Tuesday, December 12, 2017

This episode of groping is brought to you by Dow Chemicals and their generous donation to NPR

Oh, NPR.  Come on, now.
Tom Ashbrook, the host of one of National Public Radio's most successful programs, On Point, has been suspended while the network investigates sexual misconduct allegations made against him.
The allegations include that he engaged in "creepy" sex talks and gave unwanted hugs, neck and back rubs to 11 mostly young women and men who worked on the show. 
What is going on at NPR?
We have already seen Garrison Keiullor have a melt down when his actions got him kicked out.  And Lenoard Lopate and Johnathan Schwartz have been on leave because of allegations against them.
Is this really what our taxes pay for? 

It is like NPR has decided their business model should be Tailhook.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:

Monday, December 11, 2017.  Hayder al-Abadi tries to take a victory lap as so much of Iraq remains in crisis but stealing all attention is Moqtada al-Sadr.

ANADOLU AGENCY reports that Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr announced today that his militia, the Saraya al-Salam militia, was disbanding and returning weapons to the Iraqi government as a result of the the announcement on Saturday by the United Nations that the sanctions against Iraq over the 1990 invasion of Kuwait were ended.  He announced in Najaf, "Sarayan al-Salam will be turned into a public organization.  We want the government in return to create new job opportunities for the unemployed."

AP adds that Moqtada stated "his men would remain as protectors of a holy Shiite shrine in Samarra, north of Baghdad."  RUDAW notes that Moqtada's Najaf remarks were televised and that he called for militias to stay out of the upcoming elections (scheduled for May).  Nadia Riva (KURDISTAN 24) explains:

The PMF were formed a few days after the jihadist group emerged in northern Iraq and took over large swaths of territory in 2014. A fatwa issued by Iraqi Shia Spiritual Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani rallied the militias into engaging with IS to protect the southern regions after the Iraqi Army collapsed.
Iraq is set to hold general elections in May and a number of Hashd al-Shaabi leaders have indicated their desire to run, despite Abadi asserting that political factions with armed groups would not be “allowed” to participate in the elections—a statement which angered senior PMF leaders.
“We ask the Iraqi government not to allow the Hashd al-Shaabi, under any circumstances, to participate in the elections, and to prevent PMF leaders from running,” Sadr said in a speech broadcasted on various Iraqi channels.
He added that the central government should “remove uncontrollable elements” in the Iraqi security forces, and “punish those responsible” following reports of human rights violations during the fight against IS. Sadr claims his demands are aimed at “preserving the PMF’s reputation.”

MIDDLE EAST EYE quotes Moqtada stating:

We ask the Iraqi government not to allow the Hashd al-Shaabi, under any circumstances, to participate in the elections, and to prevent PMU leaders from running.  We advise our brothers in all factions of the Hashd al-Shaabi to hand over their weapons to the federal government and work to strengthen it by enabling it to impose its control over all of Iraq’s territory.

In addition, XINHUA quotes Moqtada declaring, "Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has to prosecute the corrupt people from all parties and to work on comprehensive reforms to the state."


The protests.

As noted at THIRD:

But also because Hayder al-Abadi no longer has the common enemy.

It was the common enemy of ISIS, for example, that led to Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr calling off (temporarily) the weekly protests by his followers.

It was the common enemy of ISIS, also true, that, for a time, allowed the governments in Baghdad and Erbil to work together.

The common enemy is gone.

Now what?

Too bad the US didn't think to work on diplomacy for the last three years.  Too bad they didn't work towards healing differences between -- among others -- Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds.

The temporary bond is gone.

The common enemy is gone, what bond remains?

Region: Huge protests held against Iraq’s Prime Minister In Erbil city.

John Vandiver (STARS AND STRIPES) reports on a "security summit" in Bahrain:

Toby Dodge, a British expert on Iraq, was hopeful Sunday when he walked into a closed-door panel talk at the swanky Ritz Carlton hotel that included an Iraqi parliamentarian and a Kurdish regional government official. But Dodge walked out of the meeting “pessimistic.”
“It springs from a sense of familiarity,” said Dodge, a onetime adviser to Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq.

After the U.S. surge in Iraq in 2007-2008, much of the country was stabilized. Shiite militias were quelled, al-Qaida in Iraq was pushed out, and the U.S. eventually began drawing down. But the Iraqi government under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki failed to build on the gains, with power struggles among Shiite and Sunni government factions. Meanwhile, Iraq’s military grew more fractured, its weakness exposed when ISIS fighters seized a third of Iraq.

Meanwhile a BBC correspondent is perplexed.

Perhaps they have learned the “mission accomplished” lesson, but why are western leaders so quiet about this victory? Iraq Prime Minister Declares Victory Over ISIShttps://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/09/world/middleeast/iraq-isis-haider-al-abadi.html

Mina al-Oraibi (THE NATIONAL) explains:

Halfway across the world, policy makers in Washington DC are putting finishing touches on a new American strategy in Iraq. One message is clear. American officials say the US has learned the lessons of 2003 and 2011 – there will not be a declaration of victory and a withdrawal of troops without truly securing the ground. Furthermore, political engagement will be maintained to secure a strategic ally. The US has invested in Iraq this time and seen the desperate result of disengaging, and this current administration doesn’t plan to repeat that colossal mistake. As US Central Command commander, General Joseph Votel, said, "we have to be persistent, this is not the first time we fight (terrorist groups).. when you take the pressure off them, it is like giving oxygen to a fire".

Maybe that's one reason?

Or maybe there's the fact that ISIS isn't defeated?

Harriet Agerholm (INDEPENDENT) notes a dissenting voice to Hayder's self-sung praise hymnal:

Theresa May has warned that Isis is ”not yet defeated” after Iraq declared an end to its fight against the jihadi group.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Saturday declared the country’s war against Isis officially over, saying the group no longer occupied significant territory in the country.

And there's also the fact that ISIS isn't gone from Iraq.

Although Iraqi PM Abadi has declared the end of ISIS in Iraq, but as this map shows, there is still a small ISIS-controlled desert area between Ninawah and Anbar.

There's the fact that Hayder al-Abadi's still insisting US troops remain in Iraq as

Alexandra Zavis and Nabih Bulos (LOS ANGELES TIMES) noted over the weekend.  They further noted:
“Victories over terrorists have been precipitously declared countless numbers of times before only to have proven illusionary,” said Bruce Hoffman, director of the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University in Washington. “Groups like ISIS always leave behind a subversive cadre that has the capability, the motivation and the intention of becoming the nucleus of either the group’s next iteration or even its rebirth.”
ISIS is a common acronym for Islamic State, which is an offshoot of an Al Qaeda affiliate in Iraq that many U.S. commanders believed had been defeated nearly a decade ago. Even as Iraq’s Shiite-led government celebrates its latest victory, deep-seated grievances among minority Sunni Arabs who dominated under the late strongman Saddam Hussein remain unaddressed.
“Fear of Iran, fear of Shia domination, fear now of becoming victims themselves has produced a witch’s brew that certainly surviving elements of ISIS could take advantage of and exploit, or that a successor could build upon,” Hoffman said.

Maybe those realities prevent a mindless blow out party?  Or

Or maybe it's the realities on the ground?  RT examines the victory Hayder al-Abadi's claiming and finds the following:

The war against Islamic State turned into a massive human tragedy for the Iraqi people. According to official estimates from the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, more than 29,000 civilians were killed between January 2014 and November 2017. Iraq Body Count Project (IBC), an internet based activist group recording civilian deaths in Iraq, put the death toll resulting from IS atrocities and various combat operations over the same period at 66,737.
IS terrorists were responsible for mass murders, torture, rape and even what has been described by the UN as the genocide of some Iraqi minorities. Iraqi forces repeatedly discovered mass graves containing the remains of hundreds, and sometimes even thousands of people, in territories once controlled by terrorists.

The decimation of the Iraqi Yazidi minority, considered “devil-worshippers” by the extremists, is a noted example of the terrorists’ savagery. On August 3 2014, IS took control of the city of Sinjar in northern Iraq, a major hub for the Yazidis, who numbered fewer than one million.

After slaughtering thousands of predominantly fighting-aged men, the Islamists enslaved between 4,000-10,000 people, mostly women and children. In August 2017, the UN commission on Syria called on the international community to recognize the crimes committed by IS against the Yazidis as “genocide.”

However, the terrorists were not the only ones responsible for civilian casualties in this brutal, bloody conflict. The US-led coalition and Iraqi forces have also been repeatedly accused of indiscriminate tactics that has led to a significant number of civilian casualties.

In November, the UN said US-led coalition airstrikes were the reasons for more than one in four civilian deaths during the battle for Mosul. At least 2,521 civilians were killed and 1,673 wounded as the US-led coalition spearheaded the operation to recapture Mosul, a campaign that lasted for over nine months between 2016 and 2017, the UN report said. The UN added that these figures should be considered as an “absolute minimum,” implying that the death toll from coalition actions could be even higher.
International human rights NGOs have also criticized the strategy of the US coalition in Mosul. In late November, Amnesty International (AI) released a report, which stated that at least 5,805 civilians were killed by “relentless unlawful attacks by Iraqi government forces and members of the US-led coalition.” A September report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) pointed out that “the high civilian death toll raises concerns that military forces of the US-led coalition failed to take necessary precautions to avoid and minimize civilian casualties, a requirement under international humanitarian law.”

The excessive use of firepower was the “key element of the victory” of Iraqi forces backed by the US-led coalition in the war against Islamic State, Fawaz Hilmi, a military and security researcher, told RT, and that such tactics led to the deaths of many civilians caught in the fighting. He added that the success of the Iraqi army was to a large extent a result of the “overkill” tactics used by the US-led coalition as well as the Iraqi Air Force and the Iraqi Army.

Iraq is far from firm footing.  And even in so-called victory, Hayder couldn't be inclusive or even gracious.

Over the weekend, RUDAW reported Hayder thanked "the army, police, security forces, Hashd al-Shaabi, counter-terrorism forces, air force and pilots, and all the divisions of the armed forces who supported us, including engineer and medical teams and our supporters from the tribal forces and people in the liberated areas, those who supported their army" but 'forgot' to mention the Peshmerga (Kurdish force).

All the 5 Kurdish lists in the Iraqi parliament have issued a united statement condemning PM Abadi for not naming Peshmerga in his 'victory speech', they say they were 'shocked' that Abadi named all the different forces except for Peshmerga which is part of Iraq's defence system.

ALSUMARIA explains that the Ministry of the Peshmerga has criticized Hayder for his omission 
 And if you don't grasp how badly Nouri al-Maliki wants to return as prime minister, note this:
Iraqi PM Abadi doesn't mention Peshmerga in his 'victory' speech over ISIS, but Iraqi VP Maliki does mention Peshmarga in his congratulatory speech.

Which brings us back to the issue of the militias. While Moqtada calls for them to be disbanded, Ali Mamouri (AL-MONITOR) notes, "Maliki said his bloc, the State of Law Coalition, will ally with the PMU in the upcoming elections. Therefore, the PMU and its allies have a good chance of taking the reins of the upcoming government and winning a parliamentary majority."

When you factor in reality, there's not a lot to rejoice over.

Spiral down, as the Cowboy Junkies sang:

New content at THIRD: