19, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee issues a report about keeping US troops in the region, the
State Dept wants to talk human trafficking and anything except McGurk,
tomorrow is World Refugee Day, Nouri wants Barack to tell ExxonMobil
what to do, US Senator Patty Murray continues fighting for the rights of
veterans, and more.
Today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee released [PDF format warning] "The Gulf Security Architecture: Partnership With The Gulf Co-Operation Council
On page v., Senator John Kerry, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, notes, "Home to more than half of the world's oil reserves
and over a third of its natural gas, the stability of the Persian Gulf
is critical to the global economy." Chair John Kerry has stated of the report
"The Gulf Region is strategically important to the United States
economically, politically, and for security reasons. This is a period
of historic, but turbulent change in the Middle East. We need to be
clear-eyed about what these interests are and how best to promote
them. This report provides a thoughtful set of recommendations designed
to do exactly that."
report may well map out that for many. That's not what stood out to me.
The takeaway for me is US troops remain in the region, right next to
Iraq in Kuwait and the Committee's recommendation is that they remain
present. (For those who don't want to read the report in full or
operating systems are not PDF friendly, click here
for the Committee's one page explanation of the report.)
A series of challenges are listed early on and we'll note the fourth one.
4: The United States must carefully shape its military presence so as
not to creat a popular backlash, while retaining the capability to
protect the free flow or critical natural resources and to provide a
counterbalance to Iraq.
the war there officially "ended" and most of our troops back home, Iraq
isn't getting much ink these days. But the story is far from over.
Indeed, according to Wadah Khanfar, former director general of Al
Jazeera, Iraq is still the most important story in the Middle East --
with a far greater impact on the region's future than Syria. "Nobody's
paying attention to Iraq anymore," he told me during dinner in London
over the weekend, "but it's becoming a client state of Iran, with a
giant amount of oil between them." This state of affairs is, of course,
primarily our doing.
And yet, as our soldiers have left, so has our attention. "The war in Iraq will soon belong to history," proclaimed
President Obama at Fort Bragg as he marked the occasion of bringing the
last troops home. But while the military chapter of that disastrous
undertaking might belong to history, its consequences belong very much
to the present. A present in which the very same voices that rose to
push us into war with Iraq are again rising to push us into war with
Iran -- but without ever noting that it was their misadventure in Iraq
that gave Iran a new and powerful ally.
the goal/challenge was to keep Iran and Iraq from growing closer, you
don't, as the current White House did, back Nouri al-Maliki for a second
term. You note instead that his political slate came in second and
demand he step aside so that Iraqiya can have a crack at forming a
governmnet. Instead, the US chose to spit on the political process, the
Iraqi Constitution, democracy and the will of the Iraqis who voted by
backing second place Nouri for a second term as prime minister.
Now let's move to another challenge.
7: Relations between the Gulf monarchies and Iraq remain cool. There
has been a tendency of some Arab states to remain disengaged from Iraq,
largely over its relations with Iran. Unfortunately, this tendency has had the effect of pushing Iraq closer to Iran.
Recommendation: The United States should promote the gradual political reintegration of Iraq into the Arab fold.
the problem is Nouri. He can't stop accusing Arab states. Just last
week, he was again insisting Saudi Arabia and Qatar were out to get him.
He's paranoid and he's not trust worthy. How the US government ever
thought Nouri al-Maliki would bring Iraq closer to the Arab states is a
head scratcher. Someone really needs to answer to that question: The
White House ensured that second place Nouri remained prime minister; how
was this supposed to improve relations between Iraq and the Arab
Further into the report, we get the point AP' was emphasizing
this morning. AP
"The United States is planning a significant military presence of
13,500 troops in Kuwait to give it the flexibility to respond to sudden
conflicts in the region as Iraq adjusts to the withdrawal of American
combat forces and the world nervously eyes Iran, according to a
congressional report." Page nine of the report:
residual American military presence in the Gulf and increased
burden-sharing with GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] states are
fundamental components of such a framework. However, the United States
must also carefully shape its military footprint to protect the
free-flow of critical natural resources and promote regional stability
while not creating a popular backlash.
is especially keen to maintain a significant U.S. military presence. In
fact, the Kuwaiti public perception of the United States is more
positive than any other Gulf country, dating back to the U.S.-led
liberation of Kuwait in 1991. Kuwait paid over $16 billion to compensate
coalition efforts for costs incurred during Desert Shield and Desert
Storm and $350 million for Operation Southern Watch. In 2004, the Bush
Administration designated Kuwait a major non-NATO ally.
U.S. Military Presence: A U.S.-Kuwaiti defense agreement signed in 1991
and extended in 2001 provides a framework that guards the legal rights
of American troops and promotes military cooperation. When U.S. troops
departed Iraq at the end of 2011, Kuwait welcomed a more enduring
American footprint. Currently, there are approximately 15,000 U.S.
forces in Kuwait, but the number is likely to decrease to 13,500.
Kuwaiti bases such as Camp Arifjan, Ali Al Salem Air Field, and Camp
Buehring offer the United States major staging hubs, training rages, and
logistical support for regional operations. U.S. forces also operate
Patriot missile batteries in Kuwait, which are vital to theater missile
page 20, the report notes, "Amid relatively high sectarian tensions in
the Middle East -- a consequence of violence in Iraq and, more recently,
in Syria, and growing concerns about Iran -- the United States should
encourage its partners, including in the Gulf region, to pursue
nonsectarian policies." Again, that begs the question of why, in 2010,
the White House backed Nouri al-Maliki for a second term? He's not about
reconciliation, he's about demonization as we've seen repeatedly in the
last months starting in the fall of 2011 when mass arrests began
targeting Sunnis accused of being terrorists. They weren't terrorists.
They were college professors, they were the elderly. Most importantly,
they were Iraqis. At what point does Nouri cease trying to divide the
fragile country and start uniting it?
between Gulf monarchies and Iraq remain cool. There has been a tendency
of some Arab states to remain disengaged from Iraq, largely over its
relations with Iran. Unfortunately, this tendency has had the effect of
pushing Iraq closer to Iran.
partly true but it's also true that what is seen as Nouri's targeting
of Sunnis is not well received in Sunni-Arab countries. That shouldn't
be a surprise to anyone. Again, this begs the questions why, when
Iraqiya won the March 2010 elections, did the White House decide to back
second place Nouri for a second term as prime minister?
That is the question that will haunt the Barack Obama administration throughout history.
Someone might want to start preparing some version of an answer.
as the report refuses to seriously note how Sunni-dominant countries
see the current events in Iraq, it also wants to pretend the Arab League
Summit meant something. First off, this is flat-out wrong: "In April,
the annual Arab League summit was held in Iraq for the first time since .
League Summit was March 29th. March 29th, grab a calendar if this
confusing to you, is not in the month of April. Your first clue there is
probably the "March" in "March 29th." From the March 29, 2012 snapshot
Arab League Summit was held today in Baghdad. It didn't change a thing
because Nouri never learned how to charm. So instead of starting with
it, let's start with the ongoing political crisis in Iraq. [. . .] Also
telling was the turnout for today's Arab League Summit. Hamza Hendawi and Lara Jakes (AP) report,
"Sunni Muslim rulers largely shunned an Arab League summit hosted by
Shiite-led Iraq on Thursday, illustrating how powerfully the sectarian
split and the rivalry with Iran define Middle Eastern politics in the
era of the Arab Spring." It was not all that, to put it mildly. A friend
who covered the summit deemed it, "Not so much a who's who as a who's
that?" Who attended? Among others, the Oman Observer reports
Talabani "received the credentials of Shaikh Mussalam bin Bakheet bin
Zaidan al Bar'ami, Sultanate's Ambassador to Jordan, as the Sultanate's
non-resident ambassador to Iraq" yesterday. Today Al Sabaah reports Awn Shawkat al-Khasawneh, prime minister of Jordan arrived, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah. [. . .] Who were the notable no-shows? Hamza Hendawi and Lara Jakes (AP) report
that the no-shows included rulers from "Saudi Arabia, Qatar and most
other Gulf countries, as well as Morocco and Jordan -- all of them
headed by Sunni monarchs who deeply distrust the close ties between
Baghdad's Shiite-dominated government and their top regional rival,
We could continue but I believe the point's been made. It was a one day summit. You can drop back to March 28th
the day before, for when various countries' foreign ministers met in
Baghdad but that wasn't the Arab League Summit nor was that "April." The
Senate Foreign Relations Committee sees the summit as a success. March
30th, the morning after, we graded it. It didn't look then and has
looked since like a success. Here's some of the criteria we used to judge the summit on March 30th
The Arab League Summit took place in Baghdad yesterday. Al Mada reports 15 ministers attended. There are 22 countries in the Arab League. Patrick Martin (Globe & Mail) observes, "That 12 of the 22 Arab League leaders did not show up and sent lower-level envoys instead did not go unnoticed [. . .]" Hamza Hendawi and Lara Jakes (AP) put
the number of Arab League leaders who attended at 10 and they pointed
out that Qatar, Saudi Arabi, Morocco and Jordan were among those who
sent lower-level officials to the summit. Patrick Martin explains that
Sheik Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabr Al Thani (Prime Minister of Qatar)
declared on television that Qatar's "low level of representation" was
meant to send "a 'message' to Iraq's majority Shiites to stop what he
called the marginalization of its minority Sunnis." Al Mada noted
yesterday morning that the Iraqi public and Parliament would be judging
the summit a success or not based upon whether the leaders turned out
for the summit. On that scale, it wasn't a success. In other words,
attendence needs improvement and absences hinder progress.
In addition to snubs and rebukes, Liz Sly, Aziz Alwan and Asaad Majeed (Washington Post) also note,
"The blast at the Iranian Embassy undermined the government's boasts
that it had managed to pull off the summit without incident, although it
would have gone unheard in the conference room deep inside the vast
palace. Zebari and Elaraby both seemed surprised when asked about it by a
journalist." Not a success.Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) points out,
"It spent almost $1 billion on preparations that included unprecedented
security measures -- jamming cellphone networks and mobilizing
100,000 security-force members -- and rolling out a catered menu for
dignitaries that featured a dessert of 24-carat-gold-laced dates." Not a
And that's just some of the criteria.
the report succeeds (possibly without intending to) is by making clear
that the alleged withdrawal and returning home of the troops never
happened. Basically, 15,000 US troops were marched out of Saks to Fendi.
They didn't return home. Yes, they left Saks, they even crossed a few
streets, all the way through West 53rd, but they're still on Fifth
Avenue. Remember, the press and the White House sold it as "withdrawal."
The Pentagon used the term "drawdown."
emphasized this morning.
Another US government report was released today. The State Dept issued their "Trafficking in Persons Report 2012
." [Link goes to an overview page -- from the overview page, anything you click will be PDF format.] Of Iraq, the report notes:Iraq
is a source and destination country for men, women, and children
subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Iraqi women and girls
are sujbected to conditions of trafficking within the country and in
Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Iran,
Yemen, and Saudi Arabia for forced prostitution and sexual exploitation
within households. Anecdotal reporting suggests that trafficking in
forced prostitution and bonded labor are increasing in Iraq, partially
owing to pervasive corruption and an overall increase in criminal
Women are lured into forced
prostitution through false promises of work. An international
organization reports an increase in forced prostitution in the city of
Tikrit; women between the ages of 15 to 22 years from Baghdad, Kirkuk,
and Syria are sold to traffickers in Tikrit for the equivalent of $1,000
- 5,000 and then replaced or sold again every two or three months.
Women are also subjected to involuntary servitude through forced
marriages, often as payment of a debt, and women who flee such marriages
are often vulnerable to further forced labor or sexual servitude. One
NGO reports that recruiters rape women and girls on film and blackmail
them into prostitution or recruit them in prisons by posting bail and
then forcing them into prostitution via debt bondage. Some women and
children are pressured into prostitution by family members to escape
desperate economic circumstances, to pay debts, or to resolve disputes
between families. NGOs report that these women are often prostituted
in private residendences, brothels, restaurants, and places of
entertainment. Some women and girls are trafficked within Iraq for the
purpose of sexual exploitation through the use of temproary marriages
(muta'a), by which the family of the girl receives money in the form of a
dowry in exchange for permission to marry the girl for a limited period
of time. Some Iraqi parents have reportedly collaborated with
traffickers to leave children at the Iraqi side of the border with Syria
with the expectation that traffickers will arrange forced documents for
them to enter Syria and find employment in a nightclub. An Iraqi
official revealed networks of women have been involved in the
trafficking and sale of male and female children for the purposes of
We'll come back to the report in a moment.
the State Dept today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted how
happy she was to see the room so full and had the team that worked on
the report stand for deserved applause. She also thanked Jada Pinkett-Smith
and Will Smith for being present and Jada for her interest and focus on
this issue. But another reason Hillary might have been happy is that
this took the focus off the failed nomination of Brett McGurk to be US
Ambassador to Iraq. If she thought she needed a new report to distract
the compliant press, she missed the State Dept press briefing. News of
the withdrawal of the nomination broke yesterday late in the afternoon,
well after Monday's press briefing. So today would have been the first
time that the press covering the State Dept had a chance to ask about
that. They had no interest in the issue. They had no interest in
Iraq even -- despite the Senate Foreign Relations Committee releasing a
report on Iraq and the region today.
were attending, you might have thought to ask Victoria Nuland for some
comment on the matter, for some indication of when a new nominee would
be named, for whether or not the administration learned anything from
McGurk's failed nomination.
But the paid members of the press wouldn't and didn't. And that's among the reasons the press has such a lousy image.
Barack Obama's pick for ambassador to Iraq has withdrawn his nomination
following Republican opposition and claims of inappropriate contact
with a journalist. Brett McGurk had come under fire from Senate
Republicans over revelations of a racy e-mail exchange with a Wall
Street Journal reporter while he served in Iraq in 2008. McGurk and the
reporter, Gina Chon, later married. Chon resigned from the Wall St. Journal last week.
a word about sleeping with a source, not a word about allowing her
lover to vet her copy. Her lover a Bush official. Not a word about
Chon's violation of the Dow Jones ethical policies. Amy Goodman may
have been one of the pigs writing for Larry Flynt's trashy skin
magazine, but she never looked more whorish than she did today. As we
noted Sunday at Third in "Editorial: Destroying their own credibility
was 2008 and Amy Goodman was on the road hawking another clip-job she'd
written with her brother, one that called on people to "challenge the
corporate media" (Standing Up To The Madness, page 219). She was on the road hawking her wares and promoting the documentary Independent Media In A Time Of War. NEWS CLIP: I'm back with two of our military analysts who've been with us this morning who are helping us understand this war. AMY
GOODMAN: We now have people like Wesley Clarke, General Wesley Clarke
on the payroll of CNN who is questioning their embedded reporter on the
front line. He is questioning the reporter and the reporter is saying
"Yes sir, No Sir". NEWS CLIP: This is a very special
moment in time for the men and families and for this country. It is
often fascinating for me. General Clarke and I have spent a good amount
of time together today and over the week. AMY GOODMAN: This is journalism in America today. They have redefined general news and we have got to challenge that.Amy Goodman was calling out reporters saying "yes, sir" and "no, sir."
Yet for two weeks she hasn't called out the pillow talk between Gina Chon and Brett McGurk.
Two weeks ago, the story emerged of their affair. Gina Chon's been rightly fired from The Wall Street Journal.
the scandal had come out in 2008, Amy Goodman and everyone would have
been screaming their heads off. But the Bush official that Gina Chon
was f**king? He's Barack Obama's new nominee to be US Ambassador to
So they don't say a word.
grasp what you witnessed today from Amy Goodman. In 2008, the Queen of
Panhandle Media was ticked off that retired general Wesley Clarke was
addressed by a reporter with "yes, sir" and "no, sir." But four years
later, when there's a reporter sleeping with a Bush official while she's
covering the Bush policies in Iraq and while she's letting her lover
see her copy and vet it before she turns it in, when that happens, Amy
Goodman doesn't say, "Boo!" Because she's a coward and completely
unethical. Maybe she's planning to fundraise in 2013, as she did in
2009, by auctioning off Barack Obama inauguration ball tickets? Don't
say Goody Trash doesn't have her own vested interests as she forever
pretends to be Last Journalist Standing while ensuring that there's a
huge gulf between the actual news and the propaganda she supplies.
Back to the State Dept's report:
large population of internally displaced persons and refugees moving
within Iraq and across its borders are particularly at risk of being
trafficked. Women from Iran, China, and the Philippines reportedly may
be trafficked to or through Iraq for commercial sexual exploitation.
Some Iraqi refugees in Syria reportedly have contracted their daughters
to work as maids in Syrian households, where they may have been
subsequently raped, forced into prostitution, or subjected to forced
labor. In other instances, Iraqi refugees' children remained in Syria
while their parents left the country in search of improved economic
circumstances, leaving the children vulnerable to trafficking.
* 42.5 million forcibly displaced people of which
* 5 - 7% people living with disabilities, one third of them children
* 15.2 million were refugees, of which:
* 46% were children under the age of 18
* 48% were women and girls
* 895,000 asylum-seekers
* 26.4 million IDPs
* 12 million stateless persons
* 3.7 million returnees
Yesterday, the UN released UNHCR Global Trends 2011
which contains details such as 46% of refugees are under the age of 18,
that three areas of concern are the displaced of Columbia, of the
Democratic Republic of Congo and of Iraq, and that the Middle East and
North Africa have a larger number of refugees than the Americas and and
Asia and Pacific combined. (Africa has the largest number of refugees
with 2.1 million to the Middle East and North Africa's 1.9 million.)
Through the end of last year, Iraq could claim 1,428,3000 refugees.
Only Afghanistan topped that figure (Afghanistan had 2.6 million).
Today AFP reports
that some Syrians have been seeking asylum in Iraq due to the unrest in
Syria and they note that those coming into Iraq have "to be smuggled
across the border." Into the continued violence of Iraq where Alsumaria reports
that the son of a local council member was kidnapped in Ramadi today
and that security forces quickly secured the area and began searching
for clues. While kidnappings have not been uncommon throughout the Iraq
War, today's may end up getting attention due to the fact that is it
one of two kidnappings. Al Rafidayn reports
two young girls were kidnapped yesterday in Tikrit and that one is the
daughter of a a member of Tikrit's security council. One refugee, Abu
Samir, tells AFP, "The Kurdistan region welcomed us and we are
grateful. Because I am Kurdish, I preferred the Kurdistan region and I
am comfortable here."
Let's stay with the
Kurds. Iraq sits atop a huge wealth of oil. But the most recent
bidding on the oil & gas wares was a bomb. Jen Alic (OilPrice.com) summed it
up days after it ended, "Iraq's latest energy auction was a flop, and
while major international companies balked at everything from
unattractive contract terms to security concerns, the failure of the
auction highlights how the struggle for power between north and south is
shaping the future of energy in the region and beyond. "
We're on the topic of oil because ExxonMobil is back in the news. Last January, Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) reported
"The political crisis engulfing Iraq's power-sharing government
threatens to further delay a landmark draft of its long-delayed oil law
-- five years after the first version was submitted to parliament. [. .
.] The first hydrocarbon draft law was agreed by Iraq's diverse
politcal blocs in 2007, but its approval has been held back by
infighting among Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish political groups, worrying
investors seeking more guarantees for the industry." A month later, Kadhim Ajrash and Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News) were reporting
Iraq's proposed energy law, intended to spur foreign investment in the world's fifth-largest holder of oil deposits, will be delayed for the rest of this year due to political divisions, the prime minister's top adviser said.
draft law, held up since 2005, may resolve a dispute about oil revenue
and sovereignty between the central government and the country's
semi-autonomous Kurds that has blocked an agreement with Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM),
Thamir Ghadhban said in an interview in Baghdad. Kurdish authorities in
northern Iraq angered the government by signing a separate contract
with Exxon, which operates one of the nation's largest oil fields.
failure -- in two terms now -- to get oil legislation passed is telling
of what extreme failure he is. How stupid is he? Or how crafty?
Again, how stupid is Nouri? Or how crafty?
US isn't Iraq. ExxonMobil is a private company, not a state-owned
one. A US president might, at best, make a request. At best. But
Barack has no power over ExxonMobil. Is Nouri that stupid?
he is being crafty? Barack sticks his nose into this and the already
outraged business community sees Barack as even more anti-business. Not
an image to cultivate as you're trying to be re-elected. Maybe he's
crafty. It's not as though Nouri's reaching out to the White House
Back on June 6th, we included
: "Al Mada notes
of Law continues to insist that the White House won't allow Nouri to be
removed from his post and that US Vice President Joe Biden will be
visiting soon." But that was then. Today, Iran's Fars News Agency reported
al-Maliki did not allowed US Vice-President Joe Biden to visit Iraq,"
an informed source in the Iraqi prime minister's information bureau told
FNA in Baghdad on Tuesday.
Noting that Biden was scheduled to
visit Baghdad in coming days to meet with Iraqi officials to discuss the
recent differences and the political standoff between different
parties and factions in the country, he added that Maliki informed Biden
via the US embassy in Baghdad that Iraq is not ready to host him.
source said the Iraqi embassy in the US has also conveyed a similar
message from Maliki to the White House and State Department's officials.
Earlier reports by a website affiliated to the Islamic Supreme
Council of Iraq said that the cancellation of Biden's visit by Maliki
was ordered after it was revealed that the US vice-president is due to
visit Erbil and meet President of Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government
(KRG) Massoud Barzani.
Suddenly Joe wasn't wanted. After blocking Biden's visit to the country, Nouri now wants to ask a favor of the White House?
the US, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans
Affairs Committee. She continues fighting for veterans and her latest
bill would put veterans on an equal footing with the non-military when
it comes to reproductive issues.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Contact: Murray Press Office
Murray Introduces Bill to Provide Veterans with Genital and
Reproductive Wounds with Access to In Vitro Fertilization through the VA
veterans continue to return home with catastrophic IED injuries, Murray
bill reverses VA ban on critical fertility treatment; will help
veterans and their spouses have children.
forced to turn to the private sector, veterans and their spouses often
have to pay tens of thousands in out-of-pocket costs to access IVF
D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate
Veterans' Affairs Committee, introduced legislation that will end the
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) ban on providing In Vitro
Fertilization (IVF) services. Murray's bill, the Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act of 2012, also will begin child care programs at Vet Centers for women seeking counseling, and improving outreach to women veterans.
data shows that between 2003 and 2011 over 600 servicemembers have
suffered reproductive and urinary tract trauma. The reliance on foot
patrols in Afghanistan and the prevalence of improvised explosive
devices has left servicemembers far more susceptible to these injuries.
injuries are some of the most impactful and serious wonds of these
wars," Senator Murray said today upon introduction of the bill. "VA has
an obligation to care for the combat wounded. For those with such
catastrophic injuries, that includes access to the fertility care they
needed. Veterans and their spouses are specifically barred from
accessing In Vitro Fertilization services at the VA and often times have
to spend tens of thousands of dollars in the private sector to get the
advanced reproductive treatments they need to start a family. These
veterans deserve far more."
who have severe reproductive and urinary tract injuries and spinal cord
injuries (SCI) often need highly specialized treatments and procedures
like IVF to conceive. However, under current law, IVF is expressly
excluded from fertility services that are provided by the VA to veterans
or their spouses. This is a significant barrier for veterans with SCI
and genital and uringary tract injuries and as a result they have to
seek care outside of the VA. The Department of Defense currently provides
access to IVF services under the Tricare program and coverage for IVF
and other fertility treatments at no charge to severely combat wounded
servicemembers. Senator Murray's bill would provide veterans with the
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct