Saturday, September 26, 2015

It's the Pope not Mick Jagger

"Congressman Steals Pope Francis' Water, Brags About It" read the NPR headline.

And I thought, "What crazy Republican did this?"

It was a crazy Democrat.

Bob Brady.

Never heard of him before.

Wish I hadn't now.

I'm Catholic.

The Pope is not a Beatle.

You don't stalk him.

You don't treat him like a rock star.

Some people have seriously misunderstood their own religion.

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

Friday, September 25, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the grades are coming in and Barack's getting Fs, RAND has a new report, and much more.

Starting with a Tweet.

    1. It's revealing that this Australian govt thinks the answer to 's problems is (more) planes and bombs. That's been tried before, people!

  • It's revealing that any US government can only think of  "(more) planes and bombs."

    US President Barack Obama is only the latest American fool to preach "(more) planes and bombs."

    And despite the lack of success for over a year now, he continues to advocate it.

    And others, like the Australian government, rush to join in on the deadly nonsense.

    The stupidity only increases collectively and apparently in unison.

    The rush to join the death club clouds reason and even the abilities of basic observation.

    As RT noted this week, "Over 53,000 flights, 6700 strikes, and nearly $4 billion dollars later, Operation Inherent Resolve has yet to achieve any of its objectives."

    But the desire to join the death club is too powerful to be let facts get in the way.

    Yesterday, the US Defense Dept boasted:

    Bomber, fighter, fighter-attack, and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 16 airstrikes in Iraq, coordinated with the Iraqi government:
    -- Near Huwayjah, an airstrike destroyed 16 ISIL fighting positions.
    -- Near Habbaniyah, an airstrike destroyed two ISIL anti-air artillery pieces.
    -- Near Kirkuk, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.
    -- Near Mosul, six airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two ISIL vehicle bomb-making facilities, an ISIL fighting position, an ISIL cache, an ISIL bunker, and suppressed an ISIL heavy machine gun, an ISIL light machine gun, and two ISIL mortar positions.
    -- Near Ramadi, three airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroyed two ISIL buildings, an ISIL excavator, and three ISIL mobility obstacles.
    -- Near Sinjar, three airstrikes struck separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed and ISIL light machine gun and six ISIL fighting positions.
    -- Near Tal Afar, one airstrike suppressed ISIL mortar fire.

    Officials also announced a previously unreported Sept. 10 airstrike near Tal Afar, Iraq, which struck an ISIL tactical unit and resulted in a destroyed vehicle and the death of a senior ISIL leader.

    They boasted of that (and of bombings on Syria) and:

    The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, the region, and the wider international community. The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group's ability to project terror and conduct operations, officials said.
    Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Iraq include the United States, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Syria include the United States, Bahrain, Canada, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

    It was nice of them to provide a listing of all the delusional parties who shouldn't be allowed access to a water gun, let alone a bomb.

    But each day, they boast of their latest round of bombings when they should be embarrassed.

    Not only is it barbaric, but it's accomplished nothing.

    Operation Inherent Failure, led by Barack Obama.

    Is that redundant?

    It feels redundant.

    Bringing up the stupidity from the rear, Michael Knights (Al Jazeera) writes:

    Iraq's Kirkuk province has long been identified as a fulcrum for political and ethnic tensions, with the potential to make or break national reconciliation efforts between Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen. With each passing week, Kirkuk rises on the agenda of Iraqi politicians and the province is becoming a focal point for Arab-Kurdish and intra-Kurdish politicking.
    Kirkuk is currently central to five interlocking sets of conflicts. The first is the fight against the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, which is slowing down in central Iraq and which has been largely static along the Kurdish-ISIL front line for many months. The US-led coalition now needs to generate a new northern front against ISIL that fuses together Sunni Arab paramilitaries with Kurdish and international support. Kirkuk is the launchpad for operations against the adjacent ISIL redoubt in Hawija.

    It's a cute little scribble that never manages to grasp reality.

    Should we drop back to July 2011 for the RAND Corporation's report entitled "Managing Arab-Kurd Tensions in Northern Iraq After the Withdrawal of U.S. Troops"?

    From the July 26, 2011 snapshot:

    Of greater interest to us (and something's no one's reported on) is the RAND Corporation's  report entitled "Managing Arab-Kurd Tensions in Northern Iraq After the Withdrawal of U.S. Troops."  The 22-page report, authored by Larry Hanauer, Jeffrey Martini and Omar al-Shahery, markets "CBMs" -- "confidence-building measures" -- while arguing this is the answer.  If it strikes you as dangerously simplistic and requiring the the Kurdish region exist in a vacuum where nothing else happens, you may have read the already read the report.  CBMs may strike some as what the US military was engaged in after the Iraqi forces from the central government and the Kurdish peshmerga were constantly at one another's throats and the US military entered into a patrol program with the two where they acted as buffer or marriage counselor.  (And the report admits CBMs are based on that.)  Sunday Prashant Rao (AFP) reported US Col Michael Bowers has announced that, on August 1st, the US military will no longer be patrolling in northern Iraq with the Kurdish forces and forces controlled by Baghdad. That took years.  And had outside actors.  The authors acknowledge:
    ["]Continuing to contain Arab-Kurd tensions will require a neutral third-party arbitrator that can facilitate local CMBs, push for national-level negotiations, and prevent armed conflict between Iraqi and Kurdish troops.  While U.S. civilian entities could help implement CMBs and mediate political talks, the continued presence of U.S. military forces within the disputed internal boundaries would be the most effective way to prevent violent conflict between Arabs and Kurds.["]
    As you read over the report, you may be struck by its failure to state the obvious: If the US government really wanted the issue solved, it would have been solved in the early years of the illegal war.  They don't want it solved.  The Kurds have been the most loyal ally the US has had in the country and, due to that, they don't want to upset them.  However, they're not going to pay back the loyalty with actual support, not when there's so much oil at stake.  So the Kurds were and will continue to be told their interests matter but the US will continue to blow the Kurdish issues off over and over.  Greed trumps loyalty is the message.  (If you doubt it, the Constitution guaranteed a census and referendum on Kirkuk by December 31, 2007.  Not only did the US government install Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister in 2006, they continued to back him for a second term in 2010 despite his failure to follow the Constitution.)
    Along with avoiding that reality, the report seems rather small-minded or, at least, "niche driven."  Again, the authors acknowledge that as well noting that they're not presenting a solution to the problems or ways to reach a solution, just ways to kick the can further down the road and, hopefully, there won't be an explosion that forces the issue any time soon. ("Regional and local CBMs have the potential to keep a lid on inter-communal tensions that will, without question, boil beneath the surface for a long time.  They cannot, however, resolve what is, at its heart, a strategic political dispute that must be resolved at the national level.") Hopefully? Page nine of the report notes that the consensus of US military, officials, analysts, etc. who have worked on the issue is that -- "given enough time -- Arab and Kurdish participants will eventually have a dispute that leads to violence, which will cause the mechanism to degrade or collapse."
    The report notes that, in late 2009, Gen Ray Odierno (top US commander in Iraq at that point) had declared the tensions between Arabs and Kurds to be "the greatest single driver of instability in Iraq."  It doesn't note how the US Ambassador to Iraq when Odierno made those remarks was Chris Hill who dismissed talk of tensions as well as the issue of the oil rich and disputed Kirkuk.
    The authors argue that the unresolved issues could still be solved (and "civil war is not imminent") but that "the window is quickly closing".  So what's the problem?  The authors explain:
    ["]The issues that divide Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, and other minorities in northern Iraq mirror the nation's most complex and contentious political challenges: disputed internal boundaries (which must be settled in order to determine the territorial boundaires of the Kurdistan region), the lack of clarity regarding control over Iraq's hydrocarbons, and the need to professionalize and integrate Iraq's military and police.  More locally, Arab-Kurd disputes extend to the sharing of power on local governing bodies, the ethnic composition of local police, rights to previously seized or abandoned property, the jurisidiction and condut of Kurdish security and intelligence services, and protections for minority rights.["]
    If the US military leaves can the US State Dept fill the role?  While the authors note that the State Dept is interested in doing that and might be able to grab some roles, "U.S. diplomats would be ill-suited to join Kurdish and Iraqi security forces on armed patrols or at checkpoints, where disagreements on operations and tactics are more likely to lead to violence." The authors think the United Nations might be able to play a role in the CBMs but acknowledges that in June of 2009, UNAMI was uanble to please either side.
    The report really ends there though the authors continue on -- including offering some ridiculous 'soutions.'  Reality, if the US wanted to make an impact on the issue, the time to do so was long, long ago.  It's an Iraqi decision and they'll have to decide it.  And they'll most likely do so in a violent manner.  The report notes, "Kurdish leaders hope that favorable demographic trends will strengthen their position over time, as will revenues from whatever energy contracts they are able to conclude themselves.  For its part, Baghdad seems to believe that improvements to Iraqi Army capabilities will deter armed conflict and prevent the KRG from seceding."

    The unresolved issue of Kirkuk remains unresolved.

    It is still disputed land.

    The Constitution of Iraq is still not being followed.

    But Knights waives away all of that and insists Kirkuk is the way forward  (obsessed Brit TV watchers would insist Essex is the only way).

    And RAND?  They just issued a report by Brian Michael Jenkins entitled [PDF format warning] "How the Current Conflicts Are Shaping the Future of Syria and Iraq."

     Sectarian and ethnic divisions are now almost entirely driving the conflicts.  At the same time, internecine conflicts continue among the jihadists and other religiously motivated rebel formations.  
    National armies have failed.  Power has shifted to militias.  These are capable of defending ethnic and sectarian enclaves but are limited in their ability to conduct strategic operations beyond their home ground.  This shift will, in turn, weaken central government authority. 
    Syria and Iraq are now effectively partioned, and those partitions are likely to persist.  The Kurds are consolidating their territory, united their enclaves in Syria and Iraq, and laying the foundation for a future independent state, although they have not announced their intention.  Although the Kurds are proving to be effective fighters when supported by coalition bombing, they are unlikely to advance into traditional Sunni areas.  The Syrian government has largely abandoned the Sunni areas of the country and is increasingly devoted to defending its sectarian bastion in western Syria.  The Shia-dominated government in Baghdad has not been able to win over any of Iraq's Sunnis and that will impede its ability to recapture the cities and towns now held by ISIL.  Whether ISIL, despite the bombing campaign and some pressure from Iraqi forces, will be able to consolidate its Islamic State and become the primary political expression of Sunnis in Syria and Iraq or, instead, a Sunni badlands emerge where warfare between armed rivals continue indefinitely, remains to be seen.

    If the new release from RAND were a report card, I have a feeling little Barry would be hiding it from his mother because, if you missed it, Operation Inherent Failure is a failure.

    Even the grade from shop class is dismal.  Ali Khedery (Foreign Affairs) observes:

    In 2010, still flushed with the success of Bush’s “surge,” Vice President Joe Biden forecast that President Barack Obama’s Iraq policy was “going to be one of the great achievements of this administration,” lauding Iraqis for using “the political process, rather than guns, to settle their differences.” And in 2012, even as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was running an increasingly authoritarian and dysfunctional regime, the administration continued its happy talk. “Many predicted that the violence would return and Iraq would slide back toward sectarian war,” said Antony Blinken, then Biden’s national security adviser. “Those predictions proved wrong.”
    Today, of course, the Iraqi army has all but collapsed, despite some $25 billion in U.S. assistance. Shiite militants who have sworn allegiance to Iran’s supreme leader operate with impunity. And the Islamic State (or ISIS) dominates more than a third of Iraq and half of Syria. Obama’s successor will thus certainly earn the distinction of becoming the fifth consecutive president to bomb Iraq.

    Yes, Barack's even failing shop class.

    I heard it in the wind last night
    It sounded like applause
    Chilly now
    End of summer
    No more shiny hot nights
    It was just the arbutus rustling
    And the bumping of the logs
    And the moon swept down black water
    Like an empty spotlight 

    -- "For The Roses," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album of the same name

    Chilly now.

    Friday, September 25, 2015

    Hillary and her problems

    More problems for Hillary Clinton:

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greenlighted paperwork that changed her top aide Huma Abedin’s job status to “special government employee” — a classification that allowed Abedin to work for an outside consulting firm and the Clinton Foundation at the same time she was advising Clinton at State.
    According to documents obtained by conservative group Judicial Watch through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, Clinton was the immediate supervisor who approved the title change that came with the new post on March 23, 2012, permitting her then-deputy chief of staff to work several jobs at once.

    She is her worst enemy because she repeatedly breaks the rules or bends them while insisting she didn't do what someone else did.

    But she's always breaking the rules and then screaming "Mean press!" when her actions are reported.

    She's become a bore.

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

    Wednesday, September 23, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Haider al-Abadi backs off his reforms or 'reforms,' just in time for the Pope's US visit President Barack Obama remembers Iraq, the cooked intel story is not going away, and much more.

    Today, the State Dept's Deputy Sex Addict Brett McGurk Tweeted:

  • Today with , confirmed $75M for acute needs of Iraqi IDPs & named a special coordinator for 's minorities.

  • And to think, all it took was a face-to-face with the Pope for US President Barack Obama to finally recognize the refugee crisis other countries have been noting for weeks.

    Brett's giddy Barack named a special coordinator for Iraq's minorities?

    Apparently, Brett'll use any excuse to whip it out (but didn't we already know that).

    Otherwise, why not grasp that this "special coordinator" will be about as effective as the ridiculous Daniel Fried who was John Kerry's "Special Advisor on Camp Ashraf" from November 2011 until January 2013 -- and accomplished nothing.


    If you're in doubt, this week former US House Rep Patrick Kennedy penned a column which included:

    My uncle, President John F. Kennedy, managed to negotiate a nuclear deal with a hostile adversary (the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, signed with the Soviet Union in August 1963) while actively supporting, in both rhetoric and to the tune of tens of billions of dollars in funding, the cause of democracy in Eastern bloc countries. In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan took the same approach with the USSR by signing the INF Treaty while redoubling the U.S. commitment to democracy behind the Iron Curtain. This strategy kept faith with America's deepest-held values and most vital interests. Sadly, today our government has not pursued a similar course with respect to Iran.
    While my former colleagues in Congress have now given President Barack Obama the votes he needs for a nuclear deal, what's been equally worrisome has been the near total abdication of America's moral authority on promoting democracy and human rights in Iran, both of which were under assault even during the nuclear talks, when we had maximum leverage.
    [. . .]
    The U.S. can start by taking prompt action to protect thousands of Iranian dissidents who languish like sitting ducks in an Iraqi camp we swore to protect but didn't, for fear of alienating the regime from the negotiating table. With the deal done, one would think the Obama administration now has the leverage to save these souls who cast their lot with a secular, democratic, non-nuclear Iran. After years of ambushes and massacres at the hands of Iran-supported forces, these brave men and women should be protected from further attacks at the ironically named Camp Liberty. We must make clear to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that he is responsible for the protection of these Iranian dissidents, and they must be brought to the safety of third-party nations.

    The deal is done, but America's interests and values endure. We must now use the imminent passage of the nuclear pact to renew America's unique commitment to the ideal of democracy and human rights in Iran and stand with the Iranian people and not their oppressors.

    For approximately 14 months, Fried held a role that tasked him with relocating less than 4,000 people.

    And he failed.

    He failed and no one cared and the press didn't even muster a yawn.

    For those who've boarded the plane late, here's an overview on the Ashraf community.  As of September 2013, Camp Ashraf in Iraq is empty.  All remaining members of the community have been moved to Camp Hurriya (also known as Camp Liberty).  Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were  welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.)   In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So the US has an obligation to protect the residents.  3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf.  They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part.  A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday.   That was the second attack this year alone.   February 9th of this year, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."  They were attacked again September 1st.   Adam Schreck (AP) reported that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.  It was during that attack that the 7 hostages were taken.

    The seven remain missing -- though John Kerry and Brett McGurk have insisted to Congress that they know where the 7 are -- and the Ashraf community still needs homes outside of Iraq.

    So Pope Francis comes to the US and suddenly Barack finds another job to create where an advisor will do nothing and accomplish nothing?

    What a proud moment for us all.

    Barack delivered empty words June 19, 2014 when he insisted the only answer for Iraq was a political solution.

    There's no political solution all this time later.

    And the latest US-installed puppet, Haider al-Abadi, is a joke.

    Nour Malas (Wall St. Journal) reports on Haider's reforms or 'reforms' and how Haider's well covered press announcements have not resulted in action -- but Haider "has backtracked" from his promises.

    There is still no National Guard.

    The main thing with the Guard?  This was going to bring Sunnis into the process.

    Persecuted under Nouri al-Maliki, this was going to bring in Sahwa and other elements.

    But apparently, Shi'ites in control do not want Sunnis in the military.

    You may remember the refusal of the Baghdad government to arm the Sunni fighters in Anbar Province -- the months of refusal and foot dragging and only when the US Congress began talking of arming the Sunnis directly did Haider finally start providing the Sunni fighters with arms.

    Malas notes that Iraqi and US officials blame Haider for failing to get Parliament to pass legislation creating the National Guard.

    Malas details how, even operating in secret (and unconstitutionally), Haider was unable to wrest control of Dawa (Shi'ite political party) from former prime minister (and forever thug) Nouri al-Maliki.  And how this and other events have led Haider to back away from his claims and promises.

    Haider held a meeting with Shi'ite military officers and Iran's Qasem Soleimani (Quds Force commander and designated a terrorist by the US government) in which he announced he would propose no more reforms with regards to the military.

    Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing (covered in the Thursday and Friday snapshots) and one topic was raised frequently.  An example.

    Committee Chair John McCain: Indeed this Committee is disturbed by recent whistle-blower allegations that officials at Central Command skewed intelligence assessments to paint an overly positive picture of conditions on the ground.  We are currently investigations these allegations which we take with the upmost seriousness.  The Department of Defense should as well.  And if true, those responsible must be held accountable.


    Senator Claire McCaskill: I understand from your testimony, Gen Austin, that you can't comment on the IG investigation this accusation that people are putting pressure on intelligence analysts to change the tenor of their reports.  It's a serious allegation that strikes at the core of our government in terms of our ability to oversee and make decisions around the use of our military. I want to say, at the end of this investigation, when you can discuss it, I just want to put on the record that I, for one, am going to be watching very carefully about any potential retaliation against any of the men or women that may have come forward with allegations.  It is incredibly important that whistle-blowers be protected in this space and -- depending upon what the investigation finds -- I understand that maybe there are other factors that I am not aware of -- but I just want to put on the record that I will be paying very close attention to how these whistle-blowers are treated in the aftermath of this investigation.

    The cooked intel story is not going away and in the latest development Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo (New York Times) report Gregory Hooker's role:

    As the senior Iraq analyst at Central Command, the military headquarters in Tampa that oversees American military operations across the Middle East and Central Asia, Mr. Hooker is the leader of a group of analysts that is accusing senior commanders of changing intelligence reports to paint an overly optimistic portrait of the American bombing campaign against the Islamic State. The Pentagon’s inspector general is investigating. 

    Although the investigation became public weeks ago, the source of the allegations and Mr. Hooker’s role have not been previously known. Interviews with more than a dozen current and former intelligence officials place the dispute directly at the heart of Central Command, with Mr. Hooker and his team in a fight over what Americans should believe about the war.

    Earlier this week,, Shane Harris and Nancy Youssef (The Daily Beast) reported on what was being cooked:

    In some cases, analysts were also urged to state that killing particular ISIS leaders and key officials would diminish the group and lead to its collapse. Many analysts, however, didn’t believe that simply taking out top ISIS leaders would have an enduring effect on overall operations.

    Amnesty International has an online petition regarding Iraq:

    One year after the take-over of Mosul by the group calling itself Islamic State (IS), Iraq is experiencing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

    Sectarian violence has spiraled to a level not seen since 2006-2007, the worst period of civil strife in the country’s recent history. IS’s territorial gains have been accompanied by widespread war crimes, including mass killings, abductions, rape and destruction. Hundreds of thousands of people, mainly religious and ethnic minorities, have been forced from their homes. Some 2.8 million people have been displaced by the conflict. Many are living in dire conditions, as the Iraqi central government and Kurdish authorities, as well as the international community, have struggled to provide for even the most basic needs of the growing number.  Many of the displaced have also been denied access to safe areas by both the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) acting out of security concerns but also on sectarian and discriminatory grounds.
    At the same time, Shi’a militias acting with impunity and outside any legal framework, but with the backing of Iraqi government and government forces have been carrying out reprisal attacks against Sunni communities, including mass killings, abductions and destruction of Sunni villages.

    Sign our petition to call on the Iraqi central government, the Kurdistan Regional government and the international community to protect civilians and put an end to human rights abuses

    Call on the Iraqi government  and the Kurdistan Regional government to:
    • Ensure that all allegations of abductions, hostage-taking, enforced disappearance, unlawful killings, including extrajudicial executions and other summary killings, torture and other ill-treatment by members of pro-government militias and members of the security services or armed forces are investigated promptly, thoroughly, transparently and independently;
    Call on the Iraqi central government, the Kurdistan Regional Government and the International community to:
    • Make concerted efforts to ensure that adequate protection and humanitarian assistance including shelter, food, water, sanitation and essential medical assistance is provided to those displaced by the conflict, and that they are allowed a safe passage to safe shelter.
    • When transferring or receiving weapons, adopt a preventive approach and strict safeguards in order to mitigate and remove the substantial risk of the arms being used directly by the intended recipients, or through diversion, to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law

    If you'd like to sign the petition, click here.


    Thursday, September 24, 2015

    Kevin Drum -- wrong on Iraq, wrong on everything

    Kevin Drum is so useless.

    We're all supposed to feel sorry for him and not judge him by his actions but this is the bitch, please remember, who cheerleaded  the Iraq War.

    He's just a dirty liar and why Mother Jones hired the pro-war hack is a question they never answer.

    But let's remember that two women are in charge of Mother Jones -- two women are in charge and they've found plenty of men to publish.

    That tells you everything you need to know about them.

    Drumette staggers around in his latest nonsense as he insists Hillary gets his tiny, limp dick hard.

    He attacks Ron Fournier -- an actual journalists.

    He lies about Ron as he pretends to fact check.

    The Washington Post reported Hillary got caught lying and Kevin Drum pretends like Ron got it wrong.

    Kevin Drum just needs to shut his damn mouth.

    I find it hilarious that some elements insist those who were wrong about Iraq should shut up.

    But Kevie Pooh gets to duck his head and no one wants to call him out on his s**t.

    He needs to be called out.

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

    Tuesday, September 22, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, spin continues, the Guardian gets exposed as the Judith Miller it was in the lead up to the Iraq War, a whistler-blower goes public on the cooking of Barack's intel, and much more.

    Sarah Westwood (Washington Examiner) speaks with whistle-blower retired Army Sgt 1st Class William Kotel:

    Kotel, who was noncommissioned officer in charge of the Joint Targets Enterprise, said warnings about imminent terror attacks in Iraq were required to be routed through a maze of Pentagon channels, a process that could take weeks, instead of communicated directly with military units in harm's way.
    He said the policy of substituting economic or environmental information for terror-related intelligence in reports was never made explicit by Central Command's leadership, but that he and his colleagues had "implied orders" not to report facts on the ground in Iraq.

    The problem, Kotel said, is not necessarily that final reports were being edited for political reasons. Instead, it's that key intelligence wasn't allowed in those reports in the first place.

    Reports of cooked intel has plagued the White House for weeks now.  Last Wednesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing (covered in the Thursday and Friday snapshots) and the topic was repeatedly raised with one of the witnesses, Gen Lloyd Austin.  Two examples, first Committee Chair John McCain:

    Chair John McCain: Indeed this Committee is disturbed by recent whistle-blower allegations that officials at Central Command skewed intelligence assessments to paint an overly positive picture of conditions on the ground.  We are currently investigations these allegations which we take with the upmost seriousness.  The Department of Defense should as well.  And if true, those responsible must be held accountable.

    Second, Senator Clair McCaskill:

    Senator Claire McCaskill: I understand from your testimony, Gen Austin, that you can't comment on the IG investigation this accusation that people are putting pressure on intelligence analysts to change the tenor of their reports.  It's a serious allegation that strikes at the core of our government in terms of our ability to oversee and make decisions around the use of our military. I want to say, at the end of this investigation, when you can discuss it, I just want to put on the record that I, for one, am going to be watching very carefully about any potential retaliation against any of the men or women that may have come forward with allegations.  It is incredibly important that whistle-blowers be protected in this space and -- depending upon what the investigation finds -- I understand that maybe there are other factors that I am not aware of -- but I just want to put on the record that I will be paying very close attention to how these whistle-blowers are treated in the aftermath of this investigation.

    In one of the strongest pieces on the issue, last week John R. Schindler (New York Observer) offered:

    It’s happening again. A White House fumbling with the violent mess of Iraq finds itself surrounded by mounting accusations that it’s played dirty games with intelligence. A Pentagon facing charges that its analysts have skewed assessments on Iraq to tell top policymakers what they want to hear, rather than what is really happening in that troubled country.
    If this sounds terribly familiar, it should. Only a dozen years after the George W. Bush White House was buffeted by allegations that it had “cherry-picked” intelligence to justify its 2003 invasion of Iraq, Barack Obama is facing similar accusations. Intelligence Community analysts alleged that, in the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom, they were pressured to exaggerate Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. Now, analysts claim that they have been pushed to present Obama’s war against the Islamic State as more successful than it really is.

    Earlier this month Shane Harris and Nancy A. Youssef (Daily Beast) reported:

    More than 50 intelligence analysts working out of the U.S. military’s Central Command have formally complained that their reports on ISIS and al Qaeda’s branch in Syria were being inappropriately altered by senior officials, The Daily Beast has learned.
    The complaints spurred the Pentagon’s inspector general to open an investigation into the alleged manipulation of intelligence. The fact that so many people complained suggests there are deep-rooted, systemic problems in how the U.S. military command charged with the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State assesses intelligence.

    Spencer Ackerman (Guardian) reported September 11th:

    Barack Obama’s intelligence chief is said to be in frequent and unusual contact with a military intelligence officer at the center of a growing scandal over rosy portrayals of the war against the Islamic State, the Guardian has learned.
    James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, is said to talk nearly every day with the head of US Central Command’s intelligence wing, Army Major General Steven Grove – “which is highly, highly unusual”, according to a former intelligence official.
    Grove is said to be implicated in a Pentagon inquiry into manipulated war intelligence.

    In communications, Clapper, who is far more senior than Grove, is said to tell Grove how the war looks from his vantage point, and question Grove about Central Command’s assessments. Such a situation could place inherent pressure on a subordinate, sources said.

    While some members of Congress have expressed outrage over the possibility that the intel was being cooked, others seem to have their heads so far up their ass that they can't see daylight.  Tim Mak (Daily Beast) quoted Senator Tim Kaine insisting, "Don’t you see why we need to do an authorization for this war? It’s spreading, it’s mutating. There’s new theaters of war that are engaged. If what [the whistleblowers are] saying is right, they’re saying that it’s a more complicated, protracted, long-term war than maybe people were led to think. If that’s the case, we ought to be doing an authorization.”

    Kaine is like a deranged hobbyist these days trying to connect everything to his personal wants.

    He's wanted an authorization for Barack's latest wave in the never-ending Iraq War.

    So this month, in the face of cooked intel, Kaine is now arguing this is proof that Congress needs to authorize Barck's war -- because "it's mutating" -- for that reason it needs to be authorized?

    Maybe Kaine's attempting to insist that an authorization would contain and prevent mutation?

    If so, he's an idiot because that's never happened before and it wouldn't have happened now.

    The White House -- whomever occupies it -- does whatever it wants with Congress either silent or carping.  Congress refuses to collectively hold the White House responsible for war and the Supreme Court will never make a ruling on an ongoing war (because they have no power to enforce a decision that went against the White House).

    RT, in a report noting the false statements of US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry insisting 'success' in the war on the Islamic State, reminds, "Over 53,000 flights, 6700 strikes, and nearly $4 billion dollars later, Operation Inherent Resolve has yet to achieve any of its objectives."

    Monday, Shane Harris and Nancy Youssef reported on some of what was being cooked:

    Senior intelligence officials at the U.S. military’s Central Command demanded significant alterations to analysts’ reports that questioned whether airstrikes against the so-called Islamic State widely known as ISIS were damaging the group’s finances and its ability to launch attacks. But reports that showed the group being weakened by the U.S.-led air campaign received comparatively little scrutiny, The Daily Beast has learned.
    Senior CENTCOM intelligence officials who reviewed the critical reports sent them back to the analysts and ordered them to write new versions that included more footnotes and details to support their assessments, according to two officials familiar with a complaint levied by more than 50 analysts about intelligence manipulation by CENTCOM higher-ups.

    In some cases, analysts were also urged to state that killing particular ISIS leaders and key officials would diminish the group and lead to its collapse. Many analysts, however, didn’t believe that simply taking out top ISIS leaders would have an enduring effect on overall operations.

    Let's stay with media and Iraq for a moment.  While Youssef and Harris have done strong reporting on the above, the media's coverage of Iraq has never been good or even okay.

    It has most often been little more than a pack of lies.

    For some idiotic reason, millionaire 'independent journalist' Amy Goodman, after the Iraq War started, began using Pacifica Radio airwaves to pimp the notion that the US needed the equivalent of the Guardian (British newspaper) and endlessly praised the paper's business model and politics.

    There was nothing to praise.

    We have spent years rebuking her lies over and over.

    We pointed out that the Guardian never reported on the Downing Street Memo.


    That story broke in England -- the revelation that Bully Boy Bush was using fixed intel to argue for war on Iraq -- but the Guardian never covered in their paper or in the Sunday Observer (which the Guardian also owns).  It was Rupert Murdoch's Times of London that broke the story on the Downing Street Memo.

    As Amy Goodman repeatedly whored for that paper and presented it as an alternative to the notorious Judith Miller and the New York Times, she lied over and over.

    The Guardian helped sell the Iraq War and it did so because it's the party organ for New Labour.

    This is not to say good work is never done by the paper.  We highlighted Spencer Ackerman above, for example.  And I have three friends who still work for the paper (and quite a few who left the paper).  I have issues with some of correspondent Martin Chulov's Iraq coverage but, overall, it's been stronger than it has been weak (and we defended him and the paper when Nouri attacked it and went on to sue it).

    But when we began calling it out and disputing Amy Goodman's claims, she still had a reputation (self-created and media advanced) as a truth-teller and the e-mails would come in insisting that the Guardian broke the Downing Street Memo story (they didn't -- again, they never even covered it).

    Her reputation is in tatters on the left for a number of reasons today: (a) her support and advancing of the war on Libya, (b) her use of CIA contractors as guests (Juan Cole being only one example, (c) her extortion that led Pacifica Radio to turn their program Democracy Now! over to her and to pay her millions to continue to air it, (d) her inherent racism which allowed her to take control of a program created by a diverse staff in the 90s (none of whom saw the windfall when Goody -- with the help of closeted Communist and professional hag Leslie Cagan -- blackmailed Pacifica into turning ownership of the show over to her), (e) her continued insisting on millions from Pacifica each year even though Pacifica is struggling to stay afloat, (f) her whoring for her favorite politicians -- such as declaring Jill Stein the Green Party nominee when no nominee has been picked and other candidates had already announced they were running for the Green Party's 2016 nomination, (g) her lying to her audiences when she first presented Melissa Harris Lacewell (now Perry) as just a college professor with students in New Hampshire in January 2008 when she already knew Melissa had worked over six months on Barack Obama's campaign by that point (this is Melissa's first appearance in January 2008, not the second one where she and Melissa went to town on Gloria Steinem), (h) her decision to publish in Hustler magazine . . .

    The list is endless.

    It's why streaming is down for her hideous program and why its radio and TV audience has plummeted.  (She's able to blackmail Pacifica stations into playing the program twice a day by insisting that she'll give them more time to pay her the annual millions in exchange for more Pacifica airtime for her program.)

    The revelation that she's a millionaire many times over via Democracy Now! didn't help nor did the fact that she doesn't pay interns help (see Charles Davis' "The Exploited Laborers of The Liberal Media" at Vice News).

    She's basically a heartless pig  who has rushed to become one of the 1% while whining about Nike's practices -- and others.  Or, as Marc Cooper told LA Weekly last year, "Amy's an evil bitch. . . . She can fool a lot of people a lot of the time, but I know she's a thug."

    That and her inability to focus on stories that matter, her inability to be honest about Iraq (here for one example of Ava and I calling her out on Iraq and here for our noting that again and noting how events proved us right) have really destroyed her self-created image and her standing.

    At CounterPunch, Jonathan Cook has an article which notes:

    In autumn 2002 Ed Vulliamy, a correspondent for Britain’s Sunday Observer newspaper, stumbled on a terrible truth that many of us already suspected.
    In a world-exclusive, he persuaded Mel Goodman, a former senior Central Intelligence Agency official who still had security clearance, to go on record that the CIA knew there were no WMD in Iraq. Everything the US and British governments were telling us to justify the coming attack on Iraq were lies.

    Then something even more extraordinary happened. The Observer failed to print the story.

    Again, the Guardian owns the Sunday Observer.

    Cook's explaining the reality of the Guardian.

    Goodman never will.

    Her (small) listeners and viewers have never heard that story.

    Barring strong criticism and pressure, they never will.

    Her entire Last Journalist Standing and 'breaking the silence' pose has been revealed as nothing more than a con game.

    While the US hasn't seen a strong peace movement since Barack began running for president in 2007, we've at least seen fakes and whores exposed for what they really were.

    Moving on, this morning we offered "Haider thinks its death or his 'reforms' -- could be both" and a few e-mails noted a later report by Al Arabiya which opened:

    The U.S. embassy has foiled two attempts to assassinate Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a high-level Iraqi official told the London-based Asharq al-Awsat in an interview published Tuesday.
    The official, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said the first operation to eliminate Abadi, who took power last September and has been hailed for his sweeping reforms, was in its early stages.
    However, the second bid – at Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone - to assassinate the premier was “advanced” in reaching its target, and led to the arrests of suspects, who are army officers.

    Did I know about that?

    I knew the talk of it.  I didn't -- and don't -- believe it's accurate.  I have a friend at the State Dept who appears to believe it's true and spent last week trying to sell me on it.  I have two other friends at the State Dept who feel, as I do, that this is nothing but spin that the US is pimping to try to make Haider (a US puppet) look more important than he actually is.

    It's supposed to increase Haider's reputation and also push back against the press realizing very recently that Haider's 'reforms' aren't real reforms and are not addressing the demands of the protesters -- a point that the protesters have been making for some time but very few western reporters have bothered to report on.

    There's news on the Kurds and oil.  I'm not covering it.  Read this Bloomberg article, it's the best of the coverage on the topic.  Why aren't we covering it?

    I haven't read the actual verdict.

    The reason we knew the original verdict would be overturned (it was against the Kurds and it was overturned) was because I read the verdict and saw where it was shaky and where the Kurds could appeal.  I'm really not interested in pouring over a verdict right now.

    Equally true, the verdict can be appealed.

    If/when it is, there's the issue of standing right at the front of all the other issues. (If the sale to Israel -- and not the US -- mooted the case then why is a verdict being rendered?  Were I an attorney for the KRG, that would be my first issue raised.  When something's moot, it's moot.  You're not a little moot or half-way moot.  And when a case is moot, a court dismisses the case.)

    We will note Josh Rogin and Eli Lake's Bloomberg New report that Ambassador John Allen (wrongly billed by the press as "Gen" when he is retired as a general but active as an Ambassador or Envoy -- he has been working for the US State Dept) will be leaving his post:

    The timing of Allen’s departure could not be worse for the Obama administration. The incoming Marine Corps Commandant, Lieutenant General Robert Neller, testified last month that the war is at a “stalemate.” Last week, the head of the U.S. Central Command, General Lloyd Austin, testified that of the 54 Syrian rebels trained and equipped by the U.S. military, only “4 or 5” were still in the fight. And now the Pentagon is investigating allegations by dozens of intelligence analysts that their reporting on the progress in the war effort was altered before being given to top officials.

    Lastly, today's violence includes a battle in Baiji.  Xinhua reports the battle left "at least 4 IS militants and 14 security members wounded, the source said citing initial reports"


    Tuesday, September 22, 2015

    The plight of Palestinians cannot be swept aside as easily as John Walsh pretends

    "The task for Sanders supporters," John Walsh pompously writes.

    I'm sorry is John Walsh now the den mother for the Bernie Sanders campaign?

    He's come to save it, has he?

    Maybe that's why the overgrown brat can't treat all the candidates fairly?

    Maybe that's why he delivers body blows to Hillary Clinton while batting Bernie with a facial tissue?

    I'm so sick of these cheap whores who pretend they are ethical and operate fairly but, in fact, are really trying to promote one campaign.

    There is nothing to applaud about Bernie Sanders unless you're anti-Palestinian and, if that's the case, please acknowledge that so we know right away where you stand.

    If you're running to become the president of the United States, you better believe that many Americans will not give you a blank check on your opposition to the Palestinians and on your blind support for the Israeli government.

    It's really not that simple, John Walsh.

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

    Monday, September 21, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, another journalist is killed in Iraq, Human Rights Watch reveals the truth about the 'liberation' of Tikrit, Haider al-Abadi continues living in a fantasy world, and much more.

    Human Rights Watch's Letta Tayler Tweets:

  • Same militias that ravaged Tikrit now fighting IS in Anbar. US, this abuse unlawful & costs you hearts, minds:

  • And she's right.

    But more than losing hearts and minds, it's also about losing any credibility the US government may have at all.

    They have no credibility when they stand with thugs.

    Saturday's snapshot ended noting  Human Rights Watch's latest press release:

    (Washington) – Iraqi government-backed militias carried out widespread destruction of homes and shops around the city of Tikrit in March and April 2015 in violation of the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Militiamen deliberately destroyed several hundred civilian buildings with no apparent military reason after the withdrawal of the extremist armed group Islamic State, also known as ISIS, from the area.
    The 60-page report, “Ruinous Aftermath: Militia Abuses Following Iraq’s Recapture of Tikrit,” uses satellite imagery to corroborate accounts of witnesses that the damage to homes and shops in Tikrit, and the towns of al-Bu ‘Ajil, al-Alam, and al-Dur covered entire neighborhoods. After ISIS fled, Hizbollah Battalions and League of Righteous forces, two of the largely Shia pro-government militias, abducted more than 200 Sunni residents, including children, near al-Dur, south of Tikrit. At least 160 of those abducted remain unaccounted for.
    “Iraqi authorities need to discipline and hold accountable the out-of-control militias laying waste to Sunni homes and shops after driving ISIS out,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director. “Abusive militias and their commanders acting with impunity undermine the campaign against ISIS and put all civilians at greater risk.”
    Ahead of the campaign, Shia militia leaders had promised revenge for the June 2014 massacre by ISIS of at least 770 Shia military cadets from the Camp Speicher facility, near Tikrit. In videos of home demolitions, Shia militiamen curse Sunni residents and invoke Shia slogans.
    The militias are part of the Popular Mobilization Forces, consisting of several dozen Shia militias, which the government created in response to the rapid ISIS advance across Nineveh and Salah al-Din provinces in June 2014.
    The militias receive government salaries and weaponry but act in loose coordination with one another and with the Iraqi army and other security forces. On April 7, the Iraqi cabinet recognized the Popular Mobilization Forces as a distinct security force under Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s command.

    From the report:

    In the aftermath of the fighting, militia forces looted, torched, and blew up hundreds of civilian houses and buildings in Tikrit and the neighboring towns of al-Dur, al-Bu ‘Ajil and al-Alam along the Tigris River, in violation of the laws of war. They also unlawfully detained some 200 men and boys, at least 160 of whom remain unaccounted for and are feared to have been forcibly disappeared.
    The largely Shia militias responsible for the brutal aftermath to the fighting included the Badr Brigades, the Ali Akbar Brigades, the League of the Righteous (Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqq), the Hizbollah Battalions (Kata’ib Hizbollah), the Khorasan Companies (Saraya Khorasan), and the Soldier of the Imam (Jund al-Imam). In the town of al-Alam, local Sunni volunteer forces carried out the destruction. Together, these militia forces make up the so-called Popular Mobilization Forces (al-Hashd al-Sha’bi), created in response to ISIS’s takeover of the northern city of Mosul on June 10, 2014.
    The pattern of unlawful destruction is similar to that carried out by some of the same militias around the town of Amerli in Salah al-Din governorate during a three-month period from September to December 2014, after breaking the ISIS siege of Amerli.
    Human Rights Watch investigations found no lawful military justification for the mass destruction of houses in Tikrit and surrounding areas. Before the operations, in February 2015, Qais al-Khaz’ali, leader of the Shia League of the Righteous, told a large crowd that he “promises victory in the battles [in Salah al-Din,] to take revenge and establish justice.” Some prominent Shia Iraqis alleged that many Sunni residents had made common cause with ISIS forces that had taken over their region and therefore shared responsibility for the June 2015 massacre by ISIS of up to 1,700 Shia military cadets from Camp Speicher, just north of Tikrit.

    In December 2014, following international criticism of militia abuses during the operations to retake the town of Amerli, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi promised to bring the militias—formally part of the Popular Mobilization Forces but in practice independent actors—under state control. The massive unlawful destruction of houses following the recapture of Tikrit shows that reining in the militias and holding accountable those responsible for crimes remains an urgent priority.

    The Huffington Post, Vice News, AFP, Sputnik, the Ledger Gazette, and Rudaw are among the outlets that have covered the report.

    And Tikrit is what Iraqi and US officials have held up as 'success' in Iraq.

    There's the months long battle to liberate or 'liberate' Ramadi, for example -- a battle going nowhere.

    The lack of momentum is why the foreign press long ago lost interest in it.

    Today, Jim Michaels (USA Today) reports:

    Political disarray in Iraq appears to be undermining a critical offensive to retake Ramadi, a key city in Iraq’s Sunni heartland that was seized by Islamic State militants nearly four months ago.
    Iraq’s government is relying on a patchwork of militias and government forces, some with competing loyalties, to conduct military operations, making it nearly impossible to achieve a unified effort, analysts and Iraqi officials said.

    How off track is the liberation or 'liberation'?

    Missy Ryan and Greg Jaffe (Washington Post) report, "With the offensive to reclaim territory from the Islamic State largely stalled in Iraq, the Obama administration is laying plans for a more aggressive military campaign in Syria, where U.S.-backed Kurdish forces have made surprising gains in recent months."

    This move comes despite the delusions of Iraq's prime minister Haider al-Abadi who met with US Gen Lloyd Austin over the weekend.  National Iraqi News Agency reports of the meet up:

    Abadi said that our heroes on the battlefield are making great victories over the enemy and we are determined to liberate every inch of the land of Iraq, there is a need for the international community support for Iraq in this war. "

    Only Haider's seeing "great victories" in the over-a-year-long battle to achieve nothing.

    Meanwhile, Haider has additional troubles.  Ashar Al-Awsat reports:

    Iraq’s former vice president Iyad Allawi, whose post was canceled by Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, has called for Iraqi MPs to remove the PM.
    Abadi canceled Iraq’s three vice president posts in August as part of a drive to weed out corruption and trim a bloated governmental apparatus. The move, part of a response to growing discontent on the Iraqi street and ongoing protests, has now met with opposition from the three former post-holders, Allawi, Nuri Maliki and Osama Al-Nujaifi, with the latter two declaring the move unconstitutional.
    On Friday Allawi publicly called on the National Alliance bloc in the Iraqi parliament, which includes the ruling Islamic Da’wa Party headed by Abadi, to remove the PM from power and pave the way for fresh elections to decide on a replacement.
    A day later Allawi released a statement criticizing some of Abadi’s reforms, including a recent decision to remove politicians’ immunity from prosecution—a move he said would prove to be a “death knell” for the premier.

    Allawi said Abadi’s policies were “not in the spirit of reform as [the premier] claimed, and instead pave the way for . . . the spread of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [ISIS] in the country.”

    Former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki already wanted Haider gone.  Now Allawi does as well.

    Returning to the topic of violence . . .

  • The press continues to be under assault in Haider al-Abadi's Iraq.  IANS notes journalist Qahttan Salaman was kidnapped by the Islamic State on Friday and his corpse has since been found.  He worked for a Mosul TV station.

    In addition, Reuters notes a Baghdad car bombing left 12 people dead and forty-two more injured.  All Iraq News explains Baghdad's Airport was the target of  5 rocket attacks.

  • Press TV adds:

    Earlier in the day, a bomb detonated near an Iraqi army patrol in Taji, killing three soldiers.
    A police source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said 12 people were killed and 42 injured when a car rigged with explosives exploded in the al-Amin al-Thaniyah neighborhood of eastern Baghdad.
    In addition, two civilians lost their lives and five others sustained injuries when an improvised explosive device was set off near a popular market in the town of Yusufiyah, situated 40 kilometers (24 miles) south of Baghdad.

    Though the election isn't until November 2016, around the world eyes remain fixed on the US and who is running for the presidency or who might run for it.  Xinhua reports:

    Just three weeks before the first Democratic primary debate, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said on Monday he would not "rush" in his decision to run for presidency in 2016.
    In an interview with U.S. news organization America Media aired on Monday, Biden said the impact of a presidential campaign on his family played a decisive role in his decision.
    "Your whole family is engaged, so for us, it's a family decision," said Biden. "I just have to be comfortable that this will be good for the family."

    "It's not like I can rush it (the decision)," he added.

    Speculation about Biden running dominates the Democratic Party's side of the conversation while news that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has dropped out of the GOP race for the presidential nomination dominates the Republican side.

    usa today