Friday, December 03, 2010

WikiLeaks

"The War On WikiLeaks" (Joshua Norman , CBS News):
Since the first mentions of a leak of potentially embarrassing U.S. diplomatic cables, a quiet war has blossomed between those who claim they support openness and free speech and those who claim they are protecting lives, international cooperation and the rights of the Swedish court system.

The war has opened on two fronts: The first front is an attempt to stop the public from getting access to WikiLeaks' trove of diplomatic cables and war documents. The second front is an attempt to get WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange either behind bars or, if Assange's claims are to be believed, assassinated.

The attacks have come from several sides, not just the government. Assange's and WikiLeaks' supporters are many though, and thus far they have proven adept at avoiding permanent damage from powerful digital attacks. How Assange the person survives the attacks is yet to be seen.

There is a very real war going on, a war on freedom, a war on democracy. That's what's behind the attacks on WikiLeaks. You need to figure out which side your on because you can't be a bystander in this one. If you're a bystander, you're allowing oppression with your silence.

This is the sort of thing -- these attacks -- that we feared from Richard Nixon back during Watergate. How appropriate that Barack is now in the White House to demonstrate yet again that, yes, there is worse than George W. Bush and its name is Barack Obama.

"U.S. agencies warn unauthorized employees not to look at WikiLeaks" (David de Sola, CNN):

Unauthorized federal workers and contractors have been warned not to attempt to read the classified documents on WikiLeaks on either government or personal computers.

The White House Office of Management and Budget sent a memo Friday afternoon forbidding unauthorized federal government employees and contractors from accessing classified documents publicly available on WikiLeaks and other websites using computers or devices like BlackBerrys and smart phones.

The memo, sent to general counsels at various government agencies and obtained by CNN, explains that the publishing by WikiLeaks does "not alter the documents' classified status or automatically result in declassification of the documents."

"To the contrary, classified information, whether or not already posted on public websites or disclosed to the media remains classified, and must be treated as such by federal employees and contractors, until it is declassified by an appropriate U.S. Government authority," the memo said.

What are they going to do? Start charging citizens? Trying to make sure the federal employees will still be able to work and process all the papers after they arrest everyone of us that's seen a cable?

This is insanity and Eric Holder better get his head out of his ass real quick, real damn quick. In fact, he might want to consider resigning in protest.

Sides are already being chosen. You better decide if you're on the side of freedom and information or if you believe the people are sheep to be fooled and lied to.




"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, December 13, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri 'solves' overpromising cabinet posts by announcing he'll invent additional ones, WikiLeaks is under attack, the Senate's Drama Queen John McCain announces his intent to filibuster on repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and more.
"I will not agree to let this bill go forward." The US Senate Armed Services Committee held another hearing on Don't Ask, Don't Tell today and the big news in the long hearing took place a little after noon when Ranking Member John McCain declared, "I will not agree to let this bill go forward." The sentence really demands an explanation point but McCain wasn't being forceful when he made the statement, he was being whiney. In fact, today he offered one long whine, like an ambulance siren, only higher pitched.
Senator Carl Levin is the Committee Chair and he noted at the start, "The Committee meets this morning to continue receiving testimony on the Department of Defense's report on implementation of a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Yesterday we heard from Secretary [of Defense Robert] Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm [Mike] Mullen and the co-chairs of the Deptartment's working group on this issue. Today we hear from the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen James Cartwright, and from the senior military office of each of the services: Army Chief of Staff Gen George Casey, Chief of Naval Operations Adm Gary Roughead, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen James Amos, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen Norton Schwartz and Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm Robert Papp. The chiefs are tasked to organize, train and equip our military forces. That's an important and challenging task and we are all grateful to the service of each of you to this nation. If we repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, as I believe we should, the legislation stipulates that repeal will not take effect unless and until there is a certification by the President, Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs that they have adopted the necessary implementatin steps to assure that we maintain our standards of military readiness and effectiveness, unit cohesion and recruiting and retention."
In the first round of questioning, Chair Carl Levin established via the witnesses Casey and Amos that the task could be carried out. Amos quoted back Levin from yesterday ("If not now, when?") in his response. When Ranking Member McCain went, he played repeatedly with his ink pen which only drew attention to his power pink tie begging the question: How often do you see a man in a power pink tie who is opposing LGBT rights?
"I don't have a lot of questions," he would say after a mini-sermonette. And it was strange that he didn't have a lot of questions when he stated before that, "It's very obvious to me that there is a lot more scrutiny and work to be involved before passing this legislation." If more hearings are needed -- and he would advocate that throughout the hearing -- one would assume that this was to get answers and answers generally are preceeded by questions. Possibly the bulk of McCain's thinking cap moments Friday ended with the selection of his tie?
While McCain was the most annoying, it was Senator Roger Wicker that appeared to be beamed in from another planet. He used his hearing time to argue against repeal because service members (his opinion) would never support serving with gays and lesbians and, in some sort of book-end argument, insisting that Don't Ask, Don't Tell discharges resulted from gay members coming forward and saying they wanted to discharge because they were gay. So, orbiting the planet earth from who knows what galazy, Wicker believes that gays and lesbians don't want to serve with straight or straight passing people who also don't want to serve with gays and lesbians. It was a circular kind of irrationality. Early on, Wicker stated, "I do have to wonder if the American people watching this are wondering why are we here?" Probably a lot of people wondered why Wicker was here and what planet he was visiting from.
Senator John Thune, who opposes repeal, tried to float the need for another step in the process. He stated that there was a difference between the chiefs appearing before the Committee today giving their advice and them being able to sign off. It wasn't a smart move on Thune's part. The response was universal: They all feel they are listened to by Gates and Mullen and that the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is where the decision belongs. Thune also accused the working group from the Defense Department which composed the study of manipulating data by emphasis (particularly page 49). Having failed at both efforts, he then declared readiness was his primary issue -- strange since he asked no questions about his primary issue.
Were it not for McCain's drama, the big story coming out of today's hearing might be Senator Scott Brown announcing he supports repeal. (As Ava guessed yesterday.)
Casey stated in the first round (to McCain) that he supported the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell "eventually." (He repeated "eventually" twice in his answer.) Schwartz stated he did not favor repeal now "but, not in 2011, but 2012 at the earliest, that would be an acceptable approach to me." Yet when Levin asked him what the difference was between 2011 and 2012, Schwartz couldn't name one leaving the impression that he was just throwing up road blocks. Levin had to use the bulk of his second round time correcting distortions made by Jeff Sessions and John Thune about Levin's remarks.
John McCain wanted to give a lecture about "it's tough" -- a long lecture. Rather surprising considering his rude remark where he dubbed Levin's questioning a "lecture." You really see such open bitchery in the Senate but few are as catty as John McCain. After insisting it was tough and bobbing around in his chair for about three minutes, he finally declared, "I will not agree to have this bill go forward and neither will, I believe, that 41 of my colleagues will either because our economy is in the tank -- our economy is in the tank and the American people want that issue addressed."

What a drama queen. This is the same John McCain who turned nervous nellie in 2008 and announced he was suspending his campaign for president and wanted a debate postponed. Now, please note, in the midst of the Civil War -- as well as during WWII -- the country held elections. But McCain thinks only one thing can be done at a time? Maybe he has low energy levels and needs to retire? If he can't handle more than one issue at a time, it may be a sign that the mind is gone.
His snide and bitchy ending was so bitter it will probably even overshadow Jeff Sessions trying to argue his case by insisting "I think I am in accord with the ACLU in that view." It was the sort of once-in-a-lifetime statement. (He was stating that the ACLU knew that the Court would not repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell and that he knew it too.) John McCain, scene stealer.
Yesterday the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on the Don't Ask, Don't Tell review the Pentagon conducted. Ava's covered it at Trina's site with "Senators Scott Brown and Roland Burris (Ava)," Wally's covered it at Rebecca's site with "Senate Armed Services Committee" and Kat's covered it at her own site with "Where I find time to praise Ben Nelson." A better moment that was not included in the above was Senator Evan Bayh noting, "There just seems to be something fundamentally wrong when we ask men and women to lay down their lives for their country and yet they cannot be honest about who they are." One person had more "worst moments" than anyone else: John McCain who marched against equality and attempted to mow down several witnesses, his colleagues on the Committee and the American justice system. On the last one, McCain declared of WikiLeaks and its revelations, "So far all we know is that one Private First Class is responsible for all of this." Is he trying to say PFC Bradley Manning is running WikiLeaks? Or is he trying to say Bradley Manning was the leak to WikiLeaks?

Neither makes any sense because Bradley Manning hasn't had a trial, hasn't entered a plea. In the United States, you are innocent until proven guilty. It's not a difficult concept but, for some reason, John McCain struggles with it. Today, WikiLeaks' Julian Assange declared, "For the past four years one of our goals has been to lionise the source who take the real risks in nearly every journalistic disclosure and without whose efforts, journalists would be nothing. If indeed it is the case, as alleged by the Pentagon, that the young soldier -- Bradley Manning -- is behind some of our recent disclosures, then he is without doubt an unparalleled hero." Assange was taking questions in an online news conference at the Guardian.
Where in the world is WikiLeaks? Currently click here. Ravi Somaiya and Alan Cowell (New York Times) report, "An American provider of Internet domain names withdrew its service to the WikiLeaks Web site after a barrage of attacks by hackers that threatened to destabilize its entire system, according to the provider and WikiLeaks itself on Friday. But within hours, WikiLeaks said it had registered its domain name in Switzerland." The WikiLeaks Twitter feed has remained up:

  1. WIKILEAKS: Free speech has a number: http://88.80.13.160
  2. You can also easily support WikiLeaks via http://collateralmurder.com/en/support.html
  3. WikiLeaks,org domain killed by US everydns.net after claimed mass attacks KEEP US STRONG https://donations.datacell.com/
  4. Pilger: The War You Don't See (interview on new film) http://www.abc.net.au/rn/breakfast/stories/2010/3083583.htm


Victoria Ward (Telegraph of London) explains
, "WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the development was an example of the 'privatisation of state censorship' in the US and is a 'serious problem'. [.. .] WikiLeaks has released a file that it dubbed its 'insurance policy'. The file is encrypted with a code that is so strong it is deemed impossible to break. It is said to be planning to release a key that unlocks the files if anything happens to the site or its founder, Julian Assange." Jane Wakefield (BBC News) adds, "The net appears to be closing in on Wikileaks as more and more companies it relies on distance themselves from it. Shutting down the main .org site will cause problems but it is by no means the end. Its Twitter feed remains defiant, urging fans to log on via its IP address with the tweet 'Free speech has a number: http://88.80.13.160'. In some ways, any attempts to cut off Wikileaks could be a case of too little, too late." Matthew Campbell (Bloomberg News) reports, "It is 'not acceptable' for servers in France to host the site, French Industry Minister Eric Besson said in a letter to the CGIET technology agency. The minister asked for measures to bar WikiLeaks from France, where it is partially hosted by Roubaix, France-based OVH SAS." It's already lost one French host. Deutsche Welle reports, "A second French host, Octopuce, based in Paris, was also a WikiLeaks host for approximately the last six weeks up until this week, when the WikiLeaks site sustained a decent-sized cyberattack of 10 gigabits per second." Who's doing these attacks? The one on the US server should result in Eric Holder assigning an investigative team. Failure to do so will result in more rumors that it is indeed the US government attacking WikiLeaks in an attempt to take it offline for good. Tara Kelly (Time magazine) notes, "It's not known where the cyber attacks are coming from, however, WikiLeaks claimed that intelligence agencies from the U.S. and elsewhere have been targeting its site. The reason? It's spilled thousands of embarrassing U.S. diplomatic cables as well as classified U.S. military documents that has angered the U.S. and other governments." A caller to the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) today asked about the cyber attacks. James Kitfield responded, "I assure you there are some reporters who are on that story. Whether they will get to the bottom of it, I don't know. It's very hard, as we've seen, in all the hacking done against our systems, it's very easy to hide the fingerprints of who the hackers are. But it wouldn't suprise me at all if this was the US government. I mean we have an offensive cyber war capability. This is obviously seen -- as [demonstrated by] a Justice Dept investigation of him for spying -- obviously seen as a national security threat. And for them to actually try and take down the sites would not -- I have no proof, no evidence -- but it would not surprise me."
The Library of Congress has joined in censorship and so have others as Gawker reports:
U.S. soldiers in Iraq who try to read about the Wikileaks disclosures -- or read coverage of them in mainstream news sites -- on unclassified networks get a page warning them that they're about to break the law.

The federal government seems to have lost its mind in a manic game of internet whack-a-mole aimed at getting the Wikileaks State Department cables thrown down the memory hole: First, Sen. Joe Lieberman successfully nudged Amazon into kicking the site off its servers. Then the Library of Congress blocked the site for all employees and users of its computer terminals. Now we learn that the State Department is warning prospective hires that if they write about Wikileaks on Twitter or Facebook, they might not get that job. And now Gawker has learned that military installations in Iraq are trying to keep soldiers from reading about Wikileaks.

Mohammad Fadhel: Good morning. My name is Mohammad Fadhel from Agence France Presse. My question is to Secretary Clinton. In order to contain the damages which have been caused by all these leaks through WikiLeaks, what are you going to tell your allies, especially those in those parts which touches your allies exactly? Thank you.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: Well, of course, we have very clearly stated that this action was illegal and regrettable, that we have close and important relationships that will not be affected, or certainly not damaged, but that the United States will continue to engage in the important diplomatic work that I am doing here, bilaterally, and more broadly tonight. And I think that many people who are experienced in diplomacy, as many of the diplomats here in Bahrain are, know that many of these alleged statements are taken out of context. But most importantly, they do not represent the policy of the United States. The policy of the United States is made in Washington. The President and I are very clear about the direction that the United States is taking in supporting our partners, and that will continue.
The attacks on WikiLeaks are coming from all over. Wednesday, Marcia noted some of the attacks including that Amazon had dropped WikiLeaks after hearing from Senator Joe Lieberman's staff. Marcia announced she's now boycotting Amazon over the censorship. That night Betty debunked the sillies and the crazies. If you've missed it, a number of Hillary supporters in the 2008 Democratic Party primary have created 'theories' that WikiLeaks exists to take Hillary down. They also maintain that Julian Assange "called" for Hillary to resign. (And some news outlets have also printed that false charge.) Betty provided the walkthrough on how you call for a resignation and what actually happened with Assange (Time magazine asked him if Hillary should resign -- at the end of a long interview). Betty then noted how Lambert (Corrente) was attacked by Hillary zealots for insisting there was a standard of behavior that all had meet -- which is what led to hostility aimed at Lambert in the comments of that post. Betty rightly argued (at her own site):
Now I understand the reaction to a degree. Hillary has been wrongly and unfairly blamed and accused for so many things and that was especially true in 2008 when so-called Democrats were hurling mud at her from the gutter of Matt Drudge and beyond. And I understand the need to defend her.
But I don't defend her when she's wrong. If she's broken a treaty or a law, then she's wrong.
Sadly, a lot of us are becoming as knee jerk as the Cult of St. Barack. We need to take a strong look at that. And we need to prove that we were right, Hillary was the best choice in 2008.
She was the best choice because she was smarter, she had more experience, she had a better record and her core supporters were not afraid to say, "Hillary, you're wrong."
Contrast that with the so-so intelligence of Barack, the lack of experience, the sorry record and his core supporters who insist that, as Ava and C.I. like to mock, he pees rainbows.
We're not those people, we're not the Cult of St. Hillary. We know she's not perfect and we know she makes mistakes. We know we have to hold her and every other politician to a standard and we also know that even if she disagreed with us on what we saw as a standard, she would support the holding of her feet to the fire. We know that because she spoke of it time and again, how she wanted to work for us.

This is Julian Assange answering Richard Stengel's (Time magazine) question of whether Hillary should resign as Secretary of State.
JA: I believe ... I don't think it would make much of a difference either way. But she should resign if it can be shown that she was responsible for ordering U.S. diplomatic figures to engage in espionage in the United Nations, in violation of the international covenants to which the U.S. has signed up. Yes, she should resign over that.
That's not controversial. If you break the laws, you resign. Regardless of whom you are. I personally like Sandy Berger but have noted here that when he copped a plea that should mean he could no longer hold appointed office. He could run for office and if the voters of whatever area wanted to trust him, that was one thing. But having agreed that he violated the law and a trust, he shouldn't be appointed to any government position. Again, I like Sandy. But right is right. I like Hillary as well. But if she broke laws -- that includes treaties the US is a signatory to -- then she would need to resign. If. The documents released thus far do not prove that she did. (Which is something Wally and Cedric were tackling this week.) Even Julian Assange says "if it can be shown". But the myth that he's calling for her resignation has led all the loons to come out charging. Some, see Marcia's take down of Riverdaughter last night, are so stupid that they (a) accept the lie that something's been proven regarding Hillary and (b) then insist that it doesn't matter as they minimize what the documents show. (The cable shows law breaking -- that's reality, know the law -- it does not show Hillary authorized it. "Of course, we don't know asked by whom," Diane Rehm pointed out on the second hour of today's The Diane Rehm Show. Watch this weekend and you may see a walkback by several outlets as they try to address the CIA involvement and need to figure out how -- since they don't want to run corrections, though they should -- they twist the story around.)
Let's stay with realities. Reality: I'm not attracted to mincing men so I avoid Robert Gibbs when possible. But the White House plus-size spokesmodel came up yesterday afternoon when we were speaking with a group of students. WikiLeaks has stolen government documents! It's true because Tubby Gibbs said so! Eric Holder hasn't said that. Robert Gibbs is a professional liar -- that job requires one. Robert Gibbs declared that there was "an ongoing criminal investigation about the stealing of and the dissemination of sensitive and classified information." WikiLeaks didn't steal anything. They have copies of government documents. Gibbs is a fat-ass liar. Or, in fairness, he may just be that ignorant. This issue has been dealt with repeatedly in this country. Let's use the Pentagon Papers. Copies were passed on to the press. Not the original. To have been in possession of the original would have put the press in possession of government property. WikiLeaks did not steal information and they are not in possession of stolen government documents. Bradley Manning -- who has not been found guilty of anything -- is charged with leaking material -- even he is not charged with theft.
The Cable Gate archive has been spread, along with significant material from the US and other countries to over 100,000 people in encrypted form. If something happens to us, the key parts will be released automatically. Further, the Cable Gate archives is in the hands of multiple news organisations. History will win. The world will be elevated to a better place. Will we survive? That depends on you.
As noted in Tuesday's snapshot, among the revelations in the batch of cables WikiLeaks relased was that the US government pressured the Spanish government to kill the case against the US military for killing journalist Jose Couso in 2003. Emma Pinedo (Reuters) reports, "Couso and Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian, were killed on April 8, 2003, when Sergeant Thomas Gibson, Captain Philip Wolford and Lieutenant Colonel Phil de Camp fired a tank shell at the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad. The Couso family has been campaigning for the three U.S. soldiers to be tried in Spain. They said the WikiLeaks revelations undermined the whole process. They are now working with their lawyers on how to proceed." Giles Tremlett (Guardian) adds, "Spain's governing socialist party and the opposition People's Party, both of which have been embarrassed by the cables, have remained tight-lipped. Socialist ministers have called the Madrid cables – which deal with US attempts to stop court investigations into torture at Guant├ínamo Bay, CIA rendition flights and the Couso case – as 'decontextualised' and 'partial'."

Amnesty International issued the following today:
Amnesty International today strongly condemned a call by the Iraqi Interior Minister for the swift execution of 39 alleged al-Qai'da members as they were paraded before journalists, handcuffed and clad in orange jumpsuits.

"For Jawad al-Bolani to abuse his position as Interior minister by parading these men publicly and calling for their execution before they have even gone to trial, flagrantly flaunting the requirement for defendants to be presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court, is absolutely outrageous," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"It makes a complete mockery of any suggestion that these suspects will receive a fair trial, and sets a most ominous precedent for others."

Jawad al-Bolani said at a press conference in Baghdad on Thursday:

"Today, we will send those criminals and the investigation results to the courts that will sentence them to death. Our demand is not to delay the carrying out of the executions against these criminals so that to deter terrorist and criminal elements."

According to media reports he also said that most of the 39 suspects had rejoined al-Qai'da linked groups after being released from Iraqi prisons administered by the USA. One of them was identified as Hazim al-Zawi, al-Qai'da in Iraq's third-highest leader.

Amnesty International highlighted serious concerns about human rights abuses suffered by the many thousands of detainees in Iraq, many of whom were transferred from US to Iraqi custody in the months up to mid-July 2010, in its report New Order, Same Abuses: Unlawful detentions and torture in Iraq, published in September.

The report detailed how many detainees were arbitrarily held, sometimes for several years without charge or trial, and often tortured to obtain forced confessions.

"We have been saying for a long time that 'confessions' in Iraq are regularly extracted under torture, so any 'confessions' these 39 suspects have made, which may be used in their trial, must be thoroughly investigated to ensure that they have not been made under duress, torture or other ill-treatment," said Malcolm Smart.

"What chance can there be for any defendant to receive a fair trial if so senior a government minister shows such contempt for the rule of law?"

Amnesty International has called on the Iraqi government to ensure that these and other detainees awaiting trial must receive fair trials that conform to recognized international standards.

The organization said it recognizes that the security situation in Iraq remains precarious and that it is the government's duty to protect its population, including members of religious and ethnic minorities. However this must be done with full respect of human rights and the rule of law.

Amnesty International has on numerous occasions strongly condemned human rights abuses committed by armed groups in Iraq.

Amnesty International said it opposes the death penalty unconditionally as a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

The organization has called on Iraq to end executions as a step toward complete abolition of the death penalty.

Read More

Last night, Mike noted Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) report which opened with, "Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani paraded in front of reporters on Thursday 39 suspected members of the Islamic State of Iraq, an al Qaeda-linked terror group responsible for some of the bloodiest attacks in the country." Mike observed, "Jawad and Ministry of the Interior are thugs as the Los Angeles Times has reported for years. I think Dagher did a good job in his report and I think "paraded" really captures it. As a Catholic, I'm opposed to the death penalty. In fact, the Pope is calling for Iraq not to execute Tariq Aziz. But Jawad's not. He's not opposed. And it really drives home how he's using these people as pawns. People who may or may not be guilty. Iraq's famous for their show confessions. But if they are guilty, for Jawad, it's parade them in a guilt parade before killing them." Mike goes on to note how Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad's first mass after the October 31st attack found Father Mukhlis praying for those who suffered in the attack and those who inflicted the suffering ("We will pray for those who assaulted our church and shed the blood of our martyrs.").
Turning to the lack of a government still, Salah Hemeid (Al-Ahram) observes that one of Nouri al-Maliki's biggest problems "is the precise make-up of his new cabinet, amid fierce jockeying for power and reports that ministerial seats are being bought and sold. [. . .] Al-Maliki has said he intends to appoint some 39 ministers in an attempt to maximise cabinet seats and satisfy ambitious politicians, even if this leads to millions of dollars of extra expenses in salaries and other expenditure." And how many posts will Nouri have to create? We noted it months ago, Nouri was promising cabinet positions repeatedly -- the same ones. Now he's got the deal he wanted and he's having to create cabinet positions in an attempt to make good on his promises. Will everyone be taken in by his sucker deals? Real cabinet positions come with power and not just a title. From yesterday's snapshot:

A number of reports are being filed on Hussain al-Shahristani. Ben Lando (Iraq Oil Report) is the only one so far who gets it right: al-Shahristani is not just the Minister of Oil, he's also the Minister of Electricity. Nouri named him that when the Minister of Electricity quit in May. No, it's not a real post because all cabinet ministers must be approved by Parliament and Parliament never approved al-Shahristani to the post of Minister of Elecrticity. The news today is that al-Shahristani has been nominated Deputy Prime Minister for Oil and Electricity Issues.
Does that sound strange? It should. It's not a real position. Nouri just created it. We warned you he had overpromised on posts -- promising several people they could be the same post -- and now he has to create new posts just to give the appearance of keeping his promises.

Hassan Hafidh (Wall St. Journal) reports
today, "People close to Mr. Shahristani, an ally of Mr. Maliki's, said he would accept the new job provided that he keeps a hand on the tiller of Iraq's energy sector even if Mr. Maliki is forced to hand the oil ministry to other rival political blocs." Repeating, real cabinet positions come with power and not just a title.

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. November 10th a power sharing deal resulted in the Parliament meeting for the second time and voting in a Speaker. And then Iraqiya felt double crossed on the deal and the bulk of their members stormed out of the Parliament. David Ignatius (Washington Post) explains, "The fragility of the coalition was dramatically obvious Thursday as members of the Iraqiya party, which represents Sunnis, walked out of Parliament, claiming that they were already being double-crossed by Maliki. Iraqi politics is always an exercise in brinkmanship, and the compromises unfortunately remain of the save-your-neck variety, rather than reflecting a deeper accord. " After that, Jalal Talabani was voted President of Iraq. Talabani then named Nouri as the prime minister-delegate. If Nouri can meet the conditions outlined in Article 76 of the Constitution (basically nominate ministers for each council and have Parliament vote to approve each one with a minimum of 163 votes each time and to vote for his council program) within thirty days, he becomes the prime minister. If not, Talabani must name another prime minister-delegate. . In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister-delegate. It took eight months and two days to name Nouri as prime minister-delegate. His first go-round, on April 22, 2006, his thirty day limit kicked in. May 20, 2006, he announced his cabinet -- sort of. Sort of because he didn't nominate a Minister of Defense, a Minister of Interior and a Minister of a Natioanl Security. This was accomplished, John F. Burns wrote in "For Some, a Last, Best Hope for U.S. Efforts in Iraq" (New York Times), only with "muscular" assistance from the Bush White House. Nouri declared he would be the Interior Ministry temporarily. Temporarily lasted until June 8, 2006. This was when the US was able to strong-arm, when they'd knocked out the other choice for prime minister (Ibrahim al-Jaafari) to install puppet Nouri and when they had over 100,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. Nouri had no competition. That's very different from today. The Constitution is very clear and it is doubtful his opponents -- including within his own alliance -- will look the other way if he can't fill all the posts in 30 days. As Leila Fadel (Washington Post) observes, "With the three top slots resolved, Maliki will now begin to distribute ministries and other top jobs, a process that has the potential to be as divisive as the initial phase of government formation." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) points out, "Maliki now has 30 days to decide on cabinet posts - some of which will likely go to Iraqiya - and put together a full government. His governing coalition owes part of its existence to followers of hard-line cleric Muqtada al Sadr, leading Sunnis and others to believe that his government will be indebted to Iran." The stalemate ends when the country has a prime minister. It is now eight months, twenty-six days and counting. Thursday November 25th, Nouri was finally 'officially' named prime minister-designate. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) explained, "In 30 days, he is to present his cabinet to parliament or lose the nomination." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) added, "Even if Mr. Maliki meets the 30-day deadline in late December -- which is not a certainty, given the chronic disregard for legal deadlines in Iraqi politics -- the country will have spent more than nine months under a caretaker government without a functioning legislature. Many of Iraq's most critical needs -- from basic services to investment -- have remained unaddressed throughout the impasse." Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera) offered, "He has an extremely difficult task ahed of him, these next 30 days are going to be a very tough sell for all of these parties that all want something very important in this government. It took a record eight months to actually come up with this coalition, but now what al-Maliki has to do is put all those people in the competing positions that backed him into slots in the government and he has a month to day that from today." Reidar Visser (Foreign Affairs) offers:

But so far, the power-sharing deal has been disconcertingly lacking in substance. Right now, it appears that the notion of power-sharing in Iraq is nothing more than a spin-doctor operation by the Obama administration -- to which Iraq's dominant Shiite Islamist parties are happy to pay lip service. Looking at the distribution of influential positions in the new government, only one player has been given true power: Nouri al-Maliki.
Iraqiya, besides having gained the speakership of the parliament -- an important position but one that remains checked by deputy speakers with relatively strong powers -- has only been promised a castle in the air: the presidency of a projected National Council for Strategic Policies. The council, which ostensibly would give Iraqiya influence in all major decisions regarding defense, internal security, and economic and energy-related issues, is thus far being treated by Maliki and his allies as a deliberative think tank whose main function would be to offer advice.
As for the Kurds, they have apparently received promises from Maliki on key demands regarding disputed territories and possibly the oil sector; in terms of specific cabinet positions, however, they, too, have few guarantees. The presidency, which the Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani had demanded for personal reasons, is now an essentially powerless position. This new office lacks the strong veto power of the transitional three-man presidency council, which expired when Talabani was elected as an ordinary president without any deputies on November 11, bringing the five-year transition stipulated in the Iraqi constitution to an end.


How bad are things in the government-forming process? Xinhua reports, "U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will chair a high-level UN Security Council meeting on Iraq later this month to 'recognize the very real progress' that country has made so far, Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN who also holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council for December, told reporters here on Thursday." UPI adds that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday "described the nomination of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for a second term as a 'breakthrough' in the democratic experiment under way in Iraq. Delays in forming a new government, however, were cause for some concern for U.N. member states." And they don't expect, even if a cabinet is pulled together, anything to "develop before early 2011". The meet-up will take place December 15th -- or that's the plan currently -- and interestingly there will be talk of taking Iraq out of receivership. Nouri desperately wants control -- and that includes the oil dollars from pre-war that the UN controlled via their program -- and the US desperately wants the theft of Iraqi oil laws passed.


Bombings?

Reuters notes an Abu Ghraib roadside bombing left three people injured and, dropping back to yesterday, a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 Sahwa.
Shootings?
Reuters notes 1 Sahwa was shot dead in Baghdad, 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Baghdad and police Brig Ahemed Salih was left wounded from a Baghdad shooting.
Turning to legal news, and dropping back to November 17th:
Chiyomi Sumida and Charlie Reed (Stars and Stripes) report that the House passed an ammendment yesterday "in response to the case of Hotaru Ferschke". Rick Maze (Navy Times) adds: "It is called the Marine Sgt. Michael H. Ferschke Jr. Memorial Act, named for a sergeant who discovered just as he was deploying to Iraq that his Japanese girlfriend, Hota, was pregnant. The couple married in a ceremony conducted over the telephone. About one month later, Ferschke was killed. One month after that, the child, Michael III, was born, according to [John] Conyers. The Defense Department recognized the marriage, paying death benefits to the widow, but the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees immigration law, did not, said Rep. John Duncan Jr., R-Tenn., the chief sponsor of the bill."
Rick Maze (Marine Corps Time) reports the bill passed in the Senate today and will now return to the House.
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Yochi Dreazen (National Journal), John Harwood (New York Times) and Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "One-Week Wonders: We Pay Attention So You Don't Have To." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Melinda Henneberger, US House Rep Barbara Lee, Mariam Memarsadeghi, US House Rep Shelley Moore Capito and Genevieve Wood to discuss the week's news on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary. And this week's To The Contrary online extra is a discussion about environmental concerns in low-income and minority neighborhoods. Turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

The Chairman
The chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke gives a rare interview to Scott Pelley in which he discusses pressing economic issues, including the unemployment rate, the deficit and the Fed's controversial $600 billion U.S. Treasury Bill purchase.

Facebook
Mark Zuckerberg, the 26-yr.-old founder and CEO of mega-social media site Facebook, talks to Lesley Stahl about his life and his business, now worth an estimated $35 billion. (This is a double-length segment.) | Watch Video


60 Minutes, Sunday, Dec. 5, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The continued war

Oxford Press reports that the body of Sgt David J. Luft Jr. arrived home today. He was killed last month in Iraq, in Tikrit, by enemy fire. His survivors include a wife and child, two parents, a sister and two brothers.

It really amazes me how many people who identify of the left or Democratic cared or 'cared' about the Iraq War when George W. Bush was in office but don't give a damn now.

People still die in this hideous and illegal war. I was against it before it started. I loudly called out George W. Bush from the start.

Barack Obama didn't make the war better.

Equally true, had George W. Bush told us in 2009 that he 'planned' to end the war in 2011, we would have said that was too damn long.

But the sheep went along with Barack, didn't they?

Even though the SOFA can be extended or replaced with another treaty. Even though Joe Biden, Robert Gates, Philip J. Crowley, Ryan Crocker and others have made that point this year and offered that they believe US forces need to remain in Iraq beyond 2011.

C.I. told you the truth about the SOFA in November of 2008. Even being attacked for telling you that it did not mean the end of the war -- that it could be replaced or extended, she continued to tell you the truth.

But a number of people don't want the truth, they want lies. They want lies and they want to be groupies for people in power. Despite the fact that most of us would have trouble remembering one national politician who did something that truly made our lives better.

I'm sorry that Sgt Luff's family had to lose their son. I know their statements have been in support of the war. I disagree with that but I am sorry for their loss and for the fact that the Iraq War continues and so many people seem willing to look the other way.

Not everyone and, as C.I. always points out, if the Iraq War weren't off the media radar, it would probably matter more in the US.

But it is off the radar and a number of people serving in the Cult of St. Barack don't give a damn about Iraq and, in fact, get very angry when you point out that -- despite campaign promises -- Barack hasn't ended the Iraq War.

It's a shame he didn't keep the promise so many voters thought he was making. If he had, Sgt Luff might still be alive.



"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, December 1, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the Iraqi government releases monthly figures and, oops, no one thinks to check them against already reported dead and wounded, WikiLeaks remains in the news, Iran is the focus of much worry for many countries, Robert Gates says the latest WikiLeaks release really isn't that damaging, and more.
It's December 1st and AFP reports that the Iraqi government (Ministries of Defense, Health and Interior) have released what they like to call statistics on the death toll and wounded for November. They claim 171 people were killed and that 293 people were wounded. They lie and AFP waives them through. At least 214 people died in November (not counting US service members) and at least 784 were wounded according to press accounts. The real figures are probably much higher. It's amazing that November 2nd saw a greater number reported injured by the press then ALL the people the ministries claim were wounded in the month of November.
Check my mouth, here's our breakdown for the 214 dead and 784 wounded. November 1st 3 people were reported dead (the rising toll from the assault on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad is not counted in this since the assault was October 31st). November 2nd 76 people were reported killed and over 300 were wounded. November 3rd, 1 person was reported dead and eight wounded. November 4th, 6 people were reported dead and 26 injured. November 5th, 5 were reported dead and 18 wounded. November 6th, 1 person was reported dead and 33 injured. November 7th, 6 people were reported dead and 28 injured. November 8th, 27 people were reported dead and 86 injured. November 9th, 2 people were reported dead and 7 wounded. November 10th, 5 were reported dead and 39 injured. November 11th, 2 were reported dead and 26 injured. November 12th, 1 person was reported dead and 4 wounded. November 13th, 5 people were reported dead and 13 injured. November 14th, 9 people were reported dead and 16 wounded. November 15th, 9 people were reported dead and 39 wounded. November 16th, 2 people were reported dead. November 17th no deaths or injuries were reported. November 18th, 3 people were reported dead and 21wounded. November 19th, 2 people were reported dead and 1 wounded. November 20th, 3 people were reported dead and 4 injured. November 21st, 3 people were reported dead. November 22nd, 5 people were reported dead and 12 wounded.
November 23rd, 9 people were reported dead and 6 injured. November 24th, 11 people were reported dead and 27 injured. November 25th, 1 person was reported dead and 13 injured. November 26th, 3 people were reported dead and 31 injured. November 27th, 5 people were reported dead and 7 wounded. November 28th, 2 people were reported dead and 7 injured. November 29th, 7 people were reported dead and 11 injured. November 30th. 5 people were reported dead and 32 injured.
Reuters sits in its own filth and claims that there's been a drop in violence each month for three months semi-using the so-called statistics (AFP rightly uses the full statistics, Reuters breaks those statistics up and just focuses on 'civilians').
AFP notes 2 US service members were reported dead last month while serving in Iraq. They were Staff Sgt Loleni W. Gandy and Sgt David J. Luff Jr. Larry Davis (Local 12 -- link has text and video) spoke with Lucy Luff, mother of David, who states of their phone call 12 hours before he died, "He was happy. He was getting ready to come home. He was going to come home in February. He was going to be with the family." Lauren Pack (Middletown Journal) adds, "The funeral service will be at 10 a.m. Friday at the Brown-Dawson Funeral Home, 1350 Millville Ave. Burial with full military honors will follow at the Greenwood Cemetery. Visitation will be from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Hamilton High School." The Washington Post is tallying the US military deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq and you can click here for a graph and click on the bars for more details (they do not break it up by Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom).
2 6
3 24
Reuters reported yesterday that the promised census has -- no surprise -- been delayed. But as puzzling as Reuters' website glitches of late (as they retool) is reporting that "Iraq's cabinet decided on Tuesday to postpone . . ."

What cabinet would that be?

Are we still humoring Barack and pretending that Nouri had a 'caretaker' government going on? Even after we know that the US didn't believe that nor did Iraq's neighbors? In one of the funnier moments in the article, Reuters writes "The count had been scheduled for December 5, after being delayed from October 24."

October 24th? Of 2007? That's when the census and referendum were supposed to take place, check the Iraqi Constitution. Contrast that nonsense with the straightforward opening Lara Jakes (AP) offers, "Iraq's government said Tuesday it will again delay a nationwide census that could determine the real numbers of the country's religious and ethnic groups." What AP opens with, Reuters buries in paragraph six.

It's not a good time for the Kurds in Iraq.

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. November 10th a power sharing deal resulted in the Parliament meeting for the second time and voting in a Speaker. And then Iraqiya felt double crossed on the deal and the bulk of their members stormed out of the Parliament. David Ignatius (Washington Post) explains, "The fragility of the coalition was dramatically obvious Thursday as members of the Iraqiya party, which represents Sunnis, walked out of Parliament, claiming that they were already being double-crossed by Maliki. Iraqi politics is always an exercise in brinkmanship, and the compromises unfortunately remain of the save-your-neck variety, rather than reflecting a deeper accord. " After that, Jalal Talabani was voted President of Iraq. Talabani then named Nouri as the prime minister-delegate. If Nouri can meet the conditions outlined in Article 76 of the Constitution (basically nominate ministers for each council and have Parliament vote to approve each one with a minimum of 163 votes each time and to vote for his council program) within thirty days, he becomes the prime minister. If not, Talabani must name another prime minister-delegate. . In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister-delegate. It took eight months and two days to name Nouri as prime minister-delegate. His first go-round, on April 22, 2006, his thirty day limit kicked in. May 20, 2006, he announced his cabinet -- sort of. Sort of because he didn't nominate a Minister of Defense, a Minister of Interior and a Minister of a Natioanl Security. This was accomplished, John F. Burns wrote in "For Some, a Last, Best Hope for U.S. Efforts in Iraq" (New York Times), only with "muscular" assistance from the Bush White House. Nouri declared he would be the Interior Ministry temporarily. Temporarily lasted until June 8, 2006. This was when the US was able to strong-arm, when they'd knocked out the other choice for prime minister (Ibrahim al-Jaafari) to install puppet Nouri and when they had over 100,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. Nouri had no competition. That's very different from today. The Constitution is very clear and it is doubtful his opponents -- including within his own alliance -- will look the other way if he can't fill all the posts in 30 days. As Leila Fadel (Washington Post) observes, "With the three top slots resolved, Maliki will now begin to distribute ministries and other top jobs, a process that has the potential to be as divisive as the initial phase of government formation." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) points out, "Maliki now has 30 days to decide on cabinet posts - some of which will likely go to Iraqiya - and put together a full government. His governing coalition owes part of its existence to followers of hard-line cleric Muqtada al Sadr, leading Sunnis and others to believe that his government will be indebted to Iran." The stalemate ends when the country has a prime minister. It is now eight months, twenty-four days and counting. Thursday November 25th, Nouri was finally 'officially' named prime minister-designate. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) explained, "In 30 days, he is to present his cabinet to parliament or lose the nomination." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) added, "Even if Mr. Maliki meets the 30-day deadline in late December -- which is not a certainty, given the chronic disregard for legal deadlines in Iraqi politics -- the country will have spent more than nine months under a caretaker government without a functioning legislature. Many of Iraq's most critical needs -- from basic services to investment -- have remained unaddressed throughout the impasse." Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera) offered, "He has an extremely difficult task ahed of him, these next 30 days are going to be a very tough sell for all of these parties that all want something very important in this government. It took a record eight months to actually come up with this coalition, but now what al-Maliki has to do is put all those people in the competing positions that backed him into slots in the government and he has a month to day that from today."

And one of the ways that Nouri put together the power-sharing arrangement was by promising the census would take place. Kurds were very vocal with Jalal Talabani when he declared that an independent Kurdistan was just a dream ("The idea of a united Kurdistan is just a dream written in poetry" was the exact quote) about their displeasure and they were so vocal that Jalal had to announce he wouldn't seek the presidency in order to clamp down on the outcry. As is usual with Jalal, his went back on his word. And now he is the 'new' president of Iraq again and the census has been delayed. In the KRG provincial elections of 2009, disappointment with Jalal is one reason that other parties did well. So now there's no census. Let's drop back to the November 15th snapshot:

Many pundits are offering that Iran seems a clear winner and that Iraqiya seems a clearr loser. The Kurds didn't really win either -- though the Kurdish leaders got what they wanted. The new Speaker, for example, Osama al-Nufaifi was popular with Shi'ites and the Kurds went along with it after some initial discussion where they considered rejecting the choice due to the fact that he and his family are seen as incredibly anti-Kurdish. If that impression is strengthened by the way Osama runs the Parliament, look for Kurdish leadership to face some of the most difficult and stinging criticism thus far. The sort that could, in fact, allow the non-home grown Goran to be the serious challenger that the CIA was hoping it would be back in 2009.

Marina Ottaway and Danial Kaysi tackle the issue of the power-sharing arrangement in "Iraq's Parliament Elects a Controversial Speaker" (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace):

Nujeifi's election as speaker of parliament will undoubtedly create tensions with the Kurds. He and his brother Atheel Nujeifi, the governor of Nineveh province, are considered Arab nationalists and have long rejected Kurdish claims over Kirkuk and parts of Nineveh. Their outspoken views have created alarm among Kurdish leaders. In fact, the strong stand taken by the Nujeifi brothers -- as well as similar stances of other players within Iraqiya -- was a key obstacle to the formation of an alliance between Iraqiya and the Kurdish parties that could have created an alternative to a State of Law government.

Nujeifi has made many statements that were bound to anger the Kurds. As a member of parliament, he accused Kurdish militias of driving people out of their residences in some areas in Mosul, a statement that spurred a Kurdish walk-out from parliament and forced Iraqiya to issue an apology and distance itself from Nujeifi's charges. In December 2009, he also criticized the guarantees given to the Kurds by Americans through Article 140 of the constitution, calling it a violation of Iraq's sovereignty and a source for ethnic strife.

In early 2010, the Kurds even threatened to take Nujeifi to court for stating that Kurds do not belong to the Iraqi entity. While Nujeifi's statement was ambiguous, some Kurdish members of parliament saw it as a violation of the constitution and a call for ethnic cleansing. Nujeifi also declared in a televised interview that the Kurds were implementing a widespread policy of "Kurdification" in Kirkuk and Dohuk, and that "the population of Kirkuk was originally composed mainly of Turkmen, that of Dohuk, of Christians…we haven't heard in the past of these places having Kurds in them." He also said that Maliki had shown him documents that proved that the Kurds were taking steps to frighten Christians into leaving Mosul. Maliki's spokesperson, Ali Dabbagh, promptly denied any such conversation. Similarly, Nujeifi also claimed that the Kurds were attempting to change the demographics in certain parts of Mosul by driving out 30,000 Arabs and Yazidis.

Ma'ad Fayad (Asharq Al-Awsat) interviews Iyad Allawi who declares, "A range of factors have led to this result, the most important of which was the position of Iran, which has intervened strongly and widely on two issues. First, it has fixed red lines in relation to certain Iraqi political leaders, primarily me and the Al-Iraqiya List. Second, Tehran has focused its main support on the forces that represent the sectarian political project. This is why it was no coincidence and not surprising to see the State of Law Coalition [SLC] under the leadership of Al-Maliki and the Iraqi National Alliance under the leadership of Ammar al-Hakim invited [to Tehran]. Subsequently, the formation of the National Alliance was declared. This alliance or bloc was then considered to be the largest bloc, and the Federal Court gave its opinion and said that the largest bloc is one that can be formed after the election. This is neither correct, nor constitutional, nor legal, nor democratic.
Moreover, in the first three months after the publication of the election results, the brothers in the SLC tried to prolong the status quo. For this end they used the Debathification issue (the Accountability and Justice Commission) and removed about 500 candidates from the electoral list. Then, they involved the country in the problem of the definition of the largest bloc and the smallest bloc, and whether the largest bloc is the one that has won the election or the one that was formed in the House of Representatives. Then, they involved us in the issue of recounting votes and sorting them by hand, which did not change the results of the election. These three months gave them room to consecrate a few matters. This is in addition to the role played by Iran, and to the unclear and vague role of the United States concerning the situation in Iraq."
Iran? Today Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) filed a major report on issues involving the Iraq-Iran border. Assertions are presented as fact and it appears all assertions are coming from the US military plus a few key local Iraqi sources. The report can be read many ways but the best is probably as a reflection of American military anxiety and possibly the roll-out for extending the US military presence in Iraq as appears apparent in this sentence: "Top Iraqi commanders have said that their lack of a regionally competitive air force and the country's fledgling border guard force will leave them highly vulnerable to external threats after U.S. forces pull out completely at the end of 2011." Iran isn't just a concern for the US. The Guardian publishes a US embassy cable from April 9, 2009 in which diplomatic staff notify the State Dept in DC about Saudi Arabia's concerns:

Iran

----

10. (S) The Secretary said the U.S. is looking to see if Iran can be engaged in any productive manner and noted that Special Advisor Ross would travel to the region soon for consultations. AbZ told the Secretary that UAE feels threatened by Iran today, even though Iran does not yet have a nuclear capability. AbZ asserted that the UAE is even more worried about Iranian intentions than is Israel. AbZ encouraged the U.S. to consider a GCC plus 3 and P5 plus 1 joint meeting.

----------------

Iraqi GCC plus 3

----------------

11. (S) The Secretary expressed interest in the Iraqi invitations for a GCC plus 3 meeting in Baghdad, at a date to be determined. She noted the value of the GCC plus 3 mechanism not only for furthering Arab engagement with the Iraqi government during a time of transition, but as a way to send a message to Iran that Iraq has broad support in the Arab world.

--------------------

Afghanistan/Pakistan

--------------------

12. (S) The Secretary told AbZ that the U.S. needs help to stem the flow of funds from the Gulf to the Taliban. She noted that one area of potential action is reviving training related to bulk cash smuggling.

13. (S) Thanking the UAE for hosting the Friends of Pakistan preparatory meeting, the Secretary said she hopes AbZ would attend the April donors conference in Tokyo. AbZ confirmed that he plans to attend and said that the UAE will make a "strong" pledge, but no decision has been made on an exact dollar figure.

14. (S) AbZ express concern over Saudi Arabia's decision not to make a pledge at the Tokyo conference. AbZ said that the Saudis have never liked the Pakistan Peoples Party, and support Nawaz Sharif. In addition, AbZ posited that Saudi Arabia suspects that Zardari is Shia, thus creating Saudi concern of a Shia triangle in the region between Iran, the Maliki government in Iraq, and Pakistan under Zardari. Feltman noted a pattern of Saudi behavior of withholding financial assistance - not supporting March 14 in Lebanon, not sending funds to the PA, and not planning a pledge for Pakistan. Otaiba added that Saudi Arabia also failed make a commitment at the G20 meeting.

WikiLeaks major release has often dominated the news cycle this week. For an overview of the latest release by WikiLeaks, we'll note this from Sunday's KPFA Evening News:

Anthony Fest: The whistle blower website WikiLeaks released another trove of confidential documents today. Last month WikiLeaks released thousands of Pentagon documents most associated with the US occupation of Iraq. In contrast, the documents made public today include thousands of diplomatic cables -- communications between the State Dept and Washington and US consulates all around the world. The documents cover both the George W. Bush and the Barack Obama administrations. WikiLeaks gave an advance look at the documents to several media organizations including the New York Times and the British newspaper the Guardian. Those publications now have articles on their websites analyzing the documents. WikiLeaks says it will post the documents on its own website in the coming days although it has said its site was the target of a cyber attack today. The documents release is certain to provoke tension between the US and its allies. For example, some of the cables say that Saudi donors are the largest financiers of terror groups. Other cables detail the cover-up of US military activities. One of them records a meeting last January between US Gen David Petreaus and the president of Yemen about air attacks against rebels in Yemen. The president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, tells Petraeus, "We'll continue to say they are our bombs and not yours." According to the Guardian, the documents reveal that some Arab leaders had privately urged an air attack against Iran and that US officials had been instructed to spy on the United Nations' leadership. Among the other disclosures are deep fears in Washington and London about the security of Paksitan's nuclear weapons. Another document asserts massive corruption at high levels of the Afghanistan government saying the Afghan vice president traveled to the United Arab Emirates carrying $52 million in cash. Still other documents disparage the British military in Afghanistan.



Iraq and Iran are the topic of many cables released by WikiLeaks. Ryan Grim (Huffington Post) notes a July 31, 2008 cable addresses Egyptian concerns:

Iraq: Don't Pull Out Too Soon
------------------------------

¶4. (C) Turning to Iraq, Senator Kerry asked Mubarak if he had
changed his opinion of Prime Minister Al Maliki after Iraq's
successful stabilization efforts in Basra and Sadr City.
Mubarak said he "I am not critical. He came to Cairo. I gave
him my phone number but he hasn't called us." He noted that
Egypt offered to host and train Iraqi forces, but that the
offer had not been acted upon by the Iraqis. He said the
U.S. "cannot withdraw until you strengthen the armed forces
and police. Until then you have to stay."

-------------------
Beware The Iranians
-------------------

¶5. (C) Mubarak's top concern for the stability of Iraq and
the region is Iran. He believes that "as a result of the
invasion of Iraq, Iran is spreading everywhere." He urged the
U.S. to be wary of what Iran says. "They are big, fat liars
and justify their lies because they believe it is for a
higher purpose." He said he believes this opinion is shared
by other leaders in the region. Nonetheless, he opined that
no Arab state will join the U.S. in a defense relationship
vis-a-vis Iran out of fear of "sabotage and Iranian
terrorism." He said Iran's sponsorship of terrorism is
"well-known but I cannot say it publicly. It would create a
dangerous situation." Mubarak said that sanctions are the
best hope for containing Iran, but Arab states won't dare to
endorse them.

It'll be interesting to see how that one plays out re: John Kerry. Drop back to a March 2004 statement he made that some saw as controversial and that the Bush administration criticized him for. How close is he to foreign leaders? That was the question in 2004 when he began boasting. AFP emphasizes a WikiLeaks release in which Egypt's president, Hosni Mubarack, insists that the US should "allow a dictator to take over" Iraq. Which may explain US support for Nouri al-Maliki.

Heather Langan (Bloomberg News) reports on another cable detailing a briefing between US Adm Mike Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the head of Egypt's spy program Omar Suleiman: "Suleiman added that the Egyptian intelligence service had begun "recruiting agents in Iraq and Syria," according to the cable. He also said the U.S. shouldn't limit its focus on Iran to one issue at a time, such as the Islamic republic's nuclear program."

Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) offers this take on the US government's pushback against WikiLeaks:
No, the real eye-opener is the reactionary impulse of people in power to repress those who disseminate information.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the dislcosure "not just an attack on America's foreign policy interests. It is an attack on the international community."
Rep. Peter King echoed her comments, saying, "This is worse even than a physical attack on Americans, it's worse than a military attack."
All right, just wait a second here. Pearl Harbor was an attack on America. 9/11 was an attack on America. The Wikileaks document drop was not an attack on America. Our nuclear weapons are not on heightened alert (at least I sure hope they're not). The Pentagon isn't calling up more troops. No one was killed; no one was injured.
Nevertheless, Sen. Joe Lieberman said the Wikileaks staff had "blood on their hands."
Lieberman, Clinton, and King are trying to convict Wikileaks with guilt by hyperbole.
US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates actually went against the grain yesterday at the Pentagon when asked about WikiLeaks. His lengthy response included the following:
But let me say -- let me address the latter part of your question. This is obviouslyl a massive dump of information. First of all, I would say unlike the Pentagon Papers, one of the things that is important, I think, in all of these releases, whether it's Afghanistan, Iraq or the releases this week, is the lack of any signficant difference between what the U.S. government says publicly and what these things show privately, whereas the Pentagon Papers showed that many in the government were not only lying to the Ameircan people, they were lying to themselves.
But let me -- let me just offer some perspective as somebody who's been at this a long time. Every other government in the world knows the United States government leaks like a siever, and it has for a long time. And I dragged this up the other day when I was looking at some of these prospective releases. And this is a quote from John Adams: "How can a government go on, publishing all of their negotiations with foreign nations, I know not. To me, it appears as dangerous and pernicious as it is novel."
When we went to real congressional oversight of intelligence in the mid-70s, there was a broad view that no other foreign intelligence service would ever share information with us again if we were going to share it all with the Congress. Those fears all proved unfounded.
Now I've heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer, and so on. I think -- I think those descriptions are fairly signficantly overwrought. The fact is, government deal with the United States because it's in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets. Many governments -- some governments deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation.
So other nations will continue to deal with us. They will continue to work with us. We will continue to share sensitive information with one another.
Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.
Click here to read in full. I think we represented it well in the excerpt above. Kevin Paule (Student Life) points out, "The empire is unsustainable, as the record deficits under the Bush and Obama administrations clearly show. Our greatest threat lies not in a cave thousands of miles away, but rather in the flaws of our foreign policy over the past century. The role of America as the world's policeman has involved our country in nations on every inhabited continent. Rather than respect the sovereignty of foreign countries and provide defense here at home, the United States has adopted an aggressive stance that creates more enemies than it defeats. A simple history of U.S. policy in the Middle East reveals the insanity." Meanwhile Justin Raimondo (Antiwar.com) takes it to the issue of the personal, "One thing I personally appreciate about the WikiLeaks mega-dump is that it provides me with plenty to write about for the next few years, at least. There is so much material here that one could hardly hope to cover it all, and pick up all the little gems that are just waiting to be discovered by the avid researcher. For some time to come I'll be mining this rich lode -- rich with meaning, and heavy with lessons for critics of the interventionist foreign policy consensus. "
Turning to violence, AKI reports that Iraqi Christian Fady Walid Jibrai was at his Mosul grocery store when assailants killed him yesterday. Xinhua adds that his brother was wounded in the shooting and also details other violence yesterday while last night a Mosul military checkpoint was attacked and 1 Iraqi soldier died and another was left injured, when police arrived on the scene of the assault a bomb went off injuring a police officer, and a Mosul car bombing injured three Iraqi soldiers. Reuters reports that a Kirkuk roadside bombing injured the Dibbis police chief today and an Anbar Province roadside bombing claimed the lives of two bodyguards for Lt Col Mohammed Abdul-Majeed. Alsumaira TV reports a Baghdad sticky bombing injured "an employee at Iraq's Health Ministry".
We'll cover the issue of Iraqi refugees tomorrow but breaking news is that a "brawl" took place at Australia's detention center for immigrants on Christmas Island -- where last month an Iraqi refugee apparently took his own life rather than return to Iraq -- and Australia's ABC News reports that the country's Immigration Dept states they are investigating. Following the apparent suicide, immigrants protested in common areas, some went on hunger strikes and some sewed their mouths shut.
In the US, people are gearing up for a protest that will take place later this month. Chris Hedges (Information Clearing House) notes:
On Dec. 16 I will join Daniel Ellsberg, Medea Benjamin, Ray McGovern and several military veteran activists outside the White House to protest the futile and endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of us will, after our rally in Lafayette Park, attempt to chain ourselves to the fence outside the White House. It is a pretty good bet we will all spend a night in jail. Hope, from now on, will look like this.
Hope is not trusting in the ultimate goodness of Barack Obama, who, like Herod of old, sold out his people. It is not having a positive attitude or pretending that happy thoughts and false optimism will make the world better. Hope is not about chanting packaged campaign slogans or trusting in the better nature of the Democratic Party. Hope does not mean that our protests will suddenly awaken the dead consciences, the atrophied souls, of the plutocrats running Halliburton, Goldman Sachs, ExxonMobil or the government.
Hope does not mean we will halt the firing in Afghanistan of the next Hellfire missile, whose explosive blast sucks the oxygen out of the air and leaves the dead, including children, scattered like limp rag dolls on the ground. Hope does not mean we will reform Wall Street swindlers and speculators, or halt the pillaging of our economy as we print $600 billion in new money with the desperation of all collapsing states. Hope does not mean that the nation's ministers and rabbis, who know the words of the great Hebrew prophets, will leave their houses of worship to practice the religious beliefs they preach. Most clerics like fine, abstract words about justice and full collection plates, but know little of real hope.
Hope knows that unless we physically defy government control we are complicit in the violence of the state. All who resist keep hope alive. All who succumb to fear, despair and apathy become enemies of hope. They become, in their passivity, agents of injustice. If the enemies of hope are finally victorious, the poison of violence will become not only the language of power but the language of opposition. And those who resist with nonviolence are in times like these the thin line of defense between a civil society and its disintegration.