Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking back on 2013 . . .

Read Mike's "Gay cutie Aaron Rodgers" because it's really important.  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is denying he's gay or that he was in a relationship with his male roommate who moved out recently.  Let's hope that was true because who wants to lie about that heading into the Superbowl?  That'd be way too much to carry.  So Mike acknowledges that and makes it clear that whatever the truth is, it's okay.

Great post.

As I look back on 2013, I think of Mike.

I cover "The Good Wife" and "Arrow" here.  Those are my two TV shows.  I had e-mails asking me to cover "Marvel's Agents of Shield."

And I watched that awful show.

And barely made it through one and a half episodes.

I hope it's gotten better.

I can't image it has gotten worse.

So I didn't want it, I didn't have time for it.

I suggested it to Mike and noted here that I'd done so.

Mike watches the fourth episode and calls me up and says, "Jerk weed, what the hell did I ever do to you?"

Yes, it was an awful show.

I read this TV Line article where some people are saying the shows are alike and the show runner of "Arrow" says they're not.

He's so right.

"Arrow" at its worst is still miles ahead of the Marvel show.

And I wanted to like it.  But it's so awful and so offensive.

Anyway.  Happy New Year.

Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Tuesday, December 31, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, another journalist is killed in Iraq, Nouri's attacks continue, we take a look at how little he's accomplished in over 7 years as prime minister, and more.

NINA reports Omar al-Dulaimi was shot dead in Ramadi today while he was covering the clashes between Nouri's forces and militants or rebels.  NINA notes he was "a graduate of the Department of Information in the faculty of Arts, University of Anbar, and worked as a reporter for one of the local agencies in Ramadi."

Yesterday, The Committee to Protect Journalists published a report by Elana Beiser on the deaths of journalists in 2013 which noted 70 journalists were killed around the world in 2013:

At least 10 journalists were killed for their work in Iraq­, nine of them murdered, and all during the final quarter of the year. Unidentified gunmen opened fire on cameraman Mohammed Ghanem and correspondent Mohammed Karim al-Badrani of the independent TV channel Al-Sharqiya as they filmed a report on Eid al-Adha holiday preparations in Mosul in October. It is unclear why they were targeted; the station has attracted ire from both Iraqi authorities and anti-government militants.

As the year ends, the number of journalists killed in Iraq this year stands at eleven -- at least eleven.

The year winds down and so does Nouri al-Maliki's second term as prime minister.  What has he accomplished?

Not a damn thing.

Every October, the heavy rains come to Iraq.

Every year.

It's the raining season.  It's not a surprise.

And if you're on your second term as prime minister, it's especially not a surprise.

When heavy rains fall in most wealthy countries, the water moves along via the public sewage systems.

If you don't have them, the water doesn't move along.  Instead the water pools.

A home that comes down in the midst of storms?

That's probably not Nouri's fault.  That's the effect of the rain (most likely).

But when, for example, rain water -- after the raining stops -- is knee high in Baghdad?

That's on Nouri al-Maliki.

Top photo on this Al Mada page of photos is of the flooding in Baghdad.

al mada

Iraq brings in billions of dollars from oil each month and yet Nouri can't address public services. The crumbling infrastructure has not really been updated since the 70s.

Iraq has another water problem.  Having any.

This is going to become a very pressing issue for Iraq in the 21st century if it's not addressed.

An intelligent leader aware of the rainy season would have been prepared to work the heavy rains to his or her advantage.  That would require constructing water towers.  The basin issue?  That's what the whole region's going to be fighting over.  If I were in charge of Iraq, every major city would have a water tower.

In a largely useless interview on Morning Edition (NPR -- link is text and audio), this exchange took place between host Steve Inskeep and AFP's WG Dunlop:

INSKEEP: We understand that as we were arranging this call, there were power outages in Baghdad. How regular are city services at this point?

DUNLOP: It really varies by area and time. But ultimately, there's not 24-hour power. Many Iraqis have to supplement government-provided power with private generators - either buying generators themselves, or buying lines from local neighborhood generators.

Nouri's first term started in 2006.  And it's 2013.  Yet he's failed to fix the electricity.

Unemployment remains at record highs in Iraq, it's one of the reasons people have protested for over a year. Nouri's failed to provide jobs.

As we've repeatedly noted, every few months Iraq's importing nurses from other countries.  The way you create jobs?  Fast track medical training.  You provide an education for those in need of jobs to become nurses and doctors -- both are heavily needed in Iraq.

But Nouri didn't do that. He didn't do that in 2006 or any time since.  We've noted that he needs to do this since at least 2009.

In November, in search of a campaign issue, he brought it up once and then dropped it.

Also in November, All Iraq News reported, "Iraq has occupied the (130) position globally in terms of economic development indicator in accordance with the general prosperity and welfare world annual pointer of 2013. The report, which was issued by the British Institute (Legatom) in London including (142) countries, is considering many pointers such as the happiness and satisfaction of the people of the country and their ability to plan for better future as well as the financial fortune."

He has been prime minister for over seven years now and he has nothing to show for it, nothing to point to with pride.

He has no accomplishments.

In 2007, he agreed with the White House to a set of benchmarks.

He failed at them.

He failed at them while Bully Boy Bush was in the White House and he's still not accomplished them.

One of them we still hear the foolishness of reporters on.  That would be the oil and gas law.

How long would it take to count up all the 'reports' from news outlets over the years that have told us that Iraq was about to pass an oil and gas law?

Vivienne Walt (Time magazine) noted:

Among the key "benchmarks" for progress in Iraq set by President George W. Bush in January of 2007 was the passage of a new Iraqi oil law. But almost three years on, the controversial legislation setting terms for foreign investment in the country's oil sector, and for distributing its revenues, remains stalled in the legislature. And Iraqi politicians admit it's unlikely to pass before the current parliament is replaced following Iraq's general elections next January.
And she noted that in October 2009.  It's still true.
The January "general elections" she's referring to did take place . . . in  March of 2010.  
Which is why we try to say "scheduled for April 30th" about the supposed upcoming elections. 

Iraq did have elections this year.

This was more failure for Nouri.

The press runs with the poor showing of his State of Law as evidence that his popularity is on the wane.  I don't make that argument.  I do think he's far less popular but these were provincial elections and they're more local elections.

So what do I mean it was a failure for Nouri?

The Kurdistan Regional Government is (currently) three provinces in northern Iraq.  They held their elections in September.  That's fine, the KRG is semi-autonomous.

But Iraq has 18 provinces and that still left fifteen.

One did not vote.  That left fourteen.

April 20th was the day of elections . . . for twelve provinces.

Nouri is deeply unpopular in Anbar and Nineveh Province.

Guess which two weren't allowed to vote in April?

You got it.

In Novmeber, the State Dept's Brett McGurk told Congress, "In the Sunni majority provinces of Ninewa and Anbar, provincial elections had been delayed due to security concerns. We were clear from the outset that this decision was unwise, and pushed to ensure the elections took place, which they did on June 20."

Clear from the outset?

On that -- at least on that -- McGurk told the truth.

In March of this year, Al Jazeera reported the following

Kerry's visit also addressed democratic reforms and upcoming elections which are threatened by sectarian tensions.
The secretary of state has told Iraq's parliamentary speaker the US believes Iraq is facing a serious crisis and is in danger of going backwards, according to an official at the talks.
Iraq's parliamentary speaker told Kerry that a decision earlier this month by the Iraqi government to postpone provincial elections next month in two Sunni-majority provinces due to security concerns is unconstitutional.
The statement said the speaker pointed out to Kerry that security during the last elections four years ago was much worse, and described the delay as a "political decision".

Following this discussion, Kerry says that Maliki agreed to revisit a cabinet decision to delay elections in two Sunni majority provinces next month.

Al Jazeera goes on to tell you that the elections were delayed in the two provinces for security reasons.


That's a lie and part of the continued lying that outlet does for Nouri.

The most violent province was Baghdad -- as cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr pointed out.

It wasn't about violence at all.

Pressed on that, Nouri suddenly announced the delay was because they couldn't prevent voter fraud in those two provinces.

Okay, we noted 17 provinces finally voted -- not 18 -- and that the KRG currently is three provinces.  What are we talking about?

The province of Kirkuk -- both the KRG and Nouri's Baghdad based government insist that Kirkuk belongs to them.

If only there was a way to resolve the dispute.

Oh, wait, there is.

Article 140 of the Constitution.  It demands that a census and referendum be held to determine the status of Kirkuk.

Nouri took an oath to the Constitution at the start of both of his terms of prime minister.

But he's never implemented Article 140.

The Constitution demands it be implemented.  It was supposed to, per the wording of Article 140, have been resolved by the end of 2007.

Nouri blew the Constitution off.

In 2010's parlimentary elections, Nouri's State of Law lost to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya.  Allawi should be prime minister today.

If Nouri didn't have the votes of the people how did he get around it and get a second term?

Because Nouri refused to step down.

An election took place in March of 2010.

For over eight months, Nouri refused to step down.  He lost to Iraqiya and he refused to step down.

Instead of urging him to honor the will of the Iraqi people, the White House backed him and brokered a legal contract, The Erbil Agreement.

The pitch the White House used with the leaders of Iraq's various political blocs was, "Nouri's prepared to drag this on for eight more months.  Nothing is happening.  Parliament can't meet.  There are no sessions, there is no Cabinet.  Iraq cannot survive 8 more months of this.  The country needs your leadership and your maturity.  Be the bigger person and let Nouri have a second term.  If you agree, we can draw up the contract, a legally binding contract with the full backing of the US government, and make sure that, in exchange for Nouri getting a second term, you get something your constituents want."

For the Kurds, what they wanted was Kirkuk determined.

Nouri was so desperate for a second term -- and he's such a liar -- that the Kurds could have probably asked for Kirkuk in that negotiation and he would have agreed to it.

But they asked for Article 140 to be implemented.

That was stupid.

If the Constitution requires Nouri to implement it and he's refusing to do so, why would you think a United States brokered contract would make him implement it?

He never intended to.

He used The Erbil Agreement to grab a second term and, once he had that, he refused to honor the legally binding promises he made in that contract.  And the White House pretended that they'd never heard of The Erbil Agreement -- so much for the contract having the full backing of the US government.

KRG President Massoud Barzani spoke in DC April 5, 2012 (covered in that day's snapshot and the April 6, 2012 one).  Among the statements he made?  This:

As far as the second part of your question, the Erbil Agreement.  In fact, the agreement was not only for the sake of forming the government and forming the three presidencies -- the presidency, the Speakership of Parliament and premier.  In fact, it was a package -- a package that included a number of essential items.  First, to put in place a general partnership in the country.  Second, commitment to the Constitution and its implementation, the issue of fedarlism, the return of balance of power and especially in all the state institutions,the establishment in [. . .] mainly in the armed forces and the security forces, the hydrocarbons law, the Article 140 of the Constitution, the status of the pesh merga.  These were all part of the package that had been there.  Had this Erbil Agreement been implemented, we would not have faced the situation that we are in today.  Therefore, if we do not implement the Erbil Agreement then there would certainly be problems in Iraq.

Nouri created the ongoing political crisis by refusing to honor The Erbil Agreement.

In fact, the White House -- Barack Obama -- created the ongoing political crisis by refusing to honor the will of the Iraqi people and brokering an extra-constitutional contract to give Nouri a second term.

The administration's inept and clueless on Iraq.

They've never understood it.  Vice President Joe Biden does have an understanding.

But he's repeatedly overridden by the likes of Samantha Power. (She and Susan Rice were the ones insisting to Barack that Nouri had to have a second term.)

Barack's clueless on Iraq.  That's why his first US Ambassador to Iraq was the idiot Chris Hill.

We covered Hill's Senate confirmation hearing in the March 25, 2009 snapshot and the March 26th one.

In his opening remarks, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair John Kerry pointed out the importance of Kirkuk:

First, resolving the status of Kirkuk and other disputed territories. Arab - Kurdish tensions run high in Kirkuk, which remains a potential flashpoint for violence, and meaningful efforts to reach agreement on Kirkuk's final status cannot be put off indefinitely. In Mosul, a strong showing in recent provincial elections by an anti-Kurdish coalition illustrated rising tensions there, as did a tense military standoff in Diyala province last summer between the Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga . If progress is not made in defusing Arab-Kurdish tensions while American forces remain in Iraq, the window for a peaceful resolution of Kirkuk and other disputed territories may close.         

However, the never-should-have-been-confirmed Hill insisted in that hearing that Kirkuk was"just an old fashioned land dispute."

Isaiah's  The World Today Just Nuts "The Pig-Pen Ambassador" from April 5, 2009 would mock that comment.

The Pig-Pen Ambassador

People ask two questions about that coverage. Did John Kerry really yawn while Hill was speaking?  Yes, he did.  I noted he was tired.  Even so, he openly yawned as Hill yammered away, wide mouth yawn and no attempt to hide it or cover his mouth was his hand.  Second, was Isaiah's comic fair?


Chris Hill may have cowlicks or he may just be messy but his hair was sticking up and out and his shirt had a food stain on it, a prominent food stain.

This is how the lazy slob presented himself to the Senate Committee in what was a job interview.

That goes to his stupidity as well.

If you're blowing Kerry on the importance of Kirkuk, you're making a mistake.  If you're blowing off the importance because I'm the one saying it, let's drop back to the July 26, 2011 snapshot for more on this issue:

Of greater interest to us (and something's no one's reported on) is the RAND Corporation's  report entitled "Managing Arab-Kurd Tensions in Northern Iraq After the Withdrawal of U.S. Troops."  The 22-page report, authored by Larry Hanauer, Jeffrey Martini and Omar al-Shahery, markets "CBMs" -- "confidence-building measures" -- while arguing this is the answer.  If it strikes you as dangerously simplistic and requiring the the Kurdish region exist in a vacuum where nothing else happens, you may have read the already read the report.  CBMs may strike some as what the US military was engaged in after the Iraqi forces from the central government and the Kurdish peshmerga were constantly at one another's throats and the US military entered into a patrol program with the two where they acted as buffer or marriage counselor.  (And the report admits CBMs are based on that.)  Sunday Prashant Rao (AFP) reported US Col Michael Bowers has announced that, on August 1st, the US military will no longer be patrolling in northern Iraq with the Kurdish forces and forces controlled by Baghdad. That took years.  And had outside actors.  The authors acknowledge:
Continuing to contain Arab-Kurd tensions will require a neutral third-party arbitrator that can facilitate local CMBs, push for national-level negotiations, and prevent armed conflict between Iraqi and Kurdish troops.  While U.S. civilian entities could help implement CMBs and mediate political talks, the continued presence of U.S. military forces within the disputed internal boundaries would be the most effective way to prevent violent conflict between Arabs and Kurds.
As you read over the report, you may be struck by its failure to state the obvious: If the US government really wanted the issue solved, it would have been solved in the early years of the illegal war.  They don't want it solved.  The Kurds have been the most loyal ally the US has had in the country and, due to that, they don't want to upset them.  However, they're not going to pay back the loyalty with actual support, not when there's so much oil at stake.  So the Kurds were and will continue to be told their interests matter but the US will continue to blow the Kurdish issues off over and over.  Greed trumps loyalty is the message.  (If you doubt it, the Constitution guaranteed a census and referendum on Kirkuk by December 31, 2007.  Not only did the US government install Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister in 2006, they continued to back him for a second term in 2010 despite his failure to follow the Constitution.)
Along with avoiding that reality, the report seems rather small-minded or, at least, "niche driven."  Again, the authors acknowledge that as well noting that they're not presenting a solution to the problems or ways to reach a solution, just ways to kick the can further down the road and, hopefully, there won't be an explosion that forces the issue any time soon. ("Regional and local CBMs have the potential to keep a lid on inter-communal tensions that will, without question, boil beneath the surface for a long time.  They cannot, however, resolve what is, at its heart, a strategic political dispute that must be resolved at the national level.") Hopefully? Page nine of the report notes that the consensus of US military, officials, analysts, etc. who have worked on the issue is that -- "given enough time -- Arab and Kurdish participants will eventually have a dispute that leads to violence, which will cause the mechanism to degrade or collapse."
The report notes that, in late 2009, Gen Ray Odierno (top US commander in Iraq at that point) had declared the tensions between Arabs and Kurds to be "the greatest single driver of instability in Iraq."  It doesn't note how the US Ambassador to Iraq when Odierno made those remarks was Chris Hill who dismissed talk of tensions as well as the issue of the oil rich and disputed Kirkuk.

This can't continue.  Kirkuk needs to be resolved.

To the Kurds credit, when they had leverage in 2010, they only asked for Article 140 to be implemented.  All they asked for with regards to Kirkuk was for the country's Constitution to be followed.

That's not going to continue.

People can only be ignored and blown off for so long.  The issue needs to be resolved.

If the current violence diminished or even disappeared tomorrow, the issue of Kirkuk would continue to jeopardize the future of Iraq.  It has to be addressed.


Let's go today's violence.

National Iraqi News Agency reports that a Baghdad shooting left a police member injured, a Baghdad car bombing left one person injured, another Baghdad car bombing left 1 person dead and five more injured, two more Baghdad car bombings left 4 people dead and ten injured, yet another Baghdad car bombing left eleven people injured, a clash in Ramadi left three Iraqi soldiers injured and one police member injured as well, Jurf al-Sakar home bombings claimed the lives of 7 Iraqi soldiers and 2 military officers, two people were injured in Falluja by sniper fire, a Mosul home invasion left a wife and husband dead, Baghdad Operations command announced/boasted they shot dead 2 suspects4 people were shot dead in Ramadi by a sniper, and in another Ramadi shooting 1 person was dead and two more injured

Staying with violence, Nouri attacked peaceful protesters yesterday.  He was able to do so because he has the backing of the White House.  That backing includes the White House decision to supply Nouri with weapons.

Last week, Erin Evers (Human Rights Watch) weighed in on the latest arming Barack has elected to do:
These issues are all at play.  Further irritating Nouri may be Ayad Allawi's visit.  KUNA reports that he is in Anakara meeting with Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

So the United States has delivered 75 Hellfire missiles to Iraq, The New York Times reported, to help Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki fight Al-Qaeda’s regional affiliate, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The US has already sent Iraq reconnaissance helicopters, and plans to deliver more aerial drones and F-16 fighter planes in 2014, the article said. The Hellfire air-to-ground missiles and reconnaissance drones, along with US intelligence, are meant to “augment limited Iraqi ability”to locate and strike Al-Qaeda militants, the article said.
The US focus on new weapons seems to be missing the point about the security problems facing Iraq. There’s little evidence that Iraq’s failure to improve security in the country stems from a lack of weapons, but rather from its short-sighted approach to corruption and sectarian politics, and a counterterrorism strategy that targets Sunni Iraqis amounting to collective punishment.
Corruption is deeply entrenched in the security forces, and Maliki has at best turned a blind eye and at worst encouraged the graft to his own advantage. Many people in Baghdad  – including military officers, and advisers in the Prime Minister’s Office – have told me that there is a system for buying positions in the army and police, with set prices for each rank.
 Shia militias interested in escalating sectarian warfare ahead of elections have infiltrated the security forces, which are filled with men whose only loyalty is to the officers they’ve paid for their positions. In the last six months there have been at least four prison breakouts and numerous  attacks on government buildings and security installations that would have been impossible without help from within the security forces.
 Maliki has also blatantly encouraged sectarian policies, visually apparent in the Shia flags and slogans that cover virtually every SWAT and army vehicle in Iraq.
 Al-Qaeda effectively exploits Iraq’s main problem, the gulf between the Shiite-led government and the minority Sunni population. The Iraqi army and police are just as likely to turn any new weapons and capabilities against the Sunni population at large, rather than against those posing  imminent threats to human life.

US President Barack Obama should be doing more to address the human rights issues underlying Iraq’s security problems. He needs to take the Iraqi leader to task for his abusive and sectarian policies and his failure to curb corruption.These failures have helped strengthen Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and won’t disappear without ending the discrimination and abuses.

Violence continues today as Nouri's forces continue their Anbar attacks.  While the press reports this, they do not report numbers.  Presumably, in a few days a toll will be given.  As noted in yesterday's snapshot, 44 Sunni MPs resigned Monday over Nouri's attacks on Anbar and Nouri's Saturday dawn raid on the home of MP Ahmed al-Alwani who was illegally arrested while  5 people (bodyguards and family) were killed (this included his brother) while ten family members (including children) were left injured.  Al Jazeera reports today:

Tariq Hashemi, Iraq's exiled Sunni vice president, has also resigned in protest, and called on the government of Saudi Arabia for help.
"Enough is enough," Hashemi told Al Jazeera. "Everyone has a cause, but we face two main problems. We lack a unifying project and a country that supports our cause."

Kim Sengupta (Independent) adds of the violence and the MPs who have resigned:

The MPs also demanded the release of Ahmed al-Alwani, a colleague who was arrested in Ramadi at the weekend amid violence in which his brother and five guards were killed. The government stated that he was wanted on charges of terrorism without specifying what they were.
Support for the Sunni stance had come from some Shia public figures, including Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical cleric who was a vehement opponent of the presence of American and British forces in his country. Sheikh Abdul Malik al-Saadi, an influential Sunni cleric, has asked the Shia tribes in the south of the country not to send their sons to participate “in this blatant aggression on their brothers”.

World Bulletin reports that the resignations were in response to a Sunday call from Ayad Allawi that MPs resign over Nouri's targeting of Sunnis.  (Allawi, the leader of Iraqiya, is a Shi'ite.)

State Dept friends have repeatedly called to tell me Iraq came up in the briefing yesterday.

Thank you.

I knew that yesterday.   We didn't have room.  We don't have room today.  In the January 2nd snapshot it will be noted.  We never had room to note the death threat on Ayad Allawii  in Jordan last week.  There's a ton of things I'd love to note -- including ripping apart an 'analysis' that can't seem to support itself with facts.
We don't have room.  That's how it goes sometimes.  I wanted to note Nouri and the Constitution today -- how he refuses to follow the Constitution -- not just Article 140.

No room.  No time.

 The coverage of Iraq is minimal today.  And yet events in Iraq are so numerous that an overly long snapshot can't even cover it all.  When this started, the snapshots, in 2006, the term 'snapshot' was used because there was so much Iraq news that we couldn't cover it all.  There is so much less coverage in English language media of Iraq today -- however, the news making events out of Iraq have -- like the violence -- soared.

All that we have not had time to cover this year?  That goes to just how much is taking place in Iraq, a thought to end the last 2013 Iraq snapshot on.

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