Wednesday, October 16, 2013







Starting with a bit of house cleaning, from yesterday's snapshot:

First, we addressed the coverage of al Qaeda in Iraq earlier today.   A 'sweet' 'analyst' e-mailed to advise me of how "uninformed" I am for this statement:

Starting in 2009, regular press reports pop up about how Nouri's failure to pay or create other jobs for Sahwa (Sunnis and a few Shi'ites paid to stop attacking US forces and US equipment) was leading them to join rebel groups or terrorist groups or other groups.

"Everyone," the e-mail informs me, "knows that the Sons of Iraq are Sunni."  Sahwa is also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq" (with the less covered female counterparts known as "Daughters Of Iraq."  As for what "everyone" knows, I know reality, what do you know?  Oh, that's right, you know crap ass nothing.

I explained we were quoting then-General David Petraeus in his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee April 8, 2008.  I explained yesterday:

But in terms of the "Shia as well as Sunni"?  As I recall that moment in the hearing (I could be wrong, it was over five years ago -- but, thing is, I'm not wrong), Petraeus didn't just say it, he had a visual aid, a chart, to illustrated it.   So the chart would have had to have been wrong too.
In addition, and this is what really nails it, I remember being really ticked off when he said it.  What really pisses me off in a hearing?  Someone wasting everyone's time reading their written statement for the record out loud.  There's no reason for it.  It's put in the record.  Stop it, please.  When Secretary of State John Kerry chaired committees, he would instruct/beg witnesses not to waste everyone's time by reading those prepared remarks.
Prepared remarks.  Meaning Petraeus was reading from his written submission.  This was not an ad-lib in response to a question.  He said [it].  He meant to say it, he put it in writing before he said it and he brought a visual aid.

Community member Brandon tried to establish the above on his own but the Senate Armed Services Committee site doesn't have archives.  Brandon didn't give up though.  He found, at Real Clear Politics, Petraeus' written testimony submitted for the record.  Paragraph 34:

The emergence of Iraqi volunteers to help secure their local communities has been an important development. As this chart depicts, there are now over 91,000 Sons of Iraq, Shia as well as Sunni, under contract to help coalition and Iraqi forces protect their neighborhoods and secure infrastructure and roads.

As we noted yesterday, Petraeus was then the top-commander of US forces in Iraq, he was the one who implemented the program.  If he didn't mean to say "Shia as well as Sunni," he wouldn't have said it.  He did.  It does go against the repeated press portrayals.  There's no reason for Petraeus to lie about this to Congress.  I don't believe he was lying.  If you need more on it, you need to talk to Petraeus.  Not, as the 'analyst' did on Monday, e-mail me about an error that wasn't made.  Thank you to Brandon for his research.

Let's leave the recent history of five years ago for many more years ago for Eid al-Adha.  This holy day kicks off the four-day festival for practicing Muslims.  Time and Date notes:

Ibrahim, known as Abraham in the Christian and Jewish traditions, was commanded by God to sacrifice his adult son. He obeyed and took Ishmael (Ismail or Ismael) to Mount Moriah. Just as he was to sacrifice his son, an angel stopped him and gave him a ram to sacrifice in place of his son. Some people dispute that the son of sacrifice was Isaac (Isḥāq). Regardless, these events are remembered and celebrated at Eid al-Adha.

The religious days have meaning around the globe; however, that's especially true in Iraq where, Ali Mamouri (Al-Monitor) explains, "According to polling by Gallup, Iraq is one of the most religious societies in the world, with about 84% of Iraqis professing devotion to one faith or another."  Of the holy days themselves, Al Arabiya adds:

Eid al-Adha - the Feast of Sacrifice - marks the end of hajj, an annual pilgrimage undertaken by some 1.5 million Muslims this year in Saudi Arabia.
The holiday commemorates Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to obey God’s command to sacrifice his son Ismael.
Muslims believe that the very moment Ibrahim raised the knife, God told him to stop, that he had passed the test, and to replace Ismael with a sacrificial ram.
Muslims worldwide traditionally slaughter sheep or cattle in commemoration. The meat is distributed among the family and neighbors as well as the poor and needy.
But before the slaughter, men, women and children alike flock to mosques around the country to take part in the prayers.
Across the Muslim world, families were in a festive mood as they took to the markets and malls on Monday night, preparing to mark the occasion.

That's the historical background to what's being observed.  AP reports a disruption of the observance in Poland where "animal rights activists on Tuesday tried to prevent Muslim community in Bohoniki, in eastern Poland, from proceeding with the Eid al-Adha holidary, or Feast of Sacrifice, that includes cutting the throats of conscious animals."  The protest was a mild disruption.   Saad Abedine, Joseph Netto, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Qadir Sediqi (CNN) report that Afghanistan and Iraq saw the day "marred by bomb blasts."

Many Iraqi leaders had issues statements expressing joy for the four-day festival and asking for peace for the Iraqi people.  Ayad Allawi, head of Iraqiya, Tweeted a call for security and a holy day greeting:

نهنئكم بحلول عيد الاضحى المبارك اعاده الله على شعبنا الكريم بالامن، سائلين المولى عز وجل ان يحفظ ارضاً وشعباً

 But the hopes of the many were not to be.  Mustafa Mahmoud, Suadad al-Salhy and Andrew Heavens (Reuters) report, "A bomb exploded near a mosque in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Tuesday, killing eight Sunni worshippers after the first prayer of the Muslim Feast of Sacrifice, or Eid al-Adha, police and medical sources said."  NINA noted the death toll has risen to 10 with twenty-two injured.  Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) updated it to 12 dead and twenty-four injured -- but the numbers continued to climb.  AFP reports the death toll reached 15 -- including three children -- with twenty-six injured and quotes an outraged group of people "shouting, 'God take revenge on those who are evil!'"
Kirkuk is where, as Aswat al-Iraq noted last month, the biggest industrial complex in Iraq is being built.  AP offers this carefully worded statement today, "Kirkuk, a frequent flashpoint for violence, is home to an ethnic mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen who all have competing claims to the oil-rich city."  Wow.  That has almost all of the non-insight of "The Pig-Pen Ambassador" Christopher Hill's ridiculous statements at his 2009 confirmation hearing to become the US Ambassador to Iraq  (see the March 25, 2009 snapshot and the March 26th one).  Kirkuk, he explained, was "just an old-fashioned land dispute."

Oil-rich Kirkuk is claimed by both the Kurdistan Regional Government and by the central government in Baghdad.  That's where the dispute is.  Article 140 is in the Iraq Constitution -- hence its name -- and it requires that the disputed territories have a census and referendum.  It also was supposed to be implemented by the end of 2007.  This is not open to debate or dispute, this is written into the Constitution.  Nouri al-Maliki becomes prime minister in Iraq in the spring of 2006.  But Nouri ignored it, despite taking an oath to uphold the Constitution.  He has repeatedly refused to implement this. 

Again, Article 140 is not open to interpretation.  It is a law and not a distant one.  The Iraqi Constitution was drawn up in 2005.  Not only was it recent, Nouri should have had no problem grasping intent and meaning.  May 15, 2005, he was appointed to the Iraqi Constitution Drafting Committee.  Yes, Nouri served on the committee that wrote the Constitution.

Nouri refused to implement Article 140.  Until 2010 when his State of Law lost to Iraqiya in the parliamentary elections.  In the eight month-plus stalemate that followed the elections, stalemate created by Nouri, he rushed around from one bloc to another making one promise after another.

The Kurds had reason to believe he was serious.  Not only did he swear it would happen, not only was it included in the contract the US negotiated (the Erbil Agreement) which gave Nouri his second term, but when all parties signed off on the Erbil Agreement (Novemeber 2010), there was a census in Kirkuk scheduled for the start of December.

As is always the case with Nouri, he just can't be trusted.

He cancelled the census, swearing it would be rescheduled shortly.  Almost three years later, it never has been rescheduled.

If you're not getting how serious Kirkuk's status is, let's fall back to the  July 26, 2011 snapshot for more on this issue:
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 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.
Again, AP kind of oversimplifies in their single-sentence explanation of Kirkuk.
Today, Saad Abedine, Joseph Netto, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Qadir Sediqi (CNN) report, "The bomb went off as worshippers were leaving the mosque, police said."  Kirkuk Now adds, "The bomb was reportedly wrapped in a plastic bag and put near the entrance of the Quds mosque located in the Zubat neighborhood of Kirkuk."  They also have a visual essay of the aftermath featuring six photos by Salam al-Ansari.  AFP's Mohamad Ali Harissi Tweets:

The Latin American Herald Tribune points out, "The attack also caused vast destruction to nearby buildings and vehicles."

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