Tuesday, August 16, 2011

He spends, he wastes, he disappoints






Yesterday in the Iraqi Parliament, Al Rafidayn reports, some thought they would be discussing the nomination of former Minister of the Interior Jawad al-Bolani to be Minister of Defense; however, it quickly arose that he had not in fact been nominated. Somewhere in that 'realization' is an indictment of the current government and Nouri's failure to appoint a Minister of Defense, a Minister of National Security and a Minister of the Interior back in December. Nizar Latif (The National) points out today, "As recently as Friday, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki indicated in an interview with an Iraqi television station that he sees no reason to appoint a minister of defence or minister of interior. He has filled both posts in acting capacity since the government was partially formed last December and argues that security has improved in the absence of ministerial chiefs." Somewhere in that failure to fill those security posts may be the answer to the continued and, yes, rising violence in Iraq.

Today is being called not just a bloody day, but, Ben Farmer (Telegraph of London), "the bloodiest day of the year so far." AP sees a "wave of violence" rolling through Iraq today with "nearly 60" dead. It was a series of attacks and the Washington Post offers an AFP - Getty Images slide show here. The Globe & Mail offers a photo essay here. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) cites 67 dead and one-hundred and seventy injured -- 34 killed by a Kut car bombing and roadside bombing; 8 killed by a Twareej car bombing; 4 killed by twin suicide bombers in Tikrit; 8 killed by a suicide car bombing in Khan Bani Saad; 3 dead from four Baghdad bombings and "attacks also occured in Najaf, Kirkuk and Baqouba, killing at least 10 people". CNN's updated the death toll to 75 and the number injured to "more than 250". Fang Yang (Xinhua) explains the 2 suicide bombers in Tikrit were attacking "the counter-terrorism headquarters" and that they "entered the headquarters with faked IDs in an attempt to enter the main building, but were discovered and traded fire with the guards, the source from Salahudin's operations command told Xinhua." Catholic Culture notes that a Syrian Orthodox church was blown up in Kirkuk.

Annie Gowen (Washington Post) observes, "The attacks came after a period of relative quiet in the country, which had descended as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began in early August." Jeffrey Fleishman and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) quote Baghdad shop owner Ali Sabih stating, "The blame is on the American troops. They want to show the weakness of the Iraqi security forces. Iraqi troops are weak and they'll need more years before they're ready to protect the country." Michael S. Schmidt and Yasir Ghazi (New York Times) quote police officer Saad Ahmed, injured in the Taji bombing, stating, "I looked at my body, and I was drowning in blood. I just thought about my friends and if they were O.K., because it was 9:15 in the morning and there was a change in shifts. It is Ramadan this month and we should pray that we won't kill each other. What crime did we commit? We were just trying to protect our country." Ben Farmer (Telegraph of London) notes the Baghdad attacks prompted "angry accusations of incompetence against Mr al-Maliki and his security forces" and quotes Baghdad shop owner Ali Jamaa Ziad asking, "Where is the government with all these explosions across the country? Where is al-Maliki? Why doesn't he come to see?" Rebecca Santana and Hamid Ahmed (AP) have a powerful report which includes:
"This is our destiny," said Eidan Mahdi, one of more than 250 Iraqis wounded Monday. Mahdi was lying in a hospital bed in the southern city of Kut. One of his eyes was closed shut with dried blood, and burns covered his hands and head.
DPA quotes Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi stating, "I place the responsibility on officials in charge of the security bodies and the government for those violations, that killed many innocent citizens." Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) adds, "The Iraqi government declared a curfew in the wake of the blasts while Iraqi politicians criticized the security forces for not having stopped the attacks. Hakim al Zamili, a member of the Iraqi parliament's security and defense committee, said an investigation would be launched and that both provincial police officials and Iraqi military commanders would be questioned." Aswat al-Iraq quotes Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, "We strongly condemn those horrible crimes, they were committed due to the existence of security loopholes, most reasons of which had been the negligence to implement the understandings, reached by the Political Leadership in Arbil." In the US, at the State Dept, spokesperson Victoria Nuland stated, "We remain concerned about these kinds of terrorist acts in Iraq, and we are working closely with out partners to address them. In net terms though, overall, the violence in Iraq is significantly down this year over previous years. We consider these to be desperate acts by desperate people. We believe that the Iraqi security forces are getting stronger by the day, and our goal is to continue to strengthen them, and we remain on track to withdraw all our forces at the end of the year." So she lies and expects people to believe her? We should believe her about "remain on track to withdraw all our forces at the end of the year" when she lies with "the violence in Iraq is signficiantly down this year over previous years"?
Victoria Nuland, meet Stuart Bowen. He is the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. He's often in the news but was in the news at the end of last month for what main reason? Lara Jakes (AP) reported: "Frequent bombings, assissinations and a resurgence in violence by Shiite militias have made Iraq more dangerous now than it was just a year ago, a U.S. government watchdog concludes in a report being released today." Report by Bowen and among the findings? That Iraq "is less safe, in my judgment, than 12 months ago." Got it, Victoria? Need more? Ed O'Keefe (Washington Post) covered Bowen's report, "The findings contrast with public statements by US diplomatic and military officials in Iraq and come as Washington awaits a final decision by Iraqi leaders on whether they want US troops to stay in the country beyond the expiration of a three-year security agreement in December." So we're lied to about that (so poorly that Nuland may as well have been channeling Jay Carney). And we're supposed to believe on the timeline? Let's drop back to Thursday's snapshot:
Turning to the Iraq War, if it ends at the end of 2011, why are they still deploying troops to it? Today the Providence Journal reports a send-off is scheduled this Friday (9:00 a.m., Quonset Air National Guard Base) for two units of the Rhode Island National Guard who are deploying "to Iraq for a year. They will provide aviation support for combat and reconstruction operations, the National Guard said." Jennifer Quinn (WPRI) also notes the deployment, "A Company, 1st Battalion 126th Aviation and D Company 126th Aviation will deploy to Iraq for one year."
Victoria Nuland, if all is on schedule for departure at the end of the year, why were those National Guard members deploying to Iraq "for a year"? You might have pulled off one lie, but both? Especially the lie about the violence after Stuart Bowen's report (and finding on the violence in Iraq) has been covered by every outlet imaginable.
The Daily Mail states, "The scope of violence -- seven explosions went off in different towns in Diyala province alone -- emphasized that insurgents are still able to carry out attacks despite repeated crackdowns by Iraqi and U.S. forces." Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports, "A jihadist site praised the attacks and said they targeted 'Shi'ites, Christians and the apostate awakening councils', in reference to the US-backed Sunni groups who turned on al-Qaida in 2007." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) quotes US military spokesperson Maj Angela Funaro declaring, "Today's attacks are eerily similar to the stream of large scale, complex attacks that occurred here last year during Ramadan on Aug. 25." That was a day that saw the toll reach at least 60 dead and 265 wounded by an hour before the network evening news. From that day's snapshot:
Ned Parker and Riyadh Mohammed (Los Angeles Times) explain, "The violence shook at least seven cities from north to south and appeared timed to undermine confidence in the Iraqi army and police as the U.S. military ends it formal combat mission in the country." Anthony Shadid and Stephen Farrell (New York Times) note the assaults appear "to be part of a coordinated wave of attacks" and they quote Mohammed Abbas who lost a cousin in one of today's bombings: "There may be a state, there may be a government. But what can that state do? What can they do with all the terrorists? Are they supposed to set up a checkpoint in every house?"
Wait, it gets worse:
Kadhim Ajrash and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) explain, "Car bombs were used in the attacks in Baghdad, Basra, Karbala, Baquba, Kirkuk and Wasit, the officials said in statements." In addition, they note, "Vice President Joseph Biden and White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said at separate events yesterday that the administration is confident Iraqi forces are capable of taking on the primary security role."
That was August 25, 2010. And Iraqi forces weren't ready then and don't appear ready today. Nizar Latif (The National) quotes Abu Abbas who was injured in the Kut attack stating, "It's unacceptable to have the same thing happening twice. It means the security forces are not learning their lessons. We have the same flaws in security as we had a year ago." Of today's attacks, The NewsHour (PBS) notes, "The attacks come as Iraqi political leaders consider requesting U.S. troop presence beyond the planned Dec. 31 withdrawal deadline, as questions persist about the ability of the Iraqi government to maintain security and combat insurgents." Sara Sorcher (National Journal) adds, "The Obama administration has made clear that it would be open to leaving approximately 10,000 troops in Iraq indefinitely at the request of the Iraqi leadership, but Baghdad has not yet requested such an extension." Jamal Hashim and Yamel Wang (Xinhua) point out, "Maliki frequently said that SOFA cannot be renewed as stated in the agreement, but talks with the Americans is expected to let small force of U.S. troops to stay in Iraq beyond the end of 2011 deadline only gor training Iraq forces under the Strategic Framework Agreement, which was signed earlier with the SOFA between the two countries." Annie Gowen and Asaad Majeed (Financial Times of London) add, "Kirkuk's provincial governor, Najmaldin Karim, has called on American troops to stay in the country past the deadline."
News coverage has included the by now obligatory-hand wringing over whether Iraqi security forces are up to the job. The New York Times says that "the violence raised significant questions about the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces." The Washington Post writes "they also raise questions about the Iraqi government's ability to maintain security as American troops prepare to leave the country by December."
This is journalese. "Questions" aren't really being raised. It's evident that the ability of Iraq's security forces to end militant violence by force alone is nonexistent. The reason why is that the number of people willing to engage in attacks isn't small enough yet, that a substantial portion of the population looks at the Shiite-dominated government with sufficient suspicion to provide passive support to the fighting (by, say, deciding not to inform security forces of a neighbor who appears to be building a bomb in his garage), and that fighters -- whether Sunni insurgents or Shiite militants that the US alleges are receiving support from Iran -- still believe there's power and influence to be won at the end of a gun.

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