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الخميس، 30 أبريل 2015

A Broken Family Escapes Fighting in Yemen

A Broken Family Escapes Fighting in Yemen

To save his mother, wife and two children, Fairuz left one son behind. A refugee wrestles with the impossible math of war.

Fairuz and his wife Hannah can’t stop crying. They are crying for their broken country, Yemen, but above all for their broken family.
His eyes red with grief, Fairuz explains how their eldest son, Adeeb, 27, was too terrified to join them as they ran a gauntlet of sniper bullets and airstrikes – the only path of escape from their home in Aden to the port, where oil tankers and fishing boats offered some a chance of rescue.
Fairuz and Hannah felt they had no choice but to leave their son behind in order to save the others. “The airstrikes can strike fear even into the most courageous,” Fairuz says.
A carpenter by trade, he says he paid US$1,300 to get the rest of the family onto a small boat, and then a larger ship, to travel to Djibouti soon after the conflict in Yemen intensified in late March.
“To save five lives is better…,” Fairuz says, his eyes filling up again as he wrestles with the impossible calculus of leaving one son behind.
Now he sits in an empty sports stadium in Obock, a port town of around 8,000 people in Djibouti’s arid north. The structure is serving as a transit camp for refugees.
“To save five lives is better…,” Fairuz says, his eyes filling up again as he wrestles with the impossible calculus of leaving one son behind. He recalls shouting to Adeeb from a neighbour’s house they were visiting when the attack began, begging him to run.
“I’m worried that my son is there now and afraid of the bullets,” he says. “The shooting was all day and all night. You cannot describe how strong the sound of bombs and missiles was.”
Fairuz, a carpenter and father of four, describes his family’s escape from the port city of Aden, in war-torn Yemen. UNHCR/Arnold Temple
Their neighbourhood in Aden was caught in the crossfire between rebel militiamen and pro-government forces, Fairuz explains, and also bombarded from the air.
His younger son, Anis, 24, despairs about his big brother’s chances of getting “out of hell.”
“The Houthi rebels are targeting young people and shooting them in the head,” Anis says. “I saw this with my own eyes – snipers shooting people dead – and I saw it when I was getting out, people just falling down dead.”
Anis says he saw two neighbours shot dead by snipers as they tried to cross the street to the grocery store. “People are not going out,” he adds. “They stay locked in their houses unless it’s because of hunger. There’s no food.”
“People are not going out. They stay locked in their houses unless it’s because of hunger. There’s no food.”
But rebels are putting people trying to leave the city “in detention, or they are shooting them,” says Anis. He has only one word to say about his future: fear.
His father’s biggest fear is going back to Yemen, where there is “no respect for human life.”
“It’s death or Europe,” says Fairuz, who figures he might succumb to suicide, an existing heart condition, the harsh conditions in a desert camp, or the treacherous Mediterranean Sea route that has already drowned more than a thousand refugees and migrants this month alone. “Either I die here or going to Europe.”
As he speaks, Hannah looks quietly at the floor and wipes her eyes with her shawl.
“I consider myself now as a dead person, as I have no life in Yemen,” Fairuz continues, his face collapsing and chest heaving with heavy sobs. “We know that in Europe you take Muslim families… you take those with broken hearts.”

Iraq snapshot Wednesday, April 29, 2015.

Iraq snapshot Wednesday, April 29, 2015.

The Common Ills
Wednesday, April 29, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the State Dept continues to insist they care about the press (only the foolish don't scoff at that assertion), spokesperson Marie Harf lies in a press briefing about US policy, Iraq's Prime Minister and chief beggar Haider al-Abadi is in a snit fit over a bill in the US House of Representatives is considering, Ivan Eland apparently now doing psychic readings for select members of Congress, Bernie Sanders thinks he can run for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination but somehow he and the press have missed some trouble brewing there, and much more.

We'll again start with the ridiculous US State Dept and their pretense that they give a damn about press freedom.  Thaer Ali, Iraqi journalist, was executed by the Islamic State in Mosul this week and the State Dept still hasn't found time to note that murder.  Or the attacks on the press from the Iraqi government.

Today, spokesperson Marie Harft, apparently finally recovered from the public spectacle she made of herself Saturday night at the White House Correspondents Dinner, handled the briefing.

MS HARF: Good afternoon, and welcome to the daily press briefing. I have a couple items at the top, so bear with me. First, in the State Department’s Free the Press campaign – and I think we have some photos, hopefully, coming up – we have two cases for today’s Free the Press campaign.
The first comes from Russian-occupied Crimea, where de facto authorities have shut down 11 of the 12 Crimean Tatar media outlets, including ATR TV – I think it’s up behind me now – the last independent television station serving the Crimean Tatar population. Occupation authorities also have banned most Ukrainian language programming, replacing content with Russian programming. These restrictions on media freedom are part of a worsening situation that demonstrates Russia’s disregard for the population of Crimea. Occupation authorities are systematically closing the space for freedom of expression and leading an intimidation campaign that targets independent journalists for detention and prosecution. All residents of Crimea should have access to a wide range of news, opinion, and information. We condemn Russia’s abuses and call for the end of its occupation of Crimea, which is part of Ukraine, as we’ve said.
I think the screens have gone on to our second case, which comes from Maldives, where an investigative journalist named Ahmed Rilwan has remained disappeared since August of last year. Mr. Rilwan, who wrote often about politics, criminal gangs, and Islamic extremism, was reportedly forced at knifepoint from his residence. We call on the Government of the Maldives to credibly investigate the disappearance of Ahmed Rilwan and to take steps necessary to create space for independent journalists to work without fear of violence or harassment.
And along the same lines here, moving on to the next item at the top, we congratulate Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international correspondent, on being named the United Nations Educational – I think, yeah, let’s stay with the map – Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, goodwill ambassador for freedom of expression and journalist safety. As UNESCO’s goodwill ambassador, Amanpour will keep freedom of expression and journalist safety on the global agenda and serve as a voice to governments, reminding them of their obligation to assure that a free press flourishes and combat the culture of impunity that leads to fear and self-censorship among all media professionals. We look forward to her work.

QUESTION: She’s going to leave her position with CNN?

MS HARF: I think you’d probably ask CNN, but I doubt it.

Marie Harf's ridiculous statements come on the same day that Iraq's Minister of the Interior Mohammad Salem al-Ghaban launched his attack on the press blaming them for the Iraqi military's failures (many, many failures).  AP reports:

The comments by Mohammad Salem al-Ghaban, in charge of Iraq’s police, come afterReuters bureau chief recently left the country after threats against him by Shiite militias over a story about abuses and looting following the capture of Tikrit.
Ghaban also suggested that blame for the collapse of Iraqi forces last summer in the initial onslaught by the extremists lay at the feet of journalists.

AP's referring to Ned Parker who had to leave Iraq due to the public threats made against him.  These include the attacks on journalism that Haider al-Abadi was offering April 8th and April 9th.  Monday, we noted that Haider attacked the press twice -- once via a statement from the Cabinet of Ministers (written statement) and the second time was when he appeared before Parliament that day.

Marie Harf and others at the State Dept -- as they pretend to give a damn about press freedom -- have failed to note that.

They look so ridiculous -- but then Marie's been dubbed a "granny chaser" by a friend who attended Saturday's event -- and he has a hilarious routine he's built around that.

Let's move to more ridiculous from granny chaser Marie Harf.

QUESTION: Yes. Do you have any comment about this draft resolution at the Armed Services Committee that calls for the recognition of the Sunni fighters and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces as a country, and so they can be – directly receive aid and weapons from the U.S., not through the central government?

MS HARF: I saw that. I saw that. And to be very clear: The policy of this Administration is clear and consistent in support of a unified Iraq, and that we’ve always said a unified Iraq is stronger, and it’s important to the stability of the region as well. Our military assistance and equipment deliveries, our policy remains the same there as well, that all arms transfers must be coordinated via the sovereign central government of Iraq. We believe this policy is the most effective way to support the coalition’s efforts.
So we look forward to working with congress on language that we could support on this important issue, but the draft bill, as you noted, in the House – this is very early in the process here for the NDAA – as currently written on this issue, of course, does not reflect Administration policy.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Do you – broadly, do you support – do you believe it’s the Executive Branch’s prerogative to recognize countries?

MS HARF: I do.

QUESTION: Or is it the Senate Armed Services Committee?

MS HARF: This actually is the House --

QUESTION: House Armed Services Committee.

MS HARF: -- Armed Services Committee. The Executive Branch.

Oh, Marie.  Are you still hung over from Saturday?
Or are you that stupid?

Let's zoom in on this nonsense:

Our military assistance and equipment deliveries, our policy remains the same there as well, that all arms transfers must be coordinated via the sovereign central government of Iraq. We believe this policy is the most effective way to support the coalition’s efforts.
So we look forward to working with congress on language that we could support on this important issue, but the draft bill, as you noted, in the House – this is very early in the process here for the NDAA – as currently written on this issue, of course, does not reflect Administration policy.

It's always hilarious to watch Marie make an idiot of herself.

That's not US policy.

It wasn't policy under Bully Boy Bush.

It wasn't policy under Barack.

If you don't get how stupid Marie is (or what a liar she is), focus on one word: Sahwa.

Sahwa, largely Sunni fighters, were paid by who?

The United States.

Even after the press first reported Nouri had started paying the Sahwa, he hadn't.  Under Barack Obama, the US taxpayer was paying Sahwa.

Not through Baghdad, they were paying Sahwa directly -- each male fighter earned approximately $300 a month (female fighters earned less) -- and that was a little over 90,000 men -- and I use "men" intentionally.  No effort was ever made to count the number of female fighters (Daughters Of Iraq, they were called while the males were called Sons Of Iraq and both were also referred to as "Awakenings").

Not only were they paid by the US taxpayer, they were provided with arms by the US taxpayer.

And that's before we get into the CERP funds.

We can get into that too.

We can expose the lies of all Marie's ridiculous pronouncement today.

Again, maybe she was still hung over from Saturday?

Regardless, she didn't utter one true statement in what we quoted.

US policy has been to provide the Sahwa with money and arms.

That didn't go through Baghdad.

Bully Boy Bush and Barack both knew that sending it through Baghdad would mean it never would arrive because Nouri al-Maliki did not support Sahwa, he did not want them to exist, when the US finally stopped paying the bulk of Sahwa (well into 2010), Nouri refused to pay them, began having leaders and members arrested and worse (killing them is worse).

So Marie can stop lying about what was and wasn't US policy.

She looks like a ridiculous fool and there's no reason for anyone in the US or elsewhere to believe her after she lies so blatantly in a press briefing.

As we noted this morning and in yesterday's snapshot, the bill in the House of Representatives was making news in Iraq.  It has continued to do so.

Let's start with Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr. He is opposed to the US government directly funding and arming Sunnis and Kurds.  That's not surprising and it's completely consistent with his previous stands regarding US involvement.  It's also true that he grasps the process involved.  Alsumaria reports on his statement issued today calling the idea reckless and repeating his call for the US government to stay out of Iraqi affairs.  His objection continues to include the bombings carried out by the US war planes and others in the so-called coalition.

Again, Moqtada's stance is completely in keeping with his previous stance.  He wants no US involvement in Iraqi affairs.  And that's been his stance since the US invasion which is why he was so often labeled -- by the US press and US friendly press -- the "radical cleric" Moqtada al-Sadr.  The "radical" term was not because he was a threat to the Iraqi people -- Nouri al-Maliki was never called "the radical prime minister," for example -- it's because he called for all US forces to leave Iraq.  That's what made him "radical" in the eyes of the US government, its flunkies in the US press and its sycophants in the US friendly press.

This Alsumaria report contains more on Sadr's stance and, please note, he again understands the process by which the US Congress starts with a bill and how it eventually becomes a law (if it does).  Moqtada is better educated on that US process than are some of us living in the US.

All Iraq News headlines that Congress has approved the bill -- which would mean it then went to the President to be signed (or not -- refusal to sign would send it back to Congress).  It's a defense bill.  It has not been voted on.  The House Armed Service Committee has released the bill from Committee which means a House vote can take place.  Many bills end up buried in Committee, never seeing the light of day.  This one should now go to a vote.

While Moqtada's stance is in keeping with his previous positions, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is just a hypocrite.

Alsumaria notes that his office issued a statement decrying the bill.

All Iraq News quotes him stating that the bill "is rejected because it leads to divisions in the region and we call for not approving it."

Here's a little help for beggar Haider, those members of the House supporting that bill on the Committee?  They've got the backing of the members of their district.  They are directly elected.  There's no "two Senators regardless of population" nonsense.  The House is the voice of the American people.

And Haider better accept that real damn quick.

Because the only thing that pisses the American people off more than the US government wasting their money -- because it is the American people's money -- is the US government wasting their money on thugs and bullies.

And they really don't take to lectures from foreigners about how their money should be spent.

If Haider really opposes it, he should probably just keep his mouth closed because all his remarks will do, if widely reported in the US, is anger the taxpayers.

And he's a beggar, remember that.

He just visited DC and left with the promise of $200 million more in the sink hole that is his corrupt government.

Haider needs to be told that's not Barack's money to give, that's the US taxpayers.

And the House is the people's voice and because of that it has the power of the purse.

This is all new to Haider who grew up under a different system and then, like the coward that he is, fled Iraq to live for decades outside the country, returning only after US boots were on the ground in Baghdad.

So, in other words, Haider owes the US taxpayer a great deal.

And if he wants to continue begging for 'reconstruction money' -- with all the money pouring into Iraq for its oil, there's no reason for the US government to be footing the bill for reconstruction, there's also no reason for so many Iraqis to be living in poverty when the annual oil income alone could made every Iraqi in Iraq a millionaire and still have billions left over -- and for US help -- which the taxpayer is covering the cost on -- he might want to learn to sit his tired ass down and stop sharing his idiotic and hypocritical opinions in public.

Two billion dollars.  $2,000,000,000.  That's how much the US taxpayer has wasted since August on the war against the Islamic State -- just since August.

If Haider wants to pay that bill, he might have some right to hector and lecture.

But in the meantime, while he's begging for money, he probably needs to just shut his mouth.

He could do like Moqtada and say that there should be no US involvement in Iraq.

But unless he's prepared to do that, he needs to sit that tired ass down.

The US Congress -- House and Senate -- has spent the time since June 2014 -- when Barack finally turned on thug Nouri al-Maliki and insisted Iraq needed to find a political solution to end the crises -- has repeatedly asked US officials who have appeared before it about Haider's refusal to supply the Kurds and the Sunnis with the needed equipment and arms to fight the Islamic State.

While Marie Harf makes an idiot of herself -- consider her The Bride of Haider -- the reality is that Democrats and Republicans in Congress -- both houses -- are deeply disappointed in Haider's inability to work towards a political solution and are aghast that he has refused to supply the Kurds and the Sunnis.

Supply?  Let's be clear here, the US is providing arms and equipment to Iraq.

This is to fight the Islamic State.

And the supply was based on the belief that the arms and equipment were needed.

But if they're not going to be distributed, there's no need for them to be supplied.

Congress is appalled that, all these months later, Anbar remains under Islamic State control.  They are more appalled that Sunnis in the province willing to fight the Islamic State but are not being given the arms and equipment necessary to do so.

The Kurdish Peshmerga has always been (since the US invasion) the most skilled fighting force in Iraq.  And Congress is appalled that despite the Kurds carving out victories against the Islamic State, they are not receiving the arms and equipment they need.

Congress had okayed these supplies with the understanding that Baghdad, upon receipt of these supplies, would be distributing them to the needed areas.

That did not happen.

That has not happened.

If Haider had done what he was supposed to,  what he agreed to in order to get Congress to approve these supplies, the bill wouldn't have been needed.
While in DC this month, Haider begged for more.

Isn't that embarrassing to Iraq?

I'd think it would be.

It's the richest country in the region with billions coming in annually and yet there's Haider rushing off to the US to beg for more like some economically struggling country.

So he got a promise of more weapons but he got it on credit meaning Iraq won't have to pay for it right away.

And now he wants to have a hissy fit?

I'm sorry if you're begging for nickles and dimes, you pretty much need to take what's offered.

Iraq has more than enough income that their leader doesn't need to go begging.

But if he is going to beg, he's going to need to learn that any aid the US gives is approved by Congress and Congress can put any strings they want on it.

Next month, Mosul will have been held for year by the Islamic State.

And with all the aid and all the weapons the US taxpayer has paid for, Haider still can't take back Mosul.  Haider and his useless military still don't have the guts to go into Mosul.

You're begging the US taxpayer to go further into debt for your sinkhole government that (a) has a military that skittish (when not thuggish) and still can't be sent into Mosul a year later and that (b) is the one dividing Iraq.

Here, we talk about the fact that Haider is bombing civilian homes in Falluja, killing and wounding Sunni civilians.  This is a War Crime.

If Haider wants to pick a fight with the US House of Representatives, lots of luck getting anymore money because legally, due to these bombings, the US government actually should not be funding or supplying Baghdad with anything.

These daily bombings are legally defined War Crimes -- per US law and per treaties signed off on by the US.

Barack Obama is supporting War Crimes and covering for them.

If Haider wants to lecture the US Congress, he might find that they can supply more than a few lectures to him.

Again, if he wants to continue begging, the smartest thing for him would be to shut his mouth.

If he wants to adopt Moqtada's position?  No problem.
Do so.
It's an ethical position.
You want the US out, get the US out.
But as long as you're begging that the US spend billions dropping bombs and spend billions propping up your government, you'll take the assistance and you'll shut your mouth.

(Whose stance do I agree with?  Moqtada's.  The US has not created 'freedom' in Iraq.  Their latest appointed thug, Haider, is an embarrassment and has been since he visited NYC and declared that he had intelligence on bombings of the subways in NYC -- remember that?  He was the laughingstock of the world for that.)'s Ivan Eland discusses the bill with Russia Today:
RT: The bill also requires these security forces to be an independent entity from Iraq, so they can receive the aid separately from Iraqi national forces. What implications could that have on the US-Iraq partnership? 

IE: The Republicans are unhappy with the Iraqi government’s dependence on Iran for training its Shia militias, and the Shia militias have been accused of some atrocities against Sunnis. The US doesn’t like Iranian influence in Iraq and so this bill says it funds the Peshmerga and other militias which would be Sunnis, but it also says that the government of Iraq doesn’t associate itself with the Shia militias; they’ll give you even more funds to the Peshmerga and other Sunni militias. So it doesn’t totally go away from the Iraqi government, but it puts a lot of pressure on them to dissociate themselves from the Shia militias which the Iraqi government probably is not going to do. 
That's an interesting take -- one that avoids reality.

Again, go to any hearing since June on this issue and you will find one Representative after another, one Senator after another, Democrats and Republicans, asking about the Kurds and about the Sunnis (Kurds most often due to the Peshmerga's record of success) and decrying the fact that they aren't being armed.  You will find Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, you will find Gen Martin Dempsey (Chair of the Joint Chiefs), you will find Brett McGurk, John Kerry and others with the State Dept all repeatedly insisting (lying) that this is a thing of the past and that Baghdad is now distributing the aid and equipment.

I realize Ivan Eland is obsessed with Iran.

I realize that yet again has painted themselves into a corner by taking sides on an issue before they should have.

But that's no excuse for lying.

And Ivan's lying if he's not noting what the US Congress has objected to for the last ten-plus months.

Or the fact that they have been repeatedly lied to by one US official after another sitting before them and testifying (some under oath, the House usually doesn't play when it comes to swearing in the officials) that this is all a thing of the past and now Baghdad is supplying the US-paid for arms and equipment to the Kurds and Sunnis as they were supposed to.
And let's stress that one more time.
The US Congress never agreed to supply Shi'ites only in Iraq.
That was never what the plan was.
The person in violation today is not the US Congress.
It's Haider al-Abadi who agreed to certain terms but thought he could give his word, grab the weapons and then break his word but have the US taxpayer foot the bill from here until the end of eternity.

And what I'm saying was actually again repeated in Congress today.  Ivan wasn't at that hearing but I've never seen him at any of these hearings -- which might explain his loose grasp on the facts and his resorting to mind reading in an attempt to figure out what's what.

From the hearing, we'll note this.

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.

We'll cover the hearing in Thursday's snapshot (and I'm nominating US House Rep Brad Sherman for a "truest statement of the week" at Third on Sunday).  We need to note two other things first.

First, Iraqi activist Yanar Mohammed was (briefly) on Democracy Now! today -- the program that always treats Iraq as an afterthought -- link is video, audio and text:
YANAR MOHAMMED: When the U.S. invaded Iraq, we were under the oppression of one single dictator. And there wasn’t much discrimination between the people of Iraq. Whoever was in opposition would be discriminated against. We did have problems of how to deal with dictatorship, but nowadays we are at the necks of each other. We found out that we are Sunnis, we are Shia, and we are given so many reasons to be killing each other. We have 10 million youth who are carrying machine guns and going to the rest of the country, killing the rest of the youth in that part of the country. We are in a very big trap where killing each other doesn’t seem to be ending soon. Once you are in the trap of hatred upon ethnic and upon sectarian lines, it takes many years to wash away, to cleanse this hatred. I feel that at this point, even when we destroy—when the Iraqi government destroys ISIS, we have a very big problem on our hand. There are major massacres that have been committed both ways, and these will not end, because the relatives, the children of the people killed, will still continue these massacres.
Women have been—women’s rights have been totally lost. By laws, they have been lost. By their status in the society, they have been lost. Our voices of the women are being silenced continuously. Our radio, community radio for women, was shut down by the government on June 12. They gave us different stories, and we still don’t know what’s the final story for silencing us, but we know that this is no democracy. Women cannot breathe. Youth are killing each other based on the sectarian ID. This is something we were not expecting. This is not democracy.
Might Marie Harft note what happened to the community radio for women in Iraq during her pretense of caring about journalism?

Don't count on it.

Margaret Griffis ( reports 69 violent deaths throughout Iraq today.

Secondly, someone's supposed to formally announce that he's running for a political party's presidential nomination on Thursday.  Bernie Sanders has told the AP he intends to run for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

A lot of people can intend to do whatever.

And anyone can say anything.

Doesn't make it so.

If the US Senator makes an announcement that he is running, the first question from the press should be, "Have you filed your paperwork?"  The next question should be, "And does the party recognize you as a nominee?"

Because right now, it might not.

The DNC leadership is not 100% on board with a Bernie run right now.

Some of that may be due to support for Hillary Clinton who is the only announced candidate in the Democratic Party's presidential primary.

But there's a bigger issue than Hillary or any other candidate.

Would you want, for example, George P. Bush, 20 years from now, still a Republican, running for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination?

Noelle Bush could run on the GOP ticket and George P. could run on the Democratic ticket (both are children of Jeb and Columba Bush) and America could be faced with choosing the lesser  Bush.
It could happen.
If Bernie runs.
Bernie's not a Democrat.  He's a Socialist.
I have no idea why NPR feels the need to use air quotes around the term Socialist.  Maybe because they're just that immature.
There's nothing wrong with being a Socialist or a Republican or a Democrat or a Green or a Libertarian or a Communist or . . .
But  "Democratic Socialist" is not a branch of the Democratic Party, its a division of Socialism.
For those who are confused, this is from Democratic Socialists of America:

The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is the largest socialist organization in the United States, and the principal U.S. affiliate of the Socialist International. DSA's members are building progressive movements for social change while establishing an openly democratic socialist presence in American communities and politics.

Get it?
Because some at leadership in the party are pointing out that if non-Democrat Bernie Sanders is allowed to run in the Democrats primary, it sets a new standard and, by that new standard, no one can be stopped from running in the primary because they are a Socialist or a Republican or a Libertarian or . . .
Now anyone who meets the basic criteria can run for the office of President of the United States.
You don't have to belong to this party or that party or any party.
But that's running for president.
To run for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, you would need to be a Democrat.
Tossing that to the side for Socialist  Bernie Sanders would create a precedent.
Bernie could silence any objections, of course, by becoming a member of the Democratic Party.

Funding the no-progress-never-progress Haider al-Abadi government

Funding the no-progress-never-progress Haider al-Abadi government

The Common Ills
Let's start with a misreport.

Alsumaria reports US Embassy spokesperson Jeffrey Lurie has declared opposition to the proposed bill in the House being touted by a group of Republicans.

Alsumaria reports this as US government says they do support the bill.

Yes and no.

The Congress is also part of the US government.

It's that part that passes the law.

Lurie is the spokesperson for the US Embassy.  He falls under the umbrella of the State Dept.

At best, the State Dept has declared its objection if Lurie is commenting -- at best.  Embassy spokespeople have been overruled before by State.

From yesterday's snapshot:

From the Parliament to the US Congress, Julian Pecquet (Al Monitor) reports:

The House Armed Services Committee on April 27 released an annual Defense bill that authorizes $715 million in aid to Iraqi forces fighting the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS). The bill, which is scheduled to be debated and voted on in the committee on April 29, carves out at least 25% of that aid for the peshmerga, the Sunni tribal militias and a yet-to-be-established Iraqi Sunni National Guard.
The bill “would require that the Kurdish peshmerga, the Sunni tribal security forces with a national security mission, and the Iraqi Sunni National Guard be deemed a country,” according to a bill summary. Doing so “would allow these security forces to directly receive assistance from the United States.” 
The Obama administration has expressed some degree of support for giving Iraqi minorities more autonomy, with Secretary of State John Kerry and the president himself applauding the idea of a National Guard. A senior administration official, however, told Al-Monitor that the Defense bill proposal goes too far.

Alsumaria reports MP Hanan al-Fatlawi has declared the bill (which see wrongly appears to believe is already a law) is a violation of Iraq's sovereignty and she demands the Parliament pass some action barring the bill.  al-Fatlawi is a member of Nouri al-Maliki's State Of Law political slate.
And if al-Fatlawi's angry about Baghdad being bypassed (aid and weapons currently go to Baghdad which then either distributes a tiny amount to the Kurds and the Sunnis or none at all), wait until she learns what else is in the bill.
NRT explains that the bill, if it became law, would demand that "before Baghdad receives the money, it has to ensure that it's meeting certain conditions, including giving minorities greater inclusion in the central government."

That unnamed "senior administration official" could be seen as reflecting the view of the White House (although, if so, he or she should have gone on record with their name) but Lurie cannot speak for the White House.  If he could, he'd be Josh Ernest, White House spokesperson.

Will the White House object?
More over the clause of "meeting certain conditions."
The White House (and the State Dept) refuses to put conditions in place.
It's just hand whatever thug they put in charge of Iraq more money and more weapons.
And when they can't get their way from Congress, attempt to bully and strong arm.
That's what they did to Senator Robert Menendez when he objected to arming Nouri because Nouri was ordering his forces to attack the Iraqi people.

Menendez is currently involved in what may be a scandal of his own making, maybe trumped up charges by the administration in an attempt to silence him, maybe some variation or combination of much more.

But many in Congress (both sides of the aisle) see what's taking place as punishment for Menendez' past refusal to immediately fall in line behind the White House.

And they're already bothered by the refusal to use the diplomatic toolbox -- i.e. 'we will give you these weapons but in exchange you must show us proof of reconciliation by doing . . .' -- time and again.

Haider left the US with $200 million for rebuilding in Iraq and he got that without making any concessions on his part.

The US taxpayer has spent over $2 billion on the war on the Islamic State since August and they've done that with Haider making no progress on a political solution.

Republicans control both houses of Congress.  If they get any Democrats to support the bill proposed, it could pass with a veto proof margin.  Could.  Not saying it will.

But the point is that the US Embassy in Baghdad has a spokesperson.  He is not qualified to speak on behalf of Congress.  Congress is an equal branch of government and it will decide on what bills it will pass or not.

Iraqi Spring MC notes Falluja General states 3 civilians died and three more were injured as a result of Tuesday's shelling of Falluja's residential neighborhoods.

That awful ISIS!

No, these bombings are carried out by the Iraqi military.

They started in January 2014 under Nouri.

They're a daily event.

They're also a War Crime.

Legally defined as such by US and international law.

And Haider al-Abadi was praised for announcing September 13th that he had ended them.

But then September 14th came and the bombings continued.

As they have every day since.

This is a case of the Sunni civilian population being targeted by the Iraqi government out of Baghdad.  They are being killed and wounded by their own government.

Per the Leahy Amendment, Haider can't receive weapons or money while this takes place -- not from the US government.

But everyone's wanted to look the other way.

The clause the House Republicans put into the bill will be the most frightening aspect for the White House.

We'll talk about divisions of the funds in the snapshot tonight -- though the State Dept may weigh in on that in today's briefing since its goes to the heart of their diplomatic failures.

The following community sites -- plus Z On TV,  The Diane Rehm Show, Pacifica Radio, Susan's On the Edge and The NewsHour --  updated:

  • The e-mail address for this site is
  • Iraq snapshot Tuesday, April 28, 2015.

    Iraq snapshot Tuesday, April 28, 2015. 

    The Common Ills
    Tuesday, April 28, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, corpses pop up in Baghdad, Anbar refugees in and around Baghdad suffer death threats, Haider al-Abadi attacks the press twice today, the US State Dept continues the pretense of caring about the press and press freedom but still won't note the execution of Iraqi journalist Thaer Ali by the Islamic State, cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr issues a statement, and much more.

    At today's US State Dept press briefing, spokesperson Jeff Rathke continued the pretense that the department wants a free press:

    First, I mentioned yesterday our Free the Press campaign for this week. We have two cases today. Our first comes from Ethiopia. The freelance journalist and former high school English teacher Reeyot Alemu remains in prison after being convicted under Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism proclamation on January 19th, 2012. Reeyot is among 18 other journalists detained in Ethiopia on charges related to their work, making Ethiopia the largest detainer of journalists on the continent.
    Reeyot was arrested in June 2011 after writing articles that criticized government policies. She was tried, convicted, and sentenced to 14 years on terrorism-related charges. Her sentence was reduced to five years by the supreme court in August 2012, and she lost a subsequent appeal to dismiss the case altogether. We call on the government to release Reeyot, who is in prison simply for exercising her right of freedom of expression. We urge the government to refrain from using its anti-terrorism proclamation as a mechanism to curb the free exchange of ideas.

    Our second case comes from Vietnam, where a blogger, Ta Phong Tan, winner of the 2013 International Women of Courage Awards, currently is imprisoned amid a 10-year sentence for writing posts critical of the government and the Communist Party. She was among the first bloggers to write and comment on political news events long considered off limits by authorities. And we call on the Government of Vietnam to release her immediately and to allow all Vietnamese to express their political views freely both online and offline.

    As we noted in yesterday's snapshot, Iraqi journalist Thaer Ali was killed in Mosul, executed by the Islamic State.  Agenzia Nova notes IS grabbed him three weeks ago and charged him with the 'crime' of having a cellphone and using it to communicate with person or persons outside of Mosul.   Shafaq adds that Thaer "was the editor of al-Rae local newspaper, which had been issued in Mosul before the events of last June."

    "The events of last June" refer to when the Islamic State took control of Mosul.  NRT points out, "IS militants regularly kill Mosul residents who oppose the group's rule, including political candidates, lawyers, professors and even members of its own leadership."

    The State Dept can't say a word about the murder of Thaer Ali.

    This while pretending they're defending freedom of the press worldwide with their silly little campaign.

    When Reuters' journalist Ned Parker had to leave Iraq this month for the 'crime' of reporting,Reporters Without Borders observed:

    According to the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, a Reporters Without Borders partner organization, the authorities in the southern province of Basra are prosecuting freelance journalist Nasser Al-Hajjaj for criticizing the governor on social networks. The head of the Supreme Islamic Council has asked the governor to withdraw his complaint. Al-Hajjaj is currently in Lebanon.
    Reporters Without Borders and JFO wrote a joint letter to the Supreme Council of the Judiciary, the Baghdad Court of Appeal and the Court for Press and Publication Cases in February 2014 drawing attention to the way many government officials and politicians abuse the possibility of bringing legal proceedings in order to sabotage the work of journalists.

    Iraq is ranked 156th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

    And Iraq's prime minister continues to do his part to keep the attacks on the press alive. Alsumaria notes that today the Council of Ministers condemned the press and did so with (yet another) statement from Haider al-Abadi attacking the press.

    He carried his attack to the Parliament today.  All Iraq News notes that he decried the 'defaming' of the Iraqi military.

    See, if the Iraqi military attacks civilians and steals and burns down civilian homes after 'liberation,' Haider's okay with that.  He'll give them a day or two to break the law and commit crimes and then declare publicly 48 or hours later that starting now -- right now -- these crimes need to stop.

    Now if the press dare report on these crimes -- as Ned Parker did -- that's bad.

    April 3rd, Ned Parker and Reuters reported:

    Since its recapture two days ago, the Sunni city of Tikrit has been the scene of violence and looting. In addition to the killing of the extremist combatant, Reuters correspondents also saw a convoy of Shi'ite paramilitary fighters – the government's partners in liberating the city – drag a corpse through the streets behind their car.
    Local officials said the mayhem continues. Two security officers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Friday that dozens of homes had been torched in the city. They added that they had witnessed the looting of stores by Shi'ite militiamen. 

    Later Friday, Ahmed al-Kraim, head of the Salahuddin Provincial Council, told Reuters that mobs had burned down "hundreds of houses" and looted shops over the past two days. Government security forces, he said, were afraid to confront the mobs. Kraim said he left the city late Friday afternoon because the situation was spinning out of control.

    Reporting those realities is a 'crime' in Haider's eyes and he not only issued a statement attacking reporters today, he also attacked them before the Parliament.

    While reporting is a crime to Haider, the military's action isn't -- not in Haider's eyes, never in Haider's eyes -- but reporters who do their jobs?  That's a crime in Haider's eyes.

    Appearing this month on NPR's Morning Edition (link is audio and transcript), Ned discussed the report with Steve Inskeep:

    Steve Inskeep: What happened that instead began to make this a story about you?

    Ned Parker: Well our team, on the day that Tikrit was liberated, they called me during the day and said, "We've witnessed an execution by federal police of a detainee in the street."  And it was a mob mentality.  And they could only stay a few moments because it was such a crazed scene I think our people feared for their own safety.  So when they came home that evening, we had a huge debate about do we report this, is this too sensationalist?  It's one incident.  But when we looked at the whole picture, we also saw a body being dragged by a group of Shi'ite paramilitaries.  We had   photos of this which we published  And there had been looting and arson of areas that surround Tikrit.  So we felt that we had to report what happened there, that if we didn't, we wouldn't be meeting our obligation to report fairly and impartially about the critical issue right now: What happens when security forces enter an area that has been under Islamic State control, that is Sunni and then has predominately Shia security paramilitary forces enter.

    Steve Inskeep: This is the most basic job of a war correspondent: Go look at a war and report exactly what you see.

    Ned Parker: Mm-hmm.  Right.  And this was a test case for the government.  The Iraqi government and the US government have spoken about the importance of post-conflict stabilization operations in Iraq.

    Steve Inskeep: What happened after you published the story?

    Ned Parker: It was picked up everywhere.  I think it was seen because of what our correspondents witnessed -- this execution which was horrific -- where they watched two federal policemen basically trying to saw off the head of a suspected Islamic State fighter to cheers from federal police, our story became really the example of what went wrong in Tikrit.  And it was published on April 3rd.  The night of April 5th on Facebook, on a site associated with Shi'ite paramilitary groups and political forces, a picture of myself went up calling for Iraqis to expell me. It quickly received over 100 shares and comments including, "Better to kill him than to expel him."

    Steve Inskeep:  Did it blow over?

    Ned Parker: No.  It only got worse.  I-I did go out and try to have meetings with some people, different prominent Iraqis, about it.  And then on Wednesday night [April 8th]  the channel of Asaib al-Haq -- which is a prominent Shi'ite political party and paramilitary group, my face is the backdrop as the anchor talks and he actually waives also a print out of my face and talks about how I should be expelled from the country and then proceeds to read a letter from an Iraqi living in the United States who also again calls for me to be expelled and describes Reuters as trampling on the dignity of Iraq and Shi'ite paramilitary groups and after that there's no way I could have stayed in the country -- both for myself and for my staff.  My presence was polarizing the situation.  So I left the next day.

    All Iraq News notes Parliament held a session today in which they hosted Hiader.  Alsumaria reports Haider al-Abadi declared that there was no marginalization of any groups of people in Iraq and that the Cabinet votes are determined by consensus.

    Well then it's time for Shi'ite militias to start killing Shi'ites because they're being 'marginalized' what with all the time these thugs are devoting to killing Sunnis.

    بغداد: ميليشيات الحشد تقتل "8" من نازحي الانبار في منطقة حي الجهاد غرب بغداد.
    54 retweets21 favorites

    That's Iraqi Spring MC noting 8 refugees from Anbar Province who were killed by Baghdad's Shi'ite militias.

    Graffiti is going up around Baghdad, threatening the displaced from Anbar, telling them to leave or be killed.  And to the south of Baghdad, in Mahmudiya, the Shi'ite militias have declared all Anbar refugees must leave within 72 hours or they will be killed.

    But remember, Haider said this morning that no group is targeted in Iraq.

    Of course, Rudaw reports that he also told the Parliament that if the day came when he "couldn't protect the Iraqi people, I will leave my post."

    Does he think he's protecting the Anbar refugees?

    Does he think he's protecting the Sunni population?

    If so, he has a very minimal notion of what "protection" actually means.

    All Iraq News notes an argument erupted in Parliament over Haider's continued insistence that Anbar refugees (fleeing the assault on Ramadi by the Islamic State and the Iraqi military) could be housed in Iraq's notorious prison and torture chamber Abu Ghraib.

    Alsumaria notes that Kazem Sayadi with the Shi'ite National Alliance was not impressed declaring Haider's performance "disappointing" and noting he was not the choice of State of Law, that State of Law supported Nouri al-Maliki.  Sayadi also attacked (Sunni) Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq insisting they were responsible for sectarian tensions.

    Meanwhile Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr issued a statement today.  Alsumaria reports he decired some elements in the militias who are operating from "greed" and not in the best interests of Iraq.  He called for these elements to be isolated.  Along with calling for some elements of the militia to be frozen out, he also called for Iraq not to take assistance from the United States in fighting the Islamic State and insisted the Parliament should fight against allowing US involvement in fighting the Islamic State.

    From the Parliament to the US Congress, Julian Pecquet (Al Monitor) reports:

    The House Armed Services Committee on April 27 released an annual Defense bill that authorizes $715 million in aid to Iraqi forces fighting the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS). The bill, which is scheduled to be debated and voted on in the committee on April 29, carves out at least 25% of that aid for the peshmerga, the Sunni tribal militias and a yet-to-be-established Iraqi Sunni National Guard.
    The bill “would require that the Kurdish peshmerga, the Sunni tribal security forces with a national security mission, and the Iraqi Sunni National Guard be deemed a country,” according to a bill summary. Doing so “would allow these security forces to directly receive assistance from the United States.” 
    The Obama administration has expressed some degree of support for giving Iraqi minorities more autonomy, with Secretary of State John Kerry and the president himself applauding the idea of a National Guard. A senior administration official, however, told Al-Monitor that the Defense bill proposal goes too far.

    Alsumaria reports MP Hanan al-Fatlawi has declared the bill (which see wrongly appears to believe is already a law) is a violation of Iraq's sovereignty and she demands the Parliament pass some action barring the bill.  al-Fatlawi is a member of Nouri al-Maliki's State Of Law political slate.

    And if al-Fatlawi's angry about Baghdad being bypassed (aid and weapons currently go to Baghdad which then either distributes a tiny amount to the Kurds and the Sunnis or none at all), wait until she learns what else is in the bill.

    NRT explains that the bill, if it became law, would demand that "before Baghdad receives the money, it has to ensure that it's meeting certain conditions, including giving minorities greater inclusion in the central government."

    In yesterday's snapshot, I noted my take on Iraq's descent into chaos.  Dexter Filkins has a different take.  The Washington Free Beacon notes:

    New Yorker staff writer Dexter Filkins, an outspoken critic of the Bush administration and the Iraq War, told radio host Hugh Hewitt on Wednesday that it was “hard to conclude otherwise” that the Obama administration’s 2011 withdrawal from Iraq was the “worst strategic decision.”

    The link has an audio clip of Filkins explaining his opinion.

    Turning to some of today's reported violence, Alsumaria notes 2 corpses were discovered in southwestern Baghdad, the corpses of 25 Iraqi soliders were discovered in Nazim (Anbar Province), a Baghdad roadside bombing killed 1 person and left five more injured, and a group of men wearing uniforms of the Iraqi military kidnapped an engineer to the north of Baghdad.  All Iraq News notes that 8 corpses were discovered in the al-Jihad area of Baghdad.   Margaret Griffis ( counts 48 violent deaths throughout the country today.

    And he attacked the press.
    And you have to attack the press if you want to strong-arm them into ignoring reality and only reporting the lies that make you look good.

    As we've long noted here, I have no position on any White House treaty/agreement with the government of Iran.  I've made it clear that since there's no deal -- and there isn't one -- to review, it's pointless.  There's a 'framework' for a possible agreement.   Whatever.

    I do have an opinion on how this move by Barack Obama, US President, to salvage his tattered reputation in the final days of his final term as president has put addressing the needs of Iraq and the Iraqi people on hold as he refuses to do anything that might harm his deal.

    I think it's shameful and embarrassing.

    I think it's destructive.

    He missed the deadline and now we all wait longer for Barack to see if he can get a deal by June.

    Iraq suffers

    Maybe people will start to care -- people on my side, the left -- because the continued time and energy wasted on this non-deal is now harming the Palestinians as well.

    Colum Lynch (Foreign Policy) reports how real efforts at helping the Palestinians reach a two-state resolution are now being set aside to some 'later date' that might not ever come:

    U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration had hinted recently that it might be willing to drop its long-standing resistance to Security Council action after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that a Palestinian state would not be established under his watch, raising questions about his commitment to a two-state solution.
    “It seems pretty clear to me there is no interest in the United States in pushing this right now,” Ilan Goldenberg, a former member of the Obama administration’s Middle East team, told FP. He noted that the White House has to balance its interest in mounting a new Middle East peace push at the U.N. with locking down support for the Iran deal in Congress. “The administration is not going to do anything to jeopardize that,” he said.

    The whole world has to wait to see if Barack can ever nail down a deal with Iran.  He's been trying for how many years now?  He was supposed to have wrapped it up already but missed that deadline a few weeks back.  Now he's hit the snooze button to buy more time.

    And the Iraqi people suffer and the Palestinians suffer and who else as everything has to be put on hold?

    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 "These Things Can Change" (Dollars and Sense):

    In 2013, Rosario Ventura and her husband Isidro Silva were strikers at Sakuma Brothers Farms in Burlington, Wash. In the course of three months over 250 workers walked out of the fields several times, as their anger grew over the wages and the conditions in the labor camp where they lived.

    Every year the company hires 7-800 people to pick strawberries, blueberries and blackberries.  During World War Two the Sakumas were interned because of their Japanese ancestry, and would have lost their land, as many Japanese farmers did, had it not been held in trust for them by another local rancher until the war ended.  Today the business has grown far beyond its immigrant roots, and is one of the largest berry growers in Washington, where berries are big business.  It has annual sales of $6.1 million, and big corporate customers like Haagen Dazs ice cream.  It owns a retail outlet, a freezer and processing plant, and a chain of nurseries in California that grow rootstock.

    By contrast, Sakuma workers have very few resources. Some are local workers, but over half are migrants from California, like Ventura and her family.  Both the local workers and the California migrants are immigrants, coming from indigenous towns in Oaxaca and southern Mexico where people speak languages like Mixteco and Triqui.  While all farm workers in the U.S. are poorly paid, these new indigenous arrivals are at the bottom.  One recent study in California found that tens of thousands of indigenous farm workers received less than minimum wage.

    In 2013 Ventura and other angry workers formed an independent union, Familias Unidas por la Justicia-Families United for Justice. In fitful negotiations with the company, they discovered that Sakuma Farms had been certified to bring in 160 H-2A guest workers.  The H2A program was established in 1986 to allow U.S. agricultural employers to hire workers in other countries, and bring them to the U.S.  In this program, the company first must certify that it has tried to hire workers locally.  If it can't find workers at the wage set by the state employment department, and the department agrees that the company has offered the jobs, the grower can then hire workers outside the country.