Friday, December 28, 2012

Got his mind on his man






"I should have seen the s**t coming down the hall," sings Greg Dulli on the Afghan Whig's "When We Two Parted" (New Year's Eve, the Whigs will be rocking it at Bogart's in Cincinnati). When it comes to Thomas E. Ricks, most of us did.  It was only a matter of time before he turned on Emma Sky and, today, at Foreign Policy he does.  We're aganostic on Emma but we can enjoy the implosion as Ricks argues Sky is wrong (and the subtext is Tommy Loves David Petraeus best so he turns on Emma and her US military patron Gen Ray Odierno).  While chuckling over the dynamics and drama Thomas E. Ricks churns out, we're also left with this 'stellar' advice:
If anything could be recommended at this point, it would be for the Obama Administration to abandon the unwanted meddling in Iraqi police affairs and ineffective training, and to openly and effectively engage that broad Iraqi public through positive political focus on the "plain vanilla" operations of civil government systems and technical advice, which the United States has an abundance of and the Iraqi public seriously needs.
Iraq is a failed-state.  You realize too late that Thomas E. Ricks is not only a War Hawk but also completely ignorant.  You realize what you always feared: Thomas dabbles.  The police program has been greatly scaled back and that happened long ago -- and rather publicly even in the US press.  Iraq does not move forward under Nouri.
At some point, the US government is going to have to grasp what various NGOs already have.  But there's Thomas Ricks, who should know better, talking about actions that transfer technology to a despot.  In doing so, they alarm the Kurds and the Sunnis and make Iraq even less stable.
Poor Thomas E. Ricks.  When he died as a reporter, he was reborn as the chief sales person for the munitions industry.
As he calls for 'technology' to be shared, it's worth noting Monday's Defense Security Cooperation Agency's press release:
WASHINGTON, December 24, 2012 -- The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress Dec. 21 of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Iraq for Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) operations and maintenance services and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $125 million.
The Government of Iraq has requested a possible sale of Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) operations and maintenance services, equipment installation services, upgrade VSAT managed and leased bandwith, video teleconferencing equipment, 75 VSAT Equipment Suites (consisting of 1.8m VSAT terminals, block up covnerters (BUCs), low-noise down converters (LNBs), required cables and components, iDirect e8350 modem, network operation and dynamic bandwidth equipment, and iMonitor softward), spares and repair parts, tools, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical documentation, U.S. Government and contractor representative technical support services, and other related elements of logistics and program support.  The estimated cost is $125 million.
This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country.  This proposed sale directly supports the Iraqi government and serves the interests of the Iraqi people and the United States.
This proposed sale will continue U.S. support to the development of Iraqi Defense Network (IDN) VSAT terminals.  Iraq intends to use these defense articles and services to provide command and control for its armed forces.  The purchase of this equipment will enhance the Iraqi military's foundational capabilities, making it a more valuable partner in an important area of the world and supporting its legitimate needs for its own self-defense. 
The proposed sale of this support and services will not alter the basic military balance in the region.
The principal contractors will be 3Di Technologies and L-3 Communications Company in Hanover, Maryland. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.
Implementation of this proposed sale will require U.S. Government or contractor representatives to travel to Iraq for delivery of operations and maintenance services, installation of new sites for each year of required operations and maintenance services, and field services to install and move VSAT sites and training for a period of one year.
There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale.
This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded.
Let's look at the two claims in the press release:
1) The purchase of this equipment will enhance the Iraqi military's foundational capabilities, making it a more valuable partner in an important area of the world and supporting its legitimate needs for its own self-defense.  The proposed sale of this support and services will not alter the basic military balance in the region.
2) This proposed sale directly supports the Iraqi government and serves the interests of the Iraqi people and the United States.
With regards to one, how is Iraq's military foundational capabilities increased without    "alter[ing] the basic military balance in the region"?  And since Nouri al-Maliki's own State of Law can't go a month without proclaiming that some segment of Iraqi military is plotting to overthrow al-Maliki, how is it in the interests of the region to arm Iraq?
Even more importantly, who are these weapons to be used on?  Not only is there a valid concern that Nouri will use weapons on the Iraqi people, there is Nouri's notorious paranoia.  Do you put a loaded gun into the hand of the crazy person ranting on the street about how people are out to get him? 
With regards to the second assertion -- there's no way this helps the US and it's even more difficult to see how this $125 million purchase  helps the Iraqi people.
David Romano (Rudaw) observes that $6 billion was the annual budget for Iraq from 1997 to 2003 and the people were provided with food, with electricity, with basic public services.  Now?
Today's Iraq enjoy an unimaginably higher budget.  Oil revenues bring in some one hundred billion dollars a year.  One would think that with such vast sums of wealth, the country would enjoy spectacular increases in standards of living. Instead, garbage lies uncollected on street corner after street corner, with little children playing in disease-ridden alleyways.  Security remains elsuive as kidnappings, mafia shakedowns and political assassinations cast a shadow across entire communities.  Baghdad and other cities still lack electricity, with noisy portable generators rumbling through the night and spewing their pollution across entire neighborhoods.  Some twenty-five billion dollars "spent" on restoring the country's electrical grid seems to have produced little tangible results, possibly because the business interests who rent generators don't want the electric grid restored. 
Explain to me again how the Iraqi people are helped by this $125 million weapons contract?  Today, Alsumaria reports 4 deaths -- including two sisters, one 12 and one 18.  From Wednesday's snapshot:

Alsumaria notes yesterday's rains have caused 3 deaths and two people to be injured in Baghdad -- two deaths from a house collapsing due to the rain and one from electrical death (with two more injured in that as well) and that main streets in the capital are sinking.  All Iraq News notes Baghdad has been placed on high alert because of the torrential rains.
You could mistake Baghdad for Venice in
this All Iraq News photo essay which notes that students are forced to walk through the high standing water to get to schools.   They also note of Tuesday's rainfall:  Baghdad had the most yesterday (67 mm) followed by Hilla, Azizia and Karbala (rainfall was also recorded in Samawa, Rifai and Basra -- of those three, Basra was the highest and Baghdad's rainfall was three times Basra's).   It's not just Baghdad.  Alsumaria notes that after ten house[s] collapse[d] in Wasit Province village, the Iraqi Red Crescent began evacuating the entire village.
Al Mada notes today that Iraqis who might plan to travel Italy no longer need visit Venice to see streets of water, they just need to step outside their homes and they can take in the beauty of water surrounding houses, riding  a car through the Sadr section of Baghdad can be like a gondala ride in Venice. 
As Iraq crumbles, Nouri's spending $125 million on a weapons program (which will allow him to track Iraqis via satellite)?  This helps the Iraqi people how?
There is no ethical justification for the US government to allow this sale.  Greed isn't ethical but they could be honest and admit that greed is why they'll gladly grab $125 million that should instead be spent improving the lives of the Iraqi people.  "Greed" would be a honest reason for the deal.  Again, not an ethical reason, but an honest one.
Reuters reports that protests continued today in Iraq with the highway to Jordan and Syria being blocked "for a fifth day" and that along with the protest in Ramadi, there was also a protest in Mosul.  Earlier today, Alsumaria reported that a protest has been called for Friday (Moqtada al-Sadr has added his endorsement) and the focus of the protest will be women prisoners.  This has been building for some time with the treatment of women in Iraqi prisons and detention centers been a focal point for weeks now with allegations of rape and torture.  Kitabat notes that calls for the women prisoners to be released were frequent at most of this week's rallies.  Alsumaria notes that Moqtada al-Sadr told the network through his spokesperson (Salah al-Obeidi) that he regrets statements at demonstrations that go to sectarianism and against the Iraqi national identity and he stated he stands with the calls the protesters are making.

RECOMMENDED:  "Iraq snapshot"
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