Wednesday, August 20, 2014


army push to retake Saddam's hometown of Tikrit falters amid fierce resistance:

Are we still pretending these are peace missions?

To retake Saddam Hussein's hometown?

Oh, yeah, this is a clearly defined peace mission.  (Sarcasm.)

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills): 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, public musings over mission creep become more common, the Pentagon gets confused when asked how much the US bombings of Iraq are costing the taxpayers, and much more.

Yesterday found US President Barack Obama declaring:

Today, with our support, Iraqi and Kurdish forces took a major step forward by recapturing the largest dam in Iraq, near the city of Mosul. The Mosul dam fell under terrorist control earlier this month, and is directly tied to our objective of protecting Americans in Iraq.
[. . .]
Iraqi and Kurdish forces took the lead on the ground and performed with courage and determination. So this operation demonstrates that Iraqi and Kurdish forces are capable of working together and taking the fight to ISIL. If they continue to do so, they will have the strong support of the United States of America.

And today?

No speeches to the world today.

Not on the day that found Lizzie Dearden (Independent) reporting the battle for the dam continues and that, "Government forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters are trying to push back the militants on the ground around the dam, which is 45 miles from Mosul."  Australia's Sky News (link is text and video) reports:

  Sky's Alex Crawford, at Mosul Dam, said: "We heard firing behind us about 1km away. The president's son said he suspected some hardened IS fighters were in the south of the dam who had not been cleared from the area."
She added: "They are still clearly holding out and putting up some sort of defence."

Crawford said she heard heavy machine-gun fire and possibly mortar shelling as well as jets overhead.

AFP states, "Fighting erupted Tuesday in the area surrounding the dam and U.S. warplanes carried out fresh strikes targeting ISIS, a senior officer in the Kurdish peshmerga forces told AFP."

At the Pentagon today, spokesperson Rear Adm Jack Kirby took questions from the press.

Q: Where do the missions -- the airstrikes for Mosul, where do they fit into the two -- the missions the president delineated, protecting humanitarian issues and then protecting U.S. personnel? Because this seems like a classic softening up the opposition, close-air support for invading -- a counter-invading force. Where do -- where do the missions fit? And wasn't that -- this an example of mission creep, albeit maybe accidental?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: Well, let's take the second part first. Mission creep -- you know, this is a phrase that gets bandied about quite a bit, but let's just kind of talk about it for a second. Mission creep refers to the growth or expansion of the goals and objectives of a military operation, that the goals and objectives change, morph into something bigger than they were at the outset.
It doesn't talk about -- mission creep doesn't refer to numbers of sorties, numbers of troops, numbers of anything. It doesn't refer to timelines. It doesn't even refer to intensity. It's about the mission itself. Nothing has changed about the mission, missions that we're conducting inside Iraq. As I said before, airstrikes are authorized under two mission areas -- humanitarian assistance and the protection of U.S. personnel and facilities.
The airstrikes that we conducted in and around Mosul dam over the last 72 hours or so fit into both those categories, both helping prevent what could be a huge humanitarian problem should the dam be blown or the gates -- they're just allowed to flood, and also to protect U.S. personnel and facilities. So there's been no -- well, I'm not going to -- I'm not going to say a negative. What I'll just tell you is, the missions are clear. The operations that we're conducting are inside the authorizations for those missions. And we're going to continue to be vigilant going forward. And if there is a need for more airstrikes in conjunction with either of those two mission areas, those two authorizations, we'll conduct them.

Q: How effective, how crucial were the strikes to retaking the dam? Do you have a sense of that? What -- you know, without those airstrikes, would the Iraqis and Peshmerga have been able to have retaken the dam?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: It's hard to, you know, arm-chair quarterback here a military operation that just wound up. We believe they were critical to assisting in that -- in the retaking of the dam. But I also would -- at the same time -- point to the courage, the bravery, the skill of both the Kurdish forces and Iraqi forces and their extensive cooperation with one another in conducting this operation. Yes, we were a critical part of it, but it was a team effort.

It was a team effort?  What's Kirby trying to say?  "IS just wanted it more"?

Before the bad news that the issue of the dam was still up in the air, Barack was preaching Operation Happy Talk.  As Matthew Weaver (Guardian) observes:

Barack Obama hailed the retaking of the Mosul dam as a symbol of how Isis militants could be defeated by co-operation between Kurdish, Iraqi and US forces. “This operation demonstrates that Iraqi and Kurdish forces are capable of working together and taking the fight to Isil [Islamic State]. If they continue to do so, they will have the strong support of the United States of America.”

On the topic of mission creep, William Saletan (Slate) notes the changing scope of Barack's misadventure:

On Aug. 7, Obama specified two grounds for military action: to protect U.S. personnel in Iraq and to prevent the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis trapped by ISIS on Mt. Sinjar. Two days later, however, he added another issue: “We have to make sure that ISIL is not engaging in the actions that could cripple a country permanently. There’s key infrastructure inside of Iraq that we have to be concerned about.” Specifically, on Thursday, he authorized airstrikes “to recapture the Mosul Dam,” arguing that its destruction “could threaten the lives of large numbers of civilians, endanger U.S. personnel and facilities, including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad [280 miles away], and prevent the Iraqi government from providing critical services to the Iraqi populace.” In Obama’s foreign policy, nation-building is out. But using force to help governments provide “critical services” is in.

Gordon Lubold and Kate Brannen (Foreign Policy) also address the issue:

The administration entered the conflict with an aggressive airstrike and airdrop campaign in northern Iraq based, it said, on the need to protect the U.S. personnel in the country and to prevent militants from slaughtering members of the Yazidi religious minority sect stranded atop Mount Sinjar. Then last week, U.S. officials announced that a reconnaissance team that had visited Sinjar discovered that the humanitarian crisis wasn't as bad as first feared, thus removing one of the main justifications for the air campaign. In recent days, the United States has launched a barrage of airstrikes in and around Mosul that appear to be directly targeting the Islamic State, leading many to conclude that the mission is expanding beyond the administration's stated goals and objectives.
"The administration can call it whatever they want, but semantics aside, they're now waging war," said Stephen Biddle, a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University. 

The word games leaders resort to in order to deceive the people they supposedly represent.

The Los Angeles Times' Doyle McManus observes, "Even without American boots on the ground, Obama has entered the United States in its fourth Iraq war. It won’t be over quickly. As the president said, this is going to be a long-term project."

It's a reality few want to tackle, let alone acknowledge.

BBC News, noting the United Kingdom's involvement, reported yesterday, "Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said the UK's military involvement in the country could last for 'months', and has revealed that RAF surveillance aircraft are operating there."  However, wire services carry British Prime Minister David Cameron's denial, "Britain is not going to get involved in another war n Iraq.  We're not going to be putting boots on the ground."

And, like Barack Obama, Cameron thinks as long as he can insist that it's just dropping bombs, it's not really war.

Mitchell Prothero (McClatchy Newspapers) went in search of someone to make sense of the events:

 Dan Trombly, an Iraq military analyst from Caerusa Associates, a Washington consultancy, said that Tuesday’s defeat showed that the Iraqis had made little progress in reforming their military from the shattered hulk that was swept aside by a much smaller force of fighters from the Islamic State in June.
“From what we’ve been able to see in Tikrit, ISF has made far too little progress towards building organizational cohesion and professionalism,” he said by email, referring to Iraqi security forces. “The new volunteers seem undertrained and coordination between and within conventional military units and militia forces is insufficient to withstand the pressure of relatively simple guerrilla tactics.”
Trombly noted that a national military with heavy armor and artillery support, as well as rudimentary air power from a handful of decades-old Iraqi air force jets, should not see an offensive stalled simply because the enemy fought back.

Read more here:

The issue of mission creep was raised in today's State Dept press briefing.  Spokesperson Marie Harf struggled yesterday as she insisted it was consistent policy for the US government to attack the Islamic State in Iraq while aiding and arming it in Syria.  Today, she tried to explain how narrow goals being expanded did not constitute mission creep.  Excerpt.

QUESTION: As you know, the – yesterday the Kurdish forces recaptured the Mosul Dam, and of course they --

MS. HARF: Working with Iraqi security forces, yes.

QUESTION: Yeah, working with Iraqi security forces. And of course, that was because of the help that the United States provided from the air.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: But don’t you – if we go back a little bit and to President Obama’s first statement about Iraq, and he said it – the operation would be limited.

MS. HARF: To two goals.

QUESTION: Two goals, yeah.

MS. HARF: One of which was protecting our people. And as we said very clearly the night the President announced military action, and as we have said multiple times since then, that Mosul Dam is critical infrastructure that if breached, either because ISIS can’t run it or because they take some sort of nefarious action to do so, it would threaten our people and our facility in Baghdad. So we’ve said that from the beginning.


MS. HARF: This is very much in line with the goals the President laid out that first night.

QUESTION: So does that mean the threat is now gone and the United States will stop its operations? Because the Mount Sinjar crisis is almost over, and the advance on Erbil has stopped. The dam is – has been recaptured.

MS. HARF: Right. And those are all good things. But we maintain the ability to strike at a time and place of our choosing if we believe our people or our facilities are in danger. That applies to Baghdad, that applies to Erbil. So we will continue monitoring the situation. We have a number of assets at our disposal if we feel that any of those people are threatened.

QUESTION: Do you – don’t you believe that there has been – that limited airstrike that President Obama outlined very explicitly, you’ve gone beyond that now?

MS. HARF: Not at all, in no way. He outlined two goals for this, one of which was protection for our people. The Mosul Dam, if breached, which – we have no idea if ISIS would be able to or would be willing to actually run it and not do something to breach it, would directly threaten our people in Baghdad.


QUESTION: And – sorry, one more question. Kurdish officials --

MS. HARF: Because of the massive flooding that would occur.

Again with the lie that the dam breaking would flood Baghdad?  
There are over 200 miles between Mosul and Baghdad. In addition, the wave of water would have to have a southeast trajectory and to ignore the bits of river bed it would have to cross over repeatedly to strike Baghdad. 
The lie re: Baghdad was first popularized by journalist or 'journalist' Patrick Cockburn in 2007 when he cited 'experts' Ryan Crocker and David Petraeus saying there could be "flooding along the Tigris river all the way to Bahgdad."  Neither Crocker nor Petraeus is an engineer and Cockburn was noting a US Army Corps of Engineers report elsewhere so it's strange he didn't go to that.
Strange until you read the (long) US Army Corps report and grasp that there's nothing in it that backs up Crocker and Petraeus' claims re: Baghdad.  Then you understand why a reporter or 'reporter' would elect to sidestep the issue. 
The 2007 Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction's "Relief and Reconstruction Funded Work at Mosul Dam Mosul, Iraq" notes the letter Crocker and Petraeus wrote in passing but only refers to Mosul being flooded (in three to four hours).
Well threats of destruction were used to pimp the Iraq War at its start, it's probably necessary to continue to pimp threats of destruction to keep the war going.
It certainly keeps people from asking questions like "how are we paying for this?"
At the Pentagon press briefing that issue briefly arose.

Q: Do you know how much these airstrikes are costing yet? And are they coming from the OCO budget or the base budget?

REAR ADM. KIRBY: You'll have to go to CENTCOM for that. I don't have a budget figure. The operations budget that -- that Central Command and the services have are funding this. There's not a request in for extra funding or anything like that for this operation. I just -- I'd refer you to CENTCOM, though, for more details on that.
Someone forgot to tell the American taxpayer that the card already maxed out on an illegal war was about to see its credit limit raised just so more money could be spent on the illegal war.
Someone also forgot to tell Barack the way it works with the Iraq War:  Any time you try to spin success, reality slaps you in the face.

At this point, they're have been so many 'turned corners' in the Iraq War, the world is left dizzy.

And the bombs keep getting dropped.

  • The US is on pace to conduct more airstrikes in Iraq this month (204), than in Afghanistan last month (160).

  • Being forced to fight again over the dam wasn't the only major operation attempted today.  Early on, NINA reports, the military announced, "The security forces started today a massive military operation to liberate the city of Tikrit, the center of Salahuddin province, from the (IS)."  After the announcement?

    Xinhua explains what happened:

    Iraqi security forces on Tuesday halted an offensive to retake control of the militant- seized city of Tikrit, the capital of the Sunni-dominant province of Salahudin, due to heavy resistance by the militants, security sources said.
    Earlier in the day, the troops entered Tikrit from three directions, but was forced to retreat after fierce clashes with the Sunni militants, including those who are linked to the Islamic State militants, an al-Qaida offshoot, a provincial security source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

    Heba Saleh, Claer Barrett and Giulia Segreti (Irish Times) note:

    Abu Abd al-Naami, a spokesman for the Council of Iraqi Revolutionaries, which represents some of the country’s Sunni tribes that are fighting against the Iraqi government, claimed that Tikrit had come under attack from the Iraqi army, but that “tribal” and “revolutionary” forces had repulsed the assault. 
    Mr al-Naami, whose organisation insists there is no such body called Isis, added that fighting continued on the southeastern outskirts of the birthplace of executed former president Saddam Hussein. 

    National Iraqi News Agency reports 2 corpses were discovered in al-Hawy, the aerial bombing of Mosul left 6 civilians dead and five more injured, and a Sabea al-Bour mortar and rocket attack left 2 people dead and ten more injured.

    LINKS: International Journal of Socialist Review interviews author and activist Tariq Ali

    What are your thoughts on US President Barack Obama’s commitment of the US to long-term involvement in Iraq, which he claims is a response to the rise of Islamic militants?

    Nonsense. The real reason is to make sure that the US-Israeli protectorate [Kurdish region] remains safe. The aftermath of the occupation was designed to divide Iraq across religious lines. What we are witnessing (as I pointed out a decade ago) is the balkanisation of Iraq.

    Do you agree with Hillary Clinton’s recent statement that the rise of ISIS can be attributed to the failure of the US to help rebels in Syria?

    Another absurdity. The US did help and arm the Syrian rebels via Turkey. They did not bomb Assad out of existence, as they were unsure of the consequences. After all, Clinton, who supported the war on Iraq, should see what happens if you destroy a regime unilaterally. The rise of ISIS in Iraq is because they destroyed all the structures of the old regime. Had they done the same in Syria, we would have had an even worse situation than now, with at least three different wars taking place. Qatar/Turkey/US backing the so-called moderate Islamists, and the Saudis angry that the Muslim Brotherhood is being revived in Syria.

    We'll note Morgan Fairchild's Tweet about Iraq today:

  • 'No' from one Iraq villager triggered Islamic State mass killings via

  • We won't note a discussed death.  It hasn't been confirmed.  There's no need to 'rush out' on this.  If it was your family member, you'd likely be holding out hope unless it was confirmed and the last thing you'd need was the whole world speaking of your loved one in the past tense while you waited for confirmation of life or death.

    Lastly, All Iraq News notes the rumor that Haider al-Ebadi, prime minister-designate, intends to nominate cabinet members next Monday.  If true, that would be a smart move since he has thirty days (starting on Monday of this week) to form a Cabinet -- which requires Parliament confirming his nominees.  Attempting it in 7 or so days would allow him some time to seek out nominees to replace anyone Parliament shot down.

    tariq ali