Monday, June 13, 2011





The Campaign Begins In Earnest


Friday, a US Congressional delegation was in Iraq. A number of claims were reported in the media. The easiest explanation for the conflict between what the Congress members maintain and what was reported is that the spokesperson of the prime minister (Nouri al-Maliki is prime minister) was attempting to whip up public sentiment in Iraq at a time when Nouri's popularity was, at best challenged. On Sunday, noting the delegation, I summarized a report by stting it was "on the expulsion from Iraq of the US Congressional delegation led by US House Rep Dan Rohrabacher". I was wrong, it was my error. The delegation maintains they were not expelled from Iraq. My apologies for my error. The three strongest reports from the weekend are worth highlighting. First to file with facts was Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) whose report still stands:

After a "very frank" exchange with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a prominent House Republican announced Friday his subcommittee is investigating whether forces under al-Maliki's command had committed a "crime against humanity" when they killed 35 Iranian dissidents at a camp north of Baghdad on April 8.
Responding to the assertions by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., al-Maliki asked the U.S. Embassy to remove the U.S. delegation from Iraq immediately, government spokesman Ali Dabbagh said on Alhurra television.

Note that Ali Dabbagh is Nouri's official spokesperson and one of four people Nouri has designated to officially speak for the government. That's not a joke. We'll drop back to the April 8th snapshot because Arabic media covered it but the US media wasn't interested:
Nouri's attempt at seizing control of the government never ends. Al Rafidayn reported this week that Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh informed the press that from now on all official remarks will come from either a spokesperson for the Ministry of Government, a spokesperson for the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nouri or Nouri's spokesperson. Statements by any other government official or spokesperson, al-Dabbagh insisted, had "no value" from Wednesday forward.
Also this weekend, Tim Craig (Washington Post) reported that the delegation was refused the right to visit Camp Ashraf:

Rohrabacher, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he will now press for a "criminal" probe of whether Iraq has mistreated the dissidents.

"We are investigating to see if criminal behavior caused the death of these noncombatants," Rohrabacher said. "The killing of unarmed people . . . a mass killing . . . is a criminal act and a crime against humanity."

The third strong report was from Chelsea J. Carter and Mohammed Lazim (CNN) who noted they were unable to speak with the delegation for their report:

Embassy spokesman David Ranz issued a statement Saturday saying "congressional visitors do not necessarily express the views of the U.S. administration or even a majority of Congress. The visitors this weekend made that clear in their remarks."
In widely reported statements after a meeting Friday with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the California Republican said he informed the Iraqi leader that his House committee is investigating the killing of Iranian exiles by Iraqi forces.
Here is the statement US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher's office issued (we were sent it this morning):

Istanbul, Turkey, Jun 11 - Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) issued the following statement on his recent meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki while in Baghdad as part of an official Congressional delegation:

"We had a frank and spirited discussion about the Camp Ashraf massacre by Iraqi troops," said Rohrabacher. "There was never any indication the Prime Minister was angered by having this discussion or the during the portion of the conversation about the current economic situation in the U.S., which lead to the suggestion of repayment by the Iraqis.

The meeting was originally scheduled for an hour but continued for an extra 40 minutes.

"No apologies are necessary for suggesting the massacre of unarmed civilians by Iraqi troops is something that needs to be investigated and I plan to do so as Chairman of the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee," said Rohrabacher.

"Furthermore, I will not apologize for suggesting once Iraq becomes prosperous, it should consider repaying the United States for the hundreds of billions of dollars spent to liberate them from a tyrannical dictator and helping to establish a democratic government," Rohrabacher continued. "There's nothing wrong with suggesting that the people who have benefited from our benevolence should consider repaying us for what we have given them."

In response to media reports the delegation had been expelled from Iraq, Mr. Rohrabacher said, "There was no change in our scheduling while we were in Iraq. Our itinerary remained exactly the same and we departed as scheduled.

"We were not officially told to leave the country before we left and were never told or warned not to come back."

On May 26th, Rep. Rohrabacher announced his intention of conducting a hearing into the April 8th massacre at Camp Ashraf in eastern Iraq where 35 unarmed civilians were killed and scores more injured during an attack by Iraqi soldiers. Mr. Rohrabacher's request for delegation access to the site was denied by the U.S. State Department and the Iraqi government.
They were in Turkey following their pre-planned agenda. They were not kicked out. Rohrabacher's statements note that he did raise the issue of repayment with Nouri and that he did raise the issue of Camp Ashraf (a far more serious issue and not a hypothetical one -- though Think Progress flat-out LIED this weekend and has filed another LIE today, some people are shameless and disgrace the Democratic Party with their inability to be truthful). Key point of the press release? The delegation announced their intention to visit Camp Ashraf publicly in a House hearing. The planned visit was known long before Friday (we noted the plan visit here). But they were denied that visit and not just by Nouri but also "denied by the U.S. State Department." It's also interesting just how many outlets are still reporting that they were kicked out. All the usual losers, yes -- Fox News, Think Progress, etc. -- but some you'd expect more from.
Friday, US House Rep Ted Poe had issued a statement:
"I am deeply disappointed that Members of Congress were denied access to Camp Ashraf by the Iraqi government. Earlier in the day, we had the opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Al-Maliki for nearly two hours and heard his candid position on this complex issue. These discussions were important and productive. However, it was also important to be able to hear the position of the residents of Camp Ashraf in order to get a fair assessment from both sides of what really occurred that day. We were not allowed to hear their side of the story. It is unacceptable for the Government of Iraq to continue to silence the Iranian freedom fighters at Camp Ashraf."
Rohrabacher, Poe, Jeff Duncan and Louie Gohmert were the Republican Congress members on the trip, Jim Costa and Russ Carnahan were the Democrats in the delegation.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
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