Iraq snapshot - June 7, 2010
The Common Ills
Monday, June 7, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, at least 12 people are dead and 66 wounded in violence today, over the weekend Iraqiya sees two party members assassinated, Sahwa is stripped of the right to carry guns, the military arrests someone over the Wikileaks assault video, the Iranian military reportedly sets up a base in Iraq, and more.
Saturday Anthony Shadid (New York Times) reported that assailants (in Iraqi soldier and officer uniforms) have shot dead Faris Jassim al-Jabbouri who is a member of Iraqiya and had been a candidate (unsuccessful) for Parliament in the March elections. He is the third Iraqiya candidate to be shot dead. Moreover, Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) observed, "Al Jubori is the third candidate killed in Mosul from the same bloc." Jamal al-Badrani, Muhanad Mohammed, Matt Robinson and Jon Boyle (Reuters) reported on the assassination but with a different twist, "A police source, who asked not to be named, said Jubouri was shot dead by gunmen in police uniform overnight in his home near the restive northern city of Mosul." Oliver August (Times of London) added that hee "was executed in front of his family by a group of 20 men in police uniforms [. . .] The Killers searched an entire neighbourhood for Mr Jassim, aided by a masked informant, before finding him, tying up his brother and his son and killing him." He was the third Iraqiya candidate assassinated. In February, Abdullah Jarallah became the first Iraqiya candidate assassinated and the United Nations condemned the murder here. In May, Bashar Hamid Al Ukaidi was assassinated. Alsumaria TV reported on the murder here. Amnesty International called the murder outhere. That made three. The assassinations did not end Saturday. Adam Schreck (AP) reported Sunday that Ehab al-Ani, a member of Iraqiya, was killed by a Qaim roadside bombing and that "[t]he initial investigation indicated that al-Ani was not a random victim, as is often the case with such bombings, but was targeted because of his ties to Iraqiya, a police official said."
For those late to the party, Iraqiya is the political slate which won the most seats in Parliament in the March elections. It is headed by former prime minister Ayad Allawi. They won 91 seats. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance. Together, the two still lack four seats necessary (or so it is thought) to form the government.
At Inside Iraq last week, an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy interviewed a section of Iraqis about the long delay (three months tomorrow) in forming a government. We'll note 25-year-old Aseel because Iraqi women remain under represented in the press which appears stuck in some sort of Eisenhower era, 'man' on the streets type inquiry:
"Our situation is very bad. No security at all. No jobs opportunities and no basic services. Nothing will change whether the politicians form the government or do not. In fact, it would be better for us if Iraq remains without a government because they political parties will keep discussing their demands and they will not fight each other. I believe that forming the government will take another six months because all the politicians work for their interests. I am sure God will send us to heaven after we die because we live in hell now."
In an editorial, Gulf News notes Sunday's massive violence and the gridlock gripping Iraq currently while advocating for Nouri al-Maliki and Ayad Allawi to meet and come to some form of understanding. This, of course, overlooks the press reports of last week that Nouri had repeatedly canceled face to face meeting with his rival and was doing so at the request of the Iranian government. Alsumaria TV reports today, "While Iraqi Parliament is close to convene its first session, some signs are looming over regarding the disintegration of some political parties."
Today, it's three months since the Iraqi elections concluded (early voting began March 4th and all voting concluded March 7th) and they've got nothing to show for it but continued violence. The rules are not followed and the US, with no "stick" left, has no functioning Ambassador in Baghdad who can offer "carrots." Two more US service members died last week due to the Iraq War (possibly three, one died of a brain injury and it's thought to stem from his TBI). And three months later, still no government. As noted at Third Sunday, "Some point to the 2005 experience and note the elections were held in December and the prime minister (Nouri) not selected until April. Four months later. By that schedule, they may be on track. But haven't we heard how much better things allegedly are? Haven't we repeatedly been told the bad days of the 'civil war' are over? With all the supposed improvements, shouldn't the process have moved a lot smoother and a lot more quickly this time?"
Nothing is going smoothly in northern Iraq which is under assault from both the Iranian military and the Turkish military. Starting with the latter to pick up KRG President Massoud Barzani's historic visit to Turkey. The five-day visit is Barzani's first since 2004. Hurriyet Daily News reported Saturday, "Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani on Saturday urged all parties including the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, to stop violence and support the Turkish government's initiative to solve the Kurdish problem, adding that the PKK's decision to end the cease-fire was a negative development."Today's Zaman adds, "During the meeting with journalists when Sedat Ergin from the Hürriyet daily asked him about the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) declaration in which it announced that it ended its unilateral decision concerning a de-escalation of violence, Barzani got upset. Ergin said Barzani got upset because the PKK made this declaration when he was visiting Ankara." The KRG notes that Barzani met with commerce leaders on Sunday and declared, "We see Turkey as a gateway for us to Europe and the wider world, just as we believe the Kurdistan Region can also become a gateway for Turkey to the rest of Iraq and futher south to the Gulf countries." Reutersnoted armed clashes between the PKK and the Turkish military not far from the bordertown of Uludere resulted in the deaths of 3 PKK on Sunday. The Turkish military continues shelling northern Iraq. So does the Iranian military. (Both share Iraq's northern border.) Yassen Taha and Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the shelling is causing outrage in Iraq as is the decision last week to send the Iranian military "about a mile into Iraqi territory, a brief incursion that Kurdish officials said elicited not a word of protest from the Iran-friendly administration of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, who like Iran's ruler is a Shiite Muslim." Yahya Barzanji (AP) addsthat a protest of some sort has finally been lodged, "Deputy Iraqi Foreign Minister Labeed Abawi told The Associated Press he summoned the Iranian ambassador to complain about shelling in the Kurdish region, which enjoys considerable autonomy from the rest of Iraq." The right-wing World Tribunecarries an unsigned report which maintains, citing Jabar Yawar, the Deputy Kurdish Interior Minister, that not only did the Iranian military enter Iraqi space but that they "established a base in the Kurdish village of Predunaz on June 3" and remain there.
In other news ov violence, the targeting of Sunnis by the government or 'government' continues. Hilmi Kamal (Reuters) reports that the country's military states that Sahwa ("Awakenings" or "Sons Of Iraq") are no longer allowed to carry weapons, "Today, Saturday, we received an order from the Defence Ministry ground forces leadership to withdraw all the badges of Sahwa personnel and replace them with new ones that do not authorize them to carry weapons." It's certainly interesting timing. One could even argue Nouri was planning an assault on the Sunnis -- as opposed to these one at a time killings -- and that's why he was disarming the Sahwa. There is a context that this is taking place in: Nouri's refusal to stand down. As with everything else he's done in the last three months, this has to do with his desire to hold onto the position of prime minister. Since the Parliament is supposed to be sitting (for the first time, new Parliament) within two weeks, why is Nouri issuing orders? Again, there's a context, it's the same one that goes to the deals he's signed after elections concluded March 7th -- deals with foreign corporations and on control of Iraqi assets. There is a context for this. And today Reuters reports a Sunday evening attack on Sahwa members in Jurf al-Sakhar which saw 3 shot dead in their homes with a fourth injured.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Reuters notes a series of Qaim home bombings targeting a Sawha leader and his son and claiming the lives of 2 police officers (three more injured), a Baghdad car bombing which claimed 3 lives (nine injured), a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 2 police officers (seven people injured), another Baghdad roadside bombing which injured five, a Mansouriya roadside bombing which injured two police officers, a combed shooting and bombing Falluja attack on police officers homes which claimed 1 life (twenty injured), two more Baghdad roadside bombings which left ten people injured, a Mosul roadside bombing which left two people (father and son) injured.
Reuters notes 1 shop owner shot dead in Mosul and an attack on an Imam in Abu Ghraib in which he and two sons were killed, his wife was injured as was their youngest son.
Sunday Alsumaria TV reported what can only be dubbed "a major understatement," "US Forces spokesman in Iraq General Steven Lanza announced that Iraqi security forces are not in a perfect position security and military wise. They need intensive training in order to take full command of Iraq's internal security following the full withdrawal of US troops from Iraq."
Meanwhile in the United States, Michael O'Brien (The Hill) reports, "A senior House Democrat likened President Barack Obama to former Vice President Dick Cheney over his handling of the war in Iraq." US House Rep Charlie Rangel spoke with the New York Daily News criticizing Barack Obama for the continuation of the illegal war and Rangel stated, "I challenge anyone to tell me we aren't there [Iraq] because of the oil. The lack of an honest explanation [for the war] is consistent with Bush and Cheney." Today Erin Einhorn (New York Daily News) reports that at a rally yesterday, New York Governor David Paterson showed his support for Rangel and Rangel repeated his remarks about the Iraq War adding, "The fact that I can have an issue with even a great President, I really don't think warrants the headlines but . . . whatever makes you feel good, it's okay with me."
From the House to the Senate, we'll note this from the Senate Democratic Policy Committee:
On May 27th, Senate Democrats led the effort to pass a bipartisan supplemental appropriations bill that funds key counterterrorism and national security missions and supports disaster recovery initiatives by a vote of 67 to 28. The bill provides a total of $58.96 billion in emergency funding for Fiscal Year 2010 in support of ongoing missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the addition of 30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan as well as $2.6 billion for the Afghan Security Forces Fund and $1 billion for the Iraqi Security Forces Fund; more than $5.5 billion for continued and emerging disaster relief and recovery initiatives for affected communities across the United States; $2.8 billion to support relief efforts in Haiti; and $68 million in initial disaster response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The supplemental bill provides a total of $32.8 billion in funding, as requested, for the Department of Defense (DoD) for operations, personnel costs, and equipment related primarily to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan , but also in support of ongoing operations and continued drawdown efforts in Iraq.
Providing our troops with the resources and tools they need to fulfill their missions. Funding provided in the bill will ensure that our forces engaged in critical national security missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have the most effective weaponry, communications, and other equipment they need on the battlefield. It fully funds key readiness programs necessary to prepare military forces for combat operations and other missions and also funds vital initiatives that support our forces in theater, including high priority intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems.
Protecting our troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan . The supplemental bill ensures that our deployed service members are armed with the best force protection equipment available. It provides a total of $1.1 billion for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles and funds key upgrades to equipment and detection systems to safeguard troops in Iraq and Afghanistan from the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The bill also supports the Army's Ground Standoff Mine Detection System for convoy protection and road clearing in Afghanistan and fully funds the Special Operations Command's requirement for additional protective equipment.
Ensure our troops are provided first-rate care and services. The supplemental bill provides $1.8 billion for military personnel, including special pay and allowances, for Active, Reserve, and Guard troops activated for duty in Iraq , Afghanistan , and other contingency operations. It also includes $33.4 million for the Defense Health Program.
One way to protect the troops is, of course, to immediately withdraw them. We don't have room for the full press release in the snapshot. We'll run it almost in full tomorrow morning. Almost? I don't allow "Oh my G--" or any similar things here (and it's why we didn't participate in the make fun of Allah day recently as well) that insult someone's religion. I also don't allow a certain (non-religious) phrase here and have never allowed it here. Noam Chomsky rightly called that phrase out during the first Gulf War. It does not appear here. (It's a bumper sticker and intended to silence dissent, as Chomsky rightly pointed out.) Outside of curse words, there's very little that's censored but we don't mock the religious deities people worship (or take their names in vain) and we don't use that phrase Chomsky's has rightly decried.
"Is justice a property of the strongest? Is this a case of might makes right?" asked Jasim Azawi on the latest Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera, began airing Friday and the show's not up at the website yet). Jasim's guests were Brad Blackeman who used to run a front group for the Bush White House and former Egyptian Ambassador to Israel Hassan Issa.
Jasim Azawi: Ambassador Hassan Issa, a simple question, why should former president Bush and prime minister Blair should be tried as War Criminals?
Hassan Issa: We have a million reasons in the form of a million anihalted Iraqis by the American decision to invade Iraq. I have four million reasons in the form of four million displaced Iraqis inside and outside Iraq. I have a country that is completely destroyed, beyond repair. Because of the decision made by President Bush, ex-President Bush and his follower Prime Minister Blair who still insists that they were right up to this day. This is a disgrace in the face of humanity and it is about time that somebody calls both of them to be tried as War Criminals.
Brad Blakeman, you heard the man. He called your former boss, President Bush, a War Criminal. This indictment is not limited to Hassan Issa. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, in the Arab world and Africa and Latin America as well as part of Europe, they consider President Bush and Prime Minister Blair as War Criminals. Are they all wrong?
Brad Blakeman: Yes, they are. There are hundreds of millions who think that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair and our coalition partners did exactly the right thing. Where was the outrage with Saddam's regime which punished its own people, prevented people from voting, killed people, raped people, in fact used Weapons of Mass Destruction against his own people. Where was the outrage? And let me say this,
Hassan Issa: Oh my goodness, oh my goodness. Mr. Blakeman, you're still talking about Weapons of Mass Destruction? This doesn't exist. It never existed.
Brad Blakeman: Yes, but let me --
Hassan Issa: Up to this day, you're still talking about --
Brad Blakeman: Let me conclude my point, let me conclude my point.
Hassan Issa: Oh my goodness.
Brad Blakeman: Let me conclude my point. And my point is this: We could not have been successful in removing Saddam Hussein without our Middle East partners. If you're going to indict President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, then you must indict as well the Emir of Qatar [Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani]. We have our largest base there. Without our Middle East partners, like the Saudi government, we could not have been successful. Without the King of Jordan [King Abdullah II]. Without Egypt. There are many Middle Eastern countries who encouraged us to take the action we did against Saddam. In fact, they gave us aid to do so.
Jasim Azawi: How about that, Ambassador Hassan Issa?
Hassan Issa: For heaven sake --
Brad Blakeman: You must indict --
Hassan Issa: For heaven sake
Brad Blakeman: -- them as well.
Hassan Issa: For heaven sake, who ever encouraged you to anahilate a million human beings in Iraq, who ever encouraged you to displace four million Iraqis, who ever encouraged you to destroy a country, an Arab country -- you cannot blame Arab countries for supporting you.
Brad Blakeman: We freed an Arab country, my friend!
Hassan Issa: We never supported President Bush.
Brad Blakeman: We freed an Arab country! Tens of millions of people are now free because the action that the United States, Britian and our coalition partners. Where's the indictment of --
Hassan Issa: Free where, Mr. Blakeman?
Brad Blakeman: -- of the thirty or so nations?
Hassan Issa: Free where? In Iraq? Free in Iraq?
Brad Blakeman: Yes, free in Iraq! Yes, sir! Free elections! Free from tyranny. Yes. We are proud of what we did. We are proud of what we did. And we'd do it again. We think the Emir of Qatar [C.I. note, if the idiot really thanked the Emir, he would know the Emir's name, the same with King Abudllah II]. We thank the President of Egypt [Hosni Mubarak]! We thank the King of Jordan! We think the Saudis! We thank --
Jasim Azawi: I am sure the list is very long, Brad Blakeman. Many, many Arab countries, they consented if not given the green light for this invasion. To their chagrin and their regret right now. Ambassador Hassan Issa, you have a bone to pick with Brad Blakeman and the people who espouse his views. But let me ask you, why don't you listen to what President Bush said? He said he did not invade Iraq simply because he wanted to, he was told by God -- he said by Providence, Providence gave me the green light
Hassan Issa: He what? Please. No, no, no, no. Please repeat this again because I can't believe what you said.
Jasim Azawi: He said Providence gave me the green light to launch this war. God talked to him to say this is a righteous cause.
Hassan Issa: [Laughing] Oh, my goodness.
Brad Blakeman: Please! Don't take his words out of context! Come on, you know better than that!
Hassan Issa: Are you kidding me?
Brad Blakeman: We operate under a rule of law!
Hassan Issa: Honest to God, are you kidding me? Are you joking?
Brad Blakeman: No, I'm not joking. We operate under the rule of law unlike the person we removed from power, a brutal dictator. Where is the outrage on your part for what Saddam has done to his country? To his people? Where is the outrage for that, Mr. Ambassador? You don't have it! You --
Hassan Issa: Sir, sir, you removed him and you replaced him by 150,000 dictators. 150,000 American troops.
Brad Blakeman is just a fat liar. And, repeating, if you think someone needs to be thanked, you learn their damn name. What an idiot. And I'm getting really tired, as an American, in seeing Americans go on this show and show their ass. They need to grasp that this goes out through the Arab world and screaming and shouting and throwing tantrums is not conveying a good impression of the United States.
Since the Providence remark especially seemed to set Blakeman off, we'll note that this was not one comment at one time. Judy Keen's "Strain of Iraq war showing on Bush, those who know him say" (USA Today, April 2, 2003): "Bush believes he was called by God to lead the nation at this time, says Commerce Secretary Don Evans, a close friend who talks with Bush every day." Tom Carver's "Bush puts God on his side" (BBC News, April 6, 2003): "He became convinced that God was calling him to engage the forces of evil in battle, and this one time baseball-team owner from Texas did not shrink from the task." Ewen MacAskill's "George Bush: 'God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq'" (Guardian, October 7, 2005):
George Bush has claimed he was on a mission from God when he launched the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, according to a senior Palestinian politician in an interview to be broadcast by the BBC later this month.
Mr Bush revealed the extent of his religious fervour when he met a Palestinian delegation during the Israeli-Palestinian summit at the Egpytian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, four months after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
One of the delegates, Nabil Shaath, who was Palestinian foreign minister at the time, said: "President Bush said to all of us: 'I am driven with a mission from God'. God would tell me, 'George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan'. And I did. And then God would tell me 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq'. And I did."
Matthew Rothschild's "Bush Salutes Ted Stevens, Invokes God's Will Again in Iraq War" (The Progressive, August 5, 2008):
As in many of his speeches post-9/11, Bush again invoked God as a justification for the Iraq War. Speaking to troops who will soon be going to Iraq, Bush said: "I believe there's an Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty to every man, woman, an child on the face of the Earth is freedom." Implying that he is doing God's will, he said, "It's in our national interest to help others realize the blessings of a free society."