Saturday, June 14, 2014





On the White House;s South Lawn this afternoon, en route to boarding a helicopter, US President Barack Obama stopped to make a few comments on Iraq:

Yesterday, I convened a meeting with my National Security Council to discuss the situation there, and this morning I received an update from my team.  Over the last several days, we’ve seen significant gains made by ISIL, a terrorist organization that operates in both Iraq and in Syria.  In the face of a terrorist offensive, Iraqi security forces have proven unable to defend a number of cities, which has allowed the terrorists to overrun a part of Iraq’s territory.  And this poses a danger to Iraq and its people.  And given the nature of these terrorists, it could pose a threat eventually to American interests as well.

Now, this threat is not brand new.  Over the last year, we’ve been steadily ramping up our security assistance to the Iraqi government with increased training, equipping and intelligence.  Now, Iraq needs additional support to break the momentum of extremist groups and bolster the capabilities of Iraqi security forces.  We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq, but I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraqi security forces, and I’ll be reviewing those options in the days ahead.
I do want to be clear though, this is not solely or even primarily a military challenge.  Over the past decade, American troops have made extraordinary sacrifices to give Iraqis an opportunity to claim their own future.  Unfortunately, Iraq’s leaders have been unable to overcome too often the mistrust and sectarian differences that have long been simmering there, and that’s created vulnerabilities within the Iraqi government as well as their security forces.
So any action that we may take to provide assistance to Iraqi security forces has to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq’s leaders to set aside sectarian differences, to promote stability, and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq’s communities, and to continue to build the capacity of an effective security force.  We can’t do it for them.  And in the absence of this type of political effort, short-term military action, including any assistance we might provide, won’t succeed. 
So this should be a wake-up call.  Iraq’s leaders have to demonstrate a willingness to make hard decisions and compromises on behalf of the Iraqi people in order to bring the country together.  In that effort, they will have the support of the United States and our friends and our allies. 
Now, Iraq’s neighbors also have some responsibilities to support this process.  Nobody has an interest in seeing terrorists gain a foothold inside of Iraq, and nobody is going to benefit from seeing Iraq descend into chaos.  So the United States will do our part, but understand that ultimately it’s up to the Iraqis, as a sovereign nation, to solve their problems.
Indeed, across the region we have redoubled our efforts to help build more capable counterterrorism forces so that groups like ISIL can’t establish a safe haven.  And we’ll continue that effort through our support of the moderate opposition in Syria, our support for Iraq and its security forces, and our partnership with other countries across the region. 
We’re also going to pursue intensive diplomacy throughout this period both inside of Iraq and across the region, because there’s never going to be stability in Iraq or the broader region unless there are political outcomes that allow people to resolve their differences peacefully without resorting to war or relying on the United States military. 

We’ll be monitoring the situation in Iraq very carefully over the next several days.  Our top priority will remain being vigilant against any threats to our personnel serving overseas.  We will consult closely with Congress as we make determinations about appropriate action, and we’ll continue to keep the American people fully informed as we make decisions about the way forward. 

He took a few questions and we'll note this response: "And obviously, our troops and the American people and the American taxpayers made huge investments and sacrifices in order to give Iraqis the opportunity to chart a better course, a better destiny.  But ultimately, they're going to have to seize it.  As I said before, we are not going to be able to do it for them.  And given the very difficult history that we’ve seen in Iraq, I think that any objective observer would recognize that in the absence of accommodation among the various factions inside of Iraq, various military actions by the United States,  by any outside nation, are not going to solve those problems over the long term and not going to deliver the kind of stability that we need."

AFP's WG Dunlop offered this observation on Barack's comments.

Immediately after Barack's remarks were aired live, Andrea Mitchell Reports (MSNBC -- link is video) went to a pre-recorded interview with Senator John McCain.

Senator John McCain:  Well our Director of National Intelligence, General [James] Clapper, has already said what is happening in this area of Syria - Iraq has now been dramatically expanded and also has enriched does post a threat for attacks to be planned on the United States of America.  That is the opinion of our Director of National Intelligence.  And I share it.

Andrea Mitchell:  What should the president do?  He says he's only ruled out ground troops.  So he is considering military options.  We're expecting decisions. What would you advise him to do?

Senator John McCain: Andrea, I think that -- I think the national security team should be replaced. But that's not going to happen.  So then, he should bring in other individuals such as General [Jack] Keane, the architect of the surge which succeeded and we had it won, people like the Kagans at  the Institute for the Study of War  [Kimberly Kagan and Fred Kagan], other -- and Ambassador Ryan Crocker.  I think I would put [former top US commander in Iraq] David Petraeus on a plane to Baghdad right now and try to sort all this out.  And, also, Maliki has got to be more inclusive.  He's got to completely change, the way he's treated the Sunni and it may be too late, I don't know.  Maybe it needs to be somebody else?   But now we need to move forward. We've got to plan not only on the military side of it but on the political side of it as well because it's clear that the Sunnis have been alienated completely by Maliki and the way he's handled his leadership in Iraq. 

A few things on the above. 

James Clapper?  Could Clapper be right?

Clapper lied to Congress.  The matter should have immediately been turned over to the Justice Dept and Barack should have asked for a resignation.

That didn't happen.

So Clapper has no standing now.  McCain can cite him all he wants but Clapper is a known liar who went before the Congress and lied.  When an official does that, they need to resign.

Clapper could be 100% right that this group of people -- whatever you term them -- are or will plan attacks on the US.  But he's a liar who's disgraced his name and few are going to rush to believe him.

McCain may have seen information -- I'm sure he has -- independently that makes him believe Clapper's assertion.

I don't believe the assertion.  There's no support being presented to the public for it.

There's also no common sense argument for it.

This group allegedly wants to take over not just Iraq but Syria as well.  They're also going to expand to attacks on the US?


Should they take over Iraq, if they also want to take over Syria, that would be their goal.

And if they achieved that?  They'd go for the region. 

I don't see where they -- as Clapper believes -- would be making one advance after another in the region and suddenly decide to focus on the US.

It doesn't make sense.

Doing so would slow their attempted march to take over the region.

Doing so would also unleash a response (and hatred and anger) aimed at them from the US and it would mean a full out war. 

So I don't see how they'd want to court that anger and the combat response that would follow.

They might. 

But thus far, we have allegations only and we have common sense.  And common sense does not back up the allegations. 

That McCain would suggest a group that includes the neocon Kagan family (which also includes Barack advisor Robert Kagan and his wife Victoria Nuland who's with the State Dept) isn't surprising (he is right-wing).  But due to other comments by McCain in the past, we should note that he made clear he was not calling for US troops back into Iraq. ("I do not envision a scenario where ground troops are on the ground [. . .] I would not commit to putting American boots on the ground in order to achieve that in deference to that weariness that you so accurately describe.")

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"

Friday, June 13, 2014






This morning, Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now! -- link is audio, video and text) declared, "Iraq is on the brink of disintegration. Sunni Islamist rebels have seized control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, as well as Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown, and Dhuluiya which is just 55 miles northwest of the capital of Baghdad. The rebels are now advancing toward Baghdad. Meanwhile, Iraqi Kurds have seized control of the northern oil city of Kirkuk. The Sunni militants are led by a group called ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. They now control a territory that stretches from the eastern edge of Aleppo, Syria, to Fallujah in western Iraq and now the northern city of Mosul. The sudden advance by the Islamist rebels has shocked the region. Earlier today, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the territorial integrity of Iraq is now in question."

This afternoon at the White House, US President Barack Obama declared, "We discussed the situation in the Middle East, and obviously the concerns that we have around Iraq and Syria.  Both our countries are potentially threatened by jihadists and freedom fighters, as they call them, that are going into Syria, getting trained in terrorist tactics and then potentially coming back to our countries and could end up being a significant threat to our homeland, as well." 

"We" was a reference to himself and Abbot, Prime Minister of Australia.  The two met today to discuss various issues.  After the discussion, the two addressed the press.  We'll note this exchange between Barack and the Associated Press' Nedra Pickler:

Q    Mr. President, are you considering drone strikes or any sort of action to stop the insurgence in Iraq?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, this is an area that we’ve been watching with a lot of concern not just over the last couple of days but over the last several months, and we’ve been in close consultation with the Iraqi government.  Over the last year, we have been providing them additional assistance to try to address the problems that they have in Anbar, in the northwestern portions of the country, as well as the Iraqi and Syrian border.  That includes, in some cases, military equipment.  It includes intelligence assistance.  It includes a whole host of issues.
But what we’ve seen over the last couple of days indicates the degree to which Iraq is going to need more help.  It’s going to need more help from us, and it’s going to need more help from the international community. 
So my team is working around the clock to identify how we can provide the most effective assistance to them.  I don’t rule out anything, because we do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria, for that matter. 
Part of the challenge -- and I’ve said this directly to Prime Minister Maliki, and Vice President Biden has said this in his very frequent interactions with the Iraqi government -- is that the politics of Shia and Sunni inside of Iraq, as well as the Kurds, is either going to be a help in dealing with this jihadist situation, or it’s going to be a hindrance.  And frankly, over the last several years, we have not seen the kind of trust and cooperation develop between moderate Sunni and Shia leaders inside of Iraq, and that accounts in part for some of the weakness of the state, and that then carries over into their military capacity.
So I think it’s fair to say that in our consultations with the Iraqis there will be some short-term, immediate things that need to be done militarily, and our national security team is looking at all the options.  But this should be also a wakeup call for the Iraqi government.  There has to be a political component to this so that Sunni and Shia who care about building a functioning state that can bring about security and prosperity to all people inside of Iraq come together and work diligently against these extremists.  And that is going to require concessions on the part of both Shia and Sunni that we haven’t seen so far. 
The last point I’ll make -- what’s happened over the last couple of days I think underscores the importance of the point that I made at my West Point speech:  the need for us to have a more robust regional approach to partnering and training partner countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa.  We’re not going to be able to be everywhere all the time, but what we can do is to make sure that we are consistently helping to finance, train, advise military forces with partner countries, including Iraq, that have the capacity to maintain their own security.  And that is a long and laborious process, but it’s one that we need to get started. 

That’s part of what the Counterterrorism Partnership Fund that I am going to be calling for Congress to help finance is all about, giving us the capacity to extend our reach without sending U.S. troops to play Whac-A-Mole wherever there ends up being a problem in a particular country.  That’s going to be more effective.  It’s going to be more legitimate in the eyes of people in the region, as well as the international community.  But it’s going to take time for us to build it.  In the short term, we have to deal with what clearly is an emergency situation in Iraq.

Those remarks came up in today's State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Jen Psaki:

QUESTION: -- you just announced this aid for internally displaced people. Have any decisions been made about – or can you enlighten us on where the process is on what the President outlined with the Australian foreign minister in terms of the options being considered for assisting the Iraqi Government in dealing with the deteriorating situation?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, what you have seen – and I know you saw it, Matt, but just for the benefit of others, the President did speak to this just a little while ago, in the last hour. And what he said and made clear is that we’ve had a lot of concern, not just in the last couple of days but months. And what we’ve seen over the last couple of days is an indication that Iraq needs more help.
Our team is working overtime on a range of options that does not include, to be clear, boots on the ground. Secretary Kerry is clearly very engaged in these discussions, which are ongoing. And Deputy Assistant Secretary Brett McGurk, of course, is as well, given he’s on the ground, as well as a range of officials from the State Department. I don’t have anything to enlighten you on, given these are ongoing discussions. But the President made clear that in the short term there may be the immediate need for additional military assistance, and there’s an ongoing discussion about that.

QUESTION: So immediate means possibly by the end of the day or in the next --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not giving a timing indication. I think what he’s indicating is in the short term, in addition to the capacity building that we’re doing over the medium and long term.

QUESTION: Right. Do you have any thoughts about the Iranians saying that they’re willing to help defend the Shia community or defend Baghdad and/or, both, the Kurds taking control of Kirkuk? Do these developments cause you any concern?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me take the second one first. We support the steps taken between the federal government and the Kurdish regional government to cooperate on a security plan that will enhance the Iraqi army’s ability to hold positions and confront ISIL. We’re encouraging both Baghdad and Erbil to continue and further their cooperation, given the immediate threat that they’re all facing from ISIL on the ground.

So at this point, the official position is "no boots on the ground."

Barack is President.  Joe Biden is Vice President.  Let's note this:
 Biden noted the "internal threat" aspect being proposed and how these requires the US "to support the Iraqi government in its battle with all 'outlaw groups' -- that's a pretty expansive commitment."  He noted that it requires the US "to take sides in Iraq's civil war" and that "there is no Iraqi government that we know of that will be in place a year from now -- half the government has walked out." 
 "Just understand my frustration," Biden explained.  "We want to normalize a government that really doesn't exist." 

No, Joe didn't just Sally Langston Barack (reference to Shonda Rhimes' Scandal).

That's Joe speaking when he was Senator Joe Biden and chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  We covered the hearing in the April 10, 2008 snapshot -- it remains one of the most important hearings the Committee held on Iraq.  We were among the few to turn out for it.  The week had seen then-General David Petraeus and then-US Ambassador Ryan Crocker testify to several Congressional committees.  By the time Friday rolled around, the press may have been exhausted.

Too bad.  It was an important hearing.

When Joe spoke those words, the prime minister of Iraq was Nouri al-Maliki.

He's still prime minister right now, finishing his second term.

What's really changed is that as bad as Nouri's first term was -- and it was bad -- his second has been even worse.  And he's created more chaos and violence. 

Joe's concerns in 2008 were valid.

They're only more valid today.

The White House needs to walk away from Nouri and not just because it's important to Iraq but also because it's important to the presidency.  We'll get to the second point later in the snapshot.

For now, back to Democracy Now!'s discussion on Iraq:

MOHAMMED AL DULAIMY: What I see is the failing of the whole system that the United States and its allies, they tried to build in Iraq. The whole democracy experiment in Iraq is in danger, as actually has been for a long time in danger, but now it’s more obvious to everyone. We are seeing now the consequences of a leadership of a sectarian regime that was ruling in Iraq for the past eight years, led by Mr. Nouri al-Maliki, and the lack of trust among his partners, corruption. All of that gave the way for radicals to rise and gave the chance to occupy a two million city, population city, in Mosul, the second-largest Iraqi city. All of this is threatening the integrity of Iraq, the unity of the country, and threatening Iraq to descend to a more like Syrian-like civil war.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And when you talk about the reign of al-Maliki and the sectarianism of his government, could you elaborate on that? Because clearly al-Maliki as a Shiite leader and the majority of the population of Iraq being Shiite, the United States has continued to back his rule there despite his clampdown on any kind of dissent.

MOHAMMED AL DULAIMY: Yes, we have enough evidence, actually, videos of speeches of Mr. al-Maliki himself, showing that this man is leading the country towards a civil war. His previous press conferences accusing his partners of terrorism, sometimes forging cases against them, as they say, led the country to high tension, causing Sunnis to go into streets to protest and to show their demands. Mr. al-Maliki refused most of these demands. And to the limit, he accused them of continuing some historical event that took place 1,400 years ago, about 1,400 years ago, and he said that the killers of Imam Husayn are still living among—he meant Sunnis—among the other party, which he meant Sunnis. Mr. al-Maliki has failed to build an Iraqi military that will respect human rights. I just want to say that fanatics, Islamists, feed on such human rights breaches. It helps them to further their cause and to win more recruits. This is what has had—happening in Iraq.
And you can see the videos of how the Iraqi army dealt with demonstrators in Hawija, how they killed men carrying sticks, only iron sticks, or sometimes carrying nothing. You could see the video, the brutality of the military. Mr. al-Maliki punished no one. Mr. al-Maliki always refuses to address these issues to de-escalate the sectarian tensions in Iraq. Mr. al-Maliki always also refused to disarm some Iranian-backed trained Shia militias like al-Asa’ib. These kinds of actions caused the Sunni community to live in a turmoil. And here I think that the United States, the administration, we, all of us, should speak loudly to stop the descent of the country into that civil war, to stop pushing ordinary people towards fanatics to join their lines just to defend themselves against an army that is willing to kill them all.

Mohammed Al Dulaimy is a name many should already know.  If you don't, think Sahar Issa or Laith Hammoudi.  They were among the Iraqi reporters working for McClatchy Newspapers.  They went out of their way and took great risks to let the world know what was really happening in Iraq.  Today, Al Dulaimy is seeking refugee status in the United States -- status which should be immediately granted.  He's the perfect example of why the program was created.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"

Thursday, June 12, 2014





At The Huffington Post, Daniel Nisman offers an analysis which includes:

In a troubling development, Maliki has already threatened to "arm citizens" to fight ISIS, and claimed to have created a special crisis unit to implement a process of "volunteering and equipping." Such rhetoric is eerily in line with Maliki's past tendencies of mobilizing Shiite militias, many of them religious extremists, to combat Sunni jihadists. In the recent Fallujah and Ramadi counteroffensives, local residents complained of seeing Shiite militia insignias on Iraqi army tanks, alleging that these militias had been mobilized under the guise of the regular army, accusations that only fomented further mistrust among the Sunni population.

I agree with many of the points Nisman makes elsewhere in his analysis.  Read the whole thing. At the Wall St. Journal, Kenneth M. Pollack offers mini-analysis and suggestions.  I disagree with so much.  Pollack seems unaware that he's arguing the Iraq War was about oil (but when you write, that the events in Iraq right now are "a serious threat for the United States.  Americans seem to think that the vast increased in domestic oil production from shale deposits has immunized the U.S. economy from Middle East instaiblity" that's what you're suggesting).

We're going to look at these two suggestions Pollack makes in order to clarify why I disagree with him:

• A constitutional amendment imposing a two-term limit on the presidency and prime ministership. (A third term for Mr. Maliki may have to be grandfathered in to get him to agree, but simply advertising to all Iraqis that he will not rule for life would be an important reassurance that Iraq is not drifting back into dictatorship.)


Nouri is the cause of the violence.  Pollack doesn't state that, I do.  He does note Nouri abuses power.  So even though Moqtada al-Sadr, the Kurds, Osama al-Nujaifi, Ayad Allawi and various others opposed a third term for Nouri (that list includes Ammar al-Hakim provided al-Hakim is named prime minister), the Iraqi people have to endure Nouri?

That makes no sense.

Nor does the notion that Nouri accepts the imposing of two terms only.

Here's what will most likely happen.  Nouri might agree to get his third term.  He would then say the law passed after he started his third term so he can still be elected to two more terms.

I'm sorry Pollack didn't pay attention the what happened in the KRG recently.  KRG President Massoud Barzani was in office when the KRG's Parliament passed the two term rule for his post.  What happened?

He was allowed two terms plus two years because it was passed two years after his first term started.

And Nouri's State of Law had a reaction.  I get so damn tired of spoon feeding.  But they had a reaction and it was publicly stated to Iraqi media that if a two-term law ever passed for the Iraqi prime minister post (I believe it did pass and then Nouri's court ruled it unconstitutional, but whatever), that term limit would only kick in for elections after the law passed.

Which would mean Nouri could go five term.

Again, people need to pay attention.

I'm being more kind than I usually am on stuff like this because I believe Pollack genuinely thought his suggestions had value.  Let's examine another:

• A law defining the powers and prerogatives of the defense and interior ministers, thereby limiting the ability of the prime minister to exercise those powers.


Does Pollack not know that Nouri grabbed those powers?

He did so by refusing to nominate anyone for the security posts.

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."

Nouri's second term is ending and those three Cabinent posts remain empty.

Nouri controls them.

Now, Pollack, help me out on how Nouri's going to be forced to nominate people for those posts this go round having made it through four years without them?

The easiest way to slow down the violence is to kick Nouri out of office.  The US government needs to pull all support.  If you don't grasp that, maybe you shouldn't be having this conversation.

Iraqis are scared of Nouri because he's a thug and he's destroyed the country and Pollack wants to suggest the answer is a third term?

Violence didn't disappear after the April 30th elections.  But it did kick up a notch after Nouri claimed (he was lying) that he had the seats in Parliament to get a third term.

That's when the already violent day-to-day got more violent.

You are stripping a people of hope and forcing them to live in fear.  Of course, they will resort to violence.

Pollack is correct when he notes that "the Obama administration seems to turn a blind eye toward Iraq no matter how bad things get."  And they continue to support Nouri.

Nouri breaks every promise.  He breaks with them with the Iraqi people.  He broke them with Bully Boy Bush.  He's broken them with Barack Obama.

You have to want to be fooled to take Nouri at his word today.

He promised to implement the White House's benchmarks.  Bully Boy Bush came up with those.  They never got implemented.  Barack's on his second term and Nouri never kept his word on the benchmarks.  To get his second term as prime minister, Barack had US officials negotiate The Erbil Agreement -- quid pro quo, Nouri promised leaders of political blocs certain things in writing in exchange for their agreeing to grant him a second term.  He briefly honored the contract -- long enough to start his second term.  Then he refused to honor it.  This led to the political crisis which led to the increased violence. 

Nouri lies and you have to be an idiot at this late date to think that the man who twice took an oath to the Iraqi Constitution but has twice failed to implement Article 140 as the Constitution compels him to (it resolves the disputed Kirkuk) is going to honor any promise.

He's a liar. And only the extreme idiots would, at this late date, believe him when he promised he was going to do something.

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"

Wednesday, June 11, 2014





In Iraq, the day began with this alarming headline:  "Gunmen control several districts in Mosul, The governor sneaks out of the city."  Mosul was hardly the only area that was, to put it nicely, in flux.  NINA reports rebels "seized control of government and security buildings in al-Hawija and districts of al-Zab, al-Riyadh, al-Abbasi and Rashad" in Kirkuk. NINA also reports rebels have seized "full control of the city" of Sharqat "and completely destroyed the security centers in the village Aouijilyah left side of Sharqat."  In addition, NINA notes rebels "dominated on Tuesday a checkpoint at the northern entrance of Tikrit, and the island of Albu-Ajeel east of Tikrit."

AFP's Prashant Rao Tweets:

Now back to Mosul.  Liz Sly and Ahmed Ramadan (Washington Post) report Mosul is under the control of rebels, "Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda offshoot, overran the entire western bank of the city overnight after Iraqi soldiers and police apparently fled their posts, in some instances discarding their uniforms as they sought to escape the advance of the militants."  Mohammed Tawfeeq, Jomana Karadsheh and Laura Smith-Spark (CNN) report:

Speaking at a news conference in Baghdad, Osama al-Nujaifi appeared to point the finger at the central government, accusing security forces of abandoning Mosul when the fighting began.
Al-Nujaifi said security forces "abandoned their weapons, their tanks and their bases and left them to terrorist groups, even Mosul airport." He also said gunmen had taken over ammunition storage facilities.
The speaker, whose brother Atheel al-Nujaifi is the governor of Nineveh province, said the central government had been warned over the past few weeks that militant groups were gathering but had taken no preventive action.

Xinhua adds:

Atheel al-Nujaifi, the provincial governor told al-Arabiyah satellite channel that "the gunmen took control of the left and right sides of Mosul except for small pockets."  The left and right sides of the city refer to east and west banks of the Tigris River which bisects the city of Mosul, some 400 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. 
Nujaifi said that the top army officers who came recently from Baghdad to supervise the battles suddenly withdrew with their troops from the left side which was under control of the security forces.

Mitchell Prothero and Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) quote Mosul teacher Zaid Mohammed stating, "I asked one soldier I know why he was leaving.  He told me, 'We came here for salaries, not to die'."  Ziad al-Sinjary (Reuters) notes corpses of security forces were "littering the streets" and quoted an unnamed military officer stating, "We can't beat them.  We can't.  They are well trained in street fighting and we're not.  We need a whole army to drive them out of Mosul.  They're like ghosts:  they appear, strike and disappear in seconds."

Alsumaria reports Nouri has ordered military commanders to arrest all security forces who abandoned their posts.  NINA adds that the Ministry of Defense has announced "al-Taji Camp, north of Baghdad," is where the arrested security forces will be held.  After the 2003 invasion, the US military used that camp and called it Camp Cooke. notes it is located 30 kilometers from Baghdad.  While security forces ran, All Iraq News notes, "More than 70 female students are stuck inside the University of Mosul after the control of the ISIL elements on the city."

It should be noted that Al Mada's actually spoken with an officer with the federal police, an officer who deserted Mosul, and he tells the news outlet that leadership ordered the federal police to drop their weapons and evacuate.  Al Mada also reports that the first security forces to desert in Mosul were the Iraqi army forces.

In addition to ordering security forces arrested, All Iraq News reports Nouri has also promised, "The security forces will re-control Mosul city within 24 hours."

Wait.  There's more.  RT notes, "Eyewitness accounts describe the scenes of chaos on the streets of Iraq’s second-largest city as people fled for their lives. A number of reports say that militants are freeing detainees from police stations, while AL RAI Chief International Correspondent Elijah J Magnier tweeted that the ISIS had freed over 2000 inmates from a 'counter terrorism prison'."  Dentist Mahmoud al-Taie tells  Ali A. Nabhan and Matt Bradley (Wall St. Journal), "The whole of Mosul collapsed today.  We've fled our homes and neighborhoods, and we're looking for God's mercy.  We are waiting to die."  AFP's WG Dunlop Tweets the following:

In Nouri's Iraq, it can always get worse (and usually does).

All Iraq News reports that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi declared at a press conference today, "The ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] elements controlled the IA [Iraqi Army] helicopters and security forces withdrew from Shurqat Airport in Mosul."

Well thank goodness the White House hasn't been supplying Nouri with weapons, helicopters and F-16s . . .

Oh, wait.

They have been supplying Nouri with those things.  In fact, Nouri got his first F-16 last week.

Doesn't look smart, does it?

The White House supplying a government with weapons the government can't even secure?

Maybe Barack can next press the Congress to okay plutonium being shipped to Nouri?

Mitchell Prothero (McClatchy Newspapers) notes:

Iraqi provincial officials confirmed reports from ISIS media outlets that at least one major Iraqi military base had fallen and with it, huge amounts of American-supplied military equipment, including possible attack helicopters. ISIS-linked Internet accounts were filled with  credible appearing photos of large amounts of captured and destroyed U.S.-built armored vehicles.

The New York Times words it this way, "The insurgent fighters who routed the Iraqi army out of Mosul on Tuesday did not just capture much of Iraq’s second-largest city. They also gained a windfall of arms, munitions and equipment abandoned by the soldiers as they fled  -- arms that were supplied by the United States and intended to give the troops an edge over the insurgents."

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"

Tuesday, June 10, 2014






Moving to the issue of veterans, Erik Wemple (Washington Post) reports:

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO), a Washington-based nonprofit that pushes for “good government reforms,” will fight a May 30 subpoena from the inspector general of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) seeking the results of its research into mismanagement at the department. “We never have” complied with such a subpoena, says POGO communications director Joe Newman, who says the group has now dealt with seven demands from federal agencies for records since the early 1990s. “And we have no plans to do that.”

CJ Ciaramella (Washington Free Beacon) adds, "POGO, along with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, launched a website on May 15 where whistleblowers within the VA could confidentially report problems. According to POGO, roughly 700 people have submitted tips using the site."  Joe Newman, Director of Communications for the Project On Government Oversight, writes a response to the IG subpoena which includes:

POGO, which has a 33-year history of working with whistleblowers to expose government fraud, waste and abuse, wrote the IG today and refused to provide the records, most of which have come from confidential tips submitted through
POGO and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) launched on May 15 to offer potential whistleblowers a safe channel to confidentially report abuses in the VA healthcare system, which have been the focus of intense media scrutiny and congressional hearings in recent weeks.
Since the website went live, about 700 people have submitted tips or aired grievances. About 25 percent of those tips have come from current or former VA staffers. POGO is reviewing the information it has received and is looking into many of the claims.
In a letter sent to the IG this morning, POGO said the IG’s subpoena infringes on POGO’s constitutional “freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of association rights as they relate to all whistleblowers and sources.”
Some VA employees who contacted POGO and requested confidentiality said they feared retaliation if their names were divulged. Any of them could have reported their concerns to the VA inspector general. In fact, some of the employees told POGO that they had filed reports with the IG. Some people expressed a lack of confidence in the Office of the Inspector General.
“The Inspector General’s demand stands opposed to POGO’s mission and to good government reform—both of which serve the public interest,” POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian said. “Our focus is squarely on investigating the problems in the VA healthcare system and trying to find some solutions.
“Our mission as a public interest watchdog would be severely damaged if we violated the trust of our sources. We have faced these kinds of threats before and have never wavered. We will not violate the trust whistleblowers have placed in us by revealing their identities to anyone.”

Staying with the topic of veterans, it started as rumors and became much more with whistle-blowers coming forward and CNN reporting.  Yes, we're talking about the VA scandal where veterans were kept waiting for weeks and months despite the claims that all veterans were receiving medical appointments within 14 days of requesting them.  Today the Veterans Affairs Department released the Nationwide Access Aduit results. Among the findings?  "Meeting a 14-day wait-time performance target for new appointments was simply not attainable given the ongoing challenge of finding sufficient provider slots to accommodate a growing demand for services.  Imposing this expectation on the field before ascertaining the resources required and its ensuing broad promulgation represent an organizational leadership failure."

"Represent an organizational leadership failure."

Eric Shinseki resigned as Secretary of the VA two weeks ago.  Even then, some rushed to defend him.  The audit found "an organizational leadership failure."  The would be Shinseki's failure, he headed the Department..

We'll note this from the report and italicized emphasis is from the authors of the report, not me:

Findings indicate that in some cases, pressures were placed on schedulers to utilize inappropriate practices in order to make waiting times (based on desired date, and the waiting lists), appear more favorable.  Such practices are sufficiently pervasive to require VA re-examine its entire performance management system and, in particular, whether current measures and targets for access are realistic or sufficient.

How many sites were cooking the books?

The report notes:

Respondents at 90 clinic sites provided responses indicating they had altered desired dates that had been entered.  In virtually all cases, they indicated they were instructed by supervisors, but many believed the policy of altering dates was coming from facility leadership.  In at least 2 clinics, respondents believed someone else (not a scheduler) was routinely accessing records and changing desired dates in order to improve performance measures. 

  • Establishing New Patient Satisfaction Measurement Program- Acting Secretary Gibson has directed VHA to immediately begin developing a new patient satisfaction measurement program to provide real-time, robust, location-by-location information on patient satisfaction, to include satisfaction data of those Veterans attempting to access VA healthcare for the first time. This program will be developed with input from Veterans Service Organizations, outside health care organizations, and other entities. This will ensure VA collects an additional set of data – directly from the Veteran’s perspective – to understand how VA is doing throughout the system.
  • Holding Senior Leaders Accountable- Where audited sites identify concerns within the parent facility or its affiliated clinics, VA will trigger administrative procedures to ascertain the appropriate follow-on personnel actions for specific individuals.
  • Ordering an Immediate VHA Central Office and VISN Office Hiring Freeze- Acting Secretary Gibson has ordered an immediate hiring freeze at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) central office in Washington D.C. and the 21 VHA Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) regional offices, except for critical positions to be approved by the Secretary on a case-by-case basis. This action will begin to remove bureaucratic obstacles and establish responsive, forward leaning leadership.
  • Removing 14-Day Scheduling Goal VA is eliminating the 14-day scheduling goal from employee performance contracts- This action will eliminate incentives to engage in inappropriate scheduling practices or behaviors.
  • Increasing Transparency by Posting Data Twice-Monthly- At the direction of the Acting Secretary, VHA will post regular updates to the access data released today at the middle and end of each month at Twice-monthly data updates will enhance transparency and provide the most immediate information to Veterans and the public on Veterans access to quality healthcare.
  • Initiating an Independent, External Audit of Scheduling Practices- Acting Secretary Gibson has also directed that an independent, external audit of system-wide VHA scheduling practices be performed.
  • Sending Additional Frontline Team to Address Phoenix- Following his trip to Phoenix VA Medical Center last week, Acting Secretary Gibson directed a VHA frontline team to travel to Phoenix to immediately address scheduling, access, and resource requirements needed to provide Veterans the timely, quality healthcare they deserve.
  • Utilizing High Performing Facilities to Help Those That Need Improvement- VA will formalize a process in which high performing facilities provide direct assistance and share best practices with facilities that require improvement on particular medical center quality and efficiency, also known as SAIL, performance measures.
  • Applying Immediate Access Reforms Announced in Phoenix to Most Challenged VA Facilities- Last week, Acting Secretary Gibson announced a series of measures to address healthcare access problems in Phoenix. Today, Acting Secretary Gibson announced he’ll apply the same reforms to facilities with the most access problems from the results of the audit, including:
  • Hiring Additional Clinical and Patient Support Staff- VA will deploy teams of dedicated human resource employees to accelerate the hiring of additional, needed staff.
  • Employing New Staffing Measures- VA’s first goal is to get Veterans off wait lists and into clinics. VA is using temporary staffing measures, along with clinical and administrative support, to ensure these Veterans receive the care they have earned through their service.
  • Deploying Mobile Medical Units- VA will send mobile medical units to facilities to immediately provide services to patients and Veterans awaiting care.
  • Providing More Care by Modifying Local Contract Operations- VA will modify local contract operations to be able to offer more community-based care to Veterans waiting to be seen by a doctor.
  • Removing Senior Leadership- Where appropriate, VA will initiate the process of removing senior leaders. Acting Secretary Gibson is committed to using all authority at VA’s disposal to enforce accountability among senior leaders.
  • Suspending Performance Awards- VA has suspended all VHA senior executive performance awards for FY2014.
  • Future Travel Over the course of the next several weeks- Acting Secretary Gibson will travel to a series of VA facilities across the country. He will hear directly from Veterans and employees about obstacles to providing timely, quality care and how VA can immediately address them.

CONTACT: Gretchen Andersen (212) 982-9699 or

57,000 Vets Waiting For Appointments, New Vets Infuriated
Audit details how vets across the country wait almost three months for appointments at VA Hospitals
Washington DC (June 9, 2014) – According to a new Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) audit released today, more than 57,000 patients across the country have been waiting almost three months for appointments at VA hospitals and clinics. The audit was released ahead of IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff’s meeting with other leading veterans groups and Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson at the VA.
“This audit is absolutely infuriating, and underscores the depth of this scandal,” said Rieckhoff. “Our vets demand action and answers. IAVA again calls on the President to be out-front in reforming the VA and we also encourage members of Congress and the Administration to implement IAVA’s eight-step plan. We would welcome a meeting with the President – the veteran community must hear more from him and be assured that he cares. I look forward to hearing answers from Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson this afternoon.”
The audit found that: 
Practices of manipulating wait times were so pervasive, the audit recommended a complete overhaul of VHA's performance management system. 
13 percent of schedulers - and 76 percent of facilities - reported some improper scheduling practices. 
8 percent of schedulers - and 70 percent of facilities - used an alternative to the appropriate waiting lists. 
Last Monday Rieckhoff, joined by IAVA veterans from across the country, unveiled eight steps  the Obama Administration and Congress can take now to restore confidence in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Among the steps are recommendations from IAVA’s 2014 Policy Agenda. IAVA urged Congress and the President to enact all of the recommendations from the plan.
NOTE TO THE MEDIA: IAVA leadership is available for interview. Press can email or call 212-982-9699.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the nation's first and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 270,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, IAVA recently received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, 
America's largest charity evaluator. 

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RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"