Friday, May 20, 2016

Iraq snapshot

Friday, May 20, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue, Moqtada's followers take the Green Zone again and, oops, the security forces push back, Moqtada talks deaths, and much more.

BBC NEWS reports, "Calm has been restored in Baghdad, hours after security forces opened fire to stop protesters storming the Green Zone, reportedly injuring dozens."

Calm restored?

Yes, Motaqada al-Sadr's followers were back.

The Shi'ite cleric and movement leader was safe and sound while his followers were taking a stand.

Natasha Bertrand (REUTERS) noted, "The protesters, many of them masked, have apparently managed to break into Iraq's parliament, and are raiding the office of Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Iraqi authorities have implemented a mandatory curfew in response to the breach, and have reportedly shut down all entrances into the capitol."

AFP added, "They faced tough resistance from forces guarding Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's office but some were able to muscle past and temporarily enter the premises, though demonstrators were later pushed back by tear gas, water cannons, sound bombs and a barrage of live fire directed into the air."

This was the second time his supporters had stormed the Green Zone.  Let's drop back to the Saturday, April 30, 2016 snapshot:

Well color me surprised.

  1. Protesters Storm Baghdad Parliament, State of Emergency Declared

  • :فيديو: هو هو نوري المالكي والله انجلطك قيس الخزعلي اكبر قنذر هوهو حنان الوسخة نوري المالكي اليوم انجلطك

  • :فيديو :غراب مجلس النواب عباس البياتي داخل السياره والمتضاهريين يحاصروووه

    Moqtada al-Sadr's protesters live chiefly in Basra (they didn't come into Baghdad today) and in the Sadr section (usually called "slum") of Baghdad.  That last group has been protesting in Baghdad, outside the Green Zone, on his orders.

    They made it into the Green Zone.

    Protests Update: Everything You Need To Know About The Civil Unrest In Baghdad’s Green Zone

    Everything you need to know?

    Not really.

    Tear gas was fired.


    After the protesters were inside the Green Zone and had stormed the Parliament.

    After they had stormed the Green Zone and made it into the Parliament.


    There's a point here, if anyone's paying attention.

    In all the years of the Green Zone, it was only almost stormed once and that was shortly after Nouri al-Maliki became prime minister in 2006.

    People were shot.

    People were shot dead.

    Immediately after, the 'Bremer walls' went up.

    Moqtada al-Sadr's protesters made it into the Green Zone today.

    Not because they're particularly smart.

    Certainly not because they have super powers.

    Clearly because either orders weren't followed regarding what to do when people attempt to breach the Green Zone or because there was a stand down order allowing them to seize the Green Zone.

    What happened?

    That emerged days later.  From the May 7th snapshot:

    Where are Motqada's zombies now?
    Better question: Where is the Shi'ite cleric and movement leader?
    Loveday Morris (WASHINGTON POST) reports:

    The Iraqi rumor mill swirled into action, with some politicians speculating he was summoned by a furious Tehran.
    "I think they are angry, maybe they blame him for what happened," Abdul Razzaq said.
    Five days later, he has still not returned, and before his departure, he had announced a two-month spiritual retreat. His supporters have remained stoic.

    And, in an aside, Morris also revealed who helped Moqtada's supporters breach the Green Zone:

    Abadi was already seen as a weak leader, and Sadr's actions have undermined him further, with members of parliament incensed by the breach of their fortified inner sanctum.
    As he attempts to regain control, and credibility, he has pledged to prevent another breach and fired the head of Green Zone security, who kissed Sadr's hand as the cleric entered the area in March.

    The difference between that earlier April day and today?

    Heads rolled in Baghdad over the heavy petting between security and Moqtada.

    This time, security wasn't going to just smile and waive as the Green Zone was breached.

    Kareem Raheem and Stephen Kaplin (REUTERS) report today, "Iraqi security forces opened fire on protesters who stormed into Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone on Friday and entered the cabinet building, drawing calls for revolt from a powerful Shi'ite Muslim cleric."


    Iraq's powerful Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr expressed support for protesters who stormed into Baghdad's Green Zone on Friday and condemned security forces' use of force against them.
    "I respect your choice and your peaceful spontaneous revolt," Sadr said in a statement. "Curse the government that kills its children in cold blood."

    Kills in cold blood?

    Suddenly Moqtada's concerned about protesters being killed?

    Didn't raise a peep when they were Sunnis and were killed.

    And they were killed.

    One infamous example?

    The 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).

    Not a peep from Moqtada al-Sadr.

    Again, the Shi'ite cleric didn't object to the slaughter of Sunnis.

    But today?

    He's denouncing "the government that kills its children in cold blood."

    Thing is, there are no confirmed deaths.

    XINHUA notes, "The breach of the restricted district left at least 120 people wounded, including many security members, by the live bullets and tear gas used by the security forces to disperse the protesters, a security source told Xinhua, citing latest reports."

    Loveday Morris and Mustafa Salim (WASHINGTON POST) report, "Hospital officials said at least 617 people were injured, largely from inhaling tear gas. They did not report any deaths or injuries from gunfire."

    THE IRISH TIMES notes people injured but as to claims of deaths?  "Authorities could not immediately verify reports of several deaths."

    Haydar Hadi, Servet Gunerigok and Fatjon Prroni (ANADOLU AGENCY) cover the storming of the Green Zone but find no deaths: "Interior Ministry sources told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity due to restrictions of speaking to the media that 21 people were injured in brawls between protesters and security forces."


    A reporter at the scene saw several protesters badly injured and one who was shot in the head.
    Ambulances weaved through the crowd to ferry away those hurt, and h ospital and police officials said five protesters were seriously injured.

    Only Michael Weiss (DAILY BEAST) offers hearing of deaths (from media reports).  There have been no confirmed deaths reported.

    Jason Ditz (ANTIWAR.COM) offers:

    It’s Friday, it’s Iraq, and there’s still no vote on the cabinet nominated over a month ago. That means mass protests, and as with recent weeks, the rallies centered around the walled-off Green Zone, with many protesters forcing their way in, and some said to enter the prime minister’s office.

    I've read over 70 reports in English and in Arabic.

    The Cabinet isn't an issue.

    Government corruption, a government not serving the people, etc.

    That's what the protesters mention.

    Not the Cabinet.

    The Cabinet was Moqtada's issue.

    Moqtada wasn't in the Green Zone.

    Moqtada doesn't not even appear to be in Iraq.

    He appears to be in Tehran still.

    And we warned about this.

    About how what hurts Moqtada is if his followers get hurt and he's not there with them.

    So his followers launched a demonstration that he's denying having ordered, they got hurt and he's safe in Tehran?

    Merrit Kennedy (NPR) explains, "News photos showed shocked-looking demonstrators carrying wounded colleagues out of the melee."

    They were unprepared and they were leaderless.

    That's how a backlash can start.

    Lastly, the US Defense Dept today announced:

    Strikes in Iraq
    Bomber, attack, fighter, and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 15 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

    -- Near Baghdadi, a strike destroyed an ISIL mortar position.

    -- Near Albu Hayat, a strike destroyed an ISIL vehicle bomb and an ISIL front-end loader.

    -- Near Rutbah, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position and an ISIL heavy machine gun.

    -- Near Fallujah, a strike destroyed two ISIL fighting positions and two ISIL heavy machine guns.

    -- Near Kisik, a strike destroyed four ISIL tunnel systems.

    -- Near Mosul, five strikes struck three separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed seven ISIL assembly areas, four ISIL vehicles, an ISIL fighting position, and 26 ISIL rocket rails.

    -- Near Qayyarah, a strike destroyed four ISIL tunnels.

    -- Near Sinjar, a strike destroyed an ISIL fighting position and an ISIL heavy machine gun.

    -- Near Sultan Abdallah, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL rocket rail, an ISIL weapons cache, and an ISIL rocket launcher.

    -- Near Tal Afar, a strike destroyed two ISIL bed down locations and an ISIL weapons cache.

    Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.