Saturday, July 27, 2019

Violence and corruption continue in Iraq

In Iraq, the war continues.  Xinhua and UNI report,  "A total of three civilians were killed and 10 others wounded on Friday in two separate bombings in the provinces of Kirkuk and Salahudin, security officials said."  Today?  IONA reports, "At least one person was killed and four others injured in a car bomb explosion in the holy city of Karbala, Iraq."  ALSUMARIA notes 1 person was killed today in Diyala Province and an attack southeast of Baghdad left 1 person dead.  And Margaret Griffis (ANTIWAR.COM) opens her daily roundup for Saturday's violence with, "At least 23 people were killed, and 13 were wounded in recent violence."

Meanwhile Reporters Without Borders notes:

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled to learn that a judge in Basra, in southern Iraq, ordered I News investigative reporter Hassan Sabah’s arrest this week on spurious grounds after he exposed a case of alleged corruption involving another Basra judge.
Police swooped on Sabah’s home on the evening of 23 July with the aim of arresting him and taking him to a police station. After discovering that he was not there, they carried out a search of his home.

Sabah posted video footage of the police raid on Facebook and, in a separate post, explained that a judge ordered it after Sabah posted a report about the use of public funds to buy property for another Basra judge.

Sabah added that, after several attempts, he had learned that the grounds used for the raid was the complaint that a state-owned airport taxi company had filed against him back in February 2018.

“The judicial proceedings initiated against Hassan Sabah are intolerable and are clearly motivated by his investigative reporting,” RSF’s Middle East desk said. “The 18-month-old complaint was manifestly a fanciful pretext for intimidating a journalist who has just exposed a corruption case.”

When contacted by RSF, Sabah said he had barricaded access to his home to prevent it being ransacked during the coming days by militias linked to political parties.

On corruption, let's drop back to Wednesday's snapshot:

Things might be different if Iraq had a real government instead of the puppet government vetted by the US government.  At the top of the heap is Adil Abdul-Mahdi, already seen as one of the worst prime ministers of Iraq since the invasion.  OCCRP notes:

The Iraqi government issued warrants for 26 former and current top officials, including 11 ex-ministers who are suspected of corruption, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi told the press on Tuesday.

The Prime Minister also noted that over 1,200 graft cases have been sent to various courts in the past six months, and that there are over 4,000 current investigations underway across the country.
"The Anti-Corruption Council has strengthened its measures to fight corruption and to pursue the corrupt. We will mention the names of the accused if the investigations prove their corruption," the Prime Minister said.

It's more theatrics.  There's no one high up being charged.  Most of the ones charged no longer live in Iraq (extradition is unlikely).  It's for show because Iraq remains one of the most corrupt nations in the world and the Iraqi people are sick of the corruption.  The previous two prime ministers swore they would address it.  They didn't.  (And thug Nouri al-Maliki stole freely from the Iraqi people.)  Adil is going through the motions, he's not leading.  Could he lead?  Well probably not him, he's ineffectual.  But could any one lead in that position?  It's doubtful.  It's hard to represent the Iraqi people fairly while also dancing for your American masters. 

That was Wednesday's snapshot.  Thursday, THE NATIONAL noted:

Details of the investigation must be revealed to the Iraqi public so they can build confidence in efforts to fight corruption, Ali Al Bayati, a board member of the Independent High Commission for Human Rights in Iraq told The National.
“The Iraqi people do not want slogans from politicians, they need real practical steps to hold the corrupt to account,” Mr Al Bayati said.
"Corruption is widespread in Iraq and we believe that it weakens the state day by day," Mr Al Bayati said.
“Quick and practical solutions are urgently needed,” he said.
Many of the Iraq’s former officials live outside of the country and would need to be extradited to be officially charged.
The announcement comes after the United States imposed sanctions on two former provincial governors and two militia leaders it accused of human rights abuses and corruption last week.
“We will continue to hold accountable persons associated with serious human rights abuse, including persecution of religious minorities, and corrupt officials who exploit their positions of public trust to line their pockets and hoard power at the expense of their citizens,” Sigal Mandelker, treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said.
The sanctions target former governors Nawfal Hammadi Al Sultan and Ahmed Al Jubouri.
Mr Al Sultan and Mr Al Jubouri were designated for being engaged in corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, and other misdeeds, the Treasury said.

In other news, on Wednesday, a young girl Rafif Hayder died while receiving care at a hospital in Diwaniya.  The response on social media was to call out those responsible for her care.  In response to being called out on social media?  ALSUMARIA reports Diwaniya doctors held a general strike today.  ALSUMARIA also reports that the police say no threats were made against the Diwaniya doctors to their knowledge but, if any are made, threats should be reported to the police.   At present, it appears social media wants some accountability for the young girl's death and the doctors are sensitive to any criticism.

Moving on, Thursday's snapshot included:

On the topic of Iraq, NDTV notes:

The commander of a U.S. Special Operations task force in Iraq has sent home a platoon of Navy SEALs for drinking while deployed, U.S. defense officials said, the latest discipline incident that has emerged for an elite force relied upon heavily by the Pentagon.
U.S. Special Operations Command said in a statement Wednesday night that the platoon was forced out early to San Diego "due to a perceived deterioration of good order and discipline within the team during non-operational periods" of their deployment.
"The Commander lost confidence in the team's ability to accomplish the mission," the statement said. "Commanders have worked to mitigate the operational impact as this SEAL platoon follows a deliberate redeployment."

The statement did not state what prompted the decision, but two defense officials with knowledge of the issue said that SEALs drinking alcohol prompted it. The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, said that the SEALs violated General Order No. 1, which bans alcohol use.

New details have emerged.  Jared Keller (TASK AND PURPOSE via NATIONAL INTEREST) notes:

While the Navy initially indicated that an alcohol-soaked July 4th party was the core driver of the decision, a senior Navy official revealed to the New York Times' David Philipps that a senior enlisted platoon member had allegedly raped a female service member assigned to the SEAL platoon.
In addition, "when commanders began investigating the allegations, the entire platoon invoked their right to remain silent" under the Fifth Amendment, Philipps reports. "At that point, the official said, commanders decided to send the whole platoon home, including the lieutenant in command." 

Alex Ward (VOX) offers:

The elite, counterterrorism-focused SEALs gained international fame when they rescued Capt. Richard Phillips from a pirate hijacking in 2009 and killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. Scores of movies and books — some of them written by SEALs themselves — recount their clandestine, often violent missions, turning the group’s members into national celebrities and pop culture icons.
But that sterling reputation has taken several blows recently.
Two members of SEAL Team 6 — the group that killed bin Laden — were implicated in the June 2017 murder of Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar along with two other Marine special operators.
Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Gallagher, a SEAL from the same team as those disgracefully returning from Iraq, recently faced a court martial for committing war crimes — including murder.
And earlier this week, the independent Navy Times reported that six members of SEAL Team 10 tested positive last year for cocaine use and other drugs while serving. What’s more, they found ways to cheat drug tests, such as swapping out tainted urine samples for clean ones, on the rare occasions they actually had to go through a test.
“I never once got piss-tested on deployment or on the road, where I was using most often,” one caught SEAL told the Navy Times.
He was cleared of most charges, but he was found guilty for posing next to an enemy’s dead body. He wasn’t alone; other SEALs joined him in those photos. Making matters worse, it was revealed that members of his unit had also been drinking alcohol on the battlefield.
There’s more — including the conviction of a SEAL in early 2018 for recording images of child abuse on his phone — but you get the idea.

These instances have raised concerns that there’s a systemic behavioral problem inside the SEAL community. “Something seems off,” Corn told me. He and others want Congress to hold hearings on this issue and ask commanders what, specifically, they’re doing to end the problems.

Lastly, ALMASDAR NEWS reports:

An official from Hashd Al-Sha’abi reportedly stated this weekend that the U.S. Armed Forces inside Iraq must withdraw or else face future repercussions.
The Hashd Al-Sha’abi official, Mu’in Al-Kazhimi, was quoted by Baghdad Today as saying that Iraq has reached stability and does not need the U.S. Armed Forces inside the country.
“The attempt to expand and stay in Iraq by the U.S. is unacceptable, coupling with the fact that they are making Iraq a danger to their neighbors,” the official said.

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