Thursday, July 03, 2014

A movie plea

Ruth saw "Begin Again" and Trina saw  "Begin Again."

Like my kids and me, they loved "Begin Again."

 I know there are a lot of blockbusters out there; however, I would encourage you to see "Begin Again."

It really is a great movie, one that will hook you and move you the way a bunch of special effects really won't by themselves.

This film has heart and you will be pulled in.

And it's so nice to see a musical that's steady and not overblown.

I'm so tired of the overblown musicals which seem to exist just to drive people away from musicals.

"Begin Again" is a musical that is vital and alive, not staid and stuffy.

Again, there are flashier films playing right now, but there are very few that will grab you the way this one does.  Use the links to read Ruth, Trina and my reviews and see if you don't feel like this is a movie you should make a point to see.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Thursday, July 3, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the White House may allow combat missions in Iraq (Hagel and Dempsey reveal), the Kurds come closer to independence, Osama al-Nujaifi declares he will not seek the post of Speaker of Parliament, World Can't Wait prepares for action, and much more.

Today at the Pentagon, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel addresses the issue of Iraq.

Secretary Chuck Hagel:  And I'd like to focus a couple of comments on Iraq as I -- as I start.
Our efforts here at DOD have been focused on two specific missions. And I want to lay a bit of a framework down and a base down on what those missions are and then I know you'll have questions.
But in a very clear, deliberate way, first securing our embassy, facilities and our personnel in Iraq.
Second, assessing the situation in Iraq and advising the Iraqi security forces.
Both of these missions are important components of the president's overall strategy in Iraq, helping Iraq's leaders resolve the political crisis that has enabled ISIL's advance and supporting Iraqi forces.
By reinforcing security at the U.S. embassy, its support facilities in Baghdad International Airport, we're helping provide our diplomats time and space to work with Sunni, Kurd, Shia political leaders as they attempt to form a new inclusive national unity government.
By better understanding the conditions on the ground and the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces, we'll be better able to help advise them as they combat ISIL forces inside their own country.
Approximately 200 military advisers are now on the ground. We have established a joint operations center with Iraqis in Baghdad and we have personnel on the ground in Erbil where our second joint operations center has achieved initial operating capability.
Assessment teams are also evaluating the capabilities and cohesiveness of Iraqi forces. None of these troops are performing combat missions. None will perform combat missions.
President Obama has been very clear that American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again. The situation in Iraq, as you all know, is complex and it's fluid. But there's no exclusively military solution to the threats posed by ISIL. Our approach is deliberate and flexible. It is designed to bolster our diplomatic efforts and support the Iraqi people. We will remain prepared to protect our people and our interests in Iraq.
As most Americans enjoy this holiday weekend, our military around the world, and especially in the Middle East, will stay postured and ready for any contingency in that region.

As we celebrate Independence Day tomorrow, I want to particularly express my gratitude to the men and women and their families who serve our nation at home and abroad, both civilian and in uniform. I thank you all for what you do to keep our country safe every day.

Okay, before we get to the questions, let's again restate the obvious: US President Barack Obama has refused to put forward a concrete list of actions for how the US can 'help' Iraq.  This probably goes a long way to explaining the results in the recent Quinnipiac poll.

CNN reports, "The poll also indicates that most say it's not in the national interest to get involved in the fighting in Iraq and oppose sending U.S. ground troops to help the Iraqi government, which is trying to hault an aggressive drive by radical Sunni militants who have captured city after city in northern and central Iraq as they march towards Baghdad."

If today's Pentagon press briefing was an honest attempt at informing the people, it failed tremendously.

Even General Dempsey could not explain what the White House has planned for Iraq.

Q: For General Dempsey, to begin with.
Sir, at the beginning, the Pentagon said one of the objectives was to break the momentum of ISIS.
So my question is very specific, not to the assessments. But what is your measure of success in doing that? How do you know that -- how much do you break the momentum? How do you know, mission accomplished this time, that you can say to the president, "We have achieved those objectives"?
And is it enough for the Iraqi forces simply to be able to hold Baghdad? Is the measure of success that? Or is it the Iraqi forces able to go north and regain this massive territory that ISIS has right now?
Are you -- is the United States military prepared, if they have to, to defend Baghdad and defend the airport?

GEN. DEMPSEY: So the questions get more and more complex as we go.

Q: We haven't seen you in a long time.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Yeah, I know you haven't. Well, you know, it's impossible to wrestle the podium away from John Kirby.
The -- I don't think you've ever heard me say that we would break the momentum.

Q: Actually, Admiral Kirby said it.

GEN. DEMPSEY: Well, I told you. That's my problem.
The issue is for us -- has been for us to determine the ability of the ISF after having suffered some initial setbacks to be able to stabilize the situation and eventually go back on the offensive to regain their sovereign territory and what will we be willing to contribute to that cause. And that's not a question that we're prepared to answer just yet.
In terms of -- you know, you mentioned the airport and you mentioned our intentions. Remember, the phrase I used was that we are protecting that which would allow us to preserve options. And the airport, not the entire airport, but that part of it that we need for logistics, resupply and potentially for evacuation, we are protecting that part of the airport for that purpose.
It's -- it really is about deliberately first preserving options and then developing options. And if you are asking me, will the Iraqis, at some point, be able to go back on the offensive to recapture the part of -- of Iraq that they've lost, I think that's a really broad campaign-quality question.
Probably not by themselves. It doesn't mean we would have to provide kinetic support. I'm not suggesting that that's the direction this is headed. But in any military campaign, you would want to develop multiple actions to squeeze ISIL. You'd like to squeeze them from the south and west. You'd like to squeeze them from the north and you'd like to squeeze them from Baghdad. And that's a campaign that has to be developed.

But the first step in developing that campaign is to determine whether we have a reliable Iraqi partner that is committed to growing their country into something that all Iraqis will be willing to participate in. If the answer to that is no, then the future is pretty bleak.

So, with hundreds of US troops sent back into Iraq, what is the plan?

The best Dempsey can offer is that there's a "first step" in which the US will "determine whether we have a reliable Iraqi partner that is committed to growing their country into something that all Iraqis will be willing to participate in.  If the answer to that is no, then the future is pretty bleak."

Right now it appears the future is pretty bleak.  It's a shame this couldn't have been determined before hundreds of US troops were sent into Iraq in the last weeks.

The press wasn't just taking dictation in the briefing.

Q: Yes. Again, General Dempsey, what you just described sounds like an open-ended commitment or mission for the U.S. military. A stable Iraq, an inclusive government, the ability to force ISIL into some find of retreat or submission sounds like a long-term effort. What is the end game? When will the president be able to say, "let's bring our boys home"?

GEN. DEMPSEY: Well, first of all, this is not 2003. It's not 2006. This is a very different approach than we've -- than we've taken in the past. I mean, assessing, advising and enabling are very different words than attacking, defeating and disrupting.

Okay, so it was "attacking, defeating and disrupting" and now it's "assessing, advising and enabling."  Who knew that for every trillion dollars a nation wastes on an illegal war, Collins Reference tossed in a Roget's Thesaurus?  Apparently, they tossed in a calendar as well allowing Dempsey to grasp that it was neither 2003 nor 2006.

Dempsey then went on to explain that US troops on the ground may, in fact, despite the claims otherwise, be involved in "direct action."  He stated, "We may get to that point if our national interests drive us there; if ISIL becomes such a threat to the homeland that -- that the president of the United States, with our advice, decides that we have to take direct action. I'm just suggesting to you we're not there yet."

And when reporters hear this and ask about it?  A lot of spinning takes place.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you said the advisers would not be involved in combat. General Dempsey, you have raised the possibility that those advisers could be used as forward air controllers in the event that you called in air strikes, which I think most people would regard as being involved in combat. So, which is it on that?
And second, you mentioned that the Iraqis, to go on the offensive, would most likely to need help in logistics, which sounds like a prescription for sending in more U.S. advisers, troops, opening up supply depots. Is that on the table?

GEN. DEMPSEY: You know, there's a tendency to think of this as kind of industrial-strength, you know, where we're going to put a mountain of supplies someplace, and then that's going to require us to protect it, and then we've got to move it forward into the hands of the Iraqis to ensure that they use it and use it responsibly and effectively.
And that's -- that's obviously one possibility, but it's not one that personally I think the situation demands. I think the situation demands first and foremost that the Iraqi political system find a way to separate the Sunnis who have partnered now with ISIL, because they have zero confidence in the ability of Iraq's politicians to govern.
If you can separate those groups, then the problem becomes manageable and understandable and allows us to be in a position to enable Iraq, not with a huge industrial-strength effort, but rather with the special skills, leadership and niche capabilities that we possess uniquely. And there's no daylight between what an adviser will do.
We haven't made -- right now as we sit here, the advisers are categorically not involved in combat operations. They're literally assessing. That's their task. If the assessment comes back and reveals that it would be beneficial to this effort and to our national security interests to put the advisers in a different role, I will first consult with the secretary. We will consult with the president. We'll provide that option and we'll move ahead. But that's where we are today.

Q: (inaudible) -- will not be involved.

SEC. HAGEL: Well, I think the chairman made it very clear. These are assessment teams and that's their mission. Their mission is limited and it is a clear scope of what their mission is, and it is to assess. It is to come back with their assessment of where they believe we are regarding ISF, ISIL, and all the other dimensions that I -- let me finish -- that I said.
Advisers or what may come as a result of any assessments as to what they would come back to General Dempsey with or General Austin, and eventually me and eventually the president, I don't know where they're going to be. But their mission today is making those assessments. So I think the general was pretty clear.

Q: But their mission could change.

SEC. HAGEL: That wasn't your question. 

Actually, it was: "Mr. Secretary, you said the advisers would not be involved in combat. General Dempsey, you have raised the possibility that those advisers could be used as forward air controllers in the event that you called in air strikes, which I think most people would regard as being involved in combat. So, which is it on that?  And second, you mentioned that the Iraqis, to go on the offensive, would most likely to need help in logistics, which sounds like a prescription for sending in more U.S. advisers, troops, opening up supply depots. Is that on the table?"  The entire question was based on the mission changing.

And because Barack has failed to clearly define the US mission, Hagel's left to snap, "That wasn't your question."

Hagel went on to insist, "We have one mission today, and that's assessments. I don't know what the assessments are going to come back and say or what they would recommend. We'll wait to see what that is, what General Austin and General Dempsey then recommend. But, that's the whole point of assessments."

Is that the whole point of assessments?

Thank you for sharing that.  But at what point is a clear mission presented to the American people?

General Dempsey spoke of Iran, "On Iran. Look, anyone who's served in Iraq through the years knows that Iran has been active in Iraq since 2005. So, the -- the thought that they are active in Iraq in 2014 is completely unsurprising. Now, it's probably more overt than it has been up until now. And as you know, they -- they, too, have come over to in some ways advise this call for -- for young Shia men to rise in the defense of their nation that Sistani made.  By the way, when Sistani made that proclamation, he talked about an Iraq for all Iraqis. I hope so. We'll see. That's a question that has yet to be answered. But the Iranians are there, as you know. They're also flying some unmanned aerial vehicles, and they have, as you described, provided some military equipment. I don't know whether it has violated any Security Council resolutions. That will have to be determined.  In terms of whether we intend to coordinate with them or not, we do not intend at this time to coordinate them. It's not impossible that in the future we would be -- we would have reason to do so. In terms of de-conflicting, let's take the airspace. That's sovereign Iraqi airspace. So the de-confliction of our ISR and their ISR and our flights and their flights, that's an Iraqi responsibility which they are capable of fulfilling."

Yeah, the world will believe you on that, Dempsey.  In related news, Iran is providing fighter jets to Iraq.  Iraqi Spring MC Tweeted the following at 1:00 AM EST -- hours and hours before today's press briefing.

تناقلت وكالات الأنباء العالمية عن خبراء ان الطائرات المقاتلة التي ادعى المالكي انها من روسيا انما هي ايرانية

You'll note the circles around the painted on flags -- that's the Iranian flag.

In activism news,  World Can't Wait is encouraging this action:

Day of / Day After Protests When the US Starts Bombing Iraq

IN THE EVENT of U.S. bombing of Iraq, choose the best protest location in your city/town, and call on people to go there at 5:00 pm the day of the attack, or, in the case of an evening attack, the next day at 5:00 pm.
Post your event on Facebook.
Post your event at

At Foreign Policy In Focus, Russ Wellen offers something entitled "Maliki Big Loser in the Blame Game" with the subtitle "However vindictive and mule-headed, Prime Minister Maliki doesn't deserve all the blame for the success of ISIS in Iraq."

Is Wellen going to call out Bully Boy Bush and Barack Obama for installing and keeping Nouri?  Because that's what happened.  Bully Boy Bush installed him in 2006, Barack demanded he get a second term in 2010 and backed Nouri's eight months of refusing to step down after he lost the 2010 election and Barack had US officials broker The Erbil Agreement that gave Nouri a second term.

No, Wellen's not going to do that.

He doesn't do much of anything at all but string together the opinions of others.

When a writer for a 'think tank' doesn't think, what is it? A 'disregard tank'?

Wellen concludes his post with this:

“Of course,” wrote the author of a report with no byline at Conflict Forum, “it is easy for external observers to blame PM Maliki for all Iraqi ills.”
But it was not Maliki that set up the Kurdish autonomous region, or who armed the Peshmerga; nor was it Maliki who disbanded Sadam Hussein’s army or initiated de-Ba’athification or who purged the Sunnis from power. It is true that the Prime Minister is neurotically suspicious of conspiracies mounted against him — a pathology which has deadened and ossified Iraqi politics. But his caution and suspicions, albeit exaggerated and damaging politically, can hardly [be] said to have been entirely without basis.

I'm so sorry, I didn't realize Wellen was so uninformed.

But that is the reality, after all.

Nouri's enablers went far beyond the US government.  It included many media 'types.'  We gave up on Antiwar Radio because Scott Horton's man crush on Nouri was an embarrassment.  He was among many who saw puppet Nouri 'standing up to the US' and -- never having used his actual brain -- he just knew that meant Nouri was heroic.

Heroic people don't target gay and lesbian youth.  Nouri is over the Minister of the Interior.  He controls it (because he refused to nominate anyone to head it in his second term).  The Ministry of the Interior was carrying out his orders when they conflated gay and lesbian youth with Emo culture and declared them both to be vampires and worthy of killing.  In fact, let's go slow on this because idiots like Russ Wellen didn't pay attention in 2012 -- they were too busy prostituting themselves for elections.

It was February 2012 when Nouri's Ministry of the Interior announced that the Emo were the number one threat to Iraq.  This was also when they started sending officials into the schools to urge the high school children to attack and kill youths who might be (or might not be) Emo, gay or lesbian.

Why, except stupidity, would you ever feel the need to defend someone like Nouri?  Someone who deliberately attempted to target the oppressed in society and stir up hatred to incite violence?

As a reminder, we'll drop back to March 11, 2012:

The targeting of Iraqi youth continues. Specifically, if you are or are thought to be Emo or gay, you are targeted. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) speaks with a gay Iraqi youth who explains, "Ten days ago, I received a letter from militiamen threatening me that if they found me then they will not kill me like other 'perverts' but they will cut my body into pieces." The letter reads, "We strongly warn every male and female debauchee, if you do not stop this dirty act within four days, then the punishment of God will fall on you at the hands of Mujahideen." Tawfeeq also reports that a source in the Ministry of the Interior confirmed that 14 Iraqi youths have been killed in the last weeks. We need to clear something up before we go further. This isn't from Tawfeeq's report. Tawfeeq's in the region and reads Arabic so is aware of Emo. But there are two other reports we're going to be kind and not note which insist that "gay" and "Emo" are the same thing in Iraq. No, they're not. You can be gay and Emo. But Emo -- and this comes from the demonization that took place in Egypt last year -- is also seen as "Satinists" and "vampires." Again, we're being kind because for many this story is only now 'news' (only since Saturday have major outlets reported on it). However, we will note Prashant Rao damn well knows better and his report is an embarrassment. The "vampire" aspect has been especially scary (drinking blood) in a country that was bragging just last month that their security forcers had arrested "sorcerers." Brody Levesque (LGBTQ Nation) quotes Iraqi blogger Bissam who explains that "it is commonly assumed that most emos are 'f**s,' feminine (in the case of boys) or masculine (in the case of girls), and Satan worshipers. Girls wearing short skirts, tight trousers (called 'stretch') are also singled out as morally corrupt and therefore legitimate targets." BBC News notes, "Dozens of Iraqi teenagers have been killed in recent months by militias who consider them to be devil worshippers, human rights activists claim. The young people are described as /emos', a term used in the West to refer to youths who listen to rock music and wear alternative clothing. [. . .] Iraq's interior ministry recently described emos as devil worshippers. In Iraq, the term emo is also conflated with homosexuality, which although legal is socially and religiously taboo." The BBC contradicts practically everything Prahsant Rao 'reported' and the BBC is correct. If you're still not getting it, Kanchana Devi (Truth Dive) points out, "The killings have taken place since Iraq’s interior ministry drew attention to the 'emo' subculture last month, labelling it 'Satanism' and ordering a community police force to stamp it out." 

It wasn't a concern of Foreign Policy In Focus or Antiwar Radio.  It's strange what gets ignored, isn't it?  At the middle of last month, a 'helper' wanted to explain the protests that took place in Iraq.  And the 'helper' had nothing to say about women.  Maybe the 'helper' should have just refrained from typing anything because falsehoods help no one.

Let's drop back to the December 31, 2012 snapshot:

Protests continued over the weekend.  Al Bawaba News noted, "Pressure is mounting on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step down, after the largest scale protests so far saw tens of thousands of Iraqis gather on Friday to call for his removal."  All Iraq News reported that Minister of Defense Saadoun al-Dulaimi received a list of demands from members of the council of Anbar Province whose citizens passed on the demands: They want the detention of women stopped, they want detainees released and Article 4 of the Constitution reviewed.  The Defense Minister was visiting Anbar Province one day after Friday's massive demonstration took place in Falluja (with a conservative estimate of the protesters being 60,000). Al Mada noted that Nouri pronounced Friday's protests in Mosul and Ramadi "uncivilized"; however, rock throwing wouldn't emerge until Sunday.
Mosul is the capital of Nineveh Province.  All Iraq News reported that Council Members have informed the central government in Baghdad that their citizens demand the release of prisoners an end to Article 4 and an end to the Justice and Accountability Commission.  Article 4 is how Nouri dubs various Iraqi rivals 'terrorists.'  And the Justice and Accountability Commission is what Nouri uses to prevent people from running in elections.  They have no job, they have no real role.  Any Saddam Hussein loyalists would have long ago been captured.  But Nouri uses this Article 4 to destroy his political rivals.  Alsumaria added that Nineveh Provincial Council announced Saturday a general strike in solidarity with the protesters. It's a 72-hour strike (medical facilities will not be on strike). Today Alsumaria reports that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi has declared that Parliament will abolish Article 4.  He compares Article 4 to the Sword of Damocles hanging over the neck of Iraqis.
Atheel (or Ethel) al-Nujaifi is the governor of the province.  He's also the brother of Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.  Alsumaria notes that the governor declared Saturday that Nouri al-Maliki can end the current crisis within 24 hours just be returning the arrested to their provinces.  Al Mada explains that Nouri has repeatedly targeted Atheel al-Nujaifi.
In October, allegations of torture and rape of women held in Iraqi prisons and detention centers began to make the rounds.  In November, the allegations became a bit more and a fistfight broke out in Parliament with an angry State of Law storming out.  By December, Members of Parliament on certain security committees were speaking publicly about the abuses.  Then Nouri declared that anyone talking about this topic was breaking the law. He continued on this tangent for weeks claiming this past week that he would strip MPs of their immunity.  (The Constitution doesn't allow for that.)  Also this past week, it was learned that at least four females were raped in a Baghdad prison.
The outrage here is part of what has fueled the protests.  Alsumaria notes the Ministry of Justice's latest spin Saturday: Only women guards are at these prisons!  Whether that's true or not (most likely it is not) world history demonstrates that when women are imprisoned it's very common for someone to get the 'bright idea' to sell access to these women.  Greed is a strong motivator.  Again, the very claim is doubtful but if there are no men on staff, that doesn't mean men have not been present in the prisons.  It wasn't enough to silence objections or stop the protests. 

If you want to talk protest but you don't want to talk women, just sit your tired ass down because you have nothing to share.

The outrage that sparked the 2011 protests in Iraq was "the disappeared."  There were many issues at play but for a protest to last more than a few weeks, it has to have a purpose, a reason to exist.  In 2011, it was the family members who were taken away by security forces -- sometimes never charged -- and imprisoned, disappeared with their families unable to locate them or even find out if they were still alive.  Nouri was/is Baby Pinochet which is why his apologists and defenders are so damn disgusting.  (Earlier this week, Trina wrote about the US government's culpability -- as determined by a court of law -- in the deaths of two Americans in Chile under Pinochet.)  The next wave of protests kicked off  December 21,2012 and the motivating factor there was what was happening to girls and women in Iraqi prisons.   This was the higher purpose that could motivate people to go into the streets.  The issues were numerous.  Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) has summed up the primary issues as follows:

- End of Sectarian Shia rule
- the re-writing of the Iraqi constitution (drafted by the Americans and Iranians)
- the end to arbitrary killings and detention, rape and torture of all detainees on basis of sect alone and their release
- the end of discriminatory policies in employment, education, etc based on sect
- the provision of government services to all
- the end of corruption
- no division between Shias and Sunnis, a one Islam for all Iraqi Muslims and a one Iraq for all Iraqis.

The Iraqi people have suffered under Nouri's corrupt and criminal regime.  And the US supplying him with weapons only allow him to terrorize the Iraqi people NINA notes:

Hundreds of families were displaced on Thursday from al-Qaim district west of Anbar, to escape the bombing of the aircraft.

Local residents told the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA / that hundreds of families have fled since the morning to safer areas due to the aerial bombardment of a number of aircraft, believed to be Sukhoi.

They said that the bombing focused on areas of al-Rumana, Karabilah and the center of the district, that led to the killing of a number of people and the destruction of / 5 / residential homes. 

Why is the US aiding Nouri in his War Crimes?

In other violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 police officer was injured in a Jurf al-Sakhar shooting, 12 corpses ("including 5 women and two children") were discovered dumped "southwest of Tikrit," 9 corpses were found dumped in Mosul, security forces say they killed 88 suspects in Salah al-Din Province, and security forces say they killed 14 suspects in Diyala Province.

In another sign of security issues, the Iraqi military is said to have abandoned another post today.  NINA notes, "Media sources reported that Saudi Arabia deployed 30 thousand troops on its border with Iraq after the withdrawal of Iraqi troops from the region."

Tuesday, Iraq's Parliament met for the first time since the April 30th election and they were unable to name a Speaker of Parliament.  NINA reports today that Osama al-Nujaifi (who became Speaker in November 2010) has announced he is withdrawing his name for that post.  Along with the Speaker of Parliament, the President of Iraq and Prime Minister of Iraq are the posts to be decided by Parliament.  On the presidential post, All Iraq News notes that Goran says there is bickering among the Kurdish parties over who will be president.

NINA notes:

President of Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani, said in a speech addressed to the regional parliament hearing today : "Iraq is living a new and a different reality after 2014 June 10.
A member of Kurdistan Parliament Saad Allah Muhammad told the National Iraqi News Agency / Nina /, today: "Barzani stressed t the non-withdrawal of the Peshmerga forces from the disputed areas, which Beshmagah forces seized and controlled after the events of Nineveh on June 10 / 2014.

Abigail Hauslohner and Loveday Morris (Washington Post) put it this way, "Iraq’s Kurdish minority took one step closer Thursday to going its own way, even as politicians in Baghdad, including Kurds, wrangled over the formation of a new central government that would appease the country’s deeply divided factions."

Lastly, Kat reviewed Chrissie Hynde's album Stockholm in "Kat's Korner: Chrissie Hynde rocks out."  Chrissie was a guest on NPR's World Cafe today and performed four acoustic numbers: "Dark Sunglasses," "Like In The Movies," "Down The Wrong Way"  and "You Or No One."

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

The bloom is off the rose, Barack

If you missed the latest Quinnipiac Poll, Barack did very badly.  He was named America's worst president since WWII.  Not only that but Steve Chaggaris (CBS News) reports:

To add insult to injury for Mr. Obama, more voters say the country would be better off if 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the election. Forty-five percent feel America would be better off with a President Romney; 38 percent said the country would be worse off.
"Over the span of 69 years of American history and 12 presidencies, President Barack Obama finds himself with President George W. Bush at the bottom of the popularity barrel," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.
"Would Mitt have been a better fit? More voters in hindsight say yes."

Yes, Barack is failing and falling.  It's all over for him.  There is no bounce back. 

He's a failure and even a media that repeatedly lied for him can no longer cover that up.

Six years and he's accomplished nothing of value in the White House.

He thought he could trick us with Iraq.

But as he keeps increasing the number of troops to Iraq, it becomes clear that he cannot continue to trick us there.

He is an utter failure.

A fake ass who destroyed the country.

He was not ready for the job.

A fawning press harmed him by making him believe that the presidency was all about fakery and photo ops.

But you can only fake for so long.

Barack's been exposed as either inept or corrupt.

The VA scandal, the IRS scandal, Benghazi, Iraq, Syria, Libya . . .

All the scandals have revealed him to be either inept or corrupt.

And we come full circle as America watches him send troops into Iraq -- after his claims to have ended the Iraq War.

He's the ultimate in fakery.

And now he's exposed.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, July 2, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Huffington Post runs a column by someone Colin Powell quoted to the UN at length to justify war on Iraq (yes, Huff Post was just whining about these same voices being given media platforms), the crises continue in Iraq, we look at the Kurds, KRG President Massoud Barzani and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani dialogue, US Vice President Joe Biden speaks to Iraq's most recent Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi, and much more.

First off, US President Barack Obama is polling very poorly these days.  Cedric and Wally noted it in their joint-post this morning:

  • Alsumaria notes it here.  And, possibly as a result of this latest poll, two White House friends asked if I would note this.  The White House has created a webpage for people to follow what is going on in Iraq -- US efforts and otherwise.  I said I would note it and I have -- however, a page they're pushing that hasn't updated since June 19th?  Not sure how that's going to restore any confidence in the White House.

    What is The Huffington Post?

    It has no consistency whatsoever.  Two idiots were whining -- and you know their idiots because Bernie Sanders has since linked to them -- about the 'groovy' men who were right about Iraq all along.  Ava and I took on the idiots nonsense in "TV: The useless huffing and puffing of flaccid men" Sunday at Third.  The HuffyPost whined about one man after another being blocked out and we explained why the HuffyPost chose bad people to root for.  We'll use Kent Conrad here as an example:

    They started with former US Senator Kent Conrad.  He, they informed you, was one of 21 senators to vote against the Iraq War.
    They then thunder over the refusal of networks to book Kent!
    Oh, the horror.
    Poor Kent Conrad!
    Not booked for TV because he took a stand against the Iraq War.
    Or maybe not booked because he's off putting on TV?
    His voice irritates.
    But the Huff Post never wants to offer facts, mind you.
    So they pretend that Kent's being overlooked because he was right.
    Was he right about Countrywide Financial?
    Because that is why he left the Senate, didn't run for re-election, remember?
    Yes, a Democratically controlled ethics panel did say he hadn't broken the law.
    But the financial scandal touched him since he was pro-Countrywide and they'd been so very generous to him with loans.
    It's called corruption and most hosts would be leery booking someone like Kent Conrad as an 'expert.' That'd be like booking pedophile Scott Ritter.
    And then there's that other detail: "former" senator.
    Today, on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News and CNN, Iraq will be addressed by the following officials:  US President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton, former US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey, Senator Joe Manchin, Senator John Barrasso, US House Rep. Peter King, U.S. House Rep. Mike Rogers, and former NSA director and CIA director Michael Hayden.
    Please note, all members of Congress?
    They're currently serving.
    No Congressional member invited on is a 'former' member of Congress except maybe Barack who is, after all, a sitting president.
    So Kent Conrad, who left the Senate in disgrace, who chose not to run for re-election because of the Countrywide scandal?
    He's really not the ingredients for a solid argument.

    So HuffPost is now in the position that Congressional members receiving favors from banks is a good thing? Didn't Arianna entitle one of her books Pigs at the Trough and weren't those pigs supposed to be seen as a bad thing?

    Regardless, the bad piece Ava and I took on was two (bad) writers arguing their personal faves were being shut out while those who helped the war -- booster, supporter, planner, whatever -- were getting media attention today and invited to pen columns and appear in the media.

    Can we have a little consistency?  Is that too much to ask?

    Huff Post was insisting over the weekend that the pro-war voices needed to be shut out today.  So today they run garbage written by dimwit Ibrahim al-Marashi?

    For those who don't know or just don't remember, al-Marashi wrote the Middle East Review of International Affairs article "Iraq's Security & Intelligence Network: A Guide & Analysis."  This ended up as part of Colin Powell's blot.  His 2003 UN speech arguing for war on Iraq lifted who passages of al-Marashi's article -- without crediting them as borrowed.  So even a dim bulb at Huffington Post should be able to grasp that al-Marashi's work argued for war on Iraq and was used by the US and British government to argue for war on Iraq.

    So why, today, is Huffington Post running al-Marashi's ""?

    I'm not saying he should be shut out of the conversation.  But I haven't called for any to be shut out except those who lied (getting it wrong is not the same as lying).

    Again, is consistency from Huffington Post too much to ask for?

    The article in question is laughably bad and entitled "These Are the Three Most Common Myths About What's Happening in Iraq."

    In the first 'myth,' this writer whose work was an embarrassment in 2002 and 2003 wants to take on history.  Robert Fisk and others -- including many historians -- have made the argument regarding the WWI partitioning of Iraq  and its possible consequences.  I've never made such an argument.  I'm happy to entertain one but I'm just not that interested or vested in it.  I don't dispute it or slam those who are interested in that argument.  And I certainly wouldn't call it a myth.

    Then the idiot wants to take on the 'myth' of sectarian divisions.

    That's not a myth and he's an idiot.

    Shi'ites were persecuted under Saddam Hussein.  Like many, I stupidly ignored that during the first years of the Iraq War.  As more and more Iraqi Shi'ites contacted this site over the years, I realized that I was the one in the wrong.  Saddam's government included many Shi'ites.  There's no way the system couldn't, they were the majority of the population (and still are).  But there were those -- especially those who did not embrace secularism -- who felt persecuted and were persecuted.

    The US deepened the divisions.  Laura Flanders loved to go into that when she had her radio shows.  By asking who was a Sunni and who was a Shia, the US military was reinforcing a division.

    You know what?


    That's a minor thing.

    You can blow it off as 'dumb foreigners' if you're an Iraqi.

    Here's where the US deepened the division: Installing Shi'ites opposed to Hussein who had fled the country.  Nouri and so many others returned with chips on their shoulders, scores to settle and grudges to f**k.  These people, installed into the government by the US, went about staging holy wars.  If they had a real beef,  (a) grown ups learn to get over it and (b) Saddam Hussein was executed.

    So why does Nouri still target and attack the Sunnis.

    As Lily Tomlin's wise Edith Ann once observed, "To get back is to go back."

    The third myth?

    The idiot wrote:

    Maliki became prime minister in 2006 because the U.S. believed he would be a compromise candidate that could reconcile Iraq's factions. Calls, particularly in the U.S., for Maliki to step down would not resolve the current crisis, as there are no guarantees that his successor will resolve political differences between Iraqis.
    Ironically, America's stance has made it harder for Maliki to step down. The Iraqi elections do not elect the prime minister but rather the party that choses the prime minister.

    Let's deal with the last sentence first.  They do not, the elections, elect "the party that choses the prime minister."  This is bad interpretation of the Iraqi Constitution, first and foremost.  Second of all, this argument (well made or poorly) became null and void by a court decision in 2010.  It is now the post-election period in which alliances are made and formed and the group that does that successfully is the one who gets first show at prime minister-designate.  (Not even prime minister, but, hey, when have we ever expected idiots writing for The Huffington Post to actually possess a functioning knowledge base?)

    Let's go back to the first part:

    Maliki became prime minister in 2006 because the U.S. believed he would be a compromise candidate that could reconcile Iraq's factions. Calls, particularly in the U.S., for Maliki to step down would not resolve the current crisis, as there are no guarantees that his successor will resolve political differences between Iraqis.

    That's not the argument being made and I know since I put it forward here on April 12th and put it forward to members of Congress, two think tanks and White House friends in the days after.

    What is termed 'al-Qaeda' in Iraq is actually a group of bodies.  Their only common issue at present is opposting to Nouri's rule.
    Want to break them up right now?  Pay attention, Barack -- remove Nouri from power.
    That requires no troops.  It only requires an honest election (as took place in 2010) and that the results be honored (which did not happen).
    If Nouri is not prime minister for a third term, you're going to see the bond that binds the various groups break away.
    Violence, once another person is named prime minister-designate, could actually fall as a result.

    I was not arguing -- read "I Hate The War" in full as well as what we did the following day at Third in "Editorial: If the US wants to reduce the violence ..." -- that violence would vanish and rainbows would pour out of gun barrels while grenades turned into candy.  I was arguing that Nouri's oppression of so many had made him a common enemy.  That his track record meant he would not be able to lead the people to a new Iraq.  I was arguing that a new prime minister would be a 'reset.'  Not a cure, a reset.  It would allow a brief window of time for people to wait and see if this was going to usher in an inclusive Iraq or not.

    Iraqis who are participating in the violence?  The bulk don't want to be.  They've been pushed into this by 8 years of Nouri's policies which have targeted them, disappeared their loved ones and so much more.

    Nouri gone doesn't mean Iraq finds peace.  It could mean, Iraq gets a few weeks -- maybe even a few months -- of lower violence (lower -- I'm not saying violence goes away) as the country has a chance to collectively take a breath.

    At Kitabat, Khadr Ramahi argues that Ayad Allawi might be able to pull off the reset.

    Unlike the idiot of The Huffington Post, I don't like writing about this.


    I'm not a half-wit.

    While Prime Minister New could lower levels of violence, Prime Minister New could also do a few weeks or months of pretend actions while he or she uses that time and this pretend move forward to weaken the resistance and pick them off.

    I hope that does not happen but it could.  The fear of this happening is, in part, behind the reluctance of some to get behind Tareq Najm as the next prime minister-designate (due to his closeness to Nouri). Kitabat notes strong pressure coming down on the Sadrist bloc and Ammar al-Hakim's bloc to accept Tareq for the post.

    I wrote what I wrote -- and advocated for it to officials -- because it was before the elections and if the US government had stepped away from Nouri at that point -- even State Dept friends (including two officials who both called May 30th and asked me to walk them through what they'd dismissed in April) -- it could have made a difference in the election.

    Nouri refuses to release his death grip on the country and today the violence continues at an alarming rate.

    National Iraqi News Agency reports a western Baghdad bombing andansuicide bomber left 4 people dead and twelve injured, a tribal force killed 2 rebels near the border Iraq shares with Syria, security forces state they killed Abu al-Ula al-Shami in Anbar (they say he is a 'terrorist'), a Saqlawiyah battle left 4 rebels dead and eleven more injured, the Army bombed Jurf al-Sakar killing at least 60 people, 1 person was shot dead in southeast Baghdad, and 15 Shabaks were kidnapped to the "southeast of Mosul."  Alsumaria notes a Baquba airstrike left 3 suspects dead, two police officers were injured in a Mansuriyya attack, security forces attacked a group of people in Mansouriet killing 2 people and leaving a third injured, 1 sniper was killed in Tabj and two of his associates were left injured, and security forces say they killed 7 suspects and injured eleven more in Alfajh. In addition there were clashes between the military and the followers of Mahmoud al-Sarkhi.  al-Sarkhi is a Shi'ite cleric.   In Iraq's Insurgency and the Road to Civil Conflict, Volume I, Anthony H. Cordesman and Emma R. Davies write:

    On August 16, [2006,] Iraqi security officers raided the office of radical cleric Mahmoud Sarkhi al-Hassani after his followers reportedly tried to assume control of several districts in Karbala.  Razouki, a senior official of another Shi'ite group, known as the Fadhila Party, accused al-Hassani's followers of planning to take over religious shrines in the city.  The clashes between al-Hassani's followers and Iraqi security forces led to the arrest of 281 members, but al-Hassani's followers later gathered in nearby towns and threatened to march on Karbala. 
    Rival Shi'ite factions, such as Sadr's Mahdi Army and Fadhila's armed wing, increasingly engaged in open-armed conflicts in Basra.  In June, hundreds of al-Hassani's followers attacked the Iranian Consulate after another Shi'ite cleric criticized al-Hassani on Iranian television, describing him as a "fake cleric" and a "pawn of Israel."

    His followers are thought to number around 35,000 and they reside in southern Iraq predominately with a sizable portion in central Iraq.  He is a foe and rival of Nouri al-Maliki.  He is a Shi'ite who opposed the invasion of Iraq and the occupation that followed.  He denounces real and perceived attempts by the United States and by Iran to influence and/or control Iraq.   He studied under Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr and was once close with al-Sadr's son (cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr); however, the two moved apart around 2006.

    al-Hassani also has a problematic relationship with Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.  In April 2012, Khalid Waleed (IWPR) reported:

    “Each cleric has his own followers – that is not in dispute,” Habib al-Khatib, a Sistani representatives, told IWPR, adding that the ayatollah had ordered his followers to pursue “reconciliation with others” and to refrain from violence against fellow-Iraqis.
    Sarkhi and Sistani have in the past disagreed on ideological matters, with the former supporting armed struggle against American troops when they were still present in Iraq, and opposing both past governments and elections. Sistani has taken a more moderate position, encouraging his followers to work towards full sovereignty by peaceful means.
    The core of the dispute, however, comes down to which of them is the more eminent Shia figure.
    Despite Sistani’s position, and undoubted influence, as the senior Shia figure in Iraq, Sarkhi has claimed he is the higher authority.
    Sarkhi has spoken out against Iranian influence in Iraq, and played up his own Iraqi origins in contrast to Sistani’s roots in Iran.
    For his part, Sistani is thought to be concerned about Sarkhi’s apparent attempt to portray himself as something akin to a Shia saviour.

    Sarkhi has never given an interview and remains distant even from his followers. This echoes a Shia prophecy that their redeemer is in hiding and will emerge from seclusion one day to dominate the entire world.

    Today, a curfew was imposed on Karbala.  NINA reports it is in response to "armed clashes between the followers of the religious authority Mahmoud al-Hassani Sarkhi and the security forces" which left 4 Iraqi soldiers dead and twelve more injured and left 14 of al-Sarkhi's followers dead and twenty-five more injured.   All Iraq News notes security forces arrested thirty of his followers today.  Al Mada explains that the struggle began Tueday night when security forces began surrounding Sarkhi's compound and that Sarkhi has left the compound and Karbala at some point during today's fighting.

    Let's move over to the topic of northern Iraq and the Kurds. The issue was raised at today's State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Jen Psaki.

    QUESTION: Can you give us a readout about the Secretary’s meeting with the Iraqi Kurdish delegation today?

    MS. PSAKI: Sure, mm-hmm. He also spoke with President Barzani this morning, so let me just give you kind of an overview of those two. During his – following on meetings that the Secretary had in Erbil just last week, he met this morning with a Kurdish delegation led by KRG President Barzani’s chief of staff, Fuad Hussein, to discuss the crisis in Iraq and the important role that Kurds have to play in assisting the efforts of the central government to manage this current security and political crisis in a way that is beneficial to all Iraqis. The Secretary emphasized to the delegation the critical role that the Kurds play in the government formation process, and with the new Iraqi parliament convened, the need for their full participation to move the process forward to forge an inclusive government that takes into account the rights, aspirations, and legitimate concerns of all of Iraqis – of Iraq’s communities. He also further stressed that formation of an inclusive government in Iraq was vital to uniting the Iraqi people and ridding the nation of the threat from ISIL, including in the Kurdish region. And finally, he underscored the historic relationship the United States shares with the Kurdistan Regional Government and its people, and emphasized our full commitment to that relationship.
    The discussion he had with President Barzani was along the same lines in terms of encouraging the urgency – emphasizing the urgency of their participation in the government formation process, the important role the Kurds played moving forward – he raised the important role the Kurds play moving forward, and also emphasized that the focus should be on the existential threat that they all face, and that’s where their focus should be at this important time.

    QUESTION: I assumed Dr. Fuad was scheduled to come here for some time, but the call of President Barzani was somewhat – can we assume it was precipitated by the fact that the Kurds walked out of the parliament meeting yesterday?

    MS. PSAKI: He’s been in touch with a range of officials, as you know, throughout the last several weeks. So certainly we are aware of those events and encouraging them to participate in the process is part of that, and emphasizing the importance of the plan to reconvene next week is a part of that. But I don’t have any additional information on the timing or the reasoning of the call beyond that.

    QUESTION: Did – I mean, I ask about the timing, because, as you noted, he met with President Barzani last week. I’m just wondering what different message he might have had from a week ago to today that would have necessitated a call.

    MS. PSAKI: It’s not a different message, but I think consistency, especially in times of crisis, is part of his approach to diplomacy. So that’s what this was a part of.

    QUESTION: And did President Barzani or Dr. Fuad commit to attending the July 8th parliament session?

    MS. PSAKI: We --

    QUESTION: Not themselves personally, but the delegations.

    MS. PSAKI: We certainly expect they will, but I’ll let them speak for themselves in terms of their own commitments.

    QUESTION: Jen?

    MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: The Kurds, meanwhile, are working on their own country or own state, drawing the borders of this country and preparing for the referendum. Have you discussed this issue with them and what was their reaction to that?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you’ve heard the Secretary say publicly, but his message privately is exactly the same – that a united Iraq is a stronger Iraq, and the focus should be on the existential threat that all Iraqis face and that people in the region face, which is the threat of ISIL. And we should not give an opening to a horrific terrorist group by being divided at this critical moment. So that’s part of the message that he certainly has conveyed broadly on these issues.
    Now, there have been statements made in the past, as you know, for quite some time about their desire for an independent Kurdistan. It’s not new as of the last week. I know you’re aware of that, but it’s important context here.

    QUESTION: Today, was prime minister – sorry. Today Prime Minister Maliki and the Iranians saying that they oppose to any kind of secession by the Kurds. So you’re in agreement with them on that?

    MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve been very consistent and clear about our view that a stronger Iraq is a united Iraq, a united Iraq is a stronger Iraq.

    QUESTION: And do you believe that Kirkuk is still disputed?

    MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry?

    QUESTION: Do you believe that Kirkuk is still a disputed area?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re certainly aware that the Kurdish – the Peshmerga are there, the Kurdish forces are there. But again, we have been encouraging all parties in Iraq to remain focused on the existential threat they face.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    Last night, Rebecca covered Kurdish issues in "kurds and the krg."  Among other things, she noted that the governments of both Turkey and Israel had made public statements about being okay with the KRG becoming fully autonomous.  It's only the US State Dept that seems to have a problem these days.

    *From the June 24th State Dept press briefing:

    QUESTION: One way to interpret taking into account the new realities on the ground would be taking into account the Peshmerga’s seizure of Kirkuk. Does the U.S. Government believe that Kirkuk and its oil reserves now belong to the Kurdish Regional Government?

    MS. HARF: Well, look, our position on the export or sale of oil inside Iraq, anywhere inside Iraq, is the – has to happen with the appropriate approval of the federal Iraqi Government, that it is, indeed, owned by the Iraqi Government. Obviously, there are – we talked about this in here – whether the – when other people, including the Kurds, have tried to export it absent that approval, and we’ve said, obviously, we don’t support that. But look, the situation on the ground is fluid. Many people, including the Security Council, have called on Baghdad and Erbil to reach an accord on oil – on all pending subjects, including energy.

    QUESTION: But that’s been happening for 11 years. I mean – but they’ve been – there have been calls for that for 11 years. It has --

    MS. HARF: I’m aware of the history.

    QUESTION: It hasn’t happened, and the change on the ground that one would guess the Kurdish leader is talking about is a big one, which is that they now hold what they regard as their historic capital and its oil reserves. And so it sounds like your answer is, no, it doesn’t belong to the KRG, it belongs to a federal Iraqi state for as long as there is one. Is that fair?

    MS. HARF: It’s that our position hasn’t changed.

    No more pretty.  Little pretense that sides aren't and weren't chosen.

    Repeatedly, the State Dept has insisted they weren't taking sides on the oil issue and more gifted speakers have been able to walk the line so that there was the possibility that State wasn't choosing sides.  Their actions made clear they were backing Nouri but their words gave the indication that maybe that wasn't the case and actions were accidental or the product of chaos and not a plan that State was following.

    Then Marie Harf clomps into the room and makes clear, it is an anti-Kurd position and that it always has been.

    But a hiccup, this week, a hiccup.

    A legal victory for the Kurds.  The KRG notes:

    On 23rd June 2014, the Court convened a special meeting to address the Minister’s request and, after examining the reasoning behind his request, the Court decided unanimously to reject the request of the Minister “for being contrary to the applicable legal contexts in Iraq.”
    It is worth noting here that the Minister’s claims were based on his own interpretation of constitutional provisions to claim that the oil and gas affairs fall within the exclusive powers of the federal government. In so claiming, the Minister was relying on the centralized laws enacted prior to 2003, thus ignoring the fact that current constitutional provisions do not incorporate any oil and gas matters within Article 110, which defines the  exclusive powers of the federal government.

    With this Court decision, the Kurdistan Regional Government has another important clarification of its acquired rights as stated in the Constitution.  The Court ruling was taken by a unanimous decision of all its members, and it explicitly rejected the request made by the Minister. Such a decision by the highest court in the land is binding on the Minister and cannot be challenged in any way.

    This is a clear victory for justice and for upholding KRG’s rights, despite the Iraqi Federal Oil Ministry‘s interferences and unjustifiable interventions. This decision clearly demonstrates that the Federal Oil ministry and its marketing arm (SOMO) will also fail on all their reckless efforts on the international level.

      This judicial decision by the Supreme Federal Court must be respected, and now we call upon the Federal Oil Ministry, SOMO and all their helpers to abandon their illegal and unconstitutional interventions to prevent oil exports from the Kurdistan Region. They must also cease sending intimidating and threatening letters or making false claims to prospective traders and buyers of oil exported legally by the Kurdistan Regional Government for the benefit of the people of Kurdistan and Iraq.

    And that decision came down before Marie's latest flapping of the gums on this issue.

    Marie and State should have been aware of the verdict.

    They should also be aware that their active support and embrace of Nouri -- which was never backed by the law as they tried to claim -- looks even more repugnant and ill thought.

    The Kurds are not only an oppressed people, they've been the ones to attempt to work with the US government for decades -- even though the US government has repeatedly turned on them.  What a slap in the face the US government has repeatedly delivered to the Kurds over the oil issue.

    Nouri's failure to pass an oil law is the US government's failure since he's repeatedly promised to pass one since 2006 and now, 8 years later, there's still no oil and gas law.

    Marie and State should be pressed now, with a legal verdict being delivered, on where they stand? And why this verdict is not supposed to change anything?

    Everything above starting with "*" appeared here on Saturday.  At what point is the State Dept going to note the legal decision?  And more importantly, will they respect it?

    At Kitabat today, Qasim Muhammad al-Hassani wants to know who made KRG President Massoud Barzani the protector of the Kurds?

    That's an easy one to answer:  Jalal Talabani.

    The now former president of Iraq, who's still in Germany, made Barzani the protector.  He did so in at least three ways.  First, he refused to follow doctor's orders and lose weight (he is morbidly obese, even now, after the stroke, he remains morbidly obese) and to eat sensibly.  Second, he publicly declared that there would never be an independent Kurdish homeland.  That was appalling to the world's Kurdish population.  Third, he capitulated to Nouri al-Maliki at every turn.

    December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 following Jalal's argument with Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot).  Jalal was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.

    The country survived without him.  The Talabani family has lied to the Iraq people repeatedly falsely declaring Jalal would be back in a matter of months.  They've been making that promise since March of 2013.  No one believes them anymore.  And, at this point, Jalal's term is over.  So it really doesn't matter.  The selfish nature of the Talabani family left the country without a President from December 2012 to May 2014.  They repeatedly lied and played on people's sympathies to prevent the Constitution from being implemented and Jalal replaced.

    Who made Massoud Barzani the protector?  Jalal.

    Equally true, where Jalal showed weakness, Massoud showed strength.  Even before Jalal was in Germany, Massoud Barzani was already becoming a leader on the world's stage.

    Alsumaria reports that Barzani has asked Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for help in resolving the ongoing crises and for help moving the political process forward.  NINA adds, "President of Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani sent on Wednesday a message to the religious authority, Ali al-Sistani, urging him to intervene with the aim not to allow Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in the job for a third term."

    Iraq Times reports MP Susan Sa'ad is calling Tuesday's inaction by the Parliament a breach of trust with the Iraqi people.  NINA notes:

    Head of Motahedoon Coalition / Uniting for Reform /, Osama Nujaifi received on Wednesday afternoon a telephone call from the American Vice-President Joe Biden, during which they discussed the political situation in Iraq and the constitutional requirements that followed the elections. Al- Nujaifi stressed during the interview, according to a statement by his office, his commitment to support the goals of the struggle of the people for they aspire to change in order to find a new strong policies to ensure the lives and the future of the Iraqi citizen. 

    Meanwhile, All Iraq News reports:

    The Head of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, Ammar Al-Hakim, called on the political sides to bear their responsibilities and ease the sufferings of the people and leave their disputes and their sectarian rhetoric.
    He called in his daily speech of Ramadan holy month "New MPs to devote their job for serving the country and the people to prove their honesty and make the people respect them."

    He urged to "From a government by the qualified team that has a clear vision to eliminate crises."

    On Monday's CBS Evening News, Scott Pelley noted:

    Scott Pelley:  The president has just informed Congress that he is doubling the number of US forces headed to Iraq.  These new troops are being sent in with helicopters and will be equipped for combat.  It was just 11 days ago that   President Obama announced that 300 advisors were headed to Baghdad to help Iraq fight an extremist insurgency that threatens to tear the country apart.  But he insisted at that time that US forces will not be returning to combat.  Apparently now the mission is growing.  

    Yesterday at the Pentagon, Rear Adm John Kirby gave a press briefing and went through the Iraq numbers:

    I want to walk you through sort of what we're doing here and how. So we'll start going through time, but it's important as we go through this that I -- I clearly delineate there are two separate and distinct mission sets, the troops that are being sent to Iraq. First one is security assistance, and the second one is assessment teams and the joint operations center. This is the advisory -- eventually what will become the advisory mission, two distinct tracks here.
    So the first order was the on the 16th of June for 270 -- actually, it was up to 275, is what the War Powers Resolution letter said, but roughly 270 is what we ordered up inside the military channels. A hundred and seventy of them got on the ground that same day -- actually, as you know, they kind of flowed in a little bit before the war powers letter went to Congress. So back then, we had a total of 270 authorized, 170 in country.
    Next slide. The second order, the second War Powers Resolution letter went on the 26th of June. That authorized up to 300 advise and assess troops, advisers. And on the 27th of June, 180 had been in country. That's -- so you have 90 supporting the joint operations center in Baghdad and another 90 that comprised our assessment and advise teams. That brought the total to 570 authorized, but 350 actually on the ground. Everybody tracking on this so far? I figured if I use slides, I won't get the math wrong.
    Next slide. The third order came on the 30th of June yesterday. That was for an additional 200 in the security assistance mission, separate and distinct from the assessment mission, an additional 200, and all 200 of them are now in and around Baghdad.
    Additionally, you'll see the 100 up there in the top under the first order. Remember, the first order on the 16th of June was up to 275, but 270 is what we ordered. And we didn't put them all in country. You might remember, we told you that we were going to leave 100 of them or so outside the country in case they needed to be put in. We did put them in yesterday. So that other 100 came from the first order on the 16th of June.
    And then so all that comes down to the bottom there, a total of 770 authorized, 650 on the ground. And that's where we are right now. Okay?

    Kristina Wong (The Hill) reported yesterday afternoon, "Officials would not say how many of the armed helicopters have been sent to the country, stating only that they will be based in Baghdad and could assist with evacuations of American personnel. The Pentagon also sent over additional surveillance drones."  Today on The Lead with Jake Tapper (CNN),  Barbara Starr reported on the White House assertion that the US troops are being kept away from combat and instead making assessments from within Baghdad.  Retired Col Cedric Leighton tells Starr,  "That would be like staying at the Pentagon and assessing the health of the US military just from the Penatgon. It's impossible to do. [. . .] When you only deal with the headquarters level you'll never get the true picture."  It would certainly appear that "Barack tells the American people one thing while planning something different."


    Tuesday, July 01, 2014

    Paul Mazursky passes away

    Paul Mazursky has passed away.  The writer and director of classic films such as "Bob, Carol, Ted & Alice" (starring Natalie Wood, Elliott Gould, Dyan Cannon and Robert Culp), "An Unmarried Woman" (starring Jill Clayburgh), "Down & Out In Beverly Hills" (starring Bette Midler)  and "Enemies, A Love Story" (starring Anjelica Huston) also directed "Faithful" (starring Cher).

    Wikipedia notes:

    Soon after starting his acting career, Mazursky became a writer and worked on The Danny Kaye Show in 1963. In 1965, he collaborated with Larry Tucker in crafting the script of the original pilot of The Monkees television series, in which they both also appeared in cameos.
    Mazursky's debut as a film screenplay writer was the Peter Sellers comedy I Love You, Alice B. ToklasBob & Carol & Ted & Alice (produced and written by Mazursky and Larry Tucker), which proved to be a major critical and commercial success. The film was the fifth highest grossing of the year and earned Mazursky his first Oscar nomination. (1968). The following year he directed his first film
    His career behind the camera continued for the next two decades as he wrote and directed a prolific string of quirky, dramatic and critically popular films. His most successful films were contemporary dramatic comedies and include the Academy Award-winning Harry and Tonto (1974), the Best Picture-nominated An Unmarried Woman (1978), and the popular Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986). In light of his comedies that tackled a number of modern social subjects, the Hollywood Reporter has stated that "from the late '60s through the '80s, [he] seemed to channel the zeitgeist..."[7] and Variety has stated that "his oeuvre smacks of cultural significance."[8]
    Other films made by Mazursky during this time include Alex in Wonderland (1970), Blume in Love (1973), the autobiographical Next Stop, Greenwich Village (1976), Willie & Phil (1980), Tempest (1982), Moscow on the Hudson (1984), Moon Over Parador (1988), Enemies, a Love Story (1989) and Scenes from a Mall (1991).

    Todd Leopold (CNN) notes:

    Mazursky started out as an actor, making his debut in Stanley Kubrick's early work "Fear and Desire" (1954) and guest-starring in several TV series, including "The Twilight Zone" and "The Real McCoys." He made frequent appearances in his own films and was an often wise-cracking presence in other works, including "The Sopranos," in which he played a card dealer friend of Junior Soprano, and "Curb Your Enthusiasm," in which he played Norm, an assistant of Mel Brooks.
    In real life, Brooks and Mazursky were close friends. When Mazursky received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame late last year, Brooks said, "If he were gay, and I were gay, I think we would hang out together. That's how much I love him."

    Stan noted Mazursky's "Faithful" in his post on the ten best film performances by Cher:

    6) "Faithful."  I've gone from hating this film to thinking it's effective -- but not as effective as it should be.  That said, I always was impressed with Cher's performance.  She really went out on a limb here.  Her character is the kind reviewers don't care for (she's a wealthy wife who does not work outside the home and really does not work inside the home).  She brought a very fragile quality to this role.

    My favorite Mazursky film was "Bob, Carole, Ted & Alice."  I love everyone in every role in that film.  Including whomever plays Myrna, an angry woman in the encounter group at the start of the film.  I especially think Natalie Wood gave the finest performance in the entire film (followed closely by Dyan Cannon and Elliott Gould).

    Stan's noted the film twice at his site.  In 2013, he wrote:

    This is the perfect Natalie film.  She never looked more beautiful and she's just so amazing in the film.  There are movies where she gets to do more but everything about her is right in this film.  She's always Carol.  Not just when she's saying her lines.  I love the scene at the beginning where the four are eating out and Bob and Carol are explaining about their weekend retreat to their couple friends Ted (Gould) and Alice (Cannon).  And just her looks, just everything Natalie does is so perfect. When she goes running after the waiter Eduardo into the kitchen, it's all just art.

    There's a simplicity and beauty to her acting in the film and I think it's not just her best performance but one of the best film performances.

    And, on top of that, you've got Dyan Cannon and Elliott Gould giving great performances as well. I don't care for Culp but he's effective in the film.  Bob's a jerk.  He was probably jerk-ish in real time but especially when we today, we get he's a jerk.  Culp plays him perfectly.

    This is a classic film that keeps you laughing throughout.  It makes you want to climb into a time machine and go back to the 60s.

    In 2012, Stan wrote about great directors of the 70s:

    Another great from that time is Paul Mazursky.  He's the one I was thinking of tonight.  (There are others from that period living.  But my point is that a lot of them have passed on.)  "Bob, Carol, Ted & Alice" is a classic comedy.  I think it and "Shampoo" have to be the two finest comedies from the great directors of this period.

    I can watch both films over and over.

    1969's "Bob, Carol, Ted & Alice" stars Natalie Wood, Robert Culp, Dyan Cannon and Elliott Gould.  This is hysterical and perfect in every way.  Each of the leads creates a fully developed character and manages to have a nice chemistry with one another.  Not just Natalie and Robert or Dyan and Elliott.  This is in the swinging sixties and Robert's having a problem with being "old" so he's trying to act younger than he is.  Natalie's up for anything and follows that lead.  He has an affair with [. . .] a flight attendant, she has one with a tennis instructor (Lars?).  Not out of spite but because she wants to get into the swing of things.

    Dyan is appalled by this while Elliott is delighted.  His character is sexually frustrated in his marriage while she feels all he wants is sex-sex-sex.

    And if each couple doesn't work with their partner, why care about the film?

    In addition, Dyan and Natalie have a nice chemistry that makes you believe they are friends and Robert and Elliott have the same.  But, the swinging sixties, remember?  So the four will end up in bed together.

    I will not tell you how it ends but if you don't believe that this could have happened, the whole movie would fall apart.  So it was really important that the four all have chemistry together and they do.

    I love this movie.  I love the look of it, the pace of it and the whole tone.  Mazursky co-wrote the script as well.

    He's done other outstanding work ("An Unmarried Woman," "Enemies: A Love Story," "Down & Out in Beverly Hills" and "Scenes From A Mall").

    But there's a special magic to "Bob, Carol, Ted and Alice."  A lot of it goes to Natalie Wood who is a good actress but has never been so alive on the screen.

    Mazursky does a lot of acting.  I hope he does one more film -- at least -- because he really is something.  And you can see that in shot after shot of the 1969 classic.

    I edited that only to remove a mistake.  Stan's called the flight attendant Myrna.  Myrna's the woman at the beginning in the group therapy.  It's a testament to the actress' power in that role that you do remember her character's name.  Diane Berghoff played Myrna

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

    Tuesday, July 1, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Parliament meets but nothing is decided, John Kerry tries to rewrite history, State Dept spokesperson Marie Harf attempts to rewrite the present, Barack Obama sends even more US troops into Iraq, and much more.

    Today US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to China Central Television (CNTV -- link is video).  Excerpt.

    Wang Guan: John Kerry, you just came back from Iraq.  Now looking back at the turmoil -- this is something you have been very engaged in. Do you think the previous administration in Iraq in 2003 was, as some call, a grave mistake?  And what will the US do next?

    John Kerry:  Well I am on record historically not only in saying that it was a grave mistake but in running against the president who ordered it and offering an alternative.  So I'm-I'm hardly capable of [Kerry laughs] ducking that squarely.  Yes, I think it was a grave mistake and I think we are still working through many of the problems associated with it even today.  There's a huge, residual hangover, a cloud, that hangs over the region as a consequence of that decision.  Now we are working very hard.  President Obama's decision was to make certain that we tried to change that and that's why he moved to withdraw the combat troops.  And now we're working very, very hard to empower the Iraqis themselves, they have to make this decision.  Iraqis have to decide who their government is.  And it needs to be a representative, unity government that brings people together and it resolves through it's reforms -- in terms of its relationships to the Kurds, it's relationships to the Sunnis -- Everybody, and the Shia, all have to be feeling as if their needs are being met through the governmental processes and structures that are established.  That's what we hope will emerge through the Iraqis themselves and their decisions in the next few days. 

    "I'm on record historically not only in saying that it was a grave mistake"?  "Offering an alternative"?

    I'm sorry, that's just not true.  I backed John Kerry in the Democratic Party primaries.  Many of my friends were for Howard Dean who presented as an anti-Iraq War candidate.  I remember their disgust with Kerry in the primaries and after he won the party's presidential nomination.

    I like John, I supported his primary campaign and general election campaign (even though he chose John Edwards for a running mate -- Mr. Grabby Hands was also a snake in the grass who fed the press anti-Kerry remarks after the campaign was over).  That doesn't mean I stay silent while he rewrites history.  I -- and many of his other 2004 supporters -- wish he had called it a "grave mistake" and that his 2004 campaign was "offering an alternative" but that simply was not the case.

    August 10, 2004, CNN reported:

    Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry said Monday he would not have changed his vote to authorize the war against Iraq, but said he would have handled things "very differently" from President Bush.
    Bush's campaign has challenged Kerry to give a yes-or-no answer about whether he stood by the October 2002 vote which gave Bush authority to use military force against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
    The question of going to war in Iraq has become a major issue on the campaign trail, especially in light of the fact that no weapons of mass destruction have been found there.

    Read the full article.  He's bothered by the planning of it. he's whining about tactics.  But the war was based on lies, there were no WMDs -- and that was well known by August 2004.  But he wasn't calling out the lies of WMD, he wasn't retracting his 2002 vote (except for the ridiculous "I was for it before I was against it" statement).

    Today was supposed to be the big day to resolve everything political in Iraq via a session in Parliament.   Supposed to be.  June 20th, Tamara Keith (Morning Edition, NPR -- link is text and audio) reported on US President Barack Obama's desire for political solutions:

    OBAMA: We do not have the ability to simply solve this problem by sending in tens of thousands of troops and committing the kinds of blood and treasure that has already been expended in Iraq. Ultimately this is something that is going to have to be solved by the Iraqis.

    KEITH: How? Obama says a political solution is needed. Problem is Iraqi politics are a mess. The country's prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, is Shiite, and his policies have been hostile to Sunnis. The radical group ISIS capitalized on those sectarian divisions, easing their way into Sunni-dominated cities. President Obama wouldn't say whether he thinks Maliki needs to go, but he is calling for a unity government.

    OBAMA: 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.

    What Barack was asking for is similar to the call made by Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.  Workers Revolutionary Party notes, "World leaders have insisted on a political settlement among Iraq’s Shiite Arab, Sunni Arab and Kurdish communities and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, revered among the country’s Shiite majority, has urged political leaders to quickly form a government after parliament convenes on Tuesday." Many made similar calls but more directly noting what "unity" really means -- no third term for Nouri. Prensa Latina reported yesterday:

    Meanwhile, the Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called today the State of Law coalition, led by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, to provide a new candidate for that office, since he will oppose his election for a third term in Parrliament.
    Al-Sadr, whose followers in the so-called Mehdi Army enlisted to fight the ISIL, defined as decisive the parliamentary session to be held Tuesday to start the process of forming the new government and elect a president and two vice presidents.

    While Sunni leaders have made clear that there should be no third term for Nouri al-Maliki, many Shi'ite leaders have also made that call -- Moqtada and Ahmed Chalabi being only two.  Jason Ditz ( noted yesterday, "Current Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki has made a lot of enemies over the years, and Ammar al-Hakim, a top figure in the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), says Maliki has two big obstacles to a third term: Shi’ites, and everyone else."

    But he's a prime minister.  Two terms!  He must be so popular, after all.  No.  Nouri was never selected by Iraqis.  Following the December 2005 parliamentary elections, Iraqi MPs wanted Ibrahim al-Jaafari named prime minister.  In 2010, Iraqis voters made Nouri's State of Law a loser to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya.  So how did the non-popular choice emerge a two-time victor?

    Nouri was installed as prime minister by the Bully Boy Bush administration in 2006 and kept by Barack's administration in 2010.  The US puppet has destroyed Iraq, not brought the people together.  Simon Assef (UK Socialist Worker) explained last month:

    The Iraqi state that emerged under the occupation was corrupt and deeply divisive. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki deepened the schism by further alienating the country’s Sunni minority and threatening the autonomous Kurdish regions in the north
    Disenfranchised Sunnis began peaceful protests in December 2012 in what was known as the “Iraqi Spring”. Security forces attacked the camps, killing dozens of people. Maliki then flooded Sunni areas with his security forces.
    Thousands of people were rounded up, tortured and killed.
    A deep disaffection with Maliki’s rule precipitated the disintegration of security forces in the face of Isis. Now his government is close to collapse.

    The Socialist offers this take, "Since 2006, the western-supported Shia prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, presided over sectarian discrimination, torture and imprisonment without trial. Maliki deployed sectarian rhetoric to take attention away from the atrocious conditions facing all Iraqis. The forcing of a leading Sunni minister into exile triggered popular protests in Sunni areas in December 2012 and early 2013, which the authoritarian regime brutally suppressed. "  How bad is the situation in Iraq?   Yassamine Mather (UK Weekly Worker) observed, "The sharp improvement in the relations between the United States and the Islamic Republic (and subsequently between the United Kingdom and Iran) has been remarkable - Washington is seriously considering military cooperation with Iran over the civil war in Iraq."

    All Iraq News reports 73 MPs  failed to attend the session (255 did attend).  Nouri's publicist Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) maintains, "Despite talk of a boycott ahead of the opening, all but members of Ayad Allawi's Sunni bloc showed up."  Wow, who knew Ayad Allawi's bloc won 73 seats.

    They didn't.  (2010's Iraqiya splintered.  Ayad Allawi's section formed Al-Wataniya which won 21 seats in the April elections.  Osama al-Nujaifi grabbed another section, Muttahidoon, which won 23 seats. The third section was Al-Arabiya and it won 10 seats and it's Saleh al-Mutlaq's section.  Not only do you not get 73 if you add all three together, but Muttahidoon and Al-Arabiya were present for the session.)

    Jane Arraf's in a difficult spot.  She's whored for Nouri forever and day, writing one long lie after another.  Her latest b.s. may set a new low even for her.  Why the Christian Science Monitor employs the woman who was an apologist for Saddam Hussein and now is an apologist for Nouri al-Maliki is beyond comprehension.  Arraf has lied so much and done so over and over, so very often.  She is a one woman propaganda mill, whether 'reporting' for CNN or Al Jazeera or the Christian Science Monitor or NPR or PRI.  Never has one 'reporter' done so much and informed so little.

    While Iraqis were killed by Nouri for peacefully protesting, Jane looked the other way except for the occassional Tweet.  When her Tweet about Nouri's forces killing a protester could have provided context for the Hawija massacred, Jane ignored Tweet and never reported on it.  Never noted that the Tuesday massacre kicked off the Friday before when Nouri's forces killed a peaceful protester.

    Jane's latest is another sewer of lies and distortions and that's apparently what she's decided she'll stick with.

    You'll note the little media whore can't hide how one-sided she is.  For example, in the bad article that the Christian Science Monitor should never have published, she quotes Nouri's State of Law twice in the first five paragraphs as they attack Kurdish politicians.  Where in the entire article is the Kurdish response?

    A one-sided whore risks heavy hip injuries, let's all hope Jane's prepared for her tawdry future.

    All Iraq News reports MP Mahdi al-Hafidh presided over this first session of Parliament since the April 30th elections and did so because he's the eldest MP.  Alsumaria reports a fight quickly broke out between the Kurdistan Alliance and the National Alliance with the Kurds demanding the millions Baghdad has been denying them in federal reveunes.  (Nouri's denied them their rightful share of the 2014 budget in an attempt to blackmail them into doing what he wants.)  Rod Nordland (New York Times) reports on the altercation:

    “We need our salaries!,” shouted a Kurdish representative, Najiba Najib, complaining that the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad had not been paying Kurdish officials since the Kurdistan region all but broke away last month. When extremists with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria drove the Iraqi Army from northern Iraq, the Kurds took the opportunity to seize control of Kirkuk. The Kurds have long laid claim to the oil-rich city, and insisted that they intend to keep it.
    “You brought ISIS into our country and took the Iraqi flag down in Kirkuk and put your flag up!,” shouted Mohammed Naji, a Shiite politician, at Ms. Najib. “Go and sell your oil to Israel.”

    Actually, the salaries haven't been paid for months.  When Baghdad began denying the Kurds the federal money months ago, Kurdish politicians made the decision to stop paying officials so that government workers could be paid.  At any rate . . .

    Things had looked better earlier on -- former Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and former Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq arrived together. Thug Nouri, Iraqi National Alliance Ibrahim al-Jaafari, former vice president Khudir al-Khuzaiye and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Envoy Nickoly Mladenov arrived.

    al-Hafidh called a brief recess.  After which, Raheem Salman, Oliver Holmes, Isra' al-Rubei'i, Ahmed Rasheed, Ned Parker, Alexander Dziadosz, Gabriela Baczynska, Yara Bayoumy,  Alexander Dziadosz, Peter Graff, Paul Taylor and Anna Willard  (Reuters)  report, "Sunnis and Kurds walked out of the first session of Iraq's new parliament on Tuesday after Shi'ites failed to name a prime minister to replace Nuri al-Maliki" and less "than a third of lawmakers returned from the recess."  Al Jazeera states "only 75" MPs returned after the recess. That clearly means many Shi'ites also failed to return.  Yamei Wang (Xinhua) states it most clearly, "Many of the 255 lawmaker who attended the opening session simply walked out after a recess suggested for more talks between the political rivals, creating a lack in the quorum required for the session."

    Alsumaria reports State of Law is insisting the problem was all the Sunni blocs and their proposing both al-Nujaifi and Salem al-Juburi for Speaker of Parliament.  Osama al-Nujaifi held a press conference after the session and stated his bloc attended the session under the belief that the prime minister-designate would be named and that they have nor formerly made a nomination for Speaker of Parliament, that they were waiting to see who was named prime minister-designate before nominating anyone for Speaker of Parliament.  Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports:

    After the session, a newly-formed Sunni political gathering, named Alliance of National Powers, said in a statement that the Sunni lawmakers walked out of the parliament session because there was no agreement between the political blocs about the nomination of the new top posts: speaker, president and prime minister, in addition to the lack of a clear governmental program that may ensure a change in the governance of the country.
    The alliance, includes the political blocs of the outgoing speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, secular Salih al-Mutlak, Salim al- Jubouri and others, said that the Sunni alliance's lawmakers had attended the parliament session because they want to "show a respect to the constitutional timetable, but they found it appropriate to limit their presence in the opening session of the Council of Representatives (parliament) on taking their oaths only, and then to give a chance for dialogue to reach a satisfactory political solution."
    The statement also called for the Iraqi lawmakers to differentiate between Islamic State (IS) terrorist acts and the " legitimate popular protests that have escalated by the authority's repression and disregard and went on to the extent of an armed rebellion."

    "Any attempt to describe the protesters as terrorists is a tendentious and condemned description that does not serve the stability of our country," the statement warned, referring to the militant groups of the Sunni tribes and the previous anti- U.S. Sunni armed groups who took up their arms recently against the Shiite-led government.

    The political solution did not come -- at least not today.  At the State Dept press briefing today, spokesperson Marie Harf tried to spin it into a win:

    QUESTION: Thank you. I’d like to start in Iraq. I’m sure you saw that Sunni and Kurdish lawmakers walked out of the parliament today; so much for hoping to start the creation of a government by July 1st. Wondering what if any steps you’ve seen since then that would give the Obama Administration any kind of hope that this process will move quickly.

    MS. HARF: Well, we never said they should put a deadline so they should form a new government entirely by July 1st. The Secretary used that date in terms of when they should begin government formation. But let’s be clear – this needs to happen as soon as possible. It was important that Iraq’s new parliament convene today, as they pledged to do. That was a good thing. But we do hope that Iraq’s leaders will move forward with the extreme urgency that the current situation deserves. The acting speaker did ask the parliament to meet again in one week on July 8th to present candidates for the speakership and two deputy speakers, followed by candidates for the prime minister and – president and prime minister.
    And look, time is not on Iraq’s side here. They need to do this as quickly as possible. They could do it before the 8th. It would be better if they did it before the 8th. But certainly need to live up to their commitments here to continue meeting to get a government in place as soon as possible.

    QUESTION: So I guess my question is more: Have you seen anything since the walkout which was several hours ago?

    MS. HARF: In the last few hours. Yeah.

    QUESTION: Yeah, well, I mean, that’s not nothing. I’m sure there are U.S. officials there --

    MS. HARF: Absolutely, yes.

    QUESTION: -- at parliament or involved in the – not involved in the process, but on the sidelines --

    MS. HARF: Talking to the different parties.

    QUESTION: Exactly.

    MS. HARF: Yep.

    QUESTION: So what kind of assurances or words or thoughts have those people heard from the Iraqis that this is going --

    MS. HARF: Well --

    QUESTION: -- that even if they wait until July 8th, that anything will happen on July 8th?

    MS. HARF: Well, I think there is a broad sense that Iraq’s leaders understand the urgency here. Now, I think we will know very soon whether they really understand it and whether they’re willing to back up that sentiment with actions. And as we said, it was an important step that the parliament did convene today, as they said they would. But we need to see a government formed as soon as possible, and ideally, that would happen before the 8th.
    Conversations are ongoing. I don’t have any specifics to read out for you, but needless to say, with everyone we are very much making clear that this needs to happen very, very quickly.

    QUESTION: I’m not sure if you saw some of the comments that the Iraqi ambassador to the U.S. made today --

    MS. HARF: I did.

    QUESTION: -- at Carnegie. He basically described starting looking to the governments of Syria, Russia, and Iran for additional help, even if just advice, even if just trying to solidify the borders. Wondering if this is a signal that the United States is losing its influence in this region, and also what you think of the fact that these are at best unreliable, uneasy allies; at worst, flat-out enemies.

    MS. HARF: Well, I think a few points. The first is, I mean, all you have to do is look at what we’re doing with the Iraqis today to demonstrate that we have a very close partnership with them. Whether it’s the assessment and advisory teams that have gone in that the President announced several weeks ago, whether it’s our diplomatic folks on the ground working with the different parties, I mean, clearly, we play an important role here, and the Iraqi leaders have asked the United States in a number of different ways to help them get out of this crisis, to fight the threat, and to help push the parties towards a better government, quite frankly.
    But look, we have said any country who is willing to assist the Iraqis in this fight in a nonsectarian, inclusive way towards an inclusive process, that’s what all the countries need to do. Look, when it comes to Syria, we’ve been very clear that Iraq’s security problem cannot be solved by the Assad regime, who, in large part, is responsible for the security situation that spilled over into Iraq and has led us to where we are today.

    QUESTION: Just following up on that point --

    MS. HARF: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- do you have any kind of explanation for why Secretary Kerry’s message seems to have gone so unheeded? It wasn’t just that the parliament sort of broke up without a decision, but there was actual chaos.

    MS. HARF: Well, they agreed to meet in a week.

    QUESTION: But there was chaos. There was one of the Shiite lawmakers --

    MS. HARF: Democracy is messy at times. It is. And I would disagree with the notion that his message went unheeded. He – the three different parties in Iraq said they were committed to the process. He had conversations with the Kurds, with the Sunni, with the Shia leaders, who said they were committed to forming a government as soon as possible.
    As I’ve said, we now need to see actions back up those words. But the parliament did meet, as complicated and messy as this process is at times, and committed to meeting again in a week. But they need to move very quickly, and I think we will see in the coming days whether they are willing to do so.

    QUESTION: But what he did say --

    MS. HARF: And we also can’t make decisions for them. This is about them stepping up and making decisions for their country. This is not about anybody else making decisions for them.

    QUESTION: But it puts the timetable back a bit, and they were supposed to meet today and hopefully get to a speaker, and then as set out under the constitution, those --

    MS. HARF: Well, they did --

    QUESTION: -- 30-day periods.

    MS. HARF: They met today. Today was the day we wanted them to meet. They met. They committed to meeting again in a week. And as I said, ideally they would do this before the 8th. So I think we’re making clear that they don’t need to wait a week, but this is a complicated process. There are a number of different moving pieces here in terms of picking – and it’s important, quite frankly, to pick leaders that are going to govern inclusively, to make sure you take the time to do that, but to do that very quickly.

    QUESTION: But – and I don’t have his transcript in front of me, but what he did say at his press conference in Baghdad was that the fate of Iraq hangs in the next couple of days, within the week. And so now we’re seeing it go beyond the week, and I think that’s the point that we’re trying to make.

    MS. HARF: Well, I think the point he was trying to make is that the fate of Iraq is very much hanging in the balance right now, that Iraq’s leaders have a fundamental choice about the future of their country: Do they come together? Do they form a government? Do they say, “We are going to fight this threat together, we are going to figure out how to do that”? Or do they continue governing and working together in a sectarian way and alienating each other and sowing the sectarian divisions that have led to so much of the violence we’ve seen in Iraq?
    So look, the Secretary can talk to them, and he has and he will. So are our diplomats on the ground. But they have to make the tough decisions now.

    QUESTION: No, I understand that. But what he specifically said is that he wanted to see some steps towards progressive action within the week. Now --

    MS. HARF: He did. And he said he wanted the government formation to begin on the 1st, which it has. The process started today.

    QUESTION: But that’s not because he wants it. That’s because the constitution requires it. And yet they came together and absolutely nothing happened. There was a major walk-out.

    MS. HARF: They came together – okay. If they – look, I feel like anything that happened today people would have talked about in a negative way. They met.

    QUESTION: Because it’s a negative thing.

    MS. HARF: They agreed to meet again. Well, convening of a parliament when – as they pledged to do, is something that we think is important. They pledged to meet again. They did not make – as we’ve said, they didn’t make progress in terms of moving towards government formation, and they need to do so quickly.

    QUESTION: But --

    QUESTION: There was the assumption that this was going to lead to at least the choosing of a speaker, which would have triggered the timeline for filling the other spots. And that wasn’t met.

    MS. HARF: Well, that certainly is the first part of the process.

    QUESTION: As Lara indicated, that wasn’t met.

    QUESTION: That’s what the constitution requires.

    MS. HARF: I understand what the constitution requires, and we want that to happen as soon as possible. I don’t know how much clearer I can be. But look, it would have been better if they chose a speaker today. I agree with you. It would be better if they did it before the 8th. But we also understand this is a difficult process. It has a lot of moving parts. We want them to do so in a way, while showing urgency, that would get to an inclusive government that puts Iraq on the right path. We think that can be done quickly. We think it should be done quickly. Again, today was an important step, but there is clearly a huge amount of work that still needs to be done.


    Harf can spin all she wants, this was a big set back for US diplomatic efforts.

    Larry Everest (Revolution) points out:

    However, in light of the threat to the Iraqi state, the U.S. rulers feel they have little choice, given the threat posed by ISIL to the regional order, but to send advisors, warships, and intelligence assets to prevent the reactionary Maliki regime from collapsing, even as they are maneuvering to forge a government more to their liking, and to prevent increased Iranian influence. But this choice is also full of dangers and uncertainties. For instance, the Iraqi army may be too rotten to successfully prop up. Another possible problem, the Maliki government seems to be counting on rallying the Shi'a population for a holy war against the Sunnis, and this could turn into a horrific, U.S.-supported bloodbath, further stoking Sunni Jihadism and shaking Sunni states. Then there's Iran. While it has been an enormous problem for the U.S. and its key ally Israel, the U.S. seems to be exploring at least a tactical alliance with Iran to save the Iraq state, but this too could end up strengthening Iran in the longer term.

    Yes, the White House is propping up Nouri.

    As Elaine ("Iraq") and Mike ("Even more troops into Iraq") noted last night, Barack can't even keep his word on how many US troops he'll send into Iraq.  Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) reports:

    The United States has deployed 300 more troops to Baghdad in the last two days, with some of them assigned to secure Baghdad’s international airport, the Obama administration announced Monday.
    One senior U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, told McClatchy that the troops were moved to Baghdad after American officials determined that Islamist fighters had consolidated their grip on the western outskirts of the capital in recent days. The movement “convinced us this would be prudent,” the official said.
    Jason Ditz weighs in here.  Patrick Martin (WSWS) explains:

    Another 300 US troops arrived in Baghdad Sunday, swelling the reinforcements rushed to Iraq to nearly 800 in the three weeks since the fall of Mosul, the country's third-largest city, to Sunni Islamist forces. President Obama formally notified Congress of the additional troop movement in a letter Monday.
    A Pentagon spokesman said the latest contingent of US troops would be equipped for combat and deployed mainly to secure Baghdad International Airport, a critical lifeline for the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Together with the soldiers, the US military is dispatching helicopter gunships and reconnaissance drones.

    Two previous increments of US troops included 275 to provide security at the huge US embassy in Baghdad and 300 special forces soldiers to coordinate tactical operations by the Iraqi army and collect targeting information for future US bomb and missile attacks on fighters of Islamic State (formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the main Sunni Islamist group spearheading attacks on the Maliki regime. Three special forces teams have deployed north of the capital in the last few days, into the area of the heaviest fighting.

    Nouri al-Maliki continues his War Crimes as he continues to bomb residential areas of Falluja.  In the six month long spree of War Crimes, Nouri has killed and wounded many.  Alsumaria reports 1 person was killed and twelve more injured in the latest attack on Sunni civilians.

    National Iraqi News Agency reports a Lakes Region of Alexandria roadside bombing left three Iraqi soldiers injured, Major General Jamil al-Shmmari says 13 suspects were killed in Mansuriyya, and air force bombings of Albu Hassan Village and Amerli Village left 30 people dead.  All Iraq News notes a mortar attack on a Ramadi market left 4 people dead and six more injured, and security forces state they killed 50 suspects in Mosul.

    The United Nations counts at least 2661 violent deaths in Iraq for the month of June:

    Baghdad, 1 July 2014 - According to casualty figures released today by UNAMI, a total of at least 2,417 Iraqis were killed and another 2,287 were injured in acts of terrorism and violence in June*.

    The number of civilians killed was 1,531 (including 270 civilian police), while the number of civilians injured was 1,763 (including 276 civilian police).  A further 886 members of the Iraqi Security Forces were killed, and 524 were injured (not including casualties from Anbar operation).
    “The staggering number of civilian casualties in one month points to the urgent need for all to ensure that civilians are protected.  As large parts of the country remain under the control of ISIL and armed groups, it is imperative that national leaders work together to foil attempts to destroy the social fabric of Iraqi society”, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq said.  “What can be achieved through a Constitutional political process cannot be achieved through an exclusively military response.  Security must be restored, but the root causes of violence must be addressed”, he also stated.
    Anbar excluded, Baghdad was the worst affected Governorate with 1,090 civilian casualties (375 killed, 715 injured), followed by Ninewa (470 killed, 327 injured), Salahadin (365 killed, 323 injured), Diyala (158 killed, 134 injured), Babil (92 killed, 99 injured), Kirkuk (58 killed, 83 injured).

    *CAVEATS: Data do not take into account casualties of the current IA operation in Anbar, for which we report at the bottom the figures received by our sources.

    Operations in Anbar
    According to information obtained by UNAMI from the Health Directorate in Anbar, the total civilian casualties in Anbar up to 29 June, inclusive, were 244 killed and 588 injured, with 91 killed and 268 injured in Ramadi, 124 killed and 224 injured in Fallujah, and 29 killed and 96 wounded in Al-Qaim.

    For those confused, the UN is saying 2417 killed in 17 Iraqi provinces.  When you add the 244 in Anbar to the 2417 you get 2661.  Jason Ditz ( notes:

    The figures show 5,456 killed, including 3,627 militants, and 2,553 wounded, including 93 militants. The low militant wounded figure is because militants wounded are not widely reported, and so it is a dramatic under count.