Saturday, August 2, 2014

Silent but deadly

Paul Compton and Hind Mustafa (Al Arabiya) report:



According to sources, Nouri al-Maliki has dynastic ambitions – giving his son almost unbridled (yet silent) rein in order to “prepare” him to carry on the family’s elevated line.
As well as spending time in Iraq, Ahmed frequently visits Germany and Russia, sources added.
One source willing to go on the record is Majeed Rasheed al-Nuaimi, a Mosul-based political analyst and a former member of the provincial council of Nineveh.
Nuaimi confirmed that Ahmad al-Maliki is the assistant secretary of the premier’s office. “Yes, he works in Nouri al-Maliki’s office…The people closest to him, such as his children, take hold of the important and sensitive positions,” he told Al Arabiya News.

The prime minister allows “Hamoudi” to continue his commercial activities in order to finance his continued stint in power, the high-level source said.


Thug Nouri is raising little thugs to carry on his thugocracy.

A third term for Nouri really does mean the end of Iraq.


It's not just the damage he does directly -- like bombing civilian neighborhoods in Falluja -- bombing them daily since January.

It's also the damage he does via the layers and layers of corruption he's normalizing.

Iraq's young population deserved to see a representative government, not to be taught that abuse and corruption are normal.


This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"


Friday, August 1, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Ahmed Chalabi becomes the focus of rumors, Iraqi Christians continue to be persecuted, and much more.


Iraqi Christians continue to be targeted.  Bishop Suriel, the Bishop of Melbourne - Coptic Orthodox Church, Tweeted:

Mosul, the cradle of Christianity in Iraq since the first centuries, is now purged of its entire Christian population. The ruthless and purposeful savagery of the attacks by the fundamentalist Muslim terrorist organization The Islamic State (IS) formerly known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), is truly inconceivable. Yet, most world leaders remain silent in the face of the murder of innocent children and horrific beheadings of civilians. We question why the media has not highlighted the unprecedented systematic eradication of the city’s entire Christian population. We also question why the Australian government have yet to comment and condemn this gross deprivation of human rights.


There is only silence.


Silence, that sends a resounding message of indifference to the murders of innocent lives at the hands of extremist Muslim groups. Silence, which attributes lesser value to the lives of Christians in the Middle East. Silence, that surrenders to the power of radicalism and the inhumane brutality of groups such as IS.

The silence has included the White House which waited until yesterday to have an official meet with representatives of Iraqi Christians.

We've been noting the White House needed to get active for some time.

Now it's becoming an issue with US House Rep Trent Franks releasing the following statement.




For those who are not helped by streaming video, here's the transcript of what's being said.

US House Rep Trent Franks:  Mr. President, last month, 55 colleagues of mine and myself sent you and Secretary Kerry a letter asking that you actively prioritize security and humanitarian support for the Christian community in Iraq.  We specifically warned you of the dangers and brutality of the terrorist group ISIS who are now rampaging across Iraq and terrorizing the vulnerable Christian population.  In the letter, we specifically pointed out that "parts of Syria and Iraq that have previously fallen under the rule of ISIS have witnessed summary executions, beheadings and even crucifixions."  And that "absent immediate action, we will most certainly witness an annihilation of a faith community from the lands they've inhabited for centuries."  Tragically, Mr. President, you simply ignored us again -- as you've done so many times before.  And now ISIS, the group you once likened to a junior varsity basketball team, is beheading its way across Iraq and has declared that there will be "nothing for the Christians but the sword" if they do not convert.  Mr. President, last week, ISIS torched an 1800-year-old church in Mosul and deliberately and insidiously destroyed the historic tomb of Jonah.  Last Sunday, for the first time in 1600 years, there was no mass in Mosul.  The head of Iraq's Christian community said, "For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians."  And now images of ISIS' beheadings, crucifixions, rape, torture and mass execution are all over the internet and social media.  Just yesterday, I met with a group of NGOs based in Iraq who told me that ISIS recently beheaded 6 Christians and then proceeded to play soccer with their decapitated heads.  Mr. President, ISIS's targeting of Christians has been systematic and horrifying and Iraq's Christians in the area are now nearly extinct.  It can rightly be called "targeted religious cleansing."  And, sir, it is a crime against humanity.  And yet, Mr. President, we have not heard a single word from you -- even as a literal Christian genocide is taking place at this very moment, you have not uttered even one syllable about what your administration is doing or planning to do to relieve or protect these persecuted Christians in Iraq.  So now speaking with you and pleading with you directly, sir, I once again repeat the words we wrote in our letter to you a month ago: "We urge you and your administration to urgently and actively engage with the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to prioritize additional security support for these particularly vulnerable populations and provide emergency humanitarian assistance to those effected communities.  Absent immediate action, we will most certainly witness the annihilation of ancient faith community from the lands they've inhabited for centuries.  Mr. President, if you continue to ignore this Christian genocide in Iraq, history will record that it was you who idly stood on the sidelines and knowingly let it happen.


We have repeatedly noted the perception issue.

Maybe we should have spelled it out for the hard headed ones in denial?

Barack can't lose religious support in the US and have any chance of accomplishing anything in his second term.

He's had a religious problem throughout his national career.

He claimed Jeremiah Wright as an inspiration.  Then when Wright's sermons got a little bit of examination, Barack began to walk away and he (and Michelle) flat out attacked Wright on national television in response to Wright's remarks that Barack was just a typical politician.

Prior to Wright, Barack appears to have had no real encounters with a church.

Certainly, after becoming President, he failed to attend a church regularly.

Some of Barack's supporters state and write publicly that Barack doesn't really believe in God.

If that's true, there's nothing wrong with that.  Unless, of course, you go around insisting you do believe and you are a Christian.

Barack already has one religious problem -- what's going on in Gaza and how to respond without antagonizing certain elements of the US electorate.  He has another emerging religious problem that no one wants to talk about or acknowledge.

Barack is the deporter in chief.  That is registering in Catholic communities -- both due to the fact that a large number of Latinos and Latinas deported are Catholic and also because the Catholic faith has always had a strong activist wing. Barack is taking a hit there.

And now he's unable to decry the persecution of Christians.

He has stated he is a Christian, he has stated he was baptized and much more.

His failure to provide leadership on this issue hurts him.

Christians who care deeply about this issue, for example,  are left to wonder if Barack lied about his own faith?  Or if he just doesn't care about what happens to Iraqi Christians?

That's the thing about silence -- if you create it or foster it, others will rush in to fill the silence with something, anything.

And not everyone's been silent in the US.  Members of Congress have spoken out.  In fact, Tuesday, US House Rep Anna Eshoo's office issued the following.



WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) released the following statement after the House and Senate passed her bipartisan legislation to create a special envoy at the State Department to focus on the plight of religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia. Co-sponsored by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), the bill now awaits the President’s signature.

“Today the world is bearing witness to the persecution and eradication of religious minorities in some of the most imperiled regions on earth,” said Eshoo. “Christians in the Middle East and South Central Asia are being tortured, killed and live in fear simply because of their religion. The stories are countless, and the response has been meager.”

“With enactment of this legislation, America is appropriately stepping up its response and will be more capable in providing aid to religious minorities. A special envoy at the State Department will focus on the freedom and survival of religious minorities. Time is running out and this critical problem deserves to be treated as a high priority,” Eshoo concluded.




While some emphasize the silence, others play the numbers in their own coverage.  Gwynee Dyer (London Free Press) explains, "There were still about 60,000 Christians in Mosul when the United States and its sidekicks invaded Iraq 11 years ago. By last year, it was down to 30,000. Only two months after the arrival of the ISIS extremists, there are none. Most have fled to Kurdistan with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. They are not going back, and if they can they will leave the Middle East entirely."  All Christians have not left Mosul.

We've noted that a number have had no choice but to remain and are in hiding.

I've also a missed a point of the hiding in plain sight.  My apologies for that.  Voice of the Martyrs explains, "There is another group of Christians in northern Iraq too: those that were born into Muslim families but have consciously made the choice to reject Islam and follow Jesus. It is important to understand that these believers do NOT have a choice to pay a tax and save their lives. These converts are, in the eyes of IS, apostates. If IS fighters learned of their faith, they would give these believers two choices: return to Islam or be killed."



Yael Rein (San Diego Jewish World) notes, "The United Nations Security Council condemned the persecution of minorities in Iraq."

Peter Jesserer-Smith (National Catholic Register) explains:


For the past two months, the Register has brought you the stories of the Iraqi Christians’ desperate condition at the hands of the militants of the Islamic State. They are a sea of refugees robbed of everything, begging the world to let them survive. They haven’t just lost their property and homes — they have been robbed of their identity, their culture, and their history.  

He goes on to note the August 6th Global Day of Prayer for Peace in Iraq and that's a good time for us to note Aid to the Church in Need's announcement on the Global Day of Prayer for Peace:



Aug. 6, 2014--Feast of the Transfiguration
“Please stop, I ask you with all my heart, it’s time to stop. Stop, please.” Inspired by these words of Pope Francis (June 27, 2014), the international pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need, united with His Beatitude Louis Rafael Sako, the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Iraq, appeals to all persons of good will to join in a Global Day of Prayer for Peace to be held on August 6, 2014—the Feast of the Transfiguration.Chaldean Cross

The feast of Transfiguration marks the moment when Jesus, on Mount Tabor, appears to three of his disciples in a state of glory, shortly before His ultimate trial on Calvary. This feast holds out a sign of hope for humanity: it is a source of courage when obstacles appear impossible to surmount; a sign that light is stronger than darkness; and testimony that death can turn into life.

Meant to be observed in churches and homes across the country, this Global Day of Prayer in the midst of so much suffering in Iraq—particularly for the ancient Christian community of Mosul—tells the world at large that US Christians have not forgotten and abandoned their suffering brothers and sisters.


Patriarch Sako has personally composed the Prayer for Peace:

Lord,
The plight of our country
is deep and the suffering of Christians
is severe and frightening.
Therefore, we ask you Lord
to spare our lives, and to grant us patience,
and courage to continue our witness of Christian values
with trust and hope.
Lord, peace is the foundation of life;
Grant us the peace and stability that will enable us
to live with each other without fear and anxiety,
and with dignity and joy.

Glory be to you forever.

The Patriarch also said: “Let us unite our voices and hearts before the Lord of peace. May the light of Tabor fill the hearts of all suffering people with consolation and hope. May the message of Tabor, through our prayers, inspire the leaders of Iraq to sacrifice personal interests for the common good and welfare.”

Please click here and join ACN's candle vigil for Iraq.
Meanwhile, Professor Margaret Blunden takes issue with the Financial Times of London's editorial "Christians at the mercy of jihadis" feeling that  they have slighted the Kurdish Regional Government -- "a refuge for some 10,000 Iraqi Christian families escaping violence."  On that topic, All Iraq News notes KRG President Massoud Barzani declared today that the Kurdistan Region was the host to over 1.2 million refugees. 
And, no, that's not the biggest rumor.  Friday's biggest rumor was that Ahmed Chalabi would be Iraq's next prime minister.  True or false, it's all over Arabic social media.  What is known is that Nouri's being called out by.  Raheem Salmam (Reuters) reports


Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his security officials are to blame for the rise of Sunni Muslim insurgents who have seized parts of Iraq, the country's foreign minister said.
The comments by Hoshiyar Zebari, a Kurd, are likely to worsen relations between Maliki's Shi'ite Muslim-led government and the Kurds, complicating efforts to form a power-sharing government capable of countering Islamic State militants.
Baghdad, 1 August 2014 – According to casualty figures released today by UNAMI, a total of at least 1,737 Iraqis were killed and another 1,978 were injured in acts of terrorism and violence in July*.
The number of civilians killed was 1,186 (including 106 civilian police), while the number of civilians injured was 1,511 (including 177 civilian police).  A further 551 members of the Iraqi Security Forces, including Peshmerga and SWAT, were killed and 467 were injured (not including casualties from Anbar operation).
"I am concerned about the rising number of casualties in Iraq, particularly among the civilian population.  Children and women are most vulnerable.  All sides should ensure that civilians are protected and that international humanitarian law is respected”, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq, Mr. Nickolay Mladenov said.
“Despite the continuing fighting, politicians have shown that they can work together in choosing the new President and the new Speaker of the Council of Representative.  It is time that they move forward on the creation of a new government that can address the root causes of violence in Iraq and ensure equitable development for all communities”, Mr. Mladenov added.
Anbar excluded, Baghdad was the worst affected Governorate with 1,035 civilian casualties (415 killed, 620 injured), followed by Salahadin (305 killed, 289 injured), Ninewa (209 killed, 270 injured), Kirkuk (68 killed, 127 injured), Babil (77 killed, 72 injured) and Diyala (71 killed, 66 injured).
*CAVEATS: Data do not take into account casualties of the current IA operation in Anbar, for which we report at the bottom the figures received by our sources.
Incidents
UNAMI recorded a minimum 400 security incidents in different parts of Iraq.  Among these incidents, are included 62 incidents by air attack caused a minimum of 823 casualties killed and injured.  30 incidents caused by vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED) and suicide vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (SVBIED), which caused a minimum of 535 casualties killed and injured.  78 incidents using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) caused a minimum of 322 civilian casualties killed and injured.  67 incidents with small arms fire (SAF) caused a minimum of 141 casualties killed and injured.
Operations in Anbar
Due to official holidays of Eid-ul-Fitr, UNAMI was not able to obtain casualty figures from Ramadi and other areas of Anbar.  UNAMI was only able to obtain the figures for Fallujah from the General Hospital of Fallujah; the total civilian casualties in Fallujah up to 30 July inclusive were 132 killed and 421 injured.  UNAMI will publish the figures for Ramadi as soon as they are available. 
Kurdish Region stands out for the relative calm it offers to Assyrian, Arab and Kurdish Christians.
It's an undercount.  Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) notes, "Antiwar.com has determined that at least 5,698 people were killed and 2,018 more were wounded during the month of July."
It would be great if UNAMI would track the number of civilians killed by Nouri each month but they can't even include Anbar Province in their count.
Nouri's War Crimes continue.  NINA notes a man and a woman were killed by Nouri's bombing of residential neighborhoods in Falluja -- fourteen more people ("including four children") were left injured.  He's been bombing homes in Falluja since the start of the year.  Now he's begun expanding his targets.  NINA notes a Mosul aerial bombing left 4 women and 1 child dead and seven people were left injured in Kirkuk from Nouri's targeting civilians.


NINA notes a Kirkuk roadside bombing left one police member injured, 2 more Kirkuk bombs left three people injured, the Operations Command of the Island and the Desert declared that they killed 53 suspects in Haditha, . . .  Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 266 dead today with another and 18 injured.




















Thursday, July 31, 2014

Gaza, Iraqi Christians and more

A lot of e-mails asked questions.

Biggest one?

Hey, we're on vacation.  We're at C.I.'s or Ava's and relaxing.  It was supposed to be a two week vacation but we've turned it into a three week one.

We're still posting, just not in depth.

Second topic: Gaza?

Yeah, I want to walk away too.

I'm so sick of the people in America and their hatred for Jews.

I think the Jewish government is out of control and should face legal consequences.

And I have nothing against the Palestinians (or against the people of Israel).  Love for both groups.

But the Palestinians' American supporters -- some of their supporters --  are really off putting.

There's a lot of hatred behind a lot of the 'left' commentary.

I'm also tired of this never ending issue always sucking all the oxygen out of the room because beggar media can't cover more than one story a day.

Third topic: Iraqi Christians.

My attitude has been that C.I.'s done a wonderful job covering the issue.

So I've kept my thoughts to myself.

That was a mistake.  DeShawn's e-mail especially stood out.  He wrote that, since I'm a Christian, how can I be silent about Christians being targeted in Iraq.

I was silent because C.I. said it all.

That doesn't mean I should have been silent.

It's outrageous that Christians are (again) being persecuted in Iraq and it is disgusting that the White House will not do something about this.

Were I in Iraq right now, I'd be targeted because I am a Christian.

Surely, I will always stand with others who are targeted for their religious beliefs (of all religions including no religion).


This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"


Wednesday, July 30, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's War Crimes continue, the plight of Iraqi Christians receive some attention, is Nouri being 'eased' out, what is John Kerry's role in the demise of Iraq, and much more.


Ryan Zuke (MLive Media Group) reports that a crowd of over 100 people protested today at Warren City Hall in Warren, Michigan to express their outrage over "the persecution of Iraqi Christians" and that Mayor Jim Fouts and Iraqi Christian leaders noted the lack of movement on the issue from the White House.  The Warren City Mayor declared, "I don't know how the U.S., more specifically, Barack Obama, can overlook this absolute destruction of human rights, knowing full-well what's going on on the ground there.  I don't want this situation to continue in Iraq."

As we noted in Monday's snapshot, "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'."


Charlotte Hayes (National Catholic Register) reports:


While he deeply appreciates the Holy Father’s strong support for Iraqi Christians, Father Michael Bazzi, a priest at St. Peter Chaldean Church in San Diego, told the Register that members of his church often feel other leaders in the West have abandoned them. His parish is particularly affected by the recent events in Iraq because almost all members still have family there.
“Every day there is a sword in our hearts,” said Father Bazzi.
“Every day we get word of a monastery being burned down,” the Iraq-born priest said. The Christians who are living under Kurdish protection are having a hard time, he said. “They are suffering so much because they have no water, and they have to dig wells, and that takes time,” he said.
Father Bazzi added that one family heard about relatives who had dug a well with great difficulty only to find that the water was salty and undrinkable. But he said that Iraqi Christians do not convert because they have a strong Christian faith and because they “know what Islam is, and they have seen Muslims abuse their wives.”
“I will never say Christianity in Iraq is over, because there have been so many persecutions before, but this is the worst,” Father Bazzi said. “We don’t give up, and we have hope in God. Every day we pray and cry because everybody has somebody who is still there. We are very sad. We have processions, some inside the church and some outside. Procession is a form of prayer. We have processions [to draw attention to the dire situation]. You can see the tears in our eyes, but nobody listens. Where is Obama?”

Where is Obama?

Virginia Republican Rep. Frank Wolf has taken to the House floor three times in the past week to plead for action from the U.S. and world community.
Wolf told me, “The Kurds have done a good job, but they are bearing the burden. President Obama should thank and encourage the Kurds for protecting the Christians. He also needs to provide (humanitarian aid), including funds for water and food.”

As we noted this morning, "The administration's doing very little and it's starting to be noticed."  Which is why people protested outside the White House over the weekend.  July vanishes this week and August emerges.  At the start of November, mid-term elections will be held in the United States.

The US government -- White House -- is seen as more distant and estranged from the government of Israel and the people of Israel than it's ever been.

While some wild-eyed lunatics on my side (the left) see that as a good thing, most Americans do not.  If you doubt it, check out the results of the latest ABC - Washington Post poll which finds "There’s a similar, 19-point gap in strong sentiment on Obama’s handling of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians -- 14 percent approve strongly, while 33 percent strongly disapprove."

Into the mid-terms that's the road the administration takes?

Well, of course, they do.  It's not like Barack's up for re-election.

But he'd be on firmer ground in taking action -- of whatever sort -- against the Israeli government if he'd insulated himself to criticism by making a strong speech decrying the targeting of Christians.

A number of girls get kidnapped in a country and we're told this reminds the White House of their own children?  But Christians are told if they remain in Mosul they either convert, pay a tax or get killed and the White House -- Barack specifically -- has nothing to say?

The White House is and has been politically stupid.  That's why Barack near instantly became a lame duck with the 2012 election.

And now the administration risks turning the mid-terms into some form of Holy War.

Again, whatever Barack's doing or thinks he'd doing with Israel is something he could probably get away with if he'd been decrying the targeting of Christians.  His silence feeds into every negative image, narrative and myth that has ever followed him.

And it doesn't help that he's arm-in-arm with Nouri al-Maliki and has been for years.

As Jon Carroll (San Francisco Chronicle) explains of Iraq:

The current government there, the fruit of all our nation building, is corrupt and violent. It persecutes Sunnis; it excludes them from meaningful positions in the government; it demonizes them. The police are often little more than thugs.
Is that the government the United States wants to preserve? We are supporting it diplomatically; we're invested in it, no matter how dreadful it is. 

That is the message being sent.

Right now, Iraqi Christians are being targeted by some Sunnis.  That's just right now.  Most of the displaced Sunnis are Christians.  But you'd have to actually pay attention to the waves of waves of Iraqi refugees to grasp that.

But Shi'ites have targeted Iraqi Christians over and over and, in fact, throughout the most recent wave of attacks.    And that's not just my opinion.  Monday, the US State Dept issued their "International Religious Freedom Report for 2013."  Here's some of what can be found in the Iraq section:


Since politics and religion are often inextricably linked, it is difficult to categorize many incidents specifically as religious intolerance. Grievances over perceived sectarian differences in treatment by security forces were exacerbated after 44 Sunni protesters were killed by security forces when they sought to disband a protest in Hawija in April following months of protests against the government seeking redress for policies they believed were anti-Sunni.
In July government security forces reportedly made mass arrests in predominantly Sunni areas of Abu Ghraib and Taji following a large-scale prison break carried out by AQI terrorists. Government officials denied the arrests targeted Sunni Muslims. Upon release detainees and witnesses reported to NGOs they were not shown arrest warrants and some detainees reported they were tortured while in custody.
In July during Ramadan, armed Shia militants, reportedly with the tacit support of local security forces, raided dozens of businesses in Baghdad, including cafes employing women, restaurants, bars, social clubs, and nightclubs they considered “un-Islamic.” Eyewitnesses reported local police destroyed property and beat staff and patrons; several people were hospitalized for their injuries and at least one individual died. Baghdad municipal officials stated the raids only focused on establishments “engaged in prostitution,” a claim local NGOs dismissed as false. They viewed the attacks as part of a broader assault on secular establishments.
On June 28, the Shia Endowment authorities demolished the house of Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Bahai Faith, in Baghdad. According to local Bahai contacts and the Ministry of Human Rights, the house had been converted into a mosque decades ago and turned over to the Shia Endowment under the Saddam Hussein regime. The mosque had deteriorated and, according to endowment officials, had to be demolished in order to build a new one. The Bahai World Center reported that it had been attempting to regain ownership of the holy site since 2004.


This was going on and the State Dept -- and the White House -- did nothing.

And now people want to get outraged?

And even now, they just want to get outraged about Sunni rebels, Sunni militants and Sunni extremists.  And they lump them all together, as though they're cohesive and universal when they are anything but that.  As Tim Arango (New York Times) points out while writing of the backlash to the attacks:


The rising public anger also resonates with a strategy being pushed by American officials and some moderate Sunnis here: working to win over some of the Sunni insurgent groups that have allied with ISIS.
Those groups — which include former Baathists who were once close to Saddam Hussein’s government and have already, in some places, fought with ISIS — are opposed to what they regard as the authoritarian rule of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government. But they are also seen as unsympathetic to the stated goal of ISIS to establish an Islamic caliphate under hard-line theocratic rule.



As for that special kind of useless outrage.

'Oh, those horrible Sunni people! Taking on Nouri's blessed government!'

Alsumaria reports that Nouri's latest round of bombing residential neighborhoods in Falluja has left 2 people dead and fourteen more injured.

This has gone on for 7 months now, every day.

And that's okay with the press and with the White House.

But let a group of Sunnis -- militants, rebels, extremists -- 'execute' Iraqi soldiers and suddenly it's clutch the pearls and wet the panties, 'Oh, my goodness! Soliders!  Iraqi soldiers were killed!'

The same group is silent as Nouri bombs Falluja's residential neighborhoods.  Those bombings are legally defined War Crimes.

But there is no outrage among the press over this.  No one really gives a damn about the Sunnis.  That is the message, it is received loud and clear.

The Iraqi Christians can suffer and the White House just doesn't give a damn.  The administration doesn't give a damn.


They only make it more clear when they open their mouths.

Here's John Kerry speaking on Monday:


And we have all seen the savagery and incredible brutality of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – the wholesale slaughter of Shia Muslims, the forced conversions of Christians in Mosul, the rape, executions, and use of women and children as human shields. All of these acts of barbarism underscore the stakes. Just the other week, ISIL declared that any remaining Christians in Mosul must convert, pay a tax, or be executed on the spot. 



And that was it for Iraq.  In a speech of over 2800 words, that's all he could come up with for Iraq.

By contrast, here he is -- in the same speech -- babbling on about the Salem witch hunts:


Freedom of religion is at the core of who we are as Americans. It’s been at the center of our very identify since the pilgrims fled religious persecution and landed in my home state of Massachusetts. And many settled in the city of Salem, which takes its name from the words “salam,” “shalom,” meaning peace.
But we’re reminded that before long, even there – even there in Salem, newly founded in order to get away from religious strife, unfortunately religious persecution arrived on the scene. Women were accused of witchcraft, and some were burned at the stake. Emerging differences between religious leaders in Massachusetts and some congregations were led, as a result of that, to break away and to found new settlements. Rhode Island was founded by people who wandered through the woods leaving Massachusetts and wandered for an entire winter until they broke out on this expanse of water, and they named it Providence, for obvious reasons.

One hundred years after the pilgrims set sail for religious freedom, a Catholic woman was executed on the Boston Common for the crime of praying her rosary. So we approach this issue – I certainly do – very mindful of our past and of how as Americans we have at times had to push and work and struggle to live up fully to the promise of our own founding.

Maybe WGN can pull from some of that to promote the second season of Salem?

That could benefit the series.

At least something would benefit from John Kerry's flapping gums.

Iraq certainly didn't.

We all grasp, right, that the State Dept is over the US mission in Iraq?

That John Kerry's supposed to be providing leadership?

Of course, he's not.

He's not and he hasn't.

As the Washington Post's Dana Milbank points out, "A fairer criticism is that he’s been a man on too many missions while serving a president more interested in domestic affairs.  His predecessor, Hillary Clinton, preserved her political prospects by showing a preference for social media over international hotspots. But Kerry has risked his standing repeatedly, personally leading negotiations over Sudan, Ukraine, Iran, Syria and Afghanistan."

Milbank's call is a solid one.

Look at that list, where John's "personally leading negotiations" and notice what country's not on the list:  Iraq.

Since the start of Fiscal Year 2012 (October 1, 2011), the State Dept's been over the US mission to Iraq and has received billions of US taxpayer dollars for Iraq.

What's been the return on the tax dollar?

Will anyone bother to ask that question?

When billions are spent -- when billions are wasted, who will be held accountable?

Sudan, Ukraine, Iran, Syria and Afghanistan.

When does John Kerry pay attention to Iraq?

Apparently never.


And we have all seen the savagery and incredible brutality of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – the wholesale slaughter of Shia Muslims, the forced conversions of Christians in Mosul, the rape, executions, and use of women and children as human shields. All of these acts of barbarism underscore the stakes. Just the other week, ISIL declared that any remaining Christians in Mosul must convert, pay a tax, or be executed on the spot. 


Again, those were John Kerry's words in full on Monday when speaking of Iraq.

When he was introducing the just released report.

Read it over and wonder if John did?

If he did, you'd think he'd have had more to offer in his speech.


After serving two terms as prime minister and currently seeking a third, Nouri seems to believe he has much to offer.  Hayder al-Khoei (Al Jazeera) becomes the latest to offer that it appears Nouri al-Maliki will not get a third term:


To make matters worse for Maliki, even his own Islamic Dawa Party issued a statement that same day echoing Sistani's demand that politicians must not cling on to power. When I asked a senior Dawa official if this statement meant that there was now a formal split within the Dawa Party, he responded by saying Dawa's leadership was united and in agreement with Sistani that the nominee of the Shia bloc in parliament had to be someone other than Maliki.
This latest development is very significant. It is no longer just the Sunni, Kurdish and rival Shia political parties - as well as Ayatollah Sistani - who believe that a third term for Maliki is untenable. Now, even the party that Maliki heads believes it is time for him to go.


National Iraqi News Agency adds, "The leading member of Ahrar parialmentary bloc within the National Allianc former MP Moshriq Naji " confirmed the veracity of the document which signed and submitted by the National Alliance’s leaders to Speaker Salim al-Jubouri that providing The National Alliance is the biggest parliamentary bloc, not the State of Law."









 



al jazeera
hayder al-khoei

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Extant moves quickly

Extant airs on CBS on Wednesday nights in the last hour of prime time -- that's a change from previous weeks, so heads up.

If you missed last week's episode, the cat's out of the bag.

Ethan (the robot who's the 'child' of John and Molly) spilled the beans that Mommy had a secret.

When John confronts Molly, she explains she is pregnant and that (hold on for this point) it is the result of some experiments performed on Molly.

Hold on?  She was told that by her boss.  Which means he may be lying because, it turns out, he was plotting her kidnapping.

Her friend Sam saw goons pulling her computer and her files on Molly (and Molly's pregnancy!) from Sam's office.  She then got caught by the goons but managed to send Molly a warning text.

So Molly hopped out of the car (moving car) when her boss refused to pull over, she went running down a road and her husband John shows up.  To rescue her?

We don't know yet but I suppose Sam could have texted him about what was going on.

Who knows?



This is 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?

Dropping back to the July 23rd snapshot for this from that day's House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing:


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.
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And lastly  the following community sites updated:









  • Monday, July 28, 2014

    50 shades of what?

    No one's ever called me a prude but who knows.

    Fifty Shades of Grey.

    A novel much talked of (but little read) is due out next Valentine's Day.

    I find the premise lacking and the hot-hot (supposedly) clinches look run of the mill and
    so boring.

    I was just surprised by how little the trailer promised.


    This is 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."














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