Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The manipulation

Sometimes the US government overplays its hand.  Finian Cunningham notes an example of that:

July 22, 2014 "ICH" - "SCF" -- -  Western leaders and their media would have us believe that Russian-backed terrorists and bandits not only shot down a civilian airliner killing all 298 onboard – but that they have added to their depravity by defiling the dead, kicking around body parts and robbing corpses.
On top of all that, so the official Western narrative goes, the separatist militias have been callously blocking an international rescue and investigation team, by denying access to the crash site, near the town of Grabovo, in rural fields some 40 kilometres from the Russian border with eastern Ukraine. 
US Secretary of State John Kerry told American television networks on Sunday of alleged abhorrent behaviour by the local self-defence militia who took charge of the crash site in the territory under their control. «Drunken separatists have been piling bodies into trucks and removing them from the site. What’s happening is really grotesque, and it is contrary to everything President Putin and Russia said they would do».

The ghoulish theme was picked up the next day by US President Obama who told media that the conduct of the militia was «an insult to those who have lost loved ones and has no place in the international community of nations».

Yeah, it does feel like overkill.

It does feel like desperation.

And the manipulation just doesn't appear to be working.

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

Tuesday, July 22, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's War Crimes continue, Jalal Talabani returns with zero impact, and much more.

First up, there was a hearing in the US on Robert McDonald who US President Barack Obama has nominated to be the Secretary of  Veterans Affairs.  Senator Patty Murray serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (and is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee).  Her office issued the following:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                             CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Tuesday, July 22, 2014                                                         (202) 224-2834
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee attended a committee hearing on the nomination of Robert A. McDonald to be Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. At the hearing, Murray delivered remarks and questioned McDonald on how he would improve trust and transparency at the VA, and how he would provide oversight of VA facilities in Washington state.
WATCH Murray’s Opening Remarks and Questions
Transcript of Murray questioning McDonald on VA facilities in Washington state:
MURRAY: “You know I’ve talked with prior VA leaders about concerns with some of the facilities in my home state of Washington.  The VA’s Access Audit flagged many of those facilities for some further investigation, and the most recent wait time and quality data that VA released shows shortcomings at Washington medical facilities. And I have raised in particular some concerns about what’s happening with the Spokane Medical Center, including whether staffing and budget shortfalls are hurting health care for veterans. If you’re confirmed… how are you going to provide oversight of these facilities and make sure that the resources are getting to the places where it’s needed?”
MCDONALD: “I think that’s part of the forecasting and projecting that I was talking about in conjunction with the strategic plan. What I heard from Secretary Gibson last week during his testimony was that the VA had not done a bottoms-up forecast before and that he was having some trouble getting that done. We’ve got to do a better job of that. We’ve got to be very open and transparent with all of you, and all of our constituencies as to what we’re forecasting, and then we have to put the systems in place that can make sure our veterans are getting the appropriate care. We’ve got to be able to have the doctors, the nurses, the clinicians, on the ground to be able to do that. I think digital technology will also play a role because it will help us…VA is known for a very good electronic medical record, and if we can get a scheduling system that is equally world class – and there’s no reason we can’t – I think we’ll be able to use that to better care for the veterans.”
Full text of Senator Murray’s Remarks:
“Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing.
“Just last week, we heard about the current state of VA health care and the Department’s efforts to address its numerous and diverse challenges.
“I’d like to take this moment to thank Acting Secretary Gibson for stepping up during this crisis and for taking immediate action to increase transparency around wait times, plan an external audit of VHA’s scheduling practices, and begin the procurement of a modern scheduling system.
“As Acting Secretary, he also identified $17.6 billion in critical funding needs to help increase veterans access to care, including10,000 more medical providers and support staff, improved IT systems, and additional clinic space for patients to receive care.
“The actions that he laid out before this Committee are important first steps.
“But even with some of these policy changes and additional funding, it will take time to see improvement and veterans will still be waiting far too long for care.
“And the Department’s ability to carry out its mission will remain hampered as long as a number of key leadership vacancies go unfilled.
“Even while we work to bring down wait times and improve accountability, there are still many other serious challenges VA must address: Twenty-two veterans still take their own lives each day. Thousands of veterans are alone, coping with their sexual assault. And while the Department has made commendable progress, it will be an uphill battle as we work to eliminate veterans homelessness and the claims backlog.
“The next Secretary will have to grapple with these, and many more issues, all on day one.
“Mr. McDonald, thank you for accepting this call to serve your fellow veterans
“You are faced with a truly monumental task.
“If confirmed, you will be responsible for the Department’s $163 billion budget, its 310,00 employees, and most importantly – the care of over 9 million veterans.
“The next Secretary must build a VA that can meet the needs of veterans today, while planning for the needs of millions of veterans in the decades to come.
“And in doing so, the next Secretary must overcome and transform a corrosive culture, unworthy of the Department’s dedicated and talented medical providers, who only want to help veterans.
“The next Secretary must also reform the poor management and communication structures that currently exist at all levels of VHA.
“Mr. McDonald, when we met in my office two weeks ago, you told me you were one of the veterans lost in the system during your transition from the military to civilian life. 
“I trust you understand what a critical moment this is for VA and why we must finally fix many of these systemic and cultural challenges.
“So I look forward to hearing your plans for addressing these, and many other, problems that will be discussed today, and how you will finally strengthen the VA for generations to come.
“Because our men and women in uniform need -- and have earned – a VA that provides high quality benefits and services, when and where they need them.”
Meghan Roh
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834

I was at the hearing.  We may note it more in tomorrow's snapshot; however, there's a lot in Iraq today and Murray was the strongest in the hearing so that's enough for now.

Turning to the persecuted in Iraq, Adam Chandler (The Wire via MSN) notes, "ISIS, which recently rebranded as the Islamic State, has solidified its control over Iraq's second-largest city by imposing Sharia law and expelling Christians who won't convert to Islam. The end of last month marked the first time a mass wasn't held in the city in more than 1600 years."  While Catholic Online notes:

"You have no place here anymore, you have to leave immediately," a member of the Syriac clergy quoted the Sunni militants as telling the monastery's residents.
The monks reportedly pleaded to save some of the monastery's relics. The fighters refused and ordered them to leave on foot with nothing but their clothes on their backs.
Christian residents from the area say the monks walked several miles along a deserted road and were eventually picked up by Kurdish peshmerga fighters who drove them to Qaraqosh.
Five monks have been expelled from Mar Behnam. Christian families in the area said there may have been up to nine people living at the monastery.

Friday, the Islamic State informed the Christians of Mosul there were two choices if they wanted to go on living in Mosul: pay a tax or convert to Islam.  If they didn't want to do either and attempted to remain in Mosul, they would be killed.  The events and threats have been decried by many leaders including the Pope.  Independent Catholic News notes, "Pope Francis has reassured the Patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church Ignatius Youssef III Younan that he is following news out of Iraq with concern, particularly the dramatic situation of Christians in Mosul who have been threatened with death and seizure of their homes by Islamic militants demanding they leave or convert to their form of Islamic belief. Christians have lived in Iraq’s second largest city for nearly two thousand years; there are few, if any, left now in Mosul."  Also offering promises is the governor of Erbil Province.  AP notes that he (Nawzad Hadi) is promising "to protect fleeing Christians and other minority groups.  The territory is currently home to more than 2 million refugees and internally displaced people from Iraq and Syria, according to the United Nations."  Lebanon's Daily Star adds:

The Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order – a collection of former members of the Baath party said to be helping ISIS in its conquests – has disassociated itself from violence against minority groups.
“Our army is an extension of the former national Iraqi army and includes all the factions of the Iraqi people such as Sunnis, Shiites, Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen as well as Christians, Yazdis and Sabeans who want to liberate Iraq and relieve it from subordination,” the group said in a message posted on its official website Tuesday.
“We don’t have any connection or coordination with any group ... which calls for dividing Iraq and its people on ethnic and sectarian basis.”
Of course, it's not just the city of Mosul being targeted, surrounding cities and towns have been targeted as well. Jason Motlagh (Bloomberg News) reports on the neighboring city of Qaraqosh where IS has limited the amount of water the city gets:

Outside one of the town’s 12 churches, people queue from 6 a.m. until midnight to get their daily rations from a well. Flatbed trucks are joined by children with pushcarts and riders on bicycles bearing empty jugs. “Our lives revolve around water,” says Laith, 28, a school teacher who returned with his family a day earlier from a suburb of Erbil, the Kurdish regional capital, 45 miles away, to which thousands of threatened Christians have migrated. Though aid agencies have erected several water depots around town, supplies are limited, barely enough to sustain large families in the 100-degree-plus heat. Plans to dig new wells will take at least several months to fulfill.

The attacks come shortly after a major discovery.  Alexandra Di Stefano Pironti (Rudaw) points out:

While the history of civilization is being demolished by war and religious zealots in the rest of Iraq, in the Kurdistan Region archeologists are marveling at a stunning discovery: the remains of a long-lost temple from the biblical kingdom of Urartu, dating back to the 9th century BC.
Kurdish archaeologist Dlshad Marf Zamua, who has studied the columns and other artifacts at the find, told Rudaw these were unearthed piecemeal over the past four decades by villagers going about their lives, digging for cultivation or construction.  
But only recently, after the discovery of life-size human statues and the unearthed columns, Zamua realized that the villagers had stumbled upon the temple of Haldi. That was one of the most important gods of Urartu, an Iron-Age kingdom around Lake Van in the Armenian highlands.

When the Christians in Mosul were threatened, the US State Dept had nothing to say.  After-the-fact?  The State Dept's a non-stop Chatty Cathy as evidenced by spokesperson Marie Harf at today's press briefing.

QUESTION: And just to follow up on Samir’s question yesterday about ISIS in Iraq and persecuting Christians, is there any update from the podium about any special ambassador for international religious freedom that might be able to – better equipped to deal with this kind of issue?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re very well-equipped to deal with this kind of issue. We have a number of people working on it. I don’t have an update for you on that. I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Would you agree that when President Obama goes to the Dutch embassy and signs a book of condolence – largely it’s a ceremonial gesture. Would a nomination – would you agree that a nomination of this position of international – ambassador of international religious freedom, it would set – it’d be better optics, given --

MS. HARF: Why is it related in any way to the President signing a ceremonial book? I don’t see the link, and obviously, we’re committed to religious freedom regardless of whether or not there’s someone in that position.

QUESTION: Because it’s a gesture that says that we care.

MS. HARF: Well, we do care. We care very deeply, and I will see if there’s an update on any sort of nominations for you.

That was it on the topic because the journalist who cooperated with the State Dept on Benghazi, who e-mailed about what questions he'd ask and shared what a waste he thought discussing the Benghazi attack was?  That journalist or 'journalist' wanted to derail the discussion of Iraq.  Who knows, maybe that was worked out in e-mails before the briefing?  Maybe not.

Listen to me, don't walk that street
There's always an end to it
Come and be free, you know who I am
We're just living people

We won't have a thing
So we got nothing to lose
We can all be free
Maybe not with words
Maybe not with a look
But with your mind

-- "Maybe Not," written by Chan Marshall (also known as Cat Power), first appears on Cat's You Are Free.

The issue came back up in the briefing.

QUESTION: Marie, could I go to the issue of the Mosul Christians?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: I mean, this is – for the first time in 1,800 years, these people have been uprooted and thrown out of their home. I mean, are you just resigned to just issuing condemnations? I mean --

MS. HARF: Absolutely not, Said.

QUESTION: -- they appropriated their property --

MS. HARF: We take the humanitarian situation very seriously.

QUESTION: -- they are forcing people to convert to Islam. I mean, they have done some really horrible, brutal things.

MS. HARF: They have. And we have worked very closely with the United Nations and other NGOs about the humanitarian situation. Since June, we have announced a new $13.8 million in humanitarian assistance to international organization partners working to help displaced persons and conflict victims in Iraq. This is helping across the board – obviously, not just with Christians, but this is part of our ongoing humanitarian effort.

Also, on July 3rd, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, Anne Richard met with officials from the Kurdistan Regional Government to discuss – to thank them for their hosting of IDPs, to discuss ways we can help with the displaced Iraqis. So we’re constantly engaged on the topic.

Does it really sound like the US government is doing anything?


Turning to the topic of violence, Maria Caspani (Reuters) reports the findings of Maplecroft's latest Terrorism and Security Dashboard 'monitoring service' which ranks the violence in the world to determine the most violent countries in the world.  Topping the charts?  Nouri's Iraq.  "Iraq was rated the highest risk country for violence in the analysis with 3,158 attacks that resulted in 5,929 fatalities, an increase of 2,188 deaths from the previous year."

What an accomplishment for Nouri and you can't talk violence without talking thug Nouri who is responsible for so much of it.

Despite leading Iraq to the brink, thug Nouri al-Maliki thinks he deserves a third term as prime minister.

Some people think he deserves a third term.  Those people, however, are part of an ever shrinking minority.  Dow Jones Business News reports:

In recent days, high-level delegations of Iranian military officials and diplomats held a flurry of meetings in Baghdad and the Shiite religious capital Najaf, where they were told that Mr. Maliki, a Shiite, has lost the confidence of all but his most loyal inner circle, Iraqi officials with knowledge of the meetings said.
One Iraqi official briefed on the meetings said Iranian representatives signaled during their visit that Tehran has " really started to lean away from Maliki as a candidate."
Also critically, Mr. Maliki's bid to stay in office has, say prominent Shiite politicians, run into opposition from Iraq's top Shiite spiritual authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who has become central to the grinding talks between political blocs to form a government.

With Iraq close to the breaking point, AFP notes that Nouri decided to again lash out at Jordan.
Nouri loves to lash out.  His lashing out and attacking may have resulted in Iraq being without a president for nearly two years.
December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 following Jalal's argument with Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot).  Jalal was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remained in Germany until last weekend. 
He returned Saturday.  Asharq Al-Awsat reports:

Amid continuing political deadlock in Iraq, the selection of the country’s next president remains mired in confusion despite the return of incumbent president Jalal Talabani from medical treatment abroad on Saturday.
Reports say that Iraq’s Kurdish parties were unable to agree on the nomination of a single candidate for the presidency over the weekend, despite expectations that a parliamentary session to confirm the choice will take place on Wednesday.
The Iraqi presidency, a largely ceremonial post, is reserved for a member of the country’s Kurdish minority under an informal agreement that emerged during attempts to form a new government in the wake of the 2003 US-led invasion of the country.

UNAMI issued the following today:

Baghdad, 22 July 2014 – The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, yesterday sent a letter to President Jalal Talabani, welcoming his return to his homeland Iraq and wishing him a full and speedy recovery.

“Your homecoming could not be timelier given the unprecedented challenges facing Iraq at this critical juncture”, Mr. Mladenov wrote. 
“Today, more than ever, Iraq needs your successor to take up the challenge of bridging the differences between communities with the same vigour and enthusiasm that you have shown throughout so many years”, Mr. Mladenov also stressed.  
The SRSG seizes the opportunity to urge the political blocs in the Council of Representatives to proceed without delay with the election of President Talabani’s successor during its scheduled session of Wednesday, 23 July.
“At a time when parts of the country are under the control of terrorist groups, over one million Iraqis have been displaced and minorities are being uprooted from their homes, Iraq needs to see its political leaders come together and compromise in the interest of all components of Iraq’s society”, Mr. Mladenov said.

  • If reaction to Jalal's return seems muted, so is he publicly.  The big return happens and does so without Jalal addressing a crowd.  The health?  Jalal's still not even up to 50% on his recovery.

    Staying with violence and Nouri,  National Iraqi News Agency reports Nouri bombed Mosul today resulting in 7 deaths -- suspects, Nouri's government insists -- and Nouri bombed Falluja resulting in the deaths of 14 suspects.  Kamal Namaa (Reuters) adds, "Ahmad al-Shami, spokesman for the Fallujah health office – the local arm of the national Health Ministry – said the 19 dead included women and children and that Fallujah hospital had also received 38 wounded people since Monday evening.

    BBC News notes a Baghdad suicide bombing left 21 people dead. IANS notes the death toll rose to 22 and that forty-five more were left injured.  Citing an Interior Ministry source, Xinhua also notes the same number of dead and wounded.

    NINA notes a Baquba roadside bombing left two people injured, a battle east of Ramadi left 7 rebels dead, and an Anna car bombing left one person injured.   All Iraq News adds that Imam Abdul Rahman al-Jobouri was shot dead in Baquba, the Islamic State executed five civilians in Jalawla, a Beiji mortar attack left 1 man dead and his wife injured, and the corpses of 6 taxi drivers were discovered dumped in Kirkuk.

    For those who feel Barack has been AWOL on Iraq, they may find confirmation in the latest from AP which reports Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stated he and Barack no longer speak directly; however, he does discuss events in Iraq with US Vice President Joe Biden.

    Lastly,  Trina's "Victoria Grayson," Mike's "Jack Porter," Rebecca's "character i would be on abc's revenge," Elaine's "Faux-manda,"  Betty's "Ashley Davenport," Stan's "Conrad Grayson," Kat's "I choose Lydia," Ann's "Victoria," Marcia's "Mason" and Ruth's "Nolan Ross" were part of a theme post about the TV show Revenge.


    al arabiya news

    Monday, July 21, 2014

    I choose Lydia

    If I were on the first season of Revenge (ABC), I would go with Lydia.

    Lydia's a constant and repeated failure.  She destroys herself repeatedly.

    Her best friend, for example, is Victoria and she thanks Victoria by?

    Sleeping with Victoria's husband Conrad.

    How does that work out for her?

    She ends up tossed off her balcony by Frank (Victoria and Conrad's henchman).

    She lives but loses her memory.

    If I were a character on a soap opera, I'd want to be like Lydia.  Enough done to garner some interest and a storyline but not so much screen time that you'd get sick of me.  :D

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

    Monday, July 21, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Christians were targeted last week, suddenly this week the United Nations and the US State Dept and Nouri al-Maliki notice, Nouri continues killing civilians, and much more.

    Yesterday at the Vatican, Pope Francis weighed in on the issue of the ongoing persecution of Iraqi Christians.  Linda Bordoni (Vatican Radio -- link is text and radio) reports the Pope's remarks included, "Today our brothers are persecuted, they are banished from their homes and forced to flee without even being able to take their belongings!"  The Pope declared that violence is not the way to end violence, that only peace could overcome and triumph over violence.

    What's going on?

    Catholic World News notes, "Following an ultimatum from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to leave Mosul, convert to Islam, or be killed, the city’s remaining Christians left for other parts of Iraq."  Dropping back to Friday's snapshot:

    Iraqi thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki repeatedly refused to provide Iraqi Christians in Baghdad with the security needed.  This was most obvious in the October 31, 2010 attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad.  Many Iraqi Christians fled the country.  Many of those who stayed moved to northern Iraq which was considered to be more tolerant of and welcoming to Christians.
    BBC News reports Christians are now fleeing the northern city of Mosul because the Islamic State has declared that Christians have one of two choices -- "convert to Islam or pa[y] a 'protection tax'."  There is the third choice: Do neither and be slaughtered.  They have until Saturday afternoon to leave, convert or face "the sword."

    Christians are said to have now fled the city or to be in hiding in it.  AFP reported over the weekend on Fadi who had decided to remain in Mosul with his wife and their son because they lacked the money to relocate elsewhere.  As the bulk of Christians fled, landmarks were seized.  Mohammad Jamal (Al-Monitor) reports, "Crosses were replaced with IS banners, and all churches were either closed or burned down."  AFP adds, "ISIS militants have taken over a monastery in northern Iraq, one of the country’s best-known Christian landmarks, and expelled its resident monks, a cleric and residents said Monday. The fighters stormed Mar Behnam, a fourth-century monastery run by the Syriac Catholic Church near the predominantly Christian town of Qaraqosh, Sunday, the sources said."

    Rudaw adds, "According to information obtained from sources by Rudaw, only 200 of Mosul’s 5,000 Christians still remain in the city." And those who did leave?  Hamdi Alkhshali and Joshua Berlinger (CNN) explain, "Some of the families headed for Irbil -- which is currently controlled by Kurdish forces -- and others toward the Dohuk province. The majority went to Dohuk, which is 140 kilometers (87 miles) north of Mosul."

    Nabih Bulos (Los Angeles Times) reports:

    "For the first time in Mosul's history, there are no services being held and the church bells are silent on Sunday," lamented William Wardeh, spokesman for the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization, a watchdog group. "This is a crime in and of itself."
    In recent decades, clerics say, conflict, sectarian strife and other factors have more than halved an Iraqi Christian population that once exceeded 1 million, including various Eastern Rite sects, both Catholic and Orthodox. Many worshipers have immigrated to Europe, North America and Australia.

    AP reports thug Nouri issued a statement on Sunday which decried the targeting of Christians and "agression against the churches and houses of worship."  Someone's supposed to take Nouri seriously?  The man who did nothing to provide security for the Christians in Baghdad -- let alone in the rest of Iraq?

    Historically, Iraq has long been home to members of the Christian faith.  In fact, prior to the start of the Iraq War (March 2003), it was estimated that Christians accounted for at least two million Iraqis in the country.  Now the number tossed around is approximately 400,000.  Al Arabiya News notes specific figures with regards to Mosul, "Until their forced exodus over the weekend, Christians had been continuously present in Mosul for about 16 centuries."

    Open Doors USA issued the following statement today:

    SANTA ANA, Calif. (July 21, 2014) – Dr. David Curry, President/CEO of Open Doors USA, has condemned the latest action of Islamic State militants who ordered all Christians in the Iraqi city of Mosul to leave the city over the weekend or face execution.
    "The persecution and treatment of Christians in Mosul is unprecedented in modern times,” he says. “This latest forced exodus of Christians further shows why Western governments and the people in the West need to cry out in support for religious freedom in the Middle East and elsewhere. If this does not move us concerning the near extinction of Christianity in the Middle East, it’s likely nothing else can."
    Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, Director of Interfaith Affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, adds: “Too many of us thought that forced conversions and expulsions of entire religious communities were part of a distant, medieval past. There was little that we could do to stop this horrible episode.
    “It is not too late to realize that many others –  Christians today, but certainly Jews, Baha'i, Hindus, Muslims and others – are mortally endangered by a potent religious fanaticism that threatens tens of millions, and which still can be resisted.”
    According to Open Doors, the Islamic State gave Christians an ultimatum over the weekend – 1) stay and convert to Islam 2) pay Islamic tax (which is too much for most families to pay) 3) leave Mosul taking nothing but their clothes. Christians who stayed would be executed.
    Most Christians have left Mosul now. At the checkpoints of ISIS, Christians had to leave everything behind (cars, gold, money, mobile phones). The only possessions they could keep were their clothes. They had to walk to safer places, mostly in northern Iraq, while traveling in blistering heat.
    A World Watch Monitor source in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region, said a Christian family in Mosul reported by phone that explosions were heard during the night last Thursday in Mosul. On Friday, as the family attempted to pass through a Mosul checkpoint, ISIS agents forced them out of their car and confiscated their belongings and put them in a separate vehicle. Then the militants drove them several minutes down the road, and ultimately forced them out to continue their journey on foot, according to the source.
    Open Doors reports that some churches, many in partnership with Open Doors, have been helping the Mosul refugees. An Open Doors field worker said: “The exodus has stopped. There are no more Christians in Mosul. We now need to pray that they might return one day.”
    Earlier last week, the Islamic State marked houses belonging to members of minority communities, including Christians, with the phrase "property of the Islamic State," including inhabited houses.
    Iraq is ranked No. 4 on the Open Doors 2014 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians. For more information on the list, go to www.WorldWatchList.us.
    For almost 60 years Open Doors has worked in the world's most oppressive and restrictive countries, strengthening Christians to stand strong in the face of persecution and equipping them to shine Christ's light in these places. Open Doors empowers persecuted Christians in the areas of Bible and gospel development, women and children’s advancement and Christian community restoration. Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world and are oppressed in at least 60 countries. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.
    (To set up an interview or for more information, contact Jerry Dykstra at 616-915-4117 or email jerryd@odusa.org.)

    The first wave of ethnic cleansing took place in 2006 and 2007, as Nouri was beginning his first term as prime minister (spring 2006).  So the idea that Nouri's words were sincere?

    AP also notes, "The comments from Nouri al-Maliki come a day after the expiration of a deadline imposed by the Islamic State group calling on Christians in the militant-held city of Mosul to convert to Islam, pay a tax or face death."

    An Iraqi leader speaking sincerely would be one who called out the threats before the deadline for Christians to exit Mosul expired.  A real leader would have stood with the threatened on Friday or Saturday.  Nouri waited to speak until after the bulk of Mosul's Christians had left the city.

    Also weighing in on the threats, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

    20 July 2014 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today condemned in the strongest terms the systematic persecution of minorities in Mosul and other parts of northern Iraq as a reported deadline passed for individuals to convert to Islam, pay a tax, flee or face possible execution.
    In a statement from his spokesperson, Mr. Ban, who is currently in the Middle East, strongly denounced the actions of the group known as the Islamic State (IS) and its allies.
    “Equally repugnant are reports that Turkoman, Yazidis and Shabaks are facing abductions, killings or the destruction of their property,” Mr. Ban continued, “and that the homes of Christian, Shia and Shabak residents in Mosul have been marked.”
    He stressed that any systematic attack on the civilian population due to their ethnic background, religious beliefs or faith may constitute a crime against humanity, “All armed groups, including IS and associated formations, must abide by international humanitarian law and protect civilians living in areas they control.”
    Mr. Ban noted that recently “minority communities that have lived together for thousands of years” in Ninewa province, whose main city is Mosul, have come under direct attack and persecution by IS and associated armed groups.
    In the past few weeks, tens of thousands of members of ethnic and religious minority groups have been displaced or forced to flee and seek refuge, while many others have been executed and kidnapped.
    The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, who visited Iraq last week to see the conditions facing some of the displaced families, warned that Iraq risks “full-fledged sectarian war and complete fragmentation” as Iraqis continue to flee their homes and minority groups are targeted.
    The UN will continue to intensify its efforts, in cooperation with the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government, to address the urgent humanitarian needs, Mr. Ban said, including the minority groups displaced by terrorist threat.

    Al-Shorfa quotes the Baghdad scholars and preachers council spokesperson Sheikh Shaker al-Adhami stating, "ISIL is proving day after day that is has nothing to do with Islam, and that its terrorist leaders who are dreaming about power and are afflicted with the desire to spill blood and enjoy the killing of innocent people have exploited [Islam] in the most heinous way."

    A lot of people show up to make statements . . . days after the threat was made public.  After the Saturday deadline.

    And no one puffs their chests out more and struts around more than the US government.  Hence spokesperson Marie Harf's statements in today's State Dept press briefing:

    QUESTION: Iraq. Do you have anything to say about the ISIS campaign to take over churches and expel --

    MS. HARF: I do.

    QUESTION: -- monks and the priests from near Mosul and that region?

    MS. HARF: Yes. Let me see what I have on this. I think I have something. Let me just check. Yes. And I believe that Jen – we put out a statement on this late on Friday. But we condemn in the strongest terms the systematic persecution of ethnic and religious minorities by ISIL. We are particularly outraged by ISIL’s recent announcement that Christians in Mosul must either convert, pay a tax, leave, or face execution in the coming days. These are abominable acts. We are very clear that they only further demonstrate ISIL’s mission to divide and destroy Iraq, and they have absolutely no place in the future of Iraq. We could not be more clear.

    QUESTION: Just because that is the statement that was released on Friday --

    MS. HARF: Yeah.

    QUESTION: -- that you just read, there is no change to it since then?

    MS. HARF: No.

    QUESTION: The Kurdistan --

    MS. HARF: All about consistency here.

    QUESTION: The Kurdistan government is complaining that they can’t afford any more to host the displaced people. Is there any – anything the U.S. --

    MS. HARF: I can check on that. I hadn’t seen that. Let me check for you, Samir.

    QUESTION: Is the U.S. able to do anything to limit this ISIS campaign?

    MS. HARF: The persecution of Christians?

    QUESTION: Yeah, I mean, to take over the churches and the --

    MS. HARF: Well, in general, we’ve been very clear that we will help the Iraqi Government in its fight against ISIL writ large. This is one part of that fight, certainly. We are working with them now, but I don’t have anything specific on that for you.

    QUESTION: But you have --

    MS. HARF: We’ve also worked very closely with international organizations to address the humanitarian crisis in Iraq.

    QUESTION: But currently you’re not doing anything?

    MS. HARF: I can check and see specifically. I just don’t know.

    QUESTION: Just a follow-up.

    MS. HARF: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Yesterday, Michael O’Hanlon of Brookings said that it’d be impossible to combat ISIS without a few more folks on the ground. Do you have a reaction to that?

    MS. HARF: Well, the United – you mean United States folks?

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS. HARF: United States military assessment teams have provided a draft report. I know my colleagues at the Defense Department are looking at it to determine the best way to assist the Iraqi Government. We’re very committed to that. I would leave it to my colleagues there to talk in further detail about that.

    QUESTION: And can I ask a question on an unrelated topic?

    MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

    In  violence other than the targeting of Christians in Mosul?

    Let's start with the civilians Nouri killed and wounded today.

    National Iraqi News Agency reports Nouri's bombing of Falluja's residential neighborhoods left 3 people dead and thirteen more injured, his bombing of a home in Rawa left 2 women dead and thirteen more people (women and children) injured, and his aerial bombing of Hawija left 2 children and 5 women dead with ten more civilians left injured.  These are War Crimes.  Notice how little that appears to matter to the West. Staying with violence, All Iraq News notes that there have been approximately 125 violent deaths every day this month.  National Iraqi News Agency reports that military officials say they killed 38 suspects in Baaj in an aerial bombing of 18 vehicles, security sources state they killed 100 suspects in Hadeed al-Nasser, security officials issued a statement announcing they killed 6 suspects in Jurf al-Sakhar, Baghdad Operations Command announced they killed 30 suspects, military officials say they killed 50 suspects east of Falluja, a Jurf al-Sakhar battles left three federal police members injured, a battle north of Mosul left four Peshmerga injured, a Sabein car bombing left  1 person dead and five more injured, and 1 corpse ("handcuffed and bearing signs of torture and gunshots") was discovered in east Baghdad and another was found dumped in southern Baghdad.

     Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office issued the following today:

    FOR PLANNING PURPOSES                                             CONTACT: Murray Press Office
    Monday, July 21, 2014                                                                               (202) 224-2834
    TOMORROW: Murray to Hear from VA Secretary Nominee Robert McDonald

    Washington, D.C. – Tomorrow, Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee will attend a committee hearing on the nomination of Robert A. McDonald to be Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. At the hearing, Murray will deliver remarks and question McDonald on how he would improve trust and transparency at the VA, and how he would provide oversight of VA facilities in Washington state.

    WHO:             Senator Patty Murray (D-WA)

    WHAT:          Remarks at Veterans’ Affairs Committee Hearing on VA nominee Robert A. McDonald

    WHEN:         TOMORROW, Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014,
                           3:00 PM ET/ 12:00 PM PST

    WHERE:       SD-G50

    Meghan Roh
    Press Secretary | New Media Director
    Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
    Mobile: (202) 365-1235
    Office: (202) 224-2834

    RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office

    Lastly, new content at Third went up late, late Sunday:


    al arabiya news

    Saturday, July 19, 2014

    Take back the Nobel

    Yahya Bostan has a column at Daily Sabah entitled "Obama Should Give Back The Nobel Peace Prize:"

    These futile and well-worn statements are not enough to keep hold of the Nobel Peace Prize that was granted to him in anticipation of contributing to the peace. The children who were shot dead without any pity while playing football on the beach deserve more than this baseless sense of heartbreak. Obama, who has caused heavy frustration for people that are engrossed by the "change" slogan, can start work by giving back the Nobel Peace Prize until the time he deserves it. 

    Barack's Nobel should be pulled.

    He'd done nothing to win the honor.

    It's covered, his 'year,' less than two months as president.

    The whole thing was an embarrassing joke.

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

    Friday, July 18, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Americans weigh in on possible continued involvement in Iraq, Nouri's forces have mastered their leader's habit of the empty boast, Iraq's minorities continue to suffer, and much more.

    Pew Research notes the findings of their latest polls:

    As violence and chaos spreads in Iraq, the public is wary of U.S. involvement in the country. A 55% majority says the United States does not have a responsibility to do something about the violence in Iraq; 39% do see a responsibility to act.
    Overall public awareness of the situation in Iraq is high: 45% say they have heard a lot about the violence in Iraq and takeover of large parts of the country by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

    Covering the poll, Aaron Blake (Washington Post) offers, "The poll reinforces that Americans have very little appetite for any significant involvement in Iraq, with just 39 percent saying the United States has a responsibility to do 'something' about the violence there."

    Iraqi thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki repeatedly refused to provide Iraqi Christians in Baghdad with the security needed.  This was most obvious in the October 31, 2010 attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad.  Many Iraqi Christians fled the country.  Many of those who stayed moved to northern Iraq which was considered to be more tolerant of and welcoming to Christians.

    BBC News reports Christians are now fleeing the northern city of Mosul because the Islamic State has declared that Christians have one of two choices -- "convert to Islam or pa[y] a 'protection tax'."  There is the third choice: Do neither and be slaughtered.  They have until Saturday afternoon to leave, convert or face "the sword."

    In response to the threats, Nickolay Mladenov Tweeted the following:

    Mladenov is United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative in Iraq.

    Hamdi Alkhshali and Shelby Lin Erdman (CNN) explain the warnings/threats were put into writing which was then "distributed in recent days to the leaders of the dwindling Christian minority in Iraq's second largest city." Reuters adds, "A resident of Mosul said the statement, issued in the name of the Islamic State in Iraq's northern province of Nineveh, had been distributed on Thursday and read out in mosques."  Al Jazeera notes that before the last few weeks,  "Mosul's Christian community was estimated at 3,000. Many are believed to have already fled the city as part of an exodus of up to one-third of the population. Churches and Christian-owned shops in the city were reported smashed by those who fled."  Press TV offers, "The United Nations said in a new report on Friday that at least 5,576 civilians have been killed and 11,665 others wounded in Iraq since January."

    And the US State Dept issued the following statement:

    Press Statement
    Jen Psaki
    Washington, DC
    July 18, 2014
    The United States condemns in the strongest terms the systematic persecution of ethnic and religious minorities by the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). We are outraged by ISIL’s recent announcement that Christians in Mosul must either convert, pay a tax, leave, or face execution in the coming days. We have also seen photos of reportedly Christian houses in Mosul marked with pejorative terms for Christians, as well as reports that Shia and Shabak houses have been similarly marked. ISIL also continues to target Sunni clerics and tribal sheikhs who disagree with its dark vision for Iraq.
    These abominable actions only further demonstrate ISIL’s mission to divide and destroy Iraq and contradict Islam’s spirit of tolerance and peaceful co-existence. It should be clear that ISIL is not only a threat to the stability of Iraq, but a threat to the entire region. This growing threat exemplifies the need for Iraqis from all communities to work together to confront this common enemy and to take all possible steps to isolate these militant groups from the broader population.
    We encourage government officials in Baghdad and Erbil to take every possible effort to assist Iraq’s vulnerable populations and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions in a manner consistent with the rule of law. The United States stands with all the Iraqi people against the threat from ISIL.

    John Kerry is the head of the US State Dept.   Their equivalent in Iraq?  Hoshyar Zebari heads the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  He has been the Minister of Foreign Affairs since July 13, 2003.  July 11th, Nouri began making noises and, as usual, a stupid and craven western press dropped to all fours for Nouri and began treating Nouri's edicts as laws and facts.  From that day's snapshot:

    There are reports that Nouri's replaced Zebari.
    No, he really hasn't and can't.  Were he to nominate someone -- questionable with Iraq's caretaker state currently -- that person couldn't be confirmed because that requires the Parliament.
    Now he did something similar in a previous time when a government hadn't yet formed.  When he did that before, he took someone already confirmed by Parliament to the Cabinet and just taxed that person with additional duties and an additional office.
    Deputy Prime Minister Hussain Shahristani has never been confirmed to head a Ministry so it's a stretch to call him "acting" or "interim" anything.  You can call him "illegal" or "unconstitutional."  But that's about it.

    Rudaw speaks with Zebari today and the first issue they raise in the interview?

    On whether he is still foreign minister of Iraq:

    I am still the foreign minister of Iraq.  He (Hussein Shahristani) has been appointed as acting (foreign minister). Based on the Iraqi constitution, removing ministers requires parliamentary approval. The prime minister or the council of ministers have no such authority.

    So maybe in the future, the foreign press (including many Americans) could either tell the truth or just sit their tired asses down?  The foreign press has lied about Iraq more than enough at this point in time?
    For those who failed to grasp why their is a boycott in the Cabinet, we'll note this:

    Whether the Kurds are boycotting Baghdad:

    The decision of the (Kurdish) leadership is to take part in the political process. We have not boycotted the political process. Otherwise, the Kurdish members of parliament would not attend the parliament. Our withdrawal from the cabinet meetings resulted from Prime Minister Maliki's accusations against the Kurdistan Region of harboring IS (Islamic State) and al-Qaeda, and that Erbil has become a haven for terrorists. I personally told Maliki, ‘it’s a shame for you and us that we sit together and still make such accusations against us. For this reason we will not take part (in the government), so that the whole world knows about this.’ It is unacceptable to accuse your partner of terrorism and conspiracies. But we all (Kurdish) ministers united in our stance. We have not boycotted the government; we have only suspended our presence there. In the next step, we might leave the government and submit a mass resignation. Now, there are lots of pressures by the US and others. We have told everyone that we are Peshmergas in Baghdad, and with one phone call from our leadership we pack up and return to Kurdistan.

    Nouri's verbal attack on the Kurds took place Wednesday, July 9th and we noted it in that day's Iraq snapshot and how outrageous it was.  We returned to the topic July 10th when Gwen Ifill and The NewsHour (PBS) picked up the story to blame the Kurds for walking out of the Cabinet -- the 'news' program failed to cover Nouri declaring the Kurds terrorist.

    Grasp please that Nouri's accusations did just that.  It was not just an offensive statement to make, it was one that could kick in certain legal aspects.

    Nouri's remarks were inflammatory and never should have been made.

    Thanks to Gwen, we saw how a whorish western press repeatedly acts.

    Nouri smears the Kurds as terrorists in his televised weekly address and The NewsHour ignores it.  The next day they're 'interested' and treat the Kurdish response (the walkout) as the starting point and fail to note how offensive and outrageous Nouri's remarks were.

    This is what they have done over and over and why there is blood on the hands of the US press.

    They have whored for power, they have been stenographers jotting down Nouri's every word and presenting it as fact.

    Willy is my child, he is my father
    I would be his lady all my life
    He says he'd love to live with me
    But for an ancient injury
    That has not healed
    He said I feel once again
    Like I gave my heart too soon 

    -- "Willy," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Ladies of the Canyon.

    As always, Joni can nail down the human condition better than anyone.  But while we might have those feelings about a lover, it's really sad to grasp how the US press has had them about a tyrant and how easily those lyrics can be reworked:

    Nouri is my child, he is my father
    I would be his lady all my life . . . 

    Over and over the western press -- especially the American press -- has distorted and disguised reality in Iraq to benefit Nouri.  When he went on his killing spree targeting Iraqi youth who were or were thought to be gay, the big press in the US ignored it.

    Who made that story in the US?

    The music press did.

    And once they grabbed -- and thank goodness they did -- it forced other US news outlets who had ignored it for weeks and weeks to suddenly (and briefly) report on it.

    If Barack Obama, US President, sent one of his Secretaries into schools to advocate to children and teenagers that gay people be killed?  It would be huge news.  If Barack then denied sending people in to do that?  It would also be news.  If, during Barack's denials, a copy of the information sheet -- on official government letterhead -- was printed by the press, it would be huge news.

    Nouri is very lucky to have western groupies posing as reporters -- hey, Jane Arraf, we especially mean you -- who have repeatedly ignored real news stories because they would paint Nouri in a bad light.

    Nouri is equally lucky that -- whether he's attacking the Kurds or Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi -- that the press never starts the story where it begins -- with Nouri's actions -- but drops in midstream so they can present Nouri as the injured and wronged party.

    How did Iraq get to the point it is currently?

    One reason is that the western press has coddled a tyrant and covered for him.

    And it's not just the professional press.  Scott Horton has spent most of 2009 to the present on his Antiwar Radio show endorsing Nouri.  Joel Wing will never own his actions but the reality is he's been thrilled to attack and call out KRG President Massoud Barzani while writing fan fic about Nouri.

    Apparently, it's okay with those and other Americans if Nouri tries to incite hate crimes against Iraqi gays and lesbians (and those wrongly thought to be gay or lesbian).

    Apparently, a country's leader ordering his staff to go into the school system and repeat lies about gays and lesbians (they were called Satanists and vampires -- and this was on the official Iraqi government document that the Ministry of Interior handed out in the schools) isn't enough to rile up a Scott Horton or a Joel Wing.

    They just don't care.  They'll keep covering for their personal tyrant.

    Last week, we saw it yet again as Nouri smeared the Kurds as terrorists.

    And the western press wasn't interested but the next day when the Kurds walk out of the Cabinet, suddenly it's 'oh those bad Kurds!'

    Nouri's actions have brought Iraq to the brink.

    A whorish western press that has refused to hold Nouri accountable has allowed this to happen.

    And they need to take responsibility for their actions.

    In the summer of 2006, the whoring was obvious.

    Nouri had already proven to be inept and a man of words and vanity and, yes, paranoia.

    But the press was whoring for him.  Even though he was attacking the press.  His big solution for Iraq at that time was stealing an idea that others came up with and were already implementing (local control of protection) and silencing the press.

    But when 'reporting' on this plan, one western outlet after another ignored Nouri's attempt to criminalize reporting.  Only the BBC had the guts and integrity to include Nouri's assault on the press.

    Over and over, Nouri's actions have been filtered by the press to remove his most extreme statements and actions so that US readers and audio and video news consumers will never grasp how out of control Nouri is, how criminal he is.

    Unlike Nouri's temple whores, we've never played that game here.

    Which has made the US government's exhaustion with Nouri so interesting in the last weeks.  Even the White House is realizing that Nouri likely has to go -- no third term as prime minister for Nouri -- if Iraq is going to move forward.

    This realization leaves the US press in a pickle because they've got to find a way to call out Nouri to be on the same 'team' as the White House but they've spent so long covering for him.  (The editorial board of the New York Times has spent the last years calling Nouri out.  They have been an exception among editorial boards and US columnists.  On columnists, the only one with a real record of calling Nouri out has been the Philadelphia Inquirer's Trudy Rubin.)

    The western press needs to be held accountable.

    That includes those who hate Sunnis and think it's alright to act on their own prejudices.  Amy Goodman does a two part segment on Iraq this week and never calls out Nouri?  Never even notes the attack on the Kurds, Zebari or anything.  But she does have time to let Patrick Cockburn foam at the mouth with his Saudi Arabia conspiracy talk.  Patrick's Sunni hatred is widely known and documented in the Arab world.  Amy Goodman wants to talk what's wrong in Iraq but, cheap whore that she is, that talk never gets to Nouri.  Two segments on how awful Sunnis -- in Iraq and in neighboring countries -- are but no accountability for Nouri?

    The problem is not just that Nouri is a despot and tyrant in the grand tradition of Augusto Pinochet,  it's that the western press has refused to be honest about who and what he is.

    Some in the US media lied because they're lazy and they're stupid.  The inept are always with us.  Others though?   Some in the US lied about Nouri because they always lie to reflect the position of whomever occupies the White House.  Others lied because they thought Nouri was their guy (a number of fringe radicals in the US fall under that category -- don't worry they know who they are).  Others lied because in their S&M masturbation fantasies they need someone who dominates the US government and they've wrongly portrayed puppet Nouri as someone who stood up to the US government.  Others lied because they're part of The Mighty Wurlitzer.

    If you're late to the party on The Mighty Wurlitzer, you can refer to Carl Bernstein's 1977 expose "The CIA And The Media:"

    In 1953, Joseph Alsop, then one of America’s leading syndicated columnists, went to the Philippines to cover an election. He did not go because he was asked to do so by his syndicate. He did not go because he was asked to do so by the newspapers that printed his column. He went at the request of the CIA.
    Alsop is one of more than 400 American journalists who in the past twenty‑five years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to documents on file at CIA headquarters. Some of these journalists’ relationships with the Agency were tacit; some were explicit. There was cooperation, accommodation and overlap. Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services—from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go‑betweens with spies in Communist countries. Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without‑portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested in the derring‑do of the spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full‑time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad. In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.

    The CIA's connections to Nouri run deep and their argument for him, in 2006, included their assessment that Nouri was deeply paranoid (he is, we first noted it here the same year) and his paranoia would make him easy to control.

    Again, he is this decade's Augusto Pinochet.

    In other tales of the press treating the outrageous as normal . . .

    December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 following Jalal's argument with Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot).  Jalal was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.

    The latest spin is that he will return to Iraq on Saturday.  If he does, it will be one year and seven months later.  If he does, it will not be for the good of Iraq and Iraqis but because the Talabani family wants to maintain their hold on the PUK political party.   Rudaw reports:

    The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) has officially submitted its candidate for Iraq’s presidency, as politicians desperately struggle to put together a government in the middle of a Sunni rebellion and militant control of a third of Iraq.
    Sources told Rudaw that the PUK has chosen Fuad Massoum, who is from Halabja, as a compromise candidate. But that was not immediately confirmed. Massoum is a long-time associate of Jalal Talabani, the PUK leader and Iraqi president who has been in Germany since a stroke in December 2012.

    Jalal's been fine hiding out in Germany.

    And the western press has been fine with treating this as normal.

    Despite the fact that January 2013 should have seen Jalal return to Iraq or be stripped of his post.

    The presidency can not be vacant.  The Constitution makes it clear that if a president is to ill to carry out the duties of the office, the person is replaced.

    His wife and the rest of his family publicly lied, repeatedly claiming Jalal would return in a few weeks.  They began pimping that lie in January of 2013 in order to ward off cries for Talabani to be replaced.

    As Iraq has faced one crises after another, it's done so without the help or aid of Jalal Talabani.  He should have been stripped of his post.

    If he does return Saturday, he returns under a cloud.  He has brought shame to the nation and allowed his only desires to trump what was good for Iraq.

    Iraq needed a president and Jalal deprived the country of that for 19 months.

    Turning to the topic of violence, Mitchell Prothero (McClatchy Newspapers) reports:

    Islamic State gunmen overran a former U.S. military base early Friday and killed or captured hundreds of Iraqi government troops who’d been trying to retake Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, the worst military reversal Iraqi troops have suffered since the Islamist forces captured nearly half the country last month.
    The defeat brought to an end a three-week campaign by the government in Baghdad to recapture Tikrit, which fell to the Islamic State on June 11. Military spokesmen earlier this week had confidently announced a final push to recapture the city.

    Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/07/18/4243140/islamic-state-overwhelms-iraqi.html#storylink=cpy

    In addition, National Iraqi News Agency notes today's violence also includes a Kirkuk roadside bombing which left two people injured, a battle in al-Dhuluiya left 8 rebels dead, a Sinjar battle left 6 rebels dead, an Albu Gleb attack left 6 rebels dead, Jurf al-Sakhar battles left 23 rebels dead, and Nouri's continued bombing of civilian targets in Falluja left al-Furqan mosque cleric Sheikh Mohammed Kadhim injured and his home and the homes of others damaged.

    We'll close with this from BRussells Tribunal:

    subscribe newsletter

    The EU has moral and legal obligations towards Iraq after several of its member states ignored the warnings of the anti-war voices not to attack the country in 2003.

    On the occasion of the meeting on Iraq in the European Parliament on July 16th 2014

    Open letter to Members of the European Parliament

    On the occasion of the meeting on Iraq in the European Parliament on July 16th 2014

    The EU has moral and legal obligations towards Iraq after several of its member states ignored the warnings of the anti-war voices not to attack the country in 2003.

    The failure to protect the ordinary citizens of Iraq, the deliberate harm inflicted on certain communities as well as the gross human rights violations being committed by the Iraqi government’s forces on a daily basis with total impunity have been met with silence. According to Human Rights Watch 255 Sunni prisoners were murdered mainly by militia supporting prison guards in the last four weeks. All detainees must be protected immediately!

    The reality of the situation is bleak: Prime Minister Maliki has built an authoritarian state where ruthless paramilitary groups such as Assaib Ahel Al Haq have more military weight than the regular army. These sectarian militias are given a free hand to terrorise communities, to commit kidnapping, to torture and to carry out extra judicial killings with impunity. The militias have been carrying out sectarian cleansing in Baghdad against the Sunnis, as reported by the media and NGOs. It is Maliki´s policies of discrimination, repression and exclusion that also bears responsibility for the increase of acts of terrorism by sectarian groups like ISIS. Neither Maliki nor his allies are really fighting terrorism but rather are using them as a pretext for their policies. These attempts are doomed to failure and have only alienated and terrorised even more communities.. Only the Iraqi people, united in defence of their nation, can defeat terrorism.
    There are tens of other armed groups and militias - some of them linked to the Prime Minister's Office - that are involved in indiscriminate killings and are responsible for creating a sectarian bloodbath in Iraq. The national, non-sectarian forces leading the uprising against Maliki have strongly condemned, as we do, all terrorist actions.

    The use of air strikes allegedly in order to fight terrorism is also a failed strategy. This policy has led to the indiscriminate killing of thousands of innocent civilians and the destruction of their homes .The US occupation tried it and the subsequent Green Zone governments of Iraq also tried it. Even as all observers agree that the solution in Iraq is not a military one, the US, Iran and others rush to aid Maliki with weapons and personnel. This strategy acts as a hatching machine for hatred and resentment as a result of the wholesale criminalisation of communities. We urge you therefore to speak up against the bombing of Iraqi villages, towns and cities.

    One of the main reasons for the peaceful protests that began in Fallujah, Anbar, Tikrit, Mosul and other places in December 2012 was the news that women, arrested arbitrarily in lieu of their men folk, were being tortured and raped in detention. The peaceful protesters had well documented, clear demands starting with the release of all female detainees, the cancelling of article 4 of the Terrorism Law which is often used as a pretext for arbitrary arrests/torture and rape (see HRW report No One is Safe), the repeal the de-baathification decree introduced by Paul Bremer, and an end to all sectarian/ethnic discrimination and the rejection of partition of the country. The government met the peaceful protests with bombs and even massacres,) including the assassination of unarmed and injured protesters.

    We call for :

    1) the immediate ban on the flow of arms to Maliki's government.

    2) a halt all airstrikes and military operations in Iraqi towns and cities.

    3) the creation of safe corridors to deliver aid and humanitarian supplies to the civilians in areas of conflict.

    4) an end to all measures of collective punishments such as the cutting off of water/electricity/withholding food stuffs and payment of salaries.

    5) the protection of prisoners, the release all detainees not charged or tried and the end to all forms of arbitrary arrests, maltreatment and torture.

    6) the undertaking of immediate measures to protect civilians (especially the displaced) and the safeguarding of their human rights.

    7) the establishment of a new, non-sectarian government that rejects the imposed political process and constitution imposed by the occupation. Only such a government can guarantee Iraq´s borders and security.

    8) the encouragement and active support from the EU, respecting the UN Security Council resolution to defend the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq, for immediate negotiations to establish such a government.

    Through these measures the EU can assume its moral and legal responsibility to the people of Iraq.

    International Anti-Occupation Network and the BRussells Tribunal - July 14, 2014

    (1)“The jihadi surge is the tragic, violent outcome of steadily deteriorating political dynamics. Instead of a rash military intervention and unconditional support for the Iraqi government, pressure is needed to reverse sectarian polarisation and a disastrous record of governance.” International Crisis Group http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/middle-east-north-africa/iraq-iran-gulf/iraq.aspx
    (2)”.. the Obama administration has announced several waves of troop movement into the region and into Iraq specifically. As of last week, the announced number heading for Iraq now totals 770” How Nearly 800 U.S. Troops Spent Their Fourth Of July In Iraq http://thinkprogress.org/world/2014/07/06/3456225/iraq-american-troops/
    (3)”Two battalions of the Quds Forces, which is the overseas branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, moved to Iraq on Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported. There they worked jointly with Iraqi troops to retake control of 85 percent of Tikrit, security forces from both countries told the Journal. “ RT: US airstrikes to support Iranian Revolutionary Guard's offensive in Iraq? http://rt.com/usa/165612-us-iran-allies-iraq-insurgency/ Foreign combat aircraft pour into Iraq http://www.janes.com/article/40398/foreign-combat-aircraft-pour-into-iraq#.U7v-xcI9YRA.twitter
    (4) Toby Dodge Iraq from war to New Authoritarianism https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tydPC1L7kU “Years of ethnic cleansing have changed the sectarian balance of Baghdad strongly in favour of Shia” http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/fd522be2-fdff-11e3-bd0e-00144feab7de.html#axzz363X8Ykyn FT:City on edge as Baghdad residents await Isis attack #collectivepunishment article in English #Maliki army burn orchards and kill sheep http://tinyurl.com/mqqvubw
    (5) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPgniPHvEc4 Torture session in Mousel Iraq: Government Blocking Residents Fleeing Fighting http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/05/03/iraq-government-blocking-residents-fleeing-fighting collective punishment: Iraqi government decided NOT to pay Salaries in ‘hot areas’ not under its control http://tinyurl.com/o747gss
    50 sunni detainees in Baquba/at least 7 in Mousel/46 in Tel Afar (Amnesty report) have been killed by the Maliki forces before withdrawing. http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/07/11/iraq-campaign-mass-murders-sunni-prisoners
    (6)Though it received little global attention, unrest in Fallujah, a primarily Sunni city, began in late 2012 with protests against the hardline policies of Nouri al-Maliki, the Shiite prime minister. Like many residents, Wardi sees the military campaign, which began in January, as retribution. “This started under the banner of fighting terrorists but changed to attacking the city,” she said. “It’s punishment for the people.” “They describe government artillery fire raining down on the city, targeting even the hospital, as Human Rights Watch documented in May. Army helicopters have also used barrel bombs — crude and inexact explosives that level surrounding homes along with intended targets when they fall from the sky. “They’re completely indiscriminate — if not actively targeting Sunni civilians,” Erin Evers, the Human Rights Watch researcher in Iraq, said of the government’s military campaign in Fallujah and elsewhere in Anbar, such as the city of Ramadi, which has seen a similar cycle of protests and violence.” Shades Of Syria: Fears Maliki Will Follow The Assad Model In Iraq. http://www.buzzfeed.com/mikegiglio/shades-of-syria-fears-that-maliki-will-follow-the-assad-mode Call on UN Security Council, U.S. and EU to prevent the bombardment of civilians in Iraq Struan Stevenson President, European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) http://iraq4allnews.dk/irak/index.php/news1532.html
    (7) “Maliki never appointed a permanent, parliament-confirmed interior minister, nor a defense minister, nor an intelligence chief. Instead, he took the positions for himself.” “In short, Maliki’s one-man, one-Dawa-party Iraq looks a lot like [Saddam]Hussein’s one-man, one-Baath Party Iraq. But at least Hussein helped contain a strategic American enemy: Iran. And Washington didn’t spend $1 trillion propping him up. There is not much “democracy” left if one man and one party with close links to Iran control the judiciary, police, army, intelligence services, oil revenue, treasury and the central bank. Under these circumstances, renewed ethno-sectarian civil war in Iraq was not a possibility. It was a certainty” - Why we stuck with Maliki — and lost Iraq http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-we-stuck-with-maliki--and-lost-iraq/2014/07/03/0dd6a8a4-f7ec-11e3-a606-946fd632f9f1_story.html
    (8)The United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials state that security forces in policing situations shall “apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms.http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/01/03/iraq-investigate-violence-protest-camp Iraq: Investigate Violence at Protest Camp Fighting Erupts in Anbar Province After Security Forces, Protesters Clash.
    Frustrated with living in fear and in constant violation of their rights, the people of Iraq took to the streets to demand that their basic human rights be respected. Their action took the form of peaceful demonstrations, which began on 25 December 2012 in Al-Anbar province. Since then, the demonstrations have grown in geography, expanding to cities throughout the country, and in number with hundreds of thousands of participants. The protests first called for the release of female detainees who are subjected to inhumane treatment, but now encompass a range of demands including the immediate release of fellow protestors; the abolition of anti-terrorist laws; the cessation of house raids without legal warrant and the end of financial, administrative and legal corruption. GICJ requests that an independent international investigation mission be dispatched to Iraq http://www.gicj.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=290&Itemid=41&mylang=english&redir=1
    “The main reason for the fall of the city of Mosul – the second largest city in Iraq – is that the Maliki government did not respond to the demands of the citizen protestors who demonstrated in Mosul, Anbar, Salahuddin, Diyala and Hawija over a year ago and so the citizens did not support the Iraqi army.The policy of the Iraqi government headed by Nouri al-Maliki has been totally sectarian in the way it has operated in the Iraqi provinces. The government has almost totally excluded representatives of the Sunni population from the sovereign ministries, or left them with no real authority. Even the new Iraqi army was formed on this basis. The Iraqi army unfortunately does not support a doctrine of loyalty to the homeland (or an Iraq that is inclusive of all people); instead it is loyal to the Madhhab or Shia doctrine. It deals with citizens according to their religious sect. The armed forces have attacked people in the cities of Mosul, Anbar, Salahuddin, Diyala and Hawija. They have carried out arrests, torture and extortion. There have also been many cases of rape by members of the army, both outside and inside prisons.” http://www.iraqicivilsociety.org/archives/3235