Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Idiotic Susan Rice



the unqualified susan rice

 

From November 25, 2012, it's "The Idiotic Susan Rice."  


C.I. noted:


US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice explains, "I broke my silence last week to prevent a moratorium on the death penalty and to explain and insist I just repeated to the American people what I was told to say about Benghazi.  See, I'm more comfortable campaigning for Secretary of State in my 'I'm with stupid' t-shirt and my dunce camp.  U-S-Something!  U-S-Something!"  This is one of two comics Isaiah will have today.  Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.


Sometimes a visual comes after the fact.

This is a talky comic.  I wish it wasn't.  But that's all I could come up with.

After I started it, I thought of a dunce cap and then the t-shirt which make the comic for me.


Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"



Saturday, May 16, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the State Dept lies about what KRG President Massoud Barzani said during his DC trip last week, the US House of Representatives passes the National Defense Authorization,  Ramadi is being lost but the White House seems unconcerned, we look at the targeting of Sunnis, and much more.



Monday, Finance Minister Rafe al-Assawi and the Governor of Nineveh Province Atheel al-Nuajaif (brother of Iraqi Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi) were hosted at a Brookings Institution event which was moderated by Kenneth Pollack.  We've covered the event in the Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday  and Thursday snapshots.  We'll continue the coverage today.



Kenneth Pollack:  As you are painfully and personally aware, one of the problems with the current federal system is that we've had a corruption of the justice process and key Sunni leaders -- again, present company included --  have been targeted by the central government using that judicial system.  How would you think about a future Iraqi system that would prevent that from happening?  How do we go about creating an Iraq in which you and Tareq al-Hashemi [Iraqi Vice President whom Nouri al-Maliki swore out an arrest warrant and who was tried in absentia despite Constitutional protections preventing that] and Ahmed al-Alwani [Ramadi MP whose home Nouri ordered a military attack on during a dawn December 2013 morning -- the raid left several people dead -- including al-Alwani's brother -- al-Alwani has since been convicted to death by the 'impartial' and 'fair' and 'legal' Baghdad court system] and others can't be personally targeted by this system.



Former Minister Rafe al-Assawi:  And it depends upon Iraqis.  All Iraqis -- Shi'ites, Sunis, Kurds, Muslims, Christians -- whether to live together in a united Iraq, to respect these designations of authorities.  Now for sure there is interferences in the judicial system.  American -- and you, Ken -- can help a lot to restore.  Everything needs to be restored.  Everything is damaged.  So you have to restructure damaged Iraq -- as I indicated in my presentation -- PowerPoint.  So restoring Iraq again means you have to build again. On the corruption side -- which is really in the security and non-security institutions -- part of this is totally controlled by militia.  So money create militia and militia took money.  And it is a vicious circle.  That's why I said the challenge is to restore back again the state.  So it depends on how serious are Iraqis -- including me and my colleagues -- to rebuild Iraq?  Otherwise, if everyone keep only observing's Iraq's burning, saying 'this is not my job,' or  we only keep beating others for participation or giving promises without implementation we will not move any step.



Kenneth Pollack:  Governor, anything you'd like to add on the judicial system?



Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi:  I think that the corruption and all that problems may be solved easier if we are near to the people, not farther away from the people.  Now with controlling everything from Baghdad, they have no interest, no concern what happen in Mosul [which the Islamic State took control of last June] or in Anbar [which the Islamic State controls part of] -- what the people of Anbar want.  They want to found Mosul and Anbar, they want them to belong to them, not follow the problems or the corruption in their cities.  And that's what happened in Mosul exactly before the collapse of Mousl.  The corruption in the army is too much but Baghdad, they didn't care with that corruption, they care that the Mosul people must belong to them.  So I think dividing the authorities as I said [he spoke of the need for a model similar to the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government -- while al-Assawi noted that the division of powers is in the Constitution but it is not being followed] and we can see the KRG as a model, dividing the authorities.  Even if there is a problem between some of the Kurdish leaders and Baghdad, there is no real problems that can't be solved, no problems inside their autonomy.




Anbar Province was noted in the discussion.  Last month, Haider al-Abadi ordered the start of the assault on Ramadi, a key city in the province.  The assault has not gone well by any measure -- including the civilians left wounded and terrorized.

Ramadi was a topic in Friday's State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Jeff Rathke.




QUESTION: Yeah. Jeff, do you have any reaction to the advances made by ISIS today in Ramadi in Iraq?


MR RATHKE: Right. Well, in conjunction with Anbari tribal forces, Iraqi Security Forces have been confronting ISIL fighters in Ramadi and around Anbar province for several months. Today, ISIL is once again attempting an offensive in the city of Ramadi. I don’t have a battlefield update to provide, but I would highlight that the coalition is supporting Iraqi Security Forces to help protect the citizens of Anbar province and to support their efforts to force ISIL from Ramadi and other cities. We continue to provide targeted air support in ISIL-held and contested areas, and that includes numerous airstrikes in Ramadi today. But as for the status on the ground, I would refer you to the Iraqi Government for their update. And about – for the details of U.S. military support, my colleagues at the Pentagon can share more detail.


QUESTION: And do you consider what happened as a blow for the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi forces?



MR RATHKE: Well, look, we’ve said before that there will be good days and bad days in Iraq. ISIL’s trying to make today a bad day in Ramadi. We’ve said all along we see this as a long-term fight in conjunction with our Iraqi partners against ISIL. We are confident that Iraqi forces with support from the coalition will continue to push back ISIL where they’ve tried to gain advantages on the ground. So our policy and our engagement remains the same.



QUESTION: So is it the U.S.’s view that Ramadi is falling to ISIL, is under ISIL control, or would you say that it’s contested?



MR RATHKE: Well, I would – I’m not in a position to confirm reports that – I know there have been several reports out there – about the situation in the city center. I’d refer you, again, to the Iraqis for up-to-date information. We have said in the past that Ramadi is and the areas around it have been contested for months, and – but as to the situation in Ramadi right now, we’re working with the Government of Iraq to get a clearer picture of the situation.

Yeah.


QUESTION: (Inaudible) consider keeping Ramadi out of ISIS’s control a strategic priority, or is this going to be like Kobani where it’s not a strategic priority unless you win, and then it becomes a strategic priority?



MR RATHKE: Well, no. I think what we said about Kobani was that it was a strategic priority for ISIL. So – but anyway, to switch back to --



QUESTION: Do you consider this – yeah.



MR RATHKE: Yeah.



QUESTION: Do you consider this a strategic priority for the anti-ISIL coalition and for the Iraqis that this does not become an ISIL stronghold?



MR RATHKE: Well, this is a fight that’s being led by the Iraqis, so it’s the Iraqi Government’s job to set priorities. So that would be their – it’s their country and they need to set those priorities and we support them. Clearly, Ramadi is important and it’s a large city. It’s been contested for some time. And Anbar province – we’ve talked a lot about other actions in Anbar province in recent weeks and months, so Anbar is important, Ramadi is important. I’m not going to place labels on them to try to suggest a prioritization.



QUESTION: You – this building and this Administration has been a leader in creating a global anti-ISIL coalition.



MR RATHKE: Certainly.



QUESTION: Do you consider it important that they – that ISIL not gain what would be a significant victory here? I mean, are you --



MR RATHKE: No, I’ve just said Ramadi is important. I agree with you. But what I --



QUESTION: But are you willing to tell the people of Ramadi, the civilians in Ramadi, “We will not let this city fall”?


MR RATHKE: Well, again, we are – our approach in Iraq is to support the Iraqi forces as well as the tribal forces and all the forces who are fighting against ISIL under the command and control overall of the Iraqi central government. So we – that commitment remains and we are going to continue that support, and that’s not going to change.



QUESTION: Jeff, on this --



MR RATHKE: Yes.



QUESTION: -- do you consider that the Iraqi Government bears some responsibility in the falling of Ramadi since they didn’t provide the tribes and the Sunni militia the arms that they asked for or they need?



MR RATHKE: Well, first of all, this – I’m not going to start from the assumption that the city has fallen. I’m not issuing that judgment from this podium. With regard to the outreach to the Sunni tribes, this has been a priority for Prime Minister Abadi. He and other senior Iraqi government officials have been reaching out to the tribes to bridge differences and to build trust. We know there’s a lot of history there to be overcome and Prime Minister Abadi has been working continuously to address that.

So in broader terms, taking a step back from Ramadi, we have been encouraged by the Iraqi Government’s efforts to enlist and to arm tribal fighters in the campaign. They’ve been building on the thousands of Sunni fighters who have joined the popular mobilization forces, as they call them, over the past six months. I would highlight as well that the Anbar governor just last week held a ceremony to induct about a thousand more tribal fighters. So these units are going to be working with and coordinating with the Iraqi army. Prime Minister Abadi last month visited Anbar and delivered weapons to Sunni tribes. Of course, there are more efforts to organize and to arm the Sunnis and to integrate them; those who want to fight ISIL will be needed in the coming months. This is a long-term effort, so – and – but we will continue to support the Iraqi Government in that effort.


QUESTION: But – one follow-up on this.



MR RATHKE: Yes.



QUESTION: Did you consider that the Iraqi Government is fulfilling its commitment regarding the Sunni tribes, first? And is – or will the U.S. provide the Sunni arms directly without passing the Iraqi Government?



MR RATHKE: Well, our policy on arms transfers to Iraq is – remains the same. We – all of those arms transfers are coordinated through the Iraqi central government. That’s not going to change. And as I said, Prime Minister Abadi has made it a priority to reach out to the Sunni population in particular in Anbar, and so we support those efforts.

Namo, go ahead.


QUESTION: We have seen little progress in Prime Minister Abadi’s outreach to the Sunnis, because – I mean, if you just look at the cities and towns that have been falling to ISIS in Iraq, almost all of them have been Sunni towns. It’s predominately Sunni towns. Does that – what does that tell us? Does that – doesn’t that tell us that the Iraqi army, which is basically a predominately Shia army, is unwilling to protect Sunni areas? Or doesn’t that also tell us that Prime Minister Abadi has failed in his outreach toward – to the Sunnis? Because they have been demanding weapons and also some equipment that they need to defend themselves.



MR RATHKE: Well, and the Iraqi Government has been providing it. So they --



QUESTION: But they have failed.



MR RATHKE: No, but – I wouldn’t accept that characterization. The prime minister has been reaching out. He has made the commitments to enlist and to arm tribal fighters. And those aren’t just the commitments on paper, they’ve been happening. I was just talking about some of the most recent steps in answer to Michel’s question. And so in addition to his personal engagement in Anbar, there was just last week an induction of another thousand tribal fighters. So yes, more efforts are needed but Prime Minister Abadi has focused on this and he continues to pursue that.



That is Jeff Rathke and the State Dept's opinion.

It is not fact and should not be mistaken for fact.

The Congress begs to differ.

And too bad for the State Dept, Congress can cut off funding.

Now the White House and the State Dept can go around Congress if Congress cuts off funding -- the White House and the State Dept can do that by (a) breaking the law, (b) creating a Constitutional crisis and (c) courting impeachment of US President Barack Obama.

If they choose to pursue that, it will certainly liven up the remainder of Lame Duck Obama's final term in office.

Congress' opinion on the matter can be found below:







(l)
Requirements relating to assistance for fiscal year 2016
(1)
Assessment
(A)
In general
Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this subsection, the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State shall jointly submit to the appropriate congressional committees an assessment of the extent to which the Government of Iraq is meeting the conditions described in subparagraph (B).
(B)
Conditions
The conditions described in this subparagraph are that the Government of Iraq—
(i)
is addressing the grievances of ethnic and sectarian minorities;
(ii)
is increasing political inclusiveness;
(iii)
is conducting efforts sufficient to reduce support for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and improve stability in Iraq;
(iv)
is legislating the Iraqi Sunni National Guard;
(v)
is ensuring that minorities are represented in adequate numbers, trained, and equipped in government security organizations;
(vi)
is ending support to Shia militias and stopping abuses of elements of the Iraqi population by such militias;
(vii)
is ensuring that supplies, equipment, and weaponry supplied by the United States are appropriately distributed to security forces with a national security mission in Iraq, including the Kurdish Peshmerga, Sunni tribal security forces with a national security mission, and the Iraqi Sunni National Guard;
(viii)
is releasing prisoners from ethnic or sectarian minorities who have been arrested and held without trial or to charge and try such prisoners in a fair, transparent, and prompt manner; and
(ix)
is taking such other actions as the Secretaries consider appropriate.
(C)
Update
The Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State may submit an update of the assessment required under subparagraph (A) to the extent necessary.
(D)
Submission
The assessment required under subparagraph (A) and the update of the assessment authorized under subparagraph (C) may be submitted as part of the quarterly report required under subsection (d).
(2)
Restriction on direct assistance to Government of Iraq
If the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State do not submit the assessment required by paragraph (1) or if the Secretaries submit the assessment required by paragraph (1) but the assessment indicates that the Government of Iraq has not substantially achieved the conditions contained in the assessment, the Secretaries shall withhold the provision of assistance pursuant to subsection (a) directly to the Government of Iraq for fiscal year 2016 until such time as the Secretaries submit an update of the assessment that indicates that the Government of Iraq has substantially achieved the conditions contained in the assessment.
(3)
Direct assistance to certain covered groups
(A)
In general
Of the funds authorized to be appropriated under this section for fiscal year 2016, not less than 25 percent of such funds shall be obligated and expended for assistance directly to the groups described in subparagraph (E) (of which not less than 12.5 percent of such funds shall be obligated and expended for assistance directly to the group described in clause (i) of such subparagraph).
(B)
Additional direct assistance
If the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State withhold the provision of assistance pursuant to subsection (a) directly to the Government of Iraq for fiscal year 2016 in accordance with paragraph (2) of this subsection, the Secretaries shall obligate and expend not less than an additional 60 percent of all unobligated funds authorized to be appropriated under this section for fiscal year 2016 for assistance directly to the groups described in subparagraph (E).
(C)
Cost-sharing requirement inapplicable
The cost-sharing requirement of subsection (k) shall not apply with respect to funds that are obligated or expended for assistance directly to the groups described in subparagraph (E).
(D)
Rule of construction
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the groups described in subparagraph (E) shall each be deemed to be a country for purposes of meeting the eligibility requirements of section 3 of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2753) and chapter 2 of part II of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2311 et seq.).
(E)
Covered groups
The groups described in this subparagraph are—
(i)
the Kurdish Peshmerga;
(ii)
Sunni tribal security forces with a national security mission; and
(iii)
the Iraqi Sunni National Guard.



That's Sec. 1223 of H.R. 1735 which passed the House on Friday (it remains a bill, the Senate has to pass their version) on a vote with 269 members supporting it (41 were Democrats) and 151 opposing it (143 were Democrats) while 12 members elected not to vote.


Wow, there is widespread Democratic opposition to this Iraq proposal.

No.

The Iraq issue is the least controversial element of the bill (well the changes related to the registration and tracking of sex offenders is probably the section that has the most support from Democrats and Republicans, but after that, Iraq's the least controversial).

If you're not grasping that, Democrats are noting publicly their problems with the bill.  Leo Shane III (Military Times) reports, "House lawmakers on Friday approved a $612 billion defense authorization bill for next year despite objections from Democratic leaders and a White House veto threat over plans to skirt spending caps with oversized temporary war funds."


That makes me laugh.

For two reasons.

First, I've been at these hearings, Armed Services Comittee hearings, and heard Democrats and Republicans on the Committee -- both sides -- insist that the military must be sacrosacnt and not part of the sequestration (automatic cuts) and blah, blah, blah.



And, for the record, in the Veterans Affairs Comittee hearings (House and Senate), we hear the same statements, the automatic cuts should not effect the VA.

Every committee works to protect its own turf.

And now Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader, is objecting to fudging numbers because . . . she thinks sequestration should just be eliminated when it comes to the military.

More money flows to the DoD than any other element in the budget but Nancy is opposed to cut being implemented on Defense.

Once upon a time, Americans believed in a thing called  "shared sacrifice."

Meaning we all share in the cuts equally.

But they don't want to do that -- it's not full of the high drama Congress and the White House count on.

It's like the issue of the homeless in America.

Congress doesn't give a damn.

Unless it's veterans.

If it's veterans homeless, oh, let's talk, let's do, let's fund.

But the American citizens that Congress is supposed to represent -- all citizens, not just veterans?

They don't give a damn.

Nor does Barack.

He's promised that veterans homelessness ends this year.

Well bully for him.

But when does the US government ever intend to end homelessness in America?

The crisis exploded during Ronald Reagan's two terms as president.

And he's more or less blamed for it.

But Ronald Reagan's not only out of the White House, he's dead.

What prevented George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Bully Boy Bush and now Barack Obama from seriously addressing this issue and ending homelessness in America?

The only thing that stopped them was a lack of caring.

(HW is infamous for stepping over the sleeping homeless while leaving various DC eateries.)


Paul Kane (Washington Post) offers that "Democrats largely opposed the measure Friday because of their demands for new negotiations to set up different spending limits on defense and non-defense agencies that were imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act."


I hope that's clear enough for everyone.

The second reason I laugh?

The Iraq measure in the bill was supposed to be so controversial.

It is to the White House but it's not to Congress -- not to Congressional Democrats, not to Congressional Republicans.



Well they bellowed, and they hollered
And they threw each other down
Down in this valley
This cruel and lovely valley
Oh it should have been an alley
In some low down part of town
-- "Memorial Day," written by Carly Simon, first appears on her album Spy



And didn't they, though?


Didn't the press -- mirroring the White House -- because goodness forbid they come up with their own behavior -- insist that this was wrong, so wrong, so wrong?

Didn't they tell you that this Iraq section was going to be rethought?  And maybe pulled from the bill?

Didn't happen.

Never was going to happen.

And only idiots who hadn't attended Congressional hearings would have bought and/or promoted that nonsense.

It passed.

And it's not the source of Democratic objections.

Even the White House has sat its wild ass down on this matter realizing that they never had a chance at turning Congressional opinion on that in the first place but certainly not after certain thugs in Iraq -- thugs in the Iraqi government -- thought they could publicly threaten harm to the United States?

Congress is many things.  Arrogant to be sure.  But it's not a weak-willed president desperate to cave and remain silent in the face of threats from another country.

More than anything else, those threats solidified support in the House for this already popular provision.


So the Democrats are bothered that, to avoid spending caps, the bill ups the temporary expendiatures.



Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) reports 62 people were killed across Iraq on Friday.


She forgets that the bill we noted above includes arming the Sunnis.





Back to Friday's State Dept press briefing:

QUESTION: Just one question about the Erbil-Baghdad.

MR RATHKE: Yeah. I think we’re going to need to move on. So yes --


QUESTION: Just one quick question about the Erbil-Baghdad. Because the – over the past couple of days, that oil deal that the United States has been praising for quite a few – quite a while as a successful deal seemed to have come to the edge of collapse, with the Kurdish leaders accusing Baghdad of having failed to abide by the terms of the agreement. And even the prime minister of the Kurdish region said they are going to take independent steps if Baghdad fails to implement that deal. What is your understanding of the deal between Erbil and Baghdad?


MR RATHKE: Mm-hmm. Well, we just had very good visits to Washington both by Prime Minister Abadi and the Iraqi Kurdish Region President Barzani. One of the things that was discussed with them was the – were the important issues facing Iraq. And we understand that Baghdad and Erbil remain committed to seeking implementation of the deal. We continue to urge both sides to work together toward resolving the payments issue and fully implementing the agreement that was reached at the end of 2014. ISIL is the main threat, and we continue to encourage the central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to work together to fight against ISIL and resolve those issues.





No, Jeff Rathke, that's what the administration 'understands.'

It's the lie they repeat.

And KRG President Massoud Barzani was very clear in his public appearances that not only are Kurds not getting weapons, not only is Baghdad not honoring their public promise from last December re: oil revenues, but they are also not receiving their portion of the federal budget.

That's a huge deal.

But grasp that Iraq was unable to pass a budget for 2014.

So the KRG didn't get money then.

Rathke is less than honest in his remarks.

But he wouldn't work for the State Dept if he didn't know how to lie.






 



antiwar.com








Read on ...

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Grand Bargain





grand bargain


  

From November 18, 2012, that's "The Grand Bargain."  C.I. noted:


Barack makes his grand bargain and sells out the American people.   A man reduced to panhandling says, "I sure am glad Donald Trump is paying 1% more in taxes."  A woman wearing a barrel replies, "Yeah, it was totally worth losing Social Security for that."  Another man stands by the warmth of a trash can fire and asks, "Where are the jobs?"  Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.

Barack didn't get his way on that yet, but give him time.

He's a destroyer.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

 
Saturday, May 9, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the Barzani liars are exposed as the week comes to a close, we refute the claim that Haider al-Abadi's abuses must be ignored, and much more.


Deb Riechmann (AP) reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani declared "he had not backtracked on his request for the U.S. to bypass Baghdad and directly supply" the KRG with weapons.

What?

It's shocking . . . if you're a useless liar



That would be Huffington Post's  Akbar Shahid Ahmed who refused to rely Wednesday on what Barzani said because it was so much more 'fun' (if not journalistic) to go with what Ahmed really, really wanted Barzani to have said instead.

(See Wednesday's snapshot for what Barzani said as opposed to what liars like Akbar insisted Barzani meant or would have said or should have said.)


Friday,  Rudaw reported:

The United States has reassured Iraq’s Kurds they will have the weapons they need in the war with ISIS, promising the arms will continue to be expedited by Baghdad, a member of the Kurdish presidential delegation in Washington told Rudaw.The official, speaking to Rudaw on background and refusing to be named or directly quoted, said US officials had told Kurdish President Masoud Barzani’s delegation that Baghdad would be courting problems with Washington if it tried to delay weapons funneled to Erbil through the Iraqi central government.



Deb Riechmann quotes Barzani declaring the KRG and the Peshmerga have not seen "a bullet or a piece" of the many arms and weapons the White House has insisted the US government had to supply Iraq with to fight the Islamic State.

These are weapons that were supposed to be distributed by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds.

The one who lied, the one who failed?

That's Haider al-Abadi who has refused to arm anyone but the Shi'ites except for a few token items here and there.

That's the reality of the story.

That's the crux.

That's what it all boils down to.

But whores passing themselves off as journalists have bent over backwards to avoid that reality.

They've attacked the US House of Representatives instead.

They've lied and passed a bill that was voted out of Committee on a vote of 60 for and 2 against as a "Republican bill."

No, that's a bi-partisan bill.

And the fact that whores think they can get away with lying about that bill goes too how deeply troubled the US press truly is because it's decided since 2008 that they were an advocacy organization for then-Senator Barack Obama and not a functioning press.


The White House has refused to address what is going on in Iraq.

That's why the country's in shambles.

Bully Boy Bush invaded in 2003!

Yes, he did.

Is that going to be your excuse forever because you're really going to the well one time too many on that.

Bully Boy Bush is a War Criminal.

He's also out of office -- thank heaven for that and for the fact that he can never, ever occupy the Oval Office again.

Bully Boy Bush left the White House in January of 2009.

The country he (and the US Congress) attacked was not 'fixed' or 'safe' or maybe even 'better,' but it hadn't fallen apart to the extent that it has today.


The United States is supposed to stand for democracy.  It's supposed to stand for elections.

It gives lip service to the people having a say.

In 2010, Iraqis went to the polls and voted.  They did so in the face of violence.

They endured checkpoints, they endured threats, they endured making it to a polling station only to be told they couldn't vote there but had to go through checkpoints in the opposite direction and, did we mention, they did this in areas with bans on cars.

They did all of this to make their voice heard.

Few will ever go through so much to have a say in their government.

And for Barack Obama to overturn their votes is not a minor thing and Iraq falls apart as a result.

This was briefly touched on this week on The NewsHour (PBS) when Margaret Warner spoke with Emma Sky, author of  The Unraveling: High Hopes And Missed Opportunities In Iraq


MARGARET WARNER: But, in 2010, after quelling the Sunni-Shia civil war and al-Qaida, the Americans, Sky says, made a fateful mistake, throwing their weight Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki after he narrowly lost the 2010 election against a non-sectarian rival.



EMMA SKY: There was a sense of, do we uphold the election results or do we keep Maliki in power? And General Odierno was, we’re Americans, there’s been an election, we must uphold the results.
But there were others who thought, we know Maliki. He will give us a follow-on security agreement. So, that was the debate. And, unfortunately, Vice President Biden came down on the side of, there’s no one but al-Maliki, this is the quickest option, keep the status quo, and we can get an security agreement, and then just really disengage.


Nouri didn't keep the status quo, he made things much worse.  And the US didn't get the new Status Of Forces Agreement that Barack and Joe Biden just knew was going to happen.

The Iraq people?

They got four more years of a despot they voted to get rid of.

2009's provincial elections seemed to suggest that Iraq was resisting sectarianism and moving towards a national identity.  This was born out in the 2010 results.

This was something to encourage, something to foster.

Instead, Barack Obama ripped it apart.

Doing so, he didn't just saddle Iraq with four more years of thug Nouri, he destroyed hope and belief in the democratic process.

How are Iraqis to trust their own votes when they see Barack Obama overrule their intent?

And it only got worse.

To ram through a second term of Nouri, Barack orchestrated The Erbil Agreement.  Nouri didn't win a second term.  The legal contract gave him one -- in exchange for concessions on his part.

But Nouri refused to honor his written, contractual promises after he got his second term.

Which led political leaders -- including Ayad Allawi, Moqtada al-Sadr and Massoud Barzani -- to demand that he honor the contract.

When he refused, they moved for a no-confidence vote to remove Nouri.

This is a legal procedure, one outlined in the Iraqi Constitution.

And they met the legal requirements, they gathered the petition with enough signatures of MPs.

But Barack couldn't leave that alone, he had to have Nouri.  So, in the spring of 2012, pressure was brought on Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to bring a stop to the no-confidence vote.

Per the Constitution, the signed petition was handed to Jalal who then, in his ceremonial role as president, had only one duty: formally introduce it to Parliament.


Jalal insisted he needed to verify the signatures.

Not in the Constitution, but people indulged him.

Only he wasn't verifying.

Verifying is making sure the MP signed the petition.

Verifying is not browbeating the MP into saying they wouldn't sign it today.

Didn't matter if they'd sign it today or not, it mattered did they sign it.

But Jalal claimed enough had begged off to him that he was refusing to introduce the petition.

He then claimed a medical emergency and fled to Germany where he actually had elective surgery (on his knee).  Fate and karma don't like whores which is probably how, months later, Jalal had a massive heart attack and/or stroke and ended up in Germany again and how he'd never, ever serve another day as president and how, to this day, he's an invalid who requires 24 hour care.

All of this is Barack, none of this is Bully Boy Bush.


And if we want to tell the ugly truth -- let's tell the ugly truth.

The insipid and whorish US press couldn't have sold the myth of St. Barack as successfully as they did if a large number of the US public wasn't so desperate to believe in it.

How'd that work out for you anyway?

You've got a secret trade pack that sees Barack threatening members of Congress over.

You've got the continued illegal spying which has only increased under St. Barack.

You've got more wars than you did under Bully Boy Bush which includes the never-ending military (and, yes, combat) presence in Iraq.

You've got the war on whistle blowers.

And you didn't even get Medicare for all.  You didn't even get what FDR wanted to give the American people back in the 1940s.  Instead, you're shackled to corporations and if you're working poor you're screwed because you make too much for real assistance and you've have to purchase a policy with some ridiculous deductible like $6,000 before you see any benefits at all.  That's not universal health care and only a lying whore would pretend that it was.

But the US press pretended.


The left didn't get anything out of Barack's presidency. There are 19 more months left -- maybe that's when St. Barack begins delivering miracles.

But thus far, he's failed to live up to all the promises The Cult of St. Barack swore were coming.

What he did with Iraq?

He destroyed it.

In 2011, he could have stood with the Iraqi people as they hit the streets protesting.

He did not.

When Nouri began sending his goons into schools to tell Iraqi teenagers that gay men should be killed that they were vampires who would suck blood from the innocents, Barack could have stood up to the thug but he did not.

When Iraqi women and girls were being wrongly imprisoned by Nouri, Barack didn't stand up.

When Iraqi women and girls were being tortured and raped in Iraqi prisons and jails, Barack didn't stand up.

When Nouri's secret torture chambers were revealed by the press, Barack stayed silent.


When Nouri called peaceful protesters "terrorists," Barack said nothing.

When Nouri began targeting protesters, Barack said nothing.


Then came the major attack, the April 23, 2013 massacre of a sit-in in Hawija 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 toll increased to 53 dead.   UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).


And Barack said . . .

nothing.

Now the useless trash on Twitter obsessed with Dick Cheney or Bully Boy Bush can pretend they're focused on Iraq but they're not.

And the reality is that these types of people weren't misled by the press, they willingly followed the liars because they just didn't give a damn about Iraq.

They prove it by having a meaningless conversation about events ten years ago while refusing to focus on the factors the led Iraq to the current state today.

And this matters now more than ever.

Last month, I was at a hearing where various 'officials' think tankers explained to Congress that pressure couldn't be put on Haider al-Abadi to live up the human rights or even to distribute weapons fairly.


Tamara Cofman Wittes of Brookings,  the RAND Corporation's Dr. Seth Jones and the Institute for the Study of War's Jack Keane (who is a retired US General) are the ones I'm referring to and you can find coverage of that April 30th Congressional hearing in the May 2nd snapshot.


Instead of demanding accountability, these RAND, Brookings types insisted that Haider had to be indulged and challenged because, apparently, Iraq needs a thug and can only respect a thug.

Putting pressure on Haider to follow the law would risk weakening him.


If there's a bigger load of s**t delivered to Congress, I've failed to see it.

But, pay attention, this is what they said about Nouri.

This is why Nouri indulged throughout his second term as things in Iraq only worsened.

The same pack of lies that were used to justify looking the other way on Nouri's human rights abuses and War Crimes are now being used to cover for Haider al-Abadi.


If you care about Iraq and the Iraq people, you need to pay attention.

To right now, you need to pay attention.

You need to reject the notion that the US government can arm and financially aid a government led by a thug who attacks whole sections of the Iraqi population.

Long after Barack's out of office, future generations in the United States will talk about, for example, the Hawija massacre and denounce those Americans who stayed silent in real time, who refused to call it out.

Those on the left will, anyway.

That's what we do.

How could we have gotten in bed with _____?  How could we have looked the other way on ____?

What Nouri al-Maliki did, he did openly.

And The World Can't Wait was too busy attacking this film or that film to call out the slaughter of peaceful protesters.

What Haider's doing, he's doing openly.

There are no more excuses.

At this late date, if you're going to lie about Iraq for Barack at least admit it.


Massoud Barazni never denounced the moves of the US Congress to arm the KRG directly.

But that didn't stop a lot of 'reporters' from pretending otherwise this week.


Turning to violence,

Iraq jail riot leaves up to 50 prisoners and 12 police dead as dozens escape










And Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 149 violent deaths on Friday in Iraq with 81 more people left injured.



Lastly, David Bacon's latest book is The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration.  We'll close with this from Bacon's photo essay "Hard Labor In The Organic Potato Field" (gatronomica: the journal of critical food studies, Spring 2015):






Workers in the potato field bundle up against the sun and the heat.


By seven thirty in the morning it is already 80 degrees in a potato field in Lamont, in the southern San Joaquin Valley. By mid-afternoon here it will reach 107. The workers moving up and down the rows are not dressed in shorts and tank tops, though. They wear multiple layers of clothing, including long sleeves and, in the case of women, bandannas that cover their faces, leaving only their eyes visible.

Farmworkers know how to handle heat. They work in these intense conditions every day. ''Clothing is like insulation,'' says Evelina Arellano. ''It actually protects you. And if I didn't wear my bandanna, by the end of the day it would be hard to breathe because of the dust.'' [The names of the workers in the field have been changed-Ed.]

The rows are as long as two football fields, each a deep furrow next to a mound bearing the potato plants. Between the potatoes grow weeds, some spreading out next to the dirt and others growing as tall as the workers themselves. On this day in mid-June the farm labor crew is pulling the weeds.














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Read on ...

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Second Term



the second term



From November 7, 2012,  that's "The Second Term."  

C.I. noted: 

While Barack sleeps, Bill Clinton says, "He doesn't have a clue."  Ronald Reagan adds, "The second term is where they destroy you."  Tricky Dick Nixon adds, "Ain't that the truth."  While Bully Boy Bush says, "Hey guys, you forgot to invite me," causing Nixon to explain, "This was for the elected, not the selected, George."    Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.

You should pair that with the amazing "Let the fun begin (Ava and C.I.)" which was so great.

Barack's second term?

Not so great.



Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"



Saturday, May 2, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraq's Shi'ite leaders (and some Iraqi bloggers and Twitters) need to learn that the US government is not the Iraqi government and that Nouri may have bullied and bossed other branches around but Barack doesn't control the US Congress, the US Congress discusses Iraq and the Islamic State, they also discuss how Baghdad's not keeping its promise to supply Kurds and Sunnis with weapons and equipment, the US State Dept still can't acknowledge the execution of Iraqi journalist Thaer Ali and much more.



Eleven months ago, US President Barack Obama insisted that the only solution to Iraq's multitude of crises was "a political solution."

Eleven months ago.

And yet there is no progress on that.

And there has been no US government focus on that.

Barack has had officials in the administration -- Defense Dept, State Dept,  Vice President Joe Biden, etc -- focus on lining up other governments to join in bombing Iraq from the air and 'training' Iraqi forces.

Nothing has been done to aid a political solution or to press for one.


 "At the end of the day," Tamara Cofman Wittes declared Thursday, "civil wars end in only end in a couple of ways.  Either one side vanquishes and exterminates or expels the other or they fight to the point where an external power can help -- sometimes impose, sometimes negotiate -- a political solution -- and that's guaranteed by outside powers.  That's how civil wars typically end.  We wouldn't want the first outcome so we should be driving for the second.  And I think the extent to which the administration has articulated a longterm vision, that's its vision.  The question is: How do we get there?"

Dr. Wittes is with the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings.  She was testifying at the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.  Also appearing before the Subcommittee were the RAND Corporation's Dr. Seth Jones and the Institute for the Study of War's Jack Keane (who is a retired US General).  The Subcommittee Chair is Illeana Ros-Lehtinen and the Ranking Member is Ted Deutch.

Some people want to explore issues.

Let's start with one of those.


US House Rep Brian Higgins: We tried to do one thing in Iraq, and I think we could only do one thing in Iraq, and that is through our military involvement to create a place -- a breathing space -- within which Sunni, Shi'ites and Kurds could develop a political contract.  And they failed miserably. And the guy that we put in there, Nouri al-Maliki, we put him in there first, Iran put him in there the second time basically created another sectarian divide.


To be clear, Iran did not put Nouri in there for a second term.   Iran favored him but he was named prime minister of Iraq on November 11, 2010 -- over a month after Iran got Moqtada al-Sadr to drop his objection to Nouri's second term -- and one day after -- one day after -- the US-brokered Erbil Agreement giving Nouri a second term was signed -- I know Patrick Cockburn's repeated lies have misinformed many but check the archives, it's a day after the US-brokered contract giving Nouri a second term is signed that Nouri gets a second term

In fairness to  Patrick Cockburn, in October 2010, he reported on Iran strong arming support for Nouri.  And then Patrick did what worthless trash always does -- focus on something else.

When The Erbil Agreement was being finalized and signed?

He was off in Libya reporting on Libya.  Seven days later, he hopped over to Syria for two stories before going back to Libya. Then to Iran.  He never filed on Iraq the entire month -- though he did make time for Ireland and Greece.


The Parliament meets for the first time, a president is named, a Speaker of Parliament is named, Nouri is named prime minister-designate and Patrick never reports one word on Iraq.


Playing catch up some time later, he invents the lie that that Iran installed Nouri (The Erbil Agreement is what overturns the votes of the Iraqi people, not Iran -- and that was a White House led objective) and people believe him.  Largely because his clique -- including the increasingly sad Noam Chomsky (oh, the stories I could tell . . .) -- keeps insisting he's the best reporter on Iraq.


Of course, they don't pay attention to Iraq which is why they think he's so damn good.


Arabs in the region see him as anti-Arab, by contrast, and that's due to the fact that they pay attention to his shoddy and misleading 'reporting.'



None of that is a slam at Higgins but I am so tired, almost five years after The Erbil Agreement, of people still trying to pretend it doesn't exist or not knowing that it does.

Higgins explored.

Another member?


Showed their ass.


Lois Frankel is both a member of the US House of Representatives and a deeply disturbed person whose lack of ethics twist and turn, choking in on itself.  We may cover Lois at Third.  Hopefully, in the real world, someone will give her the counseling and/or meds she so desperately needs.


The issue is not my disagreeing with her opinion.  The issue is her disagreeing with her stated opinion about two minutes after she argues it only to turn around and argue the other side.  Not to be philosophical, please understand.  Just to try to absolve Barack Obama of any guilt for the state of Iraq currently.

She is a deeply disturbed person and, sadly, deeply dishonest as well.

(Deeply dishonest includes distorting what the general said.  She pulled words that he had not said out of thin air and accused him -- falsely -- of blaming America.  In his rebuttal, he noted that he had not blamed America but that, yes, American actions in the region were among the contributors to the violence.)

A multitude of opinions were offered throughout the hearing -- by members of the Subcommittee and by witnesses.  And you could agree with them or disagree with them or be apathetic.  But with Lois Frankel, you couldn't agree with her because, just as soon as you did, she was ripping apart her stated beliefs to argue something else.  Her district needs to look very closely at her statements -- which please remember, the last time we covered her, included her calling the American people stupid instead of attacking the media if she believed the American people had received the wrong message.


From the March 26th snapshot:


US House Rep Lois Frankel:  I have a couple of questions.  First relates to underlying conditions that led to the rise of ISIL.  Would you -- would you agree that ISIL is not the cause of the turmoil in the region but a symptom of a deeper problems?  And I'd like to get your opinion is it unstable governments, poverty, desperation, radical religion, what?  I'd like to get your take on that.  And secondly, I think the American public somehow thinks that you can simply get rid of ISIL by bombs or dropping -- or drones.  Could you just explain the difficulty of -- of their assimilation into the population, and so forth, the terrain.


Oh, that stupid American public!


A Congressional representative who makes a statement like that is one who should seriously be primary-ied and should she emerge from the Democratic Party primary still standing, let's hope a Green or a Republican can take her out of office because when you're using your soapbox to attack the very people who vote for you, you don't deserve a spot in the US Congress.

We should probably also note shrill and hysterical Gerry Connelly.  No doubt, he'll again blame his wife for his performance but he shows up in the final minutes of the hearing and goes on to attack a witness for what he thinks a witness said at the start of the hearing.

Gerry's attack is weak in every way.

But mainly because he yet again almost cried in the midst of it.

Is there a reason he's that unbalanced?

He spoke for maybe two minutes and he had to tear up.

I'm sorry, what's the deal with cry babies in Congress.

Now I've defended any woman or man's right to cry when they're discussing serious issues.

Gerry was not, as one did, noting his parent who had suffered under the VA.

Gerry was just trying to attack.

Maybe he was about to cry because his attack was failing?

Maybe he was about to cry because his tighty-whiteys were crawling up his ass?

Maybe he was crying because his running in to attack meant he missed the end of General Hospital?

I have no idea.

But if he can't hold it together for two minutes without crying, it may be time for his peers to suggest he get some counseling or for him to announce he's retiring from Congress.  He clearly has other things on his mind.


Let's go back to Thursday's hearing.


Brian Higgins: The second issue is the panel seemed to be dismissive of the sectarian nature of the conflict in Iraq and in Syria and I don't think it can be dismissed at all.  I mean, it amazes me.  General, you had made reference to Qaem Soleimani who heads the Quds forces in Iraq.  I mean, he's not only a tan -- He's not a tangential player in what's going on in Iraq today and Syria, he's there physically.  He's on the ground directing Shia militias to prop up the the Shia government in Iraq.  And there not doing that as a goodwill measure, they're doing that to ensure that in the aftermath of ISIS, that Iraq remains Shia. And one could argue that ISIS basically wants their country back, they want to re-establish Sunni dominance in Iraq.  And, you know, someone had said here -- it's a fair assertion -- that we should talk less to our enemies and more to our friends. We don't really have friends in that part of the world.  You know, there's the discussion when Americans are in the room and the discussion when Americans are not in the room.  And typically we count our friends as people whose interests are aligned with ours at any given time but they're not really helping us.  And it just seems that given everything that Americans have invested in towards peace in Iraq -- $25 billion dollars to build up, to help them build up an Iraqi army, security force, $25 billion dollars -- and their first test, they ran.  They ran from a fighting force of less than 31,000.  The Iraqi army at that time was estimated to be anywhere from 180,000 and 240,000 fighters.  And then we depend on our allies who have proven to be helpful to us, the Peshmerga, good fighters, experienced fighters, pro-Western, helped us in the early stages of the Iraq War. [. . .] Shi'ite militias?  Who are controlled directly by Qasem Soleimani.

I don't make a point to identify "this person is a Democrat!" or "this person is a Republican!"  If you're interested in party labels, look it up.  I'm more interested in what's being discussed.

But we will note that Higgins is a Democrat.

And we'll note that because, pay attention here, he's commenting on who the US is arming.

Not the Peshmerga, not the Sunnis.

Though certain Shi'ite politicians in Iraq would like to pretend that it is Republicans only who are disgusted with the Shi'ite controlled Baghdad government refusing to adequately share the weapons and equipment the US is supplying, that's not the case.

Higgins is on record in many hearings -- and he's not the only Democrat who is -- expressing dismay over the lack of help to the Sunnis and the Kurds.

The proposal that was voted out of the Armed Services Committee on Thursday -- which will now go to a vote by the full House -- was not about creating three governments in Iraq.

That is a lie.

It could have been a misunderstanding on day one.

But as certain Shi'ite politicians -- not all -- continue to insist that it splits Iraq into three governments, they're now lying.  There's been plenty of time to grasp reality.

What it would do is arm the Kurds and the Sunnis in addition to supplying Haider with weapons.

It would guarantee that what was supposed to happen -- the US was supplying all Iraqi forces with weapons to combat ISIS -- actually was happening.

Take it up with Haider al-Abadi who refused to do what he was supposed to.

Those weren't his personal gifts to give to Shi'ites.

Those were supposed to go to Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds.

And to certain bloggers and Tweeters in Iraq, you don't the US government.

The Congress can stop all weapons from going to Iraq.

You seem to think -- wrongly -- that Barack Obama is a King.

He is a public servant.

He heads the executive branch which is equal to the legislative branch and to the judicial branch.

Unlike thug Nouri, Barack doesn't control the US Parliament (Congress) or the Supreme Court.

And it is the US Congress that determines how much money (and weapons) Iraq will or will not get from the US.

If that's not clear enough to you, study up on  former US President Ronald Reagan and grasp that had he been in better health, he would have been impeached for going around the US Congress to arm a group that the Congress said no to (Iran-Contra).

I grasp that Saddam Hussein did not instill democracy in Iraq.

I also grasp that Nouri al-Maliki bullied the Parliament and the Supreme Court.

But that's not the United States.  And the US Constitution makes the three branches co-equal, they are checks and balances written into the system as such.

So you can pout and you can bitch, moan and whine but that's not going to change the fact that the US Congess will decide whether Baghdad gets arms or not.



Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: I'll ask you, do you believe that the current government in Baghdad -- that is certainly a breath of fresh air compared to the previous one -- can work cooperatively with the Kurds and provide them military hardware?

Gen Jack Keane: Yeah and that's a great question.  You -- I think you probably know the answer here.  The -- It's pretty frustrating what's unfolding.  We want to assist the Sunni tribes, we want to assist  the Kurds and the Iraqi government is constipating that process. And I know that there's a thought that we should find a mechanism to go around the government.  Look it, this government is an improvement and much of the success in Iraq is dependent upon their ability to politically be inclusive -- particularly with the Sunni tribes and the Kurds.  The advisors with the training program with the Sunni tribes is inadequate.  It's not going to get us there.  The arms program is inadequate because they're not reaching them.  The same thing with the Kurds.  The Kurds have skill and they have will but they need better weapons and that's not getting there either. More pressure needs to be put on -- I would rather go through the government and make that happen then go around the government and find another program to do it.  We've got to move the government in the right direction to do that.


Possibly the threat of legislation -- which has so alarmed a few significant Shi'ite officials in Iraq -- will prompt Haider al-Abadi to get off his fat ass and do what he's supposed to have been doing the whole time.

And to those Shi'ites so alarmed -- this means Nouri and his State of Law -- you better let go of the weapon issue and start focusing on the World Bank issue.

Iraq doesn't need funds from the World Bank.

Shi'ites have stolen billions from the Iraqi government.  And want to continue to steal billions.


So instead of ending corruption, they want to bring in more money from the World Bank.

You really want Saddam Hussein laughing in his grave?

Because he will.

To bring in the World Bank is to surrender autonomy.

And in 20 years, Iraqis will most likely -- regardless of sect -- remember that Saddam Hussein at least protected Iraq from foreign looters whereas consecutive Shi'ite governments have invited the wolf into the hen house.

Back to the hearing.



Chair Ileana Ros- Lehtinen: Despite the clear and vocal calls for a comprehensive strategy, US policy in Iraq and in Syria, the administration continues to treat the conflicts as separate or at least as situations that should be dealt with one at a time.  And this is either a fundamental misunderstanding of the issues at hand or willful ignorance due to a political calculation -- namely the administration's misguided and naive nuclear negotiations with Iran.  It must acknowledge that air strikes alone will not be sufficient to defeat ISIL in either Iraq or in Syria, that Assad must be removed from power, and that Iran -- even if it is "the enemy of our enemy" -- it is still an enemy.  And hearing yesterday former Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford testify that if the United States allies with Iran, we are playing into ISIL's narrative and helping it's recruitment, I ask the panelists do you believe that we are cooperating with Iran -- directly or indirectly -- against ISIL?  And, if so, is this helpful to our national security interests?  Dr. Jones, Gen -- whoever wants to tackle this.


Dr. Seth Jones: Sure. I will start.  Look, I think in particular in Iraq, there is and there are areas with Iranian backed militia organizations in various areas.  The campaign has involved a complex set of state governments including Iraq and substate actors such as Kurds but also Iranian-backed Shia militias so  I think the answer to your questions is: Yes, the US has cooperated somewhat with Iran, particularly at the substate level.  There have been discussions about the uh-uh political issues -- Sunni - Shia issues with the Iraqi government that Iran has been involved in.  I think ultimately the US is in a very complicated position here but I do agree with your comments that a strong, allied relationship with Iran, if that's the direction we go in, would be very counter-productive and would certainly walk into an anti- -- would certainly help with the ISIL narrative --

Chair Ileana Ros- Lehtinen: Dr. Jones:  Thank you, sir.

Dr. Seth Jones:  -- exactly what they're saying.

Chair Ileana Ros- Lehtinen:  Gen Keane?

Gen Jack Keane:  I agree with the doctor about Iraq's level repeated but in Syria --  I think really the elephant in the room with Syria with the administration's reluctance to provide assistance to the Free Syrian Army despite a very credible and experienced national security team recommended that as I pointed out in my testimony I think is Iran, it is the elephant in the room in the sense that we've been -- because the nuclear talks and establishing the deal, I think, is the unstated, foreign policy major objective of the administration.  It has handcuffed our ability to do what we should have done in Syria because of a potential setback from the Iranians so de facto our policy decision in Syria have certainly helped Iran's bonafide client-state relationship with Syria, contributes to their expansionist policies  and certainly encourages them to do what they are doing right now in Yemen which if they're able to achieve what they want to achieve in Yemen -- political and military control in Yemen -- then they change the strategic balance of power in  the region by gaining control of strategic waterway at the Gulf of Aden at the Straights of Bab-el-Mandeb and effect and control and leverage shipping that comes out of the Suez Canal -- a major objective for the Iranians that they would not have though of  without the progress that they've made in Syria.

Chair Ileana Ros- Lehtinen:  Thank you.  And Doctor?

Dr. Tamara Wittes:  Thank you.  You know, I think part of the challenge I think that our regional partners who are absolutely necessary to any successful outcome in Syria have, until very recently, been pretty divided themselves on the question of what should follow Assad and what kind of political order they would see as a desirable end state.  Uh, and in many ways, there elevation of the Iranian threat above the threat of ISIS, above the threat of political Islam, is a product of the last year or so.  But up until recently, different Arab States were supporting different factions in the Syrian opposition and I think that vastly complicated any ability we had to forge unity among them.  Now there might well have been a time early in the Syrian conflict when a more forward leaning American policy would have created that unified front but I think we're long past that point now unfortunately.



Chair Ros-Lehtinen referenced Ambassador Ford.  She's referring to the Wednesday's House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing on Terrorism.  In Wednesday's snapshot, we noted the remarks she was referring to (and covered the hearing in greater detail in Thursday's snapshot):

Former Ambassador Robert Ford:  We should not fall into the trap, and I've seen this discussed in some policy circles here in Washington, we should not fall into the trap of thinking that working with Iran will help fix our Islamic State problem.  The Islamic State rose in part -- not entirely -- but in part from long standing grievances and fears within Sunni communities in the Levant and Iraq about growing Persian and Shia influences.  Working with Iran, even indirectly, will feed the Islamic State narrative and will immediately help its recruiting.



These are issues that need to be explored and addressed, not ignored or dismissed without any real consideration given to them.


Back to Thursday's hearing, we'll note the Ranking Member's line of questioning.


Ranking Member Ted Deutch: The Iranian Foreign Minister was on American television the other night, was talking -- when asked about Iranian influence in the region and-and the way that it is perceived pushed back against the argument that anyone could perceive what's happening in the region as a Sunni - Shia conflict -- that there's -- that there's absolutely nothing to that.  I'd like to hear from our panelists a response to that. And if you agree with that statement, what roles can the United States play if his assertion is wrong and it is indeed perceived that way among our allies and those who are not.

Dr. Seth Jones: Sure, I'll -- I'll start.  I think we're often prone to gross generalizations about the state of sectarianism.  Being recently, for example, in Djibouti and looking closely at the situation in Yemen, one can easily gravitate to the argument that this is a Saudi -- because they've been involved -- [and] Iran proxy war. But the reality when you get on the ground in Yemen and look at it is there's a range of tribal politics involved and the Houthis have been battling Saudi Arabia for a long time.  They are not an arm of the Iranian government.  They do get some assistance. So I would say the answer to your question is there is clearly a-a Iranian grand strategy for the Middle East, for north and east Africa, for other locations, that has caused them to provide assistance to some groups and not others, some governments and not others.  But when you actually look on the ground, whether it's Syria or Iraq, or Yemen, or take your pick, I mean I think we do have to understand that we are also then bringing in very localized elements of the dispute.  So I would say that there is a combination of both local and these grand strategic issues that is going on in all the conflicts we are talking about here.

Gen Jack Keane: Yeah.  I-I agree.  One of the things that happens when you look at this region because of the sectarianism that has been there historically, we have a tendency to throw that out as the underlying cause for all the trouble we're having.  It's been a contributor but there's a lot of peace between these sectarian groups as well.  The Iranians -- I mean, I clearly think this is a geopolitical strategy of theirs to dominate the region, to influence and dominate Shia countries as well as Sunni countries.  And I believe that is what is driving them.  Like other radical Islamists, they will take advantage and manipulate the sectarian divide as much as they can to their own geopolitical ends.

Ranking Member Ted Deutch: Dr. Wittes?


Dr. Tamara Cofman Wittes: I think both sides of this regional power struggle -- and I would agree it is a regional power struggle -- have found the sectarian narrative useful.  It helps them rally around the flag.  It helps them mobilize allies.  And, unfortunately, they have fed off of one another repeatedly, whether it's in Bahrain or in Yemen or in Syria.  Uh, once that narrative takes hold and is advanced by one side, the other side ups the ante.  And we've seen this in the regional media.  It's been quite vicious and nasty.  But I think that the problem with just looking at it through that lens is that it becomes a self-fulfilling process at a certain point.  Just as we saw in the Balkans in the 1990s, at a certain point when people have lost the ability to find security through the state or through the government, they're going to fall back on community identities.  And if everybody around them is choosing friend or foe -- according to sectarian identity -- they'll be forced to do that too.  So the reality for Syrians, sadly today, I think is a reality of sectarian conflict.  It didn't have to be that way, but that's where we are.

Ranking Member Ted Deutch: And so then where should it go?  And specifically to the point you made about young people who -- particularly those in their teens, early 20s who have now endured four years of this?  Many of them displaced or refugees.  What's the message from the United States going forward.  What do they need to see to counter their understandable -- as you put it -- their understandable decision, in many cases, to fall back on tribal affiliation?

Dr. Tamara Cofman Wittes:  Yeah.  I think in the Iraqi case, there is a fierce debate going on and an effort to try and demonstrate that there's space within Iraqi politics and the Iraqi state for all of Iraq's people.  I don't know, uh, whether the angels will win that argument. I certainly hope so.  And I think that both Iran and our Sunni Arab partners have important roles to play in helping to stabilize Iraq by making sure those decisions on behalf of political inclusion like establishing the national guard move forward.  Syria, I think, is much harder because the conflict is so severe because half the population has been displaced. But as part of what we need to do, whatever the political architecture, we need to generate within society  over the longterm the ability to build dialogue, to build inter communal dialogue, to build mechanisms for conflict resolution so that, while those tensions will always be there, they don't erupt into violence.


Let's stay with the US government before we move over to events in Iraq.

On Friday, the US State Dept held their latest press briefing which was moderated by spokesperson Jeff Rathke.



MR RATHKE:  Hello, good afternoon. 
QUESTION:  Happy Friday. 
MR RATHKE:  And likewise.  I have a couple of things to mention at the top.  So first is press freedom – which, as you know, we’ve been talking about all this week at the top of the briefing.  Today, we wrap up the Free the Press campaign with two final cases. 
The first comes from Uzbekistan, where a newspaper editor named Muhammad Bekjanov has remained in prison since 1999, the longest ongoing incarceration of a journalist in the world, by some accounts.  His newspaper, Erk, which means freedom, published articles advocating for democratic reform.  And he is thought to have been arrested for his public criticism of President Karimov’s administration and for his affiliation with a peaceful political opposition party.  We call on the Government of Uzbekistan to release Mr. Bekjanov and to take the steps necessary to create space for independent journalists to work without fear of violence.  We also urge the Government of Uzbekistan to allow international observers to visit prisons and to grant all citizens access to full due process in accordance with international commitments.
And for our last Free the Press campaign case, we are highlighting the country of Nicaragua.  Nicaragua suffers from a restricted media environment that includes censorship, self-censorship, and examples of harassment.  We urge the Government of Nicaragua to recognize and support the vital role of independent media and the free exchange of ideas as critical components of a free and democratic society.

And one additional note, although it’s unrelated to that campaign.  I also want to express on behalf of the United States our sympathy to the family of Somali journalist Daud Ali Omar and his wife, who we understand were killed by gunmen in Somalia on Wednesday.  Somalia remains one of the world’s most dangerous places to be a journalist.


As we have noted repeatedly this week, Iraqi journalist Thaer Ali was executed in Mosul by the Islamic State this week.  Yet in five press briefings, Monday through Friday, while pimping a concern for the press and the shallow "Free the Press" campaign, the State Dept has never once noted Thaer's murder.

Why is that?

Two State Dept friends point out that while the executions of journalists were used by the White House to galvanize support for their operations in Iraq and Syria, advertising that these executions are still taking place is acknowledging to the horrified American public that the White House's plan or 'plan' has not accomplished anything.



Methaq Al -fayydh@AlFayth
#داعش يعدمون الصحفي والناشط المدني ثائر محمود بعد اعتقاله قبل 20 يوم
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Methaq Al -fayydh

Methaq Al -fayydh@AlFayth
Daesh executed journalist Thaer Ali in Mosul


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Methaq Al -fayydh

Methaq Al -fayydh@AlFayth
Iraq: Stato islamico giustizia giornalista e attivista Musli Thaer Ali https://shar.es/1pdRRp عبر @sharethis
Over 300!

Over 300 Yazidis killed in Iraq!!!!

Or maybe just 25.

That's what AP reports and bases it on the numbers supplied to them by Yadizi Mehma Khalil

Who knows?

Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts at least 65 violent deaths across Iraq on Friday.  Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) has an important piece you should read.







iraq


jason ditz



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