Covid. It's not gone away. Andre Damon (WSWS) reports:
One year after the first cases of COVID-19 were identified in China, December was the deadliest month of the pandemic both in the United States and throughout the world.
More than 65,000 Americans lost their lives to the virus over the past 28 days. At the present rate, deaths in December will be double what they were in November, when nearly 37,000 people died. The United States accounts for about a third of the global death toll of 175,000 over the past month.
By the end of this week, total deaths in the US will surpass 350,000, and the number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 will reach 20 million. Another 193,000 people could die in this country over the next two months, according to predictions from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Experts have warned that even this scenario may be optimistic. “We very well might see a post-seasonal—in the sense of Christmas, New Year’s—surge,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on Sunday. “The projections are just nightmarish,” Peter Hotez, an infectious disease specialist at the Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN.
In a warning to the rest of the world, the number of daily new cases hit an all-time record of 42,000 in the UK yesterday, driven by the emergence of a new strain of the disease that medical experts estimate is 56 percent more transmissible than the original.
Let's hope that vaccine works and that all who want to take it are provided with it.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Monday:
Monday, December 28, 2020. As the useless continue to whine about the Trump pardons they not only ignore fears of an upcoming attack in Iraq but also the many crimes in Iraq carried out by the US -- and the man behind the death squads, he's got a new company in Texas, where are you pathetic Gerry Condon and the rest who are so furious over the pardons? Why aren't you calling out War Criminals? Oh, that's right, it's not about justice for Iraq it's about partisan b.s. We get it, you're fakes and frauds. We get it.
Starting in Iraq, MEO notes this morning, "Iraq’s capital Baghdad and other cities are at risk of serious power shortages after Iran slashed gas exports, the electricity ministry said on Sunday, potentially placing further pressure on the government of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi." What are they talking about? From Sunday:
Here's news that effects every person in Iraq, REUTERS reports:
Iraq’s capital Baghdad and other cities are at risk of serious power shortages after Iran slashed gas exports, the electricity ministry said on Sunday, potentially placing further pressure on the government of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.
Iran has reduced gas exports to Iraq to five million cubic metres from 50 million cubic metres two weeks ago citing unpaid bills, a ministry spokesman said.
It also officially informed Iraq’s electricity ministry on Sunday that it plans to cut shipments further to three million cubic metres, the spokesman said.
Dilan Sirwan (RUDAW) adds, "Iraq signed a two-year contract with Iran in June, renewing commitments to import Iranian gas for electricity, Iranian state media reported." This comes as ALMADA reports that Iraq is expecting zero degree temperatures for Monday and Thursday. Current temperature in Baghdad right now? 45 degrees F/ 9 degrees C.
BLOOMBERG NEWS states, "Iran started cutting exports to its neighbor, which is OPEC’s second-biggest oil producer, after Iraq fell behind on its gas payments. Iraq owes around $2.7 billion in unpaid bills, Moussa said." That's what BLOOMBERG says. REUTERS says:
Iran's state gas company said on Monday it had slashed supplies to neighbouring Iraq over arrears of more than $6 billion, after the Iraqi electricity ministry said the cuts placed Baghdad and other cities at risk of serious power shortages. "The Iraqi Ministry of Electricity owes more than $5 billion in gas bills to the National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC), of which $3 billion remains blocked and inaccessible in ...TBI (Trade Bank of Iraq), and more than $2 billion is overdue debt," NIGC said in a statement.
MENAFN adds, "Iraq's Electricity Ministry spokesman Ahmed al-Abadi stated that, on Tuesday, Iran"s Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian manages to pay a visit to Iraq." In related news, THE DAILY SABAH reports:
Turkey, through its Energy Market Regulatory Authority (EPDK), will begin electricity exports to Iraq Monday, through a transmission line between the southeastern Turkish province of Şırnak's Silopi district and Zakho province of Iraq that is located within the boundaries of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
EPDK opened electricity export applications to Iraq last month, which resulted in an amendment to the power supply license with Aksa Aksen Enerji Ticareti Inc. to include supplies to other markets, i.e. Iraq, in conjunction with the Turkish domestic market.
Let's move to another topic, former prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki is back in the news. MEMRI states:
Speaking with Iran’s Al-Alam television on Dec. 24, Maliki, who served as Iraqi premier from 2006-2014, said that the regime’s fall “would not have meant the end of the story, but only the beginning.” Its collapse would have been followed by an invasion by Al-Nusra and Al-Qaeda terrorists, “and Israel would also enter the picture,” said Maliki. This in turn would have sparked a “major regional crisis,” he added.
To prevent this, Iraq had been prepared to send its army to Syria, said Maliki.
True/false? Consider the source -- sources. MEMRI is not known as a news outlet or as a non-biased source. Nouri is someone desperate to be back in power as prime minister. Journalist Heshmat Alavi Tweets:
When not granting interviews, Nouri's busy preparing for the upcoming vote (supposed to take place in June) by creating splinter parties that he hopes will dilute the vote for others.
In other news, Dilan Sirwan (RUDAW) reports this morning:
A spokesperson for an Iran-backed militia has denied allegations that
one of its commanders was apprehended in connection with a recent rocket
attack targeting the US embassy in Baghdad, instead attributing his
arrest to a “criminal case”.
“The arrest of an Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) militia commander is not related to the attack on the US embassy,” AAH spokesperson spokesperson Mahmood al-Rubaii told Iraqi state media on Sunday. “It is on a criminal charge”.
Again, dropping back to Sunday:
In the real world, a threat has been made on Iraq's prime minister. Baxtiyar Goran Tweets:
Abu Ali al-Askari, a senior Kataib Hezbollah commander, said in a statement on Twitter that the region is boiling, warning that there is the possibility of a full-blown confrontation between the Iraqi security forces and pro-Iran militias.
[. . .]
Considering him "a traitor", Askari called on PM Kadhimi not to test the patience of the “Resistance” any longer, threatening that the time is appropriate "to cut his ears as the ears of a goat are cut", after which he added, the Iranian Intelligence, the CIA and local hypocrites would be incapable of protecting him.
Somehow this news is not being reported in the west. A lot isn't. You've got pretend outrage over pardons by Donald Trump that people try to pass off as Iraq coverage. It's not. It's a lot of junk and a lot of garbage. Nothing will change the pardons. And at least they served some time. The people -- US military -- that attacked the REUTERS journalists and the family -- exposed in the WIKILEAKS video -- served no time. The US military that attacked journalists on April 8, 2003 resulted in no prison sentences. They fired on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, they fired on ALJAZEERA's Baghdad office and they fired on ABU DHABI's Baghdad office. These are War Crimes. Three people were killed, four more seriously injured.
Why the Trump pardons? Why are they cluttering up the media landscape?
A) It's Donald Trump. B) It's easy coverage. No one has to learn anything to cover a story reported over a decade ago. C) It's so damn easy.
They call out the mercenaries and they feel good about themselves. They're too impotent to call out War Crimes. They hide behind 'patriotism.' So they go to town on these mercenaries and get to feel good about themselves because they 'support' veterans. They do grasp that most mercenaries -- in any war -- are veterans, right? Oh, they didn't think about that, did they? Aren't they all, the pardoned, former US Marines? Oh, let's ignore that, right?
Blackwater's actions in Iraq are appalling. Many of us found the actions appalling in real time -- which means long before that Bahgdad drive-by. Many of us called them out long before that. Anyone want to explain how standard operating behavior -- which is what that drive-by was -- results in the demonization of the worker drones but not the head of the company Erik Prince?
I'm really tired of all the garbage that wants to pretend that the drive-by was some shocking event when, sadly, it was your average day in Iraq thanks to the US government.
Not hearing anything about the US arming and egging on death squads but then that might require a backbone and a sense of ethics and those still whining over the Trump pardons lack both. From March 6, 2013, Mona Mahmood, Maggie O'Kane, Chavala Madlena, Teresa Smith, Ben Ferguson, Patrick Farrelly, Guy Grandjean, Josh Strauss, Roisin Glynn, Irene Baqué, Marcus Morgan, Jake Zervudachi and Joshua Boswell (GUARDIAN) reported:
Retired Colonel Jim Steele, whose military decorations include the Silver Star, the Defence Distinguished Service Medal, four Legions of Merit, three Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart, is not at home. Nor is he at his office headquarters in Geneva, where he is listed as the chief executive officer of Buchanan Renewables, an energy company. Similar efforts to track him down at his company's office in Monrovia are futile. Messages are left. He doesn't call back.
For over a year the Guardian has been trying to contact Steele, 68, to ask him about his role during the Iraq war as US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld's personal envoy to Iraq's Special Police Commandos: a fearsome paramilitary force that ran a secret network of detention centres across the country – where those suspected of rebelling against the US-led invasion were tortured for information.
On the 10th anniversary of the Iraq invasion the allegations of American links to the units that eventually accelerated Iraq's descent into civil war cast the US occupation in a new and even more controversial light. The investigation was sparked over a year ago by millions of classified US military documents dumped onto the internet and their mysterious references to US soldiers ordered to ignore torture. Private Bradley Manning, 25, is facing a 20-year sentence, accused of leaking military secrets.
Steele's contribution was pivotal. He was the covert US figure behind the intelligence gathering of the new commando units. The aim: to halt a nascent Sunni insurgency in its tracks by extracting information from detainees.
It was a role made for Steele. The veteran had made his name in El Salvador almost 20 years earlier as head of a US group of special forces advisers who were training and funding the Salvadoran military to fight the FNLM guerrilla insurgency. These government units developed a fearsome international reputation for their death squad activities. Steele's own biography describes his work there as the "training of the best counterinsurgency force" in El Salvador.
Of his El Salvador experience in 1986, Steele told Dr Max Manwaring, the author of El Salvador at War: An Oral History: "When I arrived here there was a tendency to focus on technical indicators … but in an insurgency the focus has to be on human aspects. That means getting people to talk to you."
But the arming of one side of the conflict by the US hastened the country's descent into a civil war in which 75,000 people died and 1 million out of a population of 6 million became refugees.
Celerino Castillo, a Senior Drug Enforcement Administration special agent who worked alongside Steele in El Salvador, says: "I first heard about Colonel James Steele going to Iraq and I said they're going to implement what is known as the Salvadoran Option in Iraq and that's exactly what happened. And I was devastated because I knew the atrocities that were going to occur in Iraq which we knew had occurred in El Salvador."
It was in El Salvador that Steele first came in to close contact with the man who would eventually command US operations in Iraq: David Petraeus. Then a young major, Petraeus visited El Salvador in 1986 and reportedly even stayed with Steele at his house.
I'm sorry, COMMON DREAMS, COURAGE TO RESIST and all the rest of you cowards, when are you going to call for Jim Steele to be held accountable? Oh, that's right, never.
But you know what you accomplish as you cower in fear, you pathetic idiots? Not a damn thing except to help Jim Steele. He's terrorized multiple countries and he hasn't gone into hiding. No, he hasn't gone into hiding. What he's done instead, thanks to the useless like yourselves, is to set up his own security company -- in the US, no less. It's called Steele -- that's the company name and it boasts of it's "real world training" with active shooters. Yeah, he's terrorizing now in the US just like he did overseas but, hey, Gerry Condon, keep pretending your life hasn't been a complete waste.
January 3rd's coming up. It's cute how the media ignores that too. Donald Trump's been presented with a series of options regarding Iran -- all violent ones. Why? Because people fear violence will break out on the anniversary of the Iranian terrorist killed by the US government last January.
This is a thread from Lahib Higel of The Crisis Group:
In the days following the rocket attacks, sec. forces detained members of Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH). On 25 Dec. footage was released of one of the detainees, Husam al-Zerjawi. AAH denied any accusations against him compromising national security and called for his immediate release.
Video footage of unknown resistance groups pledging allegiance to AAH leader Qais al-Khazali circulated on resistance-affiliated platforms threatening to attack the government.
PM Kadhimi ordered the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) into Baghdad streets to avoid a potential repeat of the Dora raid scenario against Kataib Hezbollah (KH) in June, when an armed convoy of the fasa’il threatened the government inside the GZ.
National Security Adviser Qasim al-Araji was sent to mediate with AAH. In a tweet on 26 Dec. Khazali claimed that the situation had been resolved, with reason prevailing. The Interior Ministry denied reports that it had transferred custody of the detainee to the Hashd al-Shaabi.
The same day, Abu Ali al-Askeri, KH’s security spokesperson, tweeted that the rocket attacks only play into the enemy’s hands and should stop, but reasserted that the resistance factions will defend each other, as threats against one impacts all of them.
He urged PM Kadhimi not to test the patience of the resistance (Iraqi and foreign), which is ready to confront him, and that intelligence services of neither the US nor Iran can protect him.
This is indicative of two things: On the one hand the fasa’il are emphasizing the national faultline - the resistance against the ‘treacherous’ government - and on the other they distinguish their affiliation with the IRGC/Quds force from the MOIS of Iran.
Simultaneously, another prominent player, Muqtada al-Sadr, seeks to ride the wave of the latest quarrel, presenting himself as a level-headed politician. On 25 Dec. he cautioned against US-Iran tensions playing out in Iraq, and later stated that a US exit should be negotiated.
Whatever happens on the 3 January anniversary, the internal power struggles between the Iran-affiliated resistance groups and the government, Sadr and other more nationalist Shia parties will remain tense in the run-up to the planned June parliamentary elections.
The best scenario for 3 January is one in which continued rocket attacks will cause no casualties nor spark fierce demonstrations by the resistance groups in front of the US Embassy, thus preventing further escalation before Biden takes office on 20 January.
I hope January 3rd is just another day. Many are worried that it won't be. None of those worried or concerned appear to work in the press corps or the punditry industry. Fiddle on, COMMON DREAMS, fiddle on while the world burns.
Moving on to a different topic, International Christian Concern issued the following:
Iraq’s government continues to move forward with plans to close camps for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) by the end of March. This decision is met with increased resistance by many as the the timeline for complete closure narrows.
From the standpoint of the government, it is time to encourage the reintegration of camp residents back into society. They were displaced by ISIS in 2014, and Iraq declared ISIS militarily defeated in 2017. From the standpoint of residents, there are multiple reasons why they do not want to leave. Many cite security related concerns, as they do not feel safe nor welcome returning to their original homes. They often cite poor infrastructure which would make living in those areas difficult if not impossible.
At this point, most of Iraq’s remaining Christian community do not live in the kinds of camps which are being shuttered by the government. However, they do feel the pressure from the authorities to return. Some Christian areas such as Qeraqosh have seen a significant return of the original population, but several areas (particularly in western Nineveh) remain empty of Christians. Although their lives in their areas of displacement remain difficult, it is preferable to the kind of difficulties they anticipate should they move back to their homes.
For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org.