Saturday, April 18, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Saturday, April 18, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Erbil is attacked, journalist Ned Parker endures fresh attacks (this time from Haider al-Abadi's love slaves), Haider fails again, and much more.

Patrick J. McDonnell and Nabih Bulos  (Los Angeles Times via News) report that a car bomb detonated in Iraq on Friday.

Among the things making this bombing different?

It took place in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government -- known as "the other Iraq" because of the much lower level of violence.

Another thing making this bombing different was the apparent target: The US Consulate in Erbil.

The US  State Dept's Brett McGurk Tweeted:

Re: VBIED in near US consulate, we appreciate rapid response of KRG authorities and now working w/them to investigate the attack. 1/2
70 retweets 24 favorites

2/2 All Chief of Mission personnel accounted for & no reports of injuries to these personnel or local guards. Closely monitoring situation.
37 retweets 15 favorites

At the State Dept press briefing on Friday, spokesperson Marie Harf stated:

I know a lot of you have questions about Erbil, so I just wanted to give you some information at the top. A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device was detonated directly outside an entry point on the perimeter of the U.S. consulate in Erbil today. AT 10:44 a.m. Eastern, the duck and cover protocol was activated at the U.S. consulate. All chief of mission personnel have been accounted for. There are no reports of injuries to chief of mission personnel or to the local guards.
Host nation fire assets responded to extinguish the fire. Local authorities have also responded and are securing the area. We appreciate the rapid response of the Kurdistan Regional Government authorities to this matter, and we will work with them to investigate the incident to determine the facts behind the explosion.

During the press briefing, a few questions were asked:

QUESTION: Was there any intelligence or any sense that something of this nature could happen inside Erbil?

MS HARF: I’ve --

QUESTION: It’s very out of character for this city.

MS HARF: I think that Iraq remains a dangerous place – many parts of it do. So I’m not going to get into specifics, but we know that the security environment there is quite a challenging one and obviously take a number of security precautions when it comes to our people and our facilities.

QUESTION: Is there any early consideration of changing the travel patterns of consulate staff?

MS HARF: Well, I’m not sure why an explosive device outside the consulate would change travel patterns, given this happened outside the consulate. But there’s already a high level of security at the consulate, at our embassy in Baghdad. Obviously, this is something we take very serious in Iraq.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Can you say how many personnel, roughly, work out of the consulate?

MS HARF: We don’t generally give those numbers, for security reasons.

QUESTION: Yeah. I figured that.

MS HARF: But good try. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Any idea of responsibility?

MS HARF: We do not have any details on who’s responsible at this time.

Mitchell Prothero (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "The attack was the first direct assault on U.S. facilities in Iraq since the Islamic State took control of much of the northern and central areas of the country last summer, and only the second bombing in Irbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government, a city considered so safe that the United States moved many of its diplomats here from Baghdad when the Islamic State captured the city of Mosul and threatened Baghdad last year."

That was far from the only violence on Friday.  Xinhua reports the latest on the failed leadership of Haider al-Abadi:

In Iraq's western province of Anbar, the IS militants in the morning advanced in the provincial capital city of Ramadi, some 110 km west of Baghdad, and managed to seize the Grand Mosque area in central the city and came close to the heavily fortified government compound in central Ramadi, a provincial security source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
The troops, government-backed Sahwa paramilitary groups and allied Sunni tribesmen fought back and after fierce clashes they pushed back the extremist militants from the Grand mosque area, but the IS militants were still fighting about 500 meters away from the government compound, the source said.

Later in the day, the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of Iraqi armed forces, ordered to send reinforcement troops immediately to support the troops in Ramadi to prevent the fall of the city, Saad Maan, the Interior Ministry spokesman said.

How does that qualify as a Haider failure?

The Islamic State is going to attack where ever it wants.

Ramadi was a likely target and you didn't have to be a psychic to see that.

However, that's not why it's Haider's failure.

Dropping back to Wednesday's snapshot, this is why it's Haider's failure:

This morning, Arwa Damon (CNN -- link is video and text) reported on the situation in Anbar Province's Ramadi noting that deputy provincial council head Falih Essawi is issuing "a dire, dire warning" as the Islamic State advances.

Arwa Damon:  ISIS forces, it seems, early this morning managing to enter the outskirts of the city of Ramadi from the east.  This now means that ISIS is fighting on the east.  ISIS advanced from the north -- taking over three towns from the outskirts there over the weekend.  The routes to the south already blocked off.  The city basically under siege except for the western portion that is still controlled by forces, by government forces, but that is wavering as well.

Sky News notes the three areas taken, "The militant group took the villages of Sjariyah, Albu-Ghanim and Soufiya, in Anbar province, which had been under government control, residents said." Nancy A. Youssef (Daily Beast) observed:

Pentagon officials stopped short of saying the city was on the brink of falling. But they didn’t sound confident it would hold, either.
“The situation in Ramadi remains fluid and, as with earlier assessments, the security situation in the city is contested. The ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] continue to conduct clearing operations against ISIL-held areas in the city and in the surrounding areas of Al Anbar province,” U.S. Central Command spokesman Army Maj. Curt Kellogg, a said in a statement, using the government’s preferred acronym for ISIS. The Coalition continues to coordinate with ISF forces and provide operational support as requested.”

AFP's Jean Marc Mojon and Karim Abou Merhil sound out various Middle East experts about the prospects for victory in Anbar.  We'll note this section:

“Anbar, and especially Fallujah, is like Asterix’s village,” said Victoria Fontan, a professor at American University Duhok Kurdistan, referring to an unconquerable town in the French comic book series.
The province is packed with experienced fighters and while some Sunni tribes have allied with the government, others are fighting alongside ISIS or sitting on the fence.
Local knowledge is seen as key to retaking territory along the fertile strip lining the Euphrates, where ISIS has inflicted severe military setbacks to the police and army since June.

Iraqi Spring MC notes this takes place as calls for reinforcements of government troops to be sent to . . . Baiji.

That's in northern Iraq, Salahuddin Province.  These reinforcements are being sent in to protect . . .  Well, not people.  There are people in Ramadi who need protection.  But the government forces going to Baiji are going to protect an oil refinery. 

That's why it's Haider's fault.

The events of Wednesday?

That should have meant immediately sending reinforcements to Ramadi.

An attack on a refinery?

He didn't hesitate to send reinforcements to Baiji on Wednesday.

But he waited until Friday to send them to Ramadi?

That's Haider's failure of leadership.

Thursday, Haider was in DC, speaking at an event hosted by CSIS and insisting that it was his job to protect Iraqis.

But Wednesday, he didn't order reinforcements to Ramadi.

And Thursday, he didn't order reinforcements to Ramadi.

And while he dithered the people suffered.  Loveday Morris (Washington Post) reports:

Thousands of families fleeing Iraq’s western city of Ramadi choked checkpoints leading to Baghdad on Friday, after an Islamic State advance spread panic and left security forces clinging to control.

A column of traffic several vehicles wide snaked for miles at a checkpoint in Sadr al-Yusufiyah, on the edge of Baghdad province, as minibuses, cars and trucks picked up families who crossed by foot carrying their possessions in bags and wheelbarrows. Suhaib al-Rawi, the governor of Anbar province, of which Ramadi is the capital, described it as a human disaster on a scale the city has never witnessed.

On Thutsday, he couldn't or wouldn't order refinforcements.

But he could tell those gathered at the CSIS event that this violence was all about a message and his visit to the US, "When they lost Tikrit and lost the whole of  Salahuddin [Province] they want  to send another message I think it's timed with my visit to the US.  They want to show that despite the support Iraq is receiving, 'we are there to cause damage and we are still there.'  They want their voice to be heard.  That's what they're doing."

Is that what they're doing?

I think the world's more concerned with what Haider's doing and, this week, it wasn't protecting the Iraqi people.

He was too busy mocking journalism at Thursday's event.

He's helped this week by faux journalist Arianna Huffington who

She prints the garbage of Luay al-Khatteb and Abbask Hadhim which includes:

The recent departure of Ned Parker, the Baghdad bureau chief of Reuters, is a case in point. Reuters announced that Parker "left Iraq after he was threatened on Facebook and denounced by a Shi'ite paramilitary group's satellite news channel, Al Ahad TV, in reaction to a Reuters report last week that detailed lynching and looting in the city of Tikrit." While no threat should be taken lightly, it is hard to say that what the satirical talk show host said was a threat to Mr. Parker or the agency. From reviewing the segment in question, it appears clearly that the host, Wajih Abbas, was reading a published request that the Iraqi government expel Mr. Parker because "he writes articles for the Western public opinion defaming the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU)." He then reads verbatim a letter he received about Reuters from an Iraqi living in the U.S. without any comments enticing violence against the agency or its bureau chief. In an interview with him, Mr. Abbas told the authors that he did not threaten anyone: "All I did was reading a letter sent to me saying Mr. Parker equates Da'ish (ISIS) with the Hashd (PMU), and asked that the government should not accept this and should expel him, which is our right," Mr. Abbas said. We did not have access to the Facebook threat which Reuters cited in its article; we tried to contact Mr. Parker to discuss the nature of the Facebook threat, but we couldn't get an answer. Later on, Parker was interviewed by NPR to explain why he had to flee Iraq, except this time his statement alluded to blaming Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi's recent speech prior leaving to Washington DC, as well as highlighting the accusation on Al Ahad TV for mobilizing a campaign against him and Reuters. Nonetheless, the Iraqi government was very responsive to the alleged threat on Mr. Parker by enforcing further security to Reuters's fortified compound while investigating the case. After careful review and examination of PM Abadi's segment as well as the one of Al Ahad TV, we found no evidence of any threat.

I've seen the same clip that they're writing about.

It was a threat.

And it wasn't read calmly or in an amused manner.

It was a threat.

The only thing that confuses me about the Huffing Post piece is why two whores have their name on it?

For those of us attending Thursday's event, we're well aware that the whores 'writing' is nothing more than repetition of the crap Haider churned out.

It's a shame the whores weren't there.

They could have been rebuked the way Haider was.

Despite Luay's whoring, Ned Parker did not leave Iraq blaming prime minister Haider al-Abadi.

He wasn't even aware of it which is why Ned has the date wrong.

He thinks the verbal attack on journalism took place on Thursday.  It took place on Wednesday.

As the only   person in the world who reported on Haider's public attack on journalism -- yes, that's me -- I damn well know when it took place.

Ned Parker was not aware of it when it took place.

He had many other things to focus on that day which included doing his job -- he edited reports that day -- and also enduring the attacks on television.

Haider was in rare form, wishing publicly, he stated this at the event, we've already reported it unlike the lazy whores, that he hopes to have the power to curb the press (foreign press -- he's already curbed much of the Iraqi press) the way the US government did with the embed program.

He made jokes, he belittled Ned Paker.

Ned Parker is a serious journalist and he's the one who exposed Nouri al-Maliki's torture sites.

Ned Parker doesn't flinch at empty words.  He's covered Iraq for over a decade.

He covered Iraq when Nouri was attacking the press -- and suing the Guardian -- and he didn't flee Iraq or sacrifice journalistic ethics to be safe.

How dare anyone belittle him or any other journalist in a War Zone who is actually trying to tell the truth?

There were two reasons Ned left Iraq: his own safety and the safety of others working for Reuters.

And to pretend otherwise, is shameful.

To attack him or belittle him for this is shameful.

To pretend that Haider is a friend of the press?

I love BRussells Tribunal but they're a little cultish about Haider.

The reality is, he's already Nouri al-Maliki.

He's Nouri's friend (though that won't stop Nouri from trying to unseat him) and he carries out the same programs.

He's a change!

People need to wake the hell up.

He's done nothing.

He's flapped his gums and made pretty statements that are supposedly so important.

But if you declare, on September 13th, for example, that you are going to stop the Iraqi military bombings of occupied homes in Falluja, then that means you have to stop it.

Haider declared he had.

But September 14th, the bombings continued.

And have ever since.

And these are War Crimes.

Legally defined War Crimes.

I'm not the BRussells Tribunal.

I'm not going to gouge at my own eyes so I can be blind and have hope.

Haider's a thug and a bully.

Pretending otherwise?

Oh, that worked out great with Nouri, didn't?

The world humored thug Nouri and he attacked women, and he attacked gays and lesbians, and he attack religious minorities, and he attacked peaceful protesters, and he attacked Sunni politicians, and he attacked ...

We don't have room to list all he attacked.

But we don't have to.

We paid attention in real time -- check the archives.

We documented the slide to chaos as it happened.

We predicted the rise of the Islamic State years before it happened.

Because I'm a psychic?

No, because I studied revolutions, rebellions and uprisings in grad school.

What was going on in Iraq?

It was obvious where it would lead.

And we noted that here.

We noted it when Barack Obama overturned the votes of the Iraqi people.

They were now disenfranchised.

We noted it when the politicians attempted to use Constitutional measures to address Nouri's crimes --- Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds banding together -- and the US (via Jalal Talabani) stripped them of that right.

We noted it when the people took to the street and Nouri began physically assaulting these peaceful protesters.

I don't have to be a psychic to grasp that when you strip people of their vote, when you take power from their political leaders and when you assault peaceful protesters, you've left them with nothing.

There are no more non-violent tools.

This is not an earth shattering insight.

This is basic political science.

It's also basic that ignoring a corrupt leader never makes a situation better.

If they are not pressed to make improvements, they don't make them.

The US government loved Saddam Hussein.

He terrorized the Shi'ites and they were okay with that.  He attacked the Kurds and they were okay with that.

True, he wanted to go off the dollar system and that did cause concern, but almost everything else the US government repeatedly and consistently looked the other way on.

They did the same for Nouri until his actions brought the country to the brink.

And now we're all supposed to trust that somehow, some way, with Haider, this do nothing approach will work?

First off, there should be no F-16s delivered to Iraq.

Haider has attacked the Iraqi people.  Per US law, the White House is not authorized to arm or fund Haider.

Samantha Power is a blow hard and a War Hawk.  But it would be a public service if at least one member of the press could get her to comment on Iraq at length.

Her 'never again' stance wrongly led idiots (Davey D, you're on that list -- so is Jeremey Scahill) to think she was a woman of peace.

She was not.

She is not.

Libya should have settled that for all the idiots who chose to ignore Edward S. Herman's repeated  analysis of Power.

But Power will again present herself as for human rights -- she's not.

And her refusal to call out the use of Shi'ite militias in Iraq goes to that.

There will never be peace in Iraq with Shi'ite militias terrorizing the people.

And this raises other issues.

Samantha Power was clearly not a person of peace but she was applauded as such by many 'left' journalists (Scahill was practically her love slave) and by many activists.

So maybe the reality is we don't want peace?

Maybe the reality is we want credit for working towards a peace that will never come.

I'm not talking about the US government.

Clearly, the US government doesn't want peace in Iraq.

If you identify the need for a political solution and then fail to work on that all these months later (Barack said it was the only answer back in June), then clearly you don't want peace.  You want chaos and instability because they allow you to control the country and its resources, the region and its stability.

When Henry Kissinger told the Kurds to fight back, he didn't want the Kurds to actually win and once a signal had been sent to Saddam, Henry and the Nixon White House wrote off the Kurds.

This is not speculation.

This is documented in the Pike Report Congress wrote.

Rebecca just noted how the Chair of the Joint Chiefs, Gen Martin Dempsey, declared this week that it didn't matter if Ramadi fell.  Stan noted how, since August, the White House has spent over $2 billion on fighting (with combat, not with diplomacy) the Islamic State.

And there is no political solution.

The US government is putting no effort into working towards a political solution.

$2 billion down the drain in the time since Haider became prime minister -- not even a year -- and the only 'answer' the White House is more of the same.

Clearly, peace is not the goal.

You don't waste that kind of money and that kind of time, don't insist publicly that it doesn't mater if Ramadi falls if peace is your goal.

That's the White House, that's the government.

But I'm talking the US peace movement.

Or what passes for it.

I've yet to see Medea Benjamin or any of the other self-appointed leaders do a damn thing that was for peace.

I see them pull stunts that get press attention.

I see them brag about these stunts.

I just don't see them working for peace.

I see them working very hard to pretend that they're better than other people.

I just don't see them working for peace.

At the Thursday morning event, Haider insisted, "We must not only win the war – we must also win the peace. Together, we must take action against the political, economic and social problems that give rise to violent extremism, so that terrorism on the scale of Daesh will never re-emerge to threaten our nation and our neighbors again.[. . .] Let me be as clear as I can be: Our government’s highest priority is reducing ethnic sectarian tensions and divisions in Iraq. And we have nurtured close working relationships with parliament and Iraq’s community leaders and religious institutions to ensure an outcome that is favorable to all our people."

Yeah, well when do you plan to get to work on that?

Because he hasn't done a damn thing to improve the situation in Iraq and weeks have turned to months and he's proven to be a liar and a failure.

As for Ned Parker, he reported the truth.

That's usually enough of a 'crime' to get anyone in trouble.

  • This is the Reuters report that prompted death threats against Iraq bureau chief , forcing him to leave

  • That's what it's about and if you can't tell the truth, at least the world a favor and sit your tired ass down and stay there in silence.

    Arianna Huffington, count your blessings.  This snapshot was finished eight hours ago but I held it because it included exposing the real you.  That's what a friend -- or in this case, former friend -- can do.  This time I paused.  Next time I might not.  Time or just not caring might force me to post reality.  So think about that before you allow your 'brand' to be used to attack someone like Ned Parker.

    Because next time, I might not  be saying, "Think of her children.  Think of her children.  Think of how humiliated they would be."

    Instead, I might just say, "She's a grown up.  She's responsible for her actions.  She gets what she gets."


    arwa damon
    nancy a. youssef

    Friday, April 17, 2015

    Isakson, Blumenthal Call for Investigation of Outrageous Construction Costs at Colorado VA Hospital Demand answers on project now $1 billion over budget

    Senator Johnny Isakson is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and Senator Richard Blumenthal is the Ranking Member of the Committee.  Their offices issued this joint-statement today:

    FRIDAY APRIL 17, 2015
    Contact: Amanda Maddox (Isakson), 202-224-7777
    Josh Zembik (Blumenthal), 202-224-6452

    Isakson, Blumenthal Call for Investigation of Outrageous Construction Costs at Colorado VA Hospital

    Demand answers on project now $1 billion over budget 

    WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, respectively, this week wrote to the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Veterans Affairs requesting they commence an independent investigation into the Denver VA Hospital and its cost overruns and delays. The letter asks that the Inspector General’s office examine the entire construction process, from identifying facility design elements to contract and project management to project cost and schedule development.

    On Tuesday, March 17, 2015, the VA announced that the latest cost estimates for the medical center project, developed in consultation with the Army Corps of Engineers, had reached $1.73 billion, more than $1 billion over the project’s original budget.

    The senators also released the following statement after VA officials proposed using money from a one-time $5 billion fund to pay for the remaining costs of the Denver VA Hospital. Those funds were originally approved by Congress to address the issue of unacceptable patient wait-times in order to improve access to patient care within the  VA by increasing clinician staffing and improving medical facilities.

    “It is disappointing to learn that the VA is proposing to use funds from the Veterans’ Choice Act to pay for cost overruns at the Denver replacement medical center – construction cost overruns that were predominately caused by gross mismanagement and a lack of accountability within the VA. We are also very disappointed that it has taken this long for the VA to address this issue and by the VA’s lack of communication with the committee on this proposal. It is difficult for us to assess the merits of any proposal without being provided critical details, an analysis of alternatives, and necessary supplemental information.”

    To address the VA’s mismanagement of this project, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will visit the construction site and hold an oversight hearing on Friday, April 24, 2015, in Aurora, Colorado.
    The full text of the letter can be downloaded as a PDF here.


    The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs is chaired by U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in the 114th Congress.

    Isakson is a veteran himself – having served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966-1972 – and has been a member of the Senate VA Committee since he joined the Senate in 2005. Isakson’s home state of Georgia is home to more than a dozen military installations representing each branch of the military as well as more than 750,000 veterans.

    NPR's Selected Shorts now featuring the Iraq fictions of Greg Myre

    Steve Inskeep did an important interview with Ned Parker on Morning Edition Thursday.  Apparently to atone for truth telling, NPR had to feature  Greg Myre's fiction on All Things Considered.

    Just Myre.  Don't believe he's pulled a job at NPR for his wife the way he did at AP but then again she probably makes more money then he does since she's under contract with Fox News.

    And for those who say it's unfair to bring up a spouse in your criticism?  They aren't just married.  For example, in 2011, they co-authored a book on Israel and Palestine.

    So Greg cherry picks a tiny soundbyte -- stripping it even of the context Haider al-Abadi put it in -- to lie to NPR listeners that Haider al-Abadi is bothered by Iran's interference.

    MYRE: Iran has been playing a very prominent role in Iraq, and during the recent fighting in Tikrit, a big-name Iranian commander, Qasem Soleimani, was parading around getting his picture taken, and it - really showing what a big role he was playing there. So let's have a listen about what Abadi thought about that.


    PRIME MINISTER HAIDER AL-ABADI: Certainly, it's a bad idea. I mean, we don't accept it. We welcome the Iranian help and support for us. To be honest with you, it's a very sensitive issue. Iraqi sovereignty is very important for us.

    MYRE: He brought up sovereignty several times in his speech, and I think it really is something that strikes a nerve with Iraqis. They have the Islamic State trying to carve off part of the country in the west, many Kurds talking about sovereignty in the north, and then if you see an Iranian parading around there, that also, I think, strikes a nerve.

    In Thursday's snapshot, we covered the Iraqi Prime Minister's speech to The Center For Strategic and International Studies.

    I sat through that whole event (which was only an hour but felt so much longer).

    That's a huge distortion of al-Abadi's remarks and his position.

    What he brought up "several times" was that he wouldn't criticize neighbors in the region -- citing Iran and Saudi Arabia specifically.

    As for the Iranian general (who is on the US terrorist list and has been since 2001 -- a detail Myre didn't think was important to pass on to NPR listeners -- maybe, like his wife, he'll soon have a contract with Fox News as well?), Haider al-Abadi dismissed the notion of posters of the general in Iraq saying it was important because no one there could vote for him.  He didn't name the general, you had to know the events (and that the general's poster started being displayed earlier this year around Iraq) to know what was going on.

    I don't think Myre knows what's going on.  But if he does, he sure doesn't want to convey that to NPR's listeners.

    Do Iranians "parading around there" bother Haider?  Or 'strike a nerve' -- to use Myer's term?

    Not at all.

    Haider answered that one and stated that the Iranian government says it is coordinating all efforts in Iraq with his government and so there is no problem.  If that was not the case, Haider replied, it would be a problem for his government before clarifying that it would be a problem for him.

    Myre's very good at creating fictions.

    We noted the reality on Iran and Haider in the event:

    Responding to the first question asked by CSIS' Jon Alterman, Haider stated, "What we are facing in Iraq is a polarization of society caused by this terrorism and, of course, failure of governance, not only in Iraq but in the entire region."
    That was problematic for a number of reasons.
    First of all, the reply is ahistoric.  It attempts to set a mid-point as an instigating or creation point.  The Islamic State is the terrorism that Haider's referring to.
    The Islamic State did not cause "polarization of society" in Iraq.
    The Islamic State took root in Iraq, gained support and a foothold in the country, due to the government (led by Nouri) targeting Sunnis.
    If Haider can't be honest about that, he's never going to accomplish anything.
    The second biggest problem with the response is that Jon Alterman's actual question was: "I want to give you an opportunity to be critical about what Iran's doing in the Middle East.  What are they doing that they shouldn't be doing?"
    And Haider took a pass -- instead noted that Iran shared in the battle against the Islamic State. 

    To be very clear, Iran was all most people wanted to ask Haider about.

    He had repeated opportunities to speak on the topic.

    Apparently, Myre didn't hear what he wanted to hear so he just decided to create it.

    I believe what Myre did usually only takes place on NPR's Selected Shorts.

    However, maybe they've decided to bring fictional storytelling into other programs as well?

    Haider's key moment -- and we covered it in yesterday's snapshot though Myre ignored it in his report -- was when Haider attempted to cast aspersions on Reuters' Ned Parker -- insisting he didn't understand what the fuss was about, wasn't sure that Ned had even been threatened and that Ned wanted to speak to him while he was on this DC trip but if he (Haider) couldn't even make time to call his wife, he certainly wasn't going to speak to Ned Parker.

    And then he laughed -- and then some of the pathetics in the audience joined him in laughing.

    Where was Myre?

    To judge by his 'report,' he wasn't even present at the event.

    The following community sites -- plus McClatchy Newspapers -- have updated:

  • The e-mail address for this site is


    Thursday, April 16, 2015

    Iraq snapshot

    Thursday, April 16, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Marie Harf remembers Iraq exists (briefly remembers), Haider al-Abadi spins in DC, he gets guffaws as he jokes about the threats against journalist Ned Parker, and much more.

    We'll start with the State Dept press briefing today where Marie Harf finally decided to talk about Iraq this week.  This is her exchange with Al Quds Daily's Said Arikat.

    QUESTION: Can we go to the visit of the Iraqi --

    MS HARF: We can.

    QUESTION: -- prime minister (inaudible) to Washington. He spoke today and he refuted the claims that – the press claims that there was a difference or a point of difference between the United States and Iraq on the delivery of weapons, that that was not an issue of contention between the two.

    MS HARF: (Inaudible) delivery weapons to Iraq?

    QUESTION: Right. So --

    MS HARF: Correct. Yes. Which I’ve been saying for weeks from this podium, yet I’m glad he was on the same page.

    QUESTION: So should we expect – I mean, there are all kinds of reports suggesting that the F-16s will be delivered perhaps this summer. Is that – would you confirm that?

    MS HARF: I’m happy to check on the latest there, Said. I don’t have that in front of me.

    QUESTION: Okay. He also talked about offensive – I mean, heavy weapons you called it – for two divisions that he’s awaiting. Is it safe to assume that these weapons will be delivered --

    MS HARF: Let me check.

    QUESTION: -- as they gear up to sort of liberate Ramadi?

    MS HARF: Let me check on that. I know there’s a lot of moving pieces with our weapons deliveries here, so let me check.

    QUESTION: Okay. Also he talked about a lot of issues, but one of the issues he addressed was the bombardment of Yemen.

    MS HARF: Correct.

    QUESTION: He disagreed with it completely yesterday. Today he was less --

    MS HARF: Yeah. I think it’s – yeah.

    QUESTION: -- less abrasive today. But yesterday he was quite clear, in fact, prompted the Saudi ambassador to hold his own press to say that you do support the bombing that is going on. Do you or do you not support the Saudi bombing, the Saudi-led bombing that is going on in Yemen?

    MS HARF: Well, the U.S. is clearly supporting the Saudi-led coalition that’s responding to the Houthi aggression in Yemen. But on Prime Minister Abadi’s comments, I think the message he was conveying – and I won’t try to speak for him, but I think the message he was conveying – and this is certainly the message --

    QUESTION: But you will.

    MS HARF: I said I’m going to see what I think he was conveying. What the message President Obama was conveying was that this shouldn’t escalate into a broader conflict, that ultimately the conflict can only be settled through a political negotiation involving all parties. I think that’s the crux of what Prime Minister Abadi was saying, particularly because he’s seen his country go through such violence and strife, and he really knows firsthand how damaging that can be to a country. So I think those sort of topline messages were the same. And I know the prime minister spoke about this today as well. We are firmly supportive of the current GCC-led operations to defend Saudi Arabia’s southern border, to push back on the Houthi aggression. And when it comes to the joint fight against ISIL, that’s really a separate issue. I think some people were trying to conflate the two. It’s really just a separate issue from the discussions about what’s happening in Yemen.

    We'll touch on a little bit of that throughout the snapshot.

    But let's stay on questions and answers.  Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was at an event this morning.  The forum was hosted by The Center For Strategic and International Studies.  Haider opened by reading a speech (which we'll note sections of) that lasted approximately 15 minutes and was most noted for the fact that he delivered it in English.  Unlike Iraq's former prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki, he did not speak through an interpreter or utilize one.  (Nouri can speak English.)

    He and an Al Jazeera commentator would engage in Arabic when they wanted to trash the White House.  Such brave little cowards.  (I'm all for trashing anyone but do it openly, don't hide behind a foreign language.)  When the Al Jazeera commentator was asked to translate the question to English (as he was told he'd have to before he asked it), he insisted he'd ask his next question in English.

    When told that wasn't good enough, the commentator then grew petulant and reduced his lengthy question to a simplistic sentence or two.

    Haider responded to it in Arabic.

    He was also unwilling to translate it and tried to avoid doing so.

    At one point, he insisted he was not being paid to translate.

    Well, I guess it's true, a whore expects to be paid for everything, right?

    Huffy, Haider finally offered a very loose (and brief) translation of his remarks.

    Haider also left the prepared text of his speech from time to time, such as near the end when he raised the issue of Saudi Arabia (and walked back some of his statements from the previous day -- "more concilitory" is how the New York Times' Michael R. Gordon termed the new remarks during his question to Haider at today's event).

    His speech was filled with distortions.

    Things got worse when the speech was set aside.

    Responding to the first question asked by CSIS' Jon Alterman, Haider stated, "What we are facing in Iraq is a polarization of society caused by this terrorism and, of course, failure of governance, not only in Iraq but in the entire region."

    That was problematic for a number of reasons.

    First of all, the reply is ahistoric.  It attempts to set a mid-point as an instigating or creation point.  The Islamic State is the terrorism that Haider's referring to.

    The Islamic State did not cause "polarization of society" in Iraq.

    The Islamic State took root in Iraq, gained support and a foothold in the country, due to the government (led by Nouri) targeting Sunnis.

    If Haider can't be honest about that, he's never going to accomplish anything.

    The second biggest problem with the response is that Jon Alterman's actual question was: "I want to give you an opportunity to be critical about what Iran's doing in the Middle East.  What are they doing that they shouldn't be doing?"

    And Haider took a pass -- instead noted that Iran shared in the battle against the Islamic State.

    He sidestepped the issue with generic and bland statements such as, "It's not my role to criticize Gulf States, Saudi Arabia . . ."

    Alterman attempted to follow up on the Iranian issue and Haider offered generic platitudes such as, "We welcome the Iranian help and support for us."

    Haider relationship to the truth can best be described as "elusive."

    At one point, he did not that "there must be a political solution.  In all honesty, I haven't seen any movement on that."

    And, yes, it is true that US President Barack Obama has been declaring -- since last June -- that the only answer to Iraq's crises is a political solution.

    But when Haider declared today that "there must be a political solution.  In all honesty, I haven't seen any movement on that"?

    He was talking about Syria.

    He was as full of it as the institution hosting him.  They included one Twitter question -- and that from a 'personality' -- in the proceedings -- this after spending over 24 hours begging for questions.

  • What's the future of Iraq? Tweet your questions NOW for Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi's address tomorrow, using 

  • The Center For Strategic & International Studies gave the impression that they wanted questions for Haider al-Abadi and yet they really just wanted to waste people's time.

    Prime Minister @HaiderAlAbadi will answer audience questions, including yours sent via  to @CSIS 

    The questions that insisted CSIS and Haider ignore them?

    The bulk were about the violence including that carried out by militias and Iraqi forces, this was followed by the lack of work being done on a political solution (with many noting US President Barack Obama declared this the only answer for Iraq back in June), many were about the threats against journalism and journalists in Iraq (with an emphasis on Ned Parker), many were also about the status of Iraqi women (with a number asking who the highest ranking woman was in Haider's office and how many women served in his Cabinet), etc.  I was told that CSIS was hoping for questions more along the lines of, "What do you miss most about Baghdad?" and impressions on DC.

    In other words, meaningless questions with inoffensive answers from Haider.

    FYI, I agreed not to slam Jon Alterman -- and I could, I could really do so -- in exchange for finding out what the Twitter users were asking about -- the questions CSIS compiled from Twitter but never used.

    While ignoring hard hitting questions from Twitter, they couldn't ignore the journalists present and, after Iran, the most asked of topic was Ned Parker.

    Barbara Slavin: And also, one of our colleagues, Ned Parker, recently has left because of threats against Reuters for reporting what happened in Tikrit.  Will you issue a statement in Arabic protecting journalists for reporting what goes on in Iraq.  Thank you.

    Haider al-Abadi: As with Mr. Parker, Ned Parker, I've known him for many years.  I heard this story while he was still in Baghdad.  My natural fact, a spokesman for my office has given me a message and he told me Ned Parker feels threatened and asked what sort of threats he had received? We want more information so that I can take action about these people who have threatened him.  I haven't received anything on that, to be honest with you. I asked for protection of his office -- to increase protection of his office -- and we did.  But all of the sudden, I'd heard he left. I know he sent a message he wants to meet me in Washington but unfortunately my program is, uh -- I didn't even have time to talk to my wife yesterday. [Begins chuckling.]  So I don't think I would talk to Ned instead of my wife.

    And a statement in Arabic?

    I-I think my office issued a statement. In English?  Okay, we translate.

    What followed was an embarrassing and shameful round of laughter.

    This isn't a laughing matter.

    When the guffaws finally died down, the next question returned to the topic but with less 'jolly' and 'funnin'.'

    Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory: [. . .] But piggy backing on the last question about Ned Parker, I was just wondering if you could briefly comment as to your take on the current state of press freedom within Iraq?  And also, in terms of going and taking action in response to Parker's being chased out of the country, what steps are you planning -- or are there any steps planned to institute protections for international press covering your country?  During your address, you said, and I quote, "A free society needs a free press."  And so I was just wondering if that would extend to foreign press as well?

    Haider al-Abadi: Well I think if you look at the Iraqi press first, I think they're free to criticize.  I think that number one   institution which is being criticized in Iraq is the government.  We don't even reply to them.  We don't do anything. I drop charges against all-all media.  But I ask the media to have their own self-discipline.  That's important.  The media shouldn't be free to accuse others falsely.  They should respect freedom of others.  Freedom of speech is there but -- We need facts. But I refuse so far -- and I hope I continue on that -- you never know what office does.  Office usually corrupts people, right?  But I hope it doesn't corrupt me.  We keep on respecting the freedom of the press, we keep on protecting it.  As to the foreign press, as far as I know, there's no limitation on them, no restrictions.  They're free even to go to our --within our military unit.  I think we went to that extent to allow free reporting from the fronts.  I remember when the US army was there in 2003 [that's when Haider returned to Iraq after decades of exile in England], they had embedded journalists and they were restricted to what they were reporting.  I very much respect that.  I hope I can have that power to do that but unfortunately I cannot do it now.  It's so free, the situation in Iraq.  Now I'm not sure if Mr. Parker, why he has left.  To be honest with you, I didn't have the story from him.  He wrote something to me.  I cannot see why he left.  Was he really threatened?  Or he felt he was threatened?  I know some -- some Facebook thing and social media has mentioned him in a bad way but the-the thing I've seen -- in actual fact, they were condemning the government in the first place, not him.  They were condemning me as the prime minister to do something about it -- rather than him.  I know some of these, they want to use these things to just criticize the government in the same way when they accuse the coalition of dropping help to Da'ash or accuse the coalition of killing Iraqis falsely.  In actual fact, what they're trying to do -- trying to criticize the government for its policies. They don't want the government to seek the help of the coalition -- international coalition or to work with the US.  But to -- I think me, as prime minister, the safety of the Iraqi people, the interests of the Iraqi people is number one [. . .]

    He continued to babble on and avoid the question.

    Ned Parker appeared on today's Morning Edition (NPR -- link is audio, text and transcript) and here he's discussing, with host Steve Inskeep,  the Reuters report and what followed.

    NED PARKER: Well, our team on the day that Tikrit was liberated, they called me during the day and said we've witnessed an execution by federal police of a detainee in the street, and it was a mob mentality. And they could only stay a few minutes because it was such a crazed scene. I think our people feared for their own safety.
    So when they came home that evening, we had a huge debate about, do we report this? Is this too sensationalist? It's one incident. But when we looked at the whole picture, we also saw a body being dragged by a group of Shiite paramilitaries. We had photos of this, which we published, and there had been looting and arson of areas that surround Tikrit. So we felt that we had to report what happened there, that if we didn't, we wouldn't be meeting our obligation to report fairly and impartially about the critical issue right now, what happens when security forces enter an area that has been under Islamic State control, that is Sunni and then has predominantly Shia security and paramilitary forces enter?

    INSKEEP: This is the most basic job of a war correspondent; go look at a war and report exactly what you see.

    PARKER: Right. And this was a test case for the government. The Iraqi government and the U.S. government have spoken about the importance of post-conflict stabilization operations in Iraq.

    INSKEEP: What happened after you published this story?

    PARKER: It was picked up everywhere. I think it was seen because of what our correspondents witnessed - this execution, which was horrific - where they watched two federal policemen basically trying to saw off the head of a suspected Islamic State fighter to cheers from federal police. Our story became really the example of what went wrong in Tikrit, and it was published on April 3. The night of April 5, on Facebook on a site associated with Shiite paramilitary groups and political forces, a picture of myself went up calling for Iraqis to expel me. It quickly received over 100 shares and comments, including better to kill him than expel him.

    INSKEEP: Did it blow over?

    PARKER: No, it only got worse. I did go out and try to have meetings with some people, different prominent Iraqis, about it. And then on Wednesday night on the channel of Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, which is a prominent Shiite political party and paramilitary group, my face is the backdrop as the anchor talks, and he actually waves also a printout of my face and talks about how I should be expelled from the country and then proceeds to read a letter from an Iraqi living in the United States who also again calls for me to expel and describes Reuters as trampling upon the dignity of Iraq and Shiite paramilitary groups. And after that, there's no way I could've stayed in the country both for myself and for my staff. My presence was polarizing the situation, so I left the next day.

    [. . .]

    PARKER: Prime Minister Abadi last Thursday, the day after the broadcast against Reuters and myself, he gave a speech in public where he spoke in very broad strokes against a journalist who had been in Tikrit and had reported on the execution and the lootings and arson and implied perhaps some of the journalists who had been there had even been there deliberately to smear the government and the Shiite paramilitary forces on...

    INSKEEP: This is the same prime minister who was installed with the support of the United States recently and who's visiting Washington?

    PARKER: Right, and on the eve of his visit, a statement was issued by the prime minister's office in English talking about the need to protect and respect journalism in Iraq, including Reuters, and the statement referred to the incident involving myself and Reuters. But that statement was only put out in English and until now, it has not come out in Arabic.

    INSKEEP: So he's sympathetic to you in English and something else in Arabic entirely.

    PARKER: We're still waiting for the statement to come out in Arabic. It hasn't yet.

    Ned got the date wrong on Haider's remarks -- more than understandable, he had a large number of other issues on his mind.

    He believes the speech was made April 9th.

    No, it was made on the 8th.

    From Sunday:

    Thursday's snapshot noted Haider al-Abadi's attack on the press -- in a speech the press covered, one he gave in Falluja, but somehow all the outlets covering the speech failed to cover Haider's attack on the press.
    His office published the attack April 8th -- in Arabic.  It never made it up to the English side of the site.  It's still not up there now.
    Realizing thugs lie, we've posted the press release here.

    We noted part of the speech on April 8th.  We waited on the attack on the press until the next day because I wanted to have that -- the English version -- because too many people e-mail insisting, "This doesn't say that."  When I link to Arabic articles, people who can't read Arabic flood the public e-mail account with claims that the linked to article doesn't say this or that.

    So I thought we'd wait a day (this is all noted here on Thursday) to see if the press release was translated to English and posted on the prime minister's site -- as almost every other one is.

    They've not published it.

    Even now.

    They don't want English readers to know just how disgusting and vile Haider is.

    Haider fanned the flames.

    What's going on is a deception and outright lie.

    Haider's office publishes some weak ass statement on Ned Parker April 11th -- but in English only.  So Haider can look -- to the English speaking world -- like a defender.

    Haider's office publishes an attack on the press on April 8th -- but only in Arabic -- to fan flames in Iraq and to ensure that the English speaking world remains unaware of his attack.

    His remarks insisting his wife was more important than speaking to Ned Parker?

    He's allowed to play the  fool in part because the White House has refused to speak on the topic as has the State Dept.  Neither will defend freedom of the press on camera, in public.

    They're craven and shameful.

    So Haider thinks he can make jokes.

    But this isn't funny and it's actually becoming an international incident.

    The silence from the White House and the State Dept should be remembered when various members of the media who went to work for the administration try to go back to the media and act like they have ethical ground to stand on.  They have none.

    And let's deal with the nonsense of "I dropped all lawsuits against the press" -- there shouldn't have been any.  These were lawsuits Nouri brought.

    And that was months and months ago.

    In the words of Janet Jackson, "What have you done for me lately?"

    Not a thing to help.

    He has announced -- this month -- that there will be a huge reduction in the number of Iraqi outlets because he's pulling funding from many of them.

    That's the sort of thing the western press has refused to report on.

    Margaret Griffis ( counts 313 violent deaths across Iraq today.

    Lastly,  Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America issued the following today:

    YC Vets Unite at City Hall to Demand Action from Mayor de Blasio
    81% of NYC post-9/11 vets surveyed say the mayor is failing veterans

    NEW YORK (April 16, 2015) – At 3:00 P.M. today, members of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) will stand with fellow veterans and the city’s top veteran leaders from across multiple organizations and generations to urge Mayor de Blasio to show real support for New York City veterans. With 22 veterans dying from suicide every day nationally and the VA still reeling after an epic crisis, the city’s veteran leaders will call on the mayor to stand up and show his dedication to our returning heroes.

    At a unity event on the steps of City Hall, the veterans groups will note that during the mayor’s 15 months in office, the administration has shown no real results, failed to meet with them a single time, failed to increase the budget for veterans, and failed to even put forward a clear plan to meet the needs of the city’s 230,000 veterans.

    Combat veteran leaders scheduled to attend are made up of current and former members of the mayor’s own Veterans Advisory Board and include Paul Rieckhoff, IAVA CEO and Founder, Kristen Rouse, leader of the NYC Veterans Alliance, Lee Covino, the Borough Hall veterans and military affairs adviser, Terry Holliday, NYC Veterans Commissioner for the first year of the de Blasio Administration, Joe Bello, NY Metro Vets, Tireak Tulluck, IAVA Leadership Fellow, and members from Wounded Warrior Project, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, American Legion and others.

    “The veterans of New York are strong civic and community leaders. They served at Normandy, in Vietnam, at Ground Zero and in Baghdad. They are true heroes and our city’s very best. Many of them are joining us on the steps of City Hall today. Yet, these voices have been entirely ignored by our mayor,” said IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff. “We’ve been patient. But enough is enough. It’s been 15 months since the mayor took office and our veterans have seen absolutely nothing to show that he cares about our community and our families. He addressed horse-carriages on ‘day one,’ but veterans have yet to get so much as a single meeting. He seems to have time for everyone in the city except us. The mayor must respond today and show us that he cares with an actionable plan and real resources. Talk is cheap and we need results. It’s time for the greatest city in the world to get serious about supporting the greatest warriors in the world. IAVA presented clear recommendations to the mayor’s representatives more than six months ago on urgent issues ranging from suicide to unemployment. And we are still awaiting a response or even a meeting. One of those recommendations is to create a new Department of Veterans Affairs in the city, which would be a huge step forward in ensuring that our veterans are properly supported. In a city budget of over $60 billion, only a pathetic $600,000 is dedicated to veterans. But the mayor has failed to address this urgent call for resources. Instead, he’s opposed increases to our pensions and ignored requests to meet from his own Veterans Advisory Board. As a community, we want to work together with the mayor and city council to make New York the best city in the country for veterans. But we’ve waited long enough. The time is now. With Memorial Day just over a month away, the mayor must meet with us and deliver real help.”

    IAVA, which represents more than 10,000 members from the New York City-area, provided the administration recommendations in October 2014. Those recommendations can be found here. IAVA has also testified three times before the city council. The October 2014 testimony by IAVA’s Jason Hansman can be found here.

    The veterans leaders also urged the city council and Speaker Mark-Viverito to immediately pass critical legislation introduced by Councilman Eric Ulrich, Chair of the Committee on Veterans, and created in consultation with IAVA, which would create a Department of Veterans Affairs for New York City. This legislation has so far been opposed by the de Blasio Administration.

    From taking nearly nine months to appoint a Veterans Affairs commissioner to advocating for a veto of a veteran pension bill at the state level, the mayor has shown a consistent lack of commitment on veterans issues. In the case of the pension bill, the mayor directly advocated against veterans interests. He also fought against the expansion of the Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs (MOVA), despite city council efforts to expand its budget and create a new department. With an absurdly small budget and no real power, MOVA is ridiculously ill equipped to handle the current and rapidly growing needs of the veterans community.

    IAVA also released the results of its recent poll of NYC members on the mayor’s handling of veterans issues:

    - Only four percent of veterans surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that the mayor was improving the lives of veterans and servicemembers.
    - Only five percent agreed or strongly agreed that the mayor is listening to veterans and servicemembers.

    Leading veterans and veterans organizations stood with IAVA in calling for action from the major. A sample of their statements is below:

    “The service of our NYC veterans embraces major conflicts in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and many other places that don’t flash on the everyday radar of most Americans. While the satisfaction of service to the United States is reward alone, many veterans need assistance with housing, education, medical benefits and availability of treatment beyond those provided by the Veterans’ Administration. There must be a clear and consistent veterans policy developed in dialogue and partnership with veteran organizations that have been in the service mode for decades. As a concerned veteran, I don’t see that effort coming from city hall,” said Terrance Holliday, former Commissioner of Veterans Affairs for NYC.

    “The city council has stepped up to hold hearings and take initial steps toward making city government more responsive toward veterans. Mayor de Blasio needs to follow suit by showing that he cares enough to understand the needs of those of us who have served our country, especially those who are still struggling to find their way home and contribute as citizens of this great city. His record thus far shows only tone-deaf disregard. There is much to be done at the city government level to serve veterans. For all the federal and state programs for veterans, the rubber meets the road here at the city level where veterans live, work, and interact on a daily basis with city agencies and services. Veterans issues shouldn’t be partisan or unfavorable to any mayoral administration, and we realize that the administration of a city as large, complex, and amazing as NYC is a formidable task. Yet the delays, inaction, under-resourcing, and blatant exclusion of veterans under Mayor de Blasio’s administration has been exceedingly disappointing. We simply must show up and speak out on this to show NYC government that veterans matter,” said Kristen Rouse, Director, NYC Veterans Alliance.

    “If national security remains a top priority, then so must our troops whom willingly serve beneath the flag. And if our elected officials are willing to send young men and women into harm’s ways, then they must be able to take care of them when they come home,” said Ryan Graham, Queens VFW Commander.

    “The NYC Officers Club stands united with our fellow veterans organizations in NYC in encouraging the mayor and the rest of the city to continue to make veterans issues and initiatives a major priority and support those who have served and those who continue to serve,” said Joel Knippel, President, NYC Military Officers Club.

    “During his 2013 campaign, Mayor de Blasio stated: ‘Veterans issues are personal to me – and they will be an important part of my administration.’ However, 16 months in, his message towards veterans and family members has been long on thanks but short on substance. Besides not engaging with or reaching out to the community, veterans have witnessed a number of policies and decisions from his administration that are both perplexing and frustrating. Mayor de Blasio has often talked about his father serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, losing a leg in Okinawa and the struggles he faced when he returned home. This gives the Mayor a unique insight into the difficulties veterans face on an everyday basis. So it’s extremely disappointing that with the United States still at war, with veterans still returning home, as well as those already here, and with many coming to New York City for economic opportunities, that in the ‘tale of two cities’ Mayor de Blasio appears to be leaving us behind. We believe he must and can do better,” said Joe Bello Founder, NY MetroVets.

    Note to media: Email or call 212-982-9699 to speak with IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff or IAVA leadership.

    Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America ( is the leading post-9/11 veteran empowerment organization (VEO) with the most diverse and rapidly growing membership in America. Celebrating its 10th year anniversary, IAVA has repeatedly received the highest rating - four-stars - from Charity Navigator, America's largest charity evaluator.