Friday, April 03, 2015

The militias are not an answer for Iraq

Nabiah Bulos (Los Angeles Times) reports on the militias operating in Iraq and shares:

On a recent tour organized by the Badr Organization near Tikrit, a convoy of visiting journalists observed twitchy militiamen from ostensibly allied factions nearly get into a firefight when their cars were not allowed to pass.
With tempers flaring on both sides, one fighter pointed his rifle at the feet of the official in charge and fired off a volley. Gunmen rushed to the source of the commotion, but the commanders, fearing a scandal, screamed at their cadres to calm down.

Regardless of whether or not the militias turn on one another, it was not a smart move for Iraq's government to turn to them.

In fact, the Iraqi government had spent years getting the militias out of the process, demanding that the groups either be political parties or militias.  Political parties were not allowed to have militias.

But in weakness and despair, they are brought back in.

And we're all supposed to forget the ethnic cleansing the Shi'ite militias led in 2006 and 2007.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Thursday, April 2, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, militias loot in Tikrit, Amnesty International fears far worse than looting is taking place, there is no deal with Iran but some spin and some lie, a convicted felon -- released only months ago and now a registered sex offender -- gets published by The Huffington Post -- thanks, Arianna, for stabbing women in the back, the Ashraf community continues to be under attack, Hillary Clinton's 'skill' with regard to that community does not speak well for her alleged leadership, and much more.

The US government has been seeking a treaty with the Iranian government.

Some would have you believe the moment arrived today.

US Secretary of State John Kerry:  We, our P5+1, EU partners, and Iran have arrived at a consensus on the key parameters of an arrangement that, once implemented, will give the international community confidence that Iran’s nuclear program is and will remain exclusively peaceful. And over the coming weeks, with all of the conditions of the 2013 Joint Plan of Action still in effect from this moment forward, our experts will continue to work hard to build on the parameters that we have arrived at today and finalize a comprehensive deal by the end of June.

Did you follow that?

Because a lot of people -- including supposed journalists -- did not.

There is no deal.

Parameters of a deal?

That's not a deal.

The negotiations will continue.

They may or may not lead to a deal.

Cedric and Wally grasped that this afternoon "Barry calls a maybe 'historic'" and "THIS JUST IN! ALL HAIL THE MAYBE HISTORIC DEAL THAT MIGHT BE REACHED IN 3 MONTHS! OR NOT!" joint-post:


. . . MIGHT . . .

. . . BE REACHED . . .

. . . IN . . .

. . . THREE MONTHS . . .





On The NewsHour (PBS -- link is video, text and audio), Judy Woodruff put it this way, "The United States and five other nations say they have achieved a political framework for a final agreement with Iran."

Again to John Kerry:

US Secretary of State John Kerry:  Our political understanding arrived at today opens the door for a long-term resolution to the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. Now, we have no illusions about the fact that we still have a ways to travel before we’ll arrive at the destination that we seek. We still have many technical details to work out on both sides and still some other issues that we acknowledge still have to be resolved; for example, the duration of the UN arms and ballistic missile restrictions on Iran and the precise timing of and mechanism for the conversion of the Arak reactor and Fordow site. And of course, once we’re able to finalize a comprehensive deal, the process of implementation then remains in front of us as well. But that’s a good challenge to have, frankly.

There is no deal.

There may be one at some point.

There's not one now.

I'm real sorry to be the one to tell Phyllis Bennis to put the vibrator down and stop shrieking in ecstasy but someone has to.

Phyllis can take comfort in the fact that her public madness has been trumped.

No, Phyllis is many things (a number of them good) but she is never trash.

Trash wrote this:

The deal recently concluded between Iran and the so-called "P-5 plus 1" nations (the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany) is designed to prevent Iran from being able to rapidly acquire fissile material in quantities suitable for use in a nuclear weapon. According to President Obama, the agreement is a "good deal" that "shuts down Iran's path to a bomb." The devil is in the details, of course, which won't be finalized until June 30,

I didn't realize trash was out of prison.

Turns out, he got paroled back in December.

Arianna allowed her website -- bearing her name -- to publish those scribbles by that piece of trash.

The Huffington Post offers this tagline to the column:

Scott Ritter served as a weapons inspector for the United Nations in Iraq from 1991-1998 and is the author of Target Iran published by Nation Books.

It should include that he "was convicted of six counts, including felony unlawful contact with a minor.  Sentenced to up to five and half years, he was sent to Laurel Highlands state prison in Somerset County, Pa., in March 2012."  And he served 2 years and 9 months before being paroled.

Scott Ritter is filth.  He's a sex offender who supposed to be getting treatment as part of his parole.  I wonder how writing -- which will surely lead to speaking -- is supposed to protect anyone because he's not supposed to have contact with underage females.

I don't understand.

He gets a pass because he's a White man?

He's a convicted pedophile.

Arrested multiple times and convicted.

No one should publish his 'writing.'  It's dull and plodding.

But if it is to be published, it needs to be published with a notice that he's a convicted predator.

Long before the conviction, years before, we took a strong stand against Scott Ritter and the people who enabled him.

We noted that Katrina vanden Heuvel would feel less inclined to publish him if it was her teenage daughter he was targeting.  We noted Amy Goodman's stamp of approval could enable him to continue the behavior and she'd be responsible if some young girl was harmed.

They enabled him.

They lied for him.

They insisted that there was a conspiracy against him.

There was no conspiracy, Ritter was not innocent.

He was a predator and he got caught yet again.

And this time he got convicted.

There is no reason to publish his writing.

But those stupid enough to do so need to identify him as a predator.

Those stupid enough to publish him make clear that (a) they don't value the safety of women and girls and (b) they think when a predator is White you give him a pass.

He has nothing of value to offer.

And that's demonstrated by the fact that he's writing about a deal that's done when it's not done.

Christopher Dickey and Tim Mak (Daily Beast) explain:

But Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif all emphasized a basic truth: the deal’s not done yet, and while what came out of Lausanne was a better and more complete framework than many diplomats expected when they went in, nothing has been signed, sealed and delivered.
It will be a miracle, in fact, if the deal outlined today can be wrapped up by the end of June, the deadline that’s been announced. Not only are the technical details to be resolved enormous and complicated, attacks on the whole process are likely to be relentless.

On the topic of spin, Tikrit.  Margaret Griffis ( reports, "It is unclear how successful the operation in Tikrit has been. Tours of the city have been canceled, and reporters are not allowed to wander by themselves. Also, many of the militiamen believe that the U.S. military has been ineffectual in the operation and even helping the militants."

AFP reports the US government continues its attempt to grab the glory regarding the 'liberation' of Tikrit and quotes a US official declaring, "Air support became the key factor in this."  And maybe Haider al-Abadi can delcare, for the third day in a row, that, today, Tikrit is liberated?  And, who knows, maybe today will be the day when there are no reports of battles in Tikrit?

How little will any of that actually matter?

Maybe the answer to that can be found with regards to the corpse discovered dumped in southern Baghdad today.  Alsumaria reports the man was a Sahwa and had been kidnapped at a checkpoint run by men in "military uniforms" who kidnapped the man and stole his car.  Hours later, they dumped his dead body in the streets.

Sahwa are predominately Sunni (we say "predominately" based on David Petraeus' testimony to Congress in April 2008).  The killers were most likely Shi'ite.  Whether they 'stole' the military uniforms (a laughable claim that's been made throughout the Iraq War) or were given them or were actually Iraqi military forces, it's Shi'ite on Sunni violence and anything that happened in Tikrit yesterday or the day before didn't lessen that.

"We are very concerned by reports of widespread human rights abuses committed in the course of the military operation in the area around Tikrit."

That's Amnesty International's Donatella Rovera speaking to AFP today.

Rovera also notes, "We are investigating reports that scores of residents have been seized early last month and not heard of since, and that residents’ homes and businesses have been blown up or burned down after having been looted by militias. There have also been reports of summary executions of men who may or may not have been involved in combat but who were killed after having been captured."

National Iraqi News Agency notes:

Vice President Iyad Allawi urged on Wednesday the army men to stay away from revenge and arrests, marginalization and the completion of military progress achieved in Tikrit.
Allawi praised - in a statement reported by his press office on the occasion of Liberation of Tikrit city from the control of the IS organization – the role of the Iraqi army who confronted the terrorist organizations and contributed to their defeat, stressing the importance of moving away from revenge and arrests, marginalization and slogans that cause damage to preserve the victory achieved and complete progress achieved down to the final victory on this IS extremist organization.
He stressed the need to respect the people of Salah al-Din province, as they are an integral part of the Iraqi people, adding that the Iraq war against terrorism embodied the national unity of the Iraqi people.

And those lovely thugs the US government keeps trying to sell to the press as the answer to a new Iraq?

AFP reports what took place yesterday in Tikrit:

Pro-government militiamen were seen looting shops in the centre of the Iraqi city of Tikrit on Wednesday after its recapture from the Islamic State jihadist group in a month-long battle.

The militiamen took items including clothing, shampoo and shaving cream from two shops in central Tikrit before driving away.

Iraqi Spring MC Tweeted about the militia looting and offered a photo:

تكرار حالات السلب والنهب التي تنتهجها القوات الحكومية والميليشيات التابعة لها عند دخولها مناطق النزاع.
47 retweets18 favorites

Alsumaria notes that southern Baghdad also saw a group wearing military fatiques set up a check point and steal a car and 450 million dinars.

That's approximately $381,760 in US dollars.

All Iraq News notes a Baghdad car bombing left 1 person dead and thirteen injured.  Margaret Griffis ( counts 78 violent deaths across the country today.

How bad is it really in Iraq?

Alsumaria reports Nouri al-Maliki, former prime minister of Iraq, forever thug and one of Iraq's three vice presidents today, has declared that what's happening in Iraq now poses a regional threat.


Not when he created and fostered this strife?

Nouri will never take accountability for his actions but even he can't pretend things are peachy and jolly in Iraq.

In other news, a group of demonstrators in Dhi Qar Province today attempted to meet with Minister of Health Adela Hammound who was visiting the province.  Their issue?  Failure to pay them for their work.  The conversation?  Alsumaria reports it was carried out with bullets as the Minister refused to meet with them but her security forces fired shots -- either in the air or at the protesters -- what was being shot at is now the subject of a formal investigation.  Iraq Times notes the city's committee has issued a statement declaring that shots were fired but they were fired in the air and any injuries that resulted were accidental. However, Alsumaria quotes the Minister stating that her security forces did not fire any weapons.

We'll note this Tweet.

  • A twitter campaign to demand the release of a Camp Liberty resident taken hostage by Iraqi forces - starts now

  • Donya is talking about a member of the Ashraf community.

    As of September 2013, Camp Ashraf in Iraq is empty.  All remaining members of the community have been moved to Camp Hurriya (also known as Camp Liberty).  Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were  welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.)   In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So the US has an obligation to protect the residents.  3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf.  They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part.  A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday.   That was the second attack this year alone.   February 9, 2013, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."  They were attacked again September 1, 2013.   Adam Schreck (AP) reported that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.  In addition, 7 Ashraf residents were taken in the assault.  November 2013, in response to questions from US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee, the  State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Brett McGurk, stated, "The seven are not in Iraq."

    The September 28, 2012 change in designation?

    Tom McCarthy offers "Hillary Clinton: foreign policy is her strong suit -- but it could be her undoing" at the Guardian.

    Her 'strong suit' saw her repeatedly refusing a court order regarding the designation of  the MEK.

    That's part of her foreign policy.

    It's not a part that speaks well for her ability to make a decision or for her ability to comply with a court order in a timely fashion.

    July 17, 2010, Glenn Kessler (Washington Post) reported, "A federal appeals court Friday ordered the State Department to review its decisions to label an Iranian opposition group as a foreign terrorist organization, strongly suggesting the designation should be revoked."

    It was over two years before Hillary announced the designation.

    Again, it doesn't speak well for her ability to make a decision or for her ability to comply with a court order in a timely fashion.

    Nor does it speak well for her that she was unable to re-settle 3,000 dissidents during her time as US Secretary of State.

    As for the Ashraf member being Tweeted about, Shahriar Kia (News Blaze) explains:

    On Monday, 16 March 2015, Mr. Safar Zakery, a truck driver and a member of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran residing in Camp Liberty near Baghdad International Airport, was hit by an Iraq SWAT Humvee in a suspicious road accident. Traffic police at the site to investigate the matter immediately said the SWAT Humvee was responsible for the accident.
    Despite the fact that Safar Zakery was innocent, the Karkh investigative court - under the influence of three Iraqi army intelligence officers in contact with the Iranian regime's embassy and in charge of Camp Liberty's management team - had Mr. Zakery illegally arrested and imprisoned.

    The illegal arrest and continued detention of Safar Zakery are under orders issued by Iraqi national security advisor Falih Fayyadh. He is implementing his policies through his three agents by the names of Sadeq Mohamed Kadhem, Major Ahmed Khozeir and Captain Heidar Azzab Mashi, all having major roles in the crackdown and massacre of Ashraf and Liberty residents from 2009 onward.


    Thursday, April 02, 2015

    Interesting Tweet

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

    Wednesday, April 1, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, for the second day in a row the Iraqi government announces victory in Tikrit (they, no doubt, really mean it this time), fighting continues in Tikrit, the US government tries to spin events to make themselves the winner, the Ashraf community remains under attack, Canadian MP  Jack Harris observes "mission creep" has been replaced with "mission leap," and much more.

    There's still no deal with Iran though the US government continues dithering at the table despite swearing they'd walk away on Tuesday if there was no deal.

    Does it matter?

    Columnist Mubarak Al Duwailah (Qatar's The Peninsula) thinks so:

    Look at what is happening around us! What is stopping America from checking the Iranian expansion in Iraq? What is preventing America from putting an end to the persecution of Sunnis in Iraq? Why doesn’t America stop the forced displacement of Arabs in Iraq from their cities and neighbourhoods? Why does the West, under American leadership, let Iran and Hezbollah support Bashar Al Assad’s regime?

    Yeah, it matters.

    And when members of the US Congress begin focusing on the latest assault on the Ashraf community in Iraq, it's going to matter a lot more.

  • Shahriar Kia (News Blaze) explains:

    On Monday, 16 March 2015, Mr. Safar Zakery, a truck driver and a member of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran residing in Camp Liberty near Baghdad International Airport, was hit by an Iraq SWAT Humvee in a suspicious road accident. Traffic police at the site to investigate the matter immediately said the SWAT Humvee was responsible for the accident.
    Despite the fact that Safar Zakery was innocent, the Karkh investigative court - under the influence of three Iraqi army intelligence officers in contact with the Iranian regime's embassy and in charge of Camp Liberty's management team - had Mr. Zakery illegally arrested and imprisoned.

    The illegal arrest and continued detention of Safar Zakery are under orders issued by Iraqi national security advisor Falih Fayyadh. He is implementing his policies through his three agents by the names of Sadeq Mohamed Kadhem, Major Ahmed Khozeir and Captain Heidar Azzab Mashi, all having major roles in the crackdown and massacre of Ashraf and Liberty residents from 2009 onward.

    We're going to go into the Ashraf community at length in one of the next two snapshots.  For now, we'll note that Baghdad remains a puppet of Tehran when it comes to the Ashraf community.

    And we'll note that Congress doesn't care for the White House's excuses and Brett McGurk, awhile back, was able to spin Congress to a degree on Ashraf but they've since woken up to his lies and know that he is not to be trusted on this issue.

    And if you need another real world implication from the never-ending and over-the-barrel 'negotiations,' right at this moment is that the US State Dept is paralyzed to the point that it can't even handle a daily press briefing.

    For the second day in a row, the State Dept was unable to pull off a press briefing.

    If they can't handle something that basic, should we expect anything out of them?

    Not everyone's silent.

    "Here we come to you, Anbar! Here we come to you, Nineveh, and we say it with full resolution, confidence, and persistence."

    That's Iraq's Minister of Defense Khalid al-Obeidi as quoted by the AP.

    And yes, he does sound a bit like Howard Dean.

    AP notes he dubbed today in Tikrit a "magnificent victory."

    They're far too kind to note that yesterday was also dubbed a victory.

    BBC News does note that, claims aside, "Troops are still fighting to clear the last remaining IS holdout in the city, but Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was filmed raising an Iraqi flag there."

    Haider Tweeted a photo.

    Prime Minister Al-Abadi raises the Iraqi flag in the center of Tikrit
    128 retweets109 favorites

    Alsumaria has a photo essay on Tikrit here.

    Also noting that fighting continues is AFP:

    A top leader in the Badr organisation, one of the most prominent Shia militias in Iraq, admitted that Tikrit had not been completely purged of ISIL fighters.
    "Snipers are still there and many buildings are booby-trapped," Karim al-Nuri told AFP news agency in the northern Tikrit neighbourhood of Qadisiya.

    A commander for the Ketaeb Imam Ali militia said his men were involved in a firefight in the north of the city as late as 11:00am (0800 GMT).

    AFP also notes that the claim of victory was previously made yesterday.

    That points made even more clearly in an AFP report entitled "Iraq forces hunt diehard militants after Tikrit victory claim: Coalition and militias say it is premature to claim victory."

    But it's not premature, apparently, to start trying to claim glory and credit.

    The State Dept's Brett McGurk Tweeted:

    As is liberated, we're training 10000+ Iraqi soldiers for coming offensives vs. .
    29 retweets 20 favorites

    Considering that taking a city took 31 days (and counting), I'm not really sure it's a point of pride to brag responsibility for training the Iraqi soldiers.

    Matt Bradley and Julian E. Barnes (Wall St. Journal) explain the way the US government is trying to spin things:

    Policy makers in Washington have long been conflicted over the Shiite militias, warning that using them to liberate Sunni-populated areas threatened to worsen sectarian tensions. But they acknowledged that with the Iraqi security forces weakened by Islamic State invasion, the militias were needed to defend the U.S.-allied government in Baghdad.
    On Wednesday, military officials reiterated the U.S. would continue to work with Shiite militias, as they did in Tikrit, as long as they were under Iraqi, not Iranian, control.

    U.S. officials say they deliberately used the Tikrit operation to drive a wedge between Iran and Iraq while opening space for groups such as Mr. Assadi’s who passionately want to defeat Islamic State but are less beholden to Iranian interests.

    Jim Michaels (USA Today) tosses some perspective over those lofty claims:

    The United States' hopes of using the successful outcome of the offensive to drive a wedge between the Shiite-led Iraqi government and the militias may not be realistic, however.
    "U.S. officials are delusional if they believe they can convince Iraq's government to remove these militias from ongoing military operations against the Islamic State," said Ali Khedery, a former special assistant to five U.S. ambassadors in Iraq. "There's been a lot of wishful thinking going on."
    The militias are tied to powerful politicians in the government and have been armed and financed with government money, according to experts on Iraq.
    "The militias are embedded in the state institutions and they're getting more and more entrenched," said Richard Welch, a retired Army colonel who spent years in Iraq running reconciliation efforts.

    Also pouring cold water on the idiotic claims of US officials, Tirana Hassan (Foreign Policy) who explains what happened in the last 'liberation' by militias:

    While we don’t know exactly how events in Tikrit will play out, we do know how the operation last summer ended in Amerli, which had been under siege for three months. In that battle, Iraqi authorities, along with U.S. and coalition forces, turned a blind eye to the abusive conduct of Shiite militias after the Islamic State abandoned the area. The apparent indifference of the United States and coalition forces paved the way for a wave of destruction, as the militias targeted Sunni Arabs and other minorities in the surrounding area.
    Our research on the operations around Amerli revealed how the operation to clear and secure a 300-mile area around the town quickly morphed into a campaign of revenge attacks. Pro-government militias and volunteer fighters, along with Iraqi security forces, purposefully burned Sunni villages to the ground, destroyed homes with explosives, and looted entire villages, leaving them virtually uninhabitable.

    Under the guise of fighting the Islamic State, the marauding militiamen waged their own sectarian war with complete impunity. While Amerli is a Shiite Turkoman village, the majority of the surrounding villages were home to Sunni Arabs and several mixed Arab and Turkoman communities that the militias accuse of being Islamic State collaborators and sympathizers. The families from these surrounding villages told me that the militias drove them from their homes — and in the days after my visit, reports continued to flow in from desperate families describing how militiamen took away their brothers and sons and destroyed more of their homes. These were families caught between the horrors of the Islamic State and the vengeance of out-of-control Shiite militias.

    Hamdi Alkhshali, Jomana Karadsheh and Don Melvin (CNN -- video report) examine the 'legacy' of the Islamic State in Tikrit and feel that it is "booby traps, IEDs and fear."

    On the topic of violence, UNAMI released the following today:

    Baghdad, 1 April 2015 – According to casualty figures released today by UNAMI, a total of 997 Iraqis were killed and another 2,172 were injured in acts of terrorism and violence in March*. 

    The number of civilians killed was 729 (including 42 civilian police), and the number of civilians injured was 1,785 (including 98 civilian police).

    A further 268 members of the Iraqi Security Forces (including Peshmerga, SWAT and militias fighting alongside the Iraqi Army / Not including casualties from Anbar Operations) were killed and 387 were injured.
    Baghdad was the worst affected Governorate with 1,290 civilian casualties (362 killed, 928 injured). Diyala suffered 51 killed and 75 injured; Salahadin suffered 34 killed and 48 injured, and Ninewa 20 killed and 15 injured.
    According to information obtained by UNAMI from the Health Directorate in Anbar, the Governorate suffered a total of 939 civilian casualties (237 killed and 702 injured). This included 58 killed and 391 injured in Ramadi and 179 killed and 311 injured in Fallujah. 
    “I am shocked to see that Iraqis continue to bear the brunt of appalling numbers of casualties caused by successive waves of violence, which are threatening with additional suffering and misery”, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Ján Kubiš said. 
    “The United Nations calls upon the Government of Iraq to do all it can to ensure that civilians’ safety and security is protected in line with fundamental human rights principles and humanitarian law”, the UN Envoy further stated.

    *CAVEATS: In general, UNAMI has been hindered in effectively verifying casualties in conflict areas.  Figures for casualties from Anbar Governorate are provided by the Health Directorate and are noted above. In some cases, UNAMI could only partially verify certain incidents.  UNAMI has also received, without being able to verify, reports of large numbers of casualties along with unknown numbers of persons who have died from secondary effects of violence after having fled their homes due to exposure to the elements, lack of water, food, medicines and health care.  For these reasons, the figures reported have to be considered as the absolute minimum.

    So that's at least 997 plus the 237 killed in Anabar.

    Margaret Griffis ( provides a daily count and released her numbers for the month:

    At least 6,081 people were killed and 1,874 more were wounded in the month of March. These estimates are conservative, and the actual number of casualties could be much higher. In particular, the Iraqi government has resisted releasing credible military casualty numbers, but anonymous sources sometimes reveal that military casualties are much higher than being reported. The number of dead and wounded militants could go either way. There is no independent confirmation of their casualties, and the military could be exaggerating their victories. compiled 1,913 dead and 1,241 wounded in the column during March. These figures were gleaned from media sources and do not include enemy casualties. Adding militant casualties, the figures are 6,081 dead and 1,530 wounded.

    Violence also includes Iraq's use of the death penalty.  There are said to be 500 people on death row in Iraq with 150 expected to be executed in 2105.  On this topic, Pakistan's Nation newspaper reports:

    Governments around the world are using the threat of terrorism — real or perceived — to advance executions, Amnesty International states in its annual report on the death penalty.
    Some 2,466 death sentences were handed out last year, representing a 28 per cent increase on 2013, the rights group said on Wednesday.

    In Canada, some are crying foul.  Steven Chase (Globe and Mail) notes that the country's prime minister, still Stephen Harper who's apparently serving some form of a life sentence, forced a vote on extending "Canada's combat mission [in Iraq] by 12 months" and, only two days after the vote, did Minister Jason Kenney reveal that this move will cost Canadians $406 million in addition to the $122 million previously announced.

    The Liberal Party's Joyce Murray is quoted stating:

    There’s absolutely no excuse for the minister to announce the cost only days after the debate was over.  This was the kind of thing [Canadians] should have been informed about.  It's irresponsible they were not released before the debate.

    Stephen Harper is the leader of Canada's Conservative Party.  Jack Harris of the New Democratic Party argues that the money could have been utilized better by focusing on the needs of the displaced.

    He said more in a speech in Parliament today.

    MP Jack Harris:  The Foreign Affairs Minister, the Defense Minister and the Prime Minister have all stated that ISIL poses a direct threat to Canada. When the Prime Minister says, "We will deal with the threat to this country as long as it is there.  We will not stop dealing with it before that," we know we are in this for the long haul.  Because we have to look at how this government has defined the threat. The Minister of Foreign Affairs said in a speech this morning that Canadians are "under siege."  "Under siege," Mr. Speaker.  The Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of National Defense and the Prime Minister have repeatedly said that ISIL has declared war on Canada.  This organization has declare war on Canada. And the Minister of Defense actually invoked Canada's independent right of self-defense and international  law as a justification for the actions being taken by Canada. Now these overblown statements by the  most senior leaders of the Canadian government risk the credibility of Canada in the international world and the government at home; and are clearly designed to raise the level of fear among Canadian citizens.  What kind of respect and reputation in foreign affairs can Canada expect with this kind of leadership on the most serious matter of state going to war in foreign countries.  We do know, of course, that terrorists exist in Canada.  That is not new.  But neither the attacker on Parliament Hill nor Saint-Jean-sur-Richellieu were sent here by any foreign entity.  As pointed out in one of Canada's most foremost national newspapers, the Globe & Mail, "despite attempts by the Prime Minister to closely tie ISIS to the terrorist threat in Canada, the actual connections are thin to non-existent."  But instead of dealing with the actual threat by engaging in a robust and well resourced anti-radicalization and counter-radicalization programs here at home by working with the Muslim community instead of alienating them and by preventing the flow of funds to ISIL, confronting the dire humanitarian situation in a significant and increased manner, by doing all those things that my colleague the Member for Ottawa Centre [Paul Dewar]  emphasized in his speech this morning and are contained in the NDP amendment, instead of doing all those things, Mr. Speaker, this government is going down the road of war from mission creep to mission leap with no clear goals, no honesty with the House of Commons and the Canadian people, no clear end or exit strategy, with dubious legal justification and no end game.  In fact, in a television appearance the other day, the Minister of Defense stated that the strategy of defense has gone from one of containing ISIL to defeating it.  And we just heard the same thing from the Parliamentary Secretary.  The Minister of Foreign Affairs said something else today.  But when the Minister of Defense was asked what happens in the event that Canada reaches the objective of defeating ISIL, he admitted that he'd need to look for a crystal ball.  That'll give you some idea about where this government thinks this is going and how it's going to lead to an actual resolve that they are proposing.  The objectives keep changing depending upon who is speaking.  And without a clear objective, the uncertainty about this mission and its length is obvious.  Neither  can we trust what this government will do  in the course of this military action.  We found that out in the last six months as the mission 'evolved ' without Canadians knowing about it at the time and 'evolved' contrary to the express promises of the  Prime Minister.  But this time, he's given us a hint.  On Tuesday, in the House, the Prime Minister said, "We have made important deployments.  These deployments could easily be changed."  He also opened the door to further expansion, saying, "We must avoid, if we can, taking on ground combat responsibilities in this region.  We seek to have the Iraqis do this themselves."  With this government's record, that's far from reassuring. 

    Another country whose people may have been misled by those in the ruling power is New Zealand whose Voxy reports:

    The truth is slowly emerging over New Zealand’s involvement in Iraq, after months of the government denying New Zealand First MPs were right about the depth of our involvement.
    "Kiwi soldiers are now training in Australia," says Ron Mark, New Zealand First Defence Spokesperson.
    "The sad truth is that we know more about what the New Zealand Defence Force is doing than hapless Minister of Defence Gerry Brownlee does.
    "On Tuesday, it was ‘up to 50 troops’ training in Australia but yesterday that number grew to 100.


    Tuesday, March 31, 2015

    Slippery Hillary

    Hillary Clinton's been considered slippery before -- for the way she's addressed certain events and scandals.

    But she's slippery in a new way -- as she slides down in the polls.

    I don't see even her announcing she's running for president burying her e-mail scandal.

    Especially now that we all know she was lying when she finally spoke about it at the United Nations in a semi-press conference.


    If you missed that, make a point to read the following:

    Hillary had so much promise in 2008.

    Today, she's just a building falling apart at the foundation.

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills): 

    Tuesday, March 31, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Tikrit is liberated!, oops not so fast, Barack Obama spent a lot of time courting Iran but there appears to be no wedding announcement, and much more.

    Today, Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi Tweeted:

    PM Al-Abadi announces the liberation of Tikrit and congratulates Iraqi security forces and popular volunteers on the historic milestone
    207 retweets145 favorites

    Others rushed to join in the chorus of hosannahs.  Rahshan Saglam, (Press TV) declared, "Iraqi Federal police forces and the popular mobilization have liberated the presidential palaces and raised the Iraqi flag in the Tikrit Mosque, the central prison and the University of Tikrit."  AFP added, "The operation to retake the hometown of former president Saddam Hussein began on March 2 and had looked bogged down before Iraqi forces made rapid advances in the past 48 hours."  And Khalid Al-Ansary and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) called it  the country's "biggest military victory over Islamic State."

    But . . .

    ARR notes that after al-Abadi made his announcement, "local commander Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi said that soldiers were still about 300 yards from the city centre." And the New York Times' Rod Norland, Falih Hassan and Omar Al-Jowoshy (as well as an unnamed journalist in Tikrit) report:

    In Tikrit, however, an Iraqi general, who asked not to be named so as to avoid openly contradicting the prime minister, said that reports of Tikrit’s fall were at best premature.
    “God willing, it will fall,” he said.
    Other military officers and a civilian official reached in Tikrit said it was true that Iraqi forces had advanced into the center of the city and had entered government buildings and parts of the Republican Palace. But they said that parts of the palace remained in Islamic State hands and that fighting was continuing.

    And the Times team notes such claims of 'liberation' also took place last June and point to their June 29th article documenting that.  Mitchell Prothero (McClatchy Newspapers) reports:

    Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi announced that the city’s western and southern portions had been liberated, but military commanders involved in the operation warned that at least three neighborhoods and a palace complex defended by hundreds of Islamic State fighters remained out of government hands.

    Read more here:

    It's not unlikely that the operation could wrap up soon.

    Remember the small number of militia members who walked out after the US government ordered US air strikes last week?  They rushed back in this week.


    Because they felt the operation was about to wrap up and that the Americans would grab the credit for its accomplishments (however small or large the accomplishments might be).

    Loveday Morris (Washington Post) notes, "Militia leaders refused to admit Tuesday that they were still working under American air cover. One coalition strike occurred overnight as the pro-government forces advanced, according to Col. Wayne Marotto, a spokesman for the coalition operation."

    They weren't the only ones failing to note the air strikes.

    In his public remarks, Haider al-Abadi thanked the Iraqi security forces as well as the militias.

    He pointedly did not think the US pilots -- this despite his begging for this help and assistance.

    Regardless of what happens next, the operation is a failure and will always remain one.

    There are two main reasons why it is a failure.

    1) It took way too long.

    Tikrit was chosen to rally the spirit among the Iraqi forces.

    It was felt that attacking in Saddam Hussein's hometown would goad the forces into stronger fighting and give them a target worth winning.

    While it has led to many excesses -- which include War Crimes that people seem more comfortable calling "human rights abuses" -- it didn't lead to a quick and decisive victory.

    Tikrit is still not completely controlled by Baghdad's fighters and it's been a month.  (Some like to say it started March 2nd.  It was still March first on the Pacific Coast.)

    As it now stands, the takeaway is that the mission was going nowhere until US war planes got involved.  Fair or not, that is the takeaway.

    So the operation that was supposed to rally and provide hope ended up demonstrating the vast limitations of the forces.

    2) Haider lied.

    It's never a good idea for a leader to lie to the people.

    We can dissect Plato's notions of the cave and the noble lie and blah blah blah.

    But the reality is that Haider has now said Tikrit is liberated and it's not.

    It may yet be.

    But he said it before it happened.

    He now looks rather foolish.

    He can always point to Barack Obama who looks even more foolish.

    "Without preconditions," then-US Senator Barack insisted of his planned talks with Iran should he be elected US president.

    Apparently, he also meant to say "without time limitations."

    He has wasted years on negotiations with Iran.

    And, yes "wasted" is the term.

    The deadline for his hoped for deal -- details to come, as always, after a deal had been negotiated -- came and went.

    And still the US is engaged in negotiations.

    This is stupidity beyond belief and why so many are so bothered by Barack.

    As we noted March 22nd:

    Democratic leadership in the Senate has made clear to Barack that, if there's a deal to make with Iran, he needs to make it already.
    Not only has his dilly-dallying on a treaty harmed Iraq, it's also harming the image of the United States which is beginning to appear as indecisive as Barack himself.  (That was the point Harry Reid was conveying to the White House last week.)

    The United States looks very weak now.

    Today was the deadline and the deadline passed but negotiations continued.

    The power of no.

    You have to be willing to walk away.

    If you're not willing to walk away, they own you.

    In the entertainment industry, we know our "no" is as powerful as our "yes."

    And we know we need to be prepared to say "no."

    Debra Winger's made a career out of saying "no" better than anyone.  Bill Murray has a film career -- something none of his SNL peers can't claim -- because he has always understood the power of "no."

    You have to be willing to walk away.

    And that may mean you lose out on something but it also means, in the next negotiation, people know you're not going to cave.

    There was never any reason to waste so much time on one deal (with anyone, leave Iran out of it for now).

    There was no reason when issues still remained unresolved to bring Barack into publicly.

    You keep the president out of the negotiations publicly until the deal is set and that's when he or she swoops in to look like the gifted and talented.

    Instead it looks like yet another failure by Team Barack -- like the failed bid to get the Olympics in Chicago, remember that?

    When the time ran out, the US should have walked away from the table.

    That wouldn't mean an end to talks.

    24 hours later, the talks could be restarted for whatever reason.

    But you make the point that you will walk away.

    And if you fail to make that point, no one takes you seriously.

    Nor should they.

    In addition, by staying in negotiations after the deadline passed, the US showed their hand.  There's no more bluffing.  Clearly the deal is more important to the US than it is to Ian.  All future negotiations will be the US government speaking from a position of weakness.

    Now in terms of Iran . . .

    As Betty noted, the most likely outcome of a deal with Iran was a contract that would be used for war.  That is what tends to happen in the last two decades when leaders of foreign countries make concessions to the US government -- see Saddam Hussein (letting the inspectors back in) and Muammar Gaddafi (agreeing to demands of Bully Boy Bush only to be targeted shortly after by Barack).

    In terms of Iran and Iraq, the White House has failed.

    It has failed to speak up for the Sunni population, to condemn attacks on them, etc.

    It's done so to avoid angering the government in Iran.

    Iran's led Barack around on all fours by a ring in his nose for the last year.

    And the result is that the US remained silent on the abuses of Iraqi forces, the War Crimes.

    We noted the horror of a Sunni man being set on fire by Iraqi forces.  More recently there was the 11-year-old boy shot dead by Iraqi forces.  Those were caught on video.

    Iraqi Spring MC posted a video today.

    Watch how the Iraqi forces treat a citizen they've detained.

    Grasp that they do this knowing they are recording one another.

    They stroke and play with the man's beard in a manner that is the behavior of a predator.

    They slap him and hit him repeatedly.

    This is a civilian.  A Sunni civilian, so he doesn't matter to the forces, but the man is a civilian.

    And for their amusement, they hit him.  Repeatedly.

    The same State Dept that condemns this and that action in other countries -- or when carried out by the Islamic State -- has been silent.

    The consensus among members of Congress has been that the White House didn't (a) want to risk pushing Iraq closer to Iran and (b) didn't want to risk angering Iran (which supplies, trains and supports many of the thugs in Iraq) in the midst of (never-ending) negotiations.

    Now maybe members of Congress are wrong.

    Maybe even without the pursuit of an Iran deal, Barack would have remained silent about the abuses in Iraq?

    He certainly stayed silent from 2010 through 2014 (Nouri's second term) until June.  This was after the exposure of torture chambers and the Iraqi forces murdering peaceful protesters and so much more.  Barack stayed silent throughout all of that.

    That silence prompted this.

       From Samarra من سامراء
    March 15, 2013, Iraqis in Samarra with a message for the world (photo via Iraqi Spring MC) asked "Obama, If you Cannot Hear Us Can you Not See Us?" 

    Iraqis were well aware that, while they were targeted, the US government was silent.

    So maybe it wasn't fear of angering Iran or upsetting a deal that kept Barack silent.

    It is true, however, that the never-ending talks seemed to drain the State Dept of any other diplomatic efforts.

    And Iraq needed diplomacy.

    What was it Barack said in June?

    Oh, right.  The answer to Iraq's crises?  A political solution, not a military solution, was required.

    I have no position on a deal with Iran one way or the other.

    I can understand those who leap for joy at the prospect and think it could mean peace (I do wonder where they were throughout the Cold War, but okay).  I can understand those like Betty who argue that no one benefits from dealings with the US government (going all the way back to the Native Americans). 

    So it's not an issue that I'm going to focus on.

    And I meant what I said that the US could (and should) end talks immediately and that might prompt a second round (even 24 hours later).  

    But you do not sit at a table after you've said, "I'm leaving at X."  

    If you give a deadline, you keep it.

    If you can't walk away from the table, then you just lost everything -- including your ability to bluff.

    Where is the work on a political solution in Iraq?

    Haider Al-Abadi also Tweeted the following:

    PM Al-Abadi met US delegation led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to discuss advancing bilateral relations
    21 retweets34 favorites

    That was today.  Yesterday, he Tweeted:

    PM Al-Abadi met with US Speaker of the House John Boehner and discussed coordinated efforts to defeat Daesh
    41 retweets51 favorites

    Hopefully, in these visits, the need for a political solution is being conveyed.

    And the need for it to come quickly.

    The Iraqis suffered under Nouri al-Maliki's empty words and promises.

    Haider should be getting results.

    If he doesn't, then US support needs to diminish.

    Margaret Griffis ( counts 252 violent deaths today.

    They didn't live to see a political solution in Iraq.

    Will anyone?