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FROM THE TCI WIRE:
While Ed Snowden was asked of, Iraq was not raised at either the State Dept press briefing or Carney's Air Force One briefing. This despite the fact that US officials say Iraq is now in the midst of a civil war. From Tuesday's Today (NBC):
Richard Engel: Iraq is now back in a civil war, US officials tell NBC News. The hard fought US surge there, the benefits of American war to stop Iraq's civil war, are being wiped out. In car bombs, ambushes and gun fights more than 250 killed in ten days. Abu Ghraib prison notorious for American abuses and humiliations that United States [. . .] remains an open wound. On Sunday, attackers free hundreds some say up to 500 inmates in a jail break include dozens of al Qaeda fighters.
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. Yesterday, the Islamic State of Iraq claimed credit for the two prison assaults and breaks. On yesterday's Nightly News with Brian Williams, Richard Engel reported on Iraq.
Richard Engel: Iraq is back in a civil war -- bad for Iraqis. More than 600 killed just this month in bombings and Sunni versus Shi'ite vengeance. And bad for Americans -- after all nearly 4,500 US troops died to bring stability to this strategic, oil rich country A trillion dollars was spent, hundreds of thousands of American troops were deployed and deployed again. But now Iraq is tearing itself apart again. al Qaeda in Iraq won a big victory this weekend, perhaps enough to reconstitute itself. They staged a major prison break, a major assault on Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib Prison. Hundreds of militants were freed from their cells. Iraqi officials today said at least 250. al Qaeda in Iraq puts the number even higher at 500. Militants stormed the prison, car bombs blasting open the gates, as suicide bombers rushed in and reinforcements fought off guards with mortars and assault rifles. Nothing good seems to come from Abu Ghraib. It was Saddam Hussein's dungeon. After his fall, it held US detainees and became infamous for graphic images of prisoner abuse and humiliation. And now a prison break releasing militants who will likely target the Iraqi government but who also have years of training fighting American troops. Richard Engel, NBC News.
AFP's Mohamad Ali Harissi spoke with The World (PRI) today noting:
Sunday night, just one or two hours before midnight, two prisons -- one in the north and one in the west of Baghdad -- were attacked at the same time and the battle continued until six or seven a.m. the next morning . At least twenty police men and soldiers were killed and at least 26 prisoners died in these battles. But what's more important is that hundreds of prisoners escaped from both prisoners.
The World also featured a conversation with guest host Carol Hills Time's Michael Crowley. Excerpt.
Matthew Crowley: I think the most worrisome aspect of this is the larger context: Sectarian violence in the region if flaring up, to say the least. ... To be honest, I don't know which is worse. In other words, should we be more concerned that al Qaeda in Iraq is strong enough, savy enough emboldened enough that they would stage these attacks? Or is the more concerning part that they have now freed a large number of their hardened brothers in arms who had been taken off the battlefield, so to speak? And incidentally one expert on Iraq to whome I spoke with something called the Institute for the Study of War here in Washington, a former army intelligence officer, said that al Qaeda leaders in these prisons actually become more radicalized when they're in prison. In fact, they may actually have become more dangerous in captivity. [. . .]
Carol Hills: Most US troops pulled out of Iraq more than a year ago and the idea was that Iraq was fairly secure. And so this prison break can't bode well in what area. What does this mean?
Michael Crowley: In the piece I wrote about this for Time.com today, I opened with Barack Obama's presidency has been filled with several surprises in the Middle East but, actually, up until now, Iraq has not been one of them.
How serious has the prison break become? INTERPOL issued the following today:
LYON, France – A regional security alert has been issued by INTERPOL at the request of Iraq following a mass breakout from two Iraqi prisons involving hundreds of dangerous prisoners, many of them members of Al-Qaida.
During the night of 21 July, gunmen attacked the Taji and Abu Ghraib prisons near Baghdad using mortars to gain access and free the prisoners, killing at least 20 members of the Iraqi security forces in the process. INTERPOL said the jailbreaks constituted a major threat to global security.
Many of the escaped prisoners were senior-level Al-Qaida members, some of whom had been sentenced to death.
Following confirmation of the escape from INTERPOL’s National Central Bureau in Baghdad, the Command and Coordination Centre at the General Secretariat headquarters issued the alert to member countries in the region to warn them of the threat posed by the fugitives.
INTERPOL is working closely with NCB Baghdad to collect information on the escaped prisoners, including photographs and fingerprints, with the view to issuing a global Orange Notice, to assist law enforcement officers regionally and worldwide in their search and eventual identification of the fugitives.
An Orange Notice can be issued by INTERPOL’s General Secretariat or an NCB for any act or event that poses a serious and imminent threat to the safety of citizens around the world.
A resolution underlining the need for member countries to alert the General Secretariat to prison escapes of suspected terrorists and other dangerous criminals was adopted at the INTERPOL General Assembly in 2006.
In addition to the INTERPOL notice, others are weighing in on possible meanings. Jabbar Yaseen and Liz Sly (Washington Post) quote the Middle East Forum's Aymenn al-Tamimi stating, "This is a significant milestone in the resurgence of al-Qaeda in Iraq,” he said. “A good deal of the progress achieved from 2006 onwards has essentially been undone now.” David Blair (Telegraph of London) observes, "The mass breakout from two of Iraq’s biggest prisons is yet more evidence of how close the country is to suffering the terrible sectarian bloodshed of 2006-07 once again. [. . .] The increasingly poisonous and sectarian nature of Iraqi politics – with Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, purging Sunnis from his government – is leading to greater alienation and violence."
The break outs and the increased violence are also prompting comments from Iraqis. Sunday, Cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr has already decried the 'leadership' that has allowed the problems to emerge and thrive. Today, All Iraq News reports National Dialogue Front MP Haidar al-Mulla is calling for Nouri al-Maliki to be replaced as a result of "his failure in running the security file." Mulla is quoted stating, "All realize well the failur of the CGAF in running the security institution in light of the continuing security breaches over the past eight years especially after Maliki dominated the management of this file without engaging any other side. The one-sided administration of the security file proved failure, so the issue needs changing the CGAF and his strategy and plans." Nouri should be held accountable for the security failures. He is over the security ministries having refused to nominate anyone to head them. Over a year ago, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support." These positions were supposed to be filled no later than December 2010. They have never been filled. The Constitution requires they be filled for someone to be moved from "prime minister-designate" to "prime minister." But the Iraqi Constitution was circumvented by the US-brokered Erbil Agreement.
The Erbil Agreement was needed because Nouri's State of Law came in second and Barack was adamant that, the will of the Iraqi people be damned, Nouri would have a second term.
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