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الأربعاء، 30 سبتمبر، 2015

The Saudi-Led Coalition’s Airstrikes in Yemen, and the Civilian Toll

The Saudi-Led Coalition’s Airstrikes in Yemen, and the Civilian Toll


The New York Times
Photo
The aftermath of an airstrike that reportedly killed seven people, including a local barber and a 12-year-old girl, in Sana, the Yemeni capital. CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times
Airstrikes killed as many as 81 people at awedding party in a Yemeni village on the Red Sea coast on Monday. The attack was one of the deadliest involving civilians since the conflict began in March. Saudi Arabia has led a military coalition, aided by the United States, that aims to oust the Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran, and reinstate the former president. Kareem Fahim, a New York Times correspondent, recently traveled to Yemen to cover the toll that the coalition airstrikes have taken on the civilian population. He answered questions, somesubmitted by readers, on the continuing Saudi-led aerial campaign.
Q. What does the Saudi-led coalition say is the aim of its air campaign in Yemen?
A. The coalition says it is trying to defeat the Houthis, a rebel movement from northern Yemen that captured Sana, the capital, and other parts of the country over the last year and forced the Saudi-backed government from power.
Beyond the coalition’s stated goals — which include restoring the government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi — the fight in Yemen has a regional dimension: The coalition of Sunni states fighting in Yemen appears anxious to project military strength as a warning to Shiite Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional nemesis.
Q. How have the airstrikes changed the course of the conflict? Are they enabling the Saudis to make military gains?
A. Forces allied with the coalition certainly seem to have enjoyed a significant advantage because of the warplanes, which have bombed Houthi positions and supply lines as well as their ammunition depots and military bases. At the same time, the most notable coalition success, the capture of the southern port city of Aden in July, occurred after hundreds of troops from the United Arab Emirates joined the fighting against the Houthis, who were routed.
In several cases, coalition warplanes have accidentally bombed their own forces. And even after six months of fighting and thousands of airstrikes by the coalition — which in some cases have hit the same ammunition depots time and again — the Houthis seem to still possess enough firepower to carry out large scale-attacks on coalition forces closing in on Sana or across the border in Saudi Arabia.
The Houthis have also repeatedly deployed their weapons against civilian areas, especially in Aden and the central Yemeni city of Taiz.
Q. What role has the United States had in the air campaign?
A. The Obama administration says it is providing logistical support, like refueling, to coalition warplanes, as well as intelligence. The United States is also a major arms supplier to Saudi Arabia and the other Persian Gulf states in the coalition, so American weapons, including munitions, are being widely deployed in the war.
In April, a report in the Los Angeles Times said that American personnel were working in a joint coalition operations center in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, “to check the accuracy of target lists,” and that the Pentagon had “expedited delivery of GPS-guided ‘smart’ bomb kits to the Saudi air force to replenish supplies.” American officials told the newspaper that increasing concern about the high number of civilian casualties caused them to step up their involvement in the coalition effort, including adding personnel in the operations room. “U.S. reconnaissance drones now send live video feeds of potential targets and of damage after the bombs hit,” it reported.
Q. What has been the humanitarian impact of the airstrikes?
A. In many places, catastrophic. I recently visited northern Yemen at a time when the coalition had stepped up the bombing, especially in Sana. Many of the airstrikes in the capital appear to be roughly aimed at security installations, military bases or government buildings. But many of these places are in the middle of residential areas, so the airstrikes inevitably plunge into homes and kill civilians. This happened on several occasions while I was there. In one case, the coalition, apparently trying to hit a university that the Houthis were using as a base, peppered the neighborhood next to it with bombs, killing at least nine people in two separate houses.
The damage in Sana is mild in comparison to some of the northern provinces, where the airstrikes have been so intense and fall so frequently on residential areas that they have prompted a huge exodus of civilians. Some neighborhoods in the northern city of Saada — part of an area that the coalition declared was a “military zone” — are almost destroyed.
On several occasions, warplanes have targeted buildings that are not only civilian in nature, but also far from any military target. A Times photographer and I visited one, a water-bottling plant in Hajja Province, where 13 workers were killed in an airstrike. We saw nothing else around the place for miles.
Q. What, if anything, are Yemenis doing to protect themselves from airstrikes?
A. In the capital, many residents stay home or severely limit their movement until the airstrikes, which seem to come in waves, subside. In areas along the border with Saudi Arabia, where the bombing is more intense, some people have taken shelter in caves, aid workers told us.

Saudis Face Mounting Pressure Over Civilian Deaths in Yemen Conflict

Saudis Face Mounting Pressure Over Civilian Deaths in Yemen Conflict


The New York Times


The city of Saada, in north Yemen, has been a focus of Saudi attacks against the Houthi rebels.CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times
CAIRO — Saudi Arabia and its allies faced mounting international pressure on Tuesday to halt a bombing campaign in Yemen the day after airstrikes killed dozens of people at a village wedding on the Red Sea coast.
The attack occurred Monday morning in the village of Wahija, south of the city of Mokha, and appeared to be one of the deadliest involving civilians since the military campaign began in March. Witnesses said Monday that at least 70 people had been killed in tents set up for the wedding. On Tuesday, two local medical officials said as many as 81 people had died.
The attack on the wedding, along with a string of recent airstrikes that have led to large numbers of civilian deaths, has fueled accusations that the Saudi-led military coalition is conducting an increasingly reckless offensive as it tries to defeat the Houthis, a rebel movement from the north of Yemen. The strikes have prompted a series of unusually angry statements from normally cautious United Nations officials who have singled out the coalition for causing the majority of civilian deaths in Yemen’s six-month war.
There have also been signs that the Obama administration could face more questions over its military support of the air campaign. On Tuesday, Representative Ted W. Lieu, Democrat of California, sent the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff a letter citing reports of civilian deaths and requesting that the United States “cease aiding coalition airstrikes in Yemen until the coalition demonstrates that they will institute proper safeguards to prevent civilian deaths.”
A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition denied on Monday that coalition warplanes were responsible for the wedding bombing, telling Reuters that there had been no coalition operations in the area for days.
On Tuesday, the Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, speaking to reporters in New York, said the Yemeni authorities would investigate the allegations. He added that the coalition sought to “minimize casualties” when possible.
Mr. Jubeir said the Saudi-led coalition was often blamed for damage done by the Houthis. “We need to be careful about facts and fiction,” he said.
Frustration with the coalition burst into public after months of private grumbling by diplomats over the airstrikes but also over a continuing blockade that has caused shortages of food, fuel and medicine.
In Geneva on Tuesday, Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a news briefing that the coalition was “indubitably responsible for the naval blockade of Yemen’s main seaports.” The blockade, he added, is exacerbating a humanitarian crisis that has left four out of five Yemenis requiring assistance, and 1.5 million people internally displaced.
Yet most of the diplomatic irritation over the last few days has been fueled by the airstrikes. On Monday, after calling for an end to the bombing in his address to the General Assembly, the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, released a statement condemning the wedding party bombing. He warned that “any intentional attack against civilians is considered a serious violation of humanitarian law.”
Mr. Ban called on all parties involved in the Yemeni conflict “from inside and outside the country to immediately cease all military activities.
Mr. Colville said that civilians were being killed by “an increasing number of airstrikes targeting bridges and highways.”
A recent report by the high commissioner’s office found that almost two-thirds of reported civilian deaths “had allegedly been caused by coalition airstrikes, which were also responsible for almost two-thirds of damaged or destroyed civilian public buildings,” Mr. Colville said.
The United Nations has been trying to investigate human rights violations by all sides in the Yemen war. But Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies have tried to block any international inquiry.
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly dismissed accusations that airstrikes are killing civilians and has instead blamed the Houthis for the deaths.
Mr. Colville released new casualty estimates for the war on Tuesday, saying at least 2,355 civilians were killed from March 27 to Thursday. A previous estimate, through the end of June, had put the civilian toll at 1,527.
The Obama administration, which counts Saudi Arabia as one of its closest Arab allies and backs the ousted Yemeni government, has provided intelligence to the war effort as well as logistical support, like refueling, to coalition warplanes.
In a letter sent Tuesday to Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the coming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mr. Lieu requested that the Defense Department clarify whether American officials knew how many civilians had died as a result of coalition airstrikes, whether civilians were being targeted and what types of assistance the United States was providing to the coalition.
In an interview, Mr. Lieu, who served in the Air Force as a judge advocate general, said it was unclear from news reports whether the coalition was “grossly negligent or intentionally targeting civilians.”
“There is clearly no military value in a wedding party,” he added.

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September 30, 2015 
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Iraq snapshot Tuesday, September 29, 2015.

Iraq snapshot Tuesday, September 29, 2015.

The Common Ills
Tuesday, September 29, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Barack gives another speech, the prostitution rings in Iraq finally get some press attention, and much more.

These are the words, the words are these,
death lingering, stunk,
Flies swarming everyone
Over the whole summit peak
Flesh quivering in the heat
This was something else again
I fear it cannot be explained
The words that make, the words that make
murder
What if I take my problem to the United Nations?
-- "The Words That Maketh Murder," written by PJ Harvey, first appears on her album LET ENGLAND SHAKE

Yesterday, US President Barack Obama insisted before the United Nations, "Even as our economy is growing and our troops have largely returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, we see in our debates about America’s role in the world a notion of strength that is defined by opposition to old enemies, perceived adversaries, a rising China, or a resurgent Russia; a revolutionary Iran, or an Islam that is incompatible with peace."

The economy's growing (at a snail's pace) and "our troops have largely returned from Iraq and Afghanistan"?

Not quite what he ran on in 2008, is it?

Back then, the Cult of St Barack gathered to hear him thunder, "We want to end the war!"

They might have puzzled over -- maybe even booed? -- a statement like, "We want to largely end the war!"

He further insisted:

In Iraq, the United States learned the hard lesson that even hundreds of thousands of brave, effective troops, trillions of dollars from our Treasury, cannot by itself impose stability on a foreign land.  Unless we work with other nations under the mantle of international norms and principles and law that offer legitimacy to our efforts, we will not succeed.  And unless we work together to defeat the ideas that drive different communities in a country like Iraq into conflict, any order that our militaries can impose will be temporary.   

What international norm or principle is Barack exhibiting when he drops bombs daily on Iraq?

What hard lesson taught him that would work?

Because it hasn't worked for over a year now.

Operation Inherent Failure.

Robert Burns (AP) sums it up, "A summer of stalemate in the effort to reclaim the Iraqi provincial capital of Ramadi, despite U.S.-backed Iraqi troops vastly outnumbering Islamic State fighters, calls into question not only Iraq's ability to win a test of wills over key territory but also the future direction of Washington's approach to defeating the extremist group."

Not only is Barack's plan or 'plan' a failure but its exhausted patience within Iraq.  Al Mada reports that Shi'ite political parties are nervous about the US' military role in Iraq and plan to ask Haider about it (if and) when he finally appears before Parliament.  MP Mohammad al-Karbouli serves on Parliament's Defense Committee and states that the popular crowd (Shi'ite militias) insist that there should be no foreign troops on Iraqi soil.

Confronted with strong opposition, will Haider fold or dance like the puppet he is for the White House?

Zayd Alisa (Open Democracy) offers this:

One year after Haider Al Abadi took over the premiership and the US commenced airstrikes against ISIL or ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Levant, previously known as Al Qaeda in Iraq - AIQ), Iraq is grappling with not only an increasingly menacing existential threat posed by ISIL, but also an intensifying wave of protests. Erupting in Basra—Iraq’s major port and above all where the overwhelming majority of Iraq’s oil exports stems from—the protests swiftly swept through southern provinces, eventually reaching the capital Baghdad.
The demonstrations were initially sparked by a brutal heat wave, which has been exacerbated by an indefensible chronic shortage in the electricity supply and by almost non-existent public services. They have dramatically expanded, however, forcefully calling for an all-out war on corruption and swift political reform.

These protests have sent shock waves across the Shia political blocs, largely because they are severely undermining their credibility and legitimacy with their Shia powerbase. The three biggest Shia political blocs, which have persistently been at the heart of all Shia-led governments since the US-led invasion in 2003, are the State of the Law (SoL), which is led by the Dawa party, and from which comes not only the incumbent prime minister, Abadi, but also his predecessors Nouri Al Maliki and Ibrahim Al Jaafari; Islamic Supreme Council (ISC) led by Ammar Al Hakim; and the Sadrist Al-Ahrar bloc.

Challenges to Haider go beyond the Parliament.  Zaid Sabah and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) report:

A Shiite militia that refuses even to identify its leader is emerging as one of the greatest threats to the Iraqi administration it’s meant to be backing.
Kataib Hezbollah has thousands of fighters deployed against the jihadists of Islamic State. While the Iranian-backed group has played a key role in helping Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi stem the militants’ advance, it’s now joining forces with other Shiite militias to oppose the premier’s push to enact a measure that could limit its own power, and Tehran’s influence.
At the heart of the dispute is the National Guard Law, legislation meant to bring all pro-government armed groups under a unified command. The measure is backed by the U.S. as the only way to halt the breakup of OPEC’s second-biggest oil producer.

And yet All Iraq News quotes MP Jasim Mohammed Jaafar (Iraqi National Alliance) insisting that the National Guard bill "will be endorsed by the Iraqi Parliament after the vacation of Eid Adha."

Of course, one MP after another has insisted for over a year now that this bill was on the verge of passing.

Barack himself's been pushing it publicly since June of 2014.

Maybe he should have made his (military) support conditional?  No passage of the bill, no US war planes?

Haider's been busy in the US of late.

His Tweeter feed is little more than glorified selfies.



  • PM Al-Abadi met Mr. Nikolay Mladenov, special coordinator for the peace process in the Middle East


  • Mladenov?

    The failure as head of UNAMI is now over the peace process?

    Well I guess that's one way to rig the effort and ensure no progress.

    Mohammed Shafiq (Alsumaria) reports that Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari also addressed the United Nations Monday insisting that it needed to help Iraq with its crises.

     Which I guess is his way of insisting that the new deal with Russia was necessary.

    CBS and AP note:

    Iraq will begin sharing "security and intelligence" information with Russia, Syria and Iran to help combat the advances of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS,) the Iraqi military announced Sunday.
    A statement issued by the Iraqi Joint Operations Command said the countries will "help and cooperate in collecting information about the terrorist Daesh group," using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

    On CNN (see video on page), they argue the aspect of the goals of the US versus Russia with regards to Syria (the US government wants Syrian President Bashar al-Assad replaced -- that has been the goal since the days of Bully Boy Bush).

    But another aspect is how can Iraq share intelligence with Russia?

    The US is sharing intel with Iraq which Iraq will then pass on to Russia?

    I have no problem with intel being shared but I'm not the person in the White House who has demonized Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    Barack created the 'great enemy' Putin -- as we noted in real time.

    Putin was a minor player -- a fading one -- until the President of the United States repeatedly elevated him at the end of Barack's first term by verbally attacking him.

    That was Barack's decision and the world lives with the consequences.

    So it's worth noting now that the chain of intel will go something like this: US government shares with Iraq which then shares with Russia.

    Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) offers this take:

    Yesterday’s announcement that Iraq is going to engage in intelligence sharing with Russia and Syria has been met negatively by Pentagon officials, who say that it “complicates” the US war and dramatically weakens America’s own intelligence gathering abilities.
    This problem appears to be largely a function of US annoyance at the information sharing, which means the Pentagon intends to limit intelligence sharing with Iraq, seemingly out of spite, and will subsequently get less intelligence from Iraq in return.

    Ditz seems a little self-righteous and ignorant in the above.

    I have no problem with intel sharing.

    But I do grasp that the US might not want to share intel with someone they're picking a fight with.

    I'm confused as to why that's such a mystery to Jason Ditz.

    Violence continues in Iraq.  Monday?  Alsumaria reports a Baghdad car bombing left 3 people dead and seven more injured and Khalidiya mortar and rockets attack killed 1 sixteen-year-old girl and left two children and two adults injured. Iraq Times adds that a 45-year-old man was shot dead (three shots to the chest) in front of his Basra home by militia members and a Basra tribal clash left 3 people dead and a fourth injured.

    In other news, Alsumaria notes that the Ministry of Health states there are now 401 confirmed cholera cases in Iraq. All Iraq News adds that 14 confirmed cases are in Diwaniya Province.

    On cholera, we'll note this Tweet:



  • For years, we've noted the sex trade in Iraq.  Few have.  Off Our Backs did (the feminist publication ceased publication shortly after).  Today, CNN's Arwa Damon Tweets:




  • The New Yorker report is by Rania Abouzeid and here's an excerpt:

    In 2012, Iraq passed its first law specifically against human trafficking, but the law is routinely ignored, and sexual crimes, including rape and forced prostitution, are common, women’s-rights groups say. Statistics are hard to come by, but in 2011, according to the latest Ministry of Planning report, a survey found that more than nine per cent of respondents between the ages of fifteen and fifty-four said they had been subjected to sexual violence. The real number is likely much higher, given the shame attached to reporting such crimes in a society where a family’s honor is often tied to the chastity of its women. The victims of these crimes are often considered outcasts and can be killed for “dishonoring” their family or their community.
    Since 2006, Layla, a rape victim and former prostitute, has been secretly mapping Iraq’s underworld of sex trafficking and prostitution. Through her network of contacts in the sex trade, she gathers information about who is selling whom and for how much, where the victims are from, and where they are prostituted and trafficked. She passes the information, through intermediaries, to Iraqi authorities, who usually fail to act on it. Still, her work has helped to convict several pimps, including some who kidnapped children. That Saturday night, I accompanied Layla and Mohammad on a tour of some of the places that she investigates, on the condition that I change her name, minimize details that might identify her, and not name her intermediaries.

    The work is extremely dangerous. The pimps whom Layla encounters are women, but behind them is a tangled hierarchy of armed men: corrupt police, militias that profit from the sex trade, and militias that brutally oppose it. On the morning of July 13, 2014, the bullet-ridden bodies of twenty-eight women and five men were retrieved from two apartments, said to be brothels, in a building complex in Zayouna, a neighborhood in eastern Baghdad. I saw the bodies a few hours later, at the city morgue, laid out on the floor. Morgue workers blamed the religious militias, singling out the pro-Iranian Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, one of the many armed outfits proliferating in Iraq. Other groups of suspected prostitutes have been found shot dead, but the Zayouna incident was the largest killing in recent years, and it prompted at least fifteen neighborhood pimps whom Layla knew to flee with their girls to Iraqi Kurdistan. Layla often visits apartments like the ones in Zayouna, posing as a retired pimp. As a cover, she sells the madams abayas that are intricately embroidered with colored crystals and diamantés; they serve to identify women as pimps, rather than prostitutes, at night clubs.

    I should probably do a correction.

    Off Our Backs did report on the issue.

    In fairness, AFP also frequently mentioned "prostitutes."

    Whenever a woman died and someone accused her of having been a prostitute -- excuse me, whenever a woman was murdered and someone accused her of having been a prostitute -- an anonymous neighbor or a vindictive police officer -- AFP was happy to report this allegation as fact -- despite having no proof and knowing what a slur the charge was in Iraq.

    Now AFP was never interested in reporting on prostitute rings or pimps or anything like that.

    But let a woman be murdered and AFP was happy to stamp her with "prostitute" -- in a "she had it coming" kind of way.

    Lastly, Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Col Bernie Sanders" went up last night.

     



    الاثنين، 28 سبتمبر، 2015

    The Intel Chain

    The Intel Chain

    The Common Ills
    The Russian deals raises questions.

    CBS and AP note:

    Iraq will begin sharing "security and intelligence" information with Russia, Syria and Iran to help combat the advances of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS,) the Iraqi military announced Sunday.
    A statement issued by the Iraqi Joint Operations Command said the countries will "help and cooperate in collecting information about the terrorist Daesh group," using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

    On CNN (see video on page), they argue the aspect of the goals of the US versus Russia with regards to Syria (the US government wants Syrian President Bashar al-Assad replaced -- that has been the goal since the days of Bully Boy Bush).

    But another aspect is how can Iraq share intelligence with Russia?

    The US is sharing intel with Iraq which Iraq will then pass on to Russia?

    I have no problem with intel being shared but I'm not the person in the White House who has demonized Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    Barack created the 'great enemy' Putin -- as we noted in real time.

    Putin was a minor player -- a fading one -- until the President of the United States repeatedly elevated him at the end of Barack's first term by verbally attacking him.

    That was Barack's decision and the world lives with the consequences.

    So it's worth noting now that the chain of intel will go something like this: US government shares with Iraq which then shares with Russia.

    As for the status of Operation Inherent Failure itself?

    Robert Burns (AP) sums it up, "A summer of stalemate in the effort to reclaim the Iraqi provincial capital of Ramadi, despite U.S.-backed Iraqi troops vastly outnumbering Islamic State fighters, calls into question not only Iraq's ability to win a test of wills over key territory but also the future direction of Washington's approach to defeating the extremist group."

    New content at Third:


  • The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.

     

  • Hejira

    Hejira


    The Common Ills
    Things get worse for Haider al-Abadi.

    The White House installed him last fall but how long can they protect him?

    The question becomes time-sensitive as Asharq Al-Awsat reports:

    Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi is facing a “mutiny” from within Shi’ite circles in the country over his recent crackdown on government corruption, an informed source said on Saturday.
    Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat via telephone, the source—a high-level Shi’ite politician who requested anonymity—said that “moves, though unofficial, are being made in secret” against Abadi in response to recent reforms he enacted in August.

    “The struggle is within the Shi’ite camp, among its different political and religious lines, and is a struggle for influence, power, and money,” the source said.

    He's lost Nouri al-Maliki (really never had Nouri's support) and he's lost Ayad Allawi.

    Non-publicly, he's lost Ammar al-Hakim -- though the US State Dept continues to deny that reality.  (It's true. Accept it.)  Rumors are say he's lost Moqtada al-Sadr.

    That would be no real surprise.

    Moqtada's not been impressed with Haider's efforts.

    He offered public support for them at one time only to see Haider go wobbly.

    He likely now regrets that support.

    Haider's in trouble.

    And the deals he's making only cause him more trouble.

    Ibrahim al-Jaafari, for example, is said to be furious over the Russian deal announced this weekend.

    Not just because, on Friday, Ibrahim was insisting the deal was nothing but baseless rumors.

    June 19, 2014, US President Barack Obama insisted that the only answer to Iraq's crises was a political solution.  Over a year later, with no work on said political solution, Barack's puppet is in danger of being tossed out.

    Operation Inherent Failure is just one long embarrassment for Barack and if Haider gets tossed, it's going to be even worse.

    I'm traveling in some vehicle
    I'm sitting in some cafe
    A defector from the petty wars
    That shell shock love away
    -- "Hejira," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album of the same name

     The number of US service members the Dept of Defense states died in the Iraq War is [PDF format warning] 4497.

    New content at Third is supposed to go up tomorrow morning.  (Most is finished two pieces are in draft form and need to be smoothed out.)  Mike's "Idiot of the week" went up earlier.

  • The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.

     

  • Iraq snapshot Friday, September 25, 2015

    Iraq snapshot Friday, September 25, 2015

    The Common Ills
    Friday, September 25, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the grades are coming in and Barack's getting Fs, RAND has a new report, and much more.

    Starting with a Tweet.


    1. It's revealing that this Australian govt thinks the answer to 's problems is (more) planes and bombs. That's been tried before, people!
  • It's revealing that any US government can only think of  "(more) planes and bombs."

    US President Barack Obama is only the latest American fool to preach "(more) planes and bombs."

    And despite the lack of success for over a year now, he continues to advocate it.

    And others, like the Australian government, rush to join in on the deadly nonsense.

    The stupidity only increases collectively and apparently in unison.

    The rush to join the death club clouds reason and even the abilities of basic observation.

    As RT noted this week, "Over 53,000 flights, 6700 strikes, and nearly $4 billion dollars later, Operation Inherent Resolve has yet to achieve any of its objectives."


    But the desire to join the death club is too powerful to be let facts get in the way.

    Yesterday, the US Defense Dept boasted:

    Bomber, fighter, fighter-attack, and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 16 airstrikes in Iraq, coordinated with the Iraqi government:
    -- Near Huwayjah, an airstrike destroyed 16 ISIL fighting positions.
    -- Near Habbaniyah, an airstrike destroyed two ISIL anti-air artillery pieces.
    -- Near Kirkuk, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.
    -- Near Mosul, six airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two ISIL vehicle bomb-making facilities, an ISIL fighting position, an ISIL cache, an ISIL bunker, and suppressed an ISIL heavy machine gun, an ISIL light machine gun, and two ISIL mortar positions.
    -- Near Ramadi, three airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroyed two ISIL buildings, an ISIL excavator, and three ISIL mobility obstacles.
    -- Near Sinjar, three airstrikes struck separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed and ISIL light machine gun and six ISIL fighting positions.
    -- Near Tal Afar, one airstrike suppressed ISIL mortar fire.

    Officials also announced a previously unreported Sept. 10 airstrike near Tal Afar, Iraq, which struck an ISIL tactical unit and resulted in a destroyed vehicle and the death of a senior ISIL leader.
    They boasted of that (and of bombings on Syria) and:

    The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, the region, and the wider international community. The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group's ability to project terror and conduct operations, officials said.
    Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Iraq include the United States, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Syria include the United States, Bahrain, Canada, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
    It was nice of them to provide a listing of all the delusional parties who shouldn't be allowed access to a water gun, let alone a bomb.

    But each day, they boast of their latest round of bombings when they should be embarrassed.

    Not only is it barbaric, but it's accomplished nothing.

    Operation Inherent Failure, led by Barack Obama.

    Is that redundant?

    It feels redundant.

    Bringing up the stupidity from the rear, Michael Knights (Al Jazeera) writes:

    Iraq's Kirkuk province has long been identified as a fulcrum for political and ethnic tensions, with the potential to make or break national reconciliation efforts between Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen. With each passing week, Kirkuk rises on the agenda of Iraqi politicians and the province is becoming a focal point for Arab-Kurdish and intra-Kurdish politicking.
    Kirkuk is currently central to five interlocking sets of conflicts. The first is the fight against the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, which is slowing down in central Iraq and which has been largely static along the Kurdish-ISIL front line for many months. The US-led coalition now needs to generate a new northern front against ISIL that fuses together Sunni Arab paramilitaries with Kurdish and international support. Kirkuk is the launchpad for operations against the adjacent ISIL redoubt in Hawija.

    It's a cute little scribble that never manages to grasp reality.

    Should we drop back to July 2011 for the RAND Corporation's report entitled "Managing Arab-Kurd Tensions in Northern Iraq After the Withdrawal of U.S. Troops"?

    From the July 26, 2011 snapshot:
     
    Of greater interest to us (and something's no one's reported on) is the RAND Corporation's  report entitled "Managing Arab-Kurd Tensions in Northern Iraq After the Withdrawal of U.S. Troops."  The 22-page report, authored by Larry Hanauer, Jeffrey Martini and Omar al-Shahery, markets "CBMs" -- "confidence-building measures" -- while arguing this is the answer.  If it strikes you as dangerously simplistic and requiring the the Kurdish region exist in a vacuum where nothing else happens, you may have read the already read the report.  CBMs may strike some as what the US military was engaged in after the Iraqi forces from the central government and the Kurdish peshmerga were constantly at one another's throats and the US military entered into a patrol program with the two where they acted as buffer or marriage counselor.  (And the report admits CBMs are based on that.)  Sunday Prashant Rao (AFP) reported US Col Michael Bowers has announced that, on August 1st, the US military will no longer be patrolling in northern Iraq with the Kurdish forces and forces controlled by Baghdad. That took years.  And had outside actors.  The authors acknowledge:
     
    ["]Continuing to contain Arab-Kurd tensions will require a neutral third-party arbitrator that can facilitate local CMBs, push for national-level negotiations, and prevent armed conflict between Iraqi and Kurdish troops.  While U.S. civilian entities could help implement CMBs and mediate political talks, the continued presence of U.S. military forces within the disputed internal boundaries would be the most effective way to prevent violent conflict between Arabs and Kurds.["]
     
    As you read over the report, you may be struck by its failure to state the obvious: If the US government really wanted the issue solved, it would have been solved in the early years of the illegal war.  They don't want it solved.  The Kurds have been the most loyal ally the US has had in the country and, due to that, they don't want to upset them.  However, they're not going to pay back the loyalty with actual support, not when there's so much oil at stake.  So the Kurds were and will continue to be told their interests matter but the US will continue to blow the Kurdish issues off over and over.  Greed trumps loyalty is the message.  (If you doubt it, the Constitution guaranteed a census and referendum on Kirkuk by December 31, 2007.  Not only did the US government install Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister in 2006, they continued to back him for a second term in 2010 despite his failure to follow the Constitution.)
     
    Along with avoiding that reality, the report seems rather small-minded or, at least, "niche driven."  Again, the authors acknowledge that as well noting that they're not presenting a solution to the problems or ways to reach a solution, just ways to kick the can further down the road and, hopefully, there won't be an explosion that forces the issue any time soon. ("Regional and local CBMs have the potential to keep a lid on inter-communal tensions that will, without question, boil beneath the surface for a long time.  They cannot, however, resolve what is, at its heart, a strategic political dispute that must be resolved at the national level.") Hopefully? Page nine of the report notes that the consensus of US military, officials, analysts, etc. who have worked on the issue is that -- "given enough time -- Arab and Kurdish participants will eventually have a dispute that leads to violence, which will cause the mechanism to degrade or collapse."
     
    The report notes that, in late 2009, Gen Ray Odierno (top US commander in Iraq at that point) had declared the tensions between Arabs and Kurds to be "the greatest single driver of instability in Iraq."  It doesn't note how the US Ambassador to Iraq when Odierno made those remarks was Chris Hill who dismissed talk of tensions as well as the issue of the oil rich and disputed Kirkuk.
     
    The authors argue that the unresolved issues could still be solved (and "civil war is not imminent") but that "the window is quickly closing".  So what's the problem?  The authors explain:
     
    ["]The issues that divide Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, and other minorities in northern Iraq mirror the nation's most complex and contentious political challenges: disputed internal boundaries (which must be settled in order to determine the territorial boundaires of the Kurdistan region), the lack of clarity regarding control over Iraq's hydrocarbons, and the need to professionalize and integrate Iraq's military and police.  More locally, Arab-Kurd disputes extend to the sharing of power on local governing bodies, the ethnic composition of local police, rights to previously seized or abandoned property, the jurisidiction and condut of Kurdish security and intelligence services, and protections for minority rights.["]
     
    If the US military leaves can the US State Dept fill the role?  While the authors note that the State Dept is interested in doing that and might be able to grab some roles, "U.S. diplomats would be ill-suited to join Kurdish and Iraqi security forces on armed patrols or at checkpoints, where disagreements on operations and tactics are more likely to lead to violence." The authors think the United Nations might be able to play a role in the CBMs but acknowledges that in June of 2009, UNAMI was uanble to please either side.
     
    The report really ends there though the authors continue on -- including offering some ridiculous 'soutions.'  Reality, if the US wanted to make an impact on the issue, the time to do so was long, long ago.  It's an Iraqi decision and they'll have to decide it.  And they'll most likely do so in a violent manner.  The report notes, "Kurdish leaders hope that favorable demographic trends will strengthen their position over time, as will revenues from whatever energy contracts they are able to conclude themselves.  For its part, Baghdad seems to believe that improvements to Iraqi Army capabilities will deter armed conflict and prevent the KRG from seceding."

    The unresolved issue of Kirkuk remains unresolved.

    It is still disputed land.

    The Constitution of Iraq is still not being followed.

    But Knights waives away all of that and insists Kirkuk is the way forward  (obsessed Brit TV watchers would insist Essex is the only way).

    And RAND?  They just issued a report by Brian Michael Jenkins entitled [PDF format warning] "How the Current Conflicts Are Shaping the Future of Syria and Iraq."

     Sectarian and ethnic divisions are now almost entirely driving the conflicts.  At the same time, internecine conflicts continue among the jihadists and other religiously motivated rebel formations.  
    National armies have failed.  Power has shifted to militias.  These are capable of defending ethnic and sectarian enclaves but are limited in their ability to conduct strategic operations beyond their home ground.  This shift will, in turn, weaken central government authority. 
    Syria and Iraq are now effectively partioned, and those partitions are likely to persist.  The Kurds are consolidating their territory, united their enclaves in Syria and Iraq, and laying the foundation for a future independent state, although they have not announced their intention.  Although the Kurds are proving to be effective fighters when supported by coalition bombing, they are unlikely to advance into traditional Sunni areas.  The Syrian government has largely abandoned the Sunni areas of the country and is increasingly devoted to defending its sectarian bastion in western Syria.  The Shia-dominated government in Baghdad has not been able to win over any of Iraq's Sunnis and that will impede its ability to recapture the cities and towns now held by ISIL.  Whether ISIL, despite the bombing campaign and some pressure from Iraqi forces, will be able to consolidate its Islamic State and become the primary political expression of Sunnis in Syria and Iraq or, instead, a Sunni badlands emerge where warfare between armed rivals continue indefinitely, remains to be seen.

    If the new release from RAND were a report card, I have a feeling little Barry would be hiding it from his mother because, if you missed it, Operation Inherent Failure is a failure.

    Even the grade from shop class is dismal.  Ali Khedery (Foreign Affairs) observes:

    In 2010, still flushed with the success of Bush’s “surge,” Vice President Joe Biden forecast that President Barack Obama’s Iraq policy was “going to be one of the great achievements of this administration,” lauding Iraqis for using “the political process, rather than guns, to settle their differences.” And in 2012, even as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was running an increasingly authoritarian and dysfunctional regime, the administration continued its happy talk. “Many predicted that the violence would return and Iraq would slide back toward sectarian war,” said Antony Blinken, then Biden’s national security adviser. “Those predictions proved wrong.”
    Today, of course, the Iraqi army has all but collapsed, despite some $25 billion in U.S. assistance. Shiite militants who have sworn allegiance to Iran’s supreme leader operate with impunity. And the Islamic State (or ISIS) dominates more than a third of Iraq and half of Syria. Obama’s successor will thus certainly earn the distinction of becoming the fifth consecutive president to bomb Iraq.

    Yes, Barack's even failing shop class.

    I heard it in the wind last night
    It sounded like applause
    Chilly now
    End of summer
    No more shiny hot nights
    It was just the arbutus rustling
    And the bumping of the logs
    And the moon swept down black water
    Like an empty spotlight 

    -- "For The Roses," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album of the same name

    Chilly now.