Friday, February 14, 2014

It passes for workers' rights under Obama






Iraq is, at best, in a state of flux.. Do you have a question on that?  Or maybe on one of the many current crises in Iraq?  If so, an opportunity comes calling your name:

Are you curious about the political/economic relations between the U.S. and Iraq? Do you want to know more about cultural and educational programs?
Well, here’s your chance! Post your questions to Ambassador Stephen Beecroft on our Facebook page or send them to The deadline for submitting your questions is March 1, 2014. We will post the Ambassador’s answers to the most popular questions on the Embassy’s Facebook page and Youtube channel.  

March 1st is the deadline.

World Bulletin News reports on the forming of the new government in the Kurdish Regional Government, "In the new government, there will be two deputy prime minister's, with one of them being from the Goran Movement. The positions of finance minister and parliament speaker will also go to the Goran Movement. However, the position of interior minister will not go to the Goran Movement after the YNK opposed it."

Chair Ed Royce:  There is just one more issue that I meant to raise with you and that's just turning for a moment to discuss inclusion of  the Kurdish Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in the PATRIOT Act's Tier III designation -- terrorist designation.  My understanding is that this has become a sort of catch-all designation that has inadvertently mislabeled the KDP and the PUK as terrorists even though they have been a stabilizing force in the region and consistently loyal to the United States for decades.  As al Qaeda and other groups expand across the Middle East and beyond, it seems like a good time to take count of our remaining friends in the region and maybe take a look at this inappropriate designation and recognize that that's harming our very important relationship with the Kurdish people.  So would the administration be supportive of a legislative solution to this issue that would exclude these Kurdish groups from the Tier III designation

Brett McGurk:  Uh, Mr. Chairman, thank you for asking that question and for allowing me to put our response on the record. Uhm, as you said, the Kurdish people -- the PUK, the KDP -- have been among our closest friends in the region going back decades.  We think they should be removed from this list as soon as possible.  We think it is an imperative.  Uh, we understand that it requires a legislative fix.  There is nothing we can do by executive action alone.  And therefore we are 100% supportive of an immediate legislative fix to this problem and we look forward to working with you and the relevant Committees in Congress to get that done. 

That exchange is from last week when the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on Iraq. Appearing before the Committee was  the US State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Brett McGurk.  We've covered the hearing in the February 5th Iraq snapshot, February 6th Iraq snapshot and February 7th Iraq snapshot. as well as "Prashant Rao's naive and Hannah Allem's got a grudge to f**k" which details the main themes of the hearing (and how Rao was terribly naive to believe Hannah Allem's hideous Tweets which were nothing more than her working her grudge against the Ashraf community).  We'll return to the hearing two more times in this snapshot.

Right now, we're focusing on the Kurds.

From From Monday, February 3rd's snapshot:

Friday's snapshot noted US Vice President Joe Biden's phone call to KRG President Massoud Barzani, carried the White House statement and I pointed out, "It's a shame that they [the White House] have more concern over pleasing Nouri than they do over the safety of the Iraqi citizens."  Today Rudaw reports:

Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani has postponed a planned visit to Washington this week because of other commitments, said his chief of staff, Fuad Hussein.
“President Barzani told Joe Biden (the US vice president) that because of some other commitments he couldn’t visit Washington at this time,” Hussein told Rudaw. “That is why the visit was postponed.”

That's only surprising if you weren't paying attention.  In 2012, Barazni made clear his opposition to the US giving Nouri F-16s.  And today?  Not only are those going to be handed over, helicopters and Hellfire missiles are being provided to Nouri.  And on top of all of that, Joe Biden wants to hold Nouri's hand and reassure him while telling Barzani that concessions (to Nouri) need to be made.

President Massoud Barzani is a much admired figure in the KRG and he's a leader on the world stage but Biden wants to treat like an errand boy and hand him a grocery list?

Of course, Barazni's insulted.  And that's before you get to the White House's historic betrayal of Baraniz on the 2010 US-brokered Erbil Agreement that they used Barazni's name and reputation to sell and then refused, after everyone signed the contract, to stand by it.  Yeah, it's about time Barzani put some distance between himself and the US government.

Maybe even a brief spell will force the White House to take Barzani a little more seriously?

February 6th, Ayub Nuri and Rudaw became the first to address the topic everyone else tried so hard to ignore:

Many people were baffled this week by the sudden news that Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani was not going to Washington. Barzani’s supporters said it was the Kurdish president who had cancelled the visit. Others laughed and said, “Who could cancel on the president of the most powerful country in the world?” From the US there was no explanation, and out of Kurdistan only came conflicting reports.
But who snubbed who isn’t really the issue. The real question is: How do the Kurds see America today.
Ten years ago the Kurds saw America as an ally, and America regarded them as friends. The Kurds joined America’s war and contributed to Saddam Hussein’s downfall. Kurdish Peshmarga and security forces offered the Americans intelligence, advice and guidance. Kurdish politicians and ministers went to Baghdad and put into service their two decades of experience to rebuild the Iraqi government.
What did they expect in return? A democratic Iraq that America had promised everyone. But ten years on, not only have the Kurds not seen a democratic country that respects their rights, they in fact feel it is often America -- not Baghdad -- that is acting against them.

The White House and the State Dept have seriously injured the relationship between themselves and the Kurds.  They've yet to demonstrate that they care about that damage or that they're interested in repairing what they've damaged.

In that regard, the current administration is a great like Tricky Dick's administration oh, so many decades ago.  Then-President Richard Nixon and War Criminal Henry Kissinger pretended to be the Kurds friends, pretended to care what happened to them, but they were just using them as pawns.

That is not my opinion.  That is what the US Congress found in the Pike Report.  February 16, 1976, The Village Voice published Aaron Latham's "Introduction to the Pike Papers."  Latham explained:

In 1972, Dr. Henry Kissinger met with the Shah of Iran, who asked the U.S. to aid the Kurds in their rebellion against Iraq, an enemy of the Shah.  Kissinger later presented the proposal to President Nixon who approved what would become a $16 million program.  Then John B. Connally, the former Nixon Treasury Secretary, was dispatched to Iran to inform the Shah, one oil man to another.
The committee report charges that: "The President, Dr. Kissinger and the foreign head of state [the Shah] hoped our clients would not prevail.  They preferred instead that the insurgents simply continue a level of hostilities sufficient to sap the resources of our ally's neighboring country [Iraq].  The policy was not imparted to our clients, who were encouraged to continue fighting.  Even in the context of covert action, ours was a cynical enterprise."
During the Arab-Israeli war, when the Kurds might have been able to strike at a distracted Iraqi government, Kissinger, according to the report, "personally restrained the insurgents from an all-out offensive on the one occasion when such an attack might have been successful."
Then, when Iran resolved its border dispute with Iraq, the U.S. summarily dropped the Kurds.  And Iraq, knowing aid would be cut off, launched a search-and-destroy campaign the day after the border agreement was signed.
A high U.S. official later explained to the Pike committee staff: "Covert action should not be confused with missionary work."

That is the history.  That is the root.  Deception on the part of the US.  And as the Kurds are disrespected and lied to today, the dishonest root of the original relationship becomes all the more telling.

When Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was the highest ranking Kurd, it really didn't matter.  The disrespect, the labeling two political parties as 'terrorists' (Talabani heads the PUK and Barzani heads the KDP).  But Jalal's not running anything these days.  December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 following Jalal's argument with Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot).  Jalal was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.

In 2012, KRG President Massoud Barzani was already outshining Jalal on the international stage -- long before Jalal's stroke.  And Barzani has never been as weak as Jalal.

Jalal was happy to dismiss thoughts of an independent Kurdistan ever happening.  He was willing to dismiss that despite the fact that Kurds fought for years to get to where they are now, in the KRG, three semi-autonomous provinces.  Jalal destroyed his own reputation over and over and was happy to dance for the US government.

Barazni wanted -- maybe still does -- a relationship -- a solid one -- with the US government.  But in 2010, after Nouri's State of Law lost the parliamentary elections to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya, the US government used the Kurds -- lied to them and used them.  US President Barack Obama wanted Nouri to have a second term.  To go around the votes and the Constitution and the will of the Iraqi people, the White House came up with the idea of a legal contract among the political blocs which would circumvent the Constitution.  In order to get the others to sign on, they knew Nouri would have to offer them concessions in writing.  The US-brokered Erbil Agreement couldn't be sold on the US alone.  It needed the backing of a group and the White House used the Kurds and their relationship with the Kurds.  They had Barzani sell the agreement.  He never would have done that without promises from the White House that it was a legal and binding contract that had the full support of the White House.

Nouri used the contract to get his second term but refused to honor any of the promises he made in the contract (such as implementing Article 140 of the Constitution).  And when the Kurds took their issues public and joined with cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr and Iraqiya in the summer of 2011 to demand The Erbil Agreement be implemented, the White House played dumb, pretended they knew nothing, pretended they had never promised that the contract had their full backing.

This was harmful for everyone but especially upsetting to Kurdish leadership because not only was the contract not implemented but they were used -- and lied to -- by the White House.  The White House used the Kurds' standing and image to sell a contract that was worthless.

In 2012, Massoud Barzani made a public plea, even took it to US soil, that the White House not supply Nouri with F-16s.  That's been blown off as well.

And then there's the issue of the oil.  Under existing laws, the Kurds can do whatever they want with the oil in the KRG.  That's because there is no national oil & gas law.  Nouri al-Maliki promised the US government in 2007 that he would propose a national oil and gas law and get it passed shortly.  Seven years later and he never did.

So it ticks off the Kurds when the White House and the State Dept attack the KRG for attempting to sell its own oil even as the White House and the State Dept lie that they won't take sides and they're only interested in the law.

There is no national law.  The Kurds actions are completely legal but, over and over, the White House rushes to satisfy Nouri al-Maliki.

This has seriously harmed the relationship between the US government and the Kurdish government.  And Vice President Joe Biden who once had such a great relationship with Barzani (and Talabani) is no longer believed.  They're generous.  The KRG government leadership doesn't call Joe a "liar," they just argue that he does not have any power in the White House and can't keep the promises he makes.

And now Barazni won't even visit the US.

Is there anything in Iraq that the White House hasn't made worse?

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