June 7, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's attempts to become
the Little Saddam catch attention, the moves towards a no-confidence
vote continues, we explore further Brett McGurk Iraq testimony to the
Senate -- testimony that contradicts Leon Panetta and James Clapper --
"At the very top of
my mind is the safety of all Americans serving in Iraq. I track this
extremely closely. Over the course of this year, we have had on average
zero to three attacks a week on the overall US presence. Almost
entirely 170 mm rockets from the Naqshbandia group which is the
rememnants of the Ba'athists Party. Fortunately, we've had no casualties
from those attacks," declared Brett McGurk testifying to the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee yesterday. Did the press rush to report
that the US was still under attack in Iraq? Nope. Senator Robest Casey
was the Acting Committee Chair at the hearing (filling in for Senator
John Kerry). We covered some of this yesterday
. We'll cover some today and try to wrap it up tomorrow.
once had been labeled America's most important foreign policy issue,
what still is the world's largest embassy, what was a crusade that
killed thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands Iraqis, a failed
policy that is still sending waves through the volatile Middle East, is
now so unimportant that it is lopped together with the Maldives as
another bit of perfunctory business for the Senate to rap out before
Nobody cares anymore.
It really did seem that way in the hearing.
responding to questions by Senator Tom Udall, began discussing groups
in Iraq he saw as a problem. He started with al Qaeda in Iraq and this
was interesting. al Qaeda in Iraq (also known as al Qaeda in
Mesopotamia) was created by the Iraq War. Prior to 2003, there was no
al Qaeda presence in Iraq. It is largely homegrown.
too many people, McGurk used "al Qaeda in Iraq" as a catch all for any
attack taking place in Iraq. This did not speak to an awareness. That
wasn't his biggest problem when discussing al Qaeda in Iraq.
declared that they were striking at a similar rate in Iraq this year as
they had last year. That is remains a significant threat.
That's really interesting. Dropping back to the June 9, 2011 snapshot
then-CIA Director Leon Panetta (now Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta)
was appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Director Leon Panetta: Senator, I have to tell you, there are a
thousand al Qaeda that are still in Iraq. We saw the attack that was
made just the other day. It too continues to be a fragile situation.
And I believe that uh we-we should take whatever steps are necessary to
make sure that we protect whatever progress we've made there.
was treated as big news in real time. Missy Ryan (Reuters) live
Tweeted the hearing and to her this was significant (more so than
anything else) resulting in many Tweets including the following:
by the summer of 2011, per the current Secretary of Defense, testifying
before Congress, there were less than 1,000 al Qaeda in Iraq . . . in
Iraq. That alone is troublesome considering McGurk's testimony.
what about the fact that most observers have declared that the bulk of
the (small) al Qaeda in Iraq had gone on to Syria due to the turmoil
there? Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reported
in February of this year:
departure of al Qaida-affiliated fighters from Iraq to join the
rebellion against Syrian President Bashar Assad in Syria has had one
benefit, Iraqi officials say:
[. . .]
officials declined to provide precise figures for the drop-off or to
estimate how many al Qaida-affiliated fighters have left the country for
Syria. But the impact of the departure, they said, has been especially
apparent in Ninewah province, which borders Syria and has long been the
scene of some of al Qaida in Iraq's most violent bombings and
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/02/20/2651671/iraq-officials-violence-drops.html#storylink=cpy
one noticed. No one questioned. It just sailed right past. In
complete conflict with Panetta and Clapper but no one objected.
that Naqshbania predominately focuses their attacks on the US and that
there were three militant Shi'ite groups: "Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Kata'ib
Hezbollah and The Promise Day Brigades. The Jaish al-Mahdi which you
might remember is Sadr's army, has pretty much -- is now part of the
political process." Asaib Ahl al-Haq has been welcomed into the
political process by Nouri al-Maliki. They are more popularly known as
the League of the Righteous or the League of Righteous. They are the
group responsible for, among other violence, killing 5 US soldiers: "Capt.
Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz,
25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales,
Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc.
Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama.
" Is McGurk aware
that Nouri welcomed the League of Righteous into the process last
fall? Nothing he said in the hearing indicated he was.
also asserted, "In terms of internal security and the Iraqis being able
to secure their country, they're not doing a bad job. Uh, they secure
the capital to host the Arab League Summit, they secured the capital to
host the P5+1 talks. That would have been unheard of three to five
years ago. So they're doing very good internal security."
such a bold faced lie. Baghdad's never had a big problem with bombings
or shootings if they went into crackdown mode. Shortly after Nouri
first became prime minister, fighters almost breached the Green Zone.
What followed was Nouri's first crackdown.
doing the same for the summit and +1 was nothing. It's equally true
that it's a lie that Iraq did that. Take the Arab League Summit. When
US President Barack Obama goes somewhere he goes with his own security
detail. Do you really think that doesn't happen with other countries'
leaders as well? It does happen. And just as the Secret Service
preceeds a US president to any city days ahead of time to secure the
visit, the same thing happened there. Iraq got a ton of help from Arab
countries for the Summit and from the west and Iran for the P5+1.
the 2010 parliamentary elections, violence within Baghdad was very
minimal. And during the summit, there were mortar attacks on the Green
Is McGurk unaware of that? Is he
unaware that any foreign leader has a security detail? He gave no
indication that he was. And the elected officials had no interest in
They had no interest in the 2008 Baghdad e-mails (we covered them in "Iraq snapshot
" and "'Blue Balls' McGurk faces Senate Foreign Relations...
" and "Iraq snapshot
") which document McGurk -- who was married -- in a sexual relationship with Wall St. Journal
reporter Gina Chon -- a relationship he attempts to conceal from the
then-US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker. Gina Chon is now the second
wife so will she be accompanying him to Iraq? I'll give her the same
advice I gave Elizabeth Edwards in 2002, "Put him on a leash, a very
short one." Just as Mr. Grabby Hands was notorious for coming on to
women and sleeping around, Chon should realize the man who cheated on
wife number one while he was in Iraq will likely repeat the act. I have
no interest in Chon's e-mail side of the conversation. But I will
offer that warning.
Committee also tended to avoid the issue that has gripped Iraq for over
a year now: the political crisis. Senator Lugar tip-toed up to it as
his first round of questioning was coming to a close.
Member Richard Lugar: Let me ask, how are you going to advise Prime
Minister Maliki under the current circumstances in which where he's not
getting along well with the opposition to say the least and the Kurds
are drifting off by themselves? What are the challenges for our
McGurk: Thank you, Senator. It's a really critically, critically
important point. I have worked with Prime Minister Maliki for a number
of years and all the Iraqi leaders and I've worked with him in his
capacity as the prime minister. As I said in my written statement, I
would try to focus now on dealing with the Iraqis in an institutional
way. So dealing with Malliki as the prime minister now, if there was a
new prime minister tomorrow, I would have the same close working
relationship with him. I've worked with four Speakers of the
Parliament, for example. You need to focus on the institution. When
you're in Iraq and dealing with all sides, there are different
narratives to the political proces. The government that was put in
place in 2010, as you know, took eight months to put in place. When it
finally came together, it represents 98% of the Council of
Let's stop him for a
moment. What is "it"? He's referring to the Cabinet. The Council of
Representatives is the Parliament and he clearly doesn't see them as the
government. He sees the Cabinet as the government and is saying the
Cabinet represents 98% of the Parliament. He's referring to the various
blocs in the Parliament.
McGurk: They're represented in the Cabinet. That naturally leads to a
lot of inefficienies, a lot of rivalries, a lot of intrigue and that is
certainly going on now. Uhm, Maliki will say that his opposition
figures who are in his Cabinet won't share responsibility for
governing. The opposition figures say Maliki is consolidating power.
They're all right. And we need to work with all of them to live up to
their prior agreements and to work within the Constitutional system to
change the process. You mentioned the Kurds and this is critically
important and I would plan to visit the Kurdistan Region as much as
possible. I'd like to be up there, if I'm confirmed, at least once a
week because it's the personal interaction between the ambassador and
the Iraqi leaders that's so important for keeping everything stable and
for bridging areas of disagreement. The Kurds are having some
difficulties with the Baghdad government right now, the Baghdad
government's having difficulties with the Kurds. The real rivalry is
[KRG President] Massoud Barzani and Prime Minister Maliki. Uh, we have
to play an important role in mediating that effort. Uh, I would just
leave it at there's a Constitutional system in place now. This is the
third Iraqi government, the second Parliament, The Iraqis are going to
fight through their politics under the Constitutional rules they
themselves have devised. We cannot direct outcomes through that
process. When we try to do that, the unintended consequences are
quite enormous. But we can help bridge differences. We can mediate back
and forth and be constantly, actively engaged and that's what I intend
to do if I'm confirmed.
Well if Iraq
consisted solely of the Nouri and his supporters on the one hand and the
Kurds on the other hand, that answer might be a good one. Lugar didn't
notice and didn't care. He just gaped at McGurk in slack-jawed wonder,
making cow eyes at him.
al-Mesaree, a lawmaker with the Sunni-backed Iraqiya slate, told Radio
Free Iraq that McGurk's close ties with Maliki were cause for concern.
"His statements and political positions have not been neutral toward the political factions," he said.
Iraqiya leader Iyad Allawi lost to Maliki in the latest round of elections.
Iraqi Embassy in Washington told the news service, however, that
Baghdad had "no objection or reservation" to McGurk's nomination.
yeah, Iraqiya. The political slate that won the most votes in the 2010
elections. The political slate that lodged an objection with DC when
McGurk was first nominated -- arguing that he was a tool/toy of Nouri's
and that he would not be fair to all factions in Iraq. His testimony
certainly placed a great deal of emphasis on Nouri but he did mention
the Kurds by name. The same was not true of others. Iraqiya's concerns
appear well founded.
Iraqiya has become the Cassandra of Iraq, in fact.
eight months following the 2010 elections, Nouri caused Political
Stalemate I. He wanted a second term as prime minister; however, his
State of Law had come in second to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya. The
Constitution outlined what was supposed to happen and it most likely
would have been followed if Nouri didn't have the support of both Tehran
and the White House. The US government would pretend to be an honest
broker and arrange the Erbil Agreement. This contract would give Nouri
his second term and he would have to make various concessions to Iraq's
other political blocs.
Nouri was named
prime-minister designate the next day and immediately refused to
implement the creation of an independent security council (among other
things). In protest, Ayad Allawi walked out with many other members of
Iraqiya. He was told, by the US, that he wasn't giving Nouri time and
that of course the Erbil Agreement -- a signed contract! -- would be
honored. So he returned to the Parliament.
used the Erbil Agreement to get a second term and then refused to
follow it. Iraqiya should have listened to their own instincts and
grasped that the US government didn't give a s**t about anyone in Iraq
except for Nouri al-Maliki.
It's a lesson that
the Kurds learned. As December 2010 drew to a close, Nouri failed to
name a full cabinet. The security ministries, for example, were
vacant. He refused to name a Minister of Interior, a Minister of
Defense or a Minister of National Security. With heavy spin from the US
State Dept, the press ran stories telling people that it would be a
matter of weeks before Nouri made those nominations. (Per the
Constitution, he should have been stripped of the title prime
minister-designate and it should have been awarded to someone else and
they would have had 30 days to form a cabinet.) While the US government
lies were being circulated, Iraqiya declared that Nouri had no
intention of naming anyone to those posts. Nouri would keep them vacant
because controlling the security ministries would help him become
Little Saddam all the quicker.
Agreement has still not been implemented. Nouri is threatened with a
no-confidence vote over that and knows all he has to do is implement it
to stop the vote. He refuses to implement the contract he signed.
Iraqiya was right. The press said, in December 2010, that it would be
only a matter of weeks before Nouri named ministers to head the security
ministries. Wrong. Still vacant. He will not send anyone to
Parliament as a nominee because once Parliament votes them into the
post, Nouri can't remove them without Parliament's approval. So
instead, he finds stooges and calls them "acting ministers" -- despite
the fact that there is no recognition of such a post in the
Again, Iraqiya was right.
a presentation at the National Defense University in May, British
scholar Toby Dodge described Maliki as "muscular" and as "a grey
functionary," a man who has long known he has many enemies and now has
moved to consolidate power both brutally and efficiently. The prime
minister, Dodge said, is "consolidating an authoritarian regime, the
ramifications of which are rather stark" and he urged the United States
to "adopt a policy to combat this rising dictator." He has gone from the
last man standing to a direct and profound threat to any remnants of
Maliki began by
targeting the military, the courts, and the ministries. As the U.S.
military, in particular the U.S. Special Forces, transferred
responsibility to their Iraqi counterparts, Maliki created several
special brigades within the army as counter-terrorism brigades and moved
them out of the defense ministry to report directly to him. The office
of commander-in-chief was moved to the prime minister's office and
staffed with friends loyal to him. He then consolidated the police and
army into one office under one general in order to control all security
functions. His special operations forces, which Iraqis refer to as Fedayeen al-Maliki, a term reminiscent of Saddam's infamous fedayeen Saddam, number approximately 4,200 and are under his direct control.
and others note that by retaining the title and role of defense and
interior minister, moving special security units out of the defense
ministry, streamlining the military hierarchy, and controlling
high-ranking appointments, Maliki has circumvented the military chain of
command and, in effect, coup proofed the military. He has also moved to
tighten control over the intelligence and security services. As in
Saddam's time, Iraq now has six separate intelligence services
overseeing each other and everyone else. According to Dodge's figures,
933,000 people are employed in the Iraqi Security Forces, an estimated 8
percent of the Iraqi workforce and twelve percent of the male
population. Other sources describe Maliki as targeting midlevel
intelligence-officers to drive them out if they are seen as threats to
him. The effect has been to undermine the coherence of the chain of
command and fracture the ability to produce and utilize actionable
intelligence. Shiite security forces masquerading as militias maintained
secret prisons, conducted kidnappings and targeted killings with
apparent impunity. Dodge estimates that given Maliki's control over
special security, intelligence, police, and prisons, no one in Iraq's
growing security apparat would dare challenge him. Dodge is almost
doesn't appear troubled by the crisis and one reason for that calm may
be that he has some sort of promise from the US government? Alsumaria notes
that Kurdistan Alliance head Mahmoud Othman is declaring the US
government does not want Nouri removed from his post and think the
crisis can be dealt with by a simple slap on the wrist (censure). Dar Addustour reports
State of Law is still stating the the US will save Nouri al-Maliki,
that they have Barack Obama's backing and that the White House will stop
the proposed no-confidence vote (in the Iraqi Parliament) against
Nouri. Supposedly, the White House is preparing a message that will
convince enough -- if not all -- members of Parliament that Nouri should
stay in his position.
If the White House does do that, it's not
surprising. But possibly they could answer at what point they intend to
allow democracy to take place? It wasn't when the Iraqi people voted.
They made clear Nouri was not their first choice. But the White House
didn't give a damn about who the Iraqis wanted as their leader. Iraqis
risked a great deal to vote. And voting wasn't just going to their
precent. Voting, in Baghdad, meant traveling to a second or a third or a
fourth polling place. And this while checkpoints and bans are in
place. It was very difficult for them to vote. But they voted. And
the US refused to honor that vote. The US insisted that Nouri must
remain prime minister.
Patrick Markey and Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) observe
Iraq's Sunni, Kurdish and even some Shiite leaders these days what they
think of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, and the rhetoric is likely to
be shrill: Many call him a dictator, autocrat or even a new "Saddam" who
needs to be voted from office.For the second time since
American troops left last December, Maliki is wading through a crisis
with the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs in his government at each
others throats in a feud that risks spilling from politics into
sectarian violence.Al Mada reports
that the Sadr bloc says they are still supporting the no-confidence
vote and standing with Iraqiya and the Kurdistan Alliance. They call
for reforms and say -- noting Nouri's history -- that they don't rule
out last minute surprises popping up. I'm having computer issues on this
end, sorry for the long delay. We'll cover Othman and no-confidence
vote in the snapshot and just get this up before I have to reboot again.
In other news of violence, a spokesperson of the Ministry of Justice announces to Alsumaria
that Abed Hamid Hmoud was hanged today. Hmoud was the former secretary of Saddam Hussein. AP adds
"As Saddam's presidential secretary, Hmoud controlled access to the
Iraqi president and was one of the few people he is said to have trusted
completely, U.S. officials said in 2003." No one will speak of the
crimes or the trial on the record. But though it appears he was not
accused of killing anyone himself, he was put to death for "persecution"
This wasn't justice, this was the settling of old scores.
tomorrow's snapshot, I hope to work in suicides and Sahwa among other
topics. For now we'll wind down with this from Senator Patty Murray's
office. Senator Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs
Thursday, June 7, 2012
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
VETERANS: Murray Commends VA for Focus on Reproductive Injuries
Murray: VA must continue to work to enhance fertility treatment services for severely wounded veterans
D.C.) – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the
Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee sent a letter to Secretary of
Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki to commend the Department's addition
of coverage for reproductive and urinary tract injuries to the
Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Protection
Program. The nature of the current conflict and increasing use of
improvised explosive devices leaves servicemembers far more susceptible
to blast injuries that affect these systems. Army data shows that
between 2003 and 2011 more than 600 servicemembers from OEF/OIF/OND
suffered these life-changing battle injuries.
is vital our veterans and their families receive benefits and services
that allow them to fulfill their life goals, such as attending college
or having a child," said Senator Murray. "I look forward to working with
VA to make sure veterans get the support they need."
The full text of the letter follows:
June 6, 2012
Honorable Eric K. Shinseki
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420
Dear Secretary Shinseki:
write to commend the Department's recent focus on reproductive and
urinary tract injuries in the Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance
Traumatic Injury Protection Program. The nature of the current conflict
and increasing use of improvised explosive devices leaves servicemembers
far more susceptible to blast injuries that cause this type of trauma.
This is an area that has been of increasing concern to me as these
injured servicemembers attempt to move forward with their lives.
Army data shows that between 2003 and 2011 more than 600 servicemembers
from the current conflicts suffered reproductive and urinary tract
battle injuries. As these servicemembers readjust to civilian life and
eventually get ready to start their own family, they find VA's fertility
services do not meet their complex needs. While VA's fertility services
provide limited assistance to the veteran with reproductive and urinary
tract trauma, there is no coverage for their spouse.
know that you share my belief that it is critical that veterans and
their families receive benefits and services that allow them to fulfill
as many of their goals as practicable, whether they include attending
college or having a child.
I look forward to our continued work is this area to support our Nation's veterans and their families.
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
448 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510
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