Friday, June 19, 2015

Real leadership


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



Thursday, June 18, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Gen Martin Dempsey states why the US is in Iraq "right now," we implode the media lie that it's John McCain and a bunch of Republicans questioning Barack Obama's plan or 'plan' for Iraq, Ash Carter offers an extremely screwed up version of what a "political solution" is in Iraq, and much more.



US Defense Secretary Ash Carter declared Wednesday that he found it hard to believe that Baghdad would fall to the Islamic State because so many of the Iraqi forces were being used to surround it and he did not believe Shi'ites would allow it to fall.

He was speaking to Congress, testifying before the House Armed Services Committee in a joint appearance with Gen Martin Dempsey, the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"That's why we're there right now," Dempsey quickly added to Carter's response.  "I mean the threat to Erbil was what drew us into the kinetic portion of this fight as well as the threat to Baghdad and the fact that we have our diplomatic presence there in the form of our Embassy and thousands of American citizens.  So -- Look, we will always protect our national interest with -- uh, unilaterally.  And some of the recent special operations strikes and some of the other kinetic strikes that you have seen us conduct -- both manned and unmanned -- and let's not forget that . . ."

As Dempsey meandered on and on, droning from one point to the next, rarely landing  on an actual point (were he a singer, we'd say he sang all around the note without ever actually hitting it), it became clear that US President Barack Obama's plan or 'plan' was as muddled as Dempsey's answer.


Which may be why, today, the US State Dept's John Kirby tried to stay far, far from the hearing.



QUESTION: Yeah. A follow-up on Iraq is you have been talking about the reforms in the Iraqi army, but there are reports also, the Foreign Affairs and International Crisis Group. They are talking about the fragmentation among Peshmerga also, the politicizing by the PUK and KDP forces. There are also a plan by the minister of Peshmerga to reform, and the ministry of Peshmerga too. Would you support this kind of reforms, or are you also concerned about the fragmentation among the Peshmerga forces?


MR KIRBY: I don’t think I’m going to make any statements here today about the reform of the Peshmerga. I mean, our focus is fighting against ISIL inside Iraq and in Syria. It’s a broad coalition. We’re working through the government in Baghdad. That’s how the support is getting to the Pesh, is through Baghdad, and I think we’d let the Iraqi Government speak to reforms in there.
What I will say is, writ large, we are constantly as a part of this mission looking for ways to help Iraq improve the capability, competence and the battlefield performance of Iraqi Security Forces. And two, a measure of that has been our support to help advise and assist Peshmerga as well.
I’ve got just time for a couple more. Back here.


QUESTION: Just on yesterday’s comments made by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter at the hearing. He said a couple of things, one about Iraq. He said the United States did have a policy for the possibility of the disintegration of Iraq as a country. He said we will enable the local forces and they will not be a single country at that time. Can you elaborate more on that and do you really believe that Iraq is going to disintegrate, that’s why you have a policy for it?



MR KIRBY: I didn’t see those particular comments, and again, I am not the spokesman for the Secretary of Defense. So it’s not my place to speak to what he said or what he meant. Again, I’ll go back to – our policies remain unchanged, that the – we’re working with Prime Minister Abadi’s government, the elected Government of Iraq, which is a sovereign nation, and the support that we provide them militarily and otherwise goes through the government in Baghdad.

QUESTION: Also on Syria --


MR KIRBY: Now, I will – I do want to add that one of the things that – about Prime Minister Abadi’s leadership that we have noted with respect is the fact that he is trying to decentralize a little bit and he is trying to empower governors to act more on their behalf.


QUESTION: You do support a decentralized system of governance for Iraq, right?


MR KIRBY: I’m sorry?


QUESTION: You do support a decentralized system of governance?




MR KIRBY: We support Prime Minister Abadi’s efforts to decentralize some control in a federal-like way. But ultimately, these are his decisions that he has to make and obviously to be responsive to his electorate, the Iraqi people. But yes, we support his efforts – and these are his efforts. We’re – it’s not – we’re not making him do it; he’s doing this.


They support Haider al-Abadi.

How very sad.

They supported thug Nouri al-Maliki before.

They don't support the Iraqi people, please grasp that.

Please grasp the stupidity of mistaking a leader (a puppet) for the object of support.

Thug Nouri was supported.

So much so that when he lost the 2010 elections, Barack backed Nouri in his refusal to step down as prime minister.

So for eight months, the country was brought to a standstill (this is the political stalemate) and it only moved forward after the US government strong armed Iraqi leaders into signing off on The Erbil Agreement which went around the Iraqi voters, went around the Iraqi Constitution, and decreed loser Nouri would have a second term.

Again, the US government does not support the Iraqi people.

Instead, it's support whatever psychopath or loser they install as the head of the Iraqi government.

They support this thug until it's too embarrassing on the international stage to continue to support him.

Then they put the rabid dog down and move on to another.


Barack has no real strategy or plan.

For months, the press has lied about it and covered for him.

When they have allowed criticism to seep through, they've portrayed it as part of 'madman' John McCain's attacks and those other Republicans who stand with him.

Certainly, the media lie insists, no Democrats are opposed to Barack's plan.



US House Rep Tulsi Gabbard: You know we've heard a lot about this first line of effort that you outlined in your opening remarks to address the political and the sectarian situation in Iraq.  And I think it's important as we look at this question of what is our strategy to defeat ISIS, it's important that we operate in the world that actually exists -- not the one that we hope or we wished could exist or would exist in the future.  It's important to recognize that while these ideals are good to have, we're operating in the world that exists today.  So even as we look at this administration's policy, the previous administration's policy, the billions of dollars and the thousands of lives that have been spent in holding onto this unified central government policy -- even as we hear rhetoric from Prime Minister Abadi, the reality is that experts both who wear the uniform and those who have studied the Middle East for very long time all say for practical purposes you have three regions in Iraq, it's a fractured country with the Kurds in the north, the Shias have their strong hold in Baghdad essentially and you have the Sunni territories largely to the west.  So when you look at this question and you look at, Mr. Secretary, your answer to Mr. O'Rourke's question with regards to give us an example how there has been a plan or there is a plan in place to allow for this and support governance and the ability, for example, for the Sunni tribes to secure themselves.  And you talked about how this would happen in the future, help the Iraqi people put a plan in place for governance as territory is recovered.  But my question goes to Tikrit.  This is an offensive that took place not that long ago.  I questioned before this offensive occurred two members of the administration: What was the plan?  And there was no plan at that time.  And we saw as a result, once Tikrit was taken, Sunni families were terrorized by Shia militias, homes were burned down, businesses were looted and, as a result, you continue to see why these Sunni people have no motivation to go and fight for this so-called Iraqi security force, this Iraqi government that shuts down bridges when they're trying to run away from ISIS.  So, as you say, it's essential Sunni fighters are brought into the fold, I think we all recognize that the Sunni people need to be empowered but this is why there's no faith by many in Congress and the Sunni tribes most importantly that there is a plan in place to empower them.

Secretary Ash Carter:  I, uh, very much respect your expertise and your perspective, uh, on-on this and one of my favorite sayings is that "Hope is not a strategy."  And this is a strategy, uh, the strategy, the particular part of the strategy which has to do with the integrity of the Iraqi state is a challenging one, no question about it, for all the reasons you described. It is -- if it can be achieved -- better than sectarianism for the Iraqi people and for what we want which is ISIL's lasting defeat.  Is it difficult to achieve?  Yes.  Does it involve as an essential ingredient empowering the Sunnis and giving them the will to participate?  Absolutely.  Is Tikrit a good example of what we're trying to achieve?  No.  It wasn't.  That's the whole point. That was a -- That was not an ordered operation under the exclusive control of the Iraqi government, uhm, and it did -- it had the kind of aftermath that exactly incentivizes us in trying to get Sunnis into the fight because if you put Shias into the Sunni fight, you know how that ends.  That is not lasting, uh, defeat.  So that's why we're trying to get the Sunnis into the fight.  I think you are uh-uh-uh asking exactly the right question.  I think it's more than hope.  I think there's some prospect that we can do this.  We're determined to do it.  There are plenty of Iraqis that say that they will support that strategy and that, uhm, uh, we can make it succeed. 


US House Rep Tulsi Gabbard: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  I would just continue to urge the administration to -- to consider changing its policy on supporting this government in Baghdad.  You mentioned sectarianism is the problem.  I would argue that this government in Baghdad is further adding fuel to the fire of sectarianism by allowing these Shi'ite militias, by allowing this sectarianism persecution and oppression to continue  which only allows further oxygen for ISIS to continue to exist and continue to grow in Sunni territories.  Thank you.



That's Iraq War veteran and Democratic House Representative Tulsi Gabbard.

And she's making strong remarks.

She's noting that the current actions of the Iraqi government are "further adding fuel to the fire of sectarianism" and encouraging support for the Islamic State.

The exchange also made clear that Ash Carter doesn't understand what a political solution is.

Gabbard referred to US House Rep Beto O'Rourke's earlier remarks.  O'Rourke is also a Democrat.  He's also bothered by the plan or 'plan.'

And many would be bothered by it if the press would get honest about it.

Let's look at what Carter has to say when O'Rourke questions the plan or 'plan.'





US House Rep Beto O'Rourke:  Mr. Secretary, in the nine lines of effort that comprise our strategy, the first one that you cited is political and you said that every other line of effort follows from that -- we must be successful politically if we're going to be successful at all in any of these other lines of strategy and if we are going to achieve our goals in the region.  You gave as an example in your opening testimony building governance.  Can you tell us where we have built governance in that region successfully?  And the follow up question to that is how long will that take since everything follows the success of that first line of effort?


Secretary Ash Carter:  That - It- uh - is a very good question.  It's a very complicated task.  And-and in-in-in Iraq it will mean when helping the Iraqis, helping them, when they recover territory from ISIL to build a system of governance that the people who live there support and are willing to support and defend in the long term.  You say, 'Where have we had success?'  My own view is we've had considerable success in Afghanistan.  I was just speaking to President [Mohammed Ashraf] Ghani yesterday morning.  He was reporting the results of the campaign there -- again, the Afghan security forces which we are enabling, which we trained and equipped and are enabling.  The national unity government of president Ghani and CEO [Abdullah] Abdullah which is a multi-sectarian government holding together.  This in Afghanistan, which, I think, if you go back 15 years would say, a very unlikely place for that to be done.  So we have assisted and enabled that. Our people are very good at that.  We're not at that stage yet in Iraq.  But when we get to that stage, I think that we will participate in an international effort to help these places that are tragically demolished to rebuild themselves and govern themselves.


US House Rep Beto O'Rourke:  So 15 years in Afghanistan to get to a successful example of building governance in this region and including the fact that we've been in Iraq in one form or another since 2003, invested tens of billions of dollars to assist in building governance, trained and equipped an army that melted in the face of the enemy, I have some serious reservations about the potential to achieve success on this first line of effort.  The third line of effort that you mentioned is helping to produce a capable, committed local ground force.  You admitted that we had budgeted to train and equip 24,000, have only been able to recruit 7,000.  You add to that the only ground forces apart from the Iraqi army are these Shia militias funded and led and armed by Iran.  Is this a serious proposal ?  Is this a serious line of effort that we can seriously expect to succeed given the most recent failures and your admission that the Iraqi national army lacks the will to fight?  


Secretary Ash Carter: Well it's a serious uh-uh-uh effort but it hinges upon Sunni fighters coming into the Iraqi security forces being trained and equipped by us in the coalition, enabled by us but fighting for their homeland.  That's the essential ingredient.  Uhm, that was absent starting last summer -- quite clearly absent.  Not everywhere. Cause IS -- Earlier we talked about the Peshmerga, I mentioned the CTS and other units of the Iraqi security forces that did fight.  And as you indicate, there are Shia militias which we don't support -- we only support those that fall under the government of Iraq as part of our overall strategy of supporting a multi-sectarian government uh,uh there.  So that is, uh-uh, the strategy.  It-it's difficult -- I think the gap between 7,000 and 24,000 -- the whole point of Tacadum is to try to close that gap because we're trying to close that with Sunni fighters, that's the essential ingredient and I think we need --  we're going to get on track to try to close that gap and that's important. 


US House Rep Beto O'Rourke:  In an exchange earlier, one of my colleagues and you had agreed that one of our primary missions is to support soldiers and families.  Uhm, I can think of no greater way of supporting them than ensuring that we have a strategy that can succeed when we're going to place them in harms way and acknowledge that many of them will lose their lives or have their lives change irrevocably upon return so I hope there's a plan B from the administration.  


Secretary Ash Carter: Ah --


US House Rep Beto O'Rourke: With that I yield back.


Secretary Ash Carter: Amen to that. That's yet another reason why they deserve -- as you deserve -- a clear explanation of what we're trying to accomplish. 



So much of what Carter said was troublesome including the use of failed state Afghanistan as an example of success.

Troublesome also includes this statement:


But when we get to that stage, I think that we will participate in an international effort to help these places that are tragically demolished to rebuild themselves and govern themselves.


The US will "help these places that are tragically demolished to rebuild themselves and govern themselves"?

I'm sorry, did Afghanistan attempt suicide?

I kind of remember the US government attacking the country.

While what's happened in Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq (among others) is tragic and they have even been "tragically demolished" -- all three were "tragically demolished" by the US government.

Carter's testimony really appears to suggest that the countries took down themselves, demolished themselves or imploded by accident with no assistance from the US government.



Secretary Ash Carter: Well it's a serious uh-uh-uh effort but it hinges upon Sunni fighters coming into the Iraqi security forces being trained and equipped by us in the coalition, enabled by us but fighting for their homeland.  That's the essential ingredient.  Uhm, that was absent starting last summer -- quite clearly absent.  Not everywhere. Cause IS -- Earlier we talked about the Peshmerga, I mentioned the CTS and other units of the Iraqi security forces that did fight.  And as you indicate, there are Shia militias which we don't support -- we only support those that fall under the government of Iraq as part of our overall strategy of supporting a multi-sectarian government uh,uh there.  So that is, uh-uh, the strategy.  It-it's difficult -- I think the gap between 7,000 and 24,000 -- the whole point of Tacadum is to try to close that gap because we're trying to close that with Sunni fighters, that's the essential ingredient and I think we need --  we're going to get on track to try to close that gap and that's important. 



Carter's talking about what he hopes will happen.

Hasn't happened yet in Iraq -- but he hopes it will.

He hopes.

While insisting that "hope is not a strategy," he builds his actions around empty hope that's failed to pan out so far.


You sort of picture him having transferred every American tax dollar into dimes and then parking himself at one of the cheap slot machines while he pulls the lever over and over just knowing that it's got to pay off at some point.


As bothersome as that and other remarks by Carter were, here's where it really falls apart:


Secretary Ash Carter:  That - It- uh - is a very good question.  It's a very complicated task.  And-and in-in-in Iraq it will mean when helping the Iraqis, helping them, when they recover territory from ISIL to build a system of governance that the people who live there support and are willing to support and defend in the long term.



This is a political solution?

This is what the administration is now calling a political solution?

You topple a city or town the Islamic State controls and then you set up some installed government and this is a political solution?

You do this, according to Carter, bit by bit?

The first obvious question is: And what of the Sunni cities that aren't controlled by the Islamic State?

How do they get this so-called 'political solution'?

They clearly don't.

But this isn't a political solution.

A political solution is addressing the ways in which Sunnis are shut out of the government -- not to mention targeted by the government.

This is the national government.

Ash Carter must think the world a fool if he truly believes that the biggest complaint of Sunnis in 2013 and 2014 was that their local governments were not working for them.

Their biggest complaint was about the national government and it remains the focus of ire.

A year-plus worth of protests by Sunnis were kicked off by the actions of the national government and these protests were against the national actions of the government.

Unless Ash Carter's declaring that the US government -- as many Shi'ite Iraqis fear -- is about to split up the country into three regions, his so-called 'political solution' for local cities (under the control of the Islamic State) does nothing to address the political solution.


If this were the "Syrian snapshot," we'd quote US House Rep Tammy Duckworth's strong exchange. As Dempsey prattled on up "we have had some difficulty recruiting and retaining" fighters among the (so-called) Syrian rebels, Duckworth asked him, "So at what point is there diminished returns?  I mean, if you have so few recruits that can meet this criteria and the commitment is so great, is it worth it?"

That's a serious question.

It deserved a serious response.

Instead, Dempsey offered, "But we've got to partner with somebody."

Oh, so it's prom night and everyone must get laid.

No, the US government doesn't have to partner with anybody.

The belief that it does explains a lot of conflicts and wars.

And, for the record, Tammy Duckworth is a Democrat (now serving in the House and currently running for the US Senate).  She's also an Iraq War veteran.  But the point is, the media's narrative that it's John McCain and Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte -- all Republicans -- calling out the plan or 'plan'?  It's a lie.

It's always been a lie.

The media's real interested in creating straw man and divisions these days.

The media's not too committed in telling the American people what's really going on.

An exception would be Kristina Wong (The Hill) who has consistently covered conflicts between Congress and the White House in the last year and who today notes:

Two House Democrats want their colleagues to sign a letter to President Obama urging him to resist calls to escalate U.S. military involvement in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), a former Marine, and Rep. Mark Takai (D-Hawaii), an Army National Guard lieutenant colonel — both members of the Armed Services Committee — say the U.S. should not fight the Iraqi military's battles for them. 



We covered the hearing in Wednesday's snapshot.  We've noted another aspect of it today.  We'll offer a third report on it in Saturday's snapshot.

This was an important hearing and we will take the time to examine parts of it.

I'm not really impressed with what's passed for coverage of it from media outlets.

Deb Riechmann (AP) and Jacqueline Klimas (Washington Times) have offered some of the strongest coverage of the hearing.


Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 61 violent deaths across Iraq today.








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