Thursday, May 7, 2015

Fostering the discrimination

Life in the Barack Obama improved and backed Iraq?

Not pretty:

4h4 hours ago
Discrimination against Sunnis by Shiites is rampant in Iraq, raising distrust between Sunni and Shiite communities

Not pretty at all.

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

Wednesday, May 6, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Senator Barbara Boxer and Joni Ernst team up on proposed Iraq legislation, Shi'ite officials and leaders continue to threaten violence against the United States and to do so publicly, Barack Obama continues to remain silent on these threats while continuing to send weapons and US tax dollars to the government these Shi'ites dominate, KRG President Massoud Barzani addresses a number of topics including Kurdish independence, another journalist is killed in Iraq, and much more.

Since last week, many Shi'ite officials in the Baghdad-based government of Iraq hit panic mode over a bill in the US House of Representatives proposing to arm the Sunnis and the Kurds directly since Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has failed to keep his words and supply those two groups with weapons the US government is handing over.

Perhaps to distract from the refusal of the Shi'ite dominant government to supply Kurds and Sunnis (a characteristic of the previous prime minister Nouri al-Maliki as well), the Shi'ite in government began insisting that arming Sunnis and Kurds directly would split the country into three regions.

The rhetoric started with Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law (specifically with the statements of State of Law MP Hana al-Fatlawi).  It's hard to tell who was the most vile but a strong case can be made that it was Iraq's Minister of Transportation Hadi al-Ameri -- who is also head of the Badr brigade and led the failed operation against Tikrit (where he insisted US support wasn't needed when, in the end, US airpower was the only thing that allowed the Iraqi forces to enter Tikrit after weeks of being kept out).  On Monday, Hadi al-Ameri threatened violence against the United States and its citizens.

Most read: leader threatens to mutilate those trying to dissolve
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Most read: leader threatens to mutilate those trying to dissolve

His threatening remarks have been made by others starting last week as various Shi'ite officials began holding rallies to threaten the United States.

Prensa Latina reported on the most recent one,  Following similar demonstrations in Basra, Baghdad, Maysan and Wasit, today the protest took place in Dhi Qar Province.   It was led by cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr's followers. Moqtada al-Sadr's political movement controls 34 seats in the Iraqi Parliament.  In Dhi Qar Province today, a parade took place and was followed by a rally at which they insisted they would attack American targets if the bill became law.

During all of this, the President of the United States, Barack Obama hasn't remained silent.

He's rushed to assure Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that he doesn't support the bill.

That's all he's done.

Day after day, elements of the Iraqi government have threatened violence against the United States and the only ones denounced by Barack Obama have been members of the US Congress.

Instead of standing with the Congress or with the country against threats made by Shi'ite leaders and officials, Barack's rushed to insist he's not a part of that.

As President of the United State, he is a part of it.

As President of the United States and an American citizen, he is a part of it.

And he needs to get off his knees and stand upright.

America and the world needs to see him address this issue and stop being such a little weakling who gets pushed around on the international stage repeatedly.

Barack is arming these same factions which are publicly threatening violence against the United States of America.

And he continues to arm them and continues to refuse to address these public threats to the United States and its citizens.

That is appalling.  That is shameful.  That is shirking the duties of his office.

A real leader would have publicly threatened to stop the supply of all weapons if Haider al-Abadi did not publicly rebuke the threats being made against the United States.

But Barack has done and said nothing except play Eddie Haskell rushing to the Shi'ites to insist, 'Hey, I don't like the Congress either.'

It is disgraceful and it is shameful.

In his seventh year as president, he should already know that it is his obligation to rebuke any public threat against the United States.

He looks like a weak and small coward.  And the problem there is that he represents the United States on the international stage.

The man who elevated fading Russian leader Putin to a rival -- we warned as it went down that this was happening -- is not afraid to talk smack in some cases.

But he's a coward with regards to Iraq.

And American really doesn't have time for him to learn how to stand up.

History will remember that while one leader of this Shi'ite lawmaking faction and that one held rallies threatening the United States with violence, not only did Barack never object but he continued to supply them with weapons -- including weapons beyond guns, weapons like F-16s which could be used to fly to the United States and attack America on US soil.

Do I think that's going to happen?

My guess would be no.

But I do think when this rhetoric is tolerated by Barack Obama, it increases within Iraq and it puts every US citizen there -- diplomatic, military, business person, journalist, whatever -- at risk.

And let's note Haider al-Abadi because it's offensive that he hasn't called this out.  Not just bad manners, it's offensive that he has not called out the Iraqi leaders holding rallies threatening violence against the United States as Haider begs the United States  for weapons, US air strikes, and US taxpayer dollars and then turn around and hold rallies threatening the United States with violence.  In fairness to Moqtada, his position has always been that the US needed to get out of Iraq -- I agree with that -- but the others?  Haider al-Abadi came begging to DC last month.  Despite the billions in oil revenues, Haider left with a promise of $200 million US taxpayer dollars to rebuild areas of Iraq.  And yet he can't denounce these public threats of violence to America?

This is ridiculous.

Let's move over to the US Senate.  Senator Barbara Boxer and Iraq War veteran Senator Joni Ernst have introduced a bill.  Boxer's office issued the following:

 Tuesday, May 5th 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) today introduced bipartisan legislation to provide for a temporary, emergency authorization of defense articles, defense services, and related training directly to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Other cosponsors include Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). The bill would allow the U.S. to provide direct assistance to the KRG, a critical partner in the fight against ISIS. The companion bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and has broad bipartisan support across the ideological spectrum.

The legislation provides temporary, emergency authority for the President to provide weapons and training directly to Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces. The three-year authorization seeks to reduce delays in arming Peshmerga forces to fight ISIS, while in consultation with the Iraqi government.

“ISIS is deadly and determined, and Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces – our critical partner in the fight against ISIS – need U.S. weapons as quickly as possible. This three-year authorization would bolster efforts against ISIS which is critical to maintaining a unified and stable Iraq, and imperative to our national security interests. We simply cannot afford to have future delays at this critical moment in the battle,”Senator Ernst said.

“The Iraqi Kurds have been a steadfast and capable partner of the United States, and this bill will help ensure they have the support they need in the fight against ISIL,” Senator Boxer said.

“The United States should empower Iraqi Kurds by providing them with what they need to protect their region from the threat posed by radical Islamic extremists,” Senator Johnson said.

“Defeating ISIS requires active participation from our allies in the region. I support sending arms to the Kurdish fighters who are providing the vital boots on the ground. This Administration claims they need the legal authority to arm the Kurds. This bill removes any doubt that they have the authority and the renewed encouragement of Congress to provide our Kurdish allies the support they need to continue their fight against ISIS and radical Islam,” 

Senator Paul said. 

“The Kurds are some of our closest partners in the Middle East. The Peshmerga are on the front lines of the battle against ISIL and we need to do all we can to ensure they succeed,” Senator Rubio said. 

Since the First Gulf War, the Iraqi Kurds and their Peshmerga forces have played a vital role in supporting U.S. interests and a free Iraq despite limited means of doing so.  Approximately one million displaced Iraqis and Syrians have taken refuge in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.

Currently by law, the U.S. must provide support to the Iraqi Kurds through the Iraqi central government in Baghdad.

Specifically, the Ernst-Boxer bill would:
  • Provide a three-year authorization for the U.S. to provide weapons directly to Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the fight against ISIS.
  • State it is the policy of the United States to provide direct assistance to the Kurdistan Regional Government to combat ISIS.
  • Preserve the President’s ability to notify the Iraqi government before weapons, equipment, defense services, or related training is provided to Iraqi Kurdish forces.

Ensure accountability by requiring a report to Congress on U.S. weapons provided to the Iraqi government which have ended up in the hands of Iranian controlled/supported Shia militias.

That bill is significant for a number of reasons.

First, it's always good when two female US senators work together across the aisle.  Women remain under-represented in the US Congress.  Also true, the Senate -- more than the House of Representatives -- remains an "old boys club."  When two female senators come together to work on legislation, it's a good thing.

Second, Ernst is an Iraq War veteran.  Barbara Boxer was one of the strongest voices in the Senate against the Iraq War.

For those of us who opposed (or continue to oppose, as I do) the Iraq War, our issue was never 'we hate you! you fought in Iraq!'


You were deployed.   You did what you were trained to do.

The objection that those of us -- who aren't idiots -- had was to the Iraq War, was to the leaders who started this war with lies.

(Idiots?  There are a number of people who we're not noting here anymore.  These were the idiots who attacked Chris Kyle, a dead man, with some of the most vile and disgusting terms.  Chris did not send himself to Iraq.  Once in Iraq, Chris did not decide what he was going to do.  He did what he was trained to do.  If you find it offensive that he was a sniper, you need to take that up elsewhere because that is a job in the military, it's a job people are trained for.  Chris did what he was asked to.  If you have a problem with what he was asked to do, you hold those responsible for making those decisions accountable.  Even the US military brass -- which I'm not as fond of as I'm the rank and file -- does not decide it's time for war.  In the US, we have a civilian government which makes that determination.  If you're not happy with the Iraq War -- and I've been speaking out against it since a month before it started -- your problem is with the leaders making the decisions and calls. If you can't grasp that? Yeah, I do think you're an idiot.)

Boxer had a principled stand against the Iraq War.  Ernst served in it with valor.

That the two of them can come together to work on a bill -- let alone one about Iraq -- says a great deal about what the rest of us in this country should be able to.

Applause to Boxer and Ernst for the example they've set.

Third, the bill is significant because it goes to the support (which we've been noting -- see my rant on Sunday) for the Kurds (and the Sunnis) in the US Congress.  It's not just Republicans -- that was a nice lie that the press can't let go of even though the House bill passed the Committee on a 60 in favor and two opposed vote -- it's Democrats as well.

And it's not just the House.

We report on the bulk of the Congressional hearings I attend (if they're related to Iraq or veterans-- if things were slower, we'd cover a few other topics).  We do that because a friend's adult child was an intern in 2006 and asked if I would note some hearings?  I said sure, send anything and we'll include it.  And then it was explained that hearings were being ignored or misreported.  So I said we'd try to grab some from time to time and let me know if there was anything related to Iraq or veterans.

We went from dashing in and out of DC while staying at hotels (or a friend's Georgetown brownstone) to getting a house outside DC because we're there so often.

And what I was told in 2006 was true.  Hearings were either covered of miscovered.

The budget cuts and financial crises at various news outlets and the tanking economy meant cutbacks. And Congressional reporting apparently no longer mattered.  We have been at subcommittee hearings where not one member of the press was present.  Generally speaking, the Associated Press is the best about covering (full) committee hearings.

When it's a big moment -- due to witnesses or in a presidential election year due to candidates running for the office -- the press turns out.

You get numerous outlets showing up . . . for a few minutes.

They'll stay long enough to hear then-Senator Barack Obama or then-Senator Hillary Clinton or Senator John McCain -- all of whom were trying to become the next president in 2008 -- and then rush out.

Very few stay for the entire hearing.

A very important hearing took place in November 2011.  And the press (a) reduced it to harsh words from McCain to then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and (b) fled after that moment to file and missed an hour and forty minutes of the hearing -- during which Senator Kay Hagen was electing testimony on all the US forces that moved from Iraq to Kuwait -- thousands -- and who remained stationed there, during which Leon went over the fact that the US continued to negotiate with Iraq on US forces -- there was so much to that hearing, so much that was important.

And all the press did was turn it into "McCain was mean to Panetta!"

So it's not just that they don't show up, it's that when they do they miss everything because they're looking for some cheap gossip to play up as drama.

Since Barack initiated his bombing of Iraq last August, every hearing I've been at on Iraq has demonstrated the Congress -- both sides of the aisle -- are appalled that the Kurds aren't being supplied with weapons (there also bothered that the Sunnis aren't -- but those most bothered by that tend to be Democrats).

But the press has tried to turn a House bill into a "Republican bill" and has ignored the repeated attempts by Congress to address Haider's refusal to honor the agreement -- that he would distribute weapons to the Kurds and the Sunnis -- that allowed him to receive weapons from the United States to begin with.

The Boxer and Ernst bill goes to that attitude that Congress has repeatedly displayed -- in the House and in the Senate -- Democrat and Republican -- on this issue.

Fourth, it's Barbara Boxer.

She's not running for re-election and we did our evaluation of her when she made that announcement.  I noted that, in terms of Iraq, she had only one thing to be proud of since Barack became president.  I noted that she moved mountains behind the scene on an issue and had not taken public credit for it but if she did discuss it publicly I would be happy to applaud her for that.

She still hasn't, maybe she'll write about it in a book (and she should and she should be very proud of what she accomplished on that issue -- I did and do applaud her for that work).

But she's winding down her career and she's weighed in on one of the most important issues in Iraq right now.

This goes back to 2008.

It was April 8, 2008, the afternoon of, that Boxer forced a change in policy via a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.  There were almost 100,000 "Awakenings" (largely Sunni fighters -- not 100% Sunni per Gen David Petraues' testimony to Congress repeatedly that week).  These were fighters being paid (a) not to attack the US and (b) to defend Iraq.

$182 million was the yearly cost to US taxpayers for the salaries of the "Awakenings."  And Boxer, rightly, wanted to know why the US was paying this,  "why don't you ask the Iraqis to pay the entire cost of that program?"

That question led to the US government transferring the cost to the Iraqi government.

These were Iraqi fighters, why was the US spending -- in 2006 and 2007 and 2008 -- $182 million a year to pay these salaries?

The witnesses -- Petraeus and then-US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker -- were stumped and appeared to have never considered the issue.  Crocker assured her that they would discuss it.

This led to the change.

It didn't happen in 2009 as the press falsely reported (based on announcements by the US government and Nouri al-Maliki) and it didn't happen in early 2010.

But the US taxpayers were finally let off the hook for this cost before the end of 2010.

And Boxer didn't just make that change, she also noted that Nouri al-Maliki was against the "Awakenings" and that this was something to follow -- why was he against them, what did that mean for Iraq?

Those were important questions and they go to the disintegration of Iraq which took place Nouri's second term.

So when Barbara Boxer addresses Iraq, it has significance because of her track record.

"And of course we have also realized and noticed that both President Obama and Vice President Biden," declared KRG President Massoud Barzani this morning, "they are concerned and they also want Peshmergas to receive the right weapons and the right ammunition.  The important point here is the Peshmergas get these weapons.  How they will come and in which way that's not as important as  the fact that the Peshmergas need the weapons to be there. "

That statement has been distorted -- by not quoting it fully, among other things.

Barzani did not come out against the House bill -- as liars -- including one at The Huffington Post -- have 'reported.'  He did come out in favor of the 'unity' statements Barack has made.

He came out in favor of the Peshmerga receiving the weapons they're supposed to receive.

Too many know too little to write so much about Iraq.

KRG President Massoud Barazni:  Yes, indeed, we have a new federal government in Baghdad.  And at the beginning of this year, we had reached an agreement which was reflected in the budget law of the region.  Of course, we are from our side, the KRG, is committed to that agreement.  The relationship now between Erbil and Baghdad is much better than what it was under the previous government.  But at the same time, it's not without problems.  We have issues, we have problems, we have difference.  But we believe that there is joint-desire from both sides to address these issues and to find proper solutions for them.  But the spirit is to work together, to cooperate in order to address these issues.  As far as oil is concerned, we have reached an agreement and the KRG is providing and exporting 550 barrels per day as it has been stipulated in that agreement of the budget law.  Our expectation and waiting is that Baghdad as well the federal government in Baghdad, to also honor that agreement.  And also to provide the KRG with its fair share of the revenues.

This was another statement that led to distortions from those that Huff-n-Puff.

Barzani said things were "much better than what it was under the previous government" and this is being misread as hearts and flowers to Baghdad.


Know the history or just don't weigh in.

Nouri al-Maliki threatened the KRG repeatedly.  He made a deal with the Turkish government allowing the KRG to be bombed (supposedly to attack the PKK but it was small villages that were the targets).  He almost declared war -- he really had to walk that one back -- on Barzani and the KRG when they refused to hand him Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.

Jalal Talabani, then president of Iraq, caved quickly on the issue which is why Tareq went from being Jalal's house guest to having the protection of Barzani.

We're not done.

Nouri called the KRG "terrorists."

Nouri attacked deals that companies made with the KRG.  This included the ExxonMobil deal which included Nouri insisting that the US government (Barack) was going to stop.

As we explained in real time, in the US, the oil companies are not state-owned.  The government has no say in the business.  (And ExxonMobil isn't a US company -- it's a multi-national corporation.)

He denied them their portion of federal funds.

We could go on and on and we could address the pipeline proposal, we could address the issue of produce coming into Iraq, we could address so much more.

But "much better" isn't praise for Haider al-Abadi.

It's noting how awful things were under Nouri al-Maliki.

Barzani was speaking this morning at The Atlantic Council in an event they organized in cooperation with the US Institute of Peace.  Barzani spoke at the event via a translator, Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, the Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations.

We're going to note some of his comments following his speech.  The speech focused on the battle against the Islamic State.  We're more interested in some of the other issues he touched on.

"[. . .]" in the below paragraphs in bold does not mean I've left out his remarks.  It means I've left out questions being asked to focus on his remarks.

President Massoud Barzani:  There is no question that confronting ISIS needs the unity of all peoples of Iraq.  And of course Kurdistan did play a leading role in that and Kurdistan has been the vanguard in confronting ISIS, they have played the role.  But of course the unity of Iraq depends on the peoples of Iraq, how democratic Iraq would be, how far they would be convinced about peaceful co-existence because that unity is voluntary and not compulsory.  So therefore the important thing is, attempts to be made for  everybody in Iraq to have that conviction that there would be a voluntary union and not a forceful union.
[. . .]
Iraq mainly has the three main pillars, the three main components, which are Kurds, Arabs -- the Shia and Sunni a Arabs -- in addition to other national minorities -- we have Turkman, Chaldean, Assyrian and different religions and sects.  Of course when Iraq was established after the first World War on the basis that Kurds and Arabs would be partners in this country.  Unfortunately, we were not able to -- we have not been able to establish that partnership that's required.  We are trying and we will continue our efforts. But that doesn't mean that this would be an obstacle in the way of the people of Kurdistan to exercise their right to self-determination.  That opportunity has to be given to the people of Kurdistan to determine their own future in a referendum.  But that should be away from violence, in a peaceful way,  in a coordinated way and through understanding. But until then, we will do our best and we will continue our efforts in order to do whatever we can to solve and address the issues, the disputes in Iraq so that these problems  will be contained and solved and not to expend further -- escalate further.
[. . .]
Those who have been in war, those who have seen war, they do understand  and appreciate
and how peace is needed and how valuable peace is.

After those responses, questions came from the audience.

Barbara Slavin: I wanted to get your view on the big picture in the region.  There are a lot of moving pieces.  How do the Kurds navigate in a situation where you have Saudi Arabia leading a coalition of Arab armies against Iran-backed groups in Yemen?  Where you have a nuclear agreement that looks like it's about to be signed between Iran and the major powers?  Is this going to effect your interests?  And how do you keep from making more enemies?  Thank you.

President Massoud Barzani: Of course we have a [. . . focus?] which is different from all the issues that you refer to.  But we can't say that it's irrelevant to us.  But, of course, the top priority for us is how could we  achieve a better future for our people?  So we do hope that the current circumstances in the region -- be that the atomic or the nuclear file or the situation in Yemen -- would end through a proper solution and understanding.   But certainly our policy is very clear: That we, as Kurds, will try to avoid being part of any of the disputes which are there in the region.  We have our own agenda which stems from the interests of our people and we do not implement other people's agendas.

Another exchange focused on independence for the semi-autonomous Kurdistan.

Said Arikat: Are we likely to see the rise of an independent Kurdistan over the next year?  And, if not, why not?  Thank you.

President Massoud Barzani: I cannot say -- I cannot confirm whether it will be next year or when but certainly the independent Kurdistan is coming.

An Al Jazeera correspondent demanded a follow up.

Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir:  Her question is do you think that you're closer to that goal -- do you think that you're closer to that objective, the Kurdish dream of independence has become closer as a result of the meeting that you had yesterday with President Obama and Vice President Biden and also today with Vice President Biden?

President Massoud Barzani: Of course it's a process, it's a continued process, it will not stop, it will not step back.  But I do not want to go into details of that.  The main point that I want to stress upon is that this is a continued process but certainly we want that to be not through violence, not through killing but we want it to be through peace, through understanding and dialogue.  And of course we have also realized and noticed that both President Obama and Vice President Biden, they are concerned and they also want Peshmergas to recieve the right weapons and the right ammunition.  The important point here is the Peshmergas get these weapons.  How they will come and in which way that's not as important as  the fact that the Peshmergas need the weapons to be there.

I'd like to cover more on that event but there's also a hearing I need to try to squeeze in to tomorrow's snapshot as well.

Turning to violence . . .

بغداد: مقتل الاعلامي ومقدم برنامج -مال واستثمار- بقناة الرشيد رعد الجبوري في شقته بمنطقة القادسية.
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That's Raad al-Jubouri, the adult in the photo.  He was a journalist.  Was because he's been killed.

Prensa Latina notes his corpse was discovered in his home, apparent gun shot wounds and an unidentified woman was also discovered shot to death.

That wasn't the only violence in Iraq today, Margaret Griffis ( counts 132 violent deaths.


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