Saturday, July 27, 2013






Today, protesters gathered across Iraq.  Iraqi Spring MC reports protesters gathered in Baghdad, in Basra, in Shirqat,  in Tikrit, in Samarra,  Protesters noted the increased violence and the lack of public services, the government's budget (and wondered what it was actually spent on).  National Iraqi News Agency notes Ramadi and Falluja saw "thousands" turn out.  In Ramadi, Imam Sheikh Saad Fayyad declared the government had an obligation to protect Sunnis from the militiasIn Diyala, there was a call to curb the militias and for "the federal government to release detainees."  In Samarra, Sheikh Samir Fouad called for the "government to stop the killing crimes against sons of Sunnis component by militias."   Alsumaria notes Shirqat protesters demanded improved security and improved living conditions. And Alsumaria reports that "hundreds" camped out in Baghdad's Firdous Square calling for an end to corruption.  In addition, protesters in Basra continue protesting.  Kitabat reports  that the Basra protests continue and that Shi'ites there are calling for a new government to be formed.  Al Mada notes that demonstrators in Anbar, Salahuddin, Kirkuk and Diyala Province all demanded that the government stop the targeting of Sunnis and, in Kirkuk, called on the Arab League and the United Nations to end the genocide of Iraq's Sunnis.

Since December 21st protests have been ongoing in Iraq. It has been seven months.  Many, possibly basing their conclusions on 2011 events, wrongly thought that the holy month of Ramadan would stop the protests.  While Ramada continues through August 7th, the fact is that Ramadan did not stop the protests or greatly reduce the turnout.  There's one Friday left.

As for demands regarding public services, Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports that members of Parliament's Energy Committee state that the failure of the ministries to corrodinate and the mismanagement of government have left Iraq worse off in terms of power and that Nouri al-Maliki's two years of foot dragging with regards to a contract with Shell has left Iraq no where near able to provide the needed electricity to the citizens.  Nouri's government can't provide the basic public services.  The Iraq Times reports that Nouri is gearing up to purchase 12 helicopters and assorted other items from the United States.  Kitabat adds that Nouri's prepping to spend 2 billion.  Paul McLeary (Defense News) notes, "The Defense Department notified Congress on Thursday that it is working on three deals with the government of Iraq to sell $1.9 billion worth of military equipment and logistical support to the country, including Stryker infantry vehicles, helicopters and maintenance and logistical support for its fleet of American-made ground vehicles."

Yesterday, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency issued the following notice:

WASHINGTON, July 25 , 2013 – The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress today of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Iraq of Multi - Platform Maintenance a nd associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $ 750 million . 
The Government of Iraq has requested a possible sale to provide for a five year follow - on maintenance support for the M88A1 Recovery Vehicle, M88A2 Hercules, M113 Family of Vehicles, M109A5 Howitzers, M198 Howitzers, M1070 Heavy Equipment Trailer and Truck (HETT), M977 Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT ), High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), and the Tactical Floating River Bridge System (TFRBS) Including, spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical data, personnel training and training equipment, site surveys, Quality Assurance Teams, U.S. Government and contractor technical assistance, and other related elements of program and logistics support. The estimated cost is $750 million. 
This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a strategic partner . This proposed sale directly supports the Iraqi government and serves the interests of the Iraqi people and the United States. 
Helping Iraq maintain, sustain, and effectively utilize the equipment it has purchased or received from the United States over the past decade is a U.S. priority. This proposed sale is essential to provide Iraq with the support, spares, services, and equipment necessary to continue its effective use of its ground - based vehicle fleet. 
The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region. 
The principal contractor involved in this program is unknown at this time . There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale. 
Implementation of this proposed sale will require multiple U.S. Government or contractor representatives to travel to Iraq over period of (5) years to establish maintenance support, on - the - job (OJT) maintenance training and maintenance advice for program and technical support and training. 
There will be no adverse impact on United States defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale. 
This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded.

Meanwhile Mustafa al-Kadhimi (Al-Monitor) argues that Iraqi politicians have grown estranged from the people that they are supposed to represent:

In the local elections, talk of a 50-70% boycott of the voting process was a real wake-up call. The politicians should have felt and handled the reasons for this boycott, so that it does not turn into a growing phenomenon challenging the legitimacy of the whole democratic system.
Today — less than eight months before the general elections are to be held — politicians should take to the street, share the street’s ideas, feel the suffering of the population and initiate launching social campaigns that prove the candidates are rooted in their communities.
Simply relying on pictures and slogans launched a few days prior to the elections does not show that Iraq is a serious political society. Yet, it repeatedly demonstrates that Iraq is controlled by the experiments of amateurs who don't possess the keys to the future.

The protests continue, the violence continues. Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 807 violent deaths so far this month.  July 2013 is on track to be the most violent month in Iraq since at least 2007.   NINA reports Nouri's SWAT forces raided Badush Prison and the raid resulted in the deaths of 2 prisoners, am armed attack in Balad left one police officer dead, a missile attack in Tikrit left two Iraqi soldiers injured, and police in Diyala killed 1 suicide bomber.  Alsumaria reports an armed attack to the south of Mosul has left Colonel Saad Khalil Saleh deadAl-Shorfa quotes the Ministry of the Interior's Colonel Hikmat Mahmoud al-Masari, "A bomb targeted a wedding ceremony in al-Ameriya neighbourhood, western Baghdad, on Thursday night, killing four civilians and wounding 11 others."

RT spoke with Stop the War's John Rees about the increase in violence.  Excerpt.

RT: It's a really alarming death toll we're talking about here. Does this mean Iraq's incapable of maintaining security on its own?

John Rees: I think what we are seeing is a long-term effect of the war and occupation. In order to occupy Iraq the Western forces, British and American, adopted a policy of divided rule. They made a sectarian conflict where there wasn’t one before. They created Al Qaeda in Iraq where there was no Al Qaeda before. So I think that the country is suffering under the most enormous strains as the result of that war and occupation. And those strains are being reinforced by the conflict in Syria where actually all sides are now attempting to gain leverage in that conflict through Iraq as well as in Syria.

RT:  But does Iraq really have enough resources to contain the violence?

JR: We must hope that they do so but truth of the matter is a terrifically weak government. It’s apparently divided in the middle between the people who are sympathetic to Iran’s position in the region and those who feel dependent on Washington. The government only last year made a contract with Russia, as you probably know, to become the second largest arm supplier after US to Iraq. Turkey is constantly impinging on Iraqi air space in order to pursue Kurds in the Iraqi Kurdish region. So it’s the state that’s been left in a catastrophically weak position by  the occupation and which economic positions in the Middle East are weakening still more.

Geoffrey Ingersoll (Business Insider) offers his take on the problems:

As the American presence dissipated, the Shi'ite majority, led by Maliki, quickly sought to consolidate power and mete out retribution on their former Sunni rulers.
Maliki's aggressive consolidation of power immediately aggravated domestic tensions. Rising to power in mid-2006, by 2007 he had staffed the higher positions of government with Shia loyalists. Then he began distancing his government from Sunni and Kurdish leaders, despite Petraeus' reassurances to Sunni leaders.
In 2009, he accused the Sunni security forces, known as the Sons of Iraq, of being infiltrated by Al Qaeda and Saddam-loyal Ba'athists — and analysts expressed worry that Maliki would actually declare war on the Sons of Iraq the moment the U.S. exited the country. This was rough treatment for the group that was largely responsible for taming Al Qaeda in Iraq and bringing peace to the restive western Anbar province.
Maliki could have reached out an olive branch to his rival, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, whose Sunni-backed, secular-Shiite coalition — called Iraqiya — represented a marginalized but relevant political body in Iraq. Instead, he turned to Iran, seeking monetary backing from the orthodox Shi'ite government.

Alsumaria reports that one escapee from Abu Ghraib prison was arrested today in an eastern Baghdad mosque.  The Sunday prison attacks and breaks only became news outside of Iraq when the number of prisoners who escaped (between 500 and one thousand) was announced on Monday.   Since then, the attacks on two prisons and the escape of prisoners earlier this week have prompted a great deal of the commentary on Iraq.  Today, Jon Lee Anderson (New Yorker)  weighs in:

The latest prison breakout includes, it is said, many senior terrorists, including a number who had been sentenced to death. It took place this past Sunday night, after a complex and bloody attack that included mortars and suicide bombers, as well as an assault by commandos. Several guards and inmates were killed. It comes a year to the day after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Iraq’s Al Qaeda chief, promised to free men from Iraq’s prisons. In the meantime, the Iraqi and Syrian affiliates of Al Qaeda have merged into what is called, with typical grandiloquence, “The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.”
That Baghdadi has been able to fulfill his promise so blatantly and violently, under the noses of the U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces, is extremely alarming. Al Qaeda in Iraq has been surging back, with almost daily suicide attacks or car bombings, in a sectarian campaign against Shiites, as well as with attacks on the Iraqi security forces. Nearly three thousand people have died since April, and over seven hundred have died in July alone. On Thursday, more than forty people were killed in attacks that included the bombing of a café and the execution, by Al Qaeda commandos who, posing as security officers, set up a false checkpoint, of Shiite drivers and passengers.

While the prison news has gotten attention from outside Iraq,  to Iraqis another event this week has resonance as well.  Marwan Ibrahim (Middle East Online) observes:

Sunni militants summarily executed at least 14 Shiites on Thursday after setting up a roadblock north of Baghdad, stopping trucks and checking the IDs of drivers, Iraqi officials said.
The nighttime attack was reminiscent of the darkest days of the Sunni-Shiite sectarian bloodshed in Iraq in 2006-2007, when thousands of people were killed because of their religious affiliation or forced to abandon their homes under threat of death.

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