Tuesday, May 05, 2015


As Julia Roberts asks in Pretty Woman, "Don't you just love Prince?"

And Richard Gere responds to Roberts, "More than life itself.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Tuesday, May 5, 2015.  Chaos in violence continue, Canada suffers a major security breach, Barack brings out his bitchery yet again, the Kurds should be offended at the way KRG President Massoud Barzani was treated (dismissed) by the White House today, and much more.

Starting in Canada where there's been a major security breach related to the Iraq War.

In what was probably show boating, Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper -- noted War Hawk and ethical coward -- has insisted that the press must not photograph the faces of Canadian soldiers in Iraq because that could put them at risk.

Now Harper sending them into Iraq has put them at risk.

But when you can't admit to how dangerous your reckless actions are, you invent 'risks' to 'protect' them from.

And now Harper's edict has been violated.

Images of Canadian soldiers have been posted online.

Harper insisted that images would put the soldiers at risk  of -- among other things -- being kidnapped by the Islamic State.

And who is responsible for this security breach?

Steven Chase (Globe and Mail) reports:

The Prime Minister’s Office has admitted to a major security breach in promoting Stephen Harper’s recent tour of Iraq and Kuwait after it posted two videos to the Internet that may have exposed Canadian soldiers’ identities and made them vulnerable to attack.
It’s a complete reversal for the PMO, which earlier Tuesday insisted that it violated no security rules when it published PR videos that included the faces of Canadian military personnel on duty in both countries.

As Vassy Kapelos (Global News) observed, "It’s still unclear why there appears to be two sets of rules for media and the PM when it comes to exposing the identity of soldiers involved in the mission to fight ISIS."

Canada's due to hold federal elections October 19th.

Can they wait that long?

Can they afford to?

When the prime minister is the one breaching his own definition of national security, that tends to argue he's not up for job.

Mia Rabson (The Carillon) quotes New Democratic Party member Jack Harris asking, "Why is the Prime Minister's Office breaking rules intended to protect the safety of our forces just to make promotional videos for the Prime Minister, and who over there is going to take responsibility for this fiasco?"

While Harris speaks publicly, Harper goes into silence.

He's not even admitted he was wrong.

Instead, he's had his media team admit that they were wrong.

That's leadership?

Moving south from Canada, we land in DC where tonight KRG President Massoud Barzani addressed the US Chamber of Commerce and was warmly received.

It was genuine.

Sadly, the same cannot be said of other events today.

Was Barzani being kind when he spoke of strong support today from US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden?

Let's hope he was being kind, being a nice guest when using terms like "success" to describe it.

Because the reality is, Massoud was treated like crap.

He was treated like something you stepped in and then tried to scrape off your shoe.

The Kurdistan Regional Government and the Kurds should be offended on his behalf.

Barack was his usual bitchy self.

By now, don't we all expect that?

How unimportant was the visit?

I called a White House friend thinking stuff must have gone into a spam folder and I didn't have time to dig around for it.  Could he send me whatever press releases again?

Really, there are none.

There's this which is circulated to the press but so unimportant (or maybe they're taking a page from Haider al-Abadi's book) that it's not even up at the White House website:

President Obama participated in a meeting at the White House with Vice President Biden and Masoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. They discussed a range of issues, including the campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL and the status of ongoing political initiatives to address the needs of the Iraqi people and foster cooperation across all communities. President Obama and Vice President Biden reaffirmed the United States' strong and continued support to the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and the Kurdish people. They also reaffirmed the United States' enduring commitment under the Strategic Framework Agreement to a united, federal, and democratic Iraq, as defined in the Iraqi constitution.
President Obama and Vice President Biden each commended the bravery of the Kurdish Peshmerga and expressed condolences to the victims of ISIL throughout Iraq. President Barzani thanked President Obama and Vice President Biden for the significant military support that the United States has provided to Kurdish Peshmerga in coordination with the Iraqi government and the Iraqi Security Forces, including the military action taken to protect Erbil and other parts of Iraqi Kurdistan following the fall of Mosul. Both sides agreed on the importance of strengthening relations between Baghdad and Erbil and underscored their continued shared commitment to provide support to the millions of civilians displaced by the violence in the region.

That's really it.

"Hell," he told me, "POTUS didn't even put Barzani on the daily schedule."

This is all Barzani has to show for the visit.

This lousy little photo that's not even a good one of him, that doesn't even zoom in to frame him in the shot.

You'll note Barack's mouth is running.

As usual, he's pontificating about something.

You'll note in this, the only photo released, the only real document of the meet-up, Barack's not even looking at Massoud Barzani.

The Kurds were treated with more respect by War Criminal Henry Kissinger when he was selling them down the river years ago.

This humiliation was done to appease Haider al-Abadi, the man Barack installed as Iraq's new prime minister, as well as various Shi'ite thugs in elected office.

And Haider can be happy and proud . . . for about three seconds.

This bitchery?

That's all Barack can pull off today.

It's not just that he's lame duck, it's that he's lame.

Fools whine, "Why can't he work Congress like LBJ did?"

LBJ was a member of Congress.

Barack barely served two years before he started his endless campaign.

He doesn't know a damn thing about Congress.

His Senate career is as laughable as his legal career.

He had no cases to point to with pride as an attorney.

As a Senator he never even chaired a hearing -- not even of the Subcommittee he was over.

He doesn't know anything beyond show up and smile for the camera.

And his little stunt today?

I called a few friends in Congress.

They didn't find it amusing.

The KRG has friends in Congress on both sides of the aisle.

And the humiliating manner in which Barack treated Barzani?

It's unleashing a lot of ill will.

Members of Congress were already pissed that the White House refused to call out the threat made against them by Iraq's thuggish Minister of Transportation.

And now Barack thinks he can insult the leader of the KRG?

Well he can.

He did.

But Barack doesn't get the last word.

And all his bitchery did was enrage Congressional support for the KRG.

That shouldn't be surprising.

The last seven years demonstrate that Barack fails at everything he tries.

No surprise that his effort to snub Barzani would, in the end, backfire as well.

No joint press appearance for Barzani, no one-on-one photo op,  and, again, it didn't even make Barack's official daily schedule.

It gets even worse.

The photo we posted above?

It made Joe Biden's Twitter feed.

It made Brett McGurk's Twitter feed.

It did not make The White House Twitter feed.

It did not make the BarackObama Twitter feed.

This is a huge insult.

It's a gob of spit hurled onto Massoud Barzani's face.

It makes as little sense as that ridiculous lime green sherbet like dress Susan Rice wore for a photo op on the White House lawn today.

Again, the KRG and the Kurds should grasp just how rudely Barzani was treated by the White House today.

They should remember, yet again, the White House is not their friend and Barack has never been their friend.

More than anyone else, he used Massoud to sell The Erbil Agreement and that legal contract promised that Article 140 of the Constitution would finally be implemented.

Barack gave his word.

The fact that nearly five years later it still hasn't been implemented should have let the Kurds know they can never, ever trust Barack Obama.

Someone should probably repeat that to Haider al-Abadi as well.

I haven't seen any press coverage of the statement.

But, especially in the US, I'm sure stupidity will run free.

I'm sure it will be, "The White House backs Baghdad!"

Barack talks out of both sides of his mouth as well as his ass.

They also reaffirmed the United States' enduring commitment under the Strategic Framework Agreement to a united, federal, and democratic Iraq, as defined in the Iraqi constitution.

A federal Iraq?

As in a federation possibly?

And as defined in the Iraqi Constitution?

Such as allowing Basra to determine whether semi-autonomous or not?

The Iraq Constitution allows them to do that.

Currently, the so-called 'independent' election commission is insisting Basra could have that . . . if there was money in the federal budget for a referendum.

Haider better watch his back.

Come June, the US Congress is going to want answers.

Come June, Democrats and Republicans who want to be president are going to want answers.

Specifically: Where's that political solution?

Barack's probably going to be looking for a fall guy.

Hiader better watch his back.

And I'm no longer the only one giving Haider a failing grade in public.

At The Hill, former British lawmaker Struan Stevenson offers:

 Abadi took some courageous measures when he assumed office in September last year, including cracking down on corruption in government institutions and the armed forces. Still, he has failed so far to dismantle pro-Iranian Shi'ite militias who continue to commit atrocities against civilians with impunity.
Abadi has also not pushed through the necessary judicial reforms. Currently, tens of thousands, mostly Sunni men, remain in prison. Most of their sentences are based on information provided by secret informants to judicial officials, or confessions obtained under duress, instead of forensic evidence. The Sunni community of Iraq is wary of joining the armed forces in the war against ISIS as they feel that they would be replacing one form of oppression with another. As long as these crucial issues remain unaddressed by Abadi and his cabinet, national reconciliation will become another pipe dream for the people of Iraq, with far-reaching consequences for the region as a whole.   

Iraq was noted briefly at the State Dept press briefing today which was moderated by spokesperson Jeff Rathke:

QUESTION: A very quick question on Iraq.


QUESTION: KRG president is in Washington. Are there any plans to – I know that the Secretary is not here, traveling, but --

MR RATHKE: The Secretary is not here, but he will meet with the Deputy Secretary tomorrow.

QUESTION: So he’s meeting – oh, tomorrow? Okay.

MR RATHKE: Yes, that’s right. Today, this afternoon, he’s having meetings at the White House.


MR RATHKE: Tomorrow, he will meet at the State Department with Deputy Secretary Blinken.

QUESTION: What time? Do we know (inaudible)?

MR RATHKE: I don’t know the time off the top of my head. I’m sure it’ll be in tomorrow’s schedule that we point out.

Meanwhile Alsumaria has a photo essay on a downtown Baghdad car bombing today which has left at least 3 dead and at least seven injured.  Iraqi Spring MC notes the SWAT forces burned down the fourth floor of Ramadi's General Hospital.  Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports, "Iraq on Tuesday dispatched reinforcement to Salahudin province to fight IS militants trying to take the country's largest oil refinery, security sources said."

Corruption in Iraq means that the billions brought in on oil revenues each year just aren't enough.

Which is why they're flirting with an $800 million loan from the IMF.

Austerity measures is something the Iraqi people can't take.  The government already fails to provide for them.  But when you get in bed with IMF and the World Bank, austerity measures are usually the outcome.

Alsumaria reports over 60 doctors are protesting in Dhi Qhar because the government has failed to pay them.

Want to know why this is especially bad?

The violence has led waves of people to leave Iraq.  And it's often been the professionals.

Iraq has a sever medical crisis.

Which is why, for years, we've advocated for the Iraqi government to offer accelerated government programs for doctors and nurses -- something Nouri only flirted publicly with in his final year as prime minister.

The doctors protesting?

All are from Syria.

Lot of luck continuing to import doctors from outside Iraq when word gets out that those who've traveled to this center of violence are not even getting paid.

In related news, Al Mada reports that nursing students in Babylon are protesting demanding further education be made available to them and their nursing program (the article notes that the University of Babylon's College of Nursing has over 1,500 students enrolled currently).

Who knew?

From Sunday, that's Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Brave and Manly Jon Stewart"

Now there's news that MSNBC may revamp their daytime programming -- and, in fact, the whole lineup.

The big surprise there?

Who knew MSNBC was still on the air?

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Monday, May 4, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, whining among Shi'ite MPs continue, lying about a House bill continues, Iraq's Minister of Transportation threatens the US, the liberation of Tikrit remains a failure, and much more.

"Self-Defeating Brutality" is the name of Aki Peritz' essay on Iraq at Slate:

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was in the U.S. last month, begging for arms and cash in order to fight ISIS. His requests come none too soon; the Iraqi military is reportedly gearing up for a summer offensive against ISIS in Anbar Province. But the impending series of battles will result in little intelligence gathered for the conflict-to-come in Mosul, Syria, and elsewhere. This spells bad news for Baghdad, Washington—and Tehran.

Why? Here’s one answer: Buried in a recent New York Times article about Iraq’s liberation of Tikrit from ISIS is this startling fact: The Iraqi militias battling ISIS took no prisoners of war. That was despite a fierce series of battles taking place in a dense urban area, resulting in hundreds, if not thousands, of casualties.
To take zero prisoners during a major military operation probably means only one thing: Iranian-backed militias executed every single ISIS fighter they found under any and all circumstances. One spokesperson for the Badr brigade copped to as much. He said, “To be honest, everywhere we captured them we killed them because they were the enemy.”

Read the entire essay and grasp the disaster that was the assault on Tikrit.

For those who've forgotten, Tikrit was where the Iraqi government was supposed to show how strong their forces -- armies as well as the thugs in the militias like the Badr brigade.  The operation was going to move quickly, insisted the government.  And, by mid-week, the government was insisting that by Friday they would be in Tikrit.

Didn't happen.

Didn't happen in the second week.

Weeks into the operation, Holly Williams (CBS News -- link is text and video) reported:

A condition of the U.S. strikes is that the militias go home. Just outside Tikrit two weeks ago an Iraqi general -- Bahaa al-Azawi -- confidently told us that victory was days away.
"We got the ability, we got the capability to defeat terrorism, and push them away from Iraq," al-Azawi said at the time.

But the Tikrit offensive stalled -- even though one senior Iraqi politician told us ISIS may have only 20 fighters left in the city.

Yeah, with minimal Islamic State members in Tikrit, they still couldn't pull it off.  Iran was calling the shots via Iranian Quds Force General Qasem Soeimani and flexing muscle -- or what passed for muscle -- and the attempt to take Tikrit took weeks.

And might still be going on if Hadi al-Amiri had his way.


The Minister of Transportation most infamous in Nouri al-Maliki's second term for refusing to allow a plane to land in Baghdad because it had not waited hours for his son to board.

He's still Minister of Transportation -- this despite the failures in transport in Iraq.  (During Nouri's first term, they used to make a show of train successes.  They gave up that pretense early on.)

He also the head of the Bard brigade -- even though you weren't supposed to be allowed to run for Parliament if you were part of a militia.

As head of the Bard brigade he sort-of directed the Tikrit operation (Qasem Soleimani really called the shots) and he publicly insisted, week after week, that they did not need US air strikes.

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi begged for US air strikes -- and the White house demanded Soleimani leave first -- and they were the only thing that saved the month-long operation from total failure.

But it's not accurate to call it a "success."

Not even all these weeks later.

Zaid Al-Ali explores Tikrit at The New York Review of Books:

The offensive to liberate Tikrit, launched in March 2015, involved a disparate group of armed groups, including regular forces, militias, volunteer fighters, local tribal forces, Iranian advisers, and US war planes. Throughout the campaign, dozens of bodies were transported daily to Wadi el-Salam, the world’s largest cemetery, in the Shia holy city of Najaf. Displaced Tikritis noted with consternation as Baghdad’s mainly Shia neighborhoods were lined with funeral notices for the young men who were dying in the battle to liberate their city.
One month after ISIS’s defeat, many locals who had left still consider it too dangerous to return to Tikrit. Since the liberation, hundreds of criminals have been operating freely, looting and destroying property. In one district, more than a quarter of the homes were destroyed after its liberation, and reports of property destruction are still coming in. The elected provincial council and the governor have not been able to return to the city. Municipal services have yet to be restored and few businesses have reopened. Many Tikritis are furious at the army and the police’s failure to restore order, and the government’s refusal to acknowledge the problem. 

And the failure inside the city may explain why so few have returned.  Mustafa Habib (Niqash) notes:

A combination of pro-government forces expelled the Islamic State, or IS, group from Tikrit in early April. But as yet there's no real civilian life here, no schools open, hospitals, courts of justice or police stations active. Residents of the city who fled their homes some time ago – the city was largely empty when the security forces arrived to fight the IS group – remain displaced, in cities around Iraq waiting for an official decision as to whether they should return. In fact, the city is more like a ghost town at the moment, populated only by wraiths from the various kinds of security forces in charge of different areas around the city.

Getting to Tikrit is hardly fun at the moment either. The soldiers deployed along the highways leading from Baghdad to Tikrit look terribly tired and they all seem to be in a bad mood. They certainly don't trust strangers. They act as though everyone coming through here may as well as be a member of the IS group, until they can prove otherwise.

Once inside Tikrit, it's not particularly easy to move around. There are three types of security forces inside the city and each controls its own areas. The first and most powerful is composed of members of the unofficial Shiite Muslim militias, composed of volunteers who took up arms to fight the IS group. Those most obvious here are Hezbollah in Iraq, the League of the Righteous, (or Asaib Ahl al-Haq in Arabic) and the Najbaa brigades.

The second strongest organisation in Tikrit is the official Iraqi army, including counter terrorism units and special forces. And the third group here are the local police, who appear to have only limited resources and powers.

NIQASH was asked not to report which areas are under control of which groups for security reasons. Additionally all of the forces present in Tikrit are not happy to let those they consider “strangers” take pictures in the areas they supervise. After journalists reported on some members of the Shiite militias who burned and looted property and exacted their revenge on locals they thought were IS members, the militia men do not trust journalists. However both the Shiite militias and the soldiers were happy to give visitors pictures they had taken themselves.

Despite the failures of the Tikrit operation, the high profile failures, nothing has been learned.

‫#‏الثورة_العراقية‬ :
The Iranian Hadi Al-Amiri : We will get into Anbar without taking permission from any person
What do you say to Al-Amiri

The grand Iraqi Revolution's photo.
 · Comment · 
  • Denis Savic, Yaman Asfour, Abulmugheera Alkhateeb and 4 others like this.
  • Ayad Babakhan I say to Stinky Hadi Go FYS!!!
  • Abulmugheera Alkhateeb You may hurry to die Hadi with your troops ... Tomorrow is too soon.

That lovely Hadi.  The thug's in the news today for other things as well -- apparently threatening the United States.  Rudaw reports:

Iraqi Shiite leader Hadi Ameri, who is currently commanding Hashd al-Shaabi fighters in the Anbar military campaign against ISIS militants, has threatened “all parties working to dissolve Iraq.”
Ameri’s controversial comments came days after a new bill introduced by Republicans in the US Congress called on the White House to directly arm and assist the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Sunni Arab tribes against the Islamic State.

Rudaw, like nearly every other outlet, is wrong to designate the bill to Republicans in the US House of Representatives.  We went over this at length last night but we'll note this press release on the bill:

H.R. 1735 Passes
House Armed Services Committee
WASHINGTON - The House Armed Services today passed H.R. 1735, the National Defense Authorization Act for 2016 by a vote of 60-2.  Details of the bill can be found here.  Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman of the Committee, made the following statement on passage:

"This is a bill the entire Committee can be proud of.  After a day of extensive debate, we have produced legislation that is the first step in a process of substantial reform at the Department of Defense.  Those reforms will enhance our military's efficiency and begin restoring its agility.  I look forward to bringing this legislation to the floor in the weeks ahead."  

It passed the Committee on a vote of 60 in favor and 2 against.  That's not a "Republican bill" -- that's a bipartistan bill.

The bill makes formal what Haider was supposed to have done.

The US government has supplied Haider with weapons to fight the Islamic State.

The weapons were supposed to go to the Shi'ites, yes, but also to the Sunni and Kurds.

Haider's been more than a little greedy with the weapons. And the US Congress has covered this in one hearing after another.

In one hearing after another, witnesses -- US officials such as Barack's special envoy John Allen -- have insisted that it's a past problem.

Then comes the next hearing and Kurds and Sunnis still aren't getting the weapons and equipment they need.

The only witness that's been honest about this in their testimony to Congress is former US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey.

Congress got tired of Haider's empty promises.

These are US weapons and the US government can dictate who gets them.

 Shi'ite thugs and fools have tried to insist that this violates Iraq's sovereignty.


No, it doesn't.

The Kurds have been armed by the US going back to the days of Henry Kissinger.

Though Americans may be ignorant of that, you'd expect Iraqis to know better.

As for the Sunnis, the "Awakenings"?

Nouri didn't arm them, he didn't even pay them under Bully Boy Bush or during the first half of Barack Obama's first term.

The US government paid them and supplied them.

Liars and fools -- and crazies like Reider Visser -- try to insist that what the Congress is proposing is novel and new.


Not at all.

The House may or may not go through with the bill -- they have to vote on it.

But maybe it's put enough panic into Haider?

If he keeps his promise (finally), there's no reason for that aspect of the bill.

But Haider better get off his fat ass and do something real quick because there are less than ten days for amendments to be added to that bill per the Rules Committee.

The Badr brigade supposedly broke ties with the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq years ago.  But Hadi's attacks on Sunnis are echoed by Ammar al-Hakim (head of ISCI).

He's been attacking the Minister of the Interior -- a Sunni -- for making comments about the security forces.  As Minister of the Interior, he's over those forces.

He should be able to make any comment he wants.

But let's all pretend this has nothing to do with Sunni or Shia.

Let's not be alarmed by the attack because, after all, the world ignored this under Nouri al-Maliki and that worked out so wonderfully, didn't it?

Oh, right.

It didn't.

Asharq Al-Awsat notes that the Iraqi Parliament -- or aspects of it -- voted Saturday against the bill.  The Kurds and Sunnis walked out before the vote and the 167 MPs that remained?  162 voted for it.

What the article fails to tell you?

162 isn't even half.

There are 328 members of the Parliament.

Half would be 164.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Qader explained the reasons for the Sunni–Kurdish walkout during the vote.
“The National Alliance put forward a motion for us all to reply to the [US Congress] proposal, but we the Kurdistan Alliance and our Sunni brothers in the Iraqi Forces Alliances refused it because the National Alliance insists on us all refusing the [US] bill without even discussing the matter,” he said.
“On the other hand, our position, and that of the Sunnis, is that we need to form a united front, [but] based on the principle we have all agreed to [i.e. discussion], especially in such major issues such as this, where we can see how going against this principle threatens Iraq and its national unity.”
He continued: “Our position as the Kurdish bloc in parliament—and this is a position shared by the Sunni bloc—is that we welcome all efforts related to arming the Peshmerga or the Sunni tribes in cooperation with the Iraqi government, insisting at the same time that we believe in the unity of Iraq.”
“The Peshmerga are in dire need of arms—bearing in mind that the Iraqi government has over the last two years failed to provide even one dinar of assistance to the Kurdistan Regional Government in terms of military aid.”
He added: “Why do we accept the [involvement of the] international anti-ISIS coalition led by the US but not the US’s arming the Peshmerga or the Sunni tribes within the context of cooperation with the Iraqi government?” 

And for all the alarmists screaming the sky is falling?

We'll drop back to the March 26th snapshot for some of that day's House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing:

Chair Ed Royce:  Adding to the problem, the regional forces on the ground these airstrikes are supposed to be supporting are badly undersupplied.  After seven months of fighting, the Committee is still receiving troubling reports that the Kurdish Peshmerga are outgunned on the front lines.  This morning, Ranking Member Engel and I are re-introducing legislation to allow US arms to be sent directly to the Kurds.  These brave fighters need the better equipment to defeat ISIS.  And the Sunni tribal fighters, who will be central to this fight, are yet to trust Baghdad.  Strong local police and provincial national guard forces are desperately needed to protect Sunnis in Anbar Province and elsewhere.  Into the void on the ground in Iraq have stepped Iranian-backed Shi'ite fighters, the leading force behind the recent Tikrit offensive.  Senior US officials have put this development in positive terms.  And reports indicate that US intelligence and air power will now support this Iranian-backed mission.  The Washington Post wisely cautioned in an editorial this week, "The growing power of the militias, with their brutal tactics, sectarian ideology and allegiance to Iran's most militant faction, has become as large an impediment to the goal of stabilizing Iraq" as ISIS.  Shi'ite militias taking on ISIS may serve the immediate interest of killing jihadis but it is hard to see how empowering Iran's proxies is in the short, medium or long term interests of an inclusive Iraq or a stable Middle East.  The fear that many of us have is that Sunni Iraqis, who have been tortured by ISIS, will get the same brutal treatment by their Shi'ite militia 'liberators.'  That would fuel endless conflict.  Political reconciliation in Baghdad must be central to US policy.  The Committee will be interested to learn what the administration is doing to press Prime Minister [Hadier al-] Abadi to ensure he doesn't become former Prime Minister [Nouri al-] Maliki, a disastrous sectarian.  

That was Republican Ed Royce announcing that he and Democrat Eliot Engel were reintroducing a bill to directly arm the Kurds.


So all the shock and drama and b.s. over the House Defense bill is either some form of mass hysteria or glorified ignorance on the part of Iraqi MPs who should have been paying attention much sooner.

Tomorrow  KRG President Massoud Barzani  is scheduled to meet with US President Barack Obama.  Al Mada notes that in his meetings with Barack and with US Vice President Joe Biden, Barzani intends to press on the issue of supplying the Kurdish Peshmerga with weapons to fight the Islamic State.  Rudaw adds, "The question of Kurdish self-determination and the war against the Islamic State (ISIS) will dominate talks between the Kurdish delegation led by President Masoud Barzani and American officials in Washington, said the Kurdish President’s Chief of Staff, Fuad Hussein."

He'll also be meeting with members of Congress during his visit.

Trudy Rubin (Philadelphia Inquirer) filed a report last week which included:

 The Kurds don't want to invade the heart of Mosul, because it is a historically Sunni Arab city. They'd like the Iraqi army to play a leading role, but that force virtually collapsed when the extremists invaded. The army's officer class had been corrupted under the previous Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki. It is being retrained by U.S. and other coalition forces, but no one knows when enough revamped brigades will be available for Mosul.
Barzani also made clear that Iranian-backed Shiite militias are not the right force to liberate Mosul (in the battle for the Sunni city of Tikrit they burned and looted Sunni homes). While praising the militias' "good fighters," he stressed that "without one central command and control you cannot be successful." In other words, no role for Shiite militias that operate outside national army command.
I asked whether the Kurds had any expectation that the Sunni inhabitants of Mosul might rebel against their tormentors. Masrour Barzani, the Kurds' savvy intelligence chief and son of the president, interjected: "We see a lot of people very unsatisfied with ISIS control, but they know how brutal ISIS is."

At US State Dept press briefing today moderated by Jeff Rathke, Iraq was briefly noted.

QUESTION: Can we go to Iraq?


QUESTION: There are reports that the largest Iraqi oil refinery – that the people inside it are besieged and running low on food and pleading for reinforcements to save them from Islamic State militants.

MR RATHKE: You’re talking about Baiji?

QUESTION: Baiji. Exactly, yeah.


QUESTION: Do you have any comment on this? And is the U.S. Government thinking about doing anything to help the people at Baiji?

MR RATHKE: Well, as has been the case for a while, the security situation within the city of Baiji and the refinery nearby remains contested. As we understand, Iraqi Security Forces continue to conduct defensive operations in the area, and they have been able to resupply forces in the refinery. And the coalition continues to coordinate with Iraqi security forces to provide targeted air support in ISIL-held and in contested areas, including at Baiji but throughout Iraq and in Anbar province, in order to back up the forces on the ground. We would turn to the Iraqi Government for the latest on the status of their forces in the area. My colleagues at the Pentagon may have more on specific actions, operations undertaken in recent days.

QUESTION: But it is indeed your understanding that Iraqi forces have been able to resupply people --

MR RATHKE: That’s our understanding, yes.

Reuters notes, "Iraqi forces besieged inside the country's largest oil refinery are running low on food and pleading for reinforcements to save them from Islamic State militants who have advanced deep into the compound in the past week. The insurgents now hold large sections of the sprawling Baiji refinery complex in northern Iraq where some 200 policemen, soldiers and elite special forces are holding out."

The Whore of Baghdad Jane Arraf offered a sympathetic portrayal of an unnamed Shi'ite militias on The NewsHour (PBS) this evening.  The fluff might have reminded me of the pro-Saddam Hussein stories she used to churn out while with CNN or her pro-Nouri al-Maliki 'reporting' for Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor.

On violence, Press TV reports, "Clashes between Iraq’s army and the ISIL Takfiri militants continue unabated in northern Salahuddin province with Iraqi air force killing at least 45 militants."  Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 106 violent deaths across Iraq.

I forgot to include new content at Third this morning so I'll note it here:

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Aretha's latest classic

I was again listening to Aretha Franklin's Aretha Sings The Great Diva Classics. and I really cannot stop singing that album's praises.

It really is an amazing album and one that Aretha should consider a landmark album.

To have recorded I Never Loved A Man put her on the list forever.

But she didn't sit on her butt and leave it at that.

She made so many classic albums.

Pretty much every album she recorded in the sixties was a classic.

So let's move to the 70s.

The biggest classic is Young, Gifted and Black -- it's an amazing album -- including her covers like "A Brand New Me" and "Wholy Holy."

There is Sparkle which is just about the most amazing soundtrack any film has ever had.  Every track is a potential hit.

There is Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky) which was trashed in real time but has come to be seen as a classic -- and it is for "Sister In Texas" alone; Amazing Grace, Live at Filmore West, Get It Right, Who's Zoomin' Who, A Rose Is Still A Rose and One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism.

And to that strong list, her diva album belongs.  It really is amazing.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Saturday, May 2, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraq's Shi'ite leaders (and some Iraqi bloggers and Twitters) need to learn that the US government is not the Iraqi government and that Nouri have bullied and bossed other branches around but Barack doesn't control the US Congress, the US Congress discusses Iraq and the Islamic State, they also discuss how Baghdad's not keeping its promise to supply Kurds and Sunnis with weapons and equipment, the US State Dept still can't acknowledge the execution of Iraqi journalist Thaer Ali and much more.

Eleven months ago, US President Barack Obama insisted that the only solution to Iraq's multitude of crises was "a political solution."

Eleven months ago.

And yet there is no progress on that.

And there has been no US government focus on that.

Barack has had officials in the administration -- Defense Dept, State Dept,  Vice President Joe Biden, etc -- focus on lining up other governments to join in bombing Iraq from the air and 'training' Iraqi forces.

Nothing has been done to aid a political solution or to press for one.

 "At the end of the day," Tamara Cofman Wittes declared Thursday, "civil wars end in only end in a couple of ways.  Either one side vanquishes and exterminates or expels the other or they fight to the point where an external power can help -- sometimes impose, sometimes negotiate -- a political solution -- and that's guaranteed by outside powers.  That's how civil wars typically end.  We wouldn't want the first outcome so we should be driving for the second.  And I think the extent to which the administration has articulated a longterm vision, that's its vision.  The question is: How do we get there?"

Dr. Wittes is with the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings.  She was testifying at the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.  Also appearing before the Subcommittee were the RAND Corporation's Dr. Seth Jones and the Institute for the Study of War's Jack Keane (who is a retired US General).  The Subcommittee Chair is Illeana Ros-Lehtinen and the Ranking Member is Ted Deutch.

Some people want to explore issues.

Let's start with one of those.

US House Rep Brian Higgins: We tried to do one thing in Iraq, and I think we could only do one thing in Iraq, and that is through our military involvement to create a place -- a breathing space -- within which Sunni, Shi'ites and Kurds could develop a political contract.  And they failed miserably. And the guy that we put in there, Nouri al-Maliki, we put him in there first, Iran put him in there the second time basically created another sectarian divide.

To be clear, Iran did not put Nouri in there for a second term.   Iran favored him but he was named prime minister of Iraq on November 11, 2010 -- over a month after Iran got Moqtada al-Sadr to drop his objection to Nouri's second term -- and one day after -- one day after -- the US-brokered Erbil Agreement giving Nouri a second term was signed -- I know Patrick Cockburn's repeated lies have misinformed many but check the archives, it's a day after the US-brokered contract giving Nouri a second term is signed that Nouri gets a second term

In fairness to  Patrick Cockburn, in October 2010, he reported on Iran strong arming support for Nouri.  And then Patrick did what worthless trash always does -- focus on something else.

When The Erbil Agreement was being finalized and signed?

He was off in Libya reporting on Libya.  Seven days later, he hopped over to Syria for two stories before going back to Libya. Then to Iran.  He never filed on Iraq the entire month -- though he did make time for Ireland and Greece.

The Parliament meets for the first time, a president is named, a Speaker of Parliament is named, Nouri is named prime minister-designate and Patrick never reports one word on Iraq.

Playing catch up some time later, he invents the lie that that Iran installed Nouri (The Erbil Agreement is what overturns the votes of the Iraqi people, not Iran -- and that was a White House led objective) and people believe him.  Largely because his clique -- including the increasingly sad Noam Chomsky (oh, the stories I could tell . . .) -- keeps insisting he's the best reporter on Iraq.

Of course, they don't pay attention to Iraq which is why they think he's so damn good.

Arabs in the region see him as anti-Arab, by contrast, and that's due to the fact that they pay attention to his shoddy and misleading 'reporting.'

None of that is a slam at Higgins but I am so tired, almost five years after The Erbil Agreement, of people still trying to pretend it doesn't exist or not knowing that it does.

Higgins explored.

Another member?

Showed their ass.

Lois Frankel is both a member of the US House of Representatives and a deeply disturbed person whose lack of ethics twist and turn, choking in on itself.  We may cover Lois at Third.  Hopefully, in the real world, someone will give her the counseling and/or meds she so desperately needs.

The issue is not my disagreeing with her opinion.  The issue is her disagreeing with her stated opinion about two minutes after she argues it only to turn around and argue the other side.  Not to be philosophical, please understand.  Just to try to absolve Barack Obama of any guilt for the state of Iraq currently.

She is a deeply disturbed person and, sadly, deeply dishonest as well.

(Deeply dishonest includes distorting what the general said.  She pulled words that he had not said out of thin air and accused him -- falsely -- of blaming America.  In his rebuttal, he noted that he had not blamed America but that, yes, American actions in the region were among the contributors to the violence.)

A multitude of opinions were offered throughout the hearing -- by members of the Subcommittee and by witnesses.  And you could agree with them or disagree with them or be apathetic.  But with Lois Frankel, you couldn't agree with her because, just as soon as you did, she was ripping apart her stated beliefs to argue something else.  Her district needs to look very closely at her statements -- which please remember, the last time we covered her, included her calling the American people stupid instead of attacking the media if she believed the American people had received the wrong message.

From the March 26th snapshot:

US House Rep Lois Frankel:  I have a couple of questions.  First relates to underlying conditions that led to the rise of ISIL.  Would you -- would you agree that ISIL is not the cause of the turmoil in the region but a symptom of a deeper problems?  And I'd like to get your opinion is it unstable governments, poverty, desperation, radical religion, what?  I'd like to get your take on that.  And secondly, I think the American public somehow thinks that you can simply get rid of ISIL by bombs or dropping -- or drones.  Could you just explain the difficulty of -- of their assimilation into the population, and so forth, the terrain.

Oh, that stupid American public!

A Congressional representative who makes a statement like that is one who should seriously be primary-ied and should she emerge from the Democratic Party primary still standing, let's hope a Green or a Republican can take her out of office because when you're using your soapbox to attack the very people who vote for you, you don't deserve a spot in the US Congress.

We should probably also note shrill and hysterical Gerry Connelly.  No doubt, he'll again blame his wife for his performance but he shows up in the final minutes of the hearing and goes on to attack a witness for what he thinks a witness said at the start of the hearing.

Gerry's attack is weak in every way.

But mainly because he yet again almost cried in the midst of it.

Is there a reason he's that unbalanced?

He spoke for maybe two minutes and he had to tear up.

I'm sorry, what's the deal with cry babies in Congress.

Now I've defended any woman or man's right to cry when they're discussing serious issues.

Gerry was not, as one did, noting his parent who had suffered under the VA.

Gerry was just trying to attack.

Maybe he was about to cry because his attack was failing?

Maybe he was about to cry because his tighty-whiteys were crawling up his ass?

Maybe he was crying because his running in to attack meant he missed the end of General Hospital?

I have no idea.

But if he can't hold it together for two minutes without crying, it may be time for his peers to suggest he get some counseling or for him to announce he's retiring from Congress.  He clearly has other things on his mind.

Let's go back to Thursday's hearing.

Brian Higgins: The second issue is the panel seemed to be dismissive of the sectarian nature of the conflict in Iraq and in Syria and I don't think it can be dismissed at all.  I mean, it amazes me.  General, you had made reference to Qaem Soleimani who heads the Quds forces in Iraq.  I mean, he's not only a tan -- He's not a tangential player in what's going on in Iraq today and Syria, he's there physically.  He's on the ground directing Shia militias to prop up the the Shia government in Iraq.  And there not doing that as a goodwill measure, they're doing that to ensure that in the aftermath of ISIS, that Iraq remains Shia. And one could argue that ISIS basically wants their country back, they want to re-establish Sunni dominance in Iraq.  And, you know, someone had said here -- it's a fair assertion -- that we should talk less to our enemies and more to our friends. We don't really have friends in that part of the world.  You know, there's the discussion when Americans are in the room and the discussion when Americans are not in the room.  And typically we count our friends as people whose interests are aligned with ours at any given time but they're not really helping us.  And it just seems that given everything that Americans have invested in towards peace in Iraq -- $25 billion dollars to build up, to help them build up an Iraqi army, security force, $25 billion dollars -- and their first test, they ran.  They ran from a fighting force of less than 31,000.  The Iraqi army at that time was estimated to be anywhere from 180,000 and 240,000 fighters.  And then we depend on our allies who have proven to be helpful to us, the Peshmerga, good fighters, experienced fighters, pro-Western, helped us in the early stages of the Iraq War. [. . .] Shi'ite militias?  Who are controlled directly by Qasem Soleimani.

I don't make a point to identify "this person is a Democrat!" or "this person is a Republican!"  If you're interested in party labels, look it up.  I'm more interested in what's being discussed.

But we will note that Higgins is a Democrat.

And we'll note that because, pay attention here, he's commenting on who the US is arming.

Not the Peshmerga, not the Sunnis.

Though certain Shi'ite politicians in Iraq would like to pretend that it is Republicans only who are disgusted with the Shi'ite controlled Baghdad government refusing to adequately share the weapons and equipment the US is supplying, that's not the case.

Higgins is on record in many hearings -- and he's not the only Democrat who is -- expressing dismay over the lack of help to the Sunnis and the Kurds.

The proposal that was voted out of the Armed Services Committee on Thursday -- which will now go to a vote by the full House -- was not about creating three governments in Iraq.

That is a lie.

It could have been a misunderstanding on day one.

But as certain Shi'ite politicians -- not all -- continue to insist that it splits Iraq into three governments, they're now lying.  There's been plenty of time to grasp reality.

What it would do is arm the Kurds and the Sunnis in addition to supplying Haider with weapons.

It would guarantee that what was supposed to happen -- the US was supplying all Iraqi forces with weapons to combat ISIS -- actually was happening.

Take it up with Haider al-Abadi who refused to do what he was supposed to.

Those weren't his personal gifts to give to Shi'ites.

Those were supposed to go to Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds.

And to certain bloggers and Tweeters in Iraq, you don't the US government.

The Congress can stop all weapons from going to Iraq.

You seem to think -- wrongly -- that Barack Obama is a King.

He is a public servant.

He heads the executive branch which is equal to the legislative branch and to the judicial branch.

Unlike thug Nouri, Barack doesn't control the US Parliament (Congress) or the Supreme Court.

And it is the US Congress that determines how much money (and weapons) Iraq will or will not get from the US.

If that's not clear enough to you, study up on  former US President Ronald Reagan and grasp that had he been in better health, he would have been impeached for going around the US Congress to arm a group that the Congress said no to (Iran-Contra).

I grasp that Saddam Hussein did not instill democracy in Iraq.

I also grasp that Nouri al-Maliki bullied the Parliament and the Supreme Court.

But that's not the United States.  And the US Constitution makes the three branches co-equal, they are checks and balances written into the system as such.

So you can pout and you can bitch, moan and whine but that's not going to change the fact that the US Congess will decide whether Baghdad gets arms or not.

Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: I'll ask you, do you believe that the current government in Baghdad -- that is certainly a breath of fresh air compared to the previous one -- can work cooperatively with the Kurds and provide them military hardware?

Gen Jack Keane: Yeah and that's a great question.  You -- I think you probably know the answer here.  The -- It's pretty frustrating what's unfolding.  We want to assist the Sunni tribes, we want to assist  the Kurds and the Iraqi government is constipating that process. And I know that there's a thought that we should find a mechanism to go around the government.  Look it, this government is an improvement and much of the success in Iraq is dependent upon their ability to politically be inclusive -- particularly with the Sunni tribes and the Kurds.  The advisors with the training program with the Sunni tribes is inadequate.  It's not going to get us there.  The arms program is inadequate because they're not reaching them.  The same thing with the Kurds.  The Kurds have skill and they have will but they need better weapons and that's not getting there either. More pressure needs to be put on -- I would rather go through the government and make that happen then go around the government and find another program to do it.  We've got to move the government in the right direction to do that.

Possibly the threat of legislation -- which has so alarmed a few significant Shi'ite officials in Iraq -- will prompt Haider al-Abadi to get off his fat ass and do what he's supposed to have been doing the whole time.

And to those Shi'ites so alarmed -- this means Nouri and his State of Law -- you better let go of the weapon issue and start focusing on the World Bank issue.

Iraq doesn't need funds from the World Bank.

Shi'ites have stolen billions from the Iraqi government.  And want to continue to steal billions.

So instead of ending corruption, they want to bring in more money from the World Bank.

You really want Saddam Hussein laughing in his grave?

Because he will.

To bring in the World Bank is to surrender autonomy.

And in 20 years, Iraqis will most likely -- regardless of sect -- remember that Saddam Hussein at least protected Iraq from foreign looters whereas consecutive Shi'ite governments have invited the wolf into the hen house.

Back to the hearing.

Chair Ileana Ros- Lehtinen: Despite the clear and vocal calls for a comprehensive strategy, US policy in Iraq and in Syria, the administration continues to treat the conflicts as separate or at least as situations that should be dealt with one at a time.  And this is either a fundamental misunderstanding of the issues at hand or willful ignorance due to a political calculation -- namely the administration's misguided and naive nuclear negotiations with Iran.  It must acknowledge that air strikes alone will not be sufficient to defeat ISIL in either Iraq or in Syria, that Assad must be removed from power, and that Iran -- even if it is "the enemy of our enemy" -- it is still an enemy.  And hearing yesterday former Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford testify that if the United States allies with Iran, we are playing into ISIL's narrative and helping it's recruitment, I ask the panelists do you believe that we are cooperating with Iran -- directly or indirectly -- against ISIL?  And, if so, is this helpful to our national security interests?  Dr. Jones, Gen -- whoever wants to tackle this.

Dr. Seth Jones: Sure. I will start.  Look, I think in particular in Iraq, there is and there are areas with Iranian backed militia organizations in various areas.  The campaign has involved a complex set of state governments including Iraq and substate actors such as Kurds but also Iranian-backed Shia militias so  I think the answer to your questions is: Yes, the US has cooperated somewhat with Iran, particularly at the substate level.  There have been discussions about the uh-uh political issues -- Sunni - Shia issues with the Iraqi government that Iran has been involved in.  I think ultimately the US is in a very complicated position here but I do agree with your comments that a strong, allied relationship with Iran, if that's the direction we go in, would be very counter-productive and would certainly walk into an anti- -- would certainly help with the ISIL narrative --

Chair Ileana Ros- Lehtinen: Dr. Jones:  Thank you, sir.

Dr. Seth Jones:  -- exactly what they're saying.

Chair Ileana Ros- Lehtinen:  Gen Keane?

Gen Jack Keane:  I agree with the doctor about Iraq's level repeated but in Syria --  I think really the elephant in the room with Syria with the administration's reluctance to provide assistance to the Free Syrian Army despite a very credible and experienced national security team recommended that as I pointed out in my testimony I think is Iran, it is the elephant in the room in the sense that we've been -- because the nuclear talks and establishing the deal, I think, is the unstated, foreign policy major objective of the administration.  It has handcuffed our ability to do what we should have done in Syria because of a potential setback from the Iranians so de facto our policy decision in Syria have certainly helped Iran's bonafide client-state relationship with Syria, contributes to their expansionist policies  and certainly encourages them to do what they are doing right now in Yemen which if they're able to achieve what they want to achieve in Yemen -- political and military control in Yemen -- then they change the strategic balance of power in  the region by gaining control of strategic waterway at the Gulf of Aden at the Straights of Bab-el-Mandeb and effect and control and leverage shipping that comes out of the Suez Canal -- a major objective for the Iranians that they would not have though of  without the progress that they've made in Syria.

Chair Ileana Ros- Lehtinen:  Thank you.  And Doctor?

Dr. Tamara Wittes:  Thank you.  You know, I think part of the challenge I think that our regional partners who are absolutely necessary to any successful outcome in Syria have, until very recently, been pretty divided themselves on the question of what should follow Assad and what kind of political order they would see as a desirable end state.  Uh, and in many ways, there elevation of the Iranian threat above the threat of ISIS, above the threat of political Islam, is a product of the last year or so.  But up until recently, different Arab States were supporting different factions in the Syrian opposition and I think that vastly complicated any ability we had to forge unity among them.  Now there might well have been a time early in the Syrian conflict when a more forward leaning American policy would have created that unified front but I think we're long past that point now unfortunately.

Chair Ros-Lehtinen referenced Ambassador Ford.  She's referring to the Wednesday's House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing on Terrorism.  In Wednesday's snapshot, we noted the remarks she was referring to (and covered the hearing in greater detail in Thursday's snapshot):

Former Ambassador Robert Ford:  We should not fall into the trap, and I've seen this discussed in some policy circles here in Washington, we should not fall into the trap of thinking that working with Iran will help fix our Islamic State problem.  The Islamic State rose in part -- not entirely -- but in part from long standing grievances and fears within Sunni communities in the Levant and Iraq about growing Persian and Shia influences.  Working with Iran, even indirectly, will feed the Islamic State narrative and will immediately help its recruiting.

These are issues that need to be explored and addressed, not ignored or dismissed without any real consideration given to them.

Back to Thursday's hearing, we'll note the Ranking Member's line of questioning.

Ranking Member Ted Deutch: The Iranian Foreign Minister was on American television the other night, was talking -- when asked about Iranian influence in the region and-and the way that it is perceived pushed back against the argument that anyone could perceive what's happening in the region as a Sunni - Shia conflict -- that there's -- that there's absolutely nothing to that.  I'd like to hear from our panelists a response to that. And if you agree with that statement, what roles can the United States play if his assertion is wrong and it is indeed perceived that way among our allies and those who are not.

Dr. Seth Jones: Sure, I'll -- I'll start.  I think we're often prone to gross generalizations about the state of sectarianism.  Being recently, for example, in Djibouti and looking closely at the situation in Yemen, one can easily gravitate to the argument that this is a Saudi -- because they've been involved -- [and] Iran proxy war. But the reality when you get on the ground in Yemen and look at it is there's a range of tribal politics involved and the Houthis have been battling Saudi Arabia for a long time.  They are not an arm of the Iranian government.  They do get some assistance. So I would say the answer to your question is there is clearly a-a Iranian grand strategy for the Middle East, for north and east Africa, for other locations, that has caused them to provide assistance to some groups and not others, some governments and not others.  But when you actually look on the ground, whether it's Syria or Iraq, or Yemen, or take your pick, I mean I think we do have to understand that we are also then bringing in very localized elements of the dispute.  So I would say that there is a combination of both local and these grand strategic issues that is going on in all the conflicts we are talking about here.

Gen Jack Keane: Yeah.  I-I agree.  One of the things that happens when you look at this region because of the sectarianism that has been there historically, we have a tendency to throw that out as the underlying cause for all the trouble we're having.  It's been a contributor but there's a lot of peace between these sectarian groups as well.  The Iranians -- I mean, I clearly think this is a geopolitical strategy of theirs to dominate the region, to influence and dominate Shia countries as well as Sunni countries.  And I believe that is what is driving them.  Like other radical Islamists, they will take advantage and manipulate the sectarian divide as much as they can to their own geopolitical ends.

Ranking Member Ted Deutch: Dr. Wittes?

Dr. Tamara Cofman Wittes: I think both sides of this regional power struggle -- and I would agree it is a regional power struggle -- have found the sectarian narrative useful.  It helps them rally around the flag.  It helps them mobilize allies.  And, unfortunately, they have fed off of one another repeatedly, whether it's in Bahrain or in Yemen or in Syria.  Uh, once that narrative takes hold and is advanced by one side, the other side ups the ante.  And we've seen this in the regional media.  It's been quite vicious and nasty.  But I think that the problem with just looking at it through that lens is that it becomes a self-fulfilling process at a certain point.  Just as we saw in the Balkans in the 1990s, at a certain point when people have lost the ability to find security through the state or through the government, they're going to fall back on community identities.  And if everybody around them is choosing friend or foe -- according to sectarian identity -- they'll be forced to do that too.  So the reality for Syrians, sadly today, I think is a reality of sectarian conflict.  It didn't have to be that way, but that's where we are.

Ranking Member Ted Deutch: And so then where should it go?  And specifically to the point you made about young people who -- particularly those in their teens, early 20s who have now endured four years of this?  Many of them displaced or refugees.  What's the message from the United States going forward.  What do they need to see to counter their understandable -- as you put it -- their understandable decision, in many cases, to fall back on tribal affiliation?

Dr. Tamara Cofman Wittes:  Yeah.  I think in the Iraqi case, there is a fierce debate going on and an effort to try and demonstrate that there's space within Iraqi politics and the Iraqi state for all of Iraq's people.  I don't know, uh, whether the angels will win that argument. I certainly hope so.  And I think that both Iran and our Sunni Arab partners have important roles to play in helping to stabilize Iraq by making sure those decisions on behalf of political inclusion like establishing the national guard move forward.  Syria, I think, is much harder because the conflict is so severe because half the population has been displaced. But as part of what we need to do, whatever the political architecture, we need to generate within society  over the longterm the ability to build dialogue, to build inter communal dialogue, to build mechanisms for conflict resolution so that, while those tensions will always be there, they don't erupt into violence.

Let's stay with the US government before we move over to events in Iraq.

On Friday, the US State Dept held their latest press briefing which was moderated by spokesperson Jeff Rathke.

MR RATHKE:  Hello, good afternoon. 
QUESTION:  Happy Friday. 
MR RATHKE:  And likewise.  I have a couple of things to mention at the top.  So first is press freedom – which, as you know, we’ve been talking about all this week at the top of the briefing.  Today, we wrap up the Free the Press campaign with two final cases. 
The first comes from Uzbekistan, where a newspaper editor named Muhammad Bekjanov has remained in prison since 1999, the longest ongoing incarceration of a journalist in the world, by some accounts.  His newspaper, Erk, which means freedom, published articles advocating for democratic reform.  And he is thought to have been arrested for his public criticism of President Karimov’s administration and for his affiliation with a peaceful political opposition party.  We call on the Government of Uzbekistan to release Mr. Bekjanov and to take the steps necessary to create space for independent journalists to work without fear of violence.  We also urge the Government of Uzbekistan to allow international observers to visit prisons and to grant all citizens access to full due process in accordance with international commitments.
And for our last Free the Press campaign case, we are highlighting the country of Nicaragua.  Nicaragua suffers from a restricted media environment that includes censorship, self-censorship, and examples of harassment.  We urge the Government of Nicaragua to recognize and support the vital role of independent media and the free exchange of ideas as critical components of a free and democratic society.

And one additional note, although it’s unrelated to that campaign.  I also want to express on behalf of the United States our sympathy to the family of Somali journalist Daud Ali Omar and his wife, who we understand were killed by gunmen in Somalia on Wednesday.  Somalia remains one of the world’s most dangerous places to be a journalist.

As we have noted repeatedly this week, Iraqi journalist Thaer Ali was executed in Mosul by the Islamic State this week.  Yet in five press briefings, Monday through Friday, while pimping a concern for the press and the shallow "Free the Press" campaign, the State Dept has never once noted Thaer's murder.

Why is that?

Two State Dept friends point out that while the executions of journalists were used by the White House to galvanize support for their operations in Iraq and Syria, advertising that these executions are still taking place is acknowledging to the horrified American public that the White House's plan or 'plan' has not accomplished anything.

Methaq Al -fayydh@AlFayth
#داعش يعدمون الصحفي والناشط المدني ثائر محمود بعد اعتقاله قبل 20 يوم
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Methaq Al -fayydh

Methaq Al -fayydh@AlFayth
Daesh executed journalist Thaer Ali in Mosul

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Methaq Al -fayydh

Methaq Al -fayydh@AlFayth
Iraq: Stato islamico giustizia giornalista e attivista Musli Thaer Ali https://shar.es/1pdRRp عبر @sharethis
Over 300!

Over 300 Yazidis killed in Iraq!!!!

Or maybe just 25.

That's what AP reports and bases it on the numbers supplied to them by Yadizi Mehma Khalil

Who knows?

Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts at least 65 violent deaths across Iraq on Friday.  Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) has an important piece you should read.


jason ditz