Thursday, June 19, 2014

Iraq Updates ( June 19 , 2014 ) - US shambolic foreign policy on full display regarding Iraq ( White House wants democratically elected Prime Minister Maliki out - no clue who would lead country ( note Maliki says he won't quit as a condition of US air strikes ) , US poised to strike Iraq - no clue who to aim at , Obama puts paid to Ira War over Meme - does he understand what he's doing ? ) ....... Meanwhile back in Iraq - Maliki Orders Shi'a Inmates Freed to Join Militias; Baghdad Asks for US Air Strikes , Kurds say don't blame us for sectarian strife ......

Evening news 6/19/14.....


Today's ISW SITREP- Tel Afar/Baiji/Muqdadiyah on front lines. Both sides trying not to damage Baiji refinery.

New ISW map: "Control of Terrain in Iraq:June 19." Who controls what? What is contested?

( If the US and Nato knew about these chemical weapons , then why were they destroyed before the US and Nato pulled their soldiers out of Iraq ? )

Did Saddam Have WMDs After All: ISIS Overruns Iraq Chemical Weapons 'Mega-Facility'

Tyler Durden's picture

With all eyes firmly focused on what really matters (the oil refineries), The Telegraph reports that ISIS has over-run a Saddam Hussein-era chemical weapons (CW) complex. The al-Muhanna 'mega-facility', about 60 miles south of Baghdad, gives the jihadists access to disused stores of hundreds of tonnes of potentially deadly poisons including mustard gas and sarin. The US state department is 'concerned' but "do not believe that the complex contains CW materials of military value." However, as a former commander of Britain's chemical weapons regiment warned, "we have seen that ISIS has used chemicals in explosions in Iraq before and has carried out experiments in Syria." This is likely great for ISIS 2014 Annual Report; but, of course, the other awkward question is: does this mean Saddam did have WMDs (and ISIS found them) after all?
As The Telegraph reports, the jihadist group bringing terror to Iraq overran a Saddam Hussein chemical weapons complex on Thursday...
Isis invaded the al-Muthanna mega-facility 60 miles north of Baghdad in a rapid takeover that the US government said was a matter of concern.

The facility was notorious in the 1980s and 1990s as the locus of Saddam’s industrial scale efforts to develop a chemical weapons development programme.

During its peak in the late 1980s to early 1990s, Iraq produced bunkers full of chemical munitions.

A CIA report on the facility said that 150 tons of mustard were produced each year at the peak from 1983 and pilot-scale production of Sarin began in 1984.

Its most recent description of al-Muthanna in 2007 paints a disturbing picture of chemicals strewn throughout the area.

“Two wars, sanctions and UN oversight reduced Iraqi’s premier production facility to a stockpile of old damaged and contaminated chemical munitions (sealed in bunkers), a wasteland full of destroyed chemical munitions, razed structures, and unusable war-ravaged facilities,” it said.

“Some of the bunkers contained large quantities of unfilled chemical munitions, conventional munitions, one-ton shipping containers, old disabled production equipment and other hazardous industrial chemicals.”

Britain has previously acknowledgeded that the nature of the material contained in the two bunkers would make the destruction process difficult and technically challenging.
Should we be worried?
US officials revealed that the group had occupied the sprawling site which has two bunkers encased in a concrete seal. Much of the sarin is believed to be redundant.
“We remain concerned about the seizure of any military site by the [Isis],” Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said. “We do not believe that the complex contains CW materials of military value and it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to safely move the materials.
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former commander of Britain’s chemical weapons regiment, said that al-Muthanna has large stores of weaponized and bulk mustard gas and sarin, most of which has been put beyond ready use in concrete stores.
It is doubtful that Isis have the expertise to use a fully functioning chemical munition but there are materials on site that could be used in an improvised explosive device,” he told the Telegraph.

“We have seen that Isis has used chemicals in explosions in Iraq before and has carried out experiments in Syria.”
One US official told the Wall Street Journal yesterday that Isis fighters could be contaminated by the chemicals at the site.
“The only people who would likely be harmed by these chemical materials would be the people who tried to use or move them,” the military officer said.

( History does rhyme , doesn't it ? )

Forget Baghdad Bob, Meet "Saad Maan" - Iraq's Military Spokesman

Tyler Durden's picture

Saddam Hussein had Muhammad Saeed al-Shaaf, nicknamed "Baghdad Bob" or "Chemical Ali", to explain just how great things were in Iraq (as bombs were raining down around him). With the US 'demanding' the removal of Maliki, we present the Iraq's new military spokesperson, whose name we are sure will raise a few eyebrows - Saad Maan.
Meet Brigadier General Saad Maan - Iraq's interior minister spokesman.

Blast from the past...

Iraq 3.0: Obama Sends "Military Advisors" To Iraq; Kerry Tasked With Making Iraq Sects "Rise Above"

Tyler Durden's picture

Moments ago, president Obama announced what was informally known for days but only today was officially disclose to the public: namely that he’s sending up to 300 American troops to Iraq in the wake of escalating chaos in that nation. Actually: correction, make that "military advisors." Please don't call them troops because otherwise the US public may realize that Obama has just become only the third president in as many decades to launch his own private Iraq war.
Specifically, Obama said that "American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again... We do not have the ability to simply solve this problem by sending in thousands of troops and committing the kind of blood and treasure that has already been expended."
He is right: this time the fighting will be done by "military advisors" soon to be far more numerous than merely "thousands", operating under the watchful, remote controlled eyes of America's drone army.
As Politico succinctly summarizes, "It’s a politically uncomfortable move for a president who won election in large part due to his opposition to the Iraq War and who has touted the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq in 2011 as one of the key achievements of his presidency."
Naturally, coming from the president who has made the focus of his second term to rule via Executive Orders, this latest escalation would be just that - another unilateral action. Only this time Nancy Pelosi agreed to abdicate Congressional checks and balances on private presidential wars:
Obama added he would consult with Congress as he goes, but did not indicate he would return for another authorization vote.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that she and the other congressional leaders who met with Obama at the White House Wednesday told him that he does not need any additional authority to act if the action is being taken in the interests of national security, and that no one in the meeting raised an objection. According to Pelosi, Obama said his lawyers were studying that question, but that she hoped another vote wouldn’t be required.
That was just the beginning. Where things got bizarre, is when Obama said that "we are not looking to control their assets and their energy." The stupidity of this comment hardly deserve a comment: sowhy is Obama going in: as the pro bono mercenary army of an Iraqi president whom as we reported earlier Obama now wants replaced? Or maybe it is just to fight the ISIS rebels that the US has been secretly arming and training across the border in Syria.
But where things got outright surreal is when Obama announced that he’s sending John Kerry to Iraq consultations around a political solution. Kerry's mission? To help resolve 1400 years of infighting, sectarian hatred, violence and animosity and generally assure that, as Obama put it, the next leader will unite the sects and that Iraqi leaders must, wait for it, "rise above their differences."
Just because US Congress, where the left and the right hardly shoot at each other on sight, apparently has been so successful at rising above an ideological divide that has never been wider, it is now Iraq's turn to unite, overcome countless centuries of sectarian hatred, and come in a righteous circle singing Kumbaya. And if they refuse, US "military advisors" on the ground will help them.
That, in a nutshell, is the pretext for the latest US war in Iraq - Obama's own private foray into a conflict that he will no longer be able to blame on "Bush."

( A great summary of the events of the day ! )


June 19th IRAQ SITREP by Mindfriedo

18th June: A tweet purported to belong to Saudi National Abdullah Al Turki:

Getting rid of Kafir Shia in Syria and Iraq is more important than getting rid of Zionist
We will dig up the grave of Ali ibn Abi Talib inshallah and bring out the Mahdi from the underground and kill him. This is not a threat but a uprise.
It's a wish to dig up the grave of Zainab too
(Not sure if this is genuine or propaganda)

18th June: The United States Air Force is formally asked by the Iraqi government to bomb Daash targets and prevent the advance of militants. Any such request would have, at the least, involved the Iranian commander of the Qods force.

18th June: the Saudi embassy in London has issued this statement: "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia wishes to see the defeat and destruction of all Al-Qaeda networks and the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS) operating in Iraq. Saudi Arabia does not provide either moral or financial support to ISIS or any terrorist networks. Any suggestion to the contrary, is a malicious falsehood. Despite the false allegations of the Iraqi Ministerial Cabinet, whose exclusionary policies have fomented this current crisis, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia supports the preservation of Iraq’s sovereignty, its unity and territorial integrity. We wish to see the protection of all civilians and the alleviation of their current suffering. We oppose all foreign intervention and interference in the internal affairs of Iraq. Instead, we urge all the people of Iraq, whatever their religious denominations, to unite to overcome the current threats and challenges facing the country.”

18th June: Hillary Clinton has expressed her view that it was a mistake on the part of Iraq to ask for the withdrawal of US military personnel. 

18th June: Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish region, announced a general mobilisation to bolster Peshmerga forces in defending Iraqi Kurdistan. He has asked former members to consider enrolling and has appealed to the Kurdish population for support.

18th June: Pro government Afaq TV is airing commercials calling for the boycott of Turkish and Saudi goods.

19th June: Ali Al Qureshi confirms that the refinery in Baiji is in government hands. A truce between the government and local tribes allowed for the evacuation of 300 refinery staff. Army aviation was instrumental in forcing Daash to withdraw its forces. Skirmishes between the two sides are ongoing. The Iraqi oil ministry is now threatening to sue news agencies that include AFP and Reuters for airing false reports.

19th June: The US has started reconnaissance sorties over Iraqi Air Space with F-18 Hornets. 

19th June: Over 100000 Kurds from the refugee population in Arbat Camp in Sulaimaniyeh have volunteered to join the Peshmergas. They have expressed a desire to work without pay.

19th June: the Turks expect that with Baiji refinery out of action, Iraq will be forced to import refined petroleum products from, surprise-surprise, Turkey. Baiji refinery used to meet 25% of Iraqi refined petroleum needs. 

19th June: Iranians are now sure that disinformation played a major role in the fall of Mosul. Rumours of the fall of the city were spread before it had actually fallen. Something similar was planned for other parts and prompted the Iraqi government to curtail phone and internet access.

19th June: the spokesperson for the Iraqi army, Qassim Atta, has mentioned that Iraqi Special forces were used in wresting control of Baiji.

19th June: Confrontations took place between Security services and Daash in Fallujah and the army has gained control of Saqlawiyah north west of Fallujah after killing 250 militants.

19th June: According to Qassim Atta the Iraq Army is making preparations to retake Mossul.

19th June: Iran's foreign minister Javad Zarif has announced the drafting of the final nuclear agreement between Iran and the Group 5+1

NB: This is from an unusual source, but very interesting:

19th June: Indian media reports from an escaped Indian worker who fled Mosul a month before it fell, Ahmad (Indian Worker): Around a month ago, a friend of mine told me that it was better that we got out of Mosul as a major invasion was being planned by the Al Qaeda-offshoot Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. He also told me that Mosul would be taken over and after that it would be living hell to be here... I am being told that in the days to come even Baghdad will not be safe. 

Ahmad: All stories about those barbaric acts that you hear are true. The ISIS are not human beings; they butcher people at will. It is fun for them to kill people and as long as they are around no part of Iraq is safe.

19th June: Twenty trucks carrying food supplies for the displaced in Sinjar, west of Tal Afar, were blocked and looted by Daash. Daash has asked the city authorities to expel refugees from Tal Afar to be allowed access to aid. 

19th June: Kurdish authorities are now rationing fuel being supplied to drivers. An odd and even system is being used to ration fuel. There is an acute shortage of fuel. 

19th June: Petro China is now evacuating a limited number of staff from Iraq. It has renewed its offer to assist the government in Baghdad but not specified if military assistance would be forth coming. China is the largest investor in Iraq's oil sector and also the largest customer of Iraq's oil. This could explain why Iraq is now facing this crisis. 

19th June: The elders of Kirkuk City and the tribal elders of nearby Bashir have entered negotiations to return the bodies of civilians killed by Daash. Most victims are women and children. 

19th June: Baiji refinery is still being fought over with both sides claiming victory. Daash had draped its flags on the refinery earlier in the day. 

19th June: A Saudi woman is beaten to death in Colchester, UK. Daash has asked Muslims in the UK to take revenge. The tweet to avenge the woman's death was from a British "Muslim" member of Daash.

19th June: Baghdad airport is seeing heavy traffic of passengers since the crisis began. Ticket rates have gone up by 50%. The government has expedited imports of food stuffs to prevent shortages. People are sticking to local markets and avoiding larger bazaars.

19th June: Maliki has announced the court martial of 59 officers for abandoning their duty. 

19th VERY INTERESTIG: Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish Prine Minister has asked the US not to bomb Daash targets as it will result in CIVILIAN casualties.

19th June: Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei has tweeted that Daash is an instrument of US policy

19th June: The telegraph is reporting heavy damage to Baiji refinery and has posted images of Daash fighters burning a stash of cigarettes. Smoking is prohibited in areas controlled by health conscious Daash.

Articles worth reading:

( As Maliki has refused to leave obediently , look like the only way Shi'a parties and Iran dump him is if Baghdad appears to be in imminent danger of falling ..... )

US Slams Its Former Iraq Puppet: "The Maliki Government, Candidly, Has Got To Go"

Tyler Durden's picture

It was two days ago when we reported that America's third crusade in Iraq "Is Not Going As Planned: Iraq Prime Minister Defies US, Accuses Saudi Arabia Of "Genocide"", in which we said that "something unexpected happened: Iraq's Shi'ite rulers defied Western calls on Tuesday to reach out to Sunnis to defuse the uprising in the north of the country, declaring a boycott of Iraq's main Sunni political bloc and accusing Sunni power Saudi Arabia of promoting "genocide."...the Shi'ite prime minister has moved in the opposite direction of Obama's demands, announcing a crackdown on politicians and officers he considers "traitors" and lashing out at neighbouring Sunni countries for stoking militancy."
Furthermore, Maliki managed to infuriate not only the US with his intransigence, but more importantly Saudi Arabia whom he accused, accurately many would say, of being the true aggressor and instigator of sectarian violence, saying "we hold them responsible for supporting these groups financially and morally, and for the outcome of that - which includes crimes that may qualify as genocide: the spilling of Iraqi blood, the destruction of Iraqi state institutions and historic and religious sites."
That was just it: nothing but words, as certainly Saudi Arabia has zero diplomatic pull with Iraq. However, it does with the US.
Which is perhaps why the culmination of all the events in the past weeks was revealed overnight when when, as the WSJ revealed, "the Obama administration is signaling that it wants a new government in Iraq without Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, convinced the Shiite leader is unable to reconcile with the nation's Sunni minority and stabilize a volatile political landscape. The U.S. administration is indicating it wants Iraq's political parties to form a new government without Mr. Maliki as he tries to assemble a ruling coalition following elections this past April, U.S. officials say."
From the WSJ:
Such a new government, U.S., officials say, would include the country's Sunni and Kurdish communities and could help to stem Sunni support for the al Qaeda offshoot, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, that has seized control of Iraqi cities over the past two weeks. That, the officials argue, would help to unify the country and reverse its slide into sectarian division.

A growing number of U.S. lawmakers and Arab allies, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are pressing the White House to pull its support for Mr. Maliki. Some of them are pushing for change in exchange for providing their help in stabilizing Iraq, say U.S. and Arab diplomats.
Here is how the US defines "democracy", courtesy of Dianne Feinstein:
The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) told a congressional hearing Wednesday: "The Maliki government, candidly, has got to go if you want any reconciliation."
In other words, yet another majority-elected ruler is about to be replaced because the US is not quite happy with how he is operating. And to think this strategy worked out so well in Ukraine in the last few months.
Needless to say, one can't have yet another direct US intervention in another nation's affairs without John Kerry being present. Sure enough, he is:
Mr. Kerry was even more pointed in his criticism of Mr. Maliki on Monday, arguing his removal could help stabilize Iraq's sectarian divide.

"If there is a clear successor, if the results of the election are respected, if people come together with the cohesiveness necessary to build a legitimate government that puts the reforms in place that people want, that might wind up being very salutatory," he told Yahoo News.

Mr. Maliki's State of Law coalition won a plurality of seats, 92 out of 328, in Iraq's parliamentary elections. The country is waiting for ratification of the results, after which the parliamentary speaker will call on the leadership of Mr. Maliki's party to form a new government.
As we also noted yesterday, things in the middle east have flip-flopped so much in recent months, that Iraq, which for years was a close US ally has been left to fend for itself, while a sworn US enemy, Iran, is now America's closest middle-east ally, on par with Saudi Arabia. So much so that Iran may be instrumental in determining the next Iraq government.
Current and former U.S. officials said Iran will be crucial a player in efforts to form a new government in Baghdad and potentially remove Mr. Maliki, and will push for any new government to be friendly to its interests.

Tehran and Washington are Iraq's most important diplomatic, economic and military partners. And both the U.S. and Iran have pledged in recent days to support the Iraqi government in its fight against ISIS.

Former U.S. officials said both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations communicated regularly with Iranian diplomats in Baghdad during the political deliberation in 2006 and 2010 that previously elected Mr. Maliki. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns discussed Iraq's political reform process with Iranian officials on Monday in Vienna, according to the State Department.
And then there is of course, Saudi Arabia:
"We believe that Maliki's sectarianism and exclusion of Sunnis has led to the insurgency we are seeing," said a senior Arab official. "He unfortunately managed to unite ISIS with the former Baathists and Saddam supporters."
In conclusion, Iraq's third liberation, this time from a puppet government the US itself appointed to the country, is about to proceed, with the result being yet another puppet state, this time controlled by a joint venture of Iran and Saudi Arabia, which will be quite amusing to watch considering the two countries are hardlybestest buddies.
In the meantime, keep an eye on ISIS - the terrorist organization with the glossy annual report, which many say is merely a front for someone else, has managed to dig itself in within the Sunni communities in the north, and is the biggest wildcard. One wonders how long until the mercenary force finds its latest major backer, because for all the western, US-led intervention, both Russia and China are oddly missing from the scene. We expect that to change soon.

( ISIS / ISIL bad Al Qaeda ,  but al Nusra good Al Qaeda ? )

Jordan, Turkey Rehabilitate The "Moderate" Jabhat Al-Nusra - Updated

There was earlier some miscommunication regarding the Turkish move to delist Jabhat al-Nusra from its terror list. Al-Nusra was removed from one list but is still on others:
The Turkish government has removed the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate fighting against the Syrian regime, from its list of terrorist organizations falling under the category of “al-Qaeda in Iraq,” and has designated the radical group as a separate terrorist organization.The move first caused confusion and led to questions over Turkey's stance regarding the group.
Even with that in mind some of the questions asked below are still relevant.

END UPDATE (Original post follows)

Last October we detected a media campaign to introduce the moderate cuddly homegrown AlQaeda differentiating between the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as the new savages and AlQaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic Front in Syria as the friendly moderate gang around the local block. The campaign was running through reports in the New York Times, Washington Post and Foreign Policy. We asked:
It is well known that ISIS has [earlier] sworn allegiance to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri. But Jabhat al-Nusra has also sworn allegiance to Zwahiri. That is of course not mentioned in the above NYT piece. What is the supposed meaning of this differentiation when both groups accept the same leader and the Al-Qaeda organization's ideology and aims?
In January this year CNN followed up asserting that the Islamic Front in Syria, which is largely just an outlet of Jabhat al-Nusra and who's leaders openly consider themselves to be AlQaeda, are "moderates" but:
The leading figure of the leading group within the Islamic Front is an al-Qaeda operative. The Islamic Front does not want a democratic state but an Islamic caliphate.
Now, as ISIS is the new bad guy playing storm troopers and Einsatzkommando for tribal Iraqi Sunnis and Baath part remnants in Iraq, the AlQaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra is officially rehabilitated as a not-terrorist group.


Yesterday the leading AlQaeda ideologue Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi wasreleased from prison in Jordan. A book about al-Maqdisi describes him:
Since 9/ll, the Jordanian Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi (b. West Bank, 1959) has emerged as one of the most important radical Muslim thinkers alive today. While al-Maqdisi may not be a household name in the West, his influence amongst like-minded Muslims stretches across the world from Jordan - where he lives today - to Southeast Asia. His writings and teachings on Salafi Islam have inspired terrorists from Europe to the Middle East, including Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, the former leader of al-Qa'ida in Iraq, and Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama Bin Laden's successor as the head of al-Qa'ida Central.
Why would Jordan, largely run by the CIA, release al-Maqdisi right now when ISIS is threatening to add Jordan to its targets? The Qatar run AlJazeeraexplains:
"Maqdesi is a supporter of al-Nusra front, one of the fighting groups in Syria, which unlike ISIL, does not have any ambitions to take over the region," said Hasan Abu Hanya, an expert on jihadist movements.
Al-Nusra, like ISIS, surely has regional ambitions:
Its goal is to overthrow the Assad government and to create an Pan-Islamic state under the Sharia (the moral code and religious law of Islam) and aims to reinstate the Caliphate.
To claim otherwise, like "expert" Hasan Abu Hanya, is a lie. Any difference between ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra is only minor.

Only two weeks ago Turkey blacklisted Jabhat al-Nusra, cutting it off from its logistics in that country. But today, a day after Jordan released al-Maqdisi, Turkey took Jabhat al-Nusra off its terrorist list.

As Elijay K. Magnier comments:
Removing Jabhat al-Nusra (operational mainly in Syria) means #JAN can have access again 2Turkey support or logistic
In the last two days two U.S. allies renewed their open support for the AlQaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra to help it fight in Syria.

What is Washington going to say about these actions by its allies? What do Jordan and Turkey believe Jabhat al-Nusra will do should it win in Syria. Do they really expect that its fighters would retire and not threaten either country? These actions, prepared by earlier "moderate" claims in the media, are likely to have been cleared with Washington. Is the Obama administration hoping that the recent uproar about ISIS in Iraq will divert attention from these moves?

Anti War ......

White House Wants Maliki Out as Iraq PM

Urges Other Parties to Form Coalition Without Maliki

by Jason Ditz, June 18, 2014
After being the US-approved candidate for years, to the extent that even a defeat in the 2010 election ended with a US-imposed “consensus” government keeping him in power, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has finally fallen out of favor, and President Obama wants him gone.
US officials say that they have been urging the other parties in Iraq to form a new coalition government without Maliki, and that they believe Maliki would not be able to bring Sunnis into his coalition to fight ISIS.
Diplomats say that the call is also coming at the behest of key Sunni allies like Saudi Arabia, who don’t like Maliki and have been offering to help “stabilize” Iraq if the US gets him ousted.
Maliki has been centralizing power in his own hands for years, and has blamed the Saudis for the ISIS takeover of the west, dubbing it “genocide” on their part. He has given some lip-service to bringing Sunnis and Kurds into positions of power, but has so far not actually done anything.
Whether that’s going to prevent US military action or not remains to be seen, but there is at least some indication that US involvement might be more limited as they try to push Maliki out, before going in more heavily to back his successor.
Patrick Cockburn from the Independent is also reporting that even Iran’s leadership is “divided on whether or not to withdraw its support from Mr. Maliki and see Shia dominance and Iranian power in Iraq diluted.”
It’s virtually a foregone conclusion that whoever succeeds Maliki would be a Shi’ite as well, but the US seems to hope he would be less personally power-hungry, and he wouldn’t have the years of animosity with Sunni Arabs and Kurds fueling unrest.
With Maliki’s State of Law Party holding a large plurality, forming a coalition around them might also be a difficult task, and one that would depend on getting some consensus behind either Moqtada al-Sadr’s Ahrar Party, or Ammar al-Hakim’s Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council.

US Poised to Strike Iraq, But CIA Has No Idea Who They’re Aiming At

Agency Lacks Intelligence on Where to Find Potential Targets

by Jason Ditz, June 18, 2014
US officials are all set to launch air strikes against ISIS-controlled parts of Iraq, but are warning of a major “intelligence gap” in the CIA regarding where potential targets might conceivably be.
And if US officials are saying that, that’s really saying something, as strikes in Yemen and Pakistan, upon which the Iraq plan is apparently based, have been notoriously inaccurate, killing a lot of innocent people on the basis of phony “tip-offs.
With ISIS having taken a lot of new territory in Iraq, intelligence services don’t even know where to begin in acquiring intelligence, and the targeted air strikes seem set to be hugely unreliable.
In Mosul in particular, ISIS has been restrained in its rule, and is trying to gain the support of locals. US air strikes, particularly inaccurate ones, are likely to add to support for ISIS, and anti-US sentiment.

Obama Tells Congress He Doesn’t Need Permission for New Iraq War

Existing Authorizations Are Still in Place

by Jason Ditz, June 18, 2014
Earlier this year, President Obama gave tentative support to the idea of repealing the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Iraq, noting that the war was over. Congress never pulled the trigger, with hawks arguing against it.
Tonight, on the eve of a new US military operation in Iraq, PresidentObama is arguing he doesn’t need anyCongressional authorization for his new foray into Iraq, since the old AUMF is still on the books.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R – KY) and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D – CA) agreed with this assessment, saying the AUMF still applied, and that President Obama was just telling Congressional leaders what he plans to do.
President Obama has long downplayed the need for Congressional approval for his military adventures, and publicly eschewed any vote on US involvement in the attack on Libya, saying NATO’s decision to attack obliged the US to war no matter what Congress thought.
The administration’s exact intentions in Iraq remain unclear, as they have withheld public pledges trying to coax Iraqi reforms, and most recently. the ouster of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. They have ruled out “combat troops,” but seem to be willing to split hairs by arguing that ground troops they do send won’t technically be combat troops.

Maliki Orders Inmates Freed to Join Militias; Baghdad Asks for US Air Strikes

By RUDAW 1 hour ago
The government has called on Iraqis to join militias to stop the Sunni rebels. Photo: AFP
The government has called on Iraqis to join militias to stop the Sunni rebels. Photo: AFP
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered the release of 2,000 Shiite prisoners in the north to take up arms against Sunni insurgents advancing on Baghdad, as his embattled government formally asked the US for air strikes to stop the rebels.
"The order reached our prison on Thursday and then the Shiite prisoners, numbering 2,000, were separated,” said an official at the Chamchamal prison in the autonomous Kurdistan Region, speaking to Rudaw on condition of anonymity.
The jail is located in the town of Chamchamal, west of Sulaimani province, and houses some of the most dangerous prisoners across Iraq.  Thousands of inmates were recently transferred there from the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad and from Kirkuk.
“The (Shiite) prisoners had been sentenced to death or life imprisonment, and it was decided to fly them back to Baghdad," said the source. 
He added that maximum security was in place at the prison, after inmates from Kirkuk were transferred there following the fall of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, to the insurgents last week.
Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama said he did not need to seek approval from the US Congress for any action in Iraq. 
Also in Washington, America’s top military commander General Martin Dempsey confirmed that Baghdad had asked the United States for direct air strikes to stop the week-long advance by rebels led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“We have a request from the Iraqi government for air power,” said at a Senate hearing.
Maliki has called on Iraqis to form militias and take up arms against the rebels, and the country’s Shiite authorities have issued a religious edict for Shiites to fight the Sunni extremists, who have captured several cities and want to march on Baghdad to overthrow Maliki’s government.
Meanwhile, oil companies ExxonMobil and BP began evacuating non-essential staff from Iraq, and there were reports of fighting at the Baiji refinery, Iraq’s largest, most of which has reportedly been in rebel hands since early this week.

President Barzani Dismisses Kurds to Blame for Current Iraq Crisis

By RUDAW 1 hour ago

Barzani said that Baghdad had ignored past proposals from the Kurdistan Regional Government for solutions to the current problems facing Iraq. Photo: Rudaw
Barzani said that Baghdad had ignored past proposals from the Kurdistan Regional Government for solutions to the current problems facing Iraq. Photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani  said that responsibility for the recent turmoil in Iraq falls on those who have monopolized power in Baghdad, dismissing allegations that the Kurds are to blame for the current crisis.
Barzani’s comments came as Sunni rebels led by the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), who have captured several cities within a week, continued their march toward Baghdad to overthrow the Shiite-led government.
“Many people would bear witness that I have long warned about the situation heading toward the unknown because of the wrong policies of those who have monopolized power in Baghdad,” Barzani said in a statement issued by his office.
“Now they are directly responsible for the future ramification of this bad situation,” he emphasized.
Some Iraqi officials, including the Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, have alleged that the Kurds are behind the lightning advances by the militants.
So far, the Kurds have been the only real winners in the turmoil in Iraq. They have moved forces into Kurdish-populated territories outside the formal KRG borders – including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk – and are continuing independent oil exports that Baghdad had vehemently tried to block.
Barzani said that Baghdad had ignored past proposals from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for solutions to the current problems facing Iraq. He reiterated there exists a special relationship between the Kurds and Shiites.
"Some are trying to create a wedge between the Kurds and Shiites and put the blame on the Kurds for the recent events. We distinguish between terrorism and the legitimate demands of the Sunni community, and we are ready to work with both Sunnis and Shiites to confront terrorists,” Barzani said.
He underscored that the KRG would never join a sectarian war under the pretext of fighting terrorism. 
This situation will not go away with military action alone. The reasons behind this must be addressed and the political process must be restored on the right direction. Then defeating terrorists will be much easier, he said.
“The way of previous governance and the political situation must be changed,” Barzani added.  
He reiterated that Kurdistan is more prepared than any other time to defend the interests and lives of its people from any aggression.
The Iraqi army has all but collapsed since abandoning posts and fleeing when the extremists marched on Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, last week.  
Some reports suggest that the insurgency in Iraq is run only in part by the ISIS, saying that the bulk of it is a “revolt” by the Sunni minority of a Shiite-led country.
Kurds are also majority Sunni, but because of their different ethnicity they stand apart from Iraq’s large Sunni Arab minority.
The United States, which backs Maliki, has said it wants to the see the unpopular premier embrace the disgruntled Sunni population.

But Maliki, who is vehemently opposed by Iraq’s Sunnis, Kurds and even some fellow Shiite parties, declared this week that he was fed up with the main Sunni political bloc. 

He said he was tired of “traitors” in the government and military, and accused Saudi Arabia of backing Sunni rebels and extremists.

Amid Iraq Crisis, Kurds Form New Regional Government

By RUDAW 12 hours ago

Members of the new cabinet of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Photo: Rudaw
Members of the new cabinet of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Nine months since the regional parliamentary elections, the Kurdistan Region formed a new government under Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani on Wednesday, ending months of negotiations and brining all parties into a broad-based cabinet.
“The partners in this government will shoulder economic, financial and administrative responsibilities and will help implement all the decisions of the cabinet that will work on the trust of the people of this region,” said Barzani in his opening speech.
Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) won the majority of the votes in the region’s parliamentary elections last September and secured 38 seats in the legislature.
The Change Movement (Gorran) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) are the main partners in the government.
Qubad Talabani, the son of Jalal Talabani, the secretary general of the PUK, is deputy prime minister in the new government.
“The amount of time has tested people’s patience,” Haji Karwan, an MP from the Islamic Union (Yekgirtu) told Rudaw, referring to nine months of negotiations among political parties.
Haji Karwan said that the delay in forming a government had “an impact on the economy and security situation in the Kurdistan Region,” and that announcing the new cabinet on Wednesday “will put an end to the crisis of leadership within our government.”
On the first day of his government, Prime Minister Barzani said that economic plans will be the main focus of his administration.
“The government will focus on the industry and tourism and will support the private sector to play its role in revitalizing Kurdistan’s economy,” he said.
“We will also advance the investment sector in a way that will go hand in hand with Kurdistan’s social and economic progress,” he added.
The prime minister said that the Kurdistan Region should take advantage of its wealth of natural resources in order to “achieve economic independence and diversity its source of revenue.”
The Kurdish government was announced when the rest of Iraq is embroiled in heavy fighting between the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) and government troops.
The region has remained stable within its borders that are protected by the Peshmerga forces from any spillover of the Iraq war.
“I don't think the sectarian violence in Iraq put any pressure on the parties to rush in a new government,” said Haji Karwan. “It was already long overdue.”

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Iraq's Maliki: I won't quit as condition of US strikes against Isis militants

As senators say Iraqi PM's sectarian leadership must end, Maliki makes call for west to give urgent air and intelligence support
A grim-faced Nouri al-Maliki speaks on Iraqi TV
Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki speaks on television on Wednesday. The US Republican John McCain called for the use of American air power but urged Obama to 'make clear to Maliki that his time is up'. Photograph: AFP/Getty
A spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has said he will not stand down as a condition of US air strikes against Sunni militants who have made a lightning advance across the country.
Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, on Wednesday made a public call on al-Arabiya television for the US to launch strikes but Barack Obama has come under pressure from senior US politicians to persuade Maliki, a Shia Muslim who has pursued sectarian policies, to step down over what they see as failed leadership in the face of an insurgency.
Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate intelligence committee, told a hearing on Wednesday that Maliki's government "has got to go if you want any reconciliation", and Republican John McCain called for the use of US air power but also urged Obama to "
make very clear to Maliki that his time is up".
The White House has not called for Maliki to go but spokesman Jay Carney said that whether Iraq was led by Maliki or a successor, "We will aggressively attempt to impress upon that leader the absolute necessity of rejecting sectarian governance."
Maliki's spokesman, Zuhair al-Nahar, said on Thursday that the west should immediately support the Iraqi government's military operation against Isis rather than demand a change of government. He insisted that Maliki had "never used sectarian tactics".
"Our focus needs to be on urgent action – air support, logistic support, counter-intelligence support to defeat these terrorists who are posing a real danger to the stability of Iraq, to the whole region," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
Obama is said still to be weighing military options, and US officials for days have quietly signalled that a decision is not imminent.
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, confirmed that the US had received the request for air strikes but said that the fluid state of the Iraqi battlefield had left the US with incomplete intelligence, a factor that made an air campaign more difficult. "It's not as easy as looking at an iPhone video of a convoy and then striking it," he told senators.
Fighting continued in Iraq on Thursday as militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) raised their black banners at Iraq's largest oil refinery. A witness told Reuters that militants were manning checkpoints around the Beiji facility and that a huge fire in one of its tankers was raging. A security official in Baghdad said government forces were still inside the complex.
Witnesses at the Baiji refinery – between the cities of Mosul and Tikrit, both seized by the insurgent group last week – said insurgents broke through the perimeter of the site early on Wednesday and were within sight of administration buildings.
Their advance comes despite fierce resistance from Iraqi troops stationed at the refinery. There were reports that foreign security contractors had been sent to Baiji to protect what is one of Iraq's most important strategic assets. Many plant workers have been evacuated to Baghdad.
Losing control of Baiji would be a critical blow to Iraqi forces still reeling from the capitulation of close to 50,000 troops last week, many of whom have since been replaced by militias raised from the country's majority Shia population.
In an interview with the Guardian, the Iraqi ambassador to the US, Lukman Faily, said the situation was critical, and warned of further bloodshed if Isis was not repelled. "Wherever they have the possibility, they will cleanse minorities, ethnic cleansing," he said. "Look at Mosul. They went into prisons, they executed the Shiite prisoners. They went into Mosul and they executed the Sunni imams who were reluctant about handing over their mosques to them. So what does that tell you? It tells you that they cannot coexist with others."
In Iraq, the spectre of full-blown sectarian war hangs heavily over those trying to decide how to deal with the crisis, with nationalistic aims often subsumed by sect loyalties. Many Shia volunteers heading to battle zones including Tal Afar say they see the insurgents more as a threat to their sect than to Iraq itself.
"Who do you think is running the war," asked a senior Iraqi official on Tuesday. "Those three senior generals who ran away? Qassem Suleimani [a leading Iranian general] is in charge. And reporting directly to him are the militias, led by Asa'ib ahl al-Haq."
Residents of Tal Afar, a city north-west of Mosul with a large Shia population, said reinforcements, most of them Shia irregulars, had been flown in to try to regain control from Islamic State of Iraq in Syria (Isis) jihadists who took the city on Monday.
The family of one fighter said he and most of his colleagues had been flown by government helicopter from the Dora refinery in Baghdad, where they worked as a protection force, to Tal Afar, flying straight over the besieged Baiji refinery. Baiji mainly supplies fuel to northern Iraq.
"It is providing 30% of oil resources to the country," said Qahtan al-Anbaki, an oil consultant. Most of it goes to Mosul and the north. It won't affect Baghdad or the south so much. The north is already seriously affected. Oil is three times the price it was a week ago in Mosul."
The grave threat to Baiji underlines how difficult it will be for the government to retake large swaths of land in the north and centre that were seized last week. Even with vastly inferior numbers, Isis has since consolidated its control of the areas using masses of equipment looted from military bases abandoned by fleeing troops.
The group's sphere of influence crosses well into Syria, where it controls eastern oilfields, and it uses their revenues to fund the fast-growing insurgency.
Battle lines for the defence of Baghdad have been drawn 40 miles to the north of the capital, near the city of Baquba, which remained a scene of intense clashes on Wednesday as jihadists again tried to enter the city centre. Their efforts to seize Baquba's prison have so far been rebuffed, with irregular militias rushed from Baghdad proving pivotal in the fighting.
Thousands of Iranians have volunteered to defend Iraq's Shia shrines. Iran is 90% Shia, a group considered to be apostates by Isis and other Sunni extremists. Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, said the defence of Shia sacred sites in Najaf, Karbala, Baghdad and Samara was vital to his regime.
The Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said that because of the significance of the Iraqi shrines, the Lebanese group was "willing to sacrifice five times as much as we sacrificed in Syria", where his members, along with Iran, have led the fightback against rebel groups who have tried for more than three years to oust Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian war has greatly amplified the threat from Isis in Iraq. However, the plains of Baquba and Anbar province in the country's far west were the original breeding ground of the group, which first rose to prominence in 2004 during a Sunni insurgency against US forces.
Maliki, who is trying to assemble a political coalition to win a third term as prime minister, has tried to assure the country that the momentum of the battle was with him. While Baghdad feels more assured than it was last week, some of the city's Sunni neighbourhoods remain paralysed. And on the Shia side of the Tigris river, militias have primacy over interior ministry or military forces.
Maliki pledged that Tal Afar would be retaken by Thursday, and fighting late on Wednesday appeared to be tipping the battle in favour of Iraqi forces. However, a fear remains that nothing decisive can be achieved without international intervention.
"If we got US drones to hit Baiji, and jets to bomb Isis elsewhere, we could slow them down," said a senior Iraqi MP. "Without them we can do nothing. Without them we can't win."

There are more conflicting reports about who is in control of the refinery, according to AP.
BREAKING: Witness says black militant flags fly over Iraqi oil refinery; Baghdad says it is still held.