Saturday, January 11, 2020

Iraq snapshot

January 11, 2020.  Iraqis journalists Ahmed Abdul Samad and Safaa Ghali are assassinated, the Committee to Protect Journalists decry the murder, THE NEW YORK TIMES is asking for anyone with information to please contact them, Iraqis turn out en mass to mourn Ahmed and Safaa, the US State Dept dispatches an official to the KRG (we speculate on why), and much more.

Iraqi crowds headed on Friday to the house of slain correspondent Ahmed Abdul Samad in Basra province, hours after he was killed along with his colleague, cameraman Safaa Ghali, by unknown assailants.

The protesters denounced his assassination and said provincial officials were responsible for unveiling the identity of the perpetrators.

[. . .]

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) denounced their murder and called for finding the perpetrators.

ASHARQ AL-AWSAT reports the above.  Ahmed Abdul Samad and Safaa Ghali's deaths have been noted at this site in the following:

While we've continued to note the deaths, others (Margaret Kimberley, CODESTINK, Michael Tracey, Aaron Mate, Medea Benjamin, Max Blumehtal and the rest) still haven't bothered.  They have registered that they're upset that they might be censored on FACEBOOK -- that possibility is apparently much more important than covering the assassinations of two reporters in Iraq.

Or the massive outrage in Iraq over these murders.

The Committee to Protect Journalism issued the following on Friday:

The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned the killing of two journalists working for the Iraqi broadcaster Dijlah TV, and urged Iraqi authorities to immediately open an investigation and hold those responsible to account.
Unknown gunmen today opened fire on a car carrying Dijlah TV reporter Ahmed Abdul Samad and camera operator Safaa Ghali, according to news reports and the journalists’ employer. They were covering protests in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, reports said.
“No journalist should have to fear for their safety or be singled out for attack over their coverage of protests,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “We call on the Iraqi authorities to immediately open an investigation into the killing of Ahmed Abdul Samad and Safaa Ghali and to do their utmost to ensure journalists can cover the protests freely and without fear of reprisal.”
A video posted on Dijlah TV’s website and widely circulated on social media shows Samad slumped in the passenger seat, with a bullet wound to the right side of his head. The video shows at least three bullet holes in the right front door of the car.
Ghali was taken to Basra General Hospital where he died shortly afterward, according to news reports and his employer. A report by the news website Al-Mirbad said that Ghali had three bullet wounds in the chest.
A few hours prior to his death, Samad posted a video on his Facebook account criticizing how Iraqi security forces arrested protesters in Basra but did not arrest or beat those protesting in front of the U.S. Embassy. Dijlah TV also posted undated footage of Samad interviewing protesters on its social media accounts.
Hundreds of people have been killed since the start of protests across Iraq in October over a lack of basic services, unemployment, and government corruption, according to the Independent High Commission for Human Rights of Iraq.
CPJ documented how on November 12, Iraq’s media regulator, the Communications and Media Commission, ordered the shutdown of Dijlah TV, which is based in Amman, Jordan, and seven other outlets, and Iraqi security forces on November 26 implemented that order by raiding the Baghdad office of Diljah TV.

At least two other Iraqi journalists have been killed since the beginning of the protests in Iraq on October 1, according to CPJ research.

The US Embassy in Baghdad issued the following:

Office of the Spokesperson
January 11, 2020

The United States Condemns the Assassination of Ahmed Abdul Samad

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad strongly denounces the deplorable and cowardly assassination of Jijla TV correspondent Ahmed Abdel Samad  and cameraman Safaa Ghali in Basra last night.  The ongoing assassinations, kidnappings, harassment, and intimidation of members of the press, social media activists, and pro-reform activists in Iraq by armed groups cannot continue to go unpunished.

The Iraqi government is responsible for upholding the right to freedom of expression, protecting journalists, and ensuring that peaceful activists can practice their democratic rights without fear of reprisal. This can only happen if the perpetrators are found and brought to justice.

Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are the cornerstones of a democratic society.  Respecting and upholding these rights is fundamental to the protection and promotion of democracy.

Their 'crime' was covering the protests. 

The is investigating the killing of two Iraqi journalists on Friday, January 10, in Basra. Journalist Ahmed Abdul Samad and photographer Safaa Ghali. Do you have any information about the incident? Or reliable photo/video evidence? Please reach out.

They covered the ongoing, months long protests that people like Margaret Kimberley can't even give a reTweet to.  Months long and they've never bothered to note the Iraqi people taking to the streets and demanding control of their own country and demanding self-determination. 

“No to Iran, no to America” say signs and chants in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square as crowds start to swell. Protesters say they are fed up of their country being someone else’s battlefield. “We deserve to live in peace,” says 21 year old Zahraa.

Cries of Iran and the US out of Iraq?  Yes, they were made yesterday but they've been made all along going back to September 30th and October 1st.  This has always been part of the demands the protesters have made. 

Along with assassination, hearing of protestors pulled off buses by security forces and beaten so badly some have been hospitalized. government still seems to believe protestors are the problem.

  1.   Retweeted
    : Hundreds mourn Al-Dijla reporter Ahmed Abdessamad & cameraman Safaa Ghali, shot dead Friday after covering anti-govt protests - via
  2. Honestly one of the bravest jobs in the world right now is to be an Iraqi journalist. Ahmed Abdul Samad and his cameraman Safaa Ghali were shot dead in their car in Basra right after Ahmed broadcast a video accusing militias of arresting activists. RIP
  3.   Retweeted
    Grateful tonight for my hardworking, superstar colleague . Few people see the hard yards that Iraqi reporters put in to bring us the news, and he is the best in the business.
  4.   Retweeted
    Ahmed Abdulsamad, journalist from Basra, was killed today 3 hours after posting a video accusing the militias arresting journalists for covering , his name in my phone index is “Ahmed Basra” because whenever I need something regarding Basra news I used to call him.

We're going to note this Tweet.

Y’day’s poorly worded State Dept statement was a deliberate and reiterated reminder (threat) to Iraqi PM: US partnership is not a menu for Iraqis to select from but a package. Kicking out US military comes with costs, including financial, as per today WSJ.

That's a judgment call.  I happen to agree with it -- it may or may not be correct.  I'm noting it and specifically not noting the nonsense the same man has been putting on Twitter that Michael R. Gordon and others have been noting and pushing.  The Strategic Framework Agreement?  No, you idiot, it's the DoD Memo of Understanding.  Not the 2008 SFA, the 2012 DoD MoU.  What an idiot.  Did anything replace that 2012 memo?

I don't know if Donald Trump's done anything but when I was saying a new SOFA was needed to justify Barack Obama's sending large numbers of US troops into Iraq in the summer of 2014, I was told the DoD MoU was more than enough.  I was told that by various members of the administration including one who's seeking the Democratic Party's presidential nomination currently. 

So I have no idea what that man keeps insisting that the 2008 SFA is what US troops are operating under in Iraq. 

The 2012 DoD MoU is the agreement between the US government and the Iraqi government that was put in place after the drawdown of US troops at the end of 2011.  That is the document that Barack and others insisted would allow and protect US troops. 

I thought a new SOFA was needed.  I still think it should have been in place.

But apparently the Obama administration disagreed.  If Donald Trump hasn't replaced it with anything, then it's the only thing still in place.

Why does it matter?

Anyone paying attention would realize that the exit aspect is dependent upon which document is being utilized.

In the 2008 documents negotiated by Bully Boy Bush's people?  A request for US troops could be made by the Iraqi government.  But that didn't result in an immediate departure.

Maybe that's while Michael Gordon keeps promoting this man's Tweets that insist the 2008 SFA is the guiding document and not the 2012 MoU?

Drop back to the April 30, 2013 snapshot:

December 6, 2012, the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department Defense of the United States of America was signed.  We covered it in the December 10th and December 11th snapshots -- lots of luck finding coverage elsewhere including in media outlets -- apparently there was some unstated agreement that everyone would look the other way.  It was similar to the silence that greeted Tim Arango's September 25th New York Times report which noted, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions.  At the request of the Iraqi government, according to [US] General [Robert L.] Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."

The MoU link no longer works at DoD, I've been informed in e-mails.  Does not surprise me, it was the previous administration.  Go to the December 10th and December 11th snapshots in the link.  Per the MoU, amendments could be filed to it if necessary.  Per the MoU, it should have expired or been renewed in 2017.  Was it?

Hold on, I forgot Leon spoke of the MoU until a friend on the phone just reminded me. I'm not going back and changing the above, I want to be done with this.
Here's then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta noting the MoU (here for the snapshot it appeared in back in real time):

Under the auspices of the Strategic Framework Agreement, the Governments of the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq reaffirmed their commitment to an enduring strategic partnership during the second meeting of the Defense and Security Joint Coordination Committee on December 5-6, 2012 in Baghdad.
The meetings held at the Iraqi Ministry of Defense were co-chaired by Iraqi Defense Minister Saadoun Al-Dlimi, the U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Miller, and the Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller.
Defense and Security Cooperation is one of the cooperation areas that were agreed upon in the Strategic Framework Agreement signed in 2008 between the United States Government and the Government of the Republic of Iraq in order to strengthen cooperation in areas of mutual interest for the two countries.
The United States and Iraq discussed efforts to continue strengthening their security cooperation, enhance Iraq's defense capabilities, modernize Iraq's military forces, and facilitate both countries' contributions to regional security. The two delegations explored U.S.-Iraq training opportunities and Iraq's participation in regional exercises.
The United States and Iraq also discussed the strong and growing foreign military sales program, a symbol of the long-term security partnership envisioned by both countries. The United States stated its support for Iraq's efforts to meet its defense and security needs.
Both delegations reviewed regional security issues. They exchanged views on the conflict in Syria and its effects on regional stability, with both sides urging an end to the violence and support for a political transition that would represent the will of the Syrian people. The two sides agreed to continue consulting closely on regional security matters.
The capstone event was the exchange of a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Defense Minister Saadoun Al-Dlimi and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. This agreement represents the enduring strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq, and provides mechanisms for increased defense cooperation in areas including defense planning, counterterrorism cooperation, and combined exercises.
Finally, the United States and the Republic of Iraq committed to convene a third recurring Defense and Security Cooperation Joint Coordination Committee meeting in Washington, D.C., during 2013 to continue discussions on the enduring security and military cooperation between the two countries.

Maybe the reason War Hawks like Michael R. Gordon are ignoring the MoU is because of this sentence in the MoU: "Either Participant may discontinue this MOU at any time, though the Participant should endeavor to provide advance notice of its intent to discontinue the MOU to the other Participant."

It matters.  Jennifer Hansler, Kylie Atwood, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Caroline Kelly (CNN) report:

State Department officials on Friday made clear that the United States does not intend to withdraw troops from Iraq, despite requests from that country's leadership to establish a mechanism to do so.
The statements are the latest in the back and forth between US and Iraqi officials on the question of continued US troop presence in Iraq -- a question that has broad implications for issues of security and sovereignty in the region.
Moreover, the public posturing on the matter points to the tensions that remain in the wake of the US killing of a top Iranian military commander on Iraqi soil last week and the uncertain road ahead for the Trump administration's approach to relations with Iraq.
In a statement Friday, Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi's office said he had requested in a call Thursday with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the US send representatives to Iraq to discuss mechanisms for the withdrawal of US troops. The Iraqi Prime Minister also complained that "there are American forces entering Iraq and American drones in its sky without permission from the Iraqi government, and that this is violation of the agreements between the two countries," the statement said.

Pompeo goes on to cite the Islamic State -- combating it -- as part of the reason for the current US presence in Iraq.  Has he been briefed to cite that?  The Obama administration would have told you that the DoD MoU was the legal document permitting US troops to fight ISIS.

That document is done in the final month of 2012.  The 2008 exit clauses tend states that they must notify the other -- Iraq or US declares an end to the agreement -- and then we're looking at 12 months for departure if this week's notification is seen as official.  That's the 2008 documents. That's not in the MoU. 

It's a key detail.  The 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement precedes that MoU meaning the MoU is the ruling document.  Was it renewed in 2017?  That's a very key question.

The Iraqi government -- as represented by outgoing prime minister Adl Abdul Mahdi -- wants US troops out of Iraq.  If that request has officially been made and officially recognized, we need to know what the ruling document is because that would govern any departure.  There is no option in the MoU where US forces could stay for a year from the request to leave.  That's not true of the 2008 documents -- and the SOFA and the SFA were signed together and are complimentary and interlocking documents.  It does matter what the governing contract is on departure.

Now let's do conjecture.  I'm noting this is all speculation.  I'm on the phone with two friends from Barack's administration.  We have been gaming out what may be taking place in Iraq right now as the US sent an official to Kurdistan today.  The protesters most significant victory has been forcing prime minister Adl Abdul Mahdi to resign.

Generally when the US government goes to Kurdistan, they do so to betray.  So are they trying to rope in Kurdish support for Mahdi to be prime minister despite resigning?  That would be a huge stab in the back to the Iraqi people.  He can't continue as prime minister without significant support and he doesn't have it now. 

If the US government brokered a deal with Mahdi for continuing on as prime minister, what could Mahdi give them?  Continued presence in Iraq. 

That's my biggest fear -- the abandoning of the Iraqi people yet again.  Again, that's conjecture, that's speculation.

The US government is trying to block any expulsion of US troops, that's not speculation. 

End the Fed...and the Iraq War!

The U.S. will not negotiate a withdrawal of troops from Iraq even after the country's parliament voted to expel foreign forces, Sec. Mike Pompeo says, even challenging an Iraqi readout of his call with the prime minister on the subject.

This is reality, from the US State Dept:

Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker traveled to Erbil and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) January 9 and 10 to discuss recent incendiary Iranian actions in the region that necessitated President Trump’s decision to take defensive action to protect American lives. In Erbil, he met with Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) President Masoud Barzani, Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) President Nechirvan Barzani, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, Director of Zanyari Intelligence Agency Lahur Talabani, and former Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. In the UAE, Assistant Secretary Schenker met with Iraqi Parliament Speaker Halbousi as well as the UAE Minister of State Anwar Gargash.
In each of his meetings, the Assistant Secretary made clear that the United States does not seek war and remains committed to de-escalation. He emphasized that the Coalition military presence in Iraq was solely aimed at continuing the fight against ISIS. The Assistant Secretary also discussed the reformist protests and their legitimate demands in the face of Iran-ordered attempts to suppress peaceful protests through lethal violence, and thanked the Iraqi, Kurdish, and Emirati people for their support and enduring friendship.

For updates on Assistant Secretary Schenker, follow him on Twitter @NEAPressOffice.

Now while the three of us have been speculating on the phone, the second possibility we discussed at length was this: The US government is getting permission from the KRG to move US troops there.  It would keep US troops in northern Iraq despite the objections from Baghdad.  I've noted before this week that the KRG shielded Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi from Baghdad when thug Nouri al-Maliki was lying that Tareq was a terrorist.  Under the same semi-autonomy, they could house all the troops currently in Iraq in the KRG.  What would happen to the KRG if they did this?

Baghdad would withhold monies.  Could the US government to replace those monies?  Absolutely and Baghdad would also be forced -- by various laws in place -- to eventually resume paying the monies owed to the KRG.

Now that's our speculation on two possible reasons for today's meet-up.  There could be any number of reasons -- and none that would threaten the Iraqi people.  But based on what's going on currently and the US government's past history, those are the two possibilities that seem most likely.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani had a statement on Friday (as he does each Friday):

Here's one interpretation of al-Sistani's remarks:

The following sites updated: