Friday, August 1, 2014

Those 'relateble' Clintons

Jake Miller (CBS News) reports on the Clinton whining about books writing about them:

The books that provoked the Clintons' ire: "Blood Feud," by Edward Klein, which actually knocked Hillary Clinton's memoir "Hard Choices" from atop the New York Times bestseller list this month; "Clinton Inc.," by Weekly Standard writer Daniel Halper; and an upcoming book from Ronald Kessler, who's previously written about the Secret Service, that includes rumors about Bill Clinton's purported infidelity.

Oh, the horror.

Some people have so few problems and so much time, they have to invent things to bitch about.

Truly, find a real problem.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"


 
Thursday, July 31, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, confirmation of CIA law breaking emerges, the White House meets with people concerned about the fate of Iraqi Christians, and much more.



In the United States, more abuses of power as the CIA's tactics and lies get called out.  Senator Mark Udall's office issued the following today:


Following a classified briefing on an inspector general report detailing the CIA's unauthorized intrusion into U.S. Senate staffers' computers, Mark Udall, who serves on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement calling for CIA Director John Brennan's resignation:
"After being briefed on the CIA Inspector General report today, I have no choice but to call for the resignation of CIA Director John Brennan. The CIA unconstitutionally spied on Congress by hacking into Senate Intelligence Committee computers. This grave misconduct not only is illegal, but it violates the U.S. Constitution’s requirement of separation of powers. These offenses, along with other errors in judgment by some at the CIA, demonstrate a tremendous failure of leadership, and there must be consequences.
"The CIA needs to acknowledge its wrongdoing and correct the public record in a timely, forthright manner — and that simply hasn't occurred under John Brennan's leadership. Such an acknowledgment is necessary, whether we're talking about spying on Senate computers or about correcting misleading and inaccurate information about the CIA's detention and interrogation program. An internal CIA accountability board review isn't enough."


While Mark Udall came out strongly for the Constitution he took an oath to uphold, the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee seemed far less concerned about the abuse and law breaking and far more interested in trumpeting "I was right!"  This is the press release Senator Dianne Feinstein's office issued:


Washington—Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) released the following statement:

“I was briefed Tuesday by CIA Inspector General David Buckley on the results of an IG investigation. The investigation confirmed what I said on the Senate floor in March—CIA personnel inappropriately searched Senate Intelligence Committee computers in violation of an agreement we had reached, and I believe in violation of the constitutional separation of powers.

“Director Brennan apologized for these actions and submitted the IG report to an accountability board. These are positive first steps. This IG report corrects the record and it is my understanding that a declassified report will be made available to the public shortly.”

###



Thursday, July 31, 2014
Washington, D.C. – Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today issued the following statement after the Central Intelligence Agency issued a statement confirming the agency’s search of Senate Select Committee on Intelligence computer files:

“The CIA Inspector General has confirmed what Senators have been saying all along: The CIA conducted an unauthorized search of Senate files, and attempted to have Senate staff prosecuted for doing their jobs,” Wyden said. “Director Brennan’s claims to the contrary were simply not true.

“What’s needed now is a public apology from Director Brennan to staff and the committee, a full accounting of how this occurred and a commitment there will be no further attempts to undermine Congressional oversight of CIA activities.”

Audio of Senator Wyden's statement here



What needs to happen now is criminal charges.


This is not a joke.  It also goes beyond just separation of powers.  It goes to what the CIA's purpose is supposed to be.  If this doesn't result in prosecution on the part of the Justice Dept then the CIA is not bound by the laws the way every other person in the United States is.  If this doesn't result in prosecution, Attorney General Eric Holder's footnote in history will note he was nothing but a glorified court jester in the Court of St. Barack.


In Iraq, the targeting of Christians continue.  Gerald Butt (UK Church Times) reports:


The most senior Christian cleric in Iraq, the Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon and Archbishop of Baghdad, the Most Revd Louis Raphael Sako, has written to the secretary-general of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, asking him to put pressure on the international community to provide more assistance to Christians and other minorities in Iraq who have been targeted by Islamic militants. "The instability in Iraq threatens the entire region," the Patriarch writes. "The instability in the region is worrisome because of the increasing attacks mounted on Christians and minorities."

The Iraqi Christian community, Patriarch Sako continues, has suffered a "disproportionate share of hardship caused by sectarian conflicts, terrorist attacks, migration, and now even ethnic cleansing: the militants want to wipe out the Christian community."


As we noted in yesterday's snapshot, the White House has done next to nothing on this issue.  Today?

The White House issued the following:



THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
Washington, D.C.
July 31, 2014

Readout of Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Benjamin Rhodes’ Meeting with Iraqi Chaldean and Assyrian Community Leaders
Deputy National Security Advisor Benjamin Rhodes today met with Iraqi Chaldean and Assyrian community leaders to discuss the security situation in Iraq and its effect on Christian and other minority populations. Mr. Rhodes appreciated hearing the vital perspectives of these important communities regarding the difficulties facing Iraq’s Christians. He condemned the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) ongoing attacks on the Christian and minority communities in northern Iraq and the group’s systematic destruction of religious sites. He emphasized that the United States continues to urge Iraq’s leaders to form an inclusive government that can address the rights and legitimate concerns of all of Iraq’s diverse communities, including Iraq’s Christians – only then can Iraq successfully and sustainably confront the security and humanitarian challenges all of its citizens face in the common fight against ISIL. He noted that we encourage government officials in Baghdad and Erbil to take all possible measures to assist Iraq’s vulnerable populations, and agreed that this issue demands the continued attention of the international community. The United States remains committed to helping all of Iraq’s diverse communities, including Christians, Sabean-Mandaeans, Shabak, and Yezidis.
 This is the sort of thing the White House needs to be doing.  
We'll note it, gladly.  But one meeting isn't going to rectify anything.  And it wasn't even as personal as a White House beer summit, was it?

That can be seen as a first step; however, it cannot be seen as the full journey.  Should that happen, Barack will fall even further in the polls. The latest AP-GfK poll finds many trouble spots for Barack, including, "38 per cent find the situation in Iraq of pressing importance; 57 per cent disapprove of Obama's handling of it."



The targeting in Iraq is not just of Christians, others are being targeted as Nawzat Shamdeen (Niqash) points out:


Local journalist Amir Qassim believes the most recent announcement by the UNSC is about pressure brought to bear on it by aid organizations and non-governmental organizations. “Many of these organizations have Christian backgrounds so they sympathize with the Christians of Mosul,” he explains. “And they pressure their own often-Christian governments to do something within the United Nations. But they shouldn’t focus on one sector of Iraqi society at the expense of others.”
Qassim believes there are other reasons that diverse minorities don’t get as much attention as the province’s Christians. The local and federal authorities have often ignored these minorities, he says. And local aid organizations have also been unable to assist them, especially if the members of the minority groups remain inside Mosul.
“The civil society organizations that are still active are busy working with internally displaced people inside various camps,” he maintains. “It’s hard for them to help those inside Mosul, or to know what is going with them there.”
Five years after a story was published by NIQASH about the fact that minorities were fleeing Mosul, nothing much has changed. And there are similar arguments to what is being heard today: That the international community neglects other minorities in Iraq and focuses mainly on the country’s Christians.


At today's State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Marie Harf, the topic of Iraq was briefly touched on.



QUESTION: Marie, I just have one question about Kurdistan, and I’m sorry I must go because I have an emergency situation. I really appreciate it. Thank you.


MS. HARF: Okay. Okay.

QUESTION: So on July 28th, Spokesperson Jen Psaki said that all Kurdish oil exports need to go through the central government. You’ve repeated that as well. Yet on July 30 – like yesterday – Brett McGurk, the Deputy Assistant Secretary in charge of Iraq policy tweeted that questions about Iraq’s oil exports must be resolved, quote-unquote, “in a manner consistent with the Iraqi constitution.” And that quote again: “There is no U.S. ban on the transfer or sale of oil originating from any part of Iraq.”

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: I’m now thoroughly confused really. What is the U.S. policy vis-a-vis oil from Kurdistan and Iraq? On the one hand, Jen Psaki says it has to go through the central government.

MS. HARF: There’s no – there’s no disconnect here.

QUESTION: On the other hand, Brett McGurk says there is no U.S. ban on oil from any part of Iraq to be sold.

MS. HARF: Right. Those two things aren’t inconsistent here. So our policy on this issue has been clear and consistent. Iraq’s energy resources belong to all of the Iraqi people. These questions should be resolved in a manner consistent with the Iraqi constitution. There is no U.S. ban on the transfer or sale of oil originating from any part of Iraq. As in many cases involving legal disputes, however, the U.S. recommends the parties make their own decisions with advice of counsel. We’ve told them there could be legal consequences. And I would emphasize that the – particularly the situation we’ve seen recently demonstrates why it’s really incumbent on Baghdad and Erbil to come together and find a negotiated resolution to this issue so you don’t see more legal issues like have arisen.

QUESTION: So are you saying that there is no U.S. ban on oil from Kurdistan --

MS. HARF: From any part of Iraq.

QUESTION: From any part of Kurdistan. For example, Kurdistan.

MS. HARF: There is no U.S. ban on the transfer or sale of oil originating from any part of Iraq. I don’t know how much clearer I can be.

QUESTION: Okay, but there should – but on the other hand, there must be approval of the central
government for any oil export or sale. That’s what you are saying, right?

MS. HARF: As we have said, these – this issue – Iraq’s oil belongs to all of the people of Iraq.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Which is why these decisions need to be made in a manner consistent with Iraq’s constitution and why Baghdad and Erbil need to come to a decision on how they’re going to work this out.

QUESTION: But just – my question was, should Kurdistan get the approval from the central government before exporting it or not? Must – are, like --

MS. HARF: So Erbil and Baghdad need to find a resolution to this situation, period.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)


MS. HARF: There is no ban.


QUESTION: If the oil has been taken out by the Kurds to help them towards independence and stuff like that, and they sell it to the U.S. or to people in the U.S., is that not illegal?

MS. HARF: Well, illegal under U.S. law?

QUESTION: Well, you’re taking – I mean, the money’s being – the oil is being sold then illegally, because it’s not, as he said, not going through the central government.

MS. HARF: Right. We --

QUESTION: It’s going through --


MS. HARF: This isn’t a legal issue. This is a policy issue. We have told different parties in Iraq that if they attempt to do things like we’ve seen recently, there could be legal ramifications, that we believe the oil of Iraq belongs to all of the people of Iraq.


Oh, how Marie loves to split hairs.  The Kurdistan Regional Government issued the following statement:



Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq (MNR.KRG.org) – The KRG Minister of Natural Resources, Ashti Hawrami, commented today on the Iraqi federal government’s petition to a US court to seize crude oil produced in the Kurdistan Region.
“The KRG’s lawyers sent a letter to a court in Texas to explain the misrepresentations of the Iraqi federal government. The Iraqi federal government has petitioned a Texas court for an order to seize crude oil legally produced, exported, and sold by the KRG in accordance with the Iraqi constitution and law. The letter indicates the possibility of massive counterclaims against the federal government,” said Minister Hawrami.
“The federal government of Iraq is trying to achieve in foreign courts and in the Iraqi supreme court what is denied to the federal government by the Iraqi constitution. The federal government cannot win, because our crude is legally produced, shipped, exported, and sold in accordance with the rights of the Kurdistan Region as set forth in the Iraqi constitution,” continued Minister Hawrami. “Our claims for unpaid compensation, which must be paid as provided in the Iraqi constitution and the law, will also be before any foreign court in which the federal government is seeking to attack us,” Minister Hawrami continued.

  Click here to view the letter sent to the federal court in Texas.


The latest court verdict in Iraq backed up the Kurds.  The US courts have no business in this issue. But the US government had no business invading Iraq and that was of no big concern either.

While the US government tries to control Iraqi oil, they have little interest in protecting the Iraqi citizens.  UNAMI notes the increase in violence and how it's preventing the delivery of aid and care:

ERBIL, 31 July 2014 – The United Nations has expressed concern over rising levels of violence and instability across Iraq and its impact on the lives of everyday citizens.
“Immediate, safe and unhindered humanitarian access is now needed,” Dr. Jacqueline Badcock, the Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (DSRSG), and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, said. “We urgently need to deliver lifesaving assistance and restore basic services to conflict-affected communities, as well as new and existing IDPs and refugees, irrespective of their religion, ethnicity or affiliation.”
More than 500,000 people have been displaced since June, bringing the total this year to 1.4 million, including more than 230,000 Syrian refugees. Between January and June this year, 5,500 people have been killed and 12,000 injured. Almost 900 people have been killed in July alone.
Many of the newly displaced have fled to Kurdish-controlled areas or the south, while others remain trapped in active conflict zones and in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.
In many cases, basic services have been targeted, including health facilities, water supplies and power grids, creating additional, unnecessary suffering to the civilian population.
“Civilians must be guaranteed that they can leave areas affected by the violence in dignity and safety with their right to access humanitarian assistance respected,” Ms. Badcock said.
“The UN and humanitarian partners are ready to assist, but to do so all parties to the conflict must agree to stop the hostilities and guarantee the safe and unimpeded access of humanitarian staff and goods to communities in need,” she said.


The violence never ends in Iraq.  And when the killer is Nouri al-Maliki, they just look away.

Targeting civilian populations in a war zone is a crime in and of itself.  Using collective punishment is a legally defined War Crime recognized by the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Spain . . . The list is endless.

Collective punishment is a War Crime and it's what Nouri's done and is doing.

For example, NINA reports, "A medical source said to the reporter of the National Iraqi News Agency / Nina / Golan, Alshohadaa, Jubail, al-Sinaii neighborhoods subjected to indiscriminate bombing, causing the death of four civilians and wounding eleven others including women and children."  NINA also notes Nouri's "warplanes bombed the village of Deira of Hawija" leaving 1 civilian dead and seven more inured.  And NINA quotes a hospital worker explaining, "Iraqi warplanes bombed the village of Deira of Hawija, west of Kirkuk, which led to kill one civilian and wounding seven others, in addition to material damage to a number of homes "

How many civilians will Nouri be allowed to kill? 

At what point is verbal outrage going to be expressed?


If he doesn't kill you from the air, Nouri hopes to kill you on the streets.  Human Rights Watch notes:

Government-backed militias have been kidnapping and killing Sunni civilians throughout Iraq’s Baghdad, Diyala, and Hilla provinces over the past five months. The killings and abductions mark a serious escalation in sectarian violence at a time when the armed conflict between government forces and Sunni insurgents is intensifying.
Human Rights Watch documented the killings of 61 Sunni men between June 1 and July 9, 2014, and the killing of at least 48 Sunni men in March and April in villages and towns around Baghdad, an area known as the “Baghdad Belt.” Witnesses and medical and government sources said that militias were responsible in each case. In many cases, witnesses identified the militia as Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqq (League of the Righteous), commonly referred to as Asa’ib
“The government seems to think that if people blame militias for killings it can wash its hands of the matter,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director. “In fact, the government needs to rein in these militias and call a halt to killing people just because of their sect.”
As the government has lost control over large portions of the country in the wake of an offensive by the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS, now renamed the Islamic State) and allied Sunni insurgents, Prime Minister al-Maliki has been forming new security forces made up of militias and is taking little or no action as they kill people, Human Rights Watch found. The government should hold those responsible for these killings to account.
In March, media reports said that Prime Minister al-Maliki had met with senior security advisers and told them that he would form a new security force consisting of three militias to police Baghdad – Asa’ib, Kita’ib Hezbollah, and the Badr Brigades, which is run by Transport Minister Hadi al-Ameri. A government official who provides national security advice to the prime minister’s office told Human Rights Watch in June that while Asa’ib fighters “take orders” from the militia’s military leader, Qais al-Khalazy, “ultimately they’re loyal to Maliki, who gives Qais orders.”
In four of the killings documented by Human Rights Watch in Baghdad, in June and July, witnesses said that men in civilian clothing driving military vehicles without license plates kidnapped the victims, who were all Sunni males ranging in age from their early 20s to late 50s, from the Sha`ab, Baya`a, Za`afraniyya, and Ghazaliyya neighborhoods. In each instance, their bodies were found a few hours or days later with bullet wounds to their heads. In another instance in June, two men in civilian clothing, with their faces loosely covered, drove up to a well-known café in the Sha`ab neighborhood and shot the two Sunni owners in the head in front of café customers and in view of a military checkpoint 10 meters away, a witness told Human Rights Watch.



Lastly, the following community sites updated:























  • Tuesday, July 29, 2014

    Extant the creepy

    CBS' Extant moves back to the last hour of Wednesday night.  Halle Berry is the 'mother' of a robot Ethan.

    Ethan is a strange boy who has a strange affinity or distaste for birds.

    We've already seen a dead bird and Ethan insist he didn't kill it, honest.

    This episode, he saw one in the backyard and set up a trap for it.

    His 'father' John discovered the bird with no water, hidden away and told Ethan he couldn't do that anymore.

    I'm wondering what all of this is foreshadowing.


    Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

     
    Tuesday, July 29, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the State Dept seems confused over weapons, the State Dept seems confused over the law, the State Dept seems confused over its mission, Nouri keeps killing civilians, and much more.


    At the US State Dept this morning, Secretary of State John Kerry pompously declared, "What is unfolding in Ukraine has already gone on for far too long. It’s well past time for the violence to stop and for the people of Ukraine to begin the process of rebuilding their country and rebuilding it in a way that can have a relationship with Russia, with the West."

    What's going on in Ukraine "has already gone on for far too long"?

    What about Iraq?

    John Kerry does grasp that in the October 2011, the US mission in Iraq was handed off from the Defense Dept to the State Dept, right?

    Of course he does.

    He was the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when that happened.  As such, he and his committee provided direct oversight -- or were supposed to -- of the State Dept.

    He is fully aware that the State Dept, since 2011, has received billions of US tax dollars to spend in Iraq.

    So if he wants to stomp his feet on Ukraine or on Syria or whatever catches his cat's fancy for this or that 30-second period, when exactly does John plan to focus on Iraq.

    Again, the US mission in Iraq is under the State Dept.  That hand off took place nearly three years ago and while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State at that time, as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair, John Kerry was following what was happening.

    And he should be following how the department he heads moves further and further away from a diplomatic mission in Iraq.  Dan Lamothe (Washington Post) reports on the continued decay of the US State Dept:


    The State Department has approved the possible sale of 5,000 AGM-114K/N/R missiles and related parts and training, Pentagon officials said. The estimated cost of the deal would be about $700 million, and dwarf previous shipments of Hellfire missiles to Iraq.

    Diplomacy is apparently dead -- as is compliance with the law and common sense.

    The law prohibits the US government from supplying weapons to any government that terrorizes their own people.

    How do Hellfire missiles help the Iraqi people?

    They don't.

    National Iraqi News Agency reports:

    A source at Fallujah General Hospital said on Tuesday that the number of martyrs among civilians since the outbreak of the crisis by more than 7 months reached 672 martyrs, 17 percent of them are children and 19 percent of them women, while the total number of wounded civilians, 2174 wounded, 19 percent children and 21 percent women..

    The source told the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA / that This is not the final outcome, noting that there were martyrs were buried without going back to the hospital, and wounded were treated at health centers close to their places.



    And Barack's answer is more weapons to Nouri?

    So that Nouri can kill more civilians?


    Falluja is just one city.  Also being bombed of late is Jurf al-Sakhar.  Ali A. Nabhan and Nour Malas (Wall St. Journal) report:


    The airstrikes on Monday reflected that policy. It is not clear how many among the dead were militants, but local media reported at least one child was killed. Human rights groups have begun to criticize the Iraqi government for bombing civilian areas in its campaign against insurgents.

    Human Rights Watch last week said it documented at least 75 civilians killed and hundreds wounded in government airstrikes—at times using the crude improvised explosives known as barrel bombs—on the cities of Fallujah, Beiji, Mosul, and Tikrit since June 6.


    So the law -- including the Leahy Amendment -- is being violated by the White House.

    Common sense?


    US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:  Last month, Secretary [of State John] Kerry said nobody expected ISIL to capture Mosul.  Even if  our foreign military assistance had not  quite kicked in yet, shouldn't our information and intelligence gathering efforts have been able to get a better assessment, a more accurate assessment, of Samarra and Mosul?  And it has been widely reported that while taking control of Mosul, ISIL seized rather large quantities of US supplied foreign military assistance and made off with nearly half a billion dollars from the local banks -- in addition to tanks and humvees that were taken.  US officials were quick to deny the claims of ISIL-- that they captured advance weaponry such as Black Hawk helicopters.  Did they capture any caravan aircraft with advanced weapon platforms?  And did they take any other advanced weaponry like MPADS [Man-portable air-defense systems]?  US military equipment and hundreds of millions of dollars aren't the only items that ISIL has seized. The Iraqi government confirmed that ISIL took uranium from Mosul University.  What is the status of that uranium?  What could ISIL use that for?  


    Common sense dictates that when you're losing uranium, weapons, millions of dollars, you're really not the person to supply with more weapons.

    But there's not much common sense in the US government.

    The issue of the missiles was raised today in the Pentagon briefing by spokesperson Rear Adm John Kirby.  Excerpt.


    Q: Hellfires for Iraq, the secure -- Defense Security Cooperative Agency today notified Congress of a potential sale of up to 5,000 Hellfires. It's 10 times more than you've said before. Any sense of how soon that (OFF-MIC) if Congress approves it, how soon could 5,000 Hellfires be sent to Iraq? And do they even have the capacity to absorb those weapons and effectively use them, since they only have two Cessna planes firing them off?

    REAR ADM. KIRBY: I don't have -- I can't give you an assessment now of how fast they would get there. My -- if past is prologue, the shipment would probably be done in tranches, rather than in a whole -- a whole shipment. But, again, I don't want to get ahead of a process that's just now starting on the Hill.
    But I can give you a short update, if you want. I mean, as of the 28th -- so that's, what, two days ago -- was that yesterday? What's today, 29th? Sorry, yesterday. Total of 466 Hellfire missiles have been delivered in July, just this month. Since January, we've delivered 780, and there's another 366 that are going to be delivered over the course of August.

    So, I mean, we're -- the process of providing these Hellfire missiles continues. Again, I -- that's what we're doing now, and that I can -- I just -- I wouldn't -- couldn't speculate about exactly how the 5,000 would get there. Does that help?

    Q: That does, yeah.

    Q: Just to follow up on that, is there any update on the recommendations on how to deal with Iraq? The Iraqi ambassador yesterday was saying the U.S. is dragging its feet on this, and General Dempsey seems to be suggesting that the sense of urgency has kind of dissipated. Is the sense of urgency gone on dealing with this issue?

    REAR ADM. KIRBY: I haven't seen General Dempsey's comments about that. I don't -- so I wouldn't speak to that. I -- as I've said before, I think everybody shares the proper sense of urgency here about the situation in Iraq. There's no question about that.
    The assessments are in. They are still being reviewed. I have nothing new to announce on that. And at -- if we get to a point where these assessments allow us to make recommendations to the interagency and to the president about a way forward, then we'll do that. And from those recommendations may or may not flow decisions and then -- and then we'll go from there.

    But, I mean, the assessments are still in the review process right now. But I would also remind you, Dion, I mean, this notion that we've done nothing is just false. We have 715 Americans, troops on the ground in Iraq defending our property and our people, and also providing assistance -- security  assistance and some advice through those joint operations centers, the one up in Erbil and the one in Baghdad.
    And, oh, by the way, we're still flying an intensified program of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance flights, manned and unmanned, over the country, information from which is being shared with Iraqi security forces as appropriate.
    So we're -- and Iraq still is the benefactor of one of the highest foreign military sales programs that we have with any country. So I -- I take deep issue with this notion that the United States and the United States military in particular is not moving fast enough or doing enough.
    But ultimately -- and we've said this in the past, as well -- this is a fight the Iraqi security forces have got to make. It's their country. It's a threat to their people. And we've made it clear that we're willing to work towards helping them, but ultimately this is -- this is their fight.

    Q: I just think people looking from the outside seeing the Islamic State blowing up mosques, solidifying their holds, and hearing you say we're reviewing, we're assessing, we may come up with recommendations that may lead to something suggests that the sense of urgency is gone.

    REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, I would just -- I just absolutely disagree. I don't think that there's been any lapse of sense of urgency here.
    But, again, this is -- this has got to be a problem that the Iraqi government solves with the Iraqi security forces. And what's critical to this in the long run and what has given ISIL, let's not forget, the momentum that it's gained is the lack of an inclusive, multi-confessional, political process inside Iraq, and that is not something that the United States military can fix. There's not going to be a U.S. military solution here. It's just not going to happen.

    Q: Is this just a bureaucratic holdup? Because it's taking longer now to review the assessment than it did to actually produce the assessment.

    REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, it hasn't. It has not. I mean, the assessment teams took about three weeks to come back with assessments. We've had the assessments for a little over a week.

    Q: (OFF-MIC) more than two.
    Q: Two weeks, I think (OFF-MIC)


    REAR ADM. KIRBY: OK, thank you. That's still more than a week. Look, again, they're being reviewed. And I'm not going to get ahead of decisions that haven't been made yet or recommendations that haven't been formed yet.

    Q: But, Admiral, is it fair to say that because the Sunni extremists advance has not continued on to Baghdad that this department and the government -- the U.S. government in general thinks that there is more time to make a recommendation, to wait for the Iraqi government to form a unity government, as you said? The fact that they're not marching on Baghdad, has that -- that given you more time in your perspective?

    REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, the question would imply that -- that we're sort of -- we're dithering on the decision-making process here based on events on the ground. And we're certainly watching and monitoring events on the ground, but it's not having an impact on the work that's being done here in that regard.
    So, no, I wouldn't tie the work of the review of the assessments to specifically to the situation on the ground. It's a very fluid situation. It can be radically different tomorrow than it is today.
    I said it before, so I'll say it again. It's more important to get this right to offer the right recommendations forward for the interagency and the president to make than it is to do it quickly. And this is ultimately an issue that the Iraqi government has to stand up to and that the Iraqi security forces have to face.


    Q: Regardless of when you start the clock, we are several weeks into this Iraq crisis. And the word from the president at the beginning was, this department would accelerate its military assistance to Iraq. Other than the Hellfires that Tony asked about, looking back, what other assistance was accelerated in terms of weapons or supplies?

    REAR ADM. KIRBY: We accelerated -- I mean, there was other -- I mean, there -- two and three quarter-inch rockets, almost 20,000 of them have been delivered to the government of Iraq. We've also provided thousands of tanks, tank and small-arms ammunition, thousands of machine guns, grenades, flairs, sniper rifles, M16 and M4s. So...

    Q: (OFF-MIC) or is this (OFF-MIC)
    REAR ADM. KIRBY: No, this is just in total.

    Q: (OFF-MIC) total?

    REAR ADM. KIRBY: This is in total.

    Q: And the word was we're going to -- the United States will step up its assistance after the fall of Mosul. What since that point has accelerated...

    REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, I just when through it with the Hellfires, which is -- which is the weapon most in demand by the Iraqi security forces. And then, you know, back to Dion's question, we've -- we've intensified ISR over the country. And that's -- that's still staying at a pretty high level. Roughly -- I think it's still roughly around 50 flights per day, manned and unmanned.

    We put an aircraft carrier in the Arabian Gulf, where she remains, as well as escort ships. We flew in 700 -- more than 700 troops to provide both security assistance for our people and our property there, as well as to provide these assessments.
    I mean, I can go through the litany all over again, but we have certainly intensified our efforts and our attention level on Iraq since ISIL took Mosul. But, again, it -- the Iraqi government had an opportunity in 2011, when -- when all U.S. forces left, and -- and I remind you what we said back then, that we -- that we believe that -- that the Iraqi security forces were competent and capable to the threat that they were facing in 2011.
    There was an opportunity given to the -- to the Iraqi government in 2011 that they haven't taken full advantage of, the way they organized, manned, trained and equipped their army. And we've seen some of those units fold under pressure because of either lack of will or lack of leadership, not all of them, and we're seeing some -- we're seeing them stiffen themselves, continue to stiffen themselves around Baghdad. They're retaking some territory, and they've maintained control over others they've retaken, like the oil refinery and the Haditha Dam.
    But ultimately, this is an Iraqi issue to deal with. And the -- and the -- and as we indicated in 2011, the -- and I could -- I wish I had the text for you. I quoted it from our report to Congress back then. But paraphrasing it, the best chance we said back then, the best chance to decrease violence in Iraq was through an inclusive political process, not through the largest army in the Middle East or X number of tanks or X number of F-16s, but through an inclusive political process. That was the best chance to decrease violence in Iraq, and that hasn't -- that -- that opportunity they've been -- they were given in 2011 has not been taken advantage of.


    Human rights matter to the State Dept, right?

    When they're not pushing for Nouri to get more Hellfire missiles, they're focusing on human rights, right?

    Let's check in on today's State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Jen Psaki where the following exchange took place:


    QUESTION: The Kurdish oil tanker?

    MS. PSAKI: Yes.

    QUESTION: You were right yesterday. I was incorrect.


    MS. PSAKI: That may be Lesley’s question, too. Okay.


    QUESTION: (Inaudible.)


    QUESTION: So thank you for setting us straight yesterday.


    MS. PSAKI: Sure.


    QUESTION: What you said was what was happening, it’s still there. Now that a judge has ruled that that oil should be seized, what happens now and whose responsibility is it in terms of the U.S. Government?


    MS. PSAKI: So the Government of Iraq, we understand, has filed suit – they filed suit yesterday in a Texas court against the cargo onboard the tanker. It remains anchored outside of U.S. jurisdiction off the coast of Texas. So the current – because of the current location, the government – the preliminary measure is – the measure that was done to seize the cargo was done in case the cargo enters into U.S. jurisdiction. It has not yet entered into U.S. jurisdiction, and once – our understanding is that if the oil enters into U.S. jurisdiction, the court order against the cargo could be enforced. But at this point in time, it remains – the cargo remains on the ship, which is outside of jurisdiction.


    QUESTION: Have you been in communication with the people running this ship about their intentions and what you would like to see them do?


    MS. PSAKI: Well, I think our policy remains the same. There’s obviously a legal case here, and given that, we certainly recommend that the parties make their own decisions with advice from their counsels. There’s a legal case. Our policy position remains the same, which is that we believe that oil should be transferred through the central government of Iraq. But again, this is a case where because it’s not in our jurisdiction, there’s little we can do at this point in time.


    QUESTION: But apart from the legal case, if that was not there, would you have a problem with this oil being offloaded, being sold?


    MS. PSAKI: Well, I think --


    QUESTION: I mean, is there some kind of a legal restriction apart from this current case? Is there – does the U.S. policy include some – a ban on Kurdish oil coming into the U.S. unless it comes through --


    MS. PSAKI: I’m – I’d have to check, Matt, but our policy position you’re very familiar with.


    QUESTION: Right. But I mean, but it’s not prohibited by the U.S., is it?


    MS. PSAKI: Well, but it’s U.S. policy that we’d oppose the selling of outside of the central government of Iraq.


    QUESTION: Well, but you can oppose a lot of things that are not illegal, right?


    MS. PSAKI: I’m sure we can, but it doesn’t mean that we’d participate in it or support it.


    QUESTION: No, I’m just wondering if the – if policy includes a ban on the transfer or sale of Kurdish oil outside --



    MS. PSAKI: I will check and see if there’s a legal ban. I can just do about one or two more here.



    Poor Jen, poor silly Jen.

    She felt a little cocky because of a poor court ruling -- one that lacked jurisdiction.

    Late in the day, the federal judge, Nancy K. Johnson, revisited her decision. Anna Driver, Kristen Hays and Terry Wade (Reuters) report she announced that "her court 'has no jurisdiction' over a tanker near Texas."  Driver and Hays have a longer report here.


    Also in the US, there's a new Secretary of Veterans Affairs.  Iraq and American Veterans of America note:


    CONTACT: Gretchen Andersen (212) 982-9699 or press@iava.org

    IAVA Welcomes New VA Secretary Bob McDonald
    CEO Rieckhoff: New Secretary must be tenacious in rectifying VA

    Washington DC (July 29, 2014) – The Senate today confirmed Bob McDonald, former head of Procter and Gamble and West Point graduate, as the new Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization representing post-9/11 veterans and their families, welcomes McDonald. 

    IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff released the following statement:

    “IAVA applauds the Senate for quickly confirming Bob McDonald to head the VA. We believe this new change in leadership is the first step in restoring confidence in the VA. McDonald has a great challenge ahead of him – to rebuild faith in a health care system accused of wrongdoing and corruption nationwide. This will not be an easy task, but we stand ready to help him. We urge McDonald to meet with IAVA leadership and implement recommendations from IAVA’s eight-point “Marshall Plan” for veterans.”

    Rieckhoff continued: “This is a critical time for veterans. We are losing 22 veterans a day to suicide, and in our latest Member Survey, we found that 40 percent of respondents knew another post-9/11 veteran who died by suicide. Post-9/11 veteran unemployment continues to be higher than the national average. And the VA claims backlog still stands at over 260,000 as the appeals backlog grows by the week. Combating suicide and improving access to mental health care should be one of McDonald’s first priorities upon taking command of VA. McDonald must be tenacious in addressing these issues and fixing a culture of systemic misconduct at VA offices and hospitals. Our veterans deserve better care and McDonald must rise to the occasion.”

    Note to media: to arrange an interview with IAVA leadership, please email press@iava.org or call 212-982-9699.  

    Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (www.IAVA.org) is the nation's first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 270,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its tenth year, IAVA recently received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.
    ###


    And lastly  the following community sites updated:







  • Monday, July 28, 2014

    Detroit

    Trina was right about what was going on in Detroit.  This is from Workers World:



    Theft of Detroit retirees’ pensions gets one step closer

    By on July 28, 2014
    The results of retiree voting on pension cuts in the Detroit bankruptcy proceedings were announced on July 21. It was reported that 73 percent of the voters approved the cuts while 27 percent voted “no.”
    The fix was in from the start.
    Only about half of tens of thousands of retirees voted. This is not surprising since the ballot package included a disk with more than 400 pages of documents and several booklets of summaries and instructions. Each retiree got two ballots — one for pension cuts and the other for medical care cuts. Confusion was widespread.
    The pressure for retirees to vote “yes” was huge from the day they received the ballots in mid-May. Included in the ballot packages were two pieces of literature urging them to approve the “plan of adjustment.” No literature opposed to the plan was allowed to be included.
    The politicians and their faithful corporate media hammered that voting “yes” was the only option. The ballots and the propaganda threatened that if retirees rejected the plan, then cuts to their pensions would be two or three times worse.
    Unions caved yet retirees resisted
    Those in official positions who could have rallied retirees and supporters to a massive “no” vote and a mass struggle in the courts and in the streets immediately caved in to the pressure. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25 is the largest union representing city of Detroit workers and retirees. It ignored the national threat to pensions that the Detroit case represents and urged a “yes” vote as the lesser evil. AFSCME had not sponsored any protests outside the court since a demonstration last year on Oct. 23.
    The Detroit Retired City Employees Association leadership made no attempt to rally retirees, thousands of whom belong to this voluntary organization. DRCEA President Shirley Lightsey pressed hard for retirees to agree to the cuts. Both general and uniformed pension boards pushed for a “yes” vote. The nine-member “official retiree committee” appointed by the bankruptcy court also held mass meetings pushing the “yes” vote. When retirees spoke out toward the end of these sessions, the microphone was sometimes cut off to silence opposition.
    The threat of even deeper cuts frightened many retirees. In one case, approval of the cuts would result in about $300 less per month with a $1,700 pension. This retiree was told that failure to approve would result in up to $700 in cuts. In the face of this, it is remarkable that 27 percent of voting retirees rejected the plan. They did so hoping that appeals to higher courts would reverse the bankruptcy judge’s ruling that public pensions could be slashed, even though protected by strong language in Michigan’s state constitution. Those campaigning for a “no” vote also pressed for mass demonstrations and protests by retirees. They often pointed out that the Civil Rights struggle was won in the streets.
    Irregularities abounded throughout the entire voting period. Thousands of retirees received incorrect calculations of their projected cuts and had to be sent new ballots. When Detroit’s emergency manager feared that voting might be going against his plan, it was announced that retirees could get a new ballot and reverse their vote. Early returns were leaked to the emergency manager and the press, reporting that “yes” votes were predominating. That only stopped on orders of the federal bankruptcy judge.
    The cost of pension cuts
    For those city workers who retired prior to 2003 or did not contribute weekly to an annuity savings fund run by the general pension board, cuts to pensions amounted to 4.5 percent. In addition, all general fund retirees and survivors lost their annual 2.25 percent cost-of-living adjustment. This will reduce pensions 18 percent over their lifetimes.
    Those who retired later, however, will have to pay back what the emergency manager deems “excess interest” paid to them between 2003 and 2013. This amounts to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on how much an individual paid into the savings plan. This can amount up to an additional 15.5 percent cut to pensions.
    What was not mentioned in the ballots, however, is that the annuity “clawback” amount is subject to 6.75 percent interest. Many retirees were unaware of this proviso, which will cost them tens of thousands of dollars more. Many retirees will never live long enough to pay all this back. If they opted to leave their surviving spouse all or part of their pension, then the spouse will have to continue paying back.
    Pensioners have filed objections with the bankruptcy court.
    The final trial on Detroit’s bankruptcy is set to start Aug. 14.
    David Sole is a retired Detroit Water and Sewerage Department worker.


    Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

     
    Monday, July 28, 2014,  Chaos and violence continue, rumors swirl that Nouri might have realized how toxic he is, how many US troops have been sent back into Iraq, and much more.


    Counting is apparently hard for journalism majors.  Kristina Wong (The Hill) reported Sunday:

    The Obama administration has quietly moved an additional 62 advisers to Iraq over the past three weeks, according to defense officials.
    The additions bring the total number of advisers in the country to 242, still short of the 300 advisers that President Obama authorized for Iraq last month.



    The Pentagon said 20 additional military advisers recently arrived in Iraq, bringing total U.S. military personnel there to 825. Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said there are now 90 advisers working with Iraqi military forces, assessing their capabilities, and 160 Americans are assigned to joint operation centers in Baghdad and Erbil.
    So who's right?  Wong or Schwartz?

    Better question, when US officials testify before Congress and give a concrete number, why doesn't the press use that number -- if only to question it.  Last Wednesday morning, the State Dept's Brett McGurk and the Defense Dept's Elissa Slotkin appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee to talk about Iraq.  Let's note this exchange.


    Elissa Slotkin:  First, I just want to clarify that we have sent in an additional -- I think it's up to 775 troops.  

    US House Rep Tom Marino: Right.

    Elissa Slotkin: 475 of that total are for the security of our people --

    US House Rep Tom Marino: The Embassy, the airport, etc.

    Elissa Slotkin: Exactly.  The other 300 are there to assess and answer those very questions.


    Does Elissa Slotkin not know her numbers?  Does the press think she doesn't?

    Wong insist that there are 242 advisors there but days before Wong insisted that, Slotkin testified to Congress that there were 300 advisors (with 475 there providing security).


    This isn't a minor issue and vague generalities really don't cover it.

    Maybe US House Rep Tom Marino grasps it better than many in the press do?  He noted, "I'm ambivalent on this as well because I don't want to see another American come home in a bodybag.  I've been on the ramp and saw the ceremonies where two people were sent back to my state and it's something I do not want to experience again."

    Also, when possible, we do try to note it if an article, essay or book is noted in a hearing.  Marino noted Dexter Filkens' New Yorker article on Iraq from last April -- noted it positively.


    The attacks on Iraqi Christians continue.  This month, Christians in Mosul were given the option of staying in Mosul and being killed, paying a tax for being Christian or converting to Islam.  Most fled -- most, not all.  Some could not afford to leave and remain in Mosul, keeping a very low profile. Suleiman Gouda (Asharq Al-Awsat) declares:

    It is hard to find the words to describe the recent events in Mosul, in northern Iraq, and I can only turn to the words of Nabil Elaraby, the secretary-general of the Arab League, who said that what happened was a disgrace that must never be tolerated and a crime against Iraq and its history, against Arab and Islamic countries, and against all Muslims.
    The statement of the Arab League chief came in response to reports last week that Mosul had been totally emptied of Christians for the first time in its entire history after they were expelled at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).


    The attacks appear to be an attempt not just to wipe Christians out of Iraq but to also erase any evidence that they ever were a presence.  Dropping back to Friday's snapshot (really early Saturday morning):



    Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports on the apparent bombing of a Sunni mosque which apparently destroyed Jonah's tomb:




    The holy site is thought to be the burial place of the prophet Jonah, who was swallowed by a whale or fish in both the Islamic and Judeo-Christian traditions.
    Militants belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, planted explosives around the tomb and detonated the explosion remotely Thursday, civil defense officials there told CNN.

    NINA notes:


    In a statement issued today Mottahidoon said : " With hearts rupturing of pain, and eyes full of blood of the terrible scene of blowing up the shrine and mosque of the Prophet Yunus peace be upon him, the Mosalion the whole world with them farewell a memorial combining history, civilization and sacred values, that is what it means the sublime edifice of Prophet Yunus peace be upon him which is located on Talit-Tawbah / hill of repentance/ in the left side of the city of Mosul.

    Mottahidoon is the political party of Osama al-Nujaifi who was the Speaker of Parliament from 2010 until this month. 



    Joel S. Baden and Candida Moss (CNN) explain:


    In Christian tradition, the story of Jonah is an important one. Jonah’s descent into the depths in the belly of the great fish and subsequent triumphant prophetic mission to Nineveh is seen as a reference to and prototype of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
    The destruction of his tomb in Mosul is therefore a direct assault on Christian faith, and on one of the few physical traces of that faith remaining in Iraq.

    The destruction is getting wide attention because the shrine was a go-to spot for several religions -- not just Christianity.   Fox News offers:

    The Wall Street Journal reported that the group had destroyed a mosque in the northern Iraq city of Mosul that contained a shrine believed to be the tomb of Jonah -- who is revered as a prophet by Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The paper reported that the militants had wired the periphery of the mosque with explosives and then detonated them.
    "They turned it to sand, along with all other tombs and shrines," Omar Ibrahim, a Mosul dentist, told The Journal. "But Prophet Younes [the Muslim name for Jonah] is something different. It was a symbol of Mosul ... We cried for it with our blood."

    This is becoming an issue around the world.  The Pope has spoken out against the violence repeatedly. Oscar Lopez (Latin Times) quotes Pope Francis stating, "No more wars.  It's time to stop. Stop, please, I beg you with all my heart, stop."  France's Foreign Ministry issued the following statement:



    Middle East Christians - Joint communiqué issued by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, and M. Bernard Cazeneuve, Minister of the Interior (Paris, 28/07/2014)
    The situation of the Middle East Christians is unfortunately dramatic. The ultimatum issued to these communities in Mosul by ISIS is the latest tragic example of the terrible threat facing these people - who have historically been an integral part of the region - by jihadist groups in Iraq as well as Syria and elsewhere.
    France is outraged by these brutalities, which it condemns in the strongest possible terms. We have succeeded in getting the UN Security Council to condemn the Islamic State's persecution of minorities in Iraq. We are assisting displaced persons who are fleeing the Islamic State's threats and seeking refuge in Kurdistan. Should they so wish, we are prepared to offer them asylum on our soil. We have released exceptional humanitarian assistance to help them. France will continue to mobilize the international community in the coming days to ensure that these populations are protected - a prerequisite for stability in the region. We are in constant touch with local and national authorities to make sure that everything is done to guarantee their protection.

    Laurent Fabius and Bernard Cazeneuve will soon be welcoming representatives of Iraq's Christian communities to France./.


    And the issue is getting some attention in  the US. Cheryl K. Chumley (Washington Times) reports that a protest took place outside the White House over the week, "Demonstrators in general vented frustration at the Obama administration’s seeming lackadaisical response to the assaults on Christianity and on Christians in the Muslim-dominated Middle East and, more specifically, on the White House failure to respond to ISIL’s crackdown on Christians."  Barack hasn't really addressed the issue so it is natural that he would be the target of protests.
    Lucy Westcott (Newsweek) offers this take on the targeting in Iraq, "One week ago, Christians living in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul were forced to leave, convert to Islam, or face execution by ISIS militants — but on the plus side, a report that the group had ordered women and girls in the city to undergo female genital mutilation appears to have been incorrect. Still, the violence continues. Figures from the UN indicate that nearly 900 Iraqis have been killed this month alone, and 5,500 were killed between between January and June of this year."
    Sunday, Loveday Morris (Washington Post) reported on rumors/signs that Nouri al-Maliki will not see a third term as prime minister and that his time on top is dwindling.  Earlier this month, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani made statements which indicated Nouri al-Maliki should step down.  Friday's sermon made that even more clear.  Morris reports:

    On Saturday, Sheik Abdul Halim al-Zuhairi, a senior figure in Dawa, was dispatched to Najaf to deliver a message to Ayatollah Sistani that the coalition was willing to replace Mr. Maliki if necessary, said Jumaa al-Atwani, a politician with Mr. Maliki’s coalition. Mr. Zuhairi passed the letter to Sistani’s son, he said.

    MP, of Ahrar bloc, Bahaa al-Araji called on the Iraqi National Alliance, as the biggest bloc, to resolve the issue of nominating its candidate for Premier post before August 8. 
    He said in a press statement received by All Iraq News Agency "The matter of choosing PM must move away from partisan and personal affiliations and the most importantly is to maintain the unity of INA to form a strong government can save Iraq from this crisis."

    Having brought Iraq to the precipice, you'd think even Nouri would feel compelled to step down.  Knowing Nouri that seems unlikely.  
    But it's so potentially good, rumors of his departure, you almost need for it to be true.  James Kitfield (Yahoo News) shares:

    Reports over the weekend that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa Party is considering abandoning him as its candidate represent the one bit of hopeful news out of Iraq in recent weeks. When Iraq’s most revered Shiite religious figure, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called earlier this month for a new government in Baghdad that has “broad national acceptance,” Iraqis understood that he was signaling to the divisive al-Maliki to finally step aside for the good of the country. In his eight years as leader, al-Maliki has consistently pursued a sectarian agenda that alienated Iraqs Sunni minority and drove Sunni tribes once allied with the United States into the arms of the extremists of ISIL (also called ISIS). That uneasy alliance is behind ISILs lightning offensive last month that overran the border between Syria and Iraq and captured the Sunni-majority regions of the country, including major northern cities such as Mosul and Tikrit. 
    On Saturday the Dawa Party reportedly sent a senior official to Najaf with a message to Sistani that it was finally willing to replace al-Maliki if necessary.

    Nouri's the disease that never stops infecting.
     Tim Arango (New York Times) reports, "Just before midnight on Friday, Shiite militiamen in eight black S.U.V.’s rolled up to the Baghdad home of an important Sunni politician and abducted him and four of his bodyguards, a brazen move that threatened to further convulse a country already in the grip of a political crisis."

    It was the fall of last year when Tim Arango broke the story that Nouri was arming, garbing and backing Shi'ite militias (death squads):

    In supporting Asaib al-Haq, Mr. Maliki has apparently made the risky calculation that by backing some Shiite militias, even in secret, he can maintain control over the country’s restive Shiite population and, ultimately, retain power after the next national elections, which are scheduled for next year. Militiamen and residents of Shiite areas say members of Asaib al-Haq are given government badges and weapons and allowed freedom of movement by the security forces.


    So a Shi'ite militia in Baghdad kidnaps a Sunni politician and his bodyguards in Baghdad?  Nouri's the one who made it possible. 


    Although when that happened is confusing to Roy Gutman.  We already linked to Tim Arango's exclusive scoop from September of 2013 about Nouri bringing in the Shi'ite militias.

    So try not to be confused by Gutman's second paragraph below:

    The men who abducted Riyadh Adhadh, the head of the Baghdad Provincial Council, from his home wore military uniforms and arrived in government vehicles, he said after his release Saturday, according to Iraq’s Al Mada press. He said the apparent aim of the kidnapping was to implicate his political party in last month’s capture of much of northern and central Iraq by the radical Islamic State when the Iraqi military collapsed.
    Maliki, who revived the Shiite militias as a response to the army’s disappearance, personally intervened to free Adhadh. He did it not by ordering in federal security forces, which he commands, but asking for help from a powerful Shiite militia _ which reports directly to his office.

    Read more here: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2014/07/28/3171468/sunni-politicians-abduction-rescue.html?#storylink=cpy

    The army's 'disappearance' was only weeks ago.  But Nouri brought the militias back in over a year ago.  Why can't Gutman report that?  Is he ignorant of events or shading the truth?


    So many in the press miss so much.

    They miss Nouri's War Crimes.  He continues to target civilians in Iraq.  He bombs cities because he claims 'terrorists' are present.  Regardless of whether or not they are, it is illegal to bomb civilians.  The term for that is collective punishment.

    For civilians in Falluja, they've been terrorized by Nouri since the first of the year.

    Omar al-Mansuri (Rudaw) reports:

    In the evenings, the residents of Fallujah wait for the terror of the Iraqi helicopters that have been raining primitive but deadly barrel bombs that Baghdad has resorted to in its bid to recapture the city from militants of the Islamic State (IS).
    Although residents know there are few measures they can take against the destruction, for the sake of comforting themselves they go through a routine of trying to protect themselves.
    “We start by turning off the lights at home and assembling all family members in one room,” recounted Iyad Mahmud Halbusi, a 33-year-old family head caught in the war between the Shiite government in Baghdad and Sunni jihadis who have captured about a third of the country.
    “We stay away from windows, usually on the ground floor,” Halbusi said. “But despite these measures we are fully convinced that we would not survive if we were hit by a barrel bomb.” 


    Other violence today includes corpses.  AP notes 17 corpses -- 3 females, 14 males -- were discovered dumped in the streets throughout Baghdad today.  Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 274 dead in Iraq today from violence. 

    Moving over to the US State Dept's press briefing today moderated by spokesperson Jen Psakit, we'll note this exchange:
    MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Scott.


    QUESTION: From the podium, you pretty consistently objected to the Kurds exporting their own oil through Turkey. It would appear that, however, that that first shipment of oil has now been unloaded in Houston. So --


    MS. PSAKI: My understanding of where things stand, Scott, is that it’s – there’s a tanker that’s anchored 60 miles outside of Galveston, Texas and that the cargo remains on board the ship at this time. I will see if there’s been any update to that information, but I spoke with our team about it right before I came down here.
    Our policy, which you outlined, certainly hasn’t changed. We believe that Iraq’s energy resources belong to the Iraqi people and certainly have long stated that it needs to go through the central government. And as you know, there’s an ongoing legal dispute in this case, which is – which obviously is something that we’re aware of and we’re closely following.


    QUESTION: Local Coast Guard say they asked you guys about it and everything was fine and it’s already being lightened.


    MS. PSAKI: That – I would have to check. That was not the information that I had from our team, Scott. Obviously that contradicts it, which is concerning, but let me go back to them and see what the exact situation is on the ground.

    Laurel Brubaker Calkins and Dan Murtaugh (Bloomberg News) report, "The Iraqi Oil Ministry is seeking a court order to seize more than $100 million of oil waiting to offload in Galveston, Texas, that it claims was illegally pumped from wells in Kurdistan."  Jonathan Stempel, David Ingram, Rebecca Elliott, Terry Wade, Anna Driver, Erwin Seba and Lisa Shumaker (Reuters) add, "The United Kalavrvta tanker, carrying some 1 million barrels of crude worth about $100 million, arrived off the coast of Texas on Saturday but has yet to unload its disputed cargo."














    cnn



    kristina wong