Michael Knights is steaming mad. And he takes his crazy to FOREIGN POLICY:
On Jan. 21, the newly minted commander in chief raised his oft-repeated mantra that the United States might have offset the costs of the Iraq War by somehow seizing Iraqi oil. Six days later, he signed an executive order banning Iraqi nationals from entering the United States for 90 days and Iraqi refugees from entering for 120 days. The banned persons initially included thousands of translators and other Iraqis who risked their lives by serving alongside U.S. troops in Iraq.
As Trudy Rubin (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER) explained last week:
What you may not know is that the ban included Iraqis who held Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) issued to interpreters who helped the U.S. military. Thank heavens the Trump administration was shamed (and pressed by the Pentagon) into revising that decision. However, that affected relatively few Iraqis, since the SIV program ended in 2014; only 19 such visas were issued during the last three years, according to the State Department (around 500 cases are still in process).
Around 500 cases are still in process.
Knights goes with "thousands." And forgets to note that the program ended in 2014 so these 500 cases should have had already been ruled on by the previous administration.
But what do facts matter when you're wagging your war-on at the country as it drips pre-death?
The good news is that the United States is not swimming against the tide of Iraqi politics. On the contrary, it has aligned itself with the political and religious mainstream. Most Iraqis don’t want their country to be controlled by outsiders. They want sovereignty, choices, and leverage.
This is not what Iran offers. Iraqi nationalists — whether they are Shiite moderates like Abadi, U.S.-trained special forces soldiers, Sunni Arabs, or even homegrown Shiite radicals like Moqtada al-Sadr — know that it would be curtains for them as soon as the Iranian-backed factions took over Baghdad. Meanwhile, the Shiite religious leadership in Najaf is looking down the barrel of an Iranian gun. When the country’s preeminent Shiite religious authority, the 86-year-old Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, passes away, there will be a fierce scramble for spiritual leadership of Iraqi Shiites, and Iran will play hardball for this ultimate prize.
The semiautonomous Iraqi Kurds, America’s oldest allies in Iraq, can also look forward to a new confrontation with the Iraqi government if Tehran’s proxies take over Baghdad. Just as the theocracy in Tehran constantly vents its special hatred for Iran’s Kurds, so too will the IRGC try to place Iraqi Kurds under the hammer of an oppressive state.
The United States has a much less prescriptive vision that’s far more attractive to Iraqis: Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy for the anti-Islamic State coalition, has called for “functioning federalism,” power sharing between ethnosectarian blocs, and a negotiated settlement over the future status of Iraqi Kurdistan between Baghdad and the Kurds. At heart, Washington wants a strong and sovereign Iraq so that the United States can reduce its presence without ceding the country to Iran.
So Brett's calling for what former Vice President Joe Biden called for when he was a member of the US Senate?
And has Michael Knights forgotten how badly that went over?
First, it was that the US was trying to destroy Iraq.
Then you have people of all sects speak out against federalism.
Federalism may be a good idea -- it may not be.
But that's something for the Iraqi people to determine -- not Brett McGurk, not Michael Knights.
Though some Shi'ites were for it, the loudest argument against it came from Shi'ites who, because they are the majority population, don't see the need to split up Iraq or its resources.
As for aligning itself with the political and religious mainstream?
When did the US do that?
When the US government installed exiles who fled their country for decades and only returned after the foreign invaders ran Saddam Hussein out of Baghdad?
Time and again, the US has backed tryants because, in the words of disgraced US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill, "Iraq needs a strongman."
That's why, when the Iraqi people voted Nouri out as prime minister in 2010, Barack Obama nullified the votes (with The Erbil Agreement) and gave Nouri a second term.
And, Michael Knights, you know damn well how that turned out.
Currently, the US has installed Hayder al-Abadi as prime minister (don't we love Iraq's right to self-determination -- in theory, even if we never let them practice it).
He's not moderate.
He's ineffectual at best.
No one listens to him.
He's a stooge.
He's not even a benign stooge.
He's carried out most of Nouri al-Maliki's policies and gets away with it because we don't want honesty on the world stage.
We want to move on to our favorite lies that demand that we insist the US rescued Iraq, saved it, made it better.
That's not what happened.
It's not what's happening.
And unless or until the Iraqi people get a say in their government, they have no reason to be vested in it.
Their Constitution is repeatedly overruled by the US State Department.
Their leaders don't serve them and hide away in fortresses.
While the oil revenues bring in billions and billions each year, the bulk of the (young) population of Iraq lives in poverty.
What the corrupt leaders aren't stealing, technocrats are (Basra's becoming a real hot seat as the corruption there is getting harder and harder to ignore and leading to public protests).
Iraq should be sitting pretty but instead its leaders have plundered it and now it depends on the IMF to stay afloat.
Michael Knights insists Iraq is "too big to fail."
But the US has ensured that it fails and that is has failed.
It's a failed state.
Michael knows that.
But he puts his brave little camper face and pretends he's going to Boy Scout the hell out of Iraq.
Sorry, it's not happening.
And it's not going to happen while people delude themselves.
If that seems harsh, I'm tired of the crap.
What's Michael calling for? What is always called for.
The Trump administration needs to act now to keep this formula going. The first thing it can do is extend the Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve mission by at least two years.
We never call for a diplomatic surge, do we?
No, it's always keep US forces in or send more.
The military is forever used as the fixer.
That's not their job.
That's not their role.
Until you can grasp that, you're not helping Iraq or the Iraqi people. (But, if you notice, once again an article about what the Iraqi people need once again ignores the Iraqi people themselves.)
Michael Knights ignores the need -- the vital need -- for reform and promises to be kept.
France's Foreign Ministry, just three days ago, issued a statement on Saturday's violence which ended with:
France calls on the Iraqi government - to whom we reaffirm our full support - to continue to implement the reforms needed to ensure national reconciliation and promote stability in Iraq. While Iraq is engaged in the battle for Mosul, which could represent a turning point in the fight against [the Islamic State], unity among the Iraqi people is critical.
That's what should have been the starting point of Michael Knights' piece.
And the really sad thing is, he knows that.
But he's not offering honesty, he's trying to 'sell' what he wants.
The lies just never end. (No wonder the Iraq War never ends.)
US President Donald Trump will not have Michael Flynn as his national security advisor. Flynn had conversations with Russia following the US election (which apparently including talk of sanctions) and he apparently misled the administration about those talks. He has now resigned. Lt Gen Joseph Kellogg (Keith Kellogg) is now the acting national security advisor.
And THE LOS ANGELES TIMES sees that as reason to re-post a December 20, 2003 piece by John Hendren that's nothing but a butterfly kiss to Keith Kellogg's ass.
THE NATION is also highlighting older material, a 2016 piece by Tim Shorrock:
Kellogg played a critical role in the disastrous US occupation of Iraq as the director of operations of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which ran the country after the 2003 invasion. Since leaving the military, he has been deeply involved in the high-tech, computer-driven style of warfare that has spawned the enormous business complex of contractors and suppliers that ring Washington, DC, from the CIA to the National Security Agency.
[. . .]
From 2005 to 2009, Kellogg was a top executive with CACI International, one of the companies that supplied interrogators who abused and tortured Iraqi prisoners at the US military prison at Abu Ghraib.
At least THE NATION piece qualifies as reporting. (Slobbering PR is what THE LOS ANGELES TIMES has reposted.) We'll also note this Tweet from journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran.
Acting NSA Kellogg was COO of the disastrous CPA, the 2003-4 US occupation authority in Iraq, whose policies fueled the insurgency
Meanwhile Lori Mason (AL-FANAR MEDIA) remembers to include some of the people Michael Knights overlooked as she explores how to rebuild higher education in Iraq:
Over the past two years, universities managed to keep most classes open by creatively drawing on available resources -- including borrowing halls, labs and facilities from neighboring universities at night and on weekends, renting space in hotels for offices and offering some instruction via online class sessions. Now, many universities in recently liberated areas have resumed classes on their home campus; however, large numbers of students and faculty members remain scattered across Iraq as refugees. The process of closing down improvised campuses and shifting back to their home communities, many of which are partially in rubble and lack basic services, is not an easy one.
Those returning home face demolished buildings, classrooms and infrastructure. Labs, textbooks and equipment were destroyed, and chemicals and other materials were looted by [the Islamic State]. Most student academic records -- kept almost entirely in hard copy on campuses -- were destroyed in shelling or deliberately burned by [the Islamic State], so very limited student records remain.
Many faculty members are still afraid to return to their home communities. They remember the years when they were directly targeted and know that nearly 500 Iraqi academics were killed between 2003 and 2012. They are keenly aware that [the Islamic State] targeted academics with ties to the United States and other Western countries. And ongoing attacks by remaining cells, such as the recent suicide bombing in Fallujah, exacerbate fears of returning. The absence of refugee faculty members leaves a shortage of qualified instructors.
While infrastructure projects to restore electricity, water and basic services have begun in some areas, there is a paramount need to support communities in rebuilding and healing.
The most immediate tangible needs of universities tasked with rebuilding include textbooks and access to academic libraries, since scores of books were burned under [the Islamic State]. Essential classroom equipment and computers, along with field-specific equipment such as microscopes for medical labs, are also vital. And replacement university vehicles for students and staff to commute to campus were stolen so will need replacing.
We're on The Mosul Slog.
It's day 120 of the mission to liberate or 'liberate' Mosul.
And last week's brag that they'd liberated eastern Mosul looks more and more hollow. Gareth Browne (AL-ARABY AL-JADEED) reports:
Twin blasts hit a busy market in the Mosul neighbourhood of Al-Zuhoor on Monday afternoon in signs that the Islamic State group’s resistance is far from over in the city’s liberated east.
The blasts, caused by suicide bombers, came less than half an hour after Iraqi Intelligence Services, the NSS, conducted a raid in a restaurant in the middle of the market.
[. . .]
These attacks come just days after several other blasts rocked liberated parts of Mosul.
On the Tweets above, AFP explains:
Iraq's parliament should implement the electoral reform called for by protesters, the UN's top envoy said on Tuesday, days after a demonstration pressing those demands turned violent.
A full turnover of the electoral panel's members and an overhaul of the electoral law were the two main demands of a recent wave of protests led by the movement of populist Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada Sadr.
Maher Chmaytelli (REUTERS) has a pretty solid analysis of the political situation. It opens:
With Iraqi forces all but certain to defeat Islamic State in Mosul this year, Sadr has begun mobilizing his supporters ahead of two elections, for provincial councils in September and the crucial parliamentary vote, by April 2018.
His main rival is former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a pro-Iranian politician who started positioning himself last year as a possible kingmaker or even for a return to the premiership itself.
The political tussle played out on the streets of central Baghdad on Saturday when five demonstrators and a policeman were killed in clashes between security forces and Sadr followers demanding an overhaul of the state election commission, which the cleric believes favors Maliki.
A return to power for Maliki would bolster Iranian influence in Baghdad, giving Tehran leverage in any conflict with U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, which put new sanctions on the Islamic Republic following its missile test last month.
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