Saturday, August 16, 2014


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


1) Ann Wilson's Hope & Glory.

2)  Neil Young's Living With War.

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

4) Janis Ian's Folk Is The New Black.

5) Joni Mitchell's Shine.

6) The Cowboy Junkies' at the end of paths taken.

7) Pink's I'm Not Dead.

8) The Rolling Stones'  A Bigger Bang.

9) Josh Ritter's The Animal Years.

10) David Rovic's Halliburton Boardroom Massacre.

With the US back in Iraq big time, our focus was on albums that spoke to the illegal war.

I love every album on that list but probably most especially --


Can't do it.

I love every one of them.

If there's anything above you haven't listened to yet, make a point to now.  These are ten great albums.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, August 15, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, possibilities as to why Nouri is steeping down, some look to the prime minister-designate for hope, and much more.

Yesterday's big news that Iraq's two-term prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki had agreed to step down continues to be news.   Al Mada notes statements of relief made by US Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq Nickolay Mladenov.  Andrew Reiter (US News and World Reports) offers:
This is an unquestionably positive development for Iraq. First, the peaceful transfer of power represents a key step in Iraq’s young democracy. Second, the new government should be better equipped to deal with the worsening security threat posed by Islamic State militants. And third, it could usher in a period of improved relations with the U.S.
A peaceful transfer of power is a welcome development for Iraq’s nascent democracy that has seen al-Malaki consolidate his rule over his eight years in office. Following the controversial 2010 parliamentary elections, al-Malaki created the Office of the Commander-in-Chief, giving himself direct control over the Iraqi army and police. In response to recent events, he deployed a number of elite security forces throughout Baghdad’s Green Zone in an overt threat to his opponents. Fears of a military coup were rampant.

Loveday Morris and Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) point out, "Maliki has become a deeply divisive figure but had clung to his position in the face of a growing consensus among Iraq’s politicians and the international community that only a new leader would have a chance of unifying a country experiencing growing sectarian divisions."  How bad did it get for Nouri?  Martin Chulov, Julian Borger and Spencer Ackerman (Guardian) explain, "He had lost the support of his party, of the president, the parliament, the Americans, Saudis and finally the Iranian government, his biggest foreign ally and sponsor. Even the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, issued a statement pointedly welcoming the appointment of Abadi."

How did he lose the support of Ali Khamenei?  Ali Hashem (Al-Monitor) reports:

An Iraqi source close to Ayatollah Ali Sistani told Al-Monitor: “Around 10 days before the designation, an envoy representing the Iranian leadership visited Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Najaf. The envoy heard a clear stance from Sistani: Nouri al-Maliki shouldn’t continue as a prime minister. …​ Sistani won’t say this in public, but he had to tell it to the Iranians, because he thought the crisis in the country needed a solution and that the deadlock would complicate efforts to reach an agreement.”
According to Al-Monitor’s sources in Tehran and Baghdad, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, after learning of Sistani’s position, asked his aides to facilitate the change, calling on them to play a role in convincing Maliki to withdraw. “There were several alternatives for Maliki, one was him being appointed vice president. He refused. He was obstinate on the prime minister position and gave all those who tried [to talk] with him reasons for him not to accept. His main challenge was that he’s the leader of the bloc that won the election, and the constitution gives him the right to form the new government.”

Also weighing in was The Diane Rehm Show.  In the second hour of Friday morning's broadcast, Diane addressed Iraq with her guests Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers), Greg Myre (NPR) and Jim Sciutto (CNN).  Excerpt:

REHM: Good to see you all. Jim Sciutto, what finally made Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki agree to step aside? 

SCIUTTO:  I think the loss of the support of the support of both the U.S. and Iran. And once you had public statements. For the U.S. statement, somewhat more predictable, but once the Iranians said they wanted a transition, they wanted a more inclusive government, he saw the writing on the wall. But it was touch and go, because on Sunday night, and we were on the air Sunday night, as you had tanks in the streets, bridges closed in Baghdad. Forces loyal to Maliki being ordered -- you know, accounts from Baghdad police telling us ordered around key buildings. It looked like, for a moment, he was gonna make a power grab. So, you know, it appeared he had some second thoughts towards the end, but once that support disappeared, even he could see the writing on the wall. 

REHM:  Nancy. 

YOUSSEF:  So, the reason he gave, in his speech, in which he was surrounded by members of his party and his successor, was, in part, that he didn't want to see Iraq return to dictatorship, which arguably was code for that he didn't think that the militias and the armed forces he put on the street could actually keep him in power. The only other list -- person I would add to that list is Sistani, Ayatollah Sistani, who's the leader of the Shias in Iraq had called and supported his transition.  And so, internally, that was perhaps the most important loss for his support. And so, once all those factors came in to play, it was impossible to see who would support him. In addition, I would add also are the court systems, because the last time he had sort of been challenged, the courts had supported him, and constitutionally, he didn't have the ground to stand on to continue his fight. 

REHM: Greg. 

MYRE: Just looking back, Maliki came to power in 2006. At that moment, Iran was facing this Sunni insurgency that was tearing the country apart. The U.S. felt a real sense of urgency to intervene. Here we are eight years later going through the same thing. And you can go back, and the U.S. military involvement has now been over 20 years in Iraq. And are we moving forward anywhere, or are we just going in circles? 

While various possibilities were tossed around at various outlets, few bothered to examine Iraqi sentiment.  Kholoud Ramzi (Niqash) covers Iraqi reaction:

The desperate attempts of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to stay in power may have been taken seriously by many and led to questions about attempted coups and concern as to which sectors of the military supported him - but there are many Iraqis who are not taking al-Maliki seriously at all. Sarcastic pictures, jokes and comments have been circulating on Iraqi social media for the past few days, with those photo shopping pictures and posting jokes appearing to compete amongst themselves to make a mockery of their soon-to-be-former Prime Minister.
One of the most popular pictures shows al-Maliki wearing a Hitler-style moustache. Another shows US President Barack Obama patting al-Maliki on the back, as if to bid him farewell. This has garnered a number of humorous comments. 
One Iraqi Kurdish journalist shared a picture that shows young men trampling on a picture of al-Maliki that is lying on the floor. “They started to throw your pictures on the ground as soon as they heard about al-Abadi,” the journalist wrote in the caption. “They started to throw shoes at the picture as soon as they knew you were out. I fear that soon they will beat you with their shoes. We Iraqis are the kind of people who receive our leaders with cheering and applause and then farewell them with shoes.”
Another picture showed two tribal leaders, or sheikhs, sitting behind al-Maliki at a funeral. “Let us grieve for the soul of [al-Maliki’s] third term,” those who shared the picture wrote. “The funeral of the State of Law bloc.”
Another Iraqi prankster posted a picture of al-Maliki’s wife. “Breaking news,” they wrote. “Al-Abadi’s wife has called al-Maliki’s wife to ask her where she put the presidential mugs.”
Those who supported al-Maliki also came in for ribbing, with politicians who protested al-Abadi’s nomination or al-Maliki’s ouster also targeted by jokers. 
Another commenter wrote this: “Al-Maliki ruled us for eight years and he brought us right back to the era of the Caliphate. If he had had another four years, we might have seen dinosaurs roaming the streets of Baghdad”. 
Some other activists wrote on one of al-Maliki’s Facebook pictures that Iraqis need to thank the Prime Minister for his achievements before he leaves. They listed 14 of the most important ones. This included sectarianism, displacement, insecurity, corruption and lack of government services. “Last but not least we should congratulate him on the birth of Daash, which came from all of these achievements,” they wrote, using the Arabic acronym for the Sunni Muslim extremist group known as the Islamic State, that now controls parts of the country.

Deeply unpopular Nouri.  So many have wanted him gone for so long now.  And where do things stand now?  Shashank Bengali and Patrick J. McDonnell (Los Angeles Times) state, "Maliki’s surprise announcement Thursday that he would give up his bid for a third four-year term raised hope that a new government could unite a country that is more bitterly divided than at perhaps any time since the sectarian civil strife of 2006-07."

So few want to admit that.  In part because they whored for Nouri and in part because they lack the ability to they were wrong to cheer Nouri on.  The man was a tyrant and a despot. He had Iraqis rounded up -- usually Sunnis -- mass 'arrests' that lacked arrest warrants.  The people were then lost in the 'legal' system -- often never tried, not on trial once, but kept in prisons.  Some people were arrested with arrest warrants -- for other people!

They have an arrest warrent for Ali al-Mutlaq.  They go to his family's home.  Ali is not present so they arrest Ali's wife, sister, child or parent.  That's not justice.  It is why so many innocents rot in prison -- accused of no crime but held regardless.

Many of the females in Nouri's prison arrived there as a result of being a relative of someone.  Once in prison, many girls and women were assaulted or raped.  Nouri attempted to ignore this when it became the topic of fall 2012.  An investigation by Parliament found that the assaults and rapes were taking place -- this would also be backed up by the work of Human Rights Watch:

Iraqi authorities are detaining thousands of Iraqi women illegally and subjecting many to torture and ill-treatment, including the threat of sexual abuse. Iraq’s weak judiciary, plagued by corruption, frequently bases convictions on coerced confessions, and trial proceedings fall far short of international standards. Many women were detained for months or even years without charge before seeing a judge.
The 105-page report, “‘No One Is Safe’: Abuses of Women in Iraq’s Criminal Justice System,”documents abuses of women in detention based on interviews with women and girls, Sunni and Shia, in prison; their families and lawyers; and medical service providers in the prisons at a time of escalating violence involving security forces and armed groups. Human Rights Watch also reviewed court documents and extensive information received in meetings with Iraqi authorities including Justice, Interior, Defense, and Human Rights ministry officials, and two deputy prime ministers.
“Iraqi security forces and officials act as if brutally abusing women will make the country safer,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “In fact, these women and their relatives have told us that as long as security forces abuse people with impunity, we can only expect security conditions to worsen.”

There was his targeting of Iraq's LGBTQ community.  There was his attack on protesters -- most infamously the April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija resulted fvia  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported 53 dead  -- indicating that some of the wounded did not recover.  UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

This is who some people are praising?  This is the real Nouri al-Maliki and they ought to explain how 'great' he is to have earned their praise.

That's why Iraq needed a new prime minister.

On that need,  Martin Chulov (Guardian via Irish Times) explains:

  Iraq risks being torn apart by warring sects unless Haider al-Abadi, the new prime minister, can gather the country’s estranged factions behind him and form a government, senior Iraqi politicians said yesterday.
“This is all or nothing,” said one senior Iraqi official who is hoping for a senior ministry within the new cabinet. “None of us are sure that he can do it. And if he can’t, we are doomed.”

Former State Dept employee Ali Khedery offers, in an essay for the New York Times:

But if anyone has the potential to unite Iraq and hold it together in the face of ISIS terrorism and Iranian meddling, it is Mr. Abadi. In a society where name and upbringing count for a lot, he comes from a respected Baghdad family and was raised in an upscale neighborhood. He studied at one of the capital’s best high schools, earned a degree from one of its top universities and later received a doctorate in engineering in Britain.
While Mr. Maliki spent his years in exile in Iran and Syria and earned degrees in Islamic studies and Arabic literature, Mr. Abadi, a fluent English speaker, worked his own way through his long and costly studies abroad. In meetings over the past decade, Mr. Abadi always impressed me and other American diplomats with his self-effacing humor, humility, willingness to listen and ability to compromise -- extremely rare traits among Iraq’s political elite, and precisely the characteristics that are needed to help heal the wounds Iraqis sustained under Hussein and Mr. Maliki.
“We’ll give Abadi a real chance if for no other reason than because he’s a Baghdadi — not a thug from a village like almost everyone else that’s ruled us since ’58,” a shadowy financier of the Sunni insurgency told me this week.

There are many expectations out there.  Whether al-Abadi can live up to them -- or even half of them -- all eyes are on him for now.    Chelsea J. Carter and Tim Lister (CNN) report:

Abadi is viewed as a moderate and has shown more of a willingness to compromise than al-Maliki, Ranj Alaadin, an Iraqi specialist at Columbia University, told the BBC.
"He is very engaging, articulate and direct," Alaadin told the British network.
Abadi was born in Baghdad in 1952, according to his website.
A long-time member of the Dawa Party -- he is said to have joined as a teenager -- he was one of thousands of prominent Iraqis who left the country during Saddam Hussein's rule.
Abadi left to study abroad after receiving a bachelor's degree in 1975, and stayed away as Hussein tightened his grip on the country. Two of his brothers were not so lucky; they were executed in 1982 for belonging to the Dawa Party. The following year, the regime canceled Abadi's passport.

There are many issues to be addressed.  Mustafa Habib (Niqash) runs down some and concludes:

Of all the challenges, any new Iraqi government will have to face, possibly the most frightening and complex is economic.
The country has seen budget deficits rise by as much as a third, last year’s budget has not been approved and this year’s budget has not yet been tabled.
“In 2012 and 2013 Iraq had about US$18billion in its coffers in the Development Fund for Iraq [a fund created to save Iraq’s oil revenues] but this year there’s only about US$5billion, according to figures from the International Monetary Fund,” says local economist and researcher Mathhar Mohammed Saleh. “This is very dangerous. But nobody has really paid it much attention because everyone is busy with political conflicts and security problems.”

The Development Fund is supposed to bridge any budget deficits – but as the deficit gets bigger and the bridging funds get smaller, Iraq may well be facing a serious economic problem.
“Additionally the delay in approving the national budget gave the last government license to spend in an uncontrolled way,” says Iraqi Kurdish politician, Najiba Najib, who was on the previous government’s Finance Committee. “We don’t know how or where the government spent the money but we do know this conflict with the IS group is draining resources.”
Additionally, since 2010, al-Maliki has continually rejected any requests to submit annual accounts to Parliament. The excuse was that government ministries had not sufficiently developed their accounting departments or that there were technical issues. However for a long time it has been thought that these excuses were really just a cover for major corruption.
Iraq has consistently been ranked as one of the most corrupt states in the world by the international watchdog organization, Transparency International.

“The new Prime Minister is going to spend his four-year term searching for solutions to the problems created by al-Maliki,” says local political analyst, Khalid al-Ani. “Al-Maliki has made a lot of enemies and created many problems. His successor cannot possibly solve them all. He needs the cooperation of all political players as well as international support to find solutions.”

Ayad Allawi was the leader of 2010's winning political slate Iraqiya -- they bested Nouri's State of Law.  National Iraqi News Agency reports that he offered a cautionary note today:

Head of the National Coalition Iyad Allawi said on Friday that the Iraq crisis does not depend on changing faces but by putting Iraq on the right road associated with a clear program to solve the Iraq crisis," pointing out that "Abadi is a part of the political structure that ruled Iraq, which is from the womb of Dawa party and we are waiting for what would he do.
Allawi expressed his doubts on the ability of the Abadi to correct the political process, especially as he has come out of the womb of the Dawa Party, and he is the heir to the unique approach of political governance and based on indifference with politicians in Iraq.
He stressed "the need to correct the ways of dialogue with the Kurds, especially because they consider themselves to be part of Iraq, and recognize its sovereignty, and there should be clear rules and explicit to deal with the Kurds and the order of the relationship with them is the most important law (oil and gas). 

Meanwhile, we'll note this Tweet.

Embedded image permalink
Remember that time Obama bragged about ending the war in Iraq? Yeah, me too. '

Lastly, the following community sites were updated since the last snapshot:

  • iraq
    shashank bengali

    all iraq news
    al mada

    Thursday, August 14, 2014


    "U.S. reopens war on Iraq" ( WSWS):
    Aug. 11 — President Barack Obama has now become the fourth successive U.S. president to order the bombing of Iraq, this time with a “humanitarian” pretext. But it soon became clear that Obama’s “humanitarian” excuse was as much a lie as the pretexts raised by the other three U.S. presidents and that the bombing was aimed at defending U.S. imperialism’s corporate and strategic interests.
    On Aug. 7, Obama announced the U.S. bombing raids on Iraqi soil. He claimed his reason was that the fighters of the force known as the Islamic State were “barbaric” and were about to carry out “genocide” against a minority religious group in Iraq called Yazidis. Some 200,000 Yazidis had fled their home villages near the Kurdish region in Iraq.
    The corporate media reported that tens of thousands of Yazidis were trapped by a siege of I.S. forces on Mount Sinjar, near the Syrian border with Iraq, where they had neither food nor water.
    Obama said, “Well, today [the U.S.] is coming to help [Iraq].” He insisted that this would be limited “aid” and that he would not reintroduce U.S. ground troops into Iraq. (New York Times, Aug. 7) By Aug. 9, Obama admitted the U.S. bombing raids could go on for months.
    According to German parliament member Ulla Jelpke, a spokesperson for the party Die Linke, who was on a mission to northern Iraq, it was neither U.S. bombs nor the Kurdish regime’s Peshmerga that saved tens of thousands of the Yazidis. It was revolutionary guerrilla fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). This liberation organization is on the “terrorist list” of the U.S. and the European Union. Many Yazidis told her, “God and the PKK saved us.” (German daily Junge Welt, Aug. 10)
    They all had pretexts
    In January 1991, George H.W. Bush ordered a massive bombing of Baghdad and a military assault against the Iraqi army. His pretext was the entry of Iraqi troops into Kuwait. Before Iraq’s intervention, however, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie had indicated to the Iraqi leaders that the U.S. would stay neutral in Iraq’s conflict with the Kuwaiti monarchy, which was siphoning off Iraqi oil through slant drilling.
    Bill Clinton not only continued his predecessor’s murderous sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, but in December 1998 ordered four days of bombing. His pretext was the “dangerous weapons” Iraq allegedly had in its arsenal.
    George W. Bush ordered the 2003 invasion and what turned into an eight-year occupation of Iraq. His pretext was the “weapons of mass destruction,” which turned out to be nonexistent. This war killed 1.5 million Iraqis and created 5 million Iraqi refugees. It also resulted in the death and maiming of thousands of U.S. troops, who were fighting to expand U.S. imperialist control of energy sources.
    The goal of these interventions was destroying the sovereign Iraqi state and conquest of Iraq.
    Faced with a heroic Iraqi resistance movement in 2004-05, the occupation power quickly moved to plan B: divide and conquer. U.S. officials in Iraq set up a puppet regime where the laws exacerbated differences among Iraqis of different religious and ethnic groupings. Meanwhile, the U.S. supported a subservient Kurdish regime in Iraq’s north.
    The U.S.-backed Baghdad regime headed by Nuri al-Maliki has persecuted, jailed and eliminated any Iraqi leaders who had any ties with the former Ba’athist government and has discriminated against Sunni leaders. The regime is hated in the Sunni areas of Iraq and is unpopular even in the majority Shiite south for its corrupt and dictatorial record. Now it has become the target of an uprising made up of disparate forces, which include as the most aggressive fighters the group known as the Islamic State.
    These same forces — the I.S. — acted in Syria against the Syrian government and received arms and funding there from U.S./NATO imperialists and their allied regimes in Turkey and the monarchists in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Gulf emirates.
    Washington has had ambivalent relations with reactionary groups like the I.S. and al-Qaida. It has armed and used them in Afghanistan in the 1980s and more recently in Libya and Syria. At the same time the U.S. demonizes them as “Islamic terrorists” to justify military intervention, as it is doing now in Iraq.

    U.S. imperialist goals

    Like Bush Sr., Clinton and Bush Jr., Obama is the chief executive of U.S. imperialism. U.S. military intervention has brought only death and chaos to Iraq, as well as to Libya, Afghanistan and — through its weapons and proxy forces — to Syria and Ukraine, where U.S./NATO backs the most reactionary neo-Nazi forces that murder and plunder in the Donbass region.
    The goal of these interventions is to extend U.S. and NATO military reach and recolonize the various peoples under imperialist control. That these interventions failed to establish stable puppet regimes does not soften the horror that U.S. intervention brought to these countries.
    Can anyone possibly believe that this time the U.S. intends to make a “humanitarian” intervention in Iraq or that U.S. bombing will help the people there? If Washington has “humanitarian” goals, why does the Pentagon resupply Israel’s army with all the weapons it uses to carry out genocidal warfare in Gaza?
    By Aug. 9, the real intention of what can only be seen as the initial, rushed U.S. bombing became clear, as admitted by administration spokespeople.
    I.S. forces, whatever their intentions toward the Yazidis, are close enough to the Kurdish center of Erbil to threaten to take that city. The Kurdish region of Iraq is the only part of the country with a pro-U.S. regime that is somewhat stable. Erbil is the center where the U.S. has recently built a massive consulate and where Canadian, European and Japanese consulates have been constructed to aid business investment in Iraq and especially in the Kurdish region.
    The New York Times on Aug. 10 reported, “The American airstrikes, carried out by drones and fighter jets, were intended to support the Kurdish forces fighting to defend Erbil, the capital of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, according to a statement by the United States Central Command.” The U.S. military still claimed its goals were “limited.”
    While Yazidis suffering hunger and dehydration in the mountains are at risk, the Obama administration has as much as admitted that aid to the Yazidis is a pretext, not a reason, for the bombing. Washington is protecting its strategic and business interests in the Kurdish region of Iraq.
    Whether this current intervention will lead to a U.S. re-occupation of Iraq cannot be ruled out. Any U.S. intervention can only lead to more suffering for Iraqis, and will also result in more sacrifices from U.S. working people, just as the 2003 invasion and occupation did.
    Articles copyright 1995-2014 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved

    It's kind of hard to get a clear picture on what the president has planned for Iraq when he's currently on vacation.

    Any one going to point that out?

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
    Wednesday, August 13, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri doesn't want to go, the Pope Tweets, and much more.

    Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report) weighs in on Iraq:

    The U.S. corporate media were more interested in the rest of al-Baghdadi’s message, in which he warned Washington that “soon enough, you will be in direct confrontation – forced to do so, God willing. And the sons of Islam have prepared themselves for this day. So wait, and we will be waiting, too.” For most self-obsessed Americans, this was received as a threat to attack “the Homeland.” However, downtown Manhattan is not on the Caliphate leader’s map. Al-Baghdadi meant that the American strategy of financing Muslim muppets to fight imperialism’s wars is kaput, and that the Pentagon will soon have to do its own dirty work, dressed in “Crusader” uniform.
    Accordingly, the U.S. is sending additional hundreds of “non-combat” troops to northern Iraq – as if Marines and Special Forces are anything but combat soldiers – to join the 1,000 or so American military and “security” personnel already there, by official count. Contrary to what many Americans on the Left believe, U.S. planners are not itching to send large American units to Arab lands (the Kurds are not Arabs), since their presence is counter-productive in the extreme. The problem is, the Pentagon’s proxies are evaporating, in flight, or – in the case of Arab Iraq – growing even more dependent on Iran and (who would have predicted it?) Russia, which is assisting in reconstituting the Iraqi air force.
    Some leftists in the U.S. even imagine that Washington has achieved some kind of victory with the imminent departure of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the veteran American stooge. But, Maliki’s ouster was also backed by Iran, Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husayni al-Sistani (who mobilized millions demanding an end to the U.S. occupation), Muqtada al-Sadr (whose militia fought two wars against the occupation), and even much of Maliki’s own Dawa Party. Only the Kurds remain in Washington’s (and Israel’s) pocket – and this matter of convenience, too, may pass as the neighborhood changes all around Kurdistan.

    There's more to the piece than just that.

    But on that?

    Sorry, Glen, if Barack hadn't pulled US support, the world would not be attempting to rush Nouri off the stage. 

    That is the power of the United States -- it's frequently misused by presidents, but it can also accomplish good.

    And Nouri going is good. 

    Is Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani responsible?  Absolutely.  As is Moqtada and many leaders and officials not mentioned -- a list which would include KRG President Massoud Barzani, ISCI leader Ammar al-Hakim (who surprised many US participants by not attempting to seek the post himself despite working very hard to ease Nouri out), and Ayad Allawi among others. 

    But most of all this came about because of the Iraqi people -- Sunni, Shia, Kurd and other.

    In the midst of the Arab Spring or 'Arab Spring,' Iraqis took to the streets and protested in large numbers.  They were largely ignored by the world.  The same was true from December 2012 through January of 2013.  That time, they protested non-stop and turned out every week.

    They showed up to protest despite threats, despite torture --

    In fact, let's stop there.

    You didn't have to peacefully participated in protesting for Nouri to sick his goons on you.  Hadi al-Mahdi was rounded up for reporting on the protests.  Falling back to the September 8, 2011 snapshot:

    In Iraq, a journalist has been murdered.  In addition to being a journalist, he was also a leader of change and part of the movement to create an Iraq that was responsive to Iraqis. 
    Al Mada reports Iraqi journalist Hadi al-Mahdi is dead according to an Interior Ministry source who says police discovered him murdered in his Baghdad home.  Along with being a journalist, Al Mada notes he was one of the chief organizers of the demonstrations demanding change and service reform that began on February 25th -- the day he was arrested by Iraqi security forces and beaten in broad daylight as he and others, after the February 25th protest, were eating in a restaurant. The New York Times didn't want to tell you about, the Washington Post did.  And now the man is dead. Gee, which paper has the archives that matter to any real degree.  Maybe it's time to act like a newspaper and not a "news magazine" with pithy little human interest stories?  (That is not a dig at Tim Arango but at the paper's diva male 'reporter' who went on NPR to talk of an Iraqi collegue this week.)  So while the Times missed the story (actaully, they misled on the story -- cowtowing to Nouri as usual),  Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) reported:

    Four journalists who had been released described being rounded up well after they had left a protest at Baghdad's Tahrir Square. They said they were handcuffed, blindfolded, beaten and threatened with execution by soldiers from an army intelligence unit.
    "It was like they were dealing with a bunch of al-Qaeda operatives, not a group of journalists," said Hussam al-Ssairi, a journalist and poet, who was among a group and described seeing hundreds of protesters in black hoods at the detention facility. "Yesterday was like a test, like a picture of the new democracy in Iraq."

    That day's snapshot?  That's the day Haidi was murdered.  Like so many other journalists killed in Nouri's Iraq, the killer was never found -- mainly because no one ever made a point to look for a killer to begin with.

    Did Black Agenda Report cover his murder?


    No, they did not.

    They didn't cover the hunting of Iraq's LGBTQ community.  Nouri's 'acting' Minister of the Interior helped with that on Nouri's orders.  Young men and boys who were gay or wrongly thought to be gay were targeted.  Death didn't come easy to those killed.  To cite two popular examples for ways to murder, some were beaten to pulp with bricks, some had their anuses super glued.  This was barbaric not just in that innocents were being killed -- being gay is as normal as being straight -- but in the way they were being killed -- slowly and painfully in an effort to inflict the most pain possible.

    Does Glen want to explain why that was?

    Better yet, can he?

    Nouri's flunkies went into high schools and middle schools handing out pamphlets about how awful these people were -- they had same-sex sex, they were vampires, they were this, they were that.  (Of course Nouri and his flunkies denied it -- but both Al Mada and Alsumaria got ahold of the handouts the Ministry of Interior was distributing to children.)

    What Nouri's gotten away with?  War Crimes.

    Has Black Agenda Report objected even once to the bombing of Falluja's residential neighborhoods?  We all know that collective punishment is a legally defined War Crime.  But since the start of this year, Nouri has daily attacked and left wounded and dead numerous civilians whose only 'crime' was to live in Falluja.

    I like Glen and think he's an important voice.

    I also he's a very sad person if he can't, for even one moment, think of the Iraqi people.

    The Pope Tweeted a popular message today:

    I thank all those who are courageously helping our brothers and sisters in Iraq.

    Reuters notes Pope Francis wrote a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today which stated, among other things, "I write to you, Mr. Secretary General, and place before you the tears, the suffering and the heartfelt cries of despair of Christians and other religious minorities of the beloved land of Iraq."

    Nouri is a thug and they had to endure 8 years of him. 

    US President Barack Obama pulled the US government's support. 

    I wish Barack had done that in 2010 -- when Nouri lost the election -- but I don't for one moment think doing it now didn't make a difference.

    I also have no problem praising Barack for taking that step. 

    If he used the rest of his final term to do similar things, I'd praise him for that as well.

    Will he?

    I wouldn't bet on it.

    I support the air drops of food, water, etc for the Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar.  They are victims and relief missions are something every nation could do and take part in.

    Barack's taken that beyond air drops.  And today the Defense Dept issued the following:

    Release No: NR-427-14
    August 13, 2014

    Statement by Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby

    As part of the ongoing humanitarian efforts ordered by President Obama, today a team of U.S. military personnel, accompanied by USAID, conducted an assessment of the situation on Mt. Sinjar and the impact of U.S. military actions to date. The team, which consisted of less than twenty personnel, did not engage in combat operations and all personnel have returned safely to Irbil by military air. The team has assessed that there are far fewer Yazidis on Mt. Sinjar than previously feared, in part because of the success of humanitarian air drops, air strikes on ISIL targets, the efforts of the Peshmerga and the ability of thousands of Yazidis to evacuate from the mountain each night over the last several days. The Yazidis who remain are in better condition than previously believed and continue to have access to the food and water that we have dropped. Based on this assessment the interagency has determined that an evacuation mission is far less likely. Additionally, we will continue to provide humanitarian assistance as needed and will protect U.S. personnel and facilities.

    The mission Barack's now having US troops carry out in terms of the Yazidis is riskier than air drops but air drops are risky as well.  I'm sure Alissa J. Rubin knew that long ago but it was certainly made clear Tuesday when the Kurdish helicopter the New York Times reporter was on crashed after dropping aid and attempting to rescue some Yazidis.

    Rubin walked away with painful injuries (broken wrists are painful), Yazidi MP Vian Dakhil was injured, the pilot died and a few more passengers who haven't been named yet were left injured.  The pilot hasn't been named either.

    We noted this Tweet last week from the Financial Times' Borzou Daragahi:

  • The MP he was Tweeting about was Vian Dakhil.

    I don't support fly over bombings -- nor do I believe for one minute that the bombs being dropped from the air means the US is not in 'combat' in Iraq. 

    I do not support more US troops going into Iraq (or any being there other than to guard US embassy staff -- which Marines do around the world).   All Iraq News notes, "About 130 American military advisers have arrived in Iraq to help with its humanitarian aid in north area of the country, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a press statement."  The number of US troops in Iraq keeps increasing.  That's not a good thing to those of us opposed to war.

    The addition was noted in today's US State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Marie Harf:

    QUESTION: Okay. And conversely, you deployed – or the United States deployed some 130 --

    MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

    QUESTION: -- advisors and so on to Erbil. Does that mean that the situation in Baghdad or around Baghdad is quiet enough where you don’t need this kind of advisory effort?

    MS. HARF: Well, let’s be clear about what these 130 advisors will and will not be doing. They are focused squarely on looking at the humanitarian situation on Mount Sinjar and developing options to potentially move people and relocate people safely from the mountain. As we know, dropping food and water is not a long-term solution for the tens of thousands of people on that mountain. So these U.S. military personnel that have just gone in are assessing the best way to bring these people to safety, whether that’s some sort of airlift, whether that’s a humanitarian corridor. They’re looking at the options, they’ll present them to the President, and then he’ll make decisions about how – the best way that we can help do that will be.

    QUESTION: And I know yesterday that you denied that there was any kind of pressure on Maliki to leave August from early June or mid-June right after the fall of Mosul. So no one has talked to him at that time, “It’s time for you to leave?”

    MS. HARF: What we’ve always said, Said, is that there is a constitutional process and that process needs to move forward. There are very clear rules under that process for how a new prime minister for a new government is designated. We have encouraged everyone to play by those rules, period. And that’s the message that we’ve been sending for a very long time.

    Former Governor of New Mexico and 2012 Libertarian Party Presidential nominee Gary Johnson Tweeted the following today:

  • WSJ: "U.S. Begins to Assess Iraq Rescue Strategy". Obama insists we are not going back to war, but how many bombs & troops = war??

  • Let's turn to the political in Iraq.  Jason Ditz ( maintains Iraq's prime minister-designate Haider al-Abadi is Nouri al-Maliki circa 2006.

    Comically, he does that as is in the midst of a fund raiser boasting they're always right.

    I'm not always right.  I'm often wrong.

    But I wasn't wrong about Nouri.

    And, unlike Jason Ditz, I didn't giggle on air and agree with Scott Horton about how wonderful Nouri was.

    Jason Ditz has a lot of nerve.  I've been kind but we all know I forget nothing.

    I can quote from those chats with Horton -- where Scott and Jason made like the Gabby Gabors enthralled with Nouri.

    Is Haider the same?


    Is he good or bad, saint or sinner?  I already said this week that we don't know.

    But what we know is that Nouri's selling point for the American government was chiefly his paranoia which, it was thought, would make him easily manipulated.

    I knew about the paranoia and we wrote about it here, what, three or four years before WikiLeaks confirmed what we were saying?

    I'm not hitting anyone up for their piggy banks.

    I am saying that if you have the nerve, before the prime minister-designate has done anything, to insist he's another Nouri, you damn well better have called out Nouri.

    Or you can sit your tired ass down.

    This is my last nice, Jason Ditz. 

    I'm not in the mood.

    Back to today's State Dept press briefing:

    QUESTION: In Iraq, please. Today Prime Minister al-Maliki said he would not step down from his post until the Iraqi judiciary rules on whether or not his constitutional challenge to the process should go forward or not. I’m wondering if you all have any idea of how long this process might take as it speaks to some concerns people have raised about whether he will try to run out the clock on the 30 days he now – that designate al-Abadi has.

    Also I’m wondering if you were able to get an answer to my question yesterday as to what level of confidence does the U.S. have in the Iraqi judiciary system.

    MS. HARF: A couple issues, and then we’ll – I’m sure you’ll have follow-ups. The comments made by the prime minister today were similar to ones he’s made in recent days, quite frankly. And as I said yesterday, with all political systems there will be differences with how certain processes unfold. We never expected this to be completely seamless, but the United States firmly rejects any effort to achieve outcomes through coercion or manipulation of the constitutional or judicial processes.

    And then look, I don’t want to get ahead of the constitutional process that’s underway. We just began the 30-day time clock for the Prime Minister-designate al-Abadi to form a new government. They are moving along with that process. So we will watch day by day as that plays out, but Prime Minister-designate al-Abadi is moving forward as part of this process, and that’s what we’ll be focused on in the coming days.

    QUESTION: So you don’t believe this court challenge that Maliki is posing is going to be slowing that 30-day clock in any way?

    MS. HARF: Well, look, the prime minister-designate is the one who is in charge of what happens during the 30-day clock, and he’s working actively towards that. And again, we would reject any efforts by anyone to use the judicial processes to manipulate or coerce the outcomes here. But there is a separate process and it’s the constitutional one, and that’s moving forward.

    QUESTION: How is it that the designate has control of the clock when Maliki is still the prime minister?

    MS. HARF: Well, he has control of the clock. What I meant was the progress that can be made in the 30 days to form a new government is in the hands of the prime minister-designate, who has the support, as I said over the last few days. He was nominated by the Shiite bloc, including many members of Prime Minister Maliki’s own party.

    So we’ve seen these kind of comments from the current prime minister before, but separate from those comments there is a process under the constitution that is moving forward. And we expect that to move forward and we will continue watching what happens in the coming days.

    QUESTION: Do you have any expectations of how long this court appeal will last?

    MS. HARF: I don’t have any guess on that.

    QUESTION: May I just follow up on that? I mean, his words were very critical of the United States, today – Maliki’s speech. He basically said that you espouse democratic values but you go ahead and sabotage the democratic process. What do you have to say to that?

    MS. HARF: Well, the Iraqis have their democratic process that’s underway right now, and that process has led to a new prime minister-designate being named by the current prime minister’s own bloc. So the process is playing out how it should. Again, we knew this would not be without complication. Nothing ever is – certainly not here in Iraqi politics. But their own democratically, constitutionally outlined process has been ongoing and that’s what’s happening right now.

    QUESTION: I know that you warned against manipulating whatever legal process in the courts or whatever to sow divisions and so on in Iraq. Has anyone talked to the prime minister personally to say refrain from doing that because you’re driving the country further into the abyss?

    MS. HARF: We’ve certainly had conversations with a range of leaders, including Prime Minister Maliki, emphasizing, Said, that this is a key, critical time in Iraq on the security front, on the political front – they are very closely intertwined – and that nobody should do anything to prevent the progress that’s laid out under the constitution from taking place and from moving forward. Nobody should.

    QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

    MS. HARF: We’ve certainly had those conversations.

    QUESTION: Okay. Now, as we – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, they all welcome the prime minister-designate Haider Al-Abadi, but Maliki still has some support within the Shiites. He has some support within some, like, militant type of militias and so on. Are you concerned that he actually might resort to violence?

    MS. HARF: I don’t want to venture to guess on that hypothetical, Said. There’s a process in place and that process is moving forward. What’s key here is that the President asked the prime minister-designate to name a government. This was the designate that his own bloc, Prime Minister Maliki’s own bloc selected. So I think that should speak very clearly about the support that Prime Minister-designate al-Abadi has. And, again, the process is moving forward.

    We'll note this Tweet.

    Twenty eight women (prostitutes) killed in Iraq! A reminder of Iranian regime when prostitutes were burned to die!

    I have no idea why a woman would do that to other women.

    28 women were killed.  By thugs.

    The thugs call them whores.

    And we repeat that?

    That's how we show sympathy for these women who were killed?

    The Tweeter's never been there and knows nothing.

    'A press report said it!'

    Oh, okay then.  Press report are never wrong, right?

    It would be something wonderful if we could see people rejecting an urge to insult the dead.  (I am not attacking women who engage in sex work.  I am noting that prostitute is a huge pejorative in Iraq and dead women who can't defend themselves shouldn't have prostitute tied around their dead necks solely because a group of men -- who killed them -- have labeled them whores.)

    I'm not interested in running down violence.  Monday night, I noted a death and offered Tuesday might be the last snapshot.  The friend I dictated it too wisely pulled that.  But a friend died this week and it really makes me question the point of online life.

    This week saw the passing of actors Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall.  (I was referring to Robin in the previous paragraph.)  TCM has a video clip entitled "Lauren Bacall -- (TCM Remembers) 1924-2014."  PBS' The NewsHour remembers her here.

    Maria noted her passing in "The Walker," Ann in "Remembering Lauren Bacall," Stan with "Bacall," Elaine with "The great star Lauren Bacall," Ruth with "Lauren Bacall," Trina with "Lauren Bacall -- one of a kind," Betty with "Lauren" and Kat with "The wrong people keep dying."  Robin's passing was noted in Mike's "Robin starred in so much of our childhood," Rebecca's "robin" and Marcia's "Iraq and Robin Williams." In addition, Robin was noted in a statement the Pentagon released earlier this week:

    August 11, 2014

    Statement by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on the Passing of Robin Williams

    The entire Department of Defense community mourns the loss of Robin Williams. Robin was a gifted actor and comedian, but he was also a true friend and supporter of our troops. From entertaining thousands of service men and women in war zones, to his philanthropy that helped veterans struggling with hidden wounds of war, he was a loyal and compassionate advocate for all who serve this nation in uniform. He will be dearly missed by the men and women of DoD - so many of whom were personally touched by his humor and generosity.

    the washington post
    stephanie mccrummen


    Wednesday, August 13, 2014

    The great star Lauren Bacall

    At Third Estate Sunday Review, there's an ongoing feature entitled "Film Classics of the 20th Century."

    In this ongoing series on film classics of the last century, we've looked at  Blow OutYou Only Live TwiceSleeper,  Diamonds Are Forever,  Sleepless In Seattle,  My Little Chickadee,  Tootsie,  After Hours,  Edward ScissorhandsChristmas in Connecticut, Desk Set,  When Harry Met Sally . . .,  Who Done It?,  That Darn Cat!,  Cactus Flower,  Family Plot, House Sitter,  and Outrageous Fortune.   Film classics are the films that grab you, even on repeat viewings, especially on repeat viewings.

    If you look at the collage we use for that feature, you'll probably note Lauren in the top left corner with Key Largo.

    Further down the page, however, you'll see her in How To Marry A Millionaire.

    She was that important, she warranted two films in the montage.

    Lauren Bacall passed away.  She will be missed.

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
    Tuesday, August 12, 2014. Chaos and violence continue, Hillary wants to break with Barack, Hillary doesn't want to talk Iraq, and much more.

    Let's drop back to Saturday when US President Barack Obama spoke on the White House lawn and took questions:

    Q Mr. President, do you have any second thoughts about pulling all ground troops out of Iraq? And does it give you pause as the U.S. -- is it doing the same thing in Afghanistan?

    THE PRESIDENT: What I just find interesting is the degree to which this issue keeps on coming up, as if this was my decision. Under the previous administration, we had turned over the country to a sovereign, democratically elected Iraqi government. In order for us to maintain troops in Iraq, we needed the invitation of the Iraqi government and we needed assurances that our personnel would be immune from prosecution if, for example, they were protecting themselves and ended up getting in a firefight with Iraqis, that they wouldn’t be hauled before an Iraqi judicial system.
    And the Iraqi government, based on its political considerations, in part because Iraqis were tired of a U.S. occupation, declined to provide us those assurances. And on that basis, we left. We had offered to leave additional troops. So when you hear people say, do you regret, Mr. President, not leaving more troops, that presupposes that I would have overridden this sovereign government that we had turned the keys back over to and said, you know what, you’re democratic, you’re sovereign, except if I decide that it’s good for you to keep 10,000 or 15,000 or 25,000 Marines in your country, you don’t have a choice -- which would have kind of run contrary to the entire argument we were making about turning over the country back to Iraqis, an argument not just made by me, but made by the previous administration.
    So let’s just be clear: The reason that we did not have a follow-on force in Iraq was because the Iraqis were -- a majority of Iraqis did not want U.S. troops there, and politically they could not pass the kind of laws that would be required to protect our troops in Iraq. 

    So he campaigned for re-election on removing troops from Iraq and now he says basically, "That wasn't me."  Or, more likely, "That's not on me."

    It's worth noting and we'd explore it and fact check it at length at another time but there's too much to cover including Hillary.

    We will note this:

    Having said all that, if in fact the Iraqi government behaved the way it did over the last five, six years, where it failed to pass legislation that would reincorporate Sunnis and give them a sense of ownership; if it had targeted certain Sunni leaders and jailed them; if it had alienated some of the Sunni tribes that we had brought back in during the so-called Awakening that helped us turn the tide in 2006 -- if they had done all those things and we had had troops there, the country wouldn’t be holding together either. The only difference would be we’d have a bunch of troops on the ground that would be vulnerable. And however many troops we had, we would have to now be reinforcing, I’d have to be protecting them, and we’d have a much bigger job. And probably, we would end up having to go up again in terms of the number of grounds troops to make sure that those forces were not vulnerable.

    That qualifies as truth.  Nouri has caused the problems and done so over many, many years.  It's a reality many need to face. In those remarks, some note the frustration Barack had with Nouri al-Maliki but few are noting the reality in the remarks.  I'm especially surprised that Barack's usual supporters are not running with those remarks.  They go a long way towards explaining how the crises emerged in the first place.

    By the way, I'm being accused of being a Barack groupie due to yesterday's snapshot.  Six years of calling him out, mocking him, etc and I give him a few words of praise -- praise that he earned -- and I'm a Barack groupie?

    I'm more sympathetic to those who feel I was 'happy talking' yesterday.

    I'm sure I was.  Nouri has destroyed Iraq.

    In addition to the many things we noted yesterday, I also feel he ordered the assassination of journalist Hadi al-Mahdi.

    I believe this was a huge moment for Iraq.

    Dan Friedman and Corky Siemaszko (New York Daily News) refer to Nouri as "Iraq's power-hungry prime minister."  That's a rather nice way of putting it.

    I think Nouri set a tone with his violence and his violent language.  The videos of the Sunni suspects being burned alive by Iraqi military officers reflected to me not some 'evil' in the heart of a segment of Iraqis but the clear influence of years and years of Nouri demonizing Sunnis and other groups in Iraq.

    So, yes, I was upbeat and thrilled for the Iraqi people.

    I will gladly confess to being  upbeat.

    Let's move on.  Hillary Clinton is many things -- former First Lady, former US Senator, former Secretary of State, etc.  What she was when she sat down with Jeffrey Goldberg for a piece in The Atlantic?

    Deeply stupid.

    Deeply, deeply stupid.

    We're not the Gaza snapshot, we're not covering that aspect here.  Others can grab it.

    We focus on Iraq and sometimes on campaigns.

    Hillary, a tip, as an elderly woman -- and putting blond coloring in your gray hair doesn't make you any less elderly -- you really shouldn't be calling yourself "old fashioned." Though it does make clear that a woman can be anything -- even an old coot -- it really doesn't help your own self image.

    Outside of that, we're focusing on Iraq.

    In a never-ending, mind numbing interview Hillary mentions Iraq.

    For example, here:

    We have our hands full in Syria and Iraq, just to name two places, maybe increasingly in Lebanon, and who knows what’s going to happen with us and Hamas.

    Speaking of Egypt:

    I think we’ve learned about the limits of our power to spread freedom and democracy. That’s one of the big lessons out of Iraq. But we’ve also learned about the importance of our power, our influence, and our values appropriately deployed and explained.

    Then she insists:

    I don’t think it was stupid for the United States to do everything we could to remove Qaddafi because that came from the bottom up. That was people asking us to help. It was stupid to do what we did in Iraq and to have no plan about what to do after we did it. That was really stupid. I don’t think you can quickly jump to conclusions about what falls into the stupid and non-stupid categories. That’s what I’m arguing.

    And that's it.

    She's a deeply stupid woman.

    Iraq has been a major issue for weeks now and Hillary's gabbing in a foreign policy interview.

    Someone so out of touch maybe shouldn't be slamming Barack?

    I have no problem with criticism of any US president or, in Bully Boy Bush's case, Oval Office Occupant -- whether they're still in office or have left.  I have a problem with stupid criticism.

    If Hillary had just stuck her tongue out at US President Barack Obama, she would have shown more wisdom.

    Her attempt to link events in Syria and Iraq is stupid and we'll go into that shortly.

    But Hillary gabs where she wants you to look.  With her, it's the topics she doesn't bring up that tell the story because she knows her own failings.

    Where was her leadership on Iraq?

    In 2008, she called Nouri a "thug" and noted he was a threat to the Iraqi people.  In 2010, when Nouri al-Maliki lost the elections to Iraqiya, where was Hillary?

    Where was she?

    When did she lead -- from behind, beneath, above, below, upside down . . . ?

    She didn't.

    She avoids Iraq for that reason.

    While not leading, she did resist.  Specifically, she resisted a court order to re-evaluate the status of the MEK.  During her husband Bill's presidency, this group of Iranian dissidents were placed on a terrorist list.

    As Secretary of State, she was ordered to re-evaluate that.

    She resisted.

    The court had to remind her of her duty.

    Then, when she did act, she 'ruled' not based on potential threat but based on whether the group in Iraq would move from Camp Ashraf to Camp Hurriyah.

    I don't believe the Ashraf community can be labeled terrorists.

    But I also don't believe you look at a group -- most of whose members are outside of Iraq -- and make the determination of terrorist or not by how quickly dissidents in Iraq move from one camp to another.

    I could go into more detail but I just think, unless she's going to be serving up some personal confessions, now really isn't the time for Hillary to try to cast herself as the foreign policy expert and Barack as the great dunce.

    The response from a functioning press should be, "Well, how did you contribute to the process?" And they should follow up with, "You appear comfortable providing oversight over Barack -- at least in retrospect.  But in real time, you went four years running the State Dept and did so without any real oversight.  John Kerry promised to get a real IG -- not 'acting Inspector General -- in place, promised to Congress and he did so within 5 months of being confirmed as Secretary of State.  But you went four years without independent oversight from an IG.  What does that say about your beliefs in checks and balances?"

    Within the scope of the interview, Hillary seems to be linking Iraq and Syria.  She seems to be making the argument -- she needs to learn to speak clearly -- that Barack's failures include his not putting troops on the ground in Iraq.

    As Ava and I noted Sunday, Martha Raddatz tried to link the two on ABC's This Week.

     RADDATZ (voice-over): The Islamic militant group ISIS in Syria and Iraq is so extreme that traditional al Qaeda has disavowed it. And now, from Vice News, video from inside the militants' stranglehold -- surreal scenes from the Syrian city of Raqqah -- families enjoying the coolness of the Euphrates. But even here, there is always something more sinister, even with the children.


    RADDATZ: And what happens in Syria affects Iraq, and vice-versa. The treasures from the march on Baghdad are proudly paraded through Raqqah, along with new recruits from around the world.


    RADDATZ: Here, the group is known simply as IS, or Islamic State. At a nighttime gathering, recruiting continues -- "Beautiful virgins are calling. Enroll me as a martyr, this man sings." A call and response to excite the crowd. 

    If Eleanor Rigby were around today, she'd be pondering: All the stupid people, where do they all come from?

    Let's pretend for a moment that the group of -- wait.

    Let's stop.  We have to start the pretending by insisting IS in both countries is everyone resisting with violence.  From there, let's pretend that the two groups are clones of one another.

    For Martha to be correct, these two identical groups would have to have the same reaction in the two lands.

    They don't.

    IS -- however you define it -- is more embraced in Iraq.

    IS was not attracted to Iraq because it's Syria's neighbor.

    They share a border.

    Syria also shares a border with Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel.

    The success in Iraq is based on events in Iraq. Nouri al-Maliki's persecution of Sunnis created outrage and this was followed by

    Yesterday Haider al-Abadi was named Iraq's prime minister-designate which means he has 30 days to form a government (Cabinet) and, if successful in that, he becomes prime minister of Iraq.  Of al-Abadi, Larry Kaplow and Alice Fordham (NPR via Idea Stream) report:

    Abadi is a genial electrical engineer in his early 60s who often served as an intermediary for diplomats and Western journalists in Baghdad. He was comfortable in the role, having been educated in England and serving as the British representative of the Dawa party, a Shiite Islamist group, when it was in exile during the era of dictator Saddam Hussein.
    Abadi's prominence in Dawa gives him credibility with the country's Shiite majority. Dawa was formed in the 1950s among Shiite intellectuals following the direction of a respected cleric.
    The party fought Saddam, who authorized the executions of thousands of its members.
    And while Maliki was working in low-level education bureaucracies in Iraq and on underground activities from Iran and Syria, Abadi was a Dawa spokesman in Britain, where he earned a doctorate and received a broad view of the world.

    Along with a prime minister-designate, Iraq now has an outgoing prime minister.

    For now, we're going out with this from today's State Dept press briefing by Marie Harf:

    QUESTION: So I see the President spoke today with the Canadian prime minister on Iraq. It made me wonder what kind of regional dialogues the United States is having with other partners in the Mideast on how other states in the Mideast can assist militarily or with humanitarian aid to what’s happening.

    MS. HARF: Well, we’re having a number of conversations, and to be fair, those conversations have been ongoing. Obviously, one I’d note is the Brits, as you know, who have now also provided – began providing humanitarian aid. We’ve also talked to a number of partners about financial contributions and would note generous financial contributions from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Japan, the EU, Sweden, Australia, Canada, and others already in response. So obviously, we are talking to many of our partners on the humanitarian side and the financial side particularly about how we can all bring more resources to bear here.

    QUESTION: I’m just wondering, aside from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, if there are other partners in the Mideast. Particularly, has anybody expressed any willingness to assist militarily with the Government of Iraq or even the Kurds, or what kind of – if not boots on the ground, personnel on the ground, people on the ground?

    MS. HARF: I can check with our team here and see if those discussions have been happening. We’ve had discussions with Iraq’s neighbors over the past several weeks and months, I’d say, particularly on the refugee issue and on the foreign fighter issue as well. So these are conversations we’ve had for a while. I can check and see, Lara – and it’s a good question – if there are updates on the military or security assistance piece.

    QUESTION: Thank you. Were you aware of the report in Der Spiegel today that apparently some Iranian planes have landed in the Kurdish region with arms and ammunition?

    MS. HARF: I am and I’ve seen them, and we can’t confirm them one way or the other at this point.

    QUESTION: Okay. And did you get any update from my question yesterday on when was the last time somebody from the U.S. Government spoke with Prime Minister Maliki?

    MS. HARF: I believe it was yesterday. We’re not going to outline all the details of who talks to who, but I believe we did have contact with him yesterday.

    QUESTION: Okay. And can you – you can’t give us any readout on what the --

    MS. HARF: I --

    QUESTION: -- nature of the conversation was or --

    MS. HARF: I don’t have more of a readout for you on that.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    QUESTION: Marie?

    MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: Can we follow up on one thing on Maliki, please?

    QUESTION: Go ahead.

    MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: Yesterday, I had asked if you had – if the U.S. Government had played any role whatsoever in the selection of Prime Minister-designate al-Abadi, and you very clearly said no. Have you seen today’s Daily Beast story which claims – which cites U.S. officials as saying that they had pushed for Maliki for days, weeks? And it suggests maybe – suggests that an effort to oust Maliki had been underway since June. Is there any truth to that report?

    MS. HARF: There is not. As I have said multiple times from this podium, this is up for the Iraqis to decide. Of course, we’ve had conversations with them as they’ve gone through this process, but quite frankly, for a number of years, not just in this Iraqi election but in the last one, there were a number of rumors and conspiracy theories about the U.S. role. I would squarely put this report in that category. As I said yesterday, this was a decision for the Iraqis and solely for the Iraqis to decide.

    QUESTION: And are you getting the impression that you are getting more cooperation from your allies in the Gulf vis-a-vis Iraq now that an alternative to Prime Minister Maliki has been settled on?

    MS. HARF: Well, cooperation in what way? Because certainly on the refugee and humanitarian side, they have, quite frankly, for a while been very concerned about the humanitarian situation and the possibility of refugees and foreign fighters as well. So I don’t think that’s a new concern. I do think that there are a number of partners in the region who want Iraq’s government to govern more inclusively. And so I certainly think that’s a part of it, but I don’t think the two are necessarily linked.

    QUESTION: I ask because Secretary Kerry made clear that the U.S. Government could do a number of things with the new government and I therefore wonder if that sentiment is echoed among Iraq’s neighbors and any other close U.S. allies.

    MS. HARF: Well, you’d have to ask them. I do think that broadly speaking, all of us are partners. We certainly know that the only way to fight ISIL going forward here is that it requires an inclusive Iraqi Government to be formed quickly. And as that happens, as the Secretary said, we certainly are looking at ways we can do even more to help.

    QUESTION: And one more. Are you getting any greater cooperation from allies such as Kuwait, which the Treasury Department recently – I mean, they essentially said that the Kuwaiti Government needed to do more to try to crack down on financing of ISIL, and it identified, I think, three Kuwaiti citizens who were designated for having done so. Are you getting any more cooperation from them on that?

    MS. HARF: I know it’s something we work with them and other governments on that there are private citizens in some of these countries who have been providing monetary support. We’re certainly very worried about it. And I think quite frankly, countries like Kuwait are increasingly realizing this is – could also be a threat to them. So it’s an ongoing conversation. I don’t have anything to update, but I’m happy to see if there is anything else to say.

    QUESTION: Can I go back to Maliki very --

    MS. HARF: Uh-huh, and then we’ll go to you, Michel.

    QUESTION: Yeah, very quickly. Given that you said that you’re not aware of any more U.S. Government contacts with him in the last --

    MS. HARF: Since yesterday.

    QUESTION: -- since yesterday, is there a concern --

    MS. HARF: There may have been, though.

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS. HARF: It’s constant communication on the ground in Baghdad.

    QUESTION: Right. Is there a concern given his decision to move troops into the green zone over the weekend that he may try yet again to resist what the U.S. considers the orderly transition according to the Iraqi constitution?

    MS. HARF: Well, I --

    QUESTION: And how worried is the U.S. about this?

    MS. HARF: I would note that today Prime Minister Maliki said in remarks that the security forces should not get involved in this matter and should focus on defending the country. Again, we’ll see what happens going forward, but there’s a process that’s been playing out. We never thought it would be without complication. We never thought it would be easy. These things often aren’t. But there is a process that has hit the benchmarks. It’s continued to move forward. And we’ll listen to what he said today and go from here.

    QUESTION: And then very quickly, the status of those U.S. diplomats who had to be moved from Erbil temporarily, are they still --

    MS. HARF: And some were moved in. As I said yesterday, we’re adjusting staffing, so if we move some people out, we might move other people in. We moved in a DART team over the weekend, a Disaster Assistance Response Team, to help with the humanitarian situation. So a lot of it is really about readjusting is a more appropriate term.

    QUESTION: But for the people who had been moved out, is --

    MS. HARF: I don’t believe they’ve moved back yet.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS. HARF: Yeah. Some of them are working out of Amman, where we have a contingent of people working on Iraq. Some are working out of Basra.

    QUESTION: Right.

    MS. HARF: I believe some also may be working out of Baghdad. But we’re basically shuffling people around where we have a need and what makes the most sense security-wise.

    QUESTION: And perhaps you answered this yesterday, but what is the practical impact not so much on U.S. citizens, but on Iraqis who might need to do business in Erbil with the consulate there?

    MS. HARF: The consulate is open, functioning. We believe it’s important to do so. That’s part of the reason the President ordered the military action we’ve seen to protect Erbil.

    QUESTION: Can I ask just very quickly, are you aware of reports of a bomb that may have gone off in the last hour or so near Prime Minister-designate al-Abadi’s house?

    MS. HARF: I am not. I’m sorry.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    MS. HARF: I will check as soon as I get off of the podium.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    QUESTION: Marie --

    MS. HARF: His house in Baghdad?

    QUESTION: Yes.

    MS. HARF: I’ll check.

    QUESTION: Iran has endorsed Iraq’s new prime minister-designate. How do you view this statement from Iran?

    MS. HARF: Well, we encourage any country to encourage the Iraqis to form an inclusive government as soon as possible to govern inclusively. That’s been our position all along, and so, obviously, we would welcome any statements to that effect.

    QUESTION: And have you been in discussion with the Iranians regarding the situation in Iraq?

    MS. HARF: We have not. We have not.

    QUESTION: And last week during the meeting between the U.S. delegation and the Iranians, have you discussed Iran?

    MS. HARF: Have we discussed Iraq?

    QUESTION: Iraq, sorry.

    MS. HARF: To my knowledge it was not raised in the way that it had been raised previously on the sidelines of the P5+1 round. It may have been brought up in casual conversation, but it was not discussed in a substantive way.

    QUESTION: And a follow-up question on Roz’s question, too, regarding al-Maliki. To what extent you are confident that he will leave power after the formation of the new government?

    MS. HARF: Well, there’s a process in place, and that’s what will happen at the end of it. That’s what should happen at the end of it. Look, we’re not going to entertain hypotheticals at this point. The Iraqis have hit the benchmarks as part of this process. Again, we knew it wouldn’t be entirely smooth. We never thought it would be. But that’s what we’re working towards right now. So let’s hope that happens. We’ll continue to have conversations with all of the Iraqis about making sure that happens.

    QUESTION: Thank you.

    QUESTION: (Inaudible) the – on the Iran angle. You mentioned that you couldn’t comment on the Der Spiegel --

    MS. HARF: I just couldn’t confirm it. I just don’t know if --

    QUESTION: Couldn’t confirm it, the Der Spiegel report?

    MS. HARF: We can’t confirm it one way or the other.

    QUESTION: Sure. But the issue of Iranian arms – does the U.S. have a position on that?

    MS. HARF: Well --

    QUESTION: Should Iran have the right to small arms --

    MS. HARF: Well, it’s not a question of a right. There are some sanctionable – there are potential sanctions that could be involved with the export or import of Iran – arms in or out of Iran. There are specific sanctions in place. Without being able to confirm whether or not it’s happening and the specifics, I can’t say whether or not this would be, but there’s a likely chance it could be if this is true. We just have to look at it.

    QUESTION: So, in general, the U.S. would be opposed to Iranian arms flowing into Iraq.

    MS. HARF: In general, we believe we should --

    QUESTION: Even if it’s for the same side.

    MS. HARF: -- continue to implement sanctions that are on the books.

    QUESTION: One on Afghanistan?

    MS. HARF: Let’s stay on Iraq. If people – and then we’ll go to Afghanistan.

    QUESTION: Can you just outline specific steps that Prime Minister-designate Abadi can take to be inclusive? We’re hearing the mantra “inclusive governing” often, but I was wondering if there are certain specific steps that could be outlined.

    MS. HARF: Well, first of all in terms of specific steps, he now has 30 days under the constitution’s – it’s constitutionally mandated – to put a – to complete a process to put a new government in place. So as part of this process, that will be presenting a cabinet to the Iraqi parliament for approval that represents the aspirations of the Iraqi people. I’m not going to outline what that should look like. That’s for him and his government to decide. But there are things he can do that would demonstrate inclusiveness. Things you can say, things you can do, as part of this formation process. And then going forward, if he does form a government, which we expect and hope that he will, there are ways you can do that.
    One of the things we’ve been quite heartened by is the really unprecedented way the Iraqi security forces have been working with the Kurdish forces for example, in a way we never saw them do before. So continuing some of that and encouraging some of that, from the top on down, is really important. So those are some.

    QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

    MS. HARF: Yes.

    QUESTION: So the government has --

    MS. HARF: Thirty days.

    QUESTION: -- so as you said, he has 30 days. But if he isn’t able to do that, then the Iraqis are back to square --

    MS. HARF: Well, there’s --

    QUESTION: I’m just worried -- I’m just wondering if you’re concerned that Prime Minister al-Maliki will take this time to try and prevent him from starting a coalition and not kind of let the process play out.

    MS. HARF: Well, we’re going to watch the process play out. It’s played out on – as it should so far. So while I understand people want to jump 28 days from now and guess about all the bad things that might happen, the process has played out. Let’s watch and see what Prime Minister Maliki says – and does, more importantly. We’re having conversations with him and all the other Iraqi leaders about how this can move forward, Elise.

    QUESTION: Well, it’s not really 28 – it’s not really 28 days. It’s what happens during the next 28 days.

    MS. HARF: Exactly.

    QUESTION: You don’t have the luxury, really, of waiting 30 days and --

    MS. HARF: It’s not about us not having the luxury. It’s about the Iraqis.

    QUESTION: Well, the Iraqis.

    MS. HARF: Yeah.

    QUESTION: Right. So I mean, starting from today --

    MS. HARF: So, we’ll wait – we’ll see what happens, Elise. But let’s not assume the worst here.

    QUESTION: Aren’t you kind of assuming the worst, that he’ll do that?

    MS. HARF: No. I’m not. I don’t think we are, Elise. I think that today you saw Prime Minister Maliki say that security forces should not get involved in this matter. Again, we think that’s a good sign. But we will be watching and we will be in direct conversations if – as we have been with Prime Minister Maliki. And took, if we see signs that anything like that is happening, we would, obviously, be very concerned and immediately express those concerns.
    But I think the other point, though, is it’s not about what the U.S. is or isn’t concerned about. The Iraqi people themselves, including the Shia bloc, has nominated someone else with a lot of support from Prime Minister Maliki’s own party. So this is about the Iraqi people standing up and saying this is the government we want.

    QUESTION: Yeah, but --

    MS. HARF: It’s not about what we want. It’s about what they want.

    QUESTION: I understand that.

    MS. HARF: And so the support for the new prime minister-designate, I think, has been fairly clear.

    QUESTION: Right, but that’s not stopping Prime Minister Maliki from mounting legal challenges to – I don’t believe he’s dropped that legal challenge.

    MS. HARF: Well, we don’t – look, there’s always going to be some differences that people have about how these things should play out. But we would reject any effort, legally or otherwise, to achieve outcomes through coercion or manipulation of the constitutional or judicial process. I think I said this on Sunday night and repeating it today: There’s a constitutional process. It is happening, and that is what we support. And we will keep supporting that as the Iraqis go through this process.

    QUESTION: But, I mean, you know that in 2010 he did launch a legal challenge. He mounted a legal challenge --

    MS. HARF: I’m aware of the history.

    QUESTION: -- and he was able to maintain another term.

    MS. HARF: I’m aware of the history. I think we need to watch what happens day by day here. We need to see what’s happening on the ground. We need to make clear our position, which is that we would reject any efforts to achieve outcomes through judicial – through coercion or manipulation of judicial processes. And we’ll keep working with them, but they have a process in place. It’s moving forward, and let’s see how that plays out.

    QUESTION: Who is the main interlocutor right now with Prime Minister al-Maliki?

    MS. HARF: Well, we engage with him and other Iraqi leaders at a number of levels. We’re not going to outline specifically, necessarily, all the time what that engagement looks like. But people on the ground in Baghdad certainly have had conversations with him, as have people in Washington.

    QUESTION: Well, has Secretary Kerry or Vice President Biden or, specifically, someone at a senior level reached out to Prime Minister Maliki?

    MS. HARF: There are senior people who have --

    QUESTION: Who – can you --

    MS. HARF: We’re not going to outline --

    QUESTION: Why can’t you say --

    MS. HARF: Because we --

    QUESTION: I mean, you put out press releases of calls --

    MS. HARF: I can tell you the Secretary hasn’t, and I can tell you – to my knowledge; let me check with the White House – I don’t believe the Vice President has, either. But people have been in contact with him.

    QUESTION: Does this mean that the fact that someone at a very senior – I’m not saying that the ambassador’s not of a senior level, but does the fact that the Secretary or the Vice President or the President is not speaking to Prime Minister al-Maliki meant to send a signal that the Administration is done dealing with him?

    MS. HARF: Well no, not that we’re done dealing with him and not that we’re not speaking with him. It’s just that we haven’t. He’s the prime minister still, legally, until a new government is officially formed. So we will continue talking to him and working with him, but what we’re focused on is the way forward and how we can help the Iraqis, as they form this new government, fight ISIL. That’s what we’re focused on every day.