Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The big make out under the boardwalk









Violence swept Iraq today.   National Iraqi News Agency reports a Baghdad suicide bomber driving a tank took his own life and the lives of 1 police officer and 1 civilian while leaving eight people (four were police officers) injured, a police officer was injured in a Baquba shooting, a Kuther clash left 2 suspects dead and a third injured, and a Samarra roadside bombing left two Sahwa injuredMohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes a Sadr City car bombing which has claimed 4 lives and left twenty-five injured.  By evening, Tawfeeq was reporting the death toll had risen to 7 and added, "Then on Tuesday night in the predominantly Shiite al-Shaab neighborhood of northeastern Baghdad, a roadside bomb went off near an outdoor market. That blast killed at least two people and wounded at least three others, according to police officials in the Iraqi capital."   The toll may increase further as the day goes on.  BBC News adds that "at least three policemen were killed in the northern city of Mosul in clashes between gunmen and police. A bombing near the city killed another policeman."  All Iraq News notes a Mosul bombing claimed the life of Colonel Faris al-Rashidi and left three more officers with Nineveh Police Intelligence injuredAlsumaria notes that the Iraqi military has killed 11 suspects in Babel Province today.  In all, AFP reports, today's violence has claimed 27 lives. 

Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 759 violent deaths.  There are four days left in the month for them to count.  Including today's at least 27 deaths brings the death toll 786.

Yesterday saw 75 deaths in Baghdad alone.  Robert Camens (Irish Independent) reports, "The bombs struck just a few hours after the ministry of interior released a statement saying that the violence in Iraq cannot be seen as sectarian in nature because the bombs do not distinguish between Sunnis and Shia." Duraid Adnan (New York Times) reported that the bombing attacks in Baghdad began in "afternoon rush hour traffic."  All Iraq News counted 13 car bombs in Baghdad: "Sa'adon, Baghdad Jadida, Sabai'liBour, Maalif, Kadhimya, Sadriyah, Diyala Bridge, SHaab, Habibiya, Baladiyat and Jurriya areas." Aziz Alwan (Los Angeles Times) reports, "The bombs went off in and around mostly Shiite Muslim areas of Baghdad, the capital, at markets and other public areas that were teeming with civilians, and primarily were planted in cars or on motorcycles, authorities said."  The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq issued the following today:

Baghdad, 28 May 2013 –The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Martin Kobler, condemned in the strongest terms yesterday’s wave of bomb attacks that killed and injured dozens of innocent Iraqis in several crowded commercial areas of Baghdad.

“I once again urge all Iraqi leaders to do everything possible to protect Iraqi civilians. It is their responsibility to stop the bloodshed now,” said Mr. Kobler. “It is the politicians’ responsibility to act immediately and to engage in dialogue to resolve the political impasse and not let terrorists benefit from their political differences.”

 “We will continue to remind the leaders of Iraq that the country will slide into a dangerous unknown if they do not take immediate action,” UN Envoy stressed.

The violence is on Nouri for many reasons.  For example, back in July, 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 were supposed to have been filled by the end of 2010.  They've never been filled.  You can also look to the training that the Iraqi police received.    Walter C. Ladwig III (World Politics) has a really strong overview of the US-efforts at police training in Iraq.  We're noting this section:

Almost from its inception the program was criticized by Iraqi officials for neglecting their priorities and providing substandard training. Consequently, American advisers received little “buy-in” from their local counterparts. At the same time, auditors in the United States objected to the fact that little more than 10 percent of the funds allocated for the program would actually be spent on advising the Iraqi police -- the bulk of the money would be spent on providing security for advisers and sustaining them in the field.
In the face of these criticisms, the scope and size of the program was repeatedly scaled back, and in March 2013 it was canceled entirely, leaving Iraq’s 400,000 police without mentorship. The Afghan police assistance mission is still ongoing; however, observers anticipate that responsibility for the mission will similarly transition to the State Department when the U.S. military withdraws in 2014.

It's actually worse than what he's covering.  First, Jordan was training Iraqi police officers early in the war.  The US government stopped that.  As he notes in his piece, the DoD was over the training for a number of years.  With regards to the State Dept, however, there's a key detail.  It's really disturbing in fact.  It came out in the November 30, 2011 House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia hearing (we covered that hearing in the December 1, 2011 snapshot) as the State Dept's Brook Darby testified.  The State Dept being over the police program was really important, Darby explained, because they were going to spend time training the police on basic human rights -- in fact, on "gender and human rights."  She repeated this throughout the hearing, "The PDP [Police Development Program] mentors Iraqi police leadership on how to regularize their engagement with the people they serve while protecting Iraq's communities, its borders and respect for human rights."  She declared, "At the MOI's [Ministry of Information] request, PDP is already putting together a strategic plan on gender and human rights."

US House Rep Gary Ackerman: Why are we doing human rights and gender issues in Iraq and not Botswana?

Brooke Darby: Iraq, and stability in Iraq and security in Iraq, is very much in the US national security interest.  It is important to us to have a stable and secure partner in the region.  It is important to us to have a partner on combating the types of complex threats we face as a --

US House Rep Gary Ackerman: How important is it in terms of dollars?  Let's assume the rate is constant and it is $900 million a year.

Brooke Darby: Sir, we have already made an investment.

Why was human rights needed?  Darby repeatedly referred to what the US military had done, built a police force up from scratch over seven years. She praised their work on "very basic police skills" ("excellent job") but noted that human rights training was needed.

So by the testimony of the Deputy Assistant Secretary, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement at the State Dept, Brooke Darby, the Iraqi police were trained for seven years, from scratch, and human rights was never part of the program or gender rights.  So, in 2012, the State Dept was going to fix this with training in these issues (as well as other training).  The program got gutted and is no more.  And human rights were clearly never taught to the police.  That's why there are so many stories of abuses -- which is one of the reasons have been protesting since December.  It never should have waited so late but grasp that when the police program was cancelled under the State Dept it had not done any training on human rights -- under DoD or, briefly, under State.

How bad is the violence?  Iraq actually came up in today's State Dept press briefing conducted by spokesperson Patrick Ventrell.

QUESTION: Change topics? Iraq?


QUESTION: In the last couple days, there’s been a real spike in violence and the country seems to be coming apart. Is the United States doing anything on the ground to mediate --


QUESTION: -- other than condemnation? Can you share with us something that you are actually doing sort of urgently to meet the urgency of the situation?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, our Embassy is very engaged. The Vice President of the United States is very engaged.
Let me start, though, of course, with our strong condemnation. The United States strongly condemns the terrorist attacks in Baghdad yesterday, where numerous car bombs detonated, killing and injuring scores of innocent people. We are deeply concerned by the frequency and nature of recent attacks, including the bombing of a bus today in Baghdad and a truck bomb north of Baghdad as well today. So the targeting of innocent people in an effort to sow instability and division is reprehensible, and our condolences go out to the victims and their families.
U.S. officials in Baghdad and Washington are intensively engaged. We’re in contact with a wide range of senior Iraqi leaders to urge calm and help resolve ongoing political and sectarian tensions. And the level of U.S. engagement is evidenced including by the Vice President’s engagement, which you saw the readouts to late last week.
So our talks from the Embassy, they’re focused on specific steps to avoid further violence and resolve key issues peacefully through dialogue and through the political process.

QUESTION: Why doesn’t the United States – I mean, there is a great deal of attention to the Syrian civil war, for instance. Conferences are being organized and so on, Friends of Syria, all that stuff, but Iraq, on the other hand, continues to bleed. And you are basically a very important ingredient of what is going on in Iraq. Why doesn’t the United States, for instance, lead an effort to reconciliation, to bring the groups together?

MR. VENTRELL: Said, we’re – we remain committed to supporting Iraq’s democratic system, and we urge Iraq leaders to continue to working toward a peaceful resolution, to work through their system, to work through dialogue. And so we continue to work to help Iraq overcome the threat of terrorism and its internal issues. So this is something we’re very actively engaged on and very focused on.

"The Vice President of the United States is very engaged," Ventrell stated.  That's not helping.  Friday's snapshot noted his three phone calls -- to KRG President Massoud Barzani, Speaker of Iraqi Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki --  and what a mistake this was:

I like Joe Biden.  But talk about tone deaf on the part of the White House, talk about the need for Arabic speakers in the White House. There is nothing worse they could have done then have Joe Biden speak to Iraqi leaders today -- this month. In the US, Joe Biden represents many things to different sets of people.  In Iraq?  He's got two images and let's focus on the most damaging: He proposed, as US Senator, that peace in Iraq would be possible only by splitting the country into a Shi'ite South, a Sunni central and the KRG in the north.  As Senator.  And we noted, while running for the presidential nomination, right before Iowa, Joe had noted if the US Congress didn't support then the idea was dead.  We covered that here. Most ignored it because Biden's campaign was losing steam (he'd quickly drop out of the race). It never registered in Iraq. They continue to see Biden as the man who wants to split up their country.  And the Arabic press for the last three weeks has been full of reports that it's about to happen, Iraq's about to split.  Nouri's been in contact with Biden, the Kurds came to Baghdad just to ensure that the split takes place, blah blah blah.  Whispers with no foundation -- they may be true, they may be false -- have been all over Arabic media -- not just social media, all of the Iraqi outlets have reported it -- and reported it as a done deal. So with the tension and fear rising in Iraq currently, why is Biden the go-to?  This was absolutely the wrong thing at the wrong time and these calls with the various leaders, whatever their intent (I'm told military issues were discussed with Nouri -- specifically more troops under the Strategic Framework Agreement and last December's Memorandum of Understanding with the Defense Dept), are only going to fuel more rumors in Iraq.

It didn't calm tensions and just fed rumors.  From Saturday:

The Godfather of the Division. That's what they're hailing US Vice President Joe Biden as in the Iraqi media.  We said in yesterday's snapshot that I could not believe the White House is so ignorant of what goes on in Iraq.  For weeks now, one article after another has been about whispers of dividing Iraq into three regions.  They've all noted Joe Biden in those reports (because he favored a federation as late as January 2008).  With all the stress and tension Iraq's currently facing, Joe Biden was the last person who needed to be calling political leaders in Iraq yesterday:  Nouri al-Maliki, Massoud Barzani and Osama al-Nujaifi -- forget their parties, just note that's Shi'ite, Kurd and Sunni.
[. . .]
Are you seeing the problems that the White House missed? There are already 3 major articles in the Iraqi press on this.  In fact, it's blown Karbala out of the cycle.  (Karbala had been insisting that Nouri take back those useless 'magic' wands that do not detect bombs.)  Of the three outlets, the one with the largest circulation is Dar Addustour.  They don't just call him The Godfather of the Division, they add that he's a hero to those who wish to rip apart Iraq.

Today, Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports that last week's phone calls by US Vice President Joe Biden to KRG President Massoud Barzani, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.  The calls are referred to as a "red herring" that the US is still attempting to split Iraq into three regions.  Kurdish MP Mahmoud Othman states that Biden's is trying to throw dust into the eyes of Iraqis and distract them while the country is split in three.  He states that solutions for Iraq's future must come from Iraq not the US. 

Was the intent to enter a tense situation and sew distrust while upsetting Iraqis?  That is what was accomplished.   And the violence continues.

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