On Iraq: The Government of Iraq has agreed to the Strategic Dialogue proposed in April, beginning tomorrow. Under Secretary Hale will lead that discussion with the representatives from Department of Defense, Treasury, Energy, and other agencies, and their Iraqi counterparts.
In keeping with previous dialogues based on our 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement, the dialogue will cover all of the areas of interest between our two countries: politics, economics, security, culture, and energy.
With new threats on the horizon, including the global coronavirus pandemic, collapsed oil prices, and a large budget deficit, it’s imperative that the United States and Iraq meet as strategic partners to plan a way forward for the mutual benefit of each of our two nations.
On the verge of crucial strategic talks between the United States and Iraq set to take place on June 10, former Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali Alhakim said the process is a necessary, long-planned step in ongoing bilateral ties between Baghdad and Washington.
But he took pains to call the process a dialogue involving the US government and the sovereign state of Iraq, one which will define the Pentagon’s future presence in Iraq as well as non-military aspects of the relationship including education, energy, culture, trade, and foreign investment.
“Here in the local papers, they’re calling it negotiations, but we are not negotiating anything,” Alhakim said. “It’s an agreement signed by the two sides. The only thing we need to do is figure out the bits and pieces.”
Speaking June 9 in a webinar with Abbas Kadhim, director of the Atlantic Council’s Iraq Initiative, Alhakim noted that because of COVID-19, the upcoming talks will be held virtually—a departure from the long-standing arrangement of alternating the sessions every six months between Washington and Baghdad.
The coalition has already consolidated to just three bases in recent months, down from a dozen, and the talks would likely bring a further drawdown.
"There are no details yet on troop levels, but the US draft on a joint statement mentions a 'reduction of US forces'," one senior Iraqi official told AFP.
Three years ago, the world rejoiced when Iraqi forces backed by the United States and Iran liberated this ancient city from the brutal rule of Islamic State. The people of Mosul hoped to rebuild their shattered lives. Today, a different battle plays out. Taking place largely behind the scenes, from legislative halls that overlook the city's bombed-out streets to hotel meeting rooms in Baghdad, it is a power struggle among parties, politicians and militiamen. Some are backed by Iran. Others favour the United States. At stake: political control of Nineveh province, of which Mosul is capital – a region rich in natural resources and a link in a supply route from Tehran to the Mediterranean. The route serves Iran-backed militias, Washington's fiercest enemy here since the defeat of Islamic State. Iran's allies had been winning. They installed a governor favoured by Tehran a year ago. But then anti-government protests, U.S. sanctions and the assassination of Iran's military mastermind Qassem Soleimani challenged Iranian influence. The pro-Western camp replaced the Nineveh governor with a longtime U.S. ally. The contest mirrors a wider struggle over the future of Iraq itself. Speaking to Reuters over the span of a year, around 20 Iraqi officials involved in the political tussle over Nineveh described how Iran and its allies developed the networks to influence local government, how pro-Western officials tried to hit back, and how this tug of war has crippled Mosul's recovery. If any side prevails, many of these insiders believe, it will ultimately be the side aligned with Iran. Iran helps its allies with money, political backing and sticks with them, explained Nineveh councilor Ali Khdeir. The United States, in contrast, "has left no real mark on Iraq."
Monday, ALMASDAR NEWS reported, "The Iraqi security forces announced on Monday that an Iraqi military plane was hit by terrorist forces in the Al-Rutbah Desert during an operation to destroy Islamic State" Iraqi security forces said a member of ISIS had "14.5 mm mono weapon and fired at one of the planes, lightly wounding the plane." Doesn't sound like it's been vanquished or that it no longer poses as a threat. Monday night, David Rose (THE AUSTRALIAN) reported:
When the attack on the village last month was over, nine members of a Sunni tribe that had opposed the Islamic State were dead and four were wounded, one of them nearly burned to death.
This is the Islamic State in Iraq in 2020: low-tech, low-cost, rural, but still lethal. And while it has not carried out attacks on the scale that it did a few years ago, the number of attacks has begun to grow again.
As American and Iraqi negotiators begin a new round of strategic talks on Thursday, the question of how to respond to the Islamic State’s quiet resurgence — and how much American help is required to do so — will be at the center of the discussion.
A narrative has emerged from this reporting that ties questions of Reade’s trustworthiness to her financial background. Economic class is brought in as character evidence. At JEZEBEL, Tracy Clark-Flory observes:
In May, the New York Times published
a lengthy report that forwards this framing. It spins Reade’s economic
background, financial struggles, and history of intimate partner
violence into a tale of a “messy life,” a “tumultuous journey,” a
“shambolic life.” As the article puts it, “If the national stage is new
for Ms. Reade, the sturm and drang is anything but.” Much of that “sturm
and drang” relates to abuse and poverty, yet the piece includes no
discussion of how these two things are cyclical and interconnected.
Instead, in the Times piece and others like it, a case is made
for the way that trouble has followed Reade around—the implication being
that she creates it.
Reade’s class permeates the Times’ discussion of Reade’s time working in Biden’s office in the 1990s. “The Biden Senate world was populated by striving Type A’s, and had a small-c conservative culture in which Ms. Reade didn’t quite fit,” the piece reads. “Former aides remember her as prone to storytelling and oversharing personal information.” It continues to note that she “rarely socialized with colleagues after work” and chafed “at the Ivy League tilt of the staff” while :arguing for more interns from state schools.” These facts set the stage for interpreting Reade through the lens of an outsider, that she didn’t gel with the staff is seen as a telling detail of her character.
Additionally, the Times reports that Biden’s office manager “admonished [Reade] to dress more modestly,” which not only has potential class insinuations but also recalls the long history of sexual assault victims being assessed by their clothing. This is not the first time reporters have clung to the subject of Reade’s attire in Biden’s office. Previously, in late May, Buzzfeed interviewed former Biden staffers and “two people brought up the clothes [Reade] wore to work—specifically recalling that she wore capes and dressed in a ‘hippie’ style.” Cara Ameer, then a legislative correspondent, said, “You were in a professional environment, so you wanted to be professional in every way—to look and act that way.” Ameer added, “She definitely seemed to me to march to her own drum. Maybe she didn’t like us. Maybe she thought we were a bunch of preppy Capitol Hill staffer types. If there was a mold of a Capitol Hill staffer, I would kinda say we probably fit it. We were well dressed.”
The assessment of her dress is not merely aesthetic but rather mired in class-based assumptions. This evaluation recalls Paula Jones, who in 1994 alleged that Bill Clinton exposed himself to her. (Note that Jones’ allegation came a year after Reade alleges that she was assaulted by Biden. ) In return, she was relentlessly mocked as low class: James Carville famously responded to her allegation by saying, “If you drag a $100 bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find.” A journalist from Newsweek referenced her reputation as “just some sleazy woman with big hair coming out of the trailer parks.” Four years later, Jones got a makeover and the Washington Post’s Robin Givhan wrote: “Her braces are gone. She has smoothed the frizzy mane of curls that once reached to such dazzling heights. Her makeup is now subtle and based on natural, not neon, hues. Her clothing is inspired by the boardroom instead of the secretarial pool.” By modeling herself on the aesthetics of DC’s professional set, Givhan wrote that Jones had “embraced the markers of dignity, refinement and power.” Most relevantly: the markers of class. “She is not white trash. She is not a big-haired floozy,” her spokesperson said of the image overhaul.
The Times continues its focus on Reade as an outsider in discussing a later job as an aide for State Senator Jack O’Connell, reporting that “two people familiar with her tenure said she regularly failed to appear at constituent meetings.” Then, “as the complaints about her work continued, Ms. Reade confessed that she was having a hard time at home, these people recalled.” Those hard times are unspecified, but the Times notes that Reade had feared for her safety after her then-husband, Ted Dronen, responded to news of her pregnancy by “slamming things around the house.” The Times continues, “She was given a lighter schedule, but when the behavior repeated itself, she and the office agreed to part ways.” The “behavior repeated itself” is an awfully blameful way to refer to a woman who is, it is implied, struggling at work alongside fear of her own husband. The Times fails to note research showing, as a Purdue University report puts it, that the impacts of domestic violence can “lead to tardiness, absenteeism and lack of productivity.”
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good morning, everyone. It’s great to be with you all today. I’m here one more time, proudly, to talk about freedom and free societies. And while America is not a perfect nation by any means, we always strive towards that more perfect union, trying to improve. We remain the greatest nation in the history of civilization.
One of the good things that we do in this administration is our dedication to the protection of religious freedom all around the world. Last week, President Trump signed the first ever executive order that instructs the entire U.S. Government to prioritize religious freedom.
Here at the State Department, I’ve hosted the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom now twice. We’ve launched the International Religious Freedom Alliance. We’ve trained our Foreign Service officers to understand religious freedom issues much more deeply.
And today, I’m proud to release the 2019 International Religious Freedom Report. There is no other nation that cares so deeply about religious freedom, that we gather accounts from all across the world – it’s an enormous, it’s a comprehensive accounting of this fundamental human right.
Let me highlight a few positive developments we’ve observed in this past year:
The Gambia, an International Freedom Alliance member, has courageously brought a case before the International Court of Justice regarding crimes against the Rohingya.
The United Arab Emirates, long an ally for religious freedom in the Middle East, has become the first country in the Middle East to permit the construction of a temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In Uzbekistan, steps have been taken to improve its record on religious freedom, and those steps continue. I had a great chat with religious leaders where I was there earlier this year.
We documented no police raids of unregistered religious group meetings during 2019, compared with 114 such raids in 2018, and 240 – 240 the year before that. These are great strides, real progress, the efforts of our State Department team showing or bearing fruit.
But there’s also a great darkness over parts of the world where people of faith are persecuted or denied the right to worship:
The Nicaraguan Government harasses and intimidates religious leaders and worshipers and desecrates religious spaces, often using proxies.
In Nigeria, ISIS and Boko Haram continue to attack Muslims and Christians alike. ISIS beheaded 10 Christians in that country just this past December.
And in China, state-sponsored repression against all religions continues to intensify. The Chinese Communist Party is now ordering religious organizations to obey CCP leadership and infuse communist dogma into their teachings and practice of their faith. The mass detentions of Uighurs in Xinjiang continues. So does the repression of Tibetans and Buddhists and Falun Gong and Christians.
I commend the report released today to everyone. Its very existence is evidence of our strong resolve to defend human dignity.