Saturday, November 16, 2013






Brett McGurk lies as well.  In the hearing, he lied, for example, when he spoke of Iraq's Minister of Defense.  The man he named?  Not the Minister of Defense.  Nouri is.  Nouri did a power grab.  Back in July 2012, 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."   Those posts have remained vacant.  They were supposed to be filled at the end of 2010.  But filling them meant Nouri couldn't control them so he defied/broke the Constitution and claimed the positions as his own.

Brett lied so often.  Let's go to money.

US House Rep Brad Sherman:  I want to focus on finances.  How much money did we give Iraq this year?  How much do they get from oil?  And are they pumping oil as quickly as they can or are they constraining their production in accordance with OPEC rules?

Brett McGurk:  In terms of money, we're not really giving Iraq much money at all anymore.  Our assistance levels have gone down dramatically.

US House Rep Brad Sherman:  But it's still well over a billion?

Brett McGurk: Uh, no.  I believe that the most recent request is now of under a billion.  It's gone from 1.5 billion last year to, uh, FY13 [Fiscal Year 2013]  to about 880 million.  And I can again brief you on the glide path in terms of our overall presence.  In terms of oil, it's actually quite the opposite.  The Iraqis have done everything they can to get as much oil onto international markets as possible --

US House Rep Brad Sherman:  So they are pumping as much as possible.

This thread was continued with US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher who made a series of statements about the "$880 million in aid" and how it came not only after so many deaths but also "after spending almost a trillion dollars over a decade."

Brett McGurk:  Congressman, thank you, I just want to clarify, the 880 million dollars  is our operating request for, uh, the current budget -- for sustaining our presence in Iraq and doing various things we do there.

US House Rep Dana Rohrabahcer:  That's right.  So why should we do that?

Brett McGurk:  Well we have vital interests at stake in Iraq.  Whether you measure it from al Qaeda in Iraq, whether you measure it from the oil production,  whether you measure it from just the overall stability of the region.  I think withdrawing from Iraq, in terms of our overall diplomatic presence and what we're doing, would have a really devastating consequences to our longer term interests. 

So that we all get what was just said, the US State Dept, from the mouth of Brett McGurk, just declared Iraqi oil is a "vital interest" of the United States government and part of the US government's "longer term interests."  In other words, we have confirmation that Iraqi oil -- "vital interest" -- was one reason the US went to war on Iraq.

Second, Brett's playing with the numbers.  He could have -- as a State Dept friend told me -- have used "about $600 million" as well.  The State Dept is requesting $1.18 billion.  That's not including USAID's request.  The RAND Corporation, just last week, noted the request in Ending the US War In Iraq.  Kerry presented the request to Congress last April.  They've not amended the request.  Brett was being a liar.  No surprise there.

Brett's lies were never ending.  We could spend two more snapshots just documenting the lies from the hearing.

We'll note this one, "I would point you to an important op-ed the Iraqi ambassador wrote on our Veterans Day, thanking all the sacrifice in Iraq."


Nouri wrote only one column in the last weeks.  It was for the New York Times. The Assyrian International News Agency is among those who reproduced the column.  Two US newspapers ran it on Veterans Day but it has nothing to do with veterans.  Nouri never mentions veterans and only brings up service members in two sentences (paragraph three) to say he doesn't want US troops.

I thought I'd somehow missed Nouri's column.  That I'd missed it and no outlet had noted it.  But I checked and there is no other column -- only the one he wrote for the New York Times (published online October 29, 2013).

Brett couldn't stop lying.

And maybe he lied about the whereabouts of the 7 Ashraf hostages kidnapped in September?  I don't know.  I know what he said and he said in an open hearing so why didn't it get reported?  Oh, that's right, we're the only ones in the United States reporting on this hearing.

While the US press filed nothing on the hearing, the US Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents issued a statement:

During a hearing on November 13, 2013 by the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran, Brett McGurk, when faced with repeated questions by several subcommittee members over the breach of commitments by the US Government and Iraq to protect thousands of Iranian dissidents in Iraq, resulting in the murder of 112 defenseless residents of Camp Ashraf, attempted to exonerate the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of any role in the execution-style murder of 52 residents of Camp Ashraf and the abduction of seven more on September 1st.
Mr. McGurk, to the astonishment of Members of Congress, downplayed the seriousness of this massacre and the daily deadly violence in Iraq, as being ordinary and inevitable. Mr. McGurk did nothing to allay the concerns of anxious families and relatives of the residents, in attendance at the hearing. Nor did he highlight the detrimental sectarian policies and incompetence of the Iraqi Prime Minister as the main causes of the carnage in the country. Instead, Mr. McGurk suggested to the Iraqi people that the only way to stay safe is to leave Iraq.
McGurk minimized the Iraqi government's role in the September 1 massacre. A plethora of evidence and expert testimony, however, make it clear that highest levels of the Iraqi government, including the Prime Minister, were involved in the planning, execution and cover-up of this crime against humanity.
Camp Ashraf is sealed off from the outside by chain-lined fence with barbed wire on top, leaving only two entry gates for the Camp, guarded by an Iraqi army brigade at the west gate and by a Rapid Deployment Unit on the east gate.
Camp Ashraf is under 24/7 guard of 1,200 Iraqi forces in the midst of a highly militarized zone, with hundreds of units of Iraqi army within a 20 mile radius. There are dozens of check points on the only highway that leads from Camp Ashraf to Baghdad to the south and to Kirkuk to the north. As such, U.S. military officers who served in Iraq have stated unequivocally that it is absolutely inconceivable that more than 100 heavily-armed men with a large load of explosives to have carried out this murder without the approval of the highest authorities in Iraq. These officers who trained the Iraqi forces have stated that the assault force employed US tactics and equipment in the attack.
According to statements by European Ministers, as well as past and present United Nations officials and eyewitnesses, the seven hostages, including six women, have been detained and interrogated by the Iraqi army's Golden (dirty) Division in Baghdad. On September 12, Kamel Amin, Spokesman of the Iraqi Human Rights Ministry, told Radio Free Iraq, "Security forces arrested these individuals [seven hostages] for attacking them [security forces]."
Hundreds of Camp Liberty residents in Iraq as well as their relatives and friends in Europe, Canada and Australia have been on hunger strike for the past 77 days. Many are at a critical physical stage and may not survive if the hostages are not released immediately.
The US Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents (USCCAR) calls on President Obama to intervene personally and demand that the Iraqi government release the hostages at once and return them to Camp Liberty. Only in this way, can the US Government atone for betraying its promises and commitments to protect the residents of camps Ashraf and Liberty.

The statement is mistaken.

That's not their fault, no one reported on the hearing and we were saving Sheila Jackson Lee for Thursday and then I kicked her back to Friday to see if anyone would report what happened?

They did not.

The 7 hostages that the US Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents are calling for Nouri to release?

They are not in Iraq.

If the US government is telling the truth, the seven are no longer in Iraq.  This was revealed in the final exchange of the hearing, when US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee joined the Subcommittee and, after taking a brief break, began her five minute round of questioning.  Two notes.  "[. . .]"?  We don't have time to include their praise of one another and maybe if that praise hadn't been used to waste time then Sheila Jackson Lee would not have had to ask for more time?  Second "pointed purse"?  I have no idea.  I turned to Ava and asked, "Did she just say 'pointed purse'?"  That's what Ava heard as well.  Who knows what she said, that's what it sounded like.  With that, here's the exchange.

US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee:   [. . .]  But there are hostages in Iraq that we must have now.  There's documentation that those hostages are there by our French allies, by the United Nations and other supportive groups and information.  I can't imagine with the wealth of sophisticated intelligence authorities that we have, that we have funded who have a vast array of information about Americans  cannot pinpoint where starving Iranians, loved ones [are] whose families are trying to save their lives after being on a hunger strike for 73 days.  And so I would ask this question of you, already knowing about your heart and your concern, I will not judge you, I already know that you're committed to getting this right/  Will you -- will you demand of Maliki, not next week or months from now, but can we expect in the next 48 hours a call to the head of the government of Iraq demanding the release of these hostages and demanding their release now?  Or the documented, undeniable evidence that they are not held in Iraq?  Second, would you be engaged with -- or  the Secretary [of State John Kerry] be engaged with -- and I have spoken to Secretary Kerry, I know his heart -- with Maliki to demand the security of those in Camp Ashraf  for now and forever until a relocation to a homeland, a place where their relatives are or where they desire to be? [. . .]

Brett McGurk:  [. . .] We can pinpoint where the people are and I'd like to follow up with you on that.  The seven are not in Iraq.  But I will guarantee in my conversations with Maliki on down, the safety and the security of Camp Ashraf, Camp Liberty, where the residents are, the government needs to do everything possible to keep those poeople safe  but they will never be safe until they're out of Iraq.  And we all need to work together -- the MEK, us, the Committee, everybody, the international community -- to find a place for them to go.  There's now a UN trust fund, we've donated a million dollars and we're asking for international contributions to that fund for countries like Albania that don't have the resources but are willing to take the MEK in.  And we need to press foreign captials to take them in because until they're out, they're not going to be safe and we don't want anyone else to get hurt.  We don't want anymore Americans to get hurt in Iraq, we don't want anymore Iraqis to get hurt in Iraq  and we don't want any more residents of Camp Liberty to get hurt in Iraq and until they're out of Iraq, they're not going to be safe.  This is an international crisis and we need international help and support. 

US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee:  May I follow -- May I just have a minute more to follow up with Mr. McGurk, Secretary McGurk?  And I hear the passion in your voice but let me just say this. We're in an open hearing.  You know where they are.  Who is going to rescue them?  Whose responsibility will it be to get them from where they are into safe haven?  Because otherwise, we're leaving -- we're leaving Maliki now without responsibility.  We're saying, and you're documenting that they're not there.  Let me just say that when my government speaks, I try with my best heart and mind to believe it.  But I've got to see them alive and well to believe that they're not where I think they are, they're in a pointed purse.  I'm glad to here that but I want them to be safe but I want them to be in the arms of their loved ones or at least able to be recognized by their loved one that they're safe somewhere.  So can that be done in the next 48 hours?  Can we have a-a manner that indicates that they are safe?

Brett McGurk:  I will repeat here a statement that we issued on September 16th and it's notable and I was going to mention this in my colliquy with my Congressman to my left, that within hours of the attack, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Score issued a statement praising the attack.  We issued a statement on September 16th calling on the government of Iran to use whatever influence it may have with groups that might be holding these missing persons to secure their immediate release.  And I can talk more about details and the status of these individuals.  And I've briefed some members of the Subcommittee. I'd be happy to follow up. 

I don't possess Sheila Jackson Lee's alleged ability to see into the heart of people.  But I do know the law.  If seven hostages were taken out of Iraq by whatever forces, the US government has to rescue them or pursue it.  That's because Genevea didn't and doesn't end -- the law covering the US government's obligations to the Ashraf community -- until the Ashraf community is safely out of Iraq.  7 hostages kidnapped and taken out of the country?  The US has failed and must secure their release.  The US has failed.

I loathe Bully Boy Bush, my life's much better with him out of the White House.  But somehow when Bully Boy Bush occupied the White House, no one was murdered in Camp Ashraf and no one was kidnapped from it.

Protests continued today in Iraq.  Since December 21st,  ongoing protests have been taking place in Iraq.  Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) explained the reasons back in February:

Protests are raging throughout Iraq...thousands upon thousands are demanding the following :

- End of Sectarian Shia rule
- the re-writing of the Iraqi constitution (drafted by the Americans and Iranians)
- the end to arbitrary killings and detention, rape and torture of all detainees on basis of sect alone and their release
- the end of discriminatory policies in employment, education, etc based on sect
- the provision of government services to all
- the end of corruption
- no division between Shias and Sunnis, a one Islam for all Iraqi Muslims and a one Iraq for all Iraqis.

The protests in Anbar, Fallujah, Sammara, Baquba,  Tikrit, Kirkuk, Mosul...and in different parts of Baghdad stress over and over 1) the spontaneous nature of the "popular revolution against oppression and injustice" 2) its peaceful nature  i.e unarmed  3) the welcoming of ALL to join the protests regardless of sect or ethnicity as ONE Iraqi people and 4) and the March to Baghdad.

Layla Anwar and Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi are among the few who can publicly note what led to the protests.  The western press likes to reduce it to one event.  The arbitrary arrests have not ended and, as they continue, they continue to inflame an already tense situation.  Human Rights Watch notes today:

Baghdad residents told Human Rights Watch that between November 7 and 11, SWAT and counterterrorism forces carried out mass arrests in the Dora and Adhamiyya neighborhoods. A tribal leader said that a security force he could not identify raided homes and conducted random arrest sweeps in Adhamiyya, arresting more than 30 people without warrants, insulting them and calling them “humiliating names,” then turned them over to a battalion from the army’s 44th brigade, 11th division. Interior and Defense Ministry officials told Human Rights Watch in February and May that it is illegal for Defense and Interior Ministry security forces to detain suspects, rather than transfer them to the custody of the Justice Ministry.

The tribal leader told Human Rights Watch that he and other elders from the neighborhood visited the battalion to request the detainees’ release. “They let some of them go, but this has become the norm,” he said. “Every Ashura, security forces come, raid the neighborhood, arrest people, and hold them for a while. Once Ashura is over they release most of them, but they are never charged.”

He said that the army battalion commander told him that, after Ashura, “The people who are wanted will stay and the others will be released.” A lawyer working with him told Human Rights Watch that most of the people “were arrested randomly, without warrants” and that some were laborers from outside Baghdad. The lawyer said he had heard that security forces conducted similar operations on the same days in Baghdad’s Tarmiyya and Dora neighborhoods, also majority Sunni, but that he did not know how many people they arrested.

Another Adhamiyya resident told Human Rights Watch that on November 7, security forces began conducting raids in the neighborhood that continued until November 10, the date of the interview. “We can see them everywhere [right now], but we don’t know how many people they are arresting,” she said.

A resident of Dora told Human Rights Watch that on November 7, “a huge number” of SWAT forces dressed in black surrounded the neighborhood at 10 a.m. and raided “every single house” in an operation that lasted until 5 p.m. “They brought at least five trucks,” she said, “and arrested so many young men – at least 50 of them. They put them in the trucks and took them away. The women were coming out and crying, and none of the men have returned.”

She said the families of the arrested men are “terrified” and do not know where their relatives are being held. “People are afraid to leave and afraid to stay in their homes,” she said. She said many of the people arrested “looked very young” but did not know whether they were under 18.

A teacher from Hitt, a majority Sunni city in in Anbar province, told Human Rights Watch that between 5 and 6 a.m. on November 10, SWAT forces surrounded entire neighborhoods in the city and arrested dozens of young men over the course of several hours. The teacher said she saw security forces “everywhere” in the streets and watched them arrest two people. Several students told her later that day that SWAT forces arrested several of their family members, in at least one instance taking a student’s uncle and all of her cousins from their house, she said.

A local news correspondent living in Ramadi told Human Rights Watch that residents and tribal leaders told him security forces from theJazeera and Badiya Operations Command arrested 90 people from Falluja, 63 from Hitt, and 42 from rural areas in Anbar on November 9 and 10.

On November 9, Anbar police chief Hadi Resij, announced that local police and SWAT forces had arrested 43 people in the Shouhadaa neighborhood that evening during a “security operation” south of Falluja, apparently referring to one of the several arrest sweeps that witnesses described to Human Rights Watch. He said all those arrested were “leaders of al-Qaeda,” but did not offer any evidence given that none of the detainees have faced trial. Human Rights Watch was unable to reach other Interior and Defense Ministry officials for comment.

Iraqi Spring MC notes protests took place in Falluja,  Mosul, Samarra, Baiji, Rawah, Tikrit, Ramadi,  The protests are regularly ignored by the western media.  They do have a Tweet this morning:

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    Friday, November 15, 2013










    US House Rep Grace Meng:  Regarding the issue of Iraqi Jewish artifacts that are currently on display in The National Archives, I want to especially acknowledge and thank Congresswoman [Ileanna] Ros-Lehtinen, Congressman [Steve] Israel and Senator [Chuck] Schumer for their leadership on this issue.  Rescued from Baghdad in 2003, the collection of ancient artifacts include letters, books and personal photos that were left behind by Jews after WWII who experienced extreme anti-Semiticsm including harassment and violence.  It is imperative that these artifacts are returned to the descendents of the Jewish community from which they were wrongly confiscated and not the Iraqi government.  We must ensure that justice for the Iraqi Jewish community.

    Meng was speaking at yesterday's House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa hearing.  US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is the Subcommittee Chair and US House Rep Ted Deutch is the Ranking Member and the witness appearing before the Subcomittee was Brett McGurk.  Yesterday we focused on the Jewish Archive aspect.  

    Today, we're going to focus on religious minorities and Camp Ashraf.   Religious minorities have long been under attack.  Will McGurk's words reassure? 

    US House Rep Steve Chabot:  While Iraqi Christians find themselves in an increasingly hostile environment, the Kurdish region was a safe haven for Christian refugees in Iraq.  However, a number of bombings against Christians in Kurdish -- in the Kurdish region have changed the security situation for Christians.  And with reports of discrimination, Christians no longer feel safe even in the -- in the Kurdish region.  What's the administration doing to help Christians and other minorities in Iraq and what is the Maliki government doing to protect Iraqi religious minorities?

    Brett McGurk:  Well, thank you, very important, uh question, and at the State Dept we are focused on this every single day I try to meet with the Iraqi Christian community here in the United States.  When I'm in Iraq, I try to meet with the Christian leaders.  Our Ambassadors engage with them on a regular basis.  On my last trip, I met with Bishop [Bashar]  Warda who's in Erbil  And we-we asked him, what do you really need from us?  And he needed some more facilitation with the Kurdish government and he needed some help to resolve some land disputes.  And they have now set up a joint-commission to do just that.  Uhm, the prime minister met Archbishop [Louis Raphael] Sako -- the main Christian leader in Iraq -- to talk about threats to the Christian community.  Uh, the real problem in Iraq now is that every community is under threat.  The casualties that have taken place this year in Iraq are a threat to everybody but the Christians in particular and some of the other minority communities such as the Shabaks and the Yazidis are under real threat from these al Qaeda groups.  We are talking with the Christian -- the Iraqi Christian community here and also Christian leaders in Baghdad about what we can do to harness local forces to protect their local communities and then working with the Iraqi government to get resources into those communities.  And we've made some progress over the last three to four months but I-I -- I just -- Our eyes are wide open that this problem isn't -- Again, the more that al Qaeda gains strength and, uh, gains roots in western Iraq, the greater the threat will be.  That's why we have to go after that in a very serious way.

    Sako is the main Christian leader in Iraq?  That's certainly going to be news to a lot of others in Iraqis?  But Shabaks and Yazidis aren't Catholic.  How will they be helped when their needs aren't explored.  If you're not talking to them and their leaders, how are you helping them?  You're not.

    In Mosul today, NINA reports, four homes were blown up. Who lived in them?  Shabaks.  They're being targeted and the State Dept isn't even listening to them.  Or most Christians because they're really not in Baghdad these days.  The migration was started long ago but really accelerated after October 31, 2010 when Our Lady of Salvation Church was attacked in Baghdad.

    Not only are these Christians in large and increasing numbers, their needs are going to be different than those living in Baghdad.  They are refugees.  And what is the State Dept doing about that?  Nothing and apparently because they're not even aware of them or the need to converse with them.

    Let's move over to the Ashraf residents.  As of September, 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.

    The September 1st attack was not minor to the Subcommittee.  Chair Ros-Lehtinen told McGurk she wanted regular updates on the T-walls and how many are being put up to protect the Ashraf community from mortar attacks. He stated that there were "about 14,000 now" ready to be assembled and put up.  But US House Rep Brad Sherman pointed out there were 17,000 T-walls up when he last visited Iraq, up at Camp Liberty, but now they're are less than 200.  Clearly, T-walls were taken down (by the orders of Nouri al-Maliki although McGurk insists it was because of the desires of the Ashraf community).  US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher had one of his constituents stand.  The man lost family in the September 1st attack. He was one of the Ashraf community supporters who regularly attend hearings wearing yellow (they also turned out in full force to protest Nouri's visit to DC).  US House Rep Ted Poe noted them in his remarks to McGurk,  "These people that are here, working people, Americans, and they are concerned about people that they love in Iraq.  And they constantly are losing friends and family members to attacks."  These attacks have lasting effects and the State Dept has done very little.

    US House Rep Joseph Wilson:  . . . but a real tragedy has been the murders at Camp Ashraf.  Since December 2008, when our government turned over the protections of the  camp to the Iraqi government, Prime Minister Maliki has repeatedly assured the world that he would treat the residents humanely and also that he would protect them from harm.  Yet it has not kept the promise promise as 111 people have been killed  in cold blood and more than a thousand wounded in five attacks including the September 1st massacre, what is the United States doing to prevent further attacks and greater loss of life in terms of ensuring the safety and security of the residents

    Brett McGurk:  Congressman, first let me say thank you for your-your service and your family's service.  Speaking for myself and my team who've spent many years in Iraq and have known many friends we've lost in Iraq, it's something we think about every day and it inspires our work and our dedication to do everything possible to succeed under very difficult circumstances.  Regarding Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty, the only place for the MEK and the residents of Camp Liberty to be safe is outside of Iraq.  Camp Liberty is a former US military base  We lost Americans, right nearby  there, as late as the summer of 2010.  We lost a number of Americans to rocket fire and indirect fire attacks and our embassy compounds were the most secure facilities  in the country as late as the summer of 2010, that was when we had about 60,000 troops in the country in the country doing everything that they possibly could do to hunt down the rocket teams that we knew were targeting us.  Uh, there are cells in Iraq  -- we believe directed and inspired from Iran -- which are targeting the MEK, there's no question about that.  And the only place for the MEK to be safe is outside of Iraq.  That is why the State Dept and the Secretary have appointed a colleague of mine, Jonathan Winer, to work this issue full time. to find a place for them to go. Right now, there's about 2900 residents at Camp Liberty and Albania's taken in about 210, Germany's agreed to take in 100 and that's it.  We need to find a place for these - these people to go.  It is an urgent and humanitarian issue, an international humanitarian crisis.  And I went to the camp to meet with the survivors, to speak with the families, and what they told me and I promised them to do everything I possibly could to get them to safety.  Uh, it is incumbent upon the Iraqi government to do everything it possibly can to to keep them safe -- and that means the T-walls and the sandbags and everything else.  Uh, but the only place for the residents to be safe is outside Iraq.  Since the tragic attacks at Camp Liberty on September 1st 1300 Iraqis were killed, 52 people were massacred at Camp Ashraf.  This was a tragic, horrifying act.  But since then, 1300 Iraqis in the country have been killed.  The country is incredibly dangerous and the MEK, to be safe, have to leave Iraq and we want to find a place for them to go.  

    US House Rep Joseph Wilson:  Well I appreciate your commitment to that.  After the September 1st massacre, the State Dept called for an independent investigation by the United Nations.  74 days on, nothing's been done, let alone an independent investigation.  Could you tell this Committee whether any independent probe has been carried out or not?  If so, by whom and what is the finding?  If not, why not?  Five attacks have been launched against the residents and not one person has been arrested.  What do we do to maintain promises of protection?

    Brett McGurk: Uh, Congressman, shortly after the attack, we worked with the United Nations to make sure that they got a team up to Camp Ashraf within 24 hours of the attack to document exactly what happened because there was a lot of stories about what happened.  They went there took photographs of the bodies to make sure that it was documented as to how these people were killed and there's no question about it.  We have looked very closely at all of our information I know that I've-I've had the opportunity to brief some members of the Subcommittee in a classified setting which I'd be pleased to do again to update you on the information that we have.We did call for an independent investigation and for the UN to be involved in this process.  The UN was also involved in making sure that the survivors got out of Camp Ashraf and out of harms way to get to get to Camp Liberty.  But, again, Congressman, I would welcome the opportunity to brief you and discuss with you in a classified setting everything we know that happened on September 1st.

    Here's a question.  Why did it take the September 1st attack for the State Dept to hired someone to work on the issue?  In fairness to Secretary of State John Kerry, maybe the question should be why, in four years, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton didn't hired anyone?  Or how about why did she fight a federal court for years before taking the MEK off the terrorist list?

    And if this i really considered "an international humanitarian crisis" by the State Dept, could Brett or John inform the spokespersons for the State Dept because Iraq rarely comes up and Camp Ashraf  is not a topic -- Iraqi Christians as well -- that interests the spokespersons.

    Seems to me if you have a semi-daily press briefing by the Dept, you use that briefing to highlight "an international humanitarian crisis."  

    I'm also confused why you need to go into a classified briefing to discuss an attack on Camp Ashraf?

    McGurk hurled every imagination you could think of at Iran in one remark or another.

    So he's not protecting Iran.

    Who's he protecting?

    It would appear he doesn't want to speak publicly about how Nouri al-Maliki allows and aids attacks on the Ashraf community.

    This was made even more clear in another exchange.

    US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher:  You believe them that that there's really a security reason that they haven't put those T-walls up at Camp Liberty?

    Brett McGurk:  No, I do not think that there are legitimate security reasons that the T-walls have not been put up.

    US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher: You sounded to me when I was listening to you -- and I listened very closely to what you said -- that we can't blame the leadership -- the Maliki leadership for the lack of security at Camp Liberty?

    Brett McGurk:  Uh, no.  And in fact my conversation with Maliki was that you need to get as many T-walls into that facility as possible without any excuses.  Period.  Full stop.  So I -- if I -- You may have heard me say something differently but I 


    US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher:  Maybe I'm misinterpreting what you said.  Now tell me this.  Those troops that came into Camp Ashraf and murdered 52 unarmed MEK refugees, you hold that this was done by a rogue element in the Iraqi army or do you think the Maliki regime is complicit in this murder?

    Brett McGurk:  I don't believe there was a rogue element.  I think a lot of this goes back to the background of the situation.  Camp Ashraf was seen as a forward operating base to the MEK --

    US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher:  I don't need a background on it.  I'm not trying to find out.  It's clear that we had Iraqi soldiers going in there murdering people who are unarmed, tying their hands behind their back and then blowing their brains out.  This is an atrocity.  It's a crime against humanity.  Now, I don't need a background to find out the background on Camp Ashraf.  Do we hold that government responsible or is this a rogue element?  And if it was a rogue element in the military, what has the Maliki regime done to deal with that?  

    Brett McGurk:  Congressman, I would -- I would welcome the opportunity to speak with you in a classified setting and tell you everything we know about this attack including who committed the atrocity. 

    US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher:  You know, I'm not asking for all the information that you know.  I'm asking who we're holding accountable.  And we aren't.  Clearly  we are sending a message to the Maliki government that it's okay because we're not doing anything about it.   We have -- we have -- Here's a picture of a gentleman who used to work up here and we have -- and I submit this right now, Mr. [Acting] Chairman [Ron DeSantis], for the record -- a gentleman who used to work on Capitol Hill representing the MEK and we saw him on many occasions.  And guess what? [Pointing to photo] Here's his body at Camp Ashraf where they have murdered him -- brutally tied his hands behind his back and blown his brains out. We need -- we need to -- If we excuse this by lack of attention, we are sending our own message as to what values we have and we're sending other dictators and terrorists a message as well about American weakness. I am not satisfied with what this administration is doing.  And one last note, Mr. Chairman, and that is: These people are under attack.  I think at the very least, and this is my opinion right now, we should take the people in at Camp Liberty.  Let's just take them in.

    Again, McGurk had no problem launching any and every allegation at Iran in his comments to the Subcommittee.  So what's the classified issue?  It really appears the State Dept knows what the press does, Nouri was responsible for the September 1st attack.  

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    Thursday, November 14, 2013








    Due to his own texts, we know that Gina Chon gave Brett McGurk blue balls before they both decided to cheat on their spouses in Iraq, the question is: Who stuffed Brett full of crap?

    Judging by his demeanor and statements to the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, Brett stuffed himself and goodness how the nonsense poured out of him.

    US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is the Subcommittee Chair and US House Rep Ted Deutch is the Ranking Member.  In addition to those two, US House Reps David Cicilline, Steve Chabot, Juan Vargas, Joe Wilson, Grace Meng, Brad Schneider, and Dana Rohrabacher were present.  I hope I didn't miss anyone.

    The way this is going to play out is that we're going to focus on some of the hearing today and some of it tomorrow.  I also attended a VA hearing today and would like to work that in but with two snapshots being needed for Subcommittee hearing (and that may go into three), it may be next week before we get to the VA hearing.

    Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:  Before we begin this afternoon's hearing I will hand Deputy Assistant Secretary McGurk an envelope and ask that he please deliver it to Secretary [of State John] Kerry.  These are my previous letters to Kerry pleading for the United States to help the residents of Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty and to prevent another deadly attack like the one from September at Camp Ashraf which left 52 dead and 7 hostages who are still missing. There's also a video taken by the residents of Camp Ashraf during the last assault that I urge Secretary Kerry and all members of this Subcommittee to view.  And finally, a letter to Secretary Kerry regarding the return of Iraqi-Jewish community artifacts that are now on display at The National Archives.  In 2003, US and coalition forces found a  trove of Iraqi-Jewish cultural artifacts being warehoused in the basement of Saddam Hussein's secret police headquarters.  And the US subsequently brought them here, to The National Archives, for restoration, preservation and display; however, these artifacts are scheduled to be returned to Iraq where the government will claim possession of these artifacts which were unjustly taken from the Iraqi-Jewish community.  The US government must not return those stolen treasures to the Iraqi government but instead should facilitate their return to their rightful owners or descendants.  Therefore, on behalf of me, Congressman Steve Israel and over 40 of our House colleagues, we ask you, Deputy Secretary McGurk, to personally deliver this letter to Secretary Kerry and the Dept of State ensures that the Iraqi-Jewish community does not get robbed again of its collective memory and treasures. 

    That was the Chair speaking at the start of the hearing.  After opening statements, Chair Ileanna Ros-Lehtinen started by noting the contents of the envelope she was asking McGurk to pass on to Kerry and asked about the issues she'd noted above.

    McGurk elected to go with the issue of the Jewish archives.

    Brett McGurk:  I'll start with the Jewish archives.  As you know, the archives are on display at The National Archives. I went to see them last week.  It is a really remarkable display -- both about the Jewish heritage and the tragic history of this community in Iraq.  Uhm, we are also in a daily conversation with the government of Iraq, uhm, and with the Jewish community here in Iraq -- uh, this morning, I was in communication with Rabbi Baker from the American Jewish Council.  I've also been in regular conversation with Ambassador Fahly who's here, uh, representing the Iraqi government.  Uh, as you know, we have a commitment from an agreement in 2003 to return, uh, the archives to Iraq, uh, next summer -- by the end of next summer.  Uh, we have paid for Iraqi archivists who are here now training with The National Archives to make sure uh that these archives are preserved -- and protected.

    At this point, the Chair noted that her time was brief and she needed him to touch on her other topics and that she was sure others present would ask about the archives.

    Brett McGurk:  I'll say just briefly on the archives, we're open to discussions on discussing this position of the archives and I know the ambassador agrees with that.  And I'm happy to discuss this further. 

    What was Brett McGurk saying?

    He was lying.

    He was lying plain and simple.


    Doesn't it sound like, from his words, that the State Dept is reconsidering their pact?

    Because they should be.  The artifacts were stolen property, stolen by the government of Iraq (Saddam Hussein's government).  So they don't belong to Iraq or the Iraqi government.  In fact, if they're turned over to the Iraqi government, the government will be in possession of stolen property.

    There is no legal binding contract despite the nonsense from the State Dept and the White House.  Only the owner of the property can enter into a contract regarding the property.

    A thief cannot steal property and legally sell it.  A thief has no ownership rights to property they stole.

    But McGurk thought he could lie.  He wasn't expecting so many members of the Subcommittee to be interested in this topic.  Let's note this exchange.

    Ranking Member Ted Deutch:  I'd actually like to get back to the issue of the archives.  And you said that you're "open to discussions."  And these are just a couple of observations -- and I appreciate the attention that you've paid to this issue already.  Iraq, Babylon, was the center of Judaism for a thousand years and-and these documents, tattered as they were, found a decade ago are -- according to the agreement that was reached with the -- with the Coalition Provisional Authority were supposed to be sent -- were supposed to be sent back to a place where the number of Jews, the number is perhaps in the single digits.  The documents -- many of the documents are very personal in nature, records of the community, things that are of real value to the members of the community and their descendants who simply aren't there.  So help me.   I understand what the agreement was.  You've also said you're now open to discussions. And can we explore that a little bit?  Can we explore that a little bit?  And if you could just continue where you left off?   What discussion can we have?  And what can we do?  What -- what would be the hold up to ensure that these items are so, so personal to the community that is no longer living in the country can actually reside with the community?

    Brett McGurk:  All I can say is that is that everybody should go see the exhibit and if you meet the technicians who actually traveled to Baghdad in the heart of the worst -- one of the worst periods of the war in 2003 to preserve these materials, it's really a remarkable effort by The National Archives.  The State Dept's proud to be a partner with them in that -- in that effort.  They will be on display at the archives.  They will -- they will then be on display in New York.  The commitment that we made in 2003 is a legal agreement to get them out of Iraq to preserve this important material.  Without that agreement, the material never would have been preserved.  Uhm, they will be on display in New York and then under this commitment, they will -- they will transfer to Baghdad in the late summer of next year.  All I can say is that, uh, we have an agreement with the, uh, Iraqi ambassador here to begin a conversation about, uh, long-term loans here in the United States to make sure that people can --  can view them, but that will be an ongoing discussion.  It's November now.  We have until the end of the summer, so we do have some time to discuss this.  We have heard very loudly and clearly the concerns of the community.  We've listened to them, we've taken them to heart and we'll see what we can do.

    Ranking Member Ted Deutch:  And I would -- I would just add to that there are, as I understand it, some 2700 books, tens of thousands of documents.  It certainly seems that -- that it would be possible to be able to have the ability to highlight the-the community that existed in Iraq in some fashion while still ensuring that the bulk of these records continue to stay with-with those who are the most closely affiliated with them and presumably whose lives they effect. 

    And there we find out that Brett McGurk lied.

    Are we surprised?

    So there are no discussions currently about this most important topic: Legal ownership.

    The Iraqi government has no legal ownership.

    And that's actually the first thing you establish.

    Try to get just how crooked and corrupt the State Dept is on this.

    I swipe your emerald necklace.

    The US government sees that the stones need polishing.  They take it to polish the stones and tell me they'll get it back to me.  You show up and say, "That necklace is stolen property!  It belongs to me!"  Brett McGurk hears you "very loudly and clearly."

    Brett shows up at my door to tell me . . .

    that I should probably let the necklace be displayed in New York.

    Why is he negotiating with me about possible showings of property I've stolen?

    That's so insulting and it's so stupid.  You establish ownership first and foremost.

    And the US should have done that in 2003 before entering into any agreement.

    But the law's the law.  And the law is not 'the US must honor the contract!'  No, the law is the contract is invalid if the property was stolen.  That does not mean ownership goes to the US -- it does mean the US has to hand it over to the rightful owners.

    As it is, the US government has wasted a ton of a tax dollars -- US tax dollars -- making the property more valuable and it's about to hand this increased worth over to thieves.

    And that's what the Iraqi government is -- not Saddam, the current one -- if they're trying to grab stolen property which they have no claim to.

    Can you imagine if all the Shi'ites had been run out of Iraq in 1993 and Saddam was holding items he stole from them in 1984?  Can you imagine the outrage?

    And it would be justifiable outrage.

    I'm honestly surprised the clerics, like the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, have not spoken on the matter since we are talking religious artifacts and heritage.  You'd think the Shi'ite  religious elders, who knew what it was to suffer under Saddam Hussein, would be the first to speak up and say, "Stolen Jewish artifacts do not belong to our country, they belong to the Jewish people."

    The lies of Brett McGurk never ended.  It was as though everyone of us in that room were his first wife and he was all insincere charm insisting to us that he wasn't sleeping with some crazy reporter with the Wall St. Journal.

    The lies started immediately.  Even though the Chair said his  full written statement would be entered into the record, he attempted to read all ten pages.

    He lied at the start about Baghdad and Erbil, but we'll come back to that.

    It was offensive to hear him go on and on about Shi'ite victims of violence.  Violence is awful no matter who is harmed.  But there are levels of violence.

    It's awful when anyone goes on a mad tear to destroy and harm.  But when it's the government?  That's even worse.

    Brett did not want to acknowledge, for example, the April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija which resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.
    AFP  reported  the death toll rose to 53. UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

    The 52 dead are not more dead than, for example, a Shi'ite pilgrim.  But the fact that the killers were tools of a government which is supposed to protect the population, which exists for that reason first and foremost?  That makes the violence worse.

    Brett McGurk kept blustering about al Qaeda in Iraq and 2011 and 2012 and how the US sent al Qaeda in Iraq running and blah, blah, blah.

    But just as he refused to note the Hawija massacre, he didn't want to note that Nouri's responsibilities.  His failures.

    Chief among them?

    Back in July 2012, 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."   That's still true.

    And it's not a minor point at any time but it's especially not a minor point that you've got no Minister/Secretary of Defense, Interior and National Security as your country's security unravels.

    I have yet to hear -- during all this time those spots have been empty -- one member of Congress challenge a witness as to whether or not Nouri's refusal to fill those seats may have helped violence increase in Iraq.

    It was so irritating to hear Brett McGurk babble on endlessly.

    Brett McGurk:  In short, Iraq's hydrocarbon sector is vital to U.S. interests in the region, and its development is essential to Iraq's long - term stability. These shared interests have led to a close and ongoing partnership as to how Iraq can best manage its abundant resources to generate increasing revenues and align the interests of disparate groups in a unified and federal Iraq. For example, four export platforms that came on line south of Basra in 2012 -- each with capacity to export 900,000 barrels per day -- were the result of joint efforts beginning in 2007 to address serious deficiencies in Iraq's infrastructure. Today, U.S. policy is focused on a similarly ambitious -- and achievable -- vision: a strategic pipeline from the super giant oil fields in Basra (with 80 percent of Iraq's proven reserves) to the Haditha refinery in Anbar province; south west through Jordan to the Red Sea; and connected to the north , Turkey and the Mediterranean. These three export routes -- the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, and Mediterranean  -- will build redundancy into Iraq's national export infrastructure, facilitate prosperity to all parts of the country, and align the interests of regional partners in a stable and prosperous Iraq. Coupled with this vision is a revenue sharing agreement to ensure that revenues are shared equitably, and, longer term, new legislation to manage the hydrocarbon sector and ensure legal predictability to market entrants . The United States wants to see Iraqi oil from all parts of the country  --  north to south -- reaching global markets as soon as possible, and in a manner that reinforces stability. Iraq today is producing 3 million barrels-per-day, but the IEA projects under its central scenario potential increases to 6 million barrels-per-day by 2020 , and 8 million barrels-per-day by 2035 , with revenues over this period approaching $5 trillion.

    Ignore the numbers and Brett McGurk was saying this same crap in 2006 and 2007 and 2008 and . . . (McGurk was an Iraq War cheerleader in the administration of Bully Boy Bush.)

    There is no hydrocarbons law.

    For those who've forgotten, the hydrocarbons law was in the 2007 benchmarks.  The White House made that a benchmark and Congress would see success on it and not cut off funds!

    There was never any progress on it but a spineless Congress refused to follow up.

    That's not fair.  An uncaring Congress.  By 2008, there was only one member of the House who was asking where the progress was on the benchmarks: US House Rep Lloyd Doggett.

    We have heard over and over that a hydrocarbon law is on its way.

    It has never, ever happened.

    Why does that matter?

    It's at the heart of the problems between Baghdad and Erbil to hear Brett tell it.  (He skipped over Kirkuk.  He skipped over so much.)

    Not only that, he had the nerve to insist, "The United States does not take sides in the internal disputes regarding the distribution of revenues and management of oil resources."

    The how about someone explain this statement issued by Victoria Nuland November 23, 2011, "We have always advised and continue to advise all oil companies, including Exxon-Mobil, that they incur significant political and legal risks by signing any contracts with the Kurdistan Regional Government before national agreement is reached on the legal framework for the hydrocarbon sector."

    The US government has been taking sides on the oil issue from day one of the illegal war.

    They led Nouri to believe they could get the ExxonMobil contracts cancelled.  I noted in passing here that they couldn't which led the State of Law MP that reads this site to deluge the public account with e-mails about how this works.

    That's when I realized that many Iraqis -- at least Nouri's State of Law -- were living under the misguided assumption that the US government owned oil companies.  In Iraq, they had state-controlled oil and the government could dictate. That was not the case in the US.  In fact, if anything, the multi-national oil conglomerates control the US government.

    Brett McGurk offered testimony that things were improved between the Baghdad and Erbil due to US "diplomatic engagement."

    Brett McGurk:  Due to a series of disagreements over the Iraqi budget, and in the disputed boundary areas of northern Iraq, Kurdish ministers and parliamentarians were boycotting the central government, and its Peshmerga forces faced off against Iraqi Army units -- with both sides daring the other to open fire. Fortunately, intensive diplomatic engagement led to a detente , with both sides pulling back and disputes returning to the political arena where they belong. On June 10 , Prime Minister Maliki visited Erbil for the first time in tw o years; then, on July 7 , IKR President Barzani visited Baghdad, for the first time since late 2010 . As a result of these visits, the IKR and the central government established seven joint committees with mandates to address the most difficult issues of federalism : security cooperation, revenue sharing, and balancing powers between the central and regional governments. Since then, there has been progress in the area of security cooperation, and we are working to facilitate serious discussions on revenue sharing, to help ensure that all Iraqis -- in all parts of Iraq -- benefit equitably from Iraq's national patrimony. 

    Hmm.  The US brokered peace between Baghdad and Erbil?  Set aside that it's no lasting peace as last week demonstrated.  Brett claimed other US victories.

    Brett McGurk:  Beginning in March, the United States launched a quiet but active campaign to ease tensions with Turkey, settle accounts with Kuwait, strengthen ties to Jordan, and accelerate efforts to reintegrate Iraq with its Gulf neighbors. These efforts are important to bolstering Iraq's independence, and, when combined with economic and security initiatives, aligning its long -- term interests to ours. These efforts have seen some success . Iraq and Kuwait settled key accounts dating to the 1991 Gulf War, and in June the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to finalize a process to normalize relations between both countries. Two weeks ago, the Iraqi cabinet voted to open Kuwaiti consulates in Erbil and Basra. In April, the United States began a trilateral process with Iraq and Turkey, focused on mutual interests . This week , Turkey’s Foreign Minister visited Baghdad for the first time in [. . .]

    I'm sorry, this makes no sense.  And maybe that's why Nouri's government is so screwed up.

    Nouri created the problems with Turkey -- as he has with all neighbors except Iran.  He's attacked everyone, dubbed foreign leaders terrorists, accused them of upsetting the balance n Iraq and said the most rude and threatening remarks imaginable.

    And Brett McGurk wants to tell the Congress that the State Dept is wasting over a billion US tax payer dollars in Iraq each year to go around smoothing things over for Nouri?

    At what point does Nouri put on his big boy pants and solve his own damn problems?  Ones that he created?

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    Wednesday, November 13, 2013










    Moqtada al-Sadr, cleric and movement leader in Iraq, has declared no third term as prime minister for Nouri al-Maliki.  All Iraq News reports that in response to a question about Nouri getting "a third term despite the problems that face Iraqis because of Maliki"?  Moqtada responded he "would not approve" of granting Nouri a third term.

    In anticipation of expected parliamentary elections (said to take place April 30th), campaign season is kicking off in Iraq.  In 2011, Bobby Ghosh (Time magazine) dubbed  Moqtada -- who made Time's list of top 100 influential people in the world -- "the ayatullah in training" (Peter James Field offers a nice ink and pen sketch of Moqtada with Ghosh's copy).  As the Iraq War continues, Moqtada changes and grows -- at least for public consumption.   In July, Ali Abel Sadah (Al-Monitor) quoted Moqtada making a statement about how the next prime minister of Iraq would "stand against the occupier" and this was in response to remarks by US Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Beecroft.

    Iraq may or may not hold elections in April -- with the Iraqi political system, nothing is ever a given.  And there are serious concerns being raised by the political blocs and, yes, by some on the Independent High Electoral Commission, about Iraq's move to electronic voting and the security of that vote.  In addition, Wael Grace reports that there's a complaint filed today with the federal court challenging the law stating it is illegal since it was not sent from the presidency but from the Parliament.  Moqtada's bloc has weighed in insisting that the law is legal.  State of Law weighs in via MP Hassan al-Yasiri declaring that the law is in violation.  This is also why State of Law is stating that a verdict agreeing the law is illegal will mean the current government is extended until 2016.  No, I don't understand how that would be the outcome either but this is the court Nouri controls so the law gets tossed out by them all the time.

    So let's talk Moqtada.  The 40-year-old was born August 12, 1973 in Najaf or the 39-year-old was born August 12, 1974.  Even his date of birth is in dispute.

     Moqtada's late father, said to have been killed on the orders of Saddam Hussein, was Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr.  Moqtada has influence within Iraq due to his family.  The US invasion of Iraq aided Moqtada's reputation as the US and British governments targeted him.  This only increased his profile.  Encyclopedia Britannica notes how quickly Moqtada rose, "Almost immediately after U.S.-led forces toppled Ṣaddām’s regime in 2003 (see Iraq War), Ṣadr emerged from the shadows and began to open offices in his father’s name (known collectively as the Office of the Martyr Ṣadr) in Baghdad, Al-Najaf, Karbalāʾ, Al-Baṣrah, and other areas. He had immediate success in Madinat al-Thawrah (Revolution City), a poor Baghdad suburb of two million Shīʿites, which he renamed Ṣadr City in honour of his father. By the end of that year Ṣadr headed a Shīʿite political movement known as the Ṣadrist Movement and had attracted millions of Shīʿite followers across Iraq, mainly youth and the poor and downtrodden, to whom he offered a variety of social, educational, and health services."

    He was referred to as "anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr" in the press when maybe he should have been termed "pro-Iraqi cleric"?  In Civil Rights In Peril: The Targeting of Arabs and Muslims (Elaine C. Hagopian, editor), it's noted that "Al-Sadr has a following among the two million Shia who live in Sadr City (formerly Saddam City), a poor Shia area of Baghdad. "  In addition to that stronghold area, he also has millions of followers in southern Iraq.   The Council on Foreign Relations states:

    Muqtada's movement did not grow out of an organized structure, and instead emerged as a loose coalition of young imams and armed volunteers rushing to fill a power vacuum. But political prowess and a penchant for drama -- along with a steadfast opposition to the U.S. occupation and his family credentials -- coalesced to reinvent the younger Sadr. As the Sadrist insider told the ICG in early 2006, "One hardly hears the expression za'tut anymore." Comprised mainly of young, impoverished Iraqi Shiites, much of Sadr's base lives in Sadr City, though he also has strong ties to Najaf, the holy city where the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed, Ali ibn Abi Talib, is buried. Sadr's followers have also been active in Basra and other majority Shiite towns, including Kut, Nasiriyah, Karbala -- Iraq's other holy Shiite city -- and Kufa. Estimates of Sadr's support base range from 3 million to 5 million. 

    Moqtada was far from a saint in this period and he ran a militia -- which most people who could have would have done the same when foreigners occupied their country.  Even more so when you grasp he was being targeted by the US military.   Matt J. Martin and Charles W. Sasser notes one battle in their book Predator: The Remote-control Air War Over Iraq and Afghanistan: a Pilot's Story:

    On July 31 [2004], al-Sadr broke the ceasefire after U.S. Marines and the Iraqi National Guard raided a safe house in Karbala and nabbed some al-Sadr representatives.  Al-Sadr issued a blatant challenge to the new government, demanding that his people "be freed, and if this is ignored then we will respond at the appropriate time."
    Iraqi police and U.S. troops surrounded al-Sadr's house on August 3 and engaged in a furious firefight with hundreds of Mahdi fighters defending the house.  Clashes spread to the old city of Najaf.  By August 13, the cleric and the main body of the resistance were trapped inside a cordon around the Imam Ali Mosque.  Day after day I flew over the shining dome and its twin minarets and watched insurgents below brazenly shooting rockets and mortar rounds indiscriminately into the surrounding neighborhoods.  
    It looked like the stalemate might finally reach a conclusion as August drew toward an end, thanks to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.  At seventy-four years old, he was an Iranian and "Twlever" (those who believed that the return of the Twelfth Mahdi and the end of the world were imminent) who had resided in Iraq since 1951.  He returned from London, where he had sought medical treatment, and traveled to Najaf in a "peace convoy . . . to stop the bloodshed."  Al-Sadr was apparently ready to call another truce: the Mahdi resistance had suffered hundreds of casualties since April, whereas U.S. Marine losses were fairly light.
    The following day, al-Sistani announced that he had compromised an agreement with al-Sadr: The Mahdi Army would voluntarily disarm and leave Najaf if U.S. forces withdrew from the city and returned control of it to Iraq authorities.  I watched from the air as the disarmament process unfolded.

    Moqtada's part of the Shi'ite majority and, in 2006, when Saddam Hussein was executed by the puppet government of the United States, and even though Nouri al-Maliki was prime minister at the time and had been for over 8 months, when Iraqi guards executed Hussein, they chanted "Moqtada! Moqtada! Moqtada!" -- according to Patrick Cockburn's Muqtada: Muqtada al-Sadr the Shie Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq.  Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) reported:

    Footage of Saddam’s last moments, taken by an onlooker with a mobile phone, shows the former dictator appearing calm and composed while dealing with taunts from witnesses below him. The audio reveals several men praising the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and Mohammed Bakr al-Sadr, founder of the Shia Dawa Party, who was killed by Saddam in 1980.
    “Peace be upon Muhammad and his followers,” shouted someone near the person who filmed the events. “Curse his enemies and make victorious his son Muqtada! Muqtada! Muqtada.” These chants are commonly used by members of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army militia..
    There has been a huge international backlash to the footage. In India millions of Muslims demonstrated against the execution being carried out during the sacred festival of Eid.

    An arrest warrant was issued by the occupied government for Moqtada and he left Iraq until  the start of 2011.  Hayder al-Khoei (Guardian) wrote at the time:

    Moqtada al-Sadr has finally returned to Najaf in Iraq after almost four years of self-imposed exile. Senior Sadrists claimed that the reason he left Iraq was to continue his theological studies in Iran. However, there was another thorny issue behind his absence: Sadr is still wanted by the Iraqi judiciary for his alleged involvement in my father's murder eight years ago.

    The arrest warrant for Sadr stands to this day as Iraqi judge Raed al-Juhi signed it in April 2004. Juhi is the investigative judge who presided over the first hearing of the Dujail massacre that eventually led to Saddam Hussein's execution in December 2006.

    The father assassinated was Abdul-Majid al-Khoei, on April 10, 2003, mere weeks after the US invaded.  Why was he assassinated?  He was using his position to advocate on behalf of the occupiers, the United States.  From 1992 until after the US invasion, he had lived in England.  The exile returned to Iraq the month of his death.  No sooner did he return, than he started advocating for the US.  That's not a description that begs for a war welcome.  He was assassinated in Najaf and any number of people could have carried out the assassination on any number of people's orders. More importantly, was the mob that attacked attacking al-Khoei or Haydar al-Killidar al-Rufaye?  That's who al-Khoei was with and he's the one who was murdered by the mob immediately, al-Khoei near the end of the 90 minute assault.

    As Linda Robison explains in Masters of Chaos: The Secret History of Special Forces, in Najaf, despite a move in Najaf when even the mayor was being rejected ("There was a mounting murmur of opposition, however, from residents who said Hattar was from outside Najaf and not one of them."), al-Khoei decided to go through Najaf and to do so without US proection ("My people will protect me.").  In Proceedings of the Combat Studies Institute 2006 Military History Symposium(Kendall D. Gott, Michael G. Brooks), possible motives are noted:

    Whatever the motive behind the killing, whether it was a rejection of reconciliation with Ba'athists or of al-Khoei's westernizing influence, or merely a criminal effort to gain control of the Shrine's lucrative revenues, it protended a rising tide of Iraqis killing other Iraqis. 

    Was Moqtada responsible?  Even AP was skeptical as evidenced by the wording in this 2010 report:

    U.S. officials blamed al-Sadr for the April 10, 2003, assassination of Shiite cleric Majid al-Khoie, who was slain after returning to the holy city of Najaf south of Baghdad in hopes of winning support for the Americans from Shiite clergy.
    A warrant was issued for al-Sadr in the al-Khoie slaying by Iraqi authorities in 2004, but he was never arrested. Instead, the warrant was quietly shelved as part of the cease-fire deals the Americans accepted under pressure from Shiite clerics and politicians.

    In 2011, The Economist attempted to sum up the many strands in the public image of Moqtada:

    Mr Sadr was once derided as “Ayatollah Atari”, a nickname denoting his love of computer games. He was also widely regarded as a thug, albeit one who performed astutely in the violent game of Iraqi politics. But he has still not revealed his latest goals and allegiances. After two years in exile, Mr Sadr has made only two high-profile appearances in Iraq to address his followers. A spokesman said he was testing to see whether Mr Maliki or the Americans would arrest him. But Mr Sadr has recently spent more time in Iraq, mainly in the Shia's holy city of Najaf. As the Americans draw down their numbers, his supporters may see a lot more of him. 

    And what they, and what Iraq and the world, saw was a new Moqtada.    If you weren't noticing it, you weren't paying attention.  In June of 2012, I wrote:

    In December Nouri went from prime minister-designate to prime minister.  And Nouri made clear that the Erbil Agreement wasn't a priority.  By summer 2011, the Kurds, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr are calling for the agreement to be implemented.  This is the ongoing political crisis.
    Who has benefitted the most from it?
    Moqtada al-Sadr.
    'Too eratic, too radical, too young.'  There was a list of 'toos' attached to the name of the person who wanted to be prime minister.  While Nouri has looked like a dictator and out of control, Moqtada's actually benefitted from Little Saddam's tantrums which provided al-Sadr with the opportunity to show a rational and reasoned side as well as leadership skills that rarely translated prior on the world stage.  It's a more mature Moqtada al-Sadr.
    And that's really funny because the US government has always feared "radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr."  True of the Bush adminsitration, true of the Barack administration.
    In 2014, new elections are supposed to be held.  If the US backs their puppet Nouri (who has had flunkies state that he would not run for a third term but whose attorney has stated Nouri can seek a third term), not only will it be clear to one and all that he is Little Saddam and 'democracy' in Iraq is a joke, but it will also become clear who has more power in the 'new' Iraq: DC or Tehran?
    In 2010, Moqtada was not a viable choice for Tehran which feels closer ties to al-Sadr than Nouri but which was bothered by the 'too' list applied to Moqtada and by the fact that he was seen as divisive among Shi'ites (not to mention most Sunnis weren't crazy about him).  The political crisis has allowed Moqtada to strut as a statesman and he's grabbed that opportunity and used it very well.  He is the political star of Iraq currently.

    By February 2013, even the Council on Foreign Relations was noting the new, public Moqtada.  Eli Sugarman and Omar al-Nidawi offered:

    Then, last spring, he abruptly changed course, and he has spent the past year reforming his image and serving as a voice of moderation in Iraq. Sadr now openly decries violence, advocates the peaceful resolution of Iraq’s political disputes, and prays with religious leaders from other faiths and sects.
    On the one hand, Sadr’s new tune could reflect his genuine maturation and a newfound desire to play a positive role in Iraq’s dysfunctional political system; on the other hand, it could be just a new tactic to expand his influence and power. Either way, the more Sadr can convince Iraqis -- disenfranchised Shia, Kurds, and Sunnis alike -- that he is a reliable and moderate partner, the more power he will accrue at the expense of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, also a Shiite. Iraq’s Sunni Arabs and Kurds face a tough choice, because working with Sadr could lead to two very different outcomes. Joining him to challenge Maliki could perhaps promote a more inclusive political process, but it could also re-empower the rule of sectarian militias. The key for Iraqis is to vet the new Sadr carefully and insist that he backs his sweetened rhetoric with concrete actions.

    Last April, Time's Sarah Price offered a look at Moqtada which closed with :

    The discontent among Sunnis toward Maliki and his actions against them has also presented an opportunity for Sadr, says Alla Jumaa, a political professor at University of Anbar. He said Sadr is trying to get close to them by fighting for their rights, and using the unrest to gain their trust and following, trying to convince them to leave their feelings of sectarianism behind them. If it has not yet won the hearts of Sunni Iraqis, it does seem to be working with many of their leaders, who seem to believe that he is trying to put an end to the sectarianism that was perpetuated for years by Sadr himself, and violently through his followers.
    But for an Iraq that has grown weary of power- and money-hungry leadership, the concern is not from where the help arrives, but how soon. And for Moqtada al-Sadr, the time could not be more ripe for him to take the lead.

    Is this new Moqtada real?  Was the 2003 Moqtada real?  Who knows.  But he's matured publicly and has become one of Iraq's 'elders of state' -- despite his young age.  And he might just be the next prime minister of Iraq.  Who is he?









    It's all still a mystery to the west and maybe that's fitting?  In 2008, Ali Al Mashakheel (ABC News) reported Moqtada's early love for mysteries:

    Better known for fiery sermons against America’s military presence in Iraq, the Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr has revealed a softer side of his character, saying that as a young man he enjoyed reading Agatha Christie detective novels. The disclosure came during a rare appearance by the cleric in a 45-minute exclusive interview on an Iraqi TV station. During the interview, al Sadr concentrated mostly on his childhood, saying that he grew up with a fear of Saddam Hussein’s regime because members of his family were politically opposed to the former Iraqi dictator. Al Sadr told Afak TV station, “I liked to read detective stories,” particularly those of Agatha Christie, an English novelist who traveled extensively through Iraq in the early 20th century. In her opening chapter of "Murder on the 0rient Express," Christie describes a railway journey across Iraq by a young English woman in her 20s. When compared to the current level of danger and violence in Iraq, it’s a revealing insight into how safe it once was to travel the country. Iraq also features in another Agatha Christie novel called "Murder in Mesopotamia."

    All Iraq News notes Moqtada visited a Najaf polling center today to update his electoral record and that "The Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) called upon all citizens to update their electoral records to ensure their rights in voting for their candidaes during the upcoming parliamentary elections in 2014."  All Iraq News also notes that Ammar al-Hakim, head of the Islamic Supreme Council in Iraq met with representatives of the European Union today at Ammar's Baghdad office.   Ammar's into campaign mode as well.

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