April 18, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, US officials visit the
region, a US official may have engaged in sex in a public place in
Iraq, that US official may have been someone Barack Obama's currently
nominating for a major appointment, the political crisis continues,
suicides and 'suicides' plague Iraq, and more.
Three US officials are visiting troops stationed in/near war zones this week. Steve Klamkin (WPRO) reports
an overseas trip Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, Michigan
Governor Rick Snyder and South Dakota Govenor Dennis Daugaard.
Steve Klamkin: Governor Chafee met with Rhode Island troops on a trip to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lincoln Chafee: They're doing well. The Rhode Islanders are doing
well. And, for the families, hang in there, they'll be home soon.
Klamkin: With the governors of Michigan and South Dakota, Chafee
visited a forward operating base in Iraq There's been a series of
Taliban attacks in Afghanistan even before the group arrived.
Lincoln Chafee: That's really the frustration they voiced with us.
Just who is setting the IEDs? Where are the Tablian? How do they mix
in the local population which are right outside the walls, they're
right their surrounding where all these Rhode Islanders are?
Klamkin: Chafee, who opposed the war in Iraq, thinks the Afghans will
be able to control their own destiny when US troops pull out next
year. Steve Klamkin, WPRO News.
Major Matthew Davis (Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System) reports
on their visit in Kuwait yesterday where they met with "National Guard
and Reserve service members" "from Michigan and other states who
supported U.S. operations during the drawdown of forces from Iraq, and
ongoing logistic operations in connection with Operating Enduring
Freedom in Kuwait.
if a video existed that showed a prominent State Department VIP on the
roof of the Republican Palace in Baghdad receiving, um, pleasure of an
oral nature from another State Department officer not his wife, or even
his journalist mistress of the time? What if that video has been passed
around among Marine Security Guards at the Embassy to the point where
it is considered "viral" with many copies made? What if the Deputy
Chief of Mission, hand in hand with the Diplomatic Security chief (RSO)
at the time, decided that the whole thing needed to be swept under the
rug and made to go away, at least until some blogger got a hold of it.
that count as poor judgement? What if it was published during his
oft-delayed Congressional hearings? Funny that State aggressively
punishes some extramarital fooling around while ignoring other, er, well-documented cases.
would the State Department once again excuse the act itself and instead
punish the person who made the act public, claiming THAT was the
example of poor judgement, the crime of not hiding State's dirty
laundry at a sensitive time?
Of the rumor Van Buren's floating, Michael Hastings (BuzzFeed) observes
"His description, however, contains clues: The location in the
Republican Palace, and the delayed confirmation hearings in particular.
That could only refer to a small handful of officials, and among those
who fit that description is the high-profile nominee to be the next
ambassador to Iraq, Brett McGurk." Author and journalist Michael
Hastings has reported from Afghanistan and from Iraq and if he's seeing
clues to Brett McGurk being the star of the rumor, he's got the
background to suss out the rumor.
McGurk is US
President Barack Obama's controversial nominee for US Ambassador to
Iraq. No, after Chris Hill, it didn't seem likely we'd be again be
referring to a controversial or questionable nominee for this post;
however, here we are. McGurk has won some praise and backing since the
nomination was announced. For example, Peter Feaver (Foreign Policy) feels
his friend McGurk is qualified. Jake Cusak (Forbes) also endorsed
McGurk who he hailed as "an old acquaintance."
outside of roll dogs, Brett McGurk hasn't had a lot of people singing
his praises. As we've noted before, he's got no background in
administrative supervision but Barack wants to put him over the State
Dept's largest project -- most employees, biggest budget. He's held no
supervisory post, he's held no financial post either. On the latter,
he'd be responsible for the yearly $6 billion budget the State Dept
gets for Iraq And that's before you get into the tensions and violence
that continue in Iraq.
McGurk has headed NO
mission in a foreign country before. But he's supposed to start -- and
get on-the-job training? -- with Iraq? He doesn't speak Arabic. What
traits does he have that makes him worthy of this important post?
need to be asking that because over $6 billion US tax dollars will be
wasted each year on Iraq for the foreseeable future unless something
changes. Wasted? The State Dept sent someone a notch above intern to
testify at a hearing they wanted to avoid. The young woman noted that
the primary purpose of the mission -- besides a lot of airty talk --
was to train the Iraqi police. Dropping back to the October 4, 2006 snapshot
that it's time for retraining. As though deciding to let 'death squads'
pass your security check point is akin to not knowing how to use the
office copier. AFP reports they're on a US military base being retrained. BBC reports:
"A programme has been under way for more than a month for comprehensive
assessment and re-training of all national police unites -- a process
called by the Americans 'transofrmational training.'" James Hider (Times of London) reports
that since 2004, "US forces have been re-training the Iraqi police, but
the programme has had little impact" and that a "survivor of Monday's
mass kidnapping . . . described how half a dozen vehicles, with
official security forces markings on them, pulled up and men in
military fatigues rounded up all the Sunnis in the shops."
We covered the November 30th House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the MiddleEast and South Asia in the December 1st snapshot
and noted that Ranking Member Gary Ackerman had several questions. He
declared, "Number one, does the government of Iraq -- whose personnel
we intend to train -- support the [police training] program?
Interviews with senior Iaqi officials by the Special Inspector General
show utter didain for the program. When the Iraqis sugest that we take
our money and do things instead that are good for the United States. I
think that might be a clue." The State Dept's Brooke Darby faced that
Subcommittee. Ranking Member Gary Ackerman noted that the US had
already spent 8 years training the Iraq police force and wanted Darby
to answer as to whether it would take another 8 years before that
training was complete? Her reply was, "I'm not prepared to put a time
limit on it." She could and did talk up Deputy Minister of the
Ministry of Interior Adnan al-Asadi as a great friend to the US
government. But Ackerman and Subcommittee Chair Steve Chabot had
already noted Adnan al-Asadi, but not by name. That's the Iraqi
official, for example, Ackerman was referring to who made the
suggestion "that we take our money and do things instead that are good
for the United States." He made that remark to SIGIR Stuart Bowen.
Darby noted that he didn't deny that comment or retract it; however,
she had spoken with him and he felt US trainers and training from the
US was needed. The big question was never asked in the hearing: If the
US government wants to know about this $500 million it is about to
spend covering the 2012 training of the Ministry of the Interior's
police, why are they talking to the Deputy Minister?
US State Dept is not ready to put a time limit on it, by their own
words. How long does the 'training' continue? How many years and how
many billions? If it's really not clear to you, let's drop back to the
House Foreign Relations Committee hearing of December 1st
for this exchange.
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: When will they be willing to stand up without us?
Brooke Darby: I wish I could answer that question.
Ranking Member Gary Ackerman: Then why are we spending money if we don't have the answer?
Member Gary Ackerman: You know, this is turning into what happens after
a bar mitzvah or a Jewish wedding. It's called "a Jewish goodbye."
Everybody keeps saying goodbye but nobody leaves.
State Dept already can't answer basic questions regarding Iraq. And
the White House wants to put the questionable McGurk in charge? Liz Sly (Washington Post) noted
objection to the nomination in Iraq:
concerns have crystallized in recent weeks around Obama's nomination of
Brett McGurk, 38, a lawyer who has frequently advised the U.S. Embassy
but is not a diplomat to be the new ambassador to Iraq. As the chief
adviser to Ambassador James F. Jeffrey and former ambassador
Christopher R. Hill, McGurk is closely associated with the United
States' controversial 2010 decision to support Maliki's candidacy as
the better hope for future stability over that of Ayad Allawi, the head
of the Iraqiya bloc, which narrowly won the most seats in parliament.
Should the Van Buren rumor be true and should it be about Brett McGurk, would that manage to sink the nomination?
Iraq's already struggling, it's really not the place where the US should send someone on a glorified travel-study.
Iraq, though there's hope for recent (small) success with strawberries,
the reality is that even the date palm industry in Iraq hasn't proved
profitable yet ("yet" meaning post-invasion, Iraq's date industry is
historically signficant and profitable). So despite years and years of
calls by Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi to diversify the
economy, Iraq remains dependent on their sole money maker: Oil. Reuters reports
"Exxon Mobil has told Baghdad it will not break ground on its oil blocs
in the semi-autonomous Kurdish north until the centeral government
approves the contracts, Iraq's top energy official said on Wednesday."
The official is Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Hussain
al-Shahristani. That alone makes the claim questionable -- remember, April 3rd
he was in the news for insisting the Kurds were secretly selling oil to
Iran. He's not seen as someone impartial or particularly honest.
the reality is that it doesn't matter if he's telling the truth this
time or not. Yet again, the world watches, the markets watch as Iraq's
rulers can't get their act together. It does not put confidence in
either the government or in the ability to do business with Iraq.
Contracts were signed by ExxonMobil back in October with the KRG.
Either those contracts will be honored or they won't.
you're an energy company -- oil and gas -- and you can spend a year
developing a relationship with another country rich in oil or you can
spend that time on Iraq -- and know that a signed contract may mean
nothing. Are you really going to make Iraq your focus after you know
their history with ExxonMobil?
and the idiots he's appointed don't grasp is that their petty fights
and bickering make them look unreliable and unprofessional. And that
goes beyond the oil industry. You're on an Australian committee
exploring opening a Quay Hotel in the Middle East. In the discussions,
someone tosses out Iraq. You point out that besides the continued
daily violence, there's also all the problems ExxonMobil's faced in
getting a signed contract honored. You'll be much more likely to
recommend that Quay consider Kuwait or Jordan where a signed contract
appears to actually mean something other than months and months of
officials bickering in the press.
On a very
limited scale, strawberries are doing well in Iraq (as a result of a
lot of help -- money and technology -- from USAID). 2012 is an
important year for that industry. At the end of it, figures will
indicate whether or not this is a stand-alone industry that can
successfully supports itself or whether the limited success resulted
from USAID. Right now, the only money making story is oil and with no
real leader to lead, the bickering and the non-stop 'updates' on the
ExxonMobil deal ensure that Iraq looks like it's not ready for the
world stage. In Nouri were any kind of a leader, he would have ended
this nonsense a long time ago -- even if that meant going along with
the KRG contracts that he didn't want to go through. Instead, it
looks like a circus and this as James Herron (Dow Jones) announces
"Iraq has revised its medium-term oil field redevelopment plan, meaning
that production will peak slightly lower than the previous 12 million
barrel a day target, but, said the country's Deputy Prime Minister for
Energy, Hussein al-Shahristani, Wednesday." And Dow Jones reports
wants to follow the current expansion of its oil production capacity
with an expansion of its domestic refining industry, but won't be able
to do so without the cooperation of international companies, said the
country's Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Hussein al-Shahristani
In bad news for Nouri, Al Mada reports
that Speaker of Parliament Osama Najafi states that the National
Alliance has confirmed that they support the full implementation of the
Erbil Agreement. April 5th
KRG President Massoud Barzani noted the Erbil Agreement while speaking
at an event sponsored by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
President Massoud Barzani: We have been waiting for the last six years
for promises that were not delivered, for agreements that were not
honored. We have waited and everytime they give us an excuse. Once they
say that there are elections in Baghdad, another time, elections in the
region. Once there is election in the United States. Then there is the
Arab Summit, etc., etc. We have found out that we have passed six years
waiting for these promises to be delivered. We cannot anymore wait for
unfulfilled promises and undelivered promises. There has to be a
specific and determined timeline for this to be delivered. We got tired
of this and we are fed up with that. Therefore, what we will do is that
we will work on the preferred option to work with the other Iraqi
groups to find a solution. If not, then we go back to our people and to
put all of these realities inf ront of our people for the people to be
free to make their own decision. As far as the issue of the oil is
concerned, in 2007, when we were working and we reached an agreement on
a draft oil hydrocarbons law, we both agreed that if that law did not
pass in the Parliament until May that same year that both sides -- the
KRG and the federal government -- are free to continuing signing
contracts with international oil companies. Therefore, whatever we have
done in the region, we have not violated the Constitution. We have
acted legally and Constitutionally within the framework of the
Political Stalemate I is
the eight month period which followed the March 2010 elections. Nouri
refused to step aside despite the fact that his State of Law had come
in second in the elections to Iraqiya. He wanted to remain prime
minister. And the US government and the Iranian government were backing
him -- backing him over the Iraqi people and the will they expressed at
the ballot box. In November 2010, the US-brokered Erbil Agreement was
signed off on by all major political blocs. Nouri got to be prime
minister for a second term and, in exchange, he made certain
concessions. Among them, he would agree to an independent national
security commission to be headed by Ayad Allawi (leader of Iraqiya) and
he would finally abide by the Constitution (Article 140) and allow the
census and referendum on Kirkuk. Nouri got his second term and promptly
refused to follow the Erbil Agreement throwing Iraq into Political
Stalemate II which has now lasted 16 months (December 2010 to the
present). Since the summer, the Kurds have been calling on Nouri to
return to the Erbil Agreement. Iraqiya has joined the call as has
Moqtada al-Sadr. Moqtada is part of the National Alliance as is State
of Law. Amir al-Hakim's Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq is also part of
the National Alliance (ISCI, State of Law and Moqtada's bloc are the
three largest components of the National Alliance).Al Sabaah reports
that the National Alliance is meeting today and the meeting has been
labeled as "important." Among the items to be discussed are the
relationship between Baghdad and the KRG. Hiwa Osman (Rudaw) reports
on the tensions including:
to Rudaw, Shwan Muhammad, a Kurdish member of Iraqi Parliament, said,
"In Iraq, no component has a major role. Nouri Maliki alone has
monopolized all the powers in the ranks of the army and internal
security forces."Muhammad believes that although a Kurd, Babakr Zebari, Iraq's military chief of staff, must still answer to the prime minister."All the powers are concentrated in the hands of the commander in chief (Maliki)," says Muhammad.Muhammad
admits that a Kurd is in charge of the air force, but Maliki has
created a special unit called "military aviation" that is run by people
very close to him. This unit is said to have full control of 500
helicopters."The air force
whose commander is a Kurd does not even have an aircraft," said
Muhammad, who is also a member of the defense and security committee in
and some of Iraq's Sunni leaders believe PM Maliki has brought most of
Iraq's major institutions, such as the Ministry of Defense, national
intelligence and the central bank, under his direct control, which they
argue is unconstitutional.
As part of his continued power
grab, last Thursday Nouri had the Independent High Electoral
Commission's chair Farah al-Haidari and commission member Karim
al-Tamimi arrested. Al Mada notes
that as a result of these arrests, the United Nation's
Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler states that it
is unlikely the Parliament will now vote on the new commissioners for
the Independent High Electoral Commission. As explained yesterday
, State of Law is throwing up roadblocks to prevent the vote in Parliament.
Meanwhile Aswat al-Iraq notes
"Sadrist leader Muqtada al-Sadr called his followers to unify ranks if
they desire to form their own government." In addition to targeting
the Independent High Electoral Commission, Nouri's also insisted that
Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post and that
Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi be arrested for 'terrorism.'
to questions of AA correspondent, Hashemi claimed that the lawsuit
filed against him was a political one and he would not stand trial in
Iraqi capital of Baghdad. Hashemi said he believed that a fair trial
would not be held in the capital.
Witnesses' statements against
him have been obtained by means of torture, he said and adding that one
of his bodyguards was tortured and killed.
Hashemi said that he could not receive a fair trial in Baghdad, because the courts have been controlled by Maliki, he said.
He said he has offered to stand trial in Kirkuk, but the government refused it.
case filed against me was a political one since the beginning. Thus its
solution had to be political. President, prime minister and parliament
speaker should come together and find a political solution to it," he
One of the problems has been that one of your deputies, Tariq
al-Hashemi, who was given refuge here in the Kurdish region and allowed to leave in spite of an arrest warrant. Will you allow him to come back to Kurdistan?
I would like to explain to you - Mr Hashemi is the first vice-president
- I appointed him first. He came to a meeting with another
vice-president, Dr Kuzai. When he came here, the court asked him to go
to court. He didn't prefer to go to court - he said: "I am afraid in
Baghdad to go to court." We asked them to change [the venue] and they
refused. I don't know if he will come back here, or stay outside. This
issue - my opinion was [to] solve it through dialogue with the leaders
of Iraq. Because if he goes to court, he will be sentenced - we don't
want him to be sentenced. We also need a kind of consensus about his
problem. Maybe some of his bodyguards committed some crimes, but Tariq
Hashemi is still vice-president. He was not sentenced, and any man
until he is sentenced is considered to be innocent. He's not convicted.
Trend News Agency reports
KRG President Massoud Barzani will visit Turkey Turkey and "meet with
Turkish Preisdent Abdullah Gul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu" and "Sources say that during his
visit to Turkey Barzani will also meet with al-Hashemi, for whom the
Shiite-led central government issued an arrest warrant in late 2011." Press TV maintains
of Tareq al-Hashemi, "He
has recently met with Erdogan to discuss the developments in Iraq and
asked for Ankara's political support. Hashemi has also asked for
Ankara's protection since he has received death threats and is said to
be guarded by more than a dozen security forces. The Turkish
government has settled Hashemi, his family, and those accompanying him
in two houses in Basak, Istanbul, while Jordan has not responded to the
Iraqi official's asylum appeal."
Iraq and its neighbors. The
Arab League Summit met in Baghdad March 29th. Less than half of the
heads of state bothered to show. A number of Arab countries chose to
send a message by not attending. The one thing Nouri was able to
flaunt was his new closeness with Kuwait. But it's a kind-of-push,
kind-of-pull relationship. An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers points out
The first Kuwaiti flight to Iraq in more than twenty years landed in Najaf Airport today.
why in the southern, holy city of Najaf and not in Baghdad? Officials
said that trips to Baghdad will be the next step, withought mentioning
After the significant role Kuwait
played in the occupation of Iraq in 2003, one would have thought that
its relations with the new Iraqi leaders would have been "chummy" - At
least that's what many Iraqis thought. But the truth of the matter is
that relations between Iraq and Kuwait are still "strained".
, a man apparently hanged himself in Basra. Al Rafidayn reports
the man was 38-years-old, had a wife and four children. He is thought
to be the seventh man in the area who has taken their own life due to
poverty in the last six months. Although Basra is well known for its
fishing industry, lack of government support and conflict with Iran and
Kuwait fishing industries have left Basra's industry reeling. Basra is
in southern Iraq.
Another province in southern Iraq is Dhi Qar Province which is also experiencing suicides. Al Sabaah reports
there's a suicide or 'suicide' epidemic taking place. Those allegedly
taking their own lives? Young girls under the age of 18. There are
accusations that the police are in partnership with families to cover
up the fact that these girls are not suicides but have been killed --
possibly so-called 'honor' killings. There are also allegations that
the girls are taking their own lives but doing so because they are
being denied their basic freedoms and pushed into forced marriages by
their families. Local citizen Ahmed Saidi maintains that most are not
suicides and "90 percent are murders." The province saw 13 suicides in
2011 of young girls between the ages of 15 and 18 while, already this
month, there have been 2 young females who have died and are said to
have taken their own lives. Feminist Shada Qaisi states that the
society lacks the communication skills to deal openly with these deaths
and she also states that the police are more than willing to see a
killing as suicide and not open an investigation into the death of a
young girl. The police department refused to comment to the paper.
In the United States, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Her office notes:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Chairman Murray Introduces Legislation to Better Protect Veterans, Servicemembers from Unemployment and Foreclosure
Legislation would strengthen U.S. Department of Justice's ability to enforce current laws
D.C.) -- Today, with high unemployment and foreclosure rates continuing
to affect our nation's veterans and servicemembers, U.S. Senator Patty
Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee,
introduced the Servicemembers Rights Enforcement Improvement Act of
2012. Currently, many of the protections put in place to help shield
our nation's heroes -- specifically the Uniformed Services Employment
and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and the Servicemembers Civil
Relief Act (SCRA) -- have been violated in a disturbing number of cases
within the past several years. Co-sponsoring Chairman Murray's
legislation are Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Mark Begich (D-AK), Jay
Rockefeller (D-WV) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
Servicemembers Rights Enforcement Improvement Act, which includes a
significant number of proposals provided to the Congress by the U.S.
Department of Justice (DoJ), would strengthen DoJ's ability to enforce
these laws on behalf of servicemembers and veterans.
men and women in uniform serve with tremendous dignity on the
battlefield," said Chairman Murray. "Our nation owes it to them to
guarantee protection under the law wh when they return home. The
Servicemembers Rights Enforcement Act will help force the hand of those
who have failed to follow the law when it comes to providing our
nation's heroes with the basic safeguards they deserve."
nation's growing reliance on the National Guard and Reserves for
operational duties here and overseas means that our warrior-citizens
must have airtight reemployment rights and financial protections when
they are called to the colors, "said VADM Norb Ryan, President,
Military Officers Assocication of America (MOAA). "The Military
Officers Association of America strongly supports the 'Servicemembers
Rights Enforcement Improvement Act of 2012' and urges quick passage of
the bill to strengthen enforcement of the rights of those who defend
the rest of America."
"Millions of service
members depend on USERRA and SCRA protections when called to serve
their country," said Commander Fang Won, American Legion. "USERRA and
SCRA were created to prohibit discrimination and eliminate
disadvantages faced by deployed service members. This legislation will
strengthen the enforcement on USERRA and SCRA. This bill confirms a
tremendous need for transparency and effective consequences for
non-compliance of USERRA and SCRA regulations and ensure that veterans
are not disadvantaged or unable to return to their previous jobs due to
their honorable service to our Nation."
strongly supports Senator Murray's efforts to bolster the
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and Uniformed Services
Employment and Re-employment Rights Act (USERRA)," said Paul Rieckhoff,
Founder and Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of
America (IAVA). "Servicemembers who currentlys eek relief under these
acts often face significant roadblocks. Even if a violation exists, it
can be difficult and expensive for vets to challenge employers armed
with greater legal and financial resources. This bill will empower the
Attorney General to investigate and compel employers to respond to
USERRA complaints. More importantly, it will allow the Attoreny
General to better represent service members who have a case. Both
steps are absolutely critical to open doors for new veterans and ensure
they come home to the job security they deserve after serving our
secures servicemembers' employment rights during periods of military
service and prohibits employer discrimination based upon military
service or obligation.
To ensure that those protections are fully enforced this bill:
Enables the Attorney General to investigate and file suit against a
patter or practice of USERRA violatiosn by a state or private employer.
Allows the United States to serve as named plaintiff in USERRA suits
and to issue civil investigative demands for relevant documentary
Provides the Special Counsel with authority to subpoena relevant
testimony and documents from Federal employees and agencies to carry
the past year, it has come to light that several banks improperly
overcharged and foreclosed upon deployed servicemembers in violation of
the SCRA. Failure to comply with SCRA protections is unacceptable.
This bill strengthens the statutory protections of SCRA as well as the mechanisms used to enforce them by:
Strengthening the protections that prevent judgments againt a
servicemember when they cannot appear in court because of military
* Broadening the authority of the Attorney General to investigate allegations of SCRA violations; and
* Clarifying the right of servicemembers to bring a private law suit to assert their SCRA rights.
Deputy Press Secretary | Social Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray