.  Unfortunately.

    Chair John McCain: Suppose that the Russians begin air attacks in Iraq.  What-what-what -- One, what does that mean?  And, two, what should the United States reaction be?

    Gen James Jones:  Well the United -- in my view, it means, uh, unless-unless the Russians, uh, agree to join the, uh, the international, uh, coalition and cooperate under the air tasking orders and, uh, and bring a certain military competence in coordination to the fore, you run the risk of having chaos in the skies. Uhm, the United States, with all -- with all due respect, the United States should do everything in its power, I think, to avert that situation and to make sure that what's happening in Syria does not happen in the skies over Iraq regardless of whether the prime minister welcomes the addition of the Russians. 

    Chair John McCain:  But he does have a point about the effectiveness of the air campaign against ISIS.

    Gen James Jones:  Yes, it-it does in the sense that the United States has made its decision as to what it's going to do.  My understanding is that we're re-looking at our commitment and we'll hopefully ramp it up a bit more.  As you know, my personal belief is that the longest road to victory here is, uh, is purely an air campaign, uhm, but if that's all that we have, we ought to make it a massive air campaign.

    Chair John McCain: Didn't we learn in a campaign that you and I were long ago engaged [Vietnam] that incrementalism doesn't work and air campaigns alone doesn't work?

    Gen James Jones:  That's correct.