Thursday, August 31, 2017

Props to AP

I need to give some credit.

Not a big fan of AP -- the Associated Press.  Not a big enemy of it either.

But this article needs to be praised.

Hayder al-Abadi is the prime minister of Iraq (he replaced Nouri al-Maliki -- when Barack finally lost faith in Nouri around the middle of 2014).

Tal Afar is occupied by the Islamic State.

Today, he declared it was fully liberated.

Thing is, if you read C.I.'s Iraq snapshots, you know this.  Liberation was declared on Sunday.

And on Monday.

And on Tuesday.

And on Wednesday by the US Defense Dept spokesperson.

And now, on Thursday, Hayder's again declaring it's just been liberated.

AP, in their article on the liberation, notes this:

Iraqi officials often declare areas liberated before the fighting has completely ended, and the militants have been known to carry out surprise counterattacks. IS still controls the northern town of Hawija as well as the towns of Qaim, Rawa and Ana in western Iraq near Syria.

So good for AP. 

That's context.

Too often, it gets left out.

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

: PM Abadi declares victory over ISIS in

Perhaps it would have meant more if the US spokesperson Ryan Dillon hadn't grabbed the pom-poms yesterday and rushed over to FRANCE 24 to declare victory?

THE NEW ARAB offers this on the battle:

It would also appear that IS fighters did not number anywhere close to the 2,000 militants claimed by Baghdad. According to after-action reports and statements issued by counter-terrorism units, the Iraqi military had slain some 225 IS militants, while the Joint Operations Command revised that figure upwards to 302. It is therefore becoming increasingly clear that IS did not fight with anywhere near the ferocity that they summoned for the Mosul battle, and had likely already conducted an operational withdrawal, ceding ground to the Iraqi military.

This is likely due to IS having focused much of its military might in the fight for Mosul, and IS may well be conserving its manpower in order to conduct more conventional insurgent attacks – car bombs, suicide attacks etc - that are cheaper to conduct, and cost less in terms of human resources too.

40,000 Iraqi fighters, plus foreign fighters, plus war planes dropping bombs and to defeat the 700 or so it took only eight days.




40,000-plus to route out less than a thousand.

I guess some -- possibly the slower-witted ones -- might see that as something to be proud of.

And what does victory look like?

Although the military operation in was brief, it displaced 1000s more 🇮🇶 / IOM provides health, NFI & psychosocial support.

The Norwegian Refugee Council sketches out the sad details:

More than 3 million people are currently displaced by conflict across Iraq – a third coming from Tal Afar or Mosul during the last nine months. While many have returned to east Mosul, many of those from the west say that they have nothing to go back to. Although the military operation in Tal Afar was brief, it displaced over 40,000 people since April.
As the current conflict in Iraq diminishes, it is predicted that as many as 1.5 million people in Iraq will return to their homes over the next six months. However, any person’s return must be safe, voluntary and dignified. This can only happen with comprehensive plan from the government of Iraq.
“We can’t go back unless the government allows us to - a lot of homes are booby trapped and there are IED (improvised explosive devices) and mines everywhere,” said Mehmoud Mustafa, who fled Tal Afar with four other members of his family. “One of our family members was arrested … and we have no idea where he is now, so we want to wait for the family to be together again.”
“There are almost no services where we come from, and no food and water and things that we need to get by,” said Sami Salih, from Tal Afar. “We also need to be allowed to return to our homes by the government and military forces. So we will go back when I have enough money and something to go back to. Now we have nothing left of our properties.”
One third of Iraq’s population, 11 million people, need humanitarian assistance. Yet, only 43 per cent of the US$ 985 million total funding target has been provided this year.

“It will take a long time and a lot of resources to rebuild the cities, towns and villages that have been damaged and destroyed by this conflict. People cannot even begin this process unless they are safe. Once they are, people must be free to move when and where they choose so they can start the journey of rebuilding,” said Diedrich.

This is in a country already torn apart by years of war, a country of widows and orphans.

90% of Iraqi children have lost a relative, orphans exposed to rape & abuse – charities to RT

There are approximately 11,000 US troops in Afghanistan Tom O'Connor (NEWSWEEK) reports noting:

While the Pentagon did offer a troop count in Afghanistan on Wednesday, it declined to release the same figures for Iraq and Syria, where more than 7,900 U.S. troops may be battling ISIS alongside local partners, according to a report published last week by The Military Times. The Pentagon reports only 5,765.
In Iraq, the U.S. supports the Iraqi military and Kurdish allies mostly through airstrikes but also with special operations forces. The Pentagon maintains that 5,262 U.S. soldiers are in Iraq, but defense officials have reportedly said that number is as high as 7,000. Second only to Afghanistan, the U.S.’s lengthy military presence in Iraq since 2003 has irked officials in Baghdad and served as a point of support for neighboring Iran, which funds powerful majority-Shiite Iraqi militias opposed to both ISIS and the U.S.

Today's August 31st, the end of the month.  September is supposed to bring a referendum on independence in Iraq -- for the KRG and Kirkuk.  That referendum is scheduled to be held September 25th.

RUDAW notes some of the opposition to it:

Shiite and Sunni political leaders have expressed their opposition to Kirkuk Provincial Council’s decision to participate in the Kurdistan independence referendum.

Nouri al-Maliki, Iraqi vice president and influential Shiite leader, said the inclusion of Kirkuk in the upcoming referendum will pave the way for increased crisis and perhaps fighting between various groups in the region.

The former Iraqi PM who still wields immense power in Iraq described the decision by the Kirkuk Provincial Council to participate in the independence referendum as a means to “undermine hopes" of finding a solution to end the crisis in the region.

The Kirkuk Provincial Council voted on Tuesday – upon a call from the Kurdish-led Brotherhood faction – to take part in the vote. 

At POLITICO, Juleanna Glover offers her take:

On September 25, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq will hold a referendum to become an independent country. Iraqi Kurdistan is an island of democracy and tolerance in the Middle East. It is also a steadfast military ally of the U.S.; its Peshmerga forces have supported U.S. efforts in Iraq as far back as 1990 and have recently led the campaign against the Islamic State. (The KRG’s population has swelled by a third since 2014 as the government welcomed refugees fleeing ISIS’s brutalities.) Iraqi Kurds want their own free country, but the U.S. government is unenthusiastic about the bid for independence.

Why? The State Department admitted in June, “We understand and appreciate the legitimate aspirations of the people of Iraqi Kurdistan.” But that affirmation of Kurdish ambitions was prefaced with a worn-out phrase: “support [for] a unified, stable, democratic, and a federal Iraq.” In other words, the Trump administration is maintaining the longtime U.S. position that the fate of the Kurds needs to be worked out with Baghdad. It’s understandable on some levels that the U.S. views Kurdish independence as an internal Iraqi matter—especially since neighboring Turkey, a U.S. ally (albeit an inconstant one), clashes with its own Kurd population and would do almost anything to prevent an independent Kurdish state from forming on its southern border. But the simple fact is that the administration’s current policy is based on fantasy: The “unified, stable, democratic, and a federal Iraq” at the core of its position towards the KRG does not exist, and will not exist in the near future. It a pipe dream lost to the reality of Iranian dominance.

[. . .] 
If the U.S. doesn’t change its position to support an independent sovereign KRG, the Kurds will proceed ahead no matter what, and the U.S. could lose its close working relationship with one of its best allies ever. We would appear ungrateful and disloyal. And there is no upside for the KRG to wait. The region is not likely to be suddenly becalmed and booming with economic growth. The KRG is motivated to look after itself. The Iranians are unlikely to slow their inexorable and creeping takeover of the Iraqi economy and political systems. That’s not to say it is “now or never” for KRG independence, but the threat of implicit Iraqi oversight of KRG internal and financial matters, combined with decades long aspirations and possession of one of the most seasoned and effective fighting forces in the region align in the direction of an exit.

The Turkish government, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, opposes the referendum and Kurdish independence.

Of course, Recep has many other things to worry about.  For example, Josh Delk (THE HILL) reported earlier this week:

A grand jury has indicted 19 defendants, including 15 Turkish security officials, over charges stemming from a violent attack on protesters outside the Turkish embassy in Washington, D.C., in May.
The indictments before the Superior Court for the District of Columbia were made public on Tuesday by the Justice Department.

Poor Recep, if his security guards continue to attack peaceful protesters, will countries have to start blocking his visits?

The following community sites -- plus GORILLA RADIO, PACIFICA RADIO and BLACK AGENDA REPORT -- updated:

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    iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq Iraq

    Tuesday, August 29, 2017

    They won't apologize

    From Medium:

    The report is unequivocal. Not only could Russian hackers not have obtained the DNC emails in the way they are alleged to have obtained them, but metadata was in fact manipulated to implicate Russia in the leak. Since publication of the viral Nation article, even more evidence has come to light showing that a hack is far more improbable even than originally suspected. This means that there is currently more publicly-available evidence indicating that Russia did not hack the DNC than there is that it did.
    These earth-shattering revelations have gone all but ignored by the mainstream media, which had until the report surfaced been pummelling the American psyche with relentless fearmongering about the Great Russian Menace. The unquestioned narrative that Russia attacked American democracy in what many establishment politicians have horrifyingly labeled an “act of war” quickly transformed into ridiculous unsubstantiated claims about the Kremlin having taken over the highest levels of the US government and McCarthyite witch hunts against anyone who questioned these baseless assertions. This fact-free hysteria was used to manufacture support for new cold war escalations which remain in place to this day, threatening the existence of all life on earth.
    Far from addressing the massive, gaping plot holes that have suddenly emerged in its frenzied narrative, the mass media has all but ghosted from the scene. Russia gets an occasional mention now and again, but the fever-pitch shrieking panic has unquestionably been dialed down by several orders of magnitude.

    They lied.

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

    Tuesday, August 29, 2017.

    USA TODAY trumpets the end of the Tal Afar operation:

    Defeat of ISIS in northern Iraq town marks milestone in campaign to eliminate groupIslamic State militants driven from one of last terror strongholds in northern Iraq

    The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs issued the following:

    Situation overview:
    The military operation to retake Telafar city and district from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) began on 20 August, and unfolded more rapidly than initially anticipated. On Saturday 26 August, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) entered Telafar city and raised the Iraqi flag in the city centre. ISF took full control of the city and the eastern parts of the district. Current media reports indicate ISF is in the final stages of the military operation in northern Telafar district. It is anticipated the entire district will be under ISF control within the coming days.
    At the onset of the operation, an estimated 10,000 to 40,0001 people remained inside Telafar. However, midway through the week-long operation, reports indicated that at most only a few thousand remained in the entire district. Without access to the area, verification was impossible and it is now thought that most residents left by the end of June. The current number of civilians who remain in Telafar city is believed to be low.
    According to figures released by authorities, 22,000 people left the area from the end of April to 13 August. Partners on the ground reported an additional 20,204 people fled via two mustering points of Buweyr and Musaid between 14 and 22 August.
    Since April the number of documented IDPs who left Telafar thus stands at approximately 42,000. It is widely understood that thousands more may have fled since April; their numbers undocumented.
    After the city centre was retaken on Saturday 26 August, there were reports that a further 1,500 people were displaced. Among these, about 1,000 attempted to cross to safety at the Bshar check point. Whilst waiting for access, nearby mortar fire started from ISIL-held areas and they turned back. The next day, all 1,500 reached ISF controlled Ayadiya sub-district and were transported to Hammam Al Alil. On 28 August 1,500 IDPs were permitted to cross at Bshar check point, where they received food, WASH and medical assistance. Health partners reported 90 people received medical assistance. The most serious cases were transferred to a nearby hospital. The Joint Crisis and Coordination Centre (JCC) transferred 1,040 to Hammam Al Alil that day. An additional 460 IDPs await transfer to Hammam Al Alil.
    Camp Capacity:
    On Saturday, 360 families were transferred from the screening site of Hammam Al Alil to the new 3,600 plot capacity camp in Al Salamiyah Nimrod. A further 347 families transferred on Sunday. UNHCR reported an additional 1,500 families (approximately 9,000 people) sheltering at the transit point of Hammam Al Alil will move to Al Salamyiah Nimrod camp.
    Protection partners are an integral part of the camp registration process for IDPs, and work to identify and refer the most vulnerable cases to specialized services in a timely manner. Although unconfirmed, initial reports suggest the government intends to accelerate the return of civilians to Telafar where possible.

    If the point is to reduce historic cities and towns to rubble and send Iraqis off to displacement camps (and tents for the harsh winter), call Hayder al-Abadi's 'liberation' operations a success.

    Meanwhile, the US government looks for something -- anything -- to applaud.

    They find this.

    at Camp . This training is critical to enabling local security forces to liberate their homeland from .

    Locked & loaded! An aims down the sights of his weapon during a combined training activity in .

    More training.

    Yes, the Iraqi forces have been trained and re-trained over and over.  The only exception a brief period in 2012 when they didn't want help from the US State Dept -- at which point, later that year, a DoD Memorandum of Understanding was signed to allow DoD to take over training again.

    Dropping back to the April 30, 2013 Iraq snapshot:

    December 6, 2012, the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department Defense of the United States of America was signed.  We covered it in the December 10th and December 11th snapshots -- lots of luck finding coverage elsewhere including in media outlets -- apparently there was some unstated agreement that everyone would look the other way.  It was similar to the silence that greeted Tim Arango's September 25th New York Times report which noted, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions.  At the request of the Iraqi government, according to [US] General [Robert L.] Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."

    The training never ends.

    Why is that?

    Or after over a decade of training, is that question still too touchy to be asked?

    Maybe Iraq can't keep fighters because they don't have a real government?

    Maybe the US can't impose a government and its own hand picked leaders upon another country and expect the citizens of that country to fight for the US-installed government.

    Maybe hostilities between the various sects isn't the real problem -- maybe it's that Iraqis aren't buying in on a government created by the US, a government that still doesn't represent them or their interests?

    Puppet governments rarely inspire a strong following.

    Fourteen years and the puppet government still hasn't taken.

    That must scare a number of people in the US government.

    It would appear the Iraqi people plan to wait this out.

    And, historically, when that happens, the native people win.

    Fourteen years, countless lives, trillions of dollars and the puppet government can still not command respect or loyalty.

    The puppet government's been about as convincing as the Turkish government.  Turkey's maintained that they just want to help -- even when told to get their military out of Iraq.  'No, no, we'll stay and help!'  That help has translated as over a decade of bombings -- mainly farms and villages.

    They insist they're bombing 'terrorists.'

    But hasn't the Turkish government's reaction to the KRG holding a referendum on independence (planned  for next month) made clear that they pretty much see all Kurds as terrorists?

    In related news, Amerin Zaman (AL-MONITOR) reports:

    A Kurdish militant group claimed today that it has captured Turkish 
    intelligence officers. 
    Diyar Xerib, a Kurdish leader linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), 
    said the PKK had “arrested” two Turkish nationals working for Turkey’s national spy 
    agency MIT, but had refrained from publicizing the incident so as not to create 
    problems for the local government.
    “No doubt the PKK can publish news about the arrests of the MIT officials 
    who wanted to make the area a place to carry out their dirty operations, the 
    biggest of which was to assassinate a prominent PKK official,” Xerib told 
    the pro-PKK Roj news outlet.
    News that the PKK had captured Turkish intelligence officials first surfaced 
    last week. Accounts vary but according to several Iraqi Kurdish news 
    organizations, the Turkish spies had traveled to Sulaimaniyah, the de facto 
    administrative capital of the eponymous province in the eastern part of Iraqi 


    The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley and THE PACIFICA EVENING NEWS -- updated:


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