Wednesday, October 23, 2013

White House Twits and other things






Iraq came up at today's State Dept press briefing.

QUESTION: Iraq-related, but on the drones. Why – what is the policy behind deploying drones or how do you do it? Because in Iraq, we know where the ISIS camps are, they are becoming more and more emboldened. They are wreaking havoc on the country, yet there are no – they are not subject to drone strikes. Could you explain why not?

MS. HARF: I think, broadly speaking, I would say that we look at every terrorist threat wherever it is and determine the best tools to go after it. We obviously work very closely with the Iraqi Government, Prime Minister Maliki will be here in the coming days, and we’ll continue talking to folks about it going forward.

QUESTION: Is this likely a subject that you will discuss with the Maliki Government?

MS. HARF: Counterterrorism in general? Absolutely. We discuss is all the time with the Iraqis.

QUESTION: But you do agree that the camps of the Islamic State of Iraq in Sham are going all over the place in Iraq, and they’re attacking --

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly --

QUESTION: -- more boldly, right?

MS. HARF: We’ve certainly said that the terrorist attacks in Iraq have increased significantly, that it’s of increasing concern to us – very serious concern to us. I’m sure this will be a topic of conversation when they come to Washington.

QUESTION: Okay. Wouldn’t the using drones be effective against these terrorists?

MS. HARF: Again, we make decisions on counterterrorism differently everywhere and the Iraqi Government we work very closely with to help them increase their counterterrorism capability.

First off, "We obviously work very closely with the Iraqi Government, Prime Minister Maliki will be here in the coming days, and we’ll continue talking to folks about it going forward."?  That's the first time the State Dept has acknowledged Nouri's visit.  October 9th, despite press reports and Nouri al-Maliki's office announcing the visit  days before, Marie played dumb on the visit.  (It was playing, right?)  Not only did she insist that she knew nothing of a visit, she promised that when there was something there, she'd announce it ("When we do, I’ll let you guys know.").  October 16th, the White House announced the visit. Six days later, Marie Harf finally mentions the meet-up, tries to slip it in.  "When we do, I'll let you guys know"?  Good thing she doesn't worry about being an honest broker of information.

Second, the reason for the question may not be clear to many.  The topic is drones.  And we'll come back to that at the end of the snapshot.  But on his August visit to the US, Iraq's Minister of Foreign Affairs Hoshyar Zebari made clear the government wanted drones.  Indira A.R. Lakshmanan (Bloomberg News) reported, "The top Iraqi diplomat’s comments are the first time he has publicly raised the possibility of working with the U.S. on anti-terrorist drone strikes, a clandestine program whose use against terror groups in Pakistan has fueled widespread protest and damaged the U.S. alliance there."  At the start of this month,  John Hudson (Foreign Policy) reported that Iraq will not get the US drones that the Iraqi government has been calling for:

Though neither Iraqi nor U.S. officials will say who called off the drones, it's no secret who began discussing them in the first place. In an August 17 trip to Washington, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters that Baghdad is seeking U.S. advisers, air surveillance or drone strikes to combat al-Qaeda's grip on the country. "We cannot fight these increasing terrorist" threats alone, he said. Speaking of drone strikes specifically, he said as long as they were used to "target al-Qaeda and their bases," without "collateral damage," Iraqis would welcome them.
That same month, Iraqi ambassador to the U.S. Iraq Lukman Faily reiterated Iraq's interest in drones. "The reason we're now considering drone support is because we need to get better control of the sky so we can track and destroy al-Qaeda camps in the country," Faily told The Cable.
It's not hard to understand why they'd be interested in the unmanned aircraft. On Monday, the detonation of 15 car bombs in Baghdad left dozens dead in an event that would've shocked any other country not embroiled in a civil war. However, in Iraq, it was only the 38th such atrocity in the last 12 months. In 2013 alone, Iraq is averaging 68 car bombings a month. The United Nations reports that 5,740 civilians were killed since January, which is almost two times more deaths than recorded in all of 2010.
Despite the staggering numbers, the U.S. isn't about to open up a new drone war in Iraq. "The use of lethal drones has not been discussed nor is it even under consideration for Iraq," an administration official tells The Cable.

Nor could it be.  Such a possibility would trigger the US Congress exploring how US trainers in Iraq now (Special Ops) have trained Nouri's SWAT force and how they helped Nouri's SWAT force plan a mission in April.  In Kirkuk Province, there was something Nouri wanted to put down.  Among the problems for Nouri?  Kikruk forces would not let them enter.  This came out the month after when   Shalaw Mohammed (Niqash) interviewed Governor Najm al-Din Karim:

NIQASH: The incidents in Hawija, where protestors were killed by the Iraqi military, also seems to have seen more Iraqi army forces enter Kirkuk.

Al-Din Karim: Actually those forces did not come through Kirkuk - they entered Hawija by helicopter. They tried to come through Kirkuk but we prevented them from doing so. I know the Prime Minister disapproved of this – he told me so last time we met.

Nouri's forces were transported in -- by helicopters supplied by the US government -- and what did they do?  This is the April 23rd massacre of a peaceful 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 dead.  UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

Those 8 dead children wouldn't make for a happy Congressional hearing.  There are also eye witnesses who can offer reports.  BRussells Tribunal offered the testimony of Thamer Hussein Mousa who was participating in the sit-in with his son Mohammed Thamer. The father's left arm and left leg were amputated but he was among the people participating and he was terrorized by Nouri's forces when they stormed in.  His son was attempting to push his father -- in a wheel chair -- to safety:

My son, who stood next to my wheelchair, refused to leave me alone. He told me that he was afraid and that we needed to get out of the area. We tried to leave. My son pushed my wheelchair and all around us, people were falling to the ground.
Shortly after that, two men dressed in military uniforms approached us. One of them spoke to us in Persian; therefore we didn’t understand what he said. His partner then translated. It was nothing but insults and curses. He then asked me “Handicapped, what do you want?” I did not reply. Finally I said to him, “Kill me, but please spare my son”. My son interrupted me and said, “No, kill me but spare my father”. Again I told him “Please, spare my son. His mother is waiting for him and I am just a tired, disabled man. Kill me, but please leave my son”. The man replied “No, I will kill your son first and then you. This will serve you as a lesson.” He then took my son and killed him right in front of my eyes. He fired bullets into his chest and then fired more rounds. I can’t recall anything after that. I lost consciousness and only woke up in the hospital, where I underwent surgery as my intestines were hanging out of my body as a result of the shot.

After all of what has happened to me and my little son – my only son, the son who I was waiting for to grow up so he could help me – after all that, I was surprised to hear Ali Ghaidan (Lieutenant General, Commander of all Iraqi Army Ground Forces) saying on television, “We killed terrorists” and displaying a list of names, among them my name: Thamer Hussein Mousa.

I ask you by the name of God, I appeal to everyone who has a shred of humanity. Is it reasonable to label me a terrorist while I am in this situation, with this arm, and with this paralyzed leg and a blind eye?

I ask you by the name of God, is it reasonable to label me a terrorist? I appeal to all civil society and human rights organizations, the League of Arab States and the Conference of Islamic States to consider my situation; all alone with my five baby daughters, with no one to support us but God. I was waiting for my son to grow up and he was killed in this horrifying way.

I hold Obama responsible for this act because he is the one who gave them these weapons. The weapons and aircrafts they used and fired upon us were American weapons. I also hold the United States of America responsible for this criminal act, above all, Obama.

That's, to say the least, embarrassing for the executive branch.  They were monitoring what was going on.  The assault took place on a Tuesday.  The protesters faced difficulties on Friday.  This appeared here on Sunday, April 21st  -- two days before the assault:

I had thought we'd go over the violence and any election commentary but we only finished at Third about 30 minutes ago and I had a friend at the State Dept who had called repeatedly, I didn't know, the cell phone was off.  He informed me that the US was "closely following" developments in Hawija and figured I was as well.  No, I'd been working on Third forever and a day.  I told him give me 15 minutes to search Arabic social media and I'd call him back with what was being said.  This will be big in Arabic social media but it's not yet.  Most are unaware of what's going on and -- as usual -- you can't count on the western press to tell you a damn thing.
Hawija is a hot spot right now.  And we're not going to distract from that with other things -- including the Falluja bombing that we can cover tomorrow.

The US government was following what was happening, they knew it was a hot spot.  And two days later, 53 people were killed -- including 8 children.  You think that's going to make for a sweet and peaceful Congressional hearing?

Maybe the State Dept could convince Congress -- remember, State is over the US mission in Iraq -- that although the situation was tense two days before the slaughter, they had no way of knowing a slaughter would take place.

But maybe a senator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee might wonder how they thought it would end in anything other than violence since January 24th,  Nouri's forces sent two protesters (and one reporter) to the hospital,  January 7th, Nouri's forces assaulted four protesters in MosulJanuary 25th, his forces fired on Falluja protesters, killing and wounding many, and March 8th, Nouri's force fired on protesters in Mosul killing three.

So do you really think the State Dept can sell the lie that they had no idea Hawija would end in violence?

Even Marie Harf, with her ample stupidity, would probably have a hard time selling that.

Especially when the only public investigation exonerates the demonstrators.  Shafaq News reported in May:

The parliamentary investigative committee in Hawija incident revealed on Tuesday, that 90% of the dead in the army’s’ storming incident to the Sit-in Square were shot in the head , abdomen and chest areas, while made it clear that the weapons that were stolen from the army were outside the Sit-in Square.
The parliament has formed an investigative committee of the various parliamentary blocs on the back ground of Iraqi army storming the Sit –in square in Hawija in Kirkuk.
[. . .]

He [Iraqiya MP Muthehar Al-Janabi] added that “The report confirms that the Sit-in Square was free of weapons”.

Third, that incident -- among many others -- does not back up Marie Harf's claim that the State Dept discusses counterterrorism with Nouri and his government "all the time" -- unless she's disclosing that the US government is not just passively standing by as the Iraqi people are terrorized but instead actively involved in planning, with Nouri,  how to terrorize the people.

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