Monday, June 26, 2017

Iraq snapshot

Monday, June 26, 2017.  Chaos and violence continue, The Mosul Slog continues, Brett McGurk says a lot but none of it about diplomacy, and much more.

ALJAZEERA reports:

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters launched a string of counterattacks in a western Mosul neighbourhood, setting off clashes that continued overnight, Iraqi officials said on Monday.
An unknown number of suicide bombers and gunmen targeted the Hay al-Tanak and Yarmuk neighbourhoods, and set fire to houses and cars in Tanak, military officials told news agencies.
The area had been declared free of ISIL in May.
Several people are reported to have died in the attacks, which sowed panic among residents who had returned to the area, and prompted hundreds of families to flee overnight.

Yes, The Mosul Slog continues.

Day 246 of The Mosul Slog.

And, yet again, press reports circulate that it will be over shortly.

ASHARQ AL-AWSAT reports this morning, "The battle to take full control of Mosul from ISIS will be over in a few days, a general said Monday as Iraqi forces searched neighborhoods of west Mosul they retook weeks ago after a surprise jihadist attack on their rear that left several dead."

Searched neighborhoods of west Mosul they retook weeks ago . . .

How it repeats.

Over and over.

Here's the White House's special envoy Brett McGurk, speaking last week, trying to explain ISIS:

So what is ISIS? It is the largest, most sophisticated, and most global terrorist organization the world has ever seen.
Only two years ago, it controlled what was effectively a quasi-state, its so-called caliphate, with territory the size of Lebanon spanning across Iraq and Syria.
It controlled millions of people, entire cities, dual capitals in Raqqa and Mosul, generating revenue through oil and gas, taxes, antiquities trade, hostage taking, of more than a billion dollars per year.
It enslaved thousands of young girls, committed acts of genocide against minority groups, Yazidis and Christians, and sought to destroy our common human heritage, from Palmyra in Syria, to the Ninewa plains in northern Iraq.
It also established franchises, seven in all, from Sinai just to our west, to Afghanistan, Libya, and Nigeria, all with central direction and planning from ISIS’s capital in Raqqa.
And it sought to spread terrorism to all of our homelands, directing attacks from Raqqa … in Paris, Istanbul, and Brussels, and inspiring them from London, to Berlin, to Garland, Texas.
Its manpower at its height in 2015, while hard to pinpoint specifically, was in the upper tens of thousands – hard core fighters, at least.
The figures we can pinpoint are staggering: more than 40,000 foreign fighters, Jihadists, flooded into Syria between 2013 and 2016 from over 100 countries all around the world. The world had never really seen anything like it – the supercharged global Jihad.
General Gilead, many of us in this room, were extremely alarmed by this phenomenon as early as 2013. Many of us in Washington, some of my former colleagues here, were also discussing it with extreme concern.
Foremost attention among many, however, in those years, I think we have to be honest, there was a belief, by some, that this flood of Jihadist fighters could somehow be tamed and contained – after Bashar al-Assad was removed from power. I think that was a false assumption and it carried some tragic consequences.
The flood of extremist fighters and weapons into Syria combined with the crimes of the Asad regime created an explosive environment for al Qaeda, from which ISIS sprung.
ISIS rapidly spread, in 2013, across eastern Syria, killing anyone who sought to confront it. It spread openly into Iraq in early 2014, capturing Fallujah, and laying siege to Ramadi in Anbar province.
Suicide attacks in Iraq nearly all of whom at the time were committed by foreign fighters, people coming from around the world into Syria and Iraq to blow themselves up – rose from five to ten per month in 2012 to sometimes 60 per month in 2014, targeting markets, mosques, soccer games, local officials – mayors, town councils – and security personnel.
In June, 2014, Mosul, a city of nearly 2 million people, fell to ISIS; and its leader Abu Bakr Baghdadi, declared a caliphate from the grand Mosque of Al Nuri in Mosul’s old city. And late yesterday, as Iraqi Security forces closed in on that mosque, about 100 meters away, ISIS blew it up. A mosque which sat there since the 12th century, ISIS blew it up. The last month in Mosul is really telling. Summer of 2014, Baghdadi announces from that mosque that he’s the caliph creating a caliphate—the caliph proclaims his legitimacy by this ability to protect people in his so called caliphate. All of this was a false lie. But that’s what he said in the summer of 2014.
In the last month, as Iraqi Security forces closed in on that last district in Mosul, ISIS has killed any civilian trying to leave. They used a hospital on some high ground, just north of the old city, as a killing tower—with snipers killing any civilians trying to leave. We’ve actually been accused, our forces, of using white phosphorus for example, in Mosul. And I defer to our military professionals, but they use white phosphorus not to target anybody, not to kill anybody, but as a shield to allow civilians to escape. We were somehow declared of using this ammunition which was harming civilians. In fact, we were helping civilians escape as ISIS sat in a tower—a hospital which we did not want to target—and killed anyone that tried to leave. And last night they blew up the mosque in which Baghdadi declared his caliphate, I think it was a very significant moment here in the last 24 hours.
But back in 2014, if you rewind the tape, this announcement of a caliphate accelerated recruitment from around the world, with thousands of men, women, and even children, traveling through Turkey and into Syria through established smuggling networks.
About a month later in July 2014, ISIS broke through the western Iraqi border at al Qaim and approached Baghdad down the Euphrates valley, and also in the north along the Tigris valley.
Near Tikrit that summer in 2014, ISIS terrorists rounded up One Thousand Seven Hundred young Iraqi military cadets, and murdered them one-by-one, and they filmed the scene on YouTube.
I was in Iraq at the time. Newspaper headlines declared Baghdad was about to fall. There were reports of an ISIS “zero hour” in the capital and it was causing a panic among the population. We in fact reduced our embassy personnel and dusted off contingency evacuation plans given the uncertainty.
President Obama early in this crisis asked for my recommendation among others, some that are in this room, Elissa Slotkin among others, about what we should do. And our only response was we had to fight back – and fight back soon because there we had no other choice.
But we had to fight smartly, not with U.S. forces in Iraqi and Syrian towns and villages; but by strengthening local forces – Syrians and Iraqis – to take on the fight themselves, combined with devastating air power, and importantly with a political strategy that empowered people at the local level to secure their own communities, with a government in Baghdad that was responsive to its people.
We had to rally the world – particularly the Muslim world – to take on the fight themselves, combating ISIS’s poison in the mosques and online and in the media 24/7.
We had to ensure that what came after ISIS was more stable, creating the conditions for people to return to their homes and rebuild their devastated communities.
And we had to prepare a campaign that targeted ISIS financing, foreign fighter networks, global affiliates, and propaganda.
In the summer of 2014, that seemed a nearly impossible task –the Iraqi Security Forces had just completely and totally collapsed and we had almost nobody to work with on the ground in Syria--but we got to work.
We built a global coalition against ISIS, that is now the largest of its kind in history with 71 members, including 67 nations, plus NATO, INTERPOL, the EU, and the Arab League.
Early on, we organized this grand coalition around five specific lines of effort, each focusing on a particular aspect of the ISIS problem and pooling global resources to confront it:
First, we provide military support to our partners on the ground;
Second, we work to stop the flow of foreign fighters, by securing the border between Syria and Turkey and severing the international networks.
Third, halting ISIS access to financial support;
Fourth, we address the humanitarian and stabilization in areas cleared of ISIS to allow the population to return;
Fifth, we combat ISIS’s poisonous ideology.
The first airstrikes by our coalition were launched in September, 2014. There have been nearly 30,000 since, it’s been the most precise air campaign in history, and combined with aggressive and innovative global initiatives along each of the lines I just mentioned.

And while this war is far from over, the results to date are promising. 

Are the results promising?

Many observers note the destruction of Mosul.

That's promising?

Brett outlines a now three year program above.

But where's the diplomacy?

Where's the work beyond military?

Nothing has been done.

At some point, you have to argue that this was intentional.

The Islamic State rose in Iraq because then-prime minister Nouri al-Maliki was persecuting the Sunnis.

Has that persecution ended?


Even now there are reports -- and photographs -- of Sunni civilians being tortured and killed.

When does that get addressed?

Smart people argued the time to address it was years ago.

But, under Barack Obama, the White House rewarded Nouri.

Even when the voters gave him the heave-ho in 2010, Barack still supported Nouri for a second term and had US officials ont he ground in Iraq negotiate The Erbil Agreement to give Nouri a second term.

ISIS didn't rise in a vacuum.

The conditions that allowed it to take root still exist.

So now what?

Sarhang Hamasaeed and Michael Yaffe (WASHINGTON EXAMINER) offer:

That will require sustained attention to the "Three Rs:" Relief, Reconstruction and Reconciliation, all of which are needed concurrently. Relief means not only continued humanitarian aid but also security assistance to protect reconstruction and reconciliation and to facilitate the return of 3 million displaced people.
Political and social reconciliation, in turn, will be needed to prevent violence and reprisals and make way for sustainable reconstruction. The U.S. should develop a plan to help resolve fundamental national and regional political issues that will allow Iraq's constellation of groups to co-exist in peace.

Already, unity is fraying among forces that stood against ISIS. Sinjar, Tel Afar and Tuz Khurmatu have emerged as flashpoints of incipient conflict. Wrangling between the Kurds and Baghdad over oil, territory and Kurdish independence continues as regional powers such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey— as well as Iraqi groups — jockey for influence. Since the ISIS onslaught in 2014, for example, Popular Mobilization Forces militias, most supported by Iran, have established offices all over Iraq — 16 just in one town south of Mosul, Iraqis tell us — in a bid to gain control in areas recaptured from ISIS. As next year's parliamentary elections approach, they'll be well positioned to buy cooperation, exert authority and support to candidates, further solidifying their grip.

Maybe the time to start this sort of work was in 2014 and not in a mad rush to beat the next election?

New content:

Sunday, June 25, 2017

DoD vs. CIA in Iraq?

A number of e-mails have come in about this topic:

Tillerson plans to remove Iraq, Myanmar from a U.S. list of the world's worst offenders in the use of child soldiers

I don't see the point.

In any of it, I don't see the point.

Child soldiers have been used in Iraq over the last 8 years.

We've noted it repeatedly.

It's not mattered.

So does it real many anything at this point whether or not Iraq is on some list?

I'd be thrilled if we could all share outrage over the use of child soldiers.

But that's not what's happened.

Whether it's on a list or not, is not among the big issues effecting Iraq.

It's like the Leahy Amendment -- it's not being enforced.

What was the point of it if no one was ever going to enforce it?

Yes, we get some grousing every now and then and that's about it.

Meanwhile, it's day  245 of The Mosul Slog.

This is not a video game. Federal Police Units engaged in urban warfare with militants in Old city.

And the slog continues.

A USAF Airman scans for Isis fighting positions near Al Tarab, Iraq during the offensive to liberate West Mosul, Operation Inherent Resolve.

Meanwhile, here's a view of the Iraq War the corporate media doesn't give voice to.

US oil wars in Iraq and have descended to the absurd, where Islamic State, a DoD proxy army, fights Peshmerga, a CIA proxy army.

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Saturday, June 24, 2017

One 'success' after another in The Mosul Slog

  1. UNBELIEVABLE! Watch the barbaric US-led Coalition strikes on civilian neighborhoods cheered by 'Ya Ali' from the Shiite militias

Day 248 of The Mosul Slog . . . and the above is what there is to show for it?

What a proud moment for all.

The Mosul Slog is one success after another.

James Cogan (WSWS) observes:

The offensive to recapture Mosul from ISIS began last October. For nine months, it has been the scene of some of the most intense street-to-street urban warfare since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Iraqi government troops and police have slowly advanced through its suburbs, supported by the US military and a coalition that includes Australian, British, French and Canadian aircraft and special forces “advisors.”
[. . .]

The Iraqi government refuses to release any figures on the losses that its forces have suffered. It may well be as high as 10,000 dead and wounded. Reports earlier in the year indicated that some army and police units suffered 50 percent casualties during the fierce battles to completely push ISIS out of the eastern sector of the city.
Civilians, however, have paid the greatest price. Prior to June 2014, Mosul had a population of close to 2 million. While hundreds of thousands fled when ISIS captured the city, displacement and casualties have increased exponentially since the beginning of the US-backed assault.
It is currently estimated that some 860,000 Mosul residents have been turned into refugees, with large numbers sheltering in overcrowded tent camps or with family elsewhere in the country. Another 500,000 are living in various degrees of squalor and hardship in the government-controlled eastern suburbs of the city. It is believed about 100,000 are still trapped in the ISIS-held areas.
There is no accurate count of overall civilian casualties. It almost certainly numbers in the tens of thousands killed or injured, however, inflicted by both the US-backed forces and the ISIS extremists.
Just one US airstrike on March 17 slaughtered at least 105 men, women and children. The US military has revealed that between October 2016 and June 3, its coalition had bombarded the city with some 24,464 missiles and bombs.
When the offensive began nine months ago, the US-led coalition generally estimated that there were no more than 5,000 and at most 10,000 ISIS fighters in the city. In early May, the Iraqi commanders claimed to have killed well over 16,000. In the weeks since, they have claimed to have killed hundreds more.
The inflated number of ISIS deaths suggests that people are being falsely classified as combatants to conceal the true extent of civilian deaths.
A June 22 article by freelance British journalist Tom Westcott, who is reporting from Mosul, detailed disturbing aspects of the treatment of men and boys who manage to get through the battle lines from ISIS-held areas to those under government control.

A French medic spoke to Westcott about several men whose injuries from shrapnel had been treated. “Of course,” the medic stated, “these operations were done by IS medics and we know they only look after their own, so these men were probably with IS.” He noted that government troops would put them through at least two “screenings.”

So many moments of 'success.'

Dropping back to Tuesday's snapshot:

ALJAZEERA reports:

A landmine blast in the Iraqi city of Mosul has killed one Kurdish and one French journalist, as Iraq's forces push deeper into the last remaining areas held by ISIL fighters.
Kurdish reporter Bakhtiyar Addad, who was working with a French team as a fixer and interpreter, was killed in Monday's explosion, according to public broadcaster France Televisions and global journalist rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders. 

French journalist Stephan Villeneuve and two other French journalists were also wounded in the blast. Villeneuve later succumbed to his wounds, the broadcaster said in the early hours of Tuesday.

RUDAW explains:

Posts on his Facebook page show Haddad, 41, helping a French-language weekly magazine to publish photos of ISIS militants of French nationality.

“Not everybody can find the photos of French ISIS militants who are in Mosul,” read his last Facebook post on Thursday. “[Only] experts can do it. This is again helping the Republic of France to find them again. Some of these people are back in France. The Paris Match magazine got these photos through me.”

XINHUA notes two more French journalists were left injured in the blast.  FRANCE 24 adds:

A video journalist who had covered a number of conflicts across the world, Villeneuve was filming a piece together with Veronique Robert on the battle of Mosul for French news programme Envoye Special, aired on public television channel France 2.
They were both taken to a hospital on a US military base following the explosion.

Reporter Samuel Forey, who worked for a number of French media organisations including French daily Le Figaro, also suffered light injuries.

Veronique Robert has passed away.

A third journalist has died from injuries sustained in a mine blast this week in the Iraqi city of Mosul

The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley and Cindy Sheehan -- updated:

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