Tuesday, July 29, 2014

No, this is CNN

"TV: When All Eyes Are On You" (Ava and C.I., The Third Estate Sunday Review):
And it's only getting worse.  In fact, last week, he took part in CNN's worst on air moment in years.

Cuomo and Peter Lavelle had a cantankerous exchange on air.  We didn't think it was the end of the world but we did agree with Lavelle's take post-interview, "My take coming away from the interview was Cuomo conducted himself like a 'drama queen' appealing to emotions and probably his sense of moral justice.  However, emotions and any sense [of] moral justice are not substitutes for facts."

That is a path Chris seems unable to step off of these days.

Where he used to be able to construct logical arguments in interviews (especially see his work on ABC's 20/20), these days he instead repeatedly pulls out a righteous anger card.  It dumbs down the conversation and makes him come off more like a carny barker and less like a journalist.

Now that was bad but the next day brought far worse.

There was Chris, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira on CNN's New Day with Bob's Big Boy look alike Brian Stelter.  With all going on in the world -- Ukraine, Iraq, Gaza, etc. -- what was the topic for this segment?

Peter Lavelle.


They gushed over Chris and how Chris handled himself in the interview with Lavelle while Chris offered a blend of false modesty and insisting he would have been even tougher if it weren't for the satellite delay.

The four CNN employees used CNN airtime to praise CNN employee Chris and to attack RT and Peter Lavelle.

That alone was unethical and embarrassing.

Things got even worse.

It takes a lot of Ho-Hos to fill Selter's big belly so it was no surprise he brought up Fake Ass Liz Wahl to trash Lavelle and RT.  Wahl is the woman who tried to media event her way into fame but instead fell on her fake ass.  As  Macedonian Intl News Agency noted:

The recent on-air resignation by former RT news anchor Liz Wahl was just the latest stunt orchestrated by a neo-conservative think tank, according to a new investigative report shedding light on the group’s role in an ongoing Cold War revival campaign.
An extensive account of the days and minutes leading up to Wahl’s remarks and public denunciation of “propaganda” tactics during her news segment on March 5 by authors Max Blumenthal and Rania Khalek via truthdig has revealed connections with the little known neoconservative think-tank Foreign Policy Initiative.



Stelter didn't mention that -- maybe he was munching between shots? -- but he did offer what a joke RT was -- an opinion the other three CNN employees agreed with.

This took up an entire segment on a CNN show not called Reliable Sources.

A supposed news program wasted an entire segment to attack one journalist and one news outlet and this was considered appropriate?


I think this is one of the most important pieces Ava and C.I. have done recently and am really bothered by the fact that, yet again, they are the only ones on the TV beat covering this awful incident and how unethical it was.

Or what a waste of time it was.

CNN used to be some form a news network.

Those days are clearly gone.



"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Monday, July 28, 2014,  Chaos and violence continue, rumors swirl that Nouri might have realized how toxic he is, how many US troops have been sent back into Iraq, and much more.


Counting is apparently hard for journalism majors.  Kristina Wong (The Hill) reported Sunday:

The Obama administration has quietly moved an additional 62 advisers to Iraq over the past three weeks, according to defense officials.
The additions bring the total number of advisers in the country to 242, still short of the 300 advisers that President Obama authorized for Iraq last month.



The Pentagon said 20 additional military advisers recently arrived in Iraq, bringing total U.S. military personnel there to 825. Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said there are now 90 advisers working with Iraqi military forces, assessing their capabilities, and 160 Americans are assigned to joint operation centers in Baghdad and Erbil.
So who's right?  Wong or Schwartz?

Better question, when US officials testify before Congress and give a concrete number, why doesn't the press use that number -- if only to question it.  Last Wednesday morning, the State Dept's Brett McGurk and the Defense Dept's Elissa Slotkin appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee to talk about Iraq.  Let's note this exchange.


Elissa Slotkin:  First, I just want to clarify that we have sent in an additional -- I think it's up to 775 troops.  

US House Rep Tom Marino: Right.

Elissa Slotkin: 475 of that total are for the security of our people --

US House Rep Tom Marino: The Embassy, the airport, etc.

Elissa Slotkin: Exactly.  The other 300 are there to assess and answer those very questions.


Does Elissa Slotkin not know her numbers?  Does the press think she doesn't?

Wong insist that there are 242 advisors there but days before Wong insisted that, Slotkin testified to Congress that there were 300 advisors (with 475 there providing security).


This isn't a minor issue and vague generalities really don't cover it.

Maybe US House Rep Tom Marino grasps it better than many in the press do?  He noted, "I'm ambivalent on this as well because I don't want to see another American come home in a bodybag.  I've been on the ramp and saw the ceremonies where two people were sent back to my state and it's something I do not want to experience again."

Also, when possible, we do try to note it if an article, essay or book is noted in a hearing.  Marino noted Dexter Filkens' New Yorker article on Iraq from last April -- noted it positively.


The attacks on Iraqi Christians continue.  This month, Christians in Mosul were given the option of staying in Mosul and being killed, paying a tax for being Christian or converting to Islam.  Most fled -- most, not all.  Some could not afford to leave and remain in Mosul, keeping a very low profile. Suleiman Gouda (Asharq Al-Awsat) declares:

It is hard to find the words to describe the recent events in Mosul, in northern Iraq, and I can only turn to the words of Nabil Elaraby, the secretary-general of the Arab League, who said that what happened was a disgrace that must never be tolerated and a crime against Iraq and its history, against Arab and Islamic countries, and against all Muslims.
The statement of the Arab League chief came in response to reports last week that Mosul had been totally emptied of Christians for the first time in its entire history after they were expelled at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).


The attacks appear to be an attempt not just to wipe Christians out of Iraq but to also erase any evidence that they ever were a presence.  Dropping back to Friday's snapshot (really early Saturday morning):



Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports on the apparent bombing of a Sunni mosque which apparently destroyed Jonah's tomb:




The holy site is thought to be the burial place of the prophet Jonah, who was swallowed by a whale or fish in both the Islamic and Judeo-Christian traditions.
Militants belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, planted explosives around the tomb and detonated the explosion remotely Thursday, civil defense officials there told CNN.

NINA notes:


In a statement issued today Mottahidoon said : " With hearts rupturing of pain, and eyes full of blood of the terrible scene of blowing up the shrine and mosque of the Prophet Yunus peace be upon him, the Mosalion the whole world with them farewell a memorial combining history, civilization and sacred values, that is what it means the sublime edifice of Prophet Yunus peace be upon him which is located on Talit-Tawbah / hill of repentance/ in the left side of the city of Mosul.

Mottahidoon is the political party of Osama al-Nujaifi who was the Speaker of Parliament from 2010 until this month. 



Joel S. Baden and Candida Moss (CNN) explain:


In Christian tradition, the story of Jonah is an important one. Jonah’s descent into the depths in the belly of the great fish and subsequent triumphant prophetic mission to Nineveh is seen as a reference to and prototype of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The destruction of his tomb in Mosul is therefore a direct assault on Christian faith, and on one of the few physical traces of that faith remaining in Iraq.

The destruction is getting wide attention because the shrine was a go-to spot for several religions -- not just Christianity.   Fox News offers:

The Wall Street Journal reported that the group had destroyed a mosque in the northern Iraq city of Mosul that contained a shrine believed to be the tomb of Jonah -- who is revered as a prophet by Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The paper reported that the militants had wired the periphery of the mosque with explosives and then detonated them.
"They turned it to sand, along with all other tombs and shrines," Omar Ibrahim, a Mosul dentist, told The Journal. "But Prophet Younes [the Muslim name for Jonah] is something different. It was a symbol of Mosul ... We cried for it with our blood."

This is becoming an issue around the world.  The Pope has spoken out against the violence repeatedly. Oscar Lopez (Latin Times) quotes Pope Francis stating, "No more wars.  It's time to stop. Stop, please, I beg you with all my heart, stop."  France's Foreign Ministry issued the following statement:



Middle East Christians - Joint communiqué issued by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, and M. Bernard Cazeneuve, Minister of the Interior (Paris, 28/07/2014)
The situation of the Middle East Christians is unfortunately dramatic. The ultimatum issued to these communities in Mosul by ISIS is the latest tragic example of the terrible threat facing these people - who have historically been an integral part of the region - by jihadist groups in Iraq as well as Syria and elsewhere.
France is outraged by these brutalities, which it condemns in the strongest possible terms. We have succeeded in getting the UN Security Council to condemn the Islamic State's persecution of minorities in Iraq. We are assisting displaced persons who are fleeing the Islamic State's threats and seeking refuge in Kurdistan. Should they so wish, we are prepared to offer them asylum on our soil. We have released exceptional humanitarian assistance to help them. France will continue to mobilize the international community in the coming days to ensure that these populations are protected - a prerequisite for stability in the region. We are in constant touch with local and national authorities to make sure that everything is done to guarantee their protection.

Laurent Fabius and Bernard Cazeneuve will soon be welcoming representatives of Iraq's Christian communities to France./.


And the issue is getting some attention in  the US. Cheryl K. Chumley (Washington Times) reports that a protest took place outside the White House over the week, "Demonstrators in general vented frustration at the Obama administration’s seeming lackadaisical response to the assaults on Christianity and on Christians in the Muslim-dominated Middle East and, more specifically, on the White House failure to respond to ISIL’s crackdown on Christians."  Barack hasn't really addressed the issue so it is natural that he would be the target of protests.
Lucy Westcott (Newsweek) offers this take on the targeting in Iraq, "One week ago, Christians living in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul were forced to leave, convert to Islam, or face execution by ISIS militants — but on the plus side, a report that the group had ordered women and girls in the city to undergo female genital mutilation appears to have been incorrect. Still, the violence continues. Figures from the UN indicate that nearly 900 Iraqis have been killed this month alone, and 5,500 were killed between between January and June of this year."
Sunday, Loveday Morris (Washington Post) reported on rumors/signs that Nouri al-Maliki will not see a third term as prime minister and that his time on top is dwindling.  Earlier this month, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani made statements which indicated Nouri al-Maliki should step down.  Friday's sermon made that even more clear.  Morris reports:

On Saturday, Sheik Abdul Halim al-Zuhairi, a senior figure in Dawa, was dispatched to Najaf to deliver a message to Ayatollah Sistani that the coalition was willing to replace Mr. Maliki if necessary, said Jumaa al-Atwani, a politician with Mr. Maliki’s coalition. Mr. Zuhairi passed the letter to Sistani’s son, he said.

MP, of Ahrar bloc, Bahaa al-Araji called on the Iraqi National Alliance, as the biggest bloc, to resolve the issue of nominating its candidate for Premier post before August 8. 
He said in a press statement received by All Iraq News Agency "The matter of choosing PM must move away from partisan and personal affiliations and the most importantly is to maintain the unity of INA to form a strong government can save Iraq from this crisis."

Having brought Iraq to the precipice, you'd think even Nouri would feel compelled to step down.  Knowing Nouri that seems unlikely.  
But it's so potentially good, rumors of his departure, you almost need for it to be true.  James Kitfield (Yahoo News) shares:

Reports over the weekend that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa Party is considering abandoning him as its candidate represent the one bit of hopeful news out of Iraq in recent weeks. When Iraq’s most revered Shiite religious figure, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called earlier this month for a new government in Baghdad that has “broad national acceptance,” Iraqis understood that he was signaling to the divisive al-Maliki to finally step aside for the good of the country. In his eight years as leader, al-Maliki has consistently pursued a sectarian agenda that alienated Iraqs Sunni minority and drove Sunni tribes once allied with the United States into the arms of the extremists of ISIL (also called ISIS). That uneasy alliance is behind ISILs lightning offensive last month that overran the border between Syria and Iraq and captured the Sunni-majority regions of the country, including major northern cities such as Mosul and Tikrit. 
On Saturday the Dawa Party reportedly sent a senior official to Najaf with a message to Sistani that it was finally willing to replace al-Maliki if necessary.

Nouri's the disease that never stops infecting.
 Tim Arango (New York Times) reports, "Just before midnight on Friday, Shiite militiamen in eight black S.U.V.’s rolled up to the Baghdad home of an important Sunni politician and abducted him and four of his bodyguards, a brazen move that threatened to further convulse a country already in the grip of a political crisis."

It was the fall of last year when Tim Arango broke the story that Nouri was arming, garbing and backing Shi'ite militias (death squads):

In supporting Asaib al-Haq, Mr. Maliki has apparently made the risky calculation that by backing some Shiite militias, even in secret, he can maintain control over the country’s restive Shiite population and, ultimately, retain power after the next national elections, which are scheduled for next year. Militiamen and residents of Shiite areas say members of Asaib al-Haq are given government badges and weapons and allowed freedom of movement by the security forces.


So a Shi'ite militia in Baghdad kidnaps a Sunni politician and his bodyguards in Baghdad?  Nouri's the one who made it possible. 


Although when that happened is confusing to Roy Gutman.  We already linked to Tim Arango's exclusive scoop from September of 2013 about Nouri bringing in the Shi'ite militias.

So try not to be confused by Gutman's second paragraph below:

The men who abducted Riyadh Adhadh, the head of the Baghdad Provincial Council, from his home wore military uniforms and arrived in government vehicles, he said after his release Saturday, according to Iraq’s Al Mada press. He said the apparent aim of the kidnapping was to implicate his political party in last month’s capture of much of northern and central Iraq by the radical Islamic State when the Iraqi military collapsed.
Maliki, who revived the Shiite militias as a response to the army’s disappearance, personally intervened to free Adhadh. He did it not by ordering in federal security forces, which he commands, but asking for help from a powerful Shiite militia _ which reports directly to his office.

Read more here: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2014/07/28/3171468/sunni-politicians-abduction-rescue.html?#storylink=cpy

The army's 'disappearance' was only weeks ago.  But Nouri brought the militias back in over a year ago.  Why can't Gutman report that?  Is he ignorant of events or shading the truth?


So many in the press miss so much.

They miss Nouri's War Crimes.  He continues to target civilians in Iraq.  He bombs cities because he claims 'terrorists' are present.  Regardless of whether or not they are, it is illegal to bomb civilians.  The term for that is collective punishment.

For civilians in Falluja, they've been terrorized by Nouri since the first of the year.

Omar al-Mansuri (Rudaw) reports:

In the evenings, the residents of Fallujah wait for the terror of the Iraqi helicopters that have been raining primitive but deadly barrel bombs that Baghdad has resorted to in its bid to recapture the city from militants of the Islamic State (IS).
Although residents know there are few measures they can take against the destruction, for the sake of comforting themselves they go through a routine of trying to protect themselves.
“We start by turning off the lights at home and assembling all family members in one room,” recounted Iyad Mahmud Halbusi, a 33-year-old family head caught in the war between the Shiite government in Baghdad and Sunni jihadis who have captured about a third of the country.
“We stay away from windows, usually on the ground floor,” Halbusi said. “But despite these measures we are fully convinced that we would not survive if we were hit by a barrel bomb.” 


Other violence today includes corpses.  AP notes 17 corpses -- 3 females, 14 males -- were discovered dumped in the streets throughout Baghdad today.  Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 274 dead in Iraq today from violence. 

Moving over to the US State Dept's press briefing today moderated by spokesperson Jen Psakit, we'll note this exchange:
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Scott.


QUESTION: From the podium, you pretty consistently objected to the Kurds exporting their own oil through Turkey. It would appear that, however, that that first shipment of oil has now been unloaded in Houston. So --


MS. PSAKI: My understanding of where things stand, Scott, is that it’s – there’s a tanker that’s anchored 60 miles outside of Galveston, Texas and that the cargo remains on board the ship at this time. I will see if there’s been any update to that information, but I spoke with our team about it right before I came down here.
Our policy, which you outlined, certainly hasn’t changed. We believe that Iraq’s energy resources belong to the Iraqi people and certainly have long stated that it needs to go through the central government. And as you know, there’s an ongoing legal dispute in this case, which is – which obviously is something that we’re aware of and we’re closely following.


QUESTION: Local Coast Guard say they asked you guys about it and everything was fine and it’s already being lightened.


MS. PSAKI: That – I would have to check. That was not the information that I had from our team, Scott. Obviously that contradicts it, which is concerning, but let me go back to them and see what the exact situation is on the ground.

Laurel Brubaker Calkins and Dan Murtaugh (Bloomberg News) report, "The Iraqi Oil Ministry is seeking a court order to seize more than $100 million of oil waiting to offload in Galveston, Texas, that it claims was illegally pumped from wells in Kurdistan."  Jonathan Stempel, David Ingram, Rebecca Elliott, Terry Wade, Anna Driver, Erwin Seba and Lisa Shumaker (Reuters) add, "The United Kalavrvta tanker, carrying some 1 million barrels of crude worth about $100 million, arrived off the coast of Texas on Saturday but has yet to unload its disputed cargo."














cnn



kristina wong

Saturday, July 26, 2014

James Blake

"What We’re Listening to This Week" (CounterPunch):

SALLY TIMMS
As I am off back to Blighty this week, here’s some folk music from England, Scotland and Ireland
Shirley Collins – The Unquiet Grave from 1960
Luke Kelly – Coorie Doon (Miner’s Lullaby) from 1963
And the superb Andy Irvine singing with Planxty in 1979 – As I Roved Out
Sally Timms is a musician and Mekon. She lives in Chicago.


It is very rare that you hear people in the US mention Shirley Collins but she was a major British folksinger of the 60s.  Those are some strong choices -- and especially strong because they weren't obvious choices.

The out of left field choices are always the best ones.


"This edition's playlist" (The Third Estate Sunday Review):


Our Bright Future

1) Tracy Chapman's Our Bright Future.

2) Ben Harper's Both Sides of the Gun.

3) Tori Amos' Scarlet's Walk.

4)   Aimee Mann's The Forgotten Arm.

5) Boy Hits Car's All That Led Us Here.

6)  Afghan Whigs's Do The Beast.

7) Carly Simon's The Bedroom Tapes.

8) Angie Stone's Stone Love.

9) Joni Mitchell's For The Roses.

10) James Blake's James Blake.



I love all the songs and albums above but let me note James Blake because I really do love him.  There's a quality to his voice -- even when singing "my brother and my sister" over and over.

His next album -- an EP -- was where he recorded Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You."

His recording of that song is probably more responsible for its second life -- American Idol versions, etc.

"Give Me my Mouth" is probably my favorite track on the album.

I think James has created a new artform in the same way that Joni did with Blue and For The Roses.




"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, July 25, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri refuses to step aside, the State Dept refuses to break it off with him, and much more.




Wednesday morning, the State Dept's Brett McGurk and the Defense Dept's Elissa Slotkin appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee to talk about Iraq.  Thursday, they appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to talk again about Iraq.  We're going to spend another day on the Senate hearing and we'll kick things off with this lengthy exchange.


Senator John McCain: So if we did initiate an air to ground campaign, without including Syria, they would have a sanctuary in Syria.  Would you agree with that?

Brett McGurk: One of the reasons I defer to my colleague Elissa, we're focused on training the moderate opposition and have a face that's able to deny safe haven and deny space to the -- to the ISIL networks in Syria.

Senator John McCain:  Well probably so but the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have both stated publicly that the Iraqi security forces are not capable of regaining the territory they lost to ISIS on their own, without external assistance.  Do you agree with the Secretary of the Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs?

Brett McGurk: The Iraqi security forces have moved, uh, a little bit out of -- We had this snowballing effect out of --

Senator John McCain: Again, asking if you agree or d with the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who both stated publicly that the Iraq security forces are not capable of regaining the territory they've lost to ISIS on their own without external assistance?  Do you agree or disagree?

Brett McGurk:  They could not conduct combined operations -- which it would take -- without some enabling support.

Senator John McCain: So, since we all rule out boots on the ground, that might mean the use of air power as a way of assisting them.  Would you agree with that?

Brett McGurk:  Uh, Senator, I just -- uh, all of these options, potential options for the president, are being looked at and, as Elissa said, we're not going to crowd the table --

Senator John McCain: And how long have we been "looking at them," Mr. McGurk?

Brett McGurk:  Uh, well --

Elissa Slotkin: Sir, the assessments came in last week and --

Senator John McCain: So the assessments came in last week.  How long have we been assessing?

Elissa Slotkin:  I think we assessed for two solid weeks.

Senator John McCain:  I think it's been longer than that since the collapse of the -- of the Iraqi military, Ms. Slotkin.

Elissa Slotkin:  I think the president made his announcement on June 19th.  And then he instructed that assessors go to Baghdad.  They flew there and began their assessments immediately.

Senator John McCain: I see.  And so far we have launched no air strikes in any part of Iraq, right?

Elissa Slotkin:  That's correct.

Senator John McCain:  And you stated before that we didn't have sufficient information to know which targets to hit.  Is that correct?

Elissa Slotkin: I think we have adequately improved our intelligence --

Senator John McCain: But at the time, did you believe that we didn't have sufficient information in order to launch airstrikes?

Elissa Slotkin:  I think that we -- given our extremely deliberate process about launching any airstrike we would --

Senator John McCain:  You know, it's interesting.  I asked: Do you think at that we didn't have sufficient information to launch airstrikes against ISIS?

Elissa Slotkin: I think given the standards the United States has for dropping ordinance, no, we did not have the intelligence we would ever want at that time.

Senator John McCain: I find that interesting because none of the military that I've talked to, that served there -- and even those who flew there -- they're absolutely convinced, as I am, that when you have convoys moving across the desert in open train, you can identify and strike them.  We know that they were operating out of bases in Syria -- out in the open, in the desert.  So with those of us who have some military experience in the advocacy of air power, we heartily disagree.  And that isn't just me, it comes from military leaders who served there.   


There are a number of reasons to note the above.  One reason we did?

Jonathan S. Landay (McClatchy Newspapers) reports one aspect of the hearing:

Like the rest of the world, the U.S. government appeared to have been taken aback last month when Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, fell to an offensive by jihadis of the Islamic State that triggered the collapse of five Iraqi army divisions and carried the extremists to the threshold of Baghdad.
A review of the record shows, however, that the Obama administration wasn’t surprised at all.

I don't like people who lie.

In the House hearing especially, there was a pretense of 'I am so shocked!'  Often with a claim of 'It turns out that late last year, Nouri al-Maliki asked the White House for air strikes.'

John McCain is no friend of the White Houses.  That is a large chunk of his exchange in the Senate hearing.

You can agree or disagree with the points he raises.  But you will notice he does not pretend he is shocked or act like he just learned of Nouri's request from last year for air strikes.

You can refer to the November 1, 2013 snapshot covering Nouri's face-to-face meet up with Barack Obama to grasp that there's no way anyone can pretend to be shocked by today's events.

Yet a number of House members pretended and played -- and lied -- during Wednesday's hearing.  And a number of reporters are eager to join them in pretending and playing.

Another topic that came up repeatedly was Nouri's failures.

For example, former US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey told the Senate Committee on Thursday:

Despite the election of a moderate Sunni Arab speaker of the Iraqi parliament two weeks ago, there is no certainty that Iraqi political leaders and parliament can overcome their deep divisions to create an inclusive new government as rightly demanded by the U.S. Government. For starters, any such government must not be headed by PM Maliki. He has lost the trust of many of his citizens, including a great many Shia Arabs, yet is still trying to hold on to power. In this uncertain situation, while pushing the traditional approach, we must simultaneously prepare to deal with an Iraq semi-permanently split into three separate political entities, and to shape our approach to the Sunni Arab, Shia Arab, and Kurdish populations and to the central government on that basis.

Nouri "is still trying to hold on to power"?  Michael Gregory and Larry King (Reuters) reported Friday morning that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistanti's Friday message was that politicians must stop "clinging to their posts, in an apparent reference" to Nouri who refuses to step aside.

Jeffrey thinks the answer is "an inclusive new government" and one that "must not be headed by PM Maliki."  In the same Thursday hearing, it was wondered if the State Dept was backing Nouri and at what cost?


Senator Jeff Flake:  Is it possible at all, in the State Dept's view to move ahead with Maliki in charge?  Will there be sufficient trust -- any trust -- in the Sunni population that he'll be inclusive enough?  His government?  Or does our strategy rely on somebody else coming in?


Brett McGurk: Again, it's going to be very difficult for him to form a government.  So they're -- they're facing that question now -- now that the president's been elected to face the question of the prime minister.  Any prime minister, in order to form a government, is going to have to pull the country together.  And so who ever the leader is, it's someone who's going to have to demonstrate that just to get the votes he needs to remain -- or to, uh, uh, be sworn into office.  So that's something that's going to unfold fairly rapidly over the coming days.  Again, there's a 15 day timeline to nominate a prime minister [designate] and then whomever the nominee is then has to form a Cabinet and present it to the Parliament to form a government.

 While Nouri has lost the support of many -- including, reportedly, the support of the Iranian government, the US government continues to support him and not just as evidenced by Brett's slip-up ("he needs to remain") but also by the exchange in Friday's State Dept press briefing moderated by Marie Hark

QUESTION: Right. Yeah, I wanted to ask you if there’s any progress on the forming of the new government. Do you have any updated --

MS. HARF: Well, they selected a president and --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: -- they have up to 15 day – excuse me, up to 15 days, I think, to name candidates for prime minister. And then after that, I think up to 30 to actually form a government. I can check on the dates. But they have now a speaker, they have a president, and then next up is a prime minister.

QUESTION: Should we read from the testimony that Mr. McGurk did on Capitol Hill that you are losing patience with Mr. Maliki, you’d like to see someone else take his place?

MS. HARF: You ask this question a different way every day. We don’t support --

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: -- and I’ll give you the same answer, so let’s – for consistency, let’s do that again today. We don’t support any one candidate, any one person to be prime minister. We’ve said it needs to be someone who is interested in governing inclusively. We’ve also said we’ve had issues in the past with how Prime Minister Maliki has governed. But again, it’s not up for us to decide. It’s up for the Iraqis to decide.

QUESTION: Right. But your confidence in Maliki’s abilities to rule inclusively, as you said, is --

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve had issues in the past.

QUESTION: -- not ironclad.


MS. HARF: We’ve had issues in the past.


The State Dept has "had issues"?  With a War Criminal, they've "had issues"?

Prime Minister and chief thug of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki killed 4 civilians  and left eight more injured in his latest bombing of Mosul on Friday, NINA reports.  Thursday, NINA reported:

Head of the doctors resident at the Fallujah Educational Hospital Ahmed al-Shami said on Thursday that the outcome of the bombing on the city of Fallujah since / 7/ months reached / 2696 / martyrs and wounded, including women and children.
He told the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA / that the final outcome to this day for the victims of the bombing suffered by residential neighborhoods in the city of Fallujah was / 610 / Martyrs and / 2086 / wounded, including women and children.


Nouri's a War Criminal.

But the State Dept is happy to stand next to him, hold hands with him and, provided with enough booze, have a hot and sticky, back seat make out session with him.

While a War Criminal gets embraced, some argue an ally gets mistreated.

Dropping back to Thursday's hearing:


Senator Barbara Boxer:  I want to ask you about the Kurds.  Both of you.  I don't know which.  Either of you could answer.  The Kurds in northern Iraq have long been a strong ally of the United States and they have played an important role in countering the rapid advance of ISIS.  When I went to Iraq a very long time ago, the bullets were flying.  The Kurds?  I found them to get what this was all about.  And there's so much prejudice against the Kurds.  The Kurdish militia offered to support Iraqi security forces when ISIS began its offensive in Mosul.  Kurdish forces have kept much of northern Iraq out of terrorists hands.  Kurdistan has beome a destination for hundreds of thousands of Iraqis fleeing from ISIS controlled territory.  And, you know, I have to say as I watch Mr. Maliki, I don't think he appreciates it.  As the Iraqis work to determine their future, I'm asking you, what role can the Kurds play?  And should the United States acknowledge that the Kurds should have a significant amount of autonomy?  I think they've earned it and I wondered what the administration's position was vis a vis the Kurds and more autonomy for the Kurds?


We'll ignore all the pretty words Brett McGurk offered Boxer because Marie opened her mouth in the State Dept press briefing.

QUESTION: Okay. Reuters has reported that a tanker loaded with oil from the Kurdistan region of Iraq is near Texas and is apparently heading for a potential buyer there.

MS. HARF: Well, we are aware there’s a tanker off the coast of Florida currently. But our policy here has not changed. Iraq’s energy resources belong to all of the Iraqi people. The U.S. has made very clear that if there are cases involving legal disputes, the United States informs the parties of the dispute and recommends they make their own decisions with advice to counsel on how to proceed. So I’d obviously refer you directly to the parties in terms of any arbitration here. I know that’s what the stories have focused on.

QUESTION: Are you actively warning the – say, the U.S. firms or other foreign governments to not buy Kurdish oil specifically?

MS. HARF: Well, we have been very clear that if there are legal issues that arise, if they undertake activities where there might be arbitration, that there could potentially be legal consequences. So we certainly warn people of that.

QUESTION: Do you keep doing that now too?

MS. HARF: We are repeatedly doing that, yes.

QUESTION: So why – I mean, if you think it’s illegal or that --

MS. HARF: I didn’t say it was illegal. I said there’s a legal dispute process here, an arbitration mechanism. There will be a legal ruling on it. I’m not making that legal determination from here.

QUESTION: So you’re not sure if it’s – the sale of Kurdish oil independent from Baghdad is legal or illegal?

MS. HARF: Correct. So we know – we have said what our – the United States position is, is that the Iraqis – people own all of Iraq’s energy resources and that the Iraqi Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government need to reach an agreement on how to manage these resources. There is separately a legal arbitration procedure that can take place if there are legal questions about oil in this – such as in this case, which is a separate question from what our policy is. And there will be a legal ruling made that’s separate from us.

QUESTION: But if you don’t – if you’re not sure if it’s legal or --

MS. HARF: It’s not that we’re not sure. It’s that there’s a separate process.

QUESTION: Yeah, there’s – it’s a separate process, but it seems to me that you are taking the side of Baghdad – or Baghdad, you are, like --

MS. HARF: Taking the side of all of Iraq, a federal Iraq.

QUESTION: Because you’re saying if the federal government does not approve of it, then the – you are discouraging U.S. firms or other international buyers from --

MS. HARF: We said there could be potential legal disputes that arise from it.

QUESTION: But you’re warning them, right?

MS. HARF: We are warning them that there could be potential legal disputes. These are commercial transaction. The U.S. Government is not involved in them. Our position, from a policy standpoint, is that Iraq’s oil belongs to all Iraqis and that the federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government need to work together on an accommodation and come to an agreement here. And so that’s been our position for a very long time, and we do warn individual entities that there could be legal actions that come from some of these actions we’ve seen.

QUESTION: So you’re saying your position regarding Kurdistan, as it’s been reported by a couple of media outlets, has not been softened regarding Kurdistan’s export --

MS. HARF: I’m not sure exactly what – in terms of our oil?

QUESTION: Yeah, oil.

MS. HARF: Our oil position has not changed.

QUESTION: At all?

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yes, Said.

QUESTION: In fact, your position is that all oil contracts should be done through the central government, but let me ask you --

MS. HARF: Well, I meant the central government should come to an agreement --

QUESTION: Right, yeah.

MS. HARF: -- with the Kurdistan Government about how to --

QUESTION: Exactly --


MS. HARF: -- go forward, mm-hmm.

Dropping back to June 28th:


Repeatedly, the State Dept has insisted they weren't taking sides on the oil issue and more gifted speakers have been able to walk the line so that there was the possibility that State wasn't choosing sides.  Their actions made clear they were backing Nouri but their words gave the indication that maybe that wasn't the case and actions were accidental or the product of chaos and not a plan that State was following.

Then Marie Harf clomps into the room and makes clear, it is an anti-Kurd position and that it always has been.

But a hiccup, this week, a hiccup.

A legal victory for the Kurds.  The KRG notes:

On 23rd June 2014, the Court convened a special meeting to address the Minister’s request and, after examining the reasoning behind his request, the Court decided unanimously to reject the request of the Minister “for being contrary to the applicable legal contexts in Iraq.”
It is worth noting here that the Minister’s claims were based on his own interpretation of constitutional provisions to claim that the oil and gas affairs fall within the exclusive powers of the federal government. In so claiming, the Minister was relying on the centralized laws enacted prior to 2003, thus ignoring the fact that current constitutional provisions do not incorporate any oil and gas matters within Article 110, which defines the  exclusive powers of the federal government.

With this Court decision, the Kurdistan Regional Government has another important clarification of its acquired rights as stated in the Constitution.  The Court ruling was taken by a unanimous decision of all its members, and it explicitly rejected the request made by the Minister. Such a decision by the highest court in the land is binding on the Minister and cannot be challenged in any way.
This is a clear victory for justice and for upholding KRG’s rights, despite the Iraqi Federal Oil Ministry‘s interferences and unjustifiable interventions. This decision clearly demonstrates that the Federal Oil ministry and its marketing arm (SOMO) will also fail on all their reckless efforts on the international level.

  This judicial decision by the Supreme Federal Court must be respected, and now we call upon the Federal Oil Ministry, SOMO and all their helpers to abandon their illegal and unconstitutional interventions to prevent oil exports from the Kurdistan Region. They must also cease sending intimidating and threatening letters or making false claims to prospective traders and buyers of oil exported legally by the Kurdistan Regional Government for the benefit of the people of Kurdistan and Iraq.

And that decision came down before Marie's latest flapping of the gums on this issue.

Marie and State should have been aware of the verdict.

They should also be aware that their active support and embrace of Nouri -- which was never backed by the law as they tried to claim -- looks even more repugnant and ill thought.

The Kurds are not only an oppressed people, they've been the ones to attempt to work with the US government for decades -- even though the US government has repeatedly turned on them.  What a slap in the face the US government has repeatedly delivered to the Kurds over the oil issue.

Nouri's failure to pass an oil law is the US government's failure since he's repeatedly promised to pass one since 2006 and now, 8 years later, there's still no oil and gas law.

Marie and State should be pressed now, with a legal verdict being delivered, on where they stand? And why this verdict is not supposed to change anything?



No, Marie -- on Friday -- was not going to call the Kurds' actions "illegal" because, as we just noted above, a court has ruled that the Kurds can do as they're doing.

An honest spokesperson would note that.  Marie's just a joke.



Iraq was briefly noted on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) today.  Iraq grandstander Nancy A. Youssef and other guests were certainly defensive when -- forty-nine minutes into the hour -- caller Terry raised the issue of Iraq.

Diane Rehm:  All right. To Terry in Florence, Ky. You're on the air.

TERRY: Good morning. I wanted to bring to the attention of the panel about the different groups that are being kicked out of Mosul as ISIS takes over there. And I wanted to ask, why is the media not really interested in talking about the different groups that get pushed out and what happens to them? In America, you know, we pay special attention to the Christian communities, but even beyond that there are several different variations on Islam in there. And they're -- the stories that are coming out are very, very worrisome.

HIRSH: Well, I would not agree that the media is ignoring it. There's obviously a lot of smoke and debris coming from all these other stories we've been discussing. It's hard to focus on everything at once, which is a big problem for Obama. But just in the last day or so, the ISIS militants in Mosul blew up the Shrine of Yunus, the so-called -- supposed grave place of Jonah, the Prophet Jonah, a place revered by all three major religions. Clearly, this is a brutal group. And the scariest thing about them is that they are not just destroying things. They are also -- are governing in a very repressive fashion. I mean, they've killed, in the last several days, three Sunni clerics in Mosul who urged resistance to them. And they're a Sunni group. So this has been horrific. We, you know, the media is paying attention to it. But again, it's hard to focus on everything at once.

Nancy A. Youssef:  I know, Terry, it might seem like ignoring. But think about the issues that have come up, the countries, the crises that have come up this summer. By my list -- Nigeria, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, in addition to the issues that we've been talking about today, Ukraine and Gaza and the Israeli conflict. And so it's been such a tumultuous summer and so many places are erupting that what might seem like ignoring is really I think a world overwhelmed by the number of crises confronting it.

Let's stay with this topic for a moment and we'll circle back to the trash that is NPR to wrap the topic up.

Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports on the apparent bombing of a Sunni mosque which apparently destroyed Jonah's tomb:


The holy site is thought to be the burial place of the prophet Jonah, who was swallowed by a whale or fish in both the Islamic and Judeo-Christian traditions.
Militants belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, planted explosives around the tomb and detonated the explosion remotely Thursday, civil defense officials there told CNN.

NINA notes:


In a statement issued today Mottahidoon said : " With hearts rupturing of pain, and eyes full of blood of the terrible scene of blowing up the shrine and mosque of the Prophet Yunus peace be upon him, the Mosalion the whole world with them farewell a memorial combining history, civilization and sacred values, that is what it means the sublime edifice of Prophet Yunus peace be upon him which is located on Talit-Tawbah / hill of repentance/ in the left side of the city of Mosul.

Mottahidoon is the political party of Osama al-Nujaifi who was the Speaker of Parliament from 2010 until this month.  Mosul, of course, is where Iraqi Christians have most recently been targeted.  Alex McClintock and Scott Spark (Religion and Ethics Report, Australia's ABC Radio -- link is text and audio) report:


‘It's a very difficult time, Mosul is empty of Christians,’ says Father Andrzej Halemba, Middle East coordinator for Aid to the Church in Need. ‘Two thousand years of beautiful history, where the Christians and Muslims for centuries had helped each other, but now it’s the end of Christianity in Mosul. It's dreadful news.’
Christians were reportedly given a choice by ISIS militants: convert to Islam, pay an undisclosed tribute to their new rulers or be ‘put to the sword’. Up to 30,000 elected to flee to safer Kurdish-controlled areas, mainly on foot and often without access to fresh water. According to Father Halemba, even more radical Sunni clerics are arriving from the Gulf states, and they are urging militants to cut off water to Christian villages. Appalling  photos of decapitated Muslims and actual crucifixions of Christians in ISIS controlled areas are emerging on social media today.
‘They lost everything,’ he says. ‘They lost houses, they lost cars, they lost property, they lost money, they lost mobiles: whatever they had.’


Vatican Radio notes that Islamic leaders outside of Iraq have not remained silent either:


The most explicit condemnation came from Iyad Ameen Madani, the Secretary General for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the group representing 57 countries, and 1.4 billion Muslims.
In a statement, he officially denounced the "forced deportation under the threat of execution” of Christians, calling it a "crime that cannot be tolerated.” The Secretary General also distanced Islam from the actions of the militant group known as ISIS, saying they "have nothing to do with Islam and its principles that call for justice, kindness, fairness, freedom of faith and coexistence.”


While these events are important and are news, other events -- events ignored -- are as well.


Human Rights Watch's Letta Taylor Tweeted this week:


Than you for caring about atrocities by all sides in . interview with me on this:




We'll assume she means "thank you," but notice the interview and how Terry just wants to dish on IS and has no interest in exploring Nouri's War Crimes.












cnn
mohammed tawfeeq





 mcclatchy newspapers

Friday, July 25, 2014

About that senator

Senator John Walsh?

I don't know what to say.

He clearly intended to plagiarize and he wasn't an undergrad.

What do you think about it?

When you reach his level of education, you not only know it's wrong, you also don't have the excuse of a kegger limiting your time to study.

Yes, he's a US senator right now (appointed) and trying to run for re-election.

But how do you reconcile this.

His education credentials are based upon a lie.

That should be enough to have him announce he's no longer seeking re-election.

Who knows.



"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Thursday, July 24, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraq gets a 'new' president, Brett McGurk appears before Congress again and is grilled by Senator Robert Menendez, US House Rep Frank Wolf notes the plight of Iraqi Christians, and much more.



Yesterday morning, the State Dept's Brett McGurk and the Defense Dept's Elissa Slotkin appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  Today, they appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  They were the first panel.  The second panel was former US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey, retired Lt Gen Michael D. Barbero and Brookings Institute's Kenneth Pollack.

Americans remain in Iraq, including many working out of the US Embassy in Baghdad.  After Iranians repelled the US-installed Shah of Iran in 1979, they then seized the US Embassy in Tehran. A similar event in Iraq is one of the big fears in Congress and in the White House.

Senator Barbara Boxer raised the issue in the hearing.

Senator Barbara Boxer: Last question is: Are you confident we have adequate personnel on the ground to truly protect our embassy and the Americans in Baghdad?

Brett McGurk: Uh, Senator, yes.  We have moved in substantial assets both into the airport and also into the embassy.  Uhm, I was just there as late as [last] Thursday and we're confident that our defensive parameters and everything -- that our people will be safe.  Our Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security just visited Baghdad last week to do his own assessment.  We've also had teams on the ground from Centcom and this is an ongoing assessment.  And our intelligence assets have the entire everything all around the parameter of Baghdad, the airport and our embassy, very well covered so we're 

Senator Barbara Boxer: Okay.  Can you tell us how many people we have at the embassy or is that something that you don't want to discuss in open --

Brett McGurk:  We have total in Baghdad about-about 2500 now.

As with yesterday's hearing, the administration's view/spin was noted because no one knows how safe it is or isn't for diplomatic staff in Iraq.

Senator Marco Rubio also raised the issue in the hearing.  And pointed out that Shi'ite militias could be as dangerous to the US embassy staff as IS.  McGurk rushed to disagree, insisting that "since 2011," there have been no attacks on the US Embassy or its staff by Shi'ite militias.


A State Dept friend lamented today that I never say anything "nice" about Brett.

So let's note, he managed to keep it in his pants.  Of course, the hearing was in DC, so maybe that had something to do with it?

I'll also give him credit for grasping how the process of forming a government in Iraq is supposed to work.  He knows how it is supposed to work and he can outline it very clearly.  That's not sarcasm on my part, the western press struggles to grasp these basic facts.  Brett had them down pat.

He also played with his watch far less while speaking than he did the day before when appearing in front of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

So that's the "nice."

It's also worth noting that Brett was still spinning like crazy.  His catch phrase appeared to be:  "We have been embraced."  He said it repeatedly when asked how the Iraqis were responding to the beefed up American presence.

He delivered his catch phrase with such gusto, a few probably almost forgot that it was the book end to Donald Rumsfeld's (false) claim that US troops would "be greeted as liberators" (then-President of Vice Dick Cheney)  -- with roses strewn in their path.


Senator Robert Menendez is the Chair of the Committee and he wasn't in the mood for spin.  Nor was he in the mood for prettying up tyrant Nouri al-Maliki.  What happens, he wanted to know, if Nouri doesn't go but gets a third term as prime minister.


Chair Robert Menendez:  Now if it ends up being Prime Minister Maliki, how do you think that you keep this government together, this nation together?

Brett McGurk: Uhm, as I mentioned in my statement,  as the president has said, it is not our job to pick the leaders but our leaders do have to have a very inclusive agenda and pull the country together. 

Chair Robert Menendez:  I'm not asking you to pick.  Nor do I suggest we should.  The question is that if that is the result, by their own choice, it seems to me that it was very difficult -- based upon what has happened so far, based upon Sunni responses to ISIS at least in response to their grievances with the current national government -- that isn't the likely outcome of that to be more possible to see a divided Iraq?

Brett McGurk:  Uh, the prime minister will be chosen from the Shia political blocs.  And Grand Ayatollah [Ali al-] Sistani, interestingly, over the last  month, he has been very active and he has laid down some guideposts for how to form the next government.  First, it has to correct the mistakes of the past meaning it can't look anything like the current government.  Second, you need new leaders that reflect a national consensus.  We've had that now with the Speaker and the President, and so the prime minister will also have to reflect that emerging national consensus.  It remains to be seen whether the existing prime minister could build such a consensus but that remains very much in question.

Chair Robert Menendez:  You commented in the House hearing yesterday that options being developed for the President are more concrete and specific as a result of the US military advisors on the ground in Iraq and increased intelligence collection.  What guidance have you received in terms of timing for these decisions and how will the political insecurity conditions on the ground influence the president's decisions?


Elissa Slotkin: Well, as I said, the assessments came in last week. Uhm, they're dense, they're significant and so we're still working through those.  After we've done that, the President -- I'm sorry, the Secretary and the Chairman will make informed recommendations to the President.  Uhm --

Chair Robert Menendez:  Are you going to be able to tell us anything more than I read in the New York Times

Elissa Slotkin:  I would --

Chair Robert Menendez:  Which was more than I knew before you came here.

Elissa Slotkin:  I would -- I understand.  I would caution against using a leaked, half-report in the New York Times as your basis  for that --

Chair Robert Menendez:  Well the absence of having information leads me to only publicly reported resources.  So when do you intend to come to us in whatever setting to advise the Congress?  You know, this Committee has the jurisdiction over arm sales.  And my reticence to arms sales to Iraq has in some respects been proven true when in fact we've had much of our equipment abandoned and now in the hands of ISIS.  So unless you're going to give us a sense of where the security forces are at, moving forward, this Chair is not going to be willing to approve more arm sales so that they can be abandoned to go to the hands of those who we are seriously concerned about in terms of our own national security interests. 

Elissa Slotkin:  Sir, I understand and our intent is to come and brief Congress at the time when we've piled through it ourselves.  We've kept the Congress very informed.  I know I've been up at least twice a week for our Committees.  We are committed to remaining in close contact with you and there is no attempt to hide it from you.

Brett McGurk: And I would just add, Mr. Chairman, I think we're in a race against time there's no question -- 

Chair Robert Menendez: Well that's my point.

Brett McGurk: And  one thing that we have found, by surging special forces, by surging intelligence assets, as you mentioned, we do know an awful lot more than we knew, uh, uh, even six weeks ago.  Security forces in Baghdad, particularly north of Baghdad -- I describe  some of this in my written testimony -- are trying to do some things to fight back.  They have taken nearly a thousand casualties in the last month.  These units, particularly units that we have relationships with, they  are fighting, they are capable.  And those are the type of units that we're looking at to assist. But, again, this is all being discussed by the national security team as we --


That's enough of that exchange.

There were practical moments as well -- or possibly just 'practical.'

Why should the US spend almost half-a-million dollars on the military request DoD has for Iraq operations?

McGurk was given the chance to explain that.

Who had "ninety minutes in"?  In the pool for how long before an administration official mentioned oil, who had 90 minutes?

Let's note an exchange that came up almost 90 minutes into the hearing.

Senator Marco Rubio:  But here's the question that we get from people -- and that is that people are outraged about what is happening and that is especially the different reports that are coming out about what ILIS is doing.  And by no means is this a group that's popular and Americans understand that this is a terrible, radical group of individuals.  That being said, public opinion polls and just from the phone calls we get in our offices, the attitude of much of the American public is: "It's a mess but it's their problem, let them figure it out."  And I have personally said this isn't even about Iraq at this point, it's about the longterm security of the United States and the threat that ISIL poses to the United States, especially if they're able to establish a safe haven of operations -- similar to what al Qaeda did.  In fact, it was even worse than what al Qaeda was able to do in Afghanistan.  But I was hoping from the administration's point of view and from the State Dept and the Defense Dept's point of view, you could perhaps use this as an opportunity to explain to my constituents in Florida why this matters to America?  Why something happening half-way round the world in a country that people quite frankly think increasingly perhaps we shouldn't have gotten involved in, why does this matter?  Why should people care about what's happening in Iraq given the problems that are happening here at home?

Brett McGurk:  Thank you, Senator.  I'll say a couple of things.  You know, of course, I address the ISIL threat in my opening statement and that is a very serious counterterrorism threat and that is, number one.  But these are vital-vital US interests in Iraq. Number one, the counterterrorism, the al Qaeda threat.  Number two, just the supply of energy resources to the global markets.  Iraq through 2035 will-will account for 45% in all of the growth in energy exports.  If Iraq were to collapse and a major civil war -- sectarian war, the-the effects to our economy here at home would be -- would be quite serious.  


Oil -- a national security issue?  But, of course, it had nothing to do with the reasons why the US government declared war on Iraq.

Crazy.


You shouldn't call the Iraqi people 'crazy,' but you can certainly apply that term to the Kurdish officials who picked the nominee for President of Iraq.  Fouad Massoum.  76-year-old Fouad Massoum.  The president is limited to two terms.  Prior to today, the post has been held by only one person since the US invasion: Jalal Talabani.

When he began his second term, Jalal was 76-years-old.  Fouad Massoum?

76-years-old.

He should be in a retirement home, not presiding over Iraq.

How stupid are Kurdish officials?  Fouad Massoum isn't as overweight as Jalal but few people are.

The world remembers what happened the last time an unhealthy, elderly and obese man was installed as President of Iraq, right?

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 remained in Germany until July 19, 2014.  That's one day shy of 19 months -- 19 months, Jalal spent out of the country.  19 months, his family refused to allow the Speaker of Parliament to see him, refused to allow PUK officials to see him, refused to allow anyone to see him.

19 months Iraq suffered without a president.

The PUK is Fouad Massoum's party as well.  The PUK should have had the decency to step aside on this round having deprived the country of a president for 19 months and refused to call for the Constitution to be followed and Jalal to be replaced for failure to perform his duties due to being incapacitated.

The illegal war (and the US-imposed sanctions prior) helped ensure that Iraq is a young country -- the median age, per the CIA, is 21.3 years-old.

But they're stuck with a 76-year-old as president?

Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) notes:

While many politicians had warm words for Massoum, a respected Kurdistan analyst cautioned that the longtime opponent of ousted leader Saddam Hussein is widely viewed as weak. "He’s a compromise candidate in Irbil," said Hiwa Osman, referring to the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government. "If people want a compromise, they use him."


The new president was a topic in today's US State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Marie Harf:

QUESTION: Iraq. Yeah. Today, the parliament elected –

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: -- Fuad Masum, a man of solid political credentials. But he’s also a communist. So do you have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: That he’s a communist?

QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

MS. HARF: We congratulate the Iraqi people on the election of a new president. This is a crucial step in the formation of a new government. Obviously, we’ve said this needs to happen as soon as possible. The next slip is a prime minister designate must be named within 15 days. They will then have 30 days to form a government with parliamentary approval.

QUESTION: Okay. And the general feeling in Iraq that Maliki’s fortunes are receding, is that your assessment? Do you have anyone in mind that you might like to support, like (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: As we’ve always said, we do not support any one person or any one party. We have been very clear about that from the beginning of this process.

QUESTION: But you would like to see Maliki or the Maliki era end?

MS. HARF: I don’t think I said that, Said.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I said we don’t support any one person. And we’ve also said – and you’ve heard Brett McGurk speak about this a little bit yesterday – that we have had concerns with some of the ways the Maliki government has governed and how they have not always governed inclusively. But we are not endorsing any party or any person, period, to be the next prime minister of Iraq.

QUESTION: And lastly, the Maliki government announced that they are receiving Russian equipment or Russian military equipment. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen this specific announcement, but – the last few times I’ve been asked about this. If it’s done through the proper channels –

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)


MS. HARF: I haven’t seen that, but the last few times I’ve talked about this, look, there’s a way that Iraq can get weapons from other countries. There’s a proper channel to do this. And if it’s through that channel, then I don’t think we have a big problem with it. We know there’s a big threat there that they need a lot of help to fight.

Iraq may have a new president but it shows little success at shaking the prime minister who won't fade away.  Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Vivian Salama (AP) report, "Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki rejected an attempt by Iran to persuade him to step down, senior Iraqi politicians said Wednesday, underlining his determination to defy even his top ally to push for a third term in office and further exacerbating the country's political crisis."

In other news, Sinan Salaheddin and Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) report an attack on a Taji prison convoy has left at least 60 people dead.  On the topic of violence in Iraq, US House Rep Frank Wolf addressed it today.  His office issued the following:



     Jul 24, 2014
Washington, D.C. – For the second time this week, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) took to the House floor to alert his colleagues – and the world – of the genocide he believes is taking place in Iraq.
“Christianity as we know it in Iraq is being wiped out,” Wolf said. 
Wolf began today’s speech by reading the first two paragraphs of a Wall Street Journal editorial from earlier in the week:  “Mr. Speaker: Imagine if a fundamentalist Christian sect captured the French city of Lyon and began a systematic purge of Muslims.  Their mosques were destroyed, their crescents defaced, the Koran burned and then all Muslims forced to flee or face execution.  Such an event would be unthinkable today, and if it did occur Pope Francis and all other Christian leaders would denounce it and support efforts by governments to stop it.
“Yet that is essentially what is happening in reverse now in Mosul, as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham drives all signs of Christianity from the ancient city.  Christians have lived in Mosul for nearly 2,000 years, but today they are reliving the Muslim religious wars of the Middle Ages.”
Wolf then read parts of an e-mail he received form someone on the ground in Iraq who painted a very dire situation:  “All Mosul churches and monasteries are seized by ISIS.  There are around 30.  The cross has been removed from all of them.  Many of them are burned, destroyed and looted.   Many others are being used as ISIS centers.  The religious Sunni, Shiite and Christian tombs are destroyed in Mosul.  This destruction is endangering very ancient sites, such as prophet Jonah’s tomb, which was broken last week, according to many reporters.” 
Wolf then asked: “Where is the West?  Where is the Obama Administration?  Where is the Congress? The silence is deafening.”
Wolf ended his remarks by quoting William Wilberforce, the British parliamentarian who, in making the case against slavery in 1789, told his colleagues, “Having heard all of this, you may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”
Below is the complete text of Wolf’s remarks: 
“‘Imagine if a fundamentalist Christian sect captured the French city of Lyon and began a systematic purge of Muslims.  Their mosques were destroyed, their crescents defaced, the Koran burned and then all Muslims forced to flee or face execution.  Such an event would be unthinkable today, and if it did occur Pope Francis and all other Christian leaders would denounce it and support efforts by governments to stop it.
“Yet that is essentially what is happening in reverse now in Mosul, as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham drives all signs of Christianity from the ancient city.  Christians have lived in Mosul for nearly 2,000 years, but today they are reliving the Muslim religious wars of the Middle Ages.’
“These are not my words.  They are the first two paragraphs of a Wall Street Journal editorial published earlier this week.
“Now I want to read parts of an e-mail I received yesterday from someone in the ground in Iraq: ‘All Mosul churches and monasteries are seized by ISIS.  There are around 30.  The cross has been removed from all of them.  Many of them are burned, destroyed and looted.   Many others are being  used as ISIS centers.  The religious Sunni, Shiite and Christian tombs are destroyed in Mosul.  This destruction is endangering very ancient sites, such as prophet Jonah’s tomb, which was broken last week, according to many reporters.’ 
“It has been widely reported that ISIS soldiers have painted ‘N’ on the doors of Christians to signify that they are ‘Nasara,’ the word for Christian.  Shiite homes were painted with the letter ‘R’ for “Rawafidh,’ meaning rejectors or protestants.
“Christianity as we know it in Iraq is being wiped out. 
“With the exception of Israel, the Bible contains more references to the cities, regions and nations of ancient Iraq than any other country. 
“I believe what is happening to the Christian community in Iraq is genocide.  I also believe it is a crime against humanity.
“Where is the West?  Where is the Obama Administration?  Where is the Congress? The silence is deafening.
“The West, particularly the church, needs to speak out.
“The Obama Administration needs to make protecting this ancient community a priority.  President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry need to have the same courage as President Bush and former Secretary of State Colin Powell when they said genocide was taking place in Darfur.
“The Congress needs to hold this administration accountable for its  failure to act.
“The United Nations has a role, too.  It should immediately initiate proceedings in the International Criminal Court against ISIS for crimes against humanity.
“I will close today by reading the final two paragraphs of The Wall Street Journal editorial I began my statement with:  ‘Today's religious extremism is almost entirely Islamic. While ISIS's purge may be the most brutal, Islamists in Egypt have driven thousands of Coptic Christians from homes they've occupied for centuries. The same is true across the Muslim parts of Africa. This does not mean that all Muslims are extremists, but it does mean that all Muslims have an obligation to denounce and resist the extremists who murder or subjugate in the name of Allah. Too few imams living in the tolerant West will speak up against it.
“As for the post-Christian West, most elites may now be nonbelievers. But a culture that fails to protect believers may eventually find that it lacks the self-belief to protect itself.’
“As William Wilberforce, the British parliamentarian and abolitionist, famously told his colleagues, ‘Having heard all of this, you may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.’”