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الخميس، 29 أكتوبر، 2015

Iraq snapshot Wednesday, October 28, 2015.

Iraq snapshot Wednesday, October 28, 2015.

The Common Ills
Wednesday, October 28, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the Defense Dept wants to expand the war in Iraq, what did Haider al-Abadi tell Russia, and much more.

Senator Jack Reed observed Tuesday morning, "However, taken as a whole the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] have not shown a will to make necessary advances  in the operation to take Ramadi for example. And the political leaders in Baghdad have not made the progress needed in the broader agenda of improving the inclusiveness of the Iraqi government and addressing the long standing grievances of Kurds, Sunnis, moderate Shias and minorities."

The political aspect?
June 19, 2014, US President Barack Obama publicly insisted that the only answer to Iraq's various crises was a political solution.

Despite that public proclamation, when he implemented his plan or 'plan' for Iraq in August 2014, there was no focus on a political solution.

No focus then or since -- not in the fifteen months and counting of the plan or 'plan' being implemented.

Where is the political solution?

As Senator Reed noted, "the political leaders in Baghdad have not made the progress needed in the broader agenda of improving the inclusiveness of the Iraqi government and addressing the long standing grievances of Kurds, Sunnis, moderate Shias and minorities."

Barack was correct when he declared the need for a political solution.

He's wrong to have ignored it ever since.

Journalist Jill Carroll weighs in at Foreign Policy:

Until the political grievances of average Sunnis are addressed, we will simply be adjusting tactics to manage a conflict instead of developing a strategy to stop it.
So what were Sunnis so aggrieved about from 2011-2013 that it could result in the horrific wars of today?
Sunnis in Iraq fear their Shiite-majority government and, worse, the Shiite militias controlled by Iran and the Iraqi police. In Syria, average people, mainly Sunnis, wanted to throw off the yoke of an oppressive regime with a history of mass murder of Sunnis and favoring citizens that are adherents to an offshoot of Shia Islam. In short, Sunnis wanted a government and security forces that treated them fairly and humanely.
But Syrian and Iraqi government crackdowns in 2011, 2012, and 2013 in response to Sunni protests in Iraq and mass protests in Syria gave radicals a toehold among average Sunnis who turned to them for protection and a means to forcefully air their grievances. That toehold, of course, has grown wildly out of control.

The only real solution to the war and instability in Syria and Iraq will be a political one that resolves those Sunni grievances. 

These issues are not being addressed by Barack's plan or 'plan.'

"I think my question would be what is our end game?" Senator Joe Manchin asked before offering what may be the biggest understatement of Tuesday, "And the end game would be we've been there bogged down for some time."

Manchin and Reed were speaking at Tuesday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.  Reed is the Ranking Member, John McCain is the Committee Chair.  Appearing before the Committee were US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Joe Dunford.

If Manchin offered the biggest understatement, the biggest overstatement?

Secretary Ash Carter:  I-I-I-I'll take that, Senator.  For us, the paramount objective is the defeat of ISIL.  That will require --

Senator Joe Manchin:  That's our number one priority right now in Syria?

Secretary Ash Carter: -- because they're trying to attack American.

Senator Joe Manchin:  I got you.

Secretary Ash Carter:  So we've got to take that very seriously.

American what?

Airlines?

What are they trying to attack, Ash Carter?

Apparently ISIL, ISIS, the Islamic State, whatever you call them are this huge threat to the United States.

Or that's how Carter would like to portray it.

Let's leave that fear fantasy alone and move back to reality.

Senator Jim Inhofe: I appreciate the fact that both the Chairman and you, Secretary Carter, mentioned by name, Josh Wheeler.  Josh Wheeler is from Rowland, Oklahoma.  He is one who certainly -- He was a hero long before all of this happened and by his actions he saved 70 lives of hostages and fellow members in the Coalition Task Force. So I appreciate very much your talking about him. Since you were here before, Secretary Carter, in July, ISIL still controls much of the northern, western Iraq despite more than a year of US air strikes.  And the loss of Ramadi?  Significant setback.  [. . .] What is the current status of Falluja?

Gen Joe Dunford:  Falluja right now is being held by insurgents and is one of the areas that's been identified for future operations by Iraqi Security Forces. 

Senator Jim Inhofe:  Well that's -- 

Chair John McCain laughs.

Chair John McCain:  That's comforting to know it's been identified.

As Iraqi Spring MC noted Tuesday, that US House Rep Jim McGovern was against the Iraq War from before it started.  Monday, his office released the following:

     
Oct 26, 2015
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02), a senior House Democrat and leading voice in the push for stronger Congressional oversight of U.S. military engagement abroad, released the following statement on news today that the Pentagon is considering greater U.S. military involvement in Iraq as part of the war against ISIS.
“Today’s report that the Pentagon is considering embedding some U.S. troops with Iraqi forces as part of the war against ISIS – bringing American forces to the front lines – is extremely concerning. We have been repeatedly reassured that the U.S. would not have a combat role in the war against ISIS, but this suggests just the opposite.
“This potential escalation is just the latest evidence that it is long past time for Congress to act. Our brave men and women in uniform are doing their duty. It’s time for members of Congress to do our duty by voting on an Authorization for the Use of Military Force that clearly defines the U.S. military campaign against ISIS before it becomes another endless war.”

We noted those reports in Monday's snapshot.

Tuesday's reports of the hearing are curious.

Let's note this exchange.

Senator Tim Kaine:  Is it fair to assume -- we pray that this is not the case -- that the death of Master Sgt Josh Wheeler may not be the last death of an American service member to defeat ISIL?

Secretary Ash Carter: I think we need to be realistic.  We are -- Our people will be in positions -- they are right now, every day -- there are people flying right now, there are people training and advising forces there and they are in harms way, there's no doubt about it.

Senator Tim Kaine:  And we've lost service personnel before Master Sgt Wheeler, not necessarily in direct combat or kinetic activities but, as you say, they were in positions of danger because of their support for this mission against ISIL?

Secretary Ash Carter:  Yes. Make no mistake, they're in harms way in this fight against ISIL, no doubt about it.

Senator In your professional judgment, your notion that the primary objective is the defeat of ISIL, how long will that take?

Secretary Ash Carter:  It needs to be -- I can't tell you.

No, he can't tell you.

And that should outrage the American people.

It should outrage the world.

There's a mission -- allegedly -- and there's no end date.

There's also no real end envisioned.

You need to grasp that.

Carter was asked in the hearing if he could see down the line the United States going into other countries -- beyond Iraq, Syria and Libya -- to fight the Islamic State and he hastily agreed that was absolutely within the realm of possibilities.

Barack, like Bully Boy Bush before him, has begun a never ending campaign of war.

And he's done so with very little comment.

Certainly, the press reports on Tuesday's hearing haven't emphasized this reality.

But they've told you that the war in Iraq will increase in scope and size.

And while I don't doubt that will be the outcome, that's really not what was being said on Tuesday.

It is fair to say that Dunford and Carter will be recommending increased US troop participation in Iraq and Syria to Barack.

That's all that it's fair to say.

Carter's not the best speaker under ideal circumstances.

Badgered by Senator Lindsey Graham (and he was badgered -- more so than by Chair John McCain), Carter tends to struggle for words.

He stated things in the present and as though they were happening (again, he's not the best speaker).  But he also stated, in calm moments, that the president had asked for recommendations and was open to hearing them.

That Carter and Dunford want to increase participation of US troops in Iraq is not in doubt by the testimony.  But some reports are taking their statements and portraying this as the new policy.

Barack has not made any decision yet.

If he caught any of the hearings (or just a recap from a staffer), he knows where Carter and Dunford stand (as should the whole world).  But per the testimonies offered by both Carter and Dunsford, they have yet to make formal recommendations to Barack.

Again, I have no doubt that this is where it's headed, no doubt that Barack will go along with the suggestions but, to be clear, these recommendations have not been formally made to him yet.

Let's go back to the exchange noted above for one more aspect.

Senator Tim Kaine:  Is it fair to assume -- we pray that this is not the case -- that the death of Master Sgt Josh Wheeler may not be the last death of an American service member to defeat ISIL?

Secretary Ash Carter: I think we need to be realistic.  We are -- Our people will be in positions -- they are right now, every day -- there are people flying right now, there are people training and advising forces there and they are in harms way, there's no doubt about it.

Senator Tim Kaine:  And we've lost service personnel before Master Sgt Wheeler, not necessarily in direct combat or kinetic activities but, as you say, they were in positions of danger because of their support for this mission against ISIL?

Secretary Ash Carter:  Yes. Make no mistake, they're in harms way in this fight against ISIL, no doubt about it.

August 2nd, Leo Shane III (Military Times) reported, "About 3,500 U.S. troops are stationed in Iraq, and seven have lost their lives in connection to the new military operations there."

Recent days have seen reports that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has invited Russia to take part in air strikes.  James Poulos (The Week) wrote Monday:

How bad is it in Iraq today? Here's one way to answer the question: The government in Baghdad just allowed Russia to start bombing targets on Iraq's home soil.
The territory in question, of course, now belongs to the Islamic State. And the decision,reports by the International Business Times, "comes just days after a U.S. diplomatic envoy sought assurances from the Baghdad government that it would not allow Russian jets to conduct operations inside Iraq."

That makes this a big embarrassment for America. And it's hardly the only one.

This issue was raised by Senator Tom Cotton and the response is as follows.

Secretary Ash Carter:  We have received -- and I believe Gen Dunford received just last week -- from Prime Minister Abadi in no uncertain terms the statement that he will not work with the Russians.  He will not allow them to uh-uh-uh be partners with Iraq in that regard that we are the preferred partners of Iraq.  We've been insistent on that point.  And-and Prime Minister Abadi has repeated those pledges to us.  I only say that because I-we feel emphatic about receiving those pledges and, uh, intend to have them implemented by Prime Minister Abadi.  But he has not been ambiguous about that.  And I believe the most recent conversation was held by Gen Dunford.  And perhaps you [Dunford] would like to say something about that?  It's a serious issue. 

Gen Joe Dunford: No, Senator, I raised it both with the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister and, again, tried to explain to them that our continued support really would be problematic were they to invite the Russians in to conduct strikes.  I was assured that they had not extended that invitation and they did not intend to extend an invitation to do that.

From the current prime minister (Abadi) to the former (Nouri al-Maliki), Daily Sabah reports:

The Iraqi Commission of Integrity (CoI) spokesman Adil Nouri has claimed that half of the government's oil income and funds for reconstruction were 'stolen' and 'vanished' from Iraq during the 8-year period of office of former President Nouri Maliki.

Speaking at the Iraqi Parliament, Nouri said that around 500 billion dollars from government coffers has "disappeared" and is perhaps the greatest corruption in history.

Underlining that Iraq's oil income between 2006 and 2014 alone was only $ 822 billion, he said that the Maliki government had also received more than $250 billion in funds from many countries, namely the U.S., used to pay the salaries and pensions of Iraqi government workers and for reconstruction projects.


The corruption of Nouri al-Maliki's reign was well known at the time -- and we noted it here repeatedly.  Now that he's out of power (for now), a little honesty can finally trickle out.

The IMF [International Money Fund] is warning that Iraq can be 

Last week, the Iraq Times reported Nouri was eager to return to Parliament.  Having been stripped of his post as one of Iraq's three vice presidents, the paper reported Nouri was frantic to avoid any criminal charges and was eager to return to Parliament to have immunity.

Some may find that especially ironic in light of Nouri's actions at the end of 2011 and through the end of his second term as prime minister (August 2014).

As the bulk of US forces left Iraq in December 2011, Nouri turned on the Sunni politicians.

He went after Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.

al-Hashemi was in the KRG at the time.

Nouri attempted to force the KRG to hand him over.

Though Jalal Talabani (then president of Iraq) instantly crumbled, KRG President Massoud Barzani stood firm.

Nouri would then try Tareq en absentia and in a kangaroo court.  Witnesses were tortured -- potential witnesses were tortured to the point that they died.

Nouri's kangaroo court would hand down several death sentences for Tareq.

This despite the fact that Parliament refused to strip Tareq al-Hashemi of his post as Vice President.

This despite the immunity from prosecution the Iraqi Constitution guaranteed Tareq for the duration of his term as Vice President.

And yet now Nouri, stripped of his title of Vice President, is in a panic about his own potential immunity (or lack of it).

Nouri's legacy to Iraq is not a positive one.

There's the corruption, the theft, yes.

There's also the collapse and the brink of disaster.

In Tuesday's hearing, Nouri al-Maliki's name came up frequently.  One example, Secretary Ash Carter,  "The legacy of Prime Minister Maliki was to make the armed forces of Iraq more sectarian to the detriment of the Sunnis -- that's one of the things that led to ISIL."

Turning to some of Tuesday's violence, Alsumaria reports a Yusufiyah roadside bombing killed 1 employee of the Ministry of Education, a Hamamiyat roadside bombing killed 1 person and left seven more injured1 blood bank manager was discovered murdered in his Baghdad home, a Thar Thar tanker bombing claimed the life of 1 federal police member and left eleven more people injured, and a roadside bombing outside Baquba left 2 militia members dead and a third injured.  Reuters adds "two police officers at Camp Speicher, a former U.S. base outside the Sunni city of Tikrit, were wounded in a mortar attack while new recruits were doing training exercises, the military source said."

In addition, the US Defense Dept announced:

Airstrikes in Iraq
Attack, bomber and fighter aircraft conducted 12 airstrikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the government of Iraq:

-- Near Kisik, three strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed three ISIL fighting positions and suppressed two ISIL machine gun positions.

-- Near Ramadi, three strikes struck a large ISIL tactical unit and destroyed eight ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL vehicle bomb, four ISIL heavy machine guns and an ISIL artillery piece and also suppressed an ISIL cannon and denied ISIL access to terrain.

-- Near Sinjar, six strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed nine ISIL fighting positions, three ISIL assembly areas and an ISIL checkpoint and suppressed an ISIL machine gun position.

Tuesday, the United Nations noted:

The World Health Organization (WHOannounced today that it would start vaccine treatments for cholera beginning this weekend to prevent further outbreaks in Iraq, where the disease has now been confirmed in 15 out of 18 governorates, while the agency also reported a suspected case was also found in northern Syria.
WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told the regular press briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, that the latest laboratory tests had confirmed 1,942 cases and two deaths in 15 out of 18 governorates in Iraq. 
“On 31 October, WHO will begin, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, the oral cholera vaccine treatment, and will use 510,000 of the global stock pile to ensure that 255,000 internally displaced persons and refugees in the affected areas will receive two doses,” the spokesperson said.
Mr. Lindmeier said “while this number of vaccines was not enough to vaccinate everyone, it should, however, be a strategic vaccination to block the path of the disease and prevent further outbreaks.”
In addition to the vaccine campaign, diarrhoeal disease kits and 600,000 chlorine tablets had been distributed in the infected areas, 48 national health staff had been trained in cholera and laboratory procedures, and a team of international experts have been deployed to assist the Iraqi’s Ministry of Health, he said.


 

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