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السبت، 30 مايو، 2015

Iraq snapshot Thursday, May 28, 2015.

Iraq snapshot Thursday, May 28, 2015. 

The Common Ills
Thursday, May 28, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Haider al-Abadi fears refugees wanting to enter Baghdad might include suicide bombers and worse so he wants to route them to the KRG instead, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest makes a significant TV appearance where he speaks of Iraq, there is still no political solution in Iraq nor any work towards one on the part of the US, and much more.

White House spokesperson Josh Earnest made a rather significant appearance on America's Newsroom with Bill Hemmer and Martha MacCallum (Fox News) today.

Bill Hemmer: You said this week you're confident in the strategy and you just heard Senator McCain and other critics say you don't have a strategy.  In a sentence, what is it?

Josh Earnest:  Our strategy is to support the Iraqi security forces in doing what we will not do for them.  The United States is prepared to train them, to equip them and to back them on the battlefield with coalition military air power as they take the fight to ISIL in their own country.  The United States is not going to be responsible for securing the security situation inside of Iraq.  But we will stand with the Iraqi central government, the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi people as they do. We can also supplement that effort by trying to shut down every avenue of financing that ISIL has.  We can try to stem the flow of foreign fighters to that region of the world to try to shut down the pipeline of people who are traveling all across the world to take up arms alongside of ISIL.  We can work to try to counter the violent, [sic] inciteful  messaging that they're to incite people to carry out acts of violence -- we can try to counter that.  This is a comprehensive strategy and what we're going to see is we're going to see areas of progress -- areas like the success we had in driving ISIL out of Tikrit --

Bill Hemmer:  Okay, okay, okay --

Josh Earnest (Con't): -- we took an ISIL leader off the battle in Syria but there's no doubt that we've sustained some setbacks in Ramadi as well.

Those are stunning remarks on the part of the White House spokesperson when you grasp what happened Monday:  Joe Biden rushing to kneel before Haider al-Abadi and kiss the Iraqi prime minister's boo-boos and wounded pride over the remarks of US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter who,   on State of the Union (CNN) Sunday, spoke with Barbara Starr about the fall of Ramadi to the Islamic State.
Secretary Ash Carter:  What apparently happened was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight. Uh, they were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force. And yet they failed to fight they withdrew from the sight and uh that says to me and i think to most of us that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and  defend themselves now we can give them training, we can give them equipment, we obviously can't give them the will to fight.



Instead of backing the Secretary of Defense, the White House chose to dispatch Joe Biden on aYou've Got A Really Fine Penis, Sir, An Impressive One Even mission to reassure the pathetic Haider al-Abadi.

Readout of Vice President Biden's Call with Prime Minister Al-Abadi of Iraq


Vice President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi today to reaffirm U.S. support for the Iraqi government’s fight against ISIL. The Vice President recognized the enormous sacrifice and bravery of Iraqi forces over the past eighteen months in Ramadi and elsewhere. The Vice President welcomed the Council of Minister’s unanimous decision on May 19th to mobilize additional troops, honor those who have fallen, and prepare for counter-attack operations. The Vice President pledged full U.S. support in these and other Iraqi efforts to liberate territory from ISIL, including the expedited provision of U.S. training and equipment to address the threat posed by ISIL’s use of truck bombs.
Josh Earnest remarks today sort of negate all the groveling and ass kissing Joe Biden did on Monday.

And  that could be a good thing -- provided this is the new road the White House is taking.  It could be a very bad thing if they intend to stab Earnest in the back a few days on down the line.

They need to be consistent -- one of the traits this administration has struggled to exhibit. 

If the remarks stand, you can be sure pouty Haider al-Abadi will be stomping his feet, his lower lip trembling and jutting out as he sobs and sobs.

He's been indulged more than enough as it is.  

Earnest's remarks are also of interest because they were made on Fox News.

The White House really needs to get over their petty grudges.

Fox News has a huge audience, Barack used to blather on about no red states, no blue states . . . and claim he could work with others.  He wants to be seen as mature then he and his administration needs to stop the attacks.  Fox News is a platform to reach millions of Americans and the White House is a fool to pass up the chance to utilize that platform.

The always ridiculous Nancy Pelosi (I can say it, she allegedly represent my Congressional district) was on Taking The Hill (MSNBC)  days ago speaking with host, Iraq War veteran and former US House Rep Patrick Murphy and insisting that the US was winning the propaganda war on social media and the Islamic State was losing.

There's something surreal about Nancy Pelosi going on MSNBC to insist that the propaganda war was being won -- then again, where else to make such a claim?

If they want to win the spin war, the White House is going to have to engage with the media and that does include Fox News.  

Bonus points to Earnest and the White House for selecting the frame and angle for the appearance (realizing that facing the sun -- outside -- would give Earnest a gravity that he sometimes lacks).  Yes, Josh has lovely eyes.  But forcing him to squint throughout the appearance gave his remarks an appearance of conviction that they might have otherwise struggled to convey visually.

In terms of getting a message out and how they presented the message, Josh Earnest and the White House were a success.


Most probably either nodded along or sighed and shook their head while Earnest spoke.  I doubt many picked up the problem -- the ongoing problem -- with his remarks. 

Let's review them one more time and see if you can figure out what's missing as he explains the White House's strategy or 'strategy' to combat the Islamic State.

Josh Earnest:  Our strategy is to support the Iraqi security forces in doing what we will not do for them.  The United States is prepared to train them, to equip them and to back them on the battlefield with coalition military air power as they take the fight to ISIL in their own country.  The United States is not going to be responsible for securing the security situation inside of Iraq.  But we will stand with the Iraqi central government, the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi people as they do. We can also supplement that effort by trying to shut down every avenue of financing that ISIL has.  We can try to stem the flow of foreign fighters to that region of the world to try to shut down the pipeline of people who are traveling all across the world to take up arms alongside of ISIL.  We can work to try to counter the violent, [sic] inciteful  messaging that they're to incite people to carry out acts of violence -- we can try to counter that.  This is a comprehensive strategy and what we're going to see is we're going to see areas of progress -- areas like the success we had in driving ISIL out of Tikrit --

Bill Hemmer:  Okay, okay, okay --

Josh Earnest (Con't): -- we took an ISIL leader off the battle in Syria but there's no doubt that we've sustained some setbacks in Ramadi as well.

Did you catch it?

No?

I think a number of people did catch it but we'll toss out a hint real quick: Next week, the month of June begins.

Did that help?

Josh Earnest is outlining what the White House will do and won't do in the fight against the Islamic State.  They will help Iraq as it attempts to stand up to the Islamic State, they will do that via war planes dropping bombs -- among other things.  They will also target financing of terrorism and the influx of foreign fighters into the region.

Okay.

But it was June of last year that US President Barack Obama told the American people that there was no military answer for Iraq's problems, that the only way forward for Iraq was a political solution.

From Barack's June 19th press briefing:

THE PRESIDENT:  Finally, the United States will lead a diplomatic effort to work with Iraqi leaders and the countries in the region to support stability in Iraq.  At my direction, Secretary Kerry will depart this weekend for meetings in the Middle East and Europe, where he’ll be able to consult with our allies and partners.  And just as all Iraq’s neighbors must respect Iraq’s territorial integrity, all of Iraq’s neighbors have a vital interest in ensuring that Iraq does not descend into civil war or become a safe haven for terrorists.
Above all, Iraqi leaders must rise above their differences and come together around a political plan for Iraq’s future.  Shia, Sunni, Kurds -- all Iraqis -- must have confidence that they can advance their interests and aspirations through the political process rather than through violence.  National unity meetings have to go forward to build consensus across Iraq’s different communities.  Now that the results of Iraq’s recent election has been certified, a new parliament should convene as soon as possible.  The formation of a new government will be an opportunity to begin a genuine dialogue and forge a government that represents the legitimate interests of all Iraqis.

Now, it’s not the place for the United States to choose Iraq’s leaders.  It is clear, though, that only leaders that can govern with an inclusive agenda are going to be able to truly bring the Iraqi people together and help them through this crisis.  Meanwhile, the United States will not pursue military options that support one sect inside of Iraq at the expense of another.  There’s no military solution inside of Iraq, certainly not one that is led by the United States.  But there is an urgent need for an inclusive political process, a more capable Iraqi security force, and counterterrorism efforts that deny groups like ISIL a safe haven.

[. . .]

THE PRESIDENT: Peter Maer.

Q    Thank you, sir.  Going back to where you see Prime Minister al-Maliki playing a role at this point, you said that it’s a time to rise above differences, that there’s a need for more inclusive government.  Is he a unifier?  And how much clout does the United States ultimately have with any of the leadership in Iraq at this point really?


THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we still provide them significant assistance.  I think they recognize that, unlike some other players in the region, we don’t have territorial ambitions in their country.  We’re not looking to control their assets or their energy.  We want to make sure that we’re vindicating the enormous effort and sacrifice that was made by our troops in giving them an opportunity to build a stable, inclusive society that can prosper and deliver for the basic needs and aspirations of the Iraqi people.
And at the same time, they are a sovereign country.  They have their own politics.  And what we have tried to do is to give them our best advice about how they can solve their political problems.  Now that they are in crisis, we are indicating to them that there is not going to be a simple military solution to this issue.  If you start seeing the various groups inside of Iraq simply go to their respective corners, then it is almost certain that Baghdad and the central government will not be able to control huge chunks of their own country.  The only way they can do that is if there are credible Sunni leaders, both at the national level and at the local level, who have confidence that a Shia majority, that the Kurds, that all those folks are committed to a fair and just governance of the country.
Right now, that doesn’t exist.  There’s too much suspicion, there’s too much mistrust.  And the good news is that an election took place in which despite all this mistrust, despite all this frustration, despite all this anger, you still had millions of Iraqis turn out -- in some cases, in very dangerous circumstances.  You now have a court that has certified those elections, and you have a constitutional process to advance government formation.
So far, at least, the one bit of encouraging news that we’ve seen inside of Iraq is that all the parties have said they continue to be committed to choosing a leadership and a government through the existing constitutional order.
So what you’re seeing I think is, as the prospects of civil war heighten, many Iraq leaders stepping back and saying, let’s not plunge back into the abyss; let’s see if we can resolve this politically.  But they don’t have a lot of time.  And you have a group like ISIL that is doing everything that it can to descend the country back into chaos. 
And so one of the messages that we had for Prime Minister Maliki but also for the Speaker of the House and the other leadership inside of Iraq is, get going on this government formation.  It’ll make it a lot easier for them to shape a military strategy.  It’ll also make it possible for us to partner much more effectively than we can currently.


Q    Given the Prime Minister’s track record, is he a unifier?  Can he play that role after what we’ve seen play out over the last couple of weeks is brought into play?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think the test is before him and other Iraqi leaders as we speak.  Right now, they can make a series of decisions.  Regardless of what’s happened in the past, right now is a moment where the fate of Iraq hangs in the balance, and the test for all of them is going to be whether they can overcome the mistrust, the deep sectarian divisions, in some cases just political opportunism, and say this is bigger than any one of us and we’ve got to make sure that we do what’s right for the Iraqi people.  And that’s a challenge.

That’s not something that the United States can do for them.  That’s not something, by the way, that the United States Armed Forces can do for them.  We can provide them the space, we can provide them the tools.  But ultimately, they’re going to have to make those decisions.


Nouri al-Maliki's gone.

And that's really it.

Nouri was hideous.  He tortured.  He used the Ministry of Interior to foster hatred and violence towards gay people.  (He sent the Ministry of Interior into Iraq's schools to spread fear.)  He ran secret prisons.  He had people arrested without warrants, he had them held in prisons without due process or court appearances.  Women and girls in Iraqi prisons were beaten and often raped.  He used security forces to intimidate, brutalize and kill peaceful protesters.  He used the military to target his political rivals.  His rap sheet is endless.

Today,  David Romano (Rudaw) revisits Nouri's second term to note:

Regular readers of this newspaper will be quite familiar with the story of how the Jihadis of the Islamic State (ISIS) made a comeback in Iraq. It is a story of broken promises and complete alienation of the Sunni Arab community in the country, combined with the chaos in neighbouring Syria (which is also related to the disenfranchisement of the Sunni Arab community there). The recent fall of Ramadi and the destruction of the important Baiji refinery, despite all the military assistance to the Iraqi government, highlight the need for a political strategy to complement the military effort in Iraq. To understand the outlines of the needed political strategy, we need only remember key factors that led Iraqis to their current crisis with ISIS. 
[. . .]
The Sunni Awakening Councils went unpaid after being transferred to Baghdad’s responsibility. Despite winning a plurality of the votes in the March 2010 general election, the majority Sunni party of Iyad Alawi was denied their right to try and form the next government. Instead, an increasingly authoritarian and power-centralizing Prime Minister Maliki remained in office. Promises to share power with Alawi’s party, the Kurds and others were never fulfilled. When leading Sunni Arab politician and Vice-President Tarek al-Hashimi reacted to Mr. Maliki’s policies and supported Sunni efforts in Diyala and other governorates to form their own region (and thereby carve out some autonomous space vis-à-vis Baghdad), the Maliki-controlled judiciary put out an arrest warrant for him on “terrorism” charges. This was only two days after the withdrawal of the last American troops in December 2011. Arrest warrants for other leading Sunni politicians, such as Finance Minister Rafi al-Issawi, soon followed.  Sunni Arab popular protests were met with brutal repression. In short, the trust that moderate Sunni Arab Iraqis had shown by trying to cooperate with the new regime and play by the rules was betrayed.

Nouri's being gone is a good thing.

But he was leaving, for those who have forgotten, in order to give Iraqis a sense that there was change.

When the man who replaced Nouri -- Haider al-Abadi -- continues the policies?

There's no change.

And there's no effort, no diplomatic effort, on the part of the United States.

It's almost a year since Barack made those remarks.

But there's been no real work on a political solution.

And they have taken sides, the White House has taken sides.  By refusing to arm all three major groups in Iraq -- Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurd -- the White House has taken sides.

They also took sides when they refused to meet with Nineveh Province Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi and former Minister of Finance Rafe al-Issawi earlier this month when the two Sunni politicians were in DC.

One of the highest ranking Sunni in the Iraqi government will be in DC shortly and, as noted in today's State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Jeff Rathke, at least he will be invited to the White House.

QUESTION: On Iraq --


MR RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: -- do you have any information about the visit of the Iraq parliament speaker next week to Washington?

MR RATHKE: Salim al-Jabouri --

QUESTION: Yes.

MR RATHKE: -- the speaker of the Iraqi parliament, will visit the White House and will meet with Vice President Biden on Friday, June 12th. The speaker will also have a meeting with Secretary Kerry at the State Department during his stay. Vice President Biden and the Secretary also will welcome Speaker al-Jabouri to discuss a range of issues, including the U.S. strong and continued support to Iraq under our Strategic Framework Agreement, the collective campaign to degrade and destroy ISIL, and the status of ongoing political initiatives to address the needs of the Iraqi people. 

The Speaker of Parliament is Salim al-Jabouri and you can argue whether he or Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi has more power (al-Nujaifi is the former Speaker of Parliament) but the two are the most powerful Sunnis in Iraq's national government.

(Saleh al-Mutlaq is one of Iraq's many deputy prime ministers.  It's a lady-in-waiting post, not one with real power or leadership.  Salim presides over the Parliament which grants him many powers while Osama's granted powers include the ability to halt any bill that passes Parliament.)

The White House has not focused on aiding a political solution.

That's only surprising if you fail to grasp how they indulged Nouri and looked the other way throughout his crimes and abuses.

As Ryan Crocker, former US Ambassador to Iraq, told Thomas E. Ricks (Foreign Policy), "Our inaction since 2011 -- and I mean political inaction more than military -- leads us to today."

BRussells Tribunal notes The Stockholm Appeal from the I.A.O.N. which is calling for real solutions:

The Stockholm Appeal from the I.A.O.N.:

Stop military intervention in Iraq under any pretext!

After decades of sanctions, war and occupation, attempts to dominate and control Iraq continue. The destruction of the country´s infrastructure, its army and its middle class has left a failed state that leaves its people in social misery and chaos. This has resulted in the collapse of the health and education systems, the weakening of the social fabric and the collective memory and national identity of the Iraqi people. Foreign plans to divide Iraq threaten its very existence as a state.

1. The failure of the US-led occupation to achieve their goals has been followed by another war with massive bombings of civilians and the infusion of enormous amounts of military weapons.

2. The regime in Baghdad which resulted from the imposed sectarian Bremer constitution is incapable by its very nature of achieving the inclusiveness of the different ethnic, religious and political groups that is required to guarantee Iraq´s continued existence.

3. Outside interference and support to sectarian militia and terrorist groups has further worsened internal conflicts, giving birth to criminal ruling groups. It has led to serious violations of human rights and has caused widespread suffering for civilians.

4. The government policies of massive imprisonment, torture, forced displacement and the exclusion of many from the political process have together provided fertile ground for all forms of extremism and terrorism.

5. Millions of refugees have been caught between the US-led bombing and the attacks from the government and its militia allies as well as from the terrorist attacks by ISIS. A humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions continues to worsen with widespread sectarian ethnic cleansing .

We re-iterate our stand that peace cannot be restored until the underlying causes of the conflict have been dealt with. The Iraqi people continue to resist foreign domination. Only their unity can guarantee the sovereignty of Iraq and defeat of terrorism and separatism. Only their efforts can guarantee good relations with all their neighbours based on strict non-interference in each other´s internal affairs. Iraq is not a pawn to be offered in regional or religious conflict. Its sovereignty and independence must be respected.

In the present situation, our efforts should be intensified and co-ordinated to:

- spread information about the underlying political nature of the conflict and demand an end to all foreign intervention.

- support the efforts of the patriotic forces for unity against sectarianism and terrorism where all Iraqis are treated as citizens of one country rather than members of specific communities.

- mobilize international efforts to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people.

- demand an end to the bombing and military intervention in Iraqunder the pretext of fighting terrorism.

- demand  justice for the victims and accountability by those responsible for the crimes committed and their responsibility for reparations and the reconstruction of the country. The UN must uphold international law.

We call upon all anti-occupation, anti-war and peace loving people to maintain and continue solidarity with the people of Iraqand their struggle for an independent, unified and non-sectarianIraq.
 
Stockholm May 24, 2015

In other signs that there is no political solution in Iraq today, Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) notes, "Baghdad has asked the Kurdish government to allow 20,000 refugees from Anbar province to relocate there because they will not be allowed into the capital. The fear is that terrorists will be hidden among the displaced."


First, you have citizens of Iraq being denied the right to enter their own capitol.

Second, if Haider al-Abadi really believes there's a threat of terrorists being in with the refugees, why would he insist the KRG take them in?

In what world does that make sense?

'We can't let them into Baghdad because they might be bombers but how about you take these possible bombers into the KRG because it doesn't matter if Erbil gets attacked or Kurds get killed."

That's what it sounds like.

And it sounds like Haider's placing a premium on one group of lives (Shi'ite) while arguing that Sunni lives (the refugees) do not matter nor do the Kurds.

There is no unity in Iraq under Haider al-Abadi -- not even a pretense of unity.

There is continued violence.  Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 227 violent deaths across Iraq today.

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