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Thread: Iraq Update

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    Blasts In Baghdad Show Terrorists' Inherent Animosity Toward Islam

    Iran has censured terrorist bombings in two busy districts in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, saying the "criminal move" clearly indicated the inherent enmity of terrorists toward Islam and Muslims.

    May 30, 2017

    Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi on Tuesday expressed his sympathy with the Iraqi government and nation as well as the bereaved families of the victims of the terrorist blasts, which killed at least 27 people and wounded more than 115 in Baghdad.

    In the deadliest of the two attacks, a terrorist detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle at a popular ice cream shop at around midnight (2100 GMT Monday), killing at least 16 people and wounding 75.

    The Daesh Takfiri terrorist group claimed responsibility for the bombing, with its affiliated Amaq outlet saying a bomber had targeted a "gathering of Shias."

    The Iranian spokesperson said the criminal act in the holy month of Ramadan was a clear indication of Takfiri terrorists' inherent enmity toward true Islam and Muslims.

    It was also the latest futile attempt by terrorists to make up for their defeats in Iraq, he added.

    Qassemi emphasized that the final victory against terrorism in Iraq was imminent and expressed hope that Iraq would be completely cleansed of Takfiri terrorists soon given the recent achievements by the Iraqi popular forces in the northern city of Mosul.

    In a statement on Saturday, the Iraqi military announced the beginning of an offensive to retake the last enclave controlled by Daesh in Mosul as the Takfiri terrorist group is being dealt final blows in the Arab country.

    The statement was released one day after the air force dropped leaflets urging residents in Mosul's Old City center to flee through safe corridors.


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    Mosul's bloodbath: 'We killed everyone - IS, men, women, children'

    26 July 2017

    Iraqi soldiers receive brutal, final order in last days of battle with IS: kill anything that moves. Results can be found crushed in the rubble

    MOSUL, Iraq - The Iraqi soldier looks out from his tiny three-walled room across a wasteland of rubble that crumbles steeply down to the banks of the Tigris River, and contemplates the last days of the savage fight against the Islamic State (IS) group.

    "We killed them all," he says quietly. "Daesh, men, women and children. We killed everyone."

    What remains of this part of Mosul's Old City, where IS militants made their last stand, and what lies beneath betray the horrific final days of the battle.

    Hundreds of corpses lie half-buried in the broken masonry and rubble that was once a bustling, historic quarter. The stench of decaying flesh, which comes fast in the 50C summer heat, overwhelms the senses.

    Feet are the most distinguishable remains; there are many poking from the rubble.

    That final killing spree has left its mark, and it is one some appear keen to cover over.

    Over the last week, armoured bulldozers have trundled back and forth over the crumpled houses, grinding uncounted corpses into the rubble.

    But the dead refuse to go away. Rotting body parts glow a reddish-brown amid the pale grey of the undulating heatscape of masonry, dust and broken buildings.

    "There are many civilians among the bodies,"
    an Iraqi army major tells MEE. "After liberation was announced, the order was given to kill anything or anyone that moved."

    Speaking on condition of anonymity, the major says the orders were wrong, but the military had to follow them.

    "It was not the right thing to do,"
    he says. "Most of the Daesh fighters surrendered. They gave themselves up, and we just killed them."

    'We make very few arrests'

    The major scoffs at claims made by some Iraqi soldiers that the jails in Baghdad were already too full to take any more IS prisoners.

    "It's not true, we have plenty of prisons, but now we are not treating the prisoners like we did before," he says. "Earlier in this war, we arrested a lot of Daesh and brought them to the intelligence services. But now, we make very few arrests."

    On Monday, several journalists witnessed an IS captive being dragged through the ruined streets of the Old City by special forces soldiers.

    The man was bound and had a rope fastened around his neck. The journalists had their memory cards confiscated by soldiers and were ordered to leave.

    "There is no law here now," the major says. "Every day, I see that we are doing the same thing as Daesh. People went down to the river to get water because they were dying of thirst and we killed them."

    Corpses line the western banks of the Tigris. Killed in air strikes, fighting and executions, or having died of hunger or thirst, some have washed ashore while others float in the blue waters. Some of the bodies are small. They were children.

    Footage released on social media on 17 July shows Iraqi helicopters carrying out what are believed to have been some of the last air strikes of the nine-month-long battle for Mosul.

    To a soundtrack of cheerful, victorious music, the helicopters target desperate people attempting to escape the Old City by swimming across the wide river.

    Nearby, soldiers pose for victory photos before an Iraqi flag, the pole planted atop a pile of rubble and body parts.

    They have become inured to the landscape of death over which they move. The brutality of this long conflict and the barbarity of their enemy have taken their toll on the Iraqi armed forces. There is little humanity left.

    Soldiers - most with scarves wrapped around their faces to fend off the overpowering stench of death - pick through the rubble and corpses, looking for modest spoils of war. Burned and broken pieces of AK47s, empty magazines, a few tins of ammunition.

    Late last week, Iraqi forces were still being attacked by occasional IS militants emerging from the rubble or collapsed buildings to shoot at soldiers or hurl grenades.

    On Thursday, a soldier approached what he thought was an IS corpse. The militant was pretending to be dead and shot the soldier at close range with a pistol.

    There were still people alive under the rubble on Monday, when four IS members - two foreign fighters and two Iraqis - were found hiding. All four were shot, according to an Iraqi soldier stationed there.

    These are likely to be among what soldiers believe are comparatively few survivors, some of whom are still managing to target Iraqi forces from underground hide-outs.

    Last Thursday, Iraqi army soldier Haidar said eight tunnels with people inside had been identified by the military, mainly from interviews with women and children who had escaped.

    "In our section, there are three. One tunnel has six Iraqi Daesh fighters, in another there are 30, including nine women, and in the third, we do not know the exact number but people coming out tell us there are a lot," he says.

    It is not known what became of any of those people - but very few civilians have emerged alive from the ruins since Thursday.

    Supplies of food and drinking water are either scarce or non-existent below ground.

    The last civilians to emerge from the rubble resembled concentration-camp victims, many reporting they had not eaten for a fortnight. Some were near death.

    Last Wednesday, a starving Yazidi boy, 11, wept in a field hospital where he was treated for extreme dehydration and malnutrition as he described watching four other children die of thirst.

    IS abducted the boy and his 13-year-old sister, who he had not seen for the preceding 30 days, from their home town in Iraq's Sinjar mountains in 2014.

    IS massacred thousands of Yazidis - whose ancient faith they decry as devil-worship - and took thousands more women and children into captivity.

    "We will give them nothing," Haider said on Thursday. "Yesterday, one of the soldiers relented and bent down to hand a bottle of water into a hole where he thought civilians were trapped and an IS fighter seized the gun from his shoulder. It was an M4 (assault rifle)."

    Near the river, bulldozer driver Hussein said that his job was to manoeuvre over the rubble, filling in any suspicious entrance holes to block possible IS activity.

    "I fill the holes with rubble so the Daesh can't come out again," he says, adding that he was not sure whether he was burying people alive.

    "Some of the tunnels stretch a long way and maybe they can get out some other place. But my job is to make sure they can't come out of these holes again."

    Death is everywhere

    Even in areas of the Old City that were liberated weeks ago, death still lingers.

    Near the remains of the destroyed al-Nuri mosque, the blackened disembodied head of a female IS adherent who blew herself up among fleeing women and children lies beside a crater.

    In the dust nearby is a hairbrush, a fashionable handbag, colourful clothing - small things with which people had hoped to escape - and a woman's leg.

    A cat steals across a ruined street with a piece of fresh meat hanging from its jaws. It is inevitably human - the only flesh left anywhere in the Old City is that of dead people.

    New corpses still appear at different locations across the Old City. Some have clearly been executed, shot in the head at close range.

    Many still have ropes trailing from tied hands and feet, indicating that either while dead or alive, they were dragged through the deserted streets. Many have been set on fire to curb the smell of decomposition.

    Iraqi forces proudly claim to have killed at least 2,000 IS militants in the last stages of the Old City battle. Many of these were foreign fighters.

    No one has offered a figure for the dead civilians - the women and children who could not escape.

    The way the bulldozers have churned over the rubble and corpses and then driven back and forth over the terrain means that the real loss of life in the final bloodbath of the Mosul conflict will never be known.

    The once-elegant historic Old City of Mosul is now an expansive graveyard - a crumbled flattened monument to one of the most merciless conflicts of the still young 21st century.


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    The massacre of Mosul: 40,000 feared dead in battle to take back city from Isis as scale of civilian casualties revealed

    Exclusive: Many bodies are still buried under the rubble and the level of human suffering is 'immense', a top Kurdish official reading from latest intelligence reports tells Patrick Cockburn in the last of his special series on the last days of the caliphate

    More than 40,000 civilians were killed in the devastating battle to retake Mosul from Isis, according to intelligence reports revealed exclusively to The Independent - a death toll far higher than previous estimates.

    Residents of the besieged city were killed by Iraqi ground forces attempting to force out militants, as well as by air strikes and Isis fighters, according to Kurdish intelligence services.

    Hoshyar Zebari, until recently a senior minister in Baghdad, told The Independent that many bodies "are still buried under the rubble". "The level of human suffering is immense," he said.

    "Kurdish intelligence believes that over 40,000 civilians have been killed as a result of massive firepower used against them, especially by the Federal Police, air strikes and Isis itself," Mr Zebari added.

    Mr Zebari, a native of Mosul and top Kurdish official who has served as the Iraqi Finance Minister and prior to that Foreign Minister, emphasised in an exclusive interview that the unrelenting artillery bombardment by units of the Federal Police, in practice a heavily armed military unit, had caused immense destruction and loss of life in west Mosul.

    The figure given by Mr Zebari for the number of civilians killed in the nine-month siege is far higher than those previously reported, but the intelligence service of the Kurdistan Regional Government has a reputation for being extremely accurate and well-informed. Isis prevented any monitoring of casualties while outside groups have largely focused on air strikes rather than artillery and rocket fire as a cause of civilian deaths. Airwars, one such monitoring group, estimated that attacks may have killed 5,805 non-military personnel in the city between 19 February and 19 June 2017.

    Mr Zebari accuses the government in Baghdad, of which he was until recently a member, of not doing enough to relieve the suffering. “Sometimes you might think the government is indifferent to what has happened,” he said. He doubts if Christians, Yazidis, Kurds and other minorities, who have lived in and around Mosul for centuries, will be able to reconcile with the Sunni Arab majority whom they blame for killing and raping them. He says some form of federal solution for future governance would be best.

    Reading from Kurdish intelligence reports, Mr Zebari says that a high level of corruption among the Iraqi military forces occupying Mosul is undermining security measures to suppress Isis in the aftermath of its defeat. He says that suspect individuals are able to pass through military checkpoints by paying $1,000 (£770) and can bring a vehicle by paying $1,500. He says corruption of this type is particularly rife in the 16th and 9th Iraqi Army Divisions and the Tribal Volunteers (Hashd al-Ashairi), drawn in part from the Shabak minority in the Nineveh Plain.

    The ability of Isis militants to remain free or be released from detention by paying bribes has led to a change in attitude among people in Mosul whom Mr Zebari says “were previously willing to give information about Isis members to the Iraqi security forces.” They are now wary of doing so, because they see members of Isis, whom they had identified and who had been arrested, returning to the streets capable of exacting revenge on those who informed against them. Several anti-Isis people in Mosul have confirmed to The Independent that this is indeed the case and they are frightened of these returnees and Isis “sleeper cells” that continue to exist.

    Civilians in Mosul say they do not fault the behaviour towards them of combat units that have borne the brunt of the fighting, such as the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), but they are concerned about what to expect from less well-disciplined troops. A belief that Isis fighters and officials detained in Mosul are later able to bribe their way free explains why soldiers, most of whom are not complicit in bribery networks, have summarily executed Isis prisoners, sometimes by throwing them off high buildings.

    Corruption by the occupying military forces takes different forms, according to Kurdish intelligence information cited by Mr Zebari. Some people are “being charged $100 for removing a body from the rubble and others $500 to reoccupy their house”, where it is still standing. Iraqi army and militia units have always been notorious for exacting fees and protection money from civilians, with trucks moving goods on the roads being a particularly profitable target when they pass through military checkpoints.

    Much of the blame for the calamitous level of destruction in west Mosul has been put on air strikes, but it is evident at ground level that a lot of the damage was caused by artillery shells and rockets. This is confirmed by an Amnesty International report issued last week titled At Any Cost: The Civilian Catastrophe in West Mosul, which points to a greater and more indiscriminate use of its firepower by pro-government forces in the final stages of the attack on east Mosul, starting in January 2017 and continuing over the following six months during the assault on west Mosul. It says that Iraqi government and US-led coalition forces “relied heavily upon explosive weapons with wide area effects such as IRAMs (Improvised Rocket Assisted Munitions). With their crude targeting abilities, these weapons wreaked havoc in densely populated west Mosul, where large groups of civilians were trapped in homes or makeshift shelters.” The UN estimated that Mosul had 1.2 million inhabitants at the start of the siege.

    In addition, Isis snipers killed great numbers of civilians trying to escape whose departure would have robbed Isis of its “human shields”, though in the event their presence shielded very little. Mr Zebari said that intelligence had even intercepted messages “from Isis fighters to their commanders saying they were tired of killing civilians”.

    Mr Zebari says that he is disappointed by the lack of Iraqi government plans to reconstruct Mosul. As Finance Minister in Baghdad until late last year, he had made provision for $500 million in the budget for rebuilding Mosul. He says: “I wanted $500 million upfront to encourage other donors, but now the government has withdrawn from the fund and used the money elsewhere. This was not an encouraging sign.”

    Even if there is reconstruction, Mr Zebari, who grew up in Mosul and still has a house in the east of the city (though long confiscated, first by Saddam Hussein and later by Isis), laments that “the soul of Mosul has gone and its iconic buildings are destroyed.” He says he cannot imagine Mosul without the Nabi Yunus mosque (the tomb of Jonah) that Isis blew up as a heretical shrine in 2014 and the al-Nuri mosque, with its 12th century leaning minaret, which Isis destroyed in the last stage of the battle to prevent its capture by government forces. In addition, there is “an unimaginable level of human suffering with more than one million people displaced.”

    He agrees that the government has won a big victory by destroying the Islamic State as a state structure controlling extensive territory. But he warns that Isis has shown that it is capable of “adapting themselves to new realities.” He says that the arms and heavy equipment from three Iraqi army divisions that Isis captured when it seized Mosul in June 2014 has never been fully accounted for. He says that there have been reports that much of it was hidden by Isis in tunnels, gorges and valleys in the arid wastelands of western Iraq and eastern Syria. “This is where they came from when they started their attacks,” he says.

    Asked if the self-declared Caliph Abu Baqr al-Baghdadi is alive or dead, Mr Zebari said he did not know. But he added that, if Baghdadi was dead, it was strange that no new Caliph or Isis leader had been declared since part of the ideology of such movements is that they do not rely on a single human being. Successors had been quickly announced when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, was killed in a US air strike in 2006 and Osama bin Laden was shot dead by US special forces in Pakistan in 2011. Moreover, he says that there “has been no sign of a change in the Isis command and control structure.”


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    War crimes we endorse: pursuing IS with impunity has created monsters

    By Moazzam Begg and Karen Jayes

    Introduction: The use of chemical weapons by coalition forces, an illegal invasion, torture at Abu Ghraib and other black sites, beheadings by Iraqi forces and impunity for war crimes ushered in by the pronouncements of the US President are major contributing factors to the insanity that is Iraq today. In order to understand its present, and diffuse a potentially catastrophic future, it is necessary to examine the recent past and, crucially, learn from it.

    War crimes we endorse: pursuing IS with impunity has created monsters

    The images were too disturbing for even the tabloids to publish: a video of an Iraqi soldier dancing with two severed heads, allegedly those of “jihadists”, on a Mosul street. He is smiling broadly as his legs move to the beat of music in the background.

    In another brazen example of impunity, another Iraqi army soldier boasts of his beheadings, recording his actions and disseminating the videos on social media. He has decapitated over 50 victims, he says. Falah Aziz and his comrades beat bound and gagged men with batons, suffocate them to death with their bare hands and slaughter their captives with a knife.

    Other videos released by Iraqi army and militia operatives depict beatings, systematic torture and sexual violence. All this debauchery is justified in the name of destroying ISIS and “fighting terror”, a repetitive and oft-repeated US trope. The sheer brutality depicted in these videos and pictures is unbearable to watch. So most people don’t.

    On the other hand, perpetrators of these war crimes feel confident enough to film and disseminate their grisly recordings because they’re fighting an equally soulless opponent against whom America and its allies have declared endless war.

    One journalist who had been embedded with Iraqi forces last year had to escape with his life after he went public with horrors he witnessed. Ali Arkady was brought in to photograph and record the apparent Sunni and Shia cooperation in the fight against IS. As commanders began to trust him, however, he became privy to extreme torture, sexual abuse and murders committed by the Iraqi Army’s elite forces – the US trained heroes who had come to liberate the oppressed. Arkady now lives in hiding after receiving death threats.

    This ‘War on Terror’ paradigm has become familiar to us. The barbarity of (IS) has been eclipsed only by that of US coalition-backed troops. In an attempt to reclaim the moral high ground, the UN calls for Iraq to investigate, but stops short of holding its US sponsors accountable.

    The pressure to “kill the terrorists” continues in a toxic global climate. On the ground in Iraq, a living hell materialises where a man’s worth is measured by the brutality by which he can kill, and the number of people that are his victims or who are silent witnesses to it. From the lessons of history, we know that this killing becomes indiscriminate.

    But this depraved situation did not emerge out of a vacuum. This kind of violence is taught and learned. To understand and defuse it, it is necessary to examine its recent history.

    Use of chemical weapons supported by US and UK is in Iraq’s history

    The US coalition’s approach to Iraq is beset by hypocrisy. Before the US coalition turned on Saddam Hussein in 1990, British, French and German companies, with the knowledge and support of the United States, supplied Iraq with chemical weapons including mustard gas. The coalition also supported him in his war against revolutionary Iran between 1980 and 1988. During this war over one million people were killed.

    Britain and US have been bombing Iraq non-stop since 1991 – this makes it a 26-year-old transcontinental bombing campaign, which is the longest in human history. Between 1990 – 1991, during what is commonly referred to as the ‘Persian Gulf War’ coalition forces dropped bombs and fired artillery shells containing depleted uranium on Iraq which some have called the “most toxic war in history.”

    This has resulted in congenital birth defects and the development of neuroblastoma in children. In some areas, almost half the population will develop cancer. A WHO report in 2013 stated birth defects had risen to a “crisis” right across Iraqi society as a result of the use of uranium by Britain and the US, not only during 1990-1991, but also more recently.

    The US and Britain bombed Iraq, then prevented crucial medical supplies from reaching the country through 13 years of sanctions and embargo which at a conservative estimate by UNICEF claimed the lives of 500,000 children. US Secretary of State Madelaine Albright blithely said when questioned about this mass murder at the time, that the price was “worth it”, betraying a startling disregard for the sanctity of human life.

    An illegal ground invasion by US and UK in 2003

    It is ironic then given the history of their support and supply of chemical weapons in Iraq that Bush and Blair claimed their countries needed to embark on a ground invasion of Iraq in 2003 to destroy “weapons of mass destruction”.

    This we all now know was a lie, since in 2004, 1,625 US and UN inspectors released a report after searching nearly 1,700 sites in Iraq at a cost of over $1bn which found no evidence of such weapons as they had been destroyed.

    The same could be said for the alleged links between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda, announced by Colin Powell in a speech to the UN in 2003 also to justify the US-UK ground invasion, and based on “evidence” gathered from the torture of Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi.

    These links, the CIA later found, did not exist. Instead, Powell managed to mention the name of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi 21 times, gathering the relatively unknown al-Qaeda figure greater prominence in Iraq, which helped lay the groundwork for ISIS.

    The initial invasion of Iraq saw coalition forces fighting both Sunni, Baathist and Shia groups in the name of “bringing freedom to the people of Iraq”. Soon, however, it became clear that the coalition chose sides after igniting sectarian conflict.

    A culture of impunity developed. The active support or tacit approval of Iraqi government or aligned forces saw coalition troops either involve themselves in human rights violations or offer silent approval of Iraqi government or aligned militia’s war crimes, which included kidnap, torture, rape, and extortion. This continued even after the official end of the occupation.

    An atmosphere of torture and killing cultivated by occupation forces

    In the wake of the pre-emptive invasion, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, alarmed at the growing insurgency and frustrated at the lack of intelligence coming out of Iraq, ordered top military officials to “Gitmoise” Iraq.

    Under the auspices of a 17-person “tiger team”, military intelligence officers were placed in charge of prisons in Iraq and interrogations were centralised at Abu Ghraib.

    Abu Ghraib had been the centre of Saddam Hussein’s torture programme. Now the abuses were set to continue, this time under US watch. Inhumane measures such as isolation, abuse by dogs and sexual humiliation became the norm.

    Former US Army Lieutenant General of coalition forces in Iraq Ricardo Sanchez wrote in his memoir: “The civilian leaders at the highest levels of our government … unleashed the hounds of Hell.”

    The world was soon to see the devastating results. In 2004, CBS News published the now well known photographs of prisoners at Abu Ghraib – some were hooded and connected to wires, others were naked and leashed like dogs.

    The scandal, however, was minimised. Despite the orders clearly having come from the top echelons of the Bush administration, only a handful of lower enlisted soldiers were prosecuted.

    It was explained away as an ‘isolated incident’ even though the emergence of a further 2000 images in 2009 (which were blocked by Obama for fear of harming the US mission in Iraq), were evidence that, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, the torture was “essentially official policy. It was widespread at different facilities under different commanders”.

    Over time, further atrocities came to light. US war crimes included the Mukaradeeb wedding massacre in 2004 where 42 civilians were killed and generals refused to apologise, the 2005 Haditha mass executions where US Marines killed 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians.

    Perhaps most shocking was the gang-rape by five American soldiers and the killing of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi and the murder of her family in 2006 – including her 6 year-old sister at Mahmudiyya. For this, the men responsible received life sentences but the culture of abuse by the US military remained unaddressed, their inhumanity starkly evident. Appealing his conviction one of the perpetrators told the US courts, “I did not think of the Iraqis as humans” after being exposed to the extreme violence of the conflict.

    Three days after this brutal incident, US soldiers raided a house north of the city of Balad. Iraqi troops accused them of deliberately shooting and killing eleven civilians, among them five children and four women, including a 6-month old baby.

    And in 2007, four Blackwater operatives – private military contractors operating in the shady mercenary world that has gone hand-in-hand with US operations in Iraq – opened fire on and killed 14 civilians in Nisour Square. During their trial in 2013, one of the men told how they had seen the conflict through the prism of mainstream media lies, viewing the murder as “payback for 9/11”. No link between Iraqis and 9/11 has ever been proved.

    The actions of British forces have also been called into question. Several cases entered the British legal system where Iraqi civilians had alleged that British soldiers had tortured, beaten and sexually assaulted them between 2003 and 2008. Key amongst these was the case of Baha Mousa, an Iraqi civilian who died after “lack of food and water, heat, exhaustion, fear, previous injuries and the hooding and stress positions [were] used by British troops”.

    The rise of ISIS in the dark vacuum after Fallujah

    US military operations severely affected civilians. During the two sieges of Fallujah in 2003 and 2004, media was accused of drastically under-reporting the US atrocities; at least 6000 Iraqis were killed, and one-third of the city was destroyed.

    Several independent news sites, however, reported how the United States gave the citizens of Fallujah two choices prior to the second siege: leave the city or risk dying as “enemy insurgents”.

    Local journalists and residents told how Americans entered houses and killed people because they couldn’t understand and therefore obey their orders, which were in English. Accounts of people being shot by Americans as they attempted to swim across the Euphrates to escape the siege emerged.

    None of the relief teams from the Iraqi Red Crescent in Baghdad were allowed into Fallujah three weeks after the invasion and food and water stores were cut off or destroyed.

    During the “battle” for Fallujah, the US army used white phosphorous, a chemical that can burn through the flesh, right through to the bone, and which reignites days after release. The actions were justified by a Pentagon spokesperson, chillingly, as a “shake and bake” mission. There are also reports of the use of uranium in Fallujah, resulting in birth defects neural tube, cardiac, and skeletal malformations, and cancer.

    Ironically, as the US and Britain created a lie based on torture evidence linking Saddam to al-Qaeda where there was none, the invasion of Iraq and its occupation by coalition forces, particularly the atrocities in Fallujah, directly led to the rise in popularity of Al Qaeda in Iraq and its eventual transformation into the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). This state of affairs was openly acknowledged by President Barack Obama in 2015 who admitted that the rise of ISIS was an “unintended consequence” of the US-led invasion.

    Coalition invasion frustrates sectarian divisions, dismembers the state

    Into the nightmare of chaos that was the coalition occupation – which has been termed an “atrocity producing situation” by former US marine Ross Caputi – and through the installing and propping up of sectarian leadership, age-old intra-religious faultlines and divisions were reignited.

    The execution of Saddam Hussein on the day of Eid 2006 was choreographed to further incite Shia-Sunni violence. In records of Saddam Hussien’s last words, a group of individuals are heard chanting “Moqtada! Moqtada!” referring to the Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr. Saddam Hussein is heard to reply (translated): “Moqtada…Moqtada! Do you consider this bravery?” (Moqtada in Arabic is roughly translated as “valour”)

    That same year, US war planes dropped two 500-pound bombs on a house to kill al Zarqawi but reports that came to light in 2006 from witnesses and a member of the Delta team told how he was still alive after the bombing and his head was wrapped in cloth before he was bludgeoned to death.

    US actions in Iraq were characterized by illegality. The killing of innocent civilians was facilitated by the systematic use of “reconnaissance by fire”, which is when soldiers fire into a house first to see if anyone is inside. Former marine Caputi wrote of how US troops stole from dead bodies and mutilated them.

    It was these US soldiers that trained the Iraqi military. The Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Force known as the Golden Division, assisted by Iranian-supported Shiite militias and US military advisors and hailed in the Western media as heroes against ISIS, was consolidated in 2005.

    By the time the US withdrew between 2007 and 2011, the brutality had caught on. Imprisonment, arbitrary detention, torture and execution of prisoners by Iraqi forces followed. Iraq became one of the four top countries for carrying out executions.

    A descent into sectarian barbarism while US and UK rubber stamp abuse

    Abuses continued as ISIS increased its hold on Iraq, and secured major victories, capturing important strongholds like Fallujah in January 2014 and Mosul in June that same year. Between a rock and a hard place, Sunni Iraqi civilians persecuted by Shiites cautiously welcomed ISIS as the lesser of two evils. But ISIS capitalized on the ongoing sectarian divisions since the state had collapsed and been divided along sectarian lines, roughly pitting the Kurds and Shia against the Sunnis.

    When Mosul fell to ISIS, the collapse of the Iraqi Armed Forces gave rise to the Hashad al-Sha’bi (Popular Mobilization Forces). This non-state, sectarian military force, was made of a mesh of Shia militias that enjoyed government support. Abu Izrael, one of their most prominent fighters is hailed as a hero for his crimes, one of them being roasting a prisoner alive on a spit then carving his flesh like a kebab.

    Into this chaos came the US-backed and trained Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Force known as the Golden Division which rose to prominence after the killing of Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi the leaders of ISI in 2010.

    In 2015, graphic images of members of the Golden Division massacring civilians, torturing and executing prisoners, and displaying severed heads emerged.

    But the impunity continued. In early 2017, the US coalition openly used white phosphorous in highly populated areas of Mosul. Also this year, US President Donald Trump – with no castigation by his British ally Theresa May – declared that “torture works”, officially rubber stamping war crimes on all sides of the conflict.

    The War on Terror frames, facilitates and encourages abuse

    The bombardment of Iraq from the sky has not ceased. Between February 19 and June 19 2017 alone, in what the Western media coined “the battle for Mosul”, coalition strikes reportedly killed 3,706 civilians, according to Airwars, an independent monitoring group in Iraq.

    ISIS also reportedly killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, and Amnesty International accused them of herding civilians into conflict areas to use them as “human shields”. Amnesty, however, accused the Iraqi government forces and the US-led coalition of “failing to adequately adapt their tactics to these challenges – as required by international humanitarian law – with disastrous consequences for civilians”.

    Reading between the lines, it is abundantly clear that the US coalition is fully aware of their own actions and that of their allies but there is little reporting in the mainstream news of the widespread terror and chaos they are unleashing.

    Instead, isolated stories make it to the news. Last week, Linda Wentzel, 16, from Dresden, Germany who joined IS was captured by Iraqi troops who posed with the child, smiling, after they reclaimed Mosul this month. Wentzel is currently being detained by Iraqi forces, known for torture and sexual abuse.

    The impunity with which war crimes are occurring in Iraq is rampant. The ‘War on Terror’ narrative has ensured that the moral compass on the ground is determined by the example of its leading nation, the United States, whose President advocates torture.

    Plainly speaking, this must stop. There must be an immediate cessation of all hostilities and military action against areas with civilian populations and a halt to ethnic cleansing and arbitrary detention of non-combatants. Objective investigations into the multitude of war crimes committed in Iraq needs to take place.

    In the light of the silence by the British media, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee or the Intelligence and Security Committee must investigate Britain’s complicity in the brutality unleashed in the region.

    With networked communications abuzz around the world, we are all witnesses to the ineptitude or unwillingness of governments to act to put a stop to the cycles of violence. We simply cannot offer ignorance as a viable excuse.

    Putting a stop to the violence means seeking accountability for war crimes at the very top of our bastions of power and attempting the seemingly impossible task to restore justice to all the people of Iraq.

    Not learning from the lessons of the recent past and the ongoing open support by our governments for the forces unleashing this horror will by necessity lead to a creation of a threat far greater and more brutal than IS.


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    One Week After Mosul’s “Liberation,” Horror of US Siege Continues to Unfold

    One week after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi proclaimed the “liberation” of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, the scale of destruction wrought during a nine-month, US-backed siege is becoming clearer, even as reports mount of collective punishment being meted out to survivors.

    Abadi presided over a victory parade in Baghdad on Saturday in which elements of the security forces marched past the prime minister and other officials in the Iraqi capital’s heavily fortified Green Zone. It is a measure of the state of the country that the parade was not publicly announced because of security concerns, with the media learning about it only afterwards and the population of the city excluded.

    Evidence of the death toll inflicted upon Mosul’s civilian population during the siege—largely the result of unrelenting US-led air strikes and artillery bombardments carried out against crowded neighborhoods, particularly in western Mosul’s Old City—continues to mount.

    Conservative estimates have put the number of civilians killed at over 7,000. The London-based monitoring group Airwars documented the deaths of 5,805 civilians between February and June of this year. There were undoubtedly many more deaths that went unreported, not to mention those killed in the four months preceding this period, as well of those who died in the intense assault waged on the area of the city during the last three weeks of fighting.

    Officials in Mosul report that civil defense workers have already dug some 2,000 corpses from the rubble created by US 500- and 2,000-pound bombs as well as heavy artillery shelling and strikes by attack helicopters.

    It is clear that neither the Iraqi government nor the Pentagon has any interest in clarifying the scale of carnage unleashed upon the city.

    According to a report published in the Washington Post Saturday, the grim task of recovering the dead from Mosul’s rubble has been relegated to a “25-man civil defense unit with one bulldozer, a forklift truck and a single vehicle to carry the corpses.” The Post reports that the unit has “found hundreds of people suffocated under the ruins of their homes” after they were flattened by US air strikes. Most of the victims are reportedly women and children.

    The head of the civil defense unit, Lt. Col. Rabia Ibrahim Hassan, told the Post that he had asked the government for more equipment and resources, but had received no response.

    While vast resources were expended by the Pentagon on organizing the siege of Mosul and providing the arms and ammunition to lay waste to the city, it is by no means clear that either Washington or Baghdad has any plan to mobilize comparable resources to rebuild it. One Iraqi government official conservatively estimated that the cost of rebuilding Mosul would exceed $50 billion.

    The regime in Baghdad was compelled last May to negotiate a $5.4 billion standby loan with the International Monetary Fund, which demanded sharp austerity measures. The country’s economy contracted 10.3 percent in 2016 as a result of falling oil prices and the destruction wrought by war.

    The scale of civilian casualties, the massive destruction caused by US bombs, missiles and shells, and the reported use by the American military of white phosphorous, a weapon internationally banned for use in populated areas, all point to a US war crime of historic proportions.

    This crime continues, as the survivors of the massacre in Mosul face collective punishment at the hands of US-backed forces. According to the International Organization for Migration, the nine-month siege forced 1,048,044 people to flee their homes. As of last Friday, according to the IOM, fully 825,000 remained displaced by the offensive.

    Return for the majority of these internally displaced war refugees is impossible. Many have no homes to return to as a result of the US air strikes. Most of the city lacks access to water and electricity, food is scarce, and schools and hospitals have been destroyed.

    Meanwhile, the wreckage of the city is littered with unexploded ordnance. It is estimated that at least 10 percent of the high explosives dropped and fired into Mosul by the US-led “coalition” failed to detonate, meaning there are thousands of bombs and shells waiting to go off, on top of the booby traps left behind by ISIS. Experts have warned that it could take a decade to clear the city of explosives.

    Men, women and children who have escaped from the destruction of Mosul have been housed in tent camps, in many cases as virtual prisoners. Women and children suspected of being family members of ISIS fighters killed in the siege are being sent to desolate “rehabilitation camps.”

    As for young men found in and around Mosul, there are increasing reports of summary executions, torture and abuse at the hands of the Iraqi security forces and allied Shia militias. A video posted on the Mosul Eye Twitter account, set up by an independent historian in Mosul who has documented the city’s destruction, shows members of the Iraqi security forces dragging men to the edge of a 30-foot parapet, throwing them off it and then pumping automatic weapons fire into their bodies. Other disturbing videos show a gang of soldiers beating a teenager to death and a member of the security forces stabbing a prisoner repeatedly in the face and neck.

    The British Guardian reports that unidentified corpses are washing up “with grim regularity on the banks of the Tigris downstream from Mosul,” with the bodies “heavily decomposed, most bound and blindfolded, some mutilated.” Human rights groups have blamed these killings on Iraqi security forces, which operate in close collaboration with US Special Forces “advisors.”

    The same US and Western media that endlessly denounced last year’s Russian-backed siege of Aleppo by the Syrian government as a war crime have, for the most part, chosen to ignore crimes of a more massive scale carried out against the people of Mosul.

    In the first instance, the media was mobilized in defense of the Islamist militias holding eastern Aleppo because they were fighting as part of the CIA-orchestrated war for regime change in Syria. In the second, the destruction of Mosul was hailed as a “victory” and even “liberation,” because similar Sunni Islamist fighters had challenged the US-backed regime in Baghdad. Nothing could more clearly expose the duplicity and hypocrisy of US foreign policy in the region and the functioning of the corporate media as the obedient propaganda arm of American militarism.


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    More than 4,000 have disappeared in secret prisons in Iraq

    August 25, 2017

    The Iraqi authorities have been unable to determine the fate of more than 4,000 people who have been “forcibly disappeared” since 2014. They have also been unable to reach the secret prisons where they have been kept, as organised crime in the capital Baghdad and other Iraqi provinces increases at a phenomenal rate. Such prisons are run by terrorist and other groups unknown to the Iraqi state. “Disappeared” people are not kept in state-run prisons.

    Zana Said is a member of the Iraqi parliament’s legal committee and responsible for the enforced disappearance portfolio. “According to delegates from the western and central provinces, of the 4,000 forcibly disappeared since 2014, most are from the Baghdad area,” Said told Al-Quds Al-Arabi. “There are officials who are preparing lists of those who have disappeared, and dealing with the complaints from their relatives as they search for them.” There must be some information about the places where they are imprisoned, he suggested, but the government cannot take any practical measures to rescue them.

    Said blamed “security chaos” in Iraq for the rise in forced disappearances. “Iraq’s exposure to brutal campaigns by terrorist groups, the weakness of the Iraqi state and the emergence of armed groups and militias under the state,” he explained. “All of these things have made the state unable to control the spread of arms, and engendered groups of people who exercise power on the streets, especially in Baghdad.” There are streets in the capital where he, even as an MP, would be unwise to go, he pointed out. “The streets are not controlled by the government and groups of outlaws attack citizens, kidnapping and killing whoever they want.”

    He noted that the Ministry of the Interior is making serious efforts in this field, but as long as so many arms are outside of state control, and as long as there are outlawed armed groups operating under official banners, organised crime will remain. His greatest fear, he said, is that the groups will return to the cities when the war against Daesh ends, because they are used to spread violence. Sectarian war is also a major concern, as it might lead to yet more people simply disappearing.

    “There is no official security authority which would deal with these armed groups,” claimed Said. “These groups operate under the cover of the security forces, with their weapons, military uniforms, cars and their offices… All are exploited for the benefit of organised crime.” He confirmed that “most” of the kidnappings and arrests take place using official uniforms, cars and official names, but the victims are not sent to the authorities. “They simply disappear.”

    With organised crime now the main funding source of the mafia and gangs in Iraq, said Said, official cover is essential for these crimes to be committed. “How can any armed group move freely in Iraq without the support and cover provided by officials?” he asked.


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    Iraqi Army discovers US made weapons from ISIS base

    TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Iraqi army and popular forces have discovered a number of US-made missiles from a military position of Daesh (ISIL) in the Southern part of Mosul, informed local sources disclosed after the first group of pro-government troops opened their way into Southern Mosul on Monday.

    “Several US-made missiles were found in al-Shoura region to the South of Mosul,” a local source said on Monday, Global Research reported.

    The Iraqi army and popular forces had previously found US-made missiles in Anbar province.

    Provincial officials confirmed that the US-made weapons were sent by the so-called US-led coalition for the ISIL terrorists in Anbar province.

    Meantime, Iraqi security officials announced that the terror group has sent US-made military equipment to Tal Afar region in the last two days to stand strong against Iraqi popular forces’ impending attack to capture the region.

    “The ISIL terrorists have sent US-made TOW anti-tank missiles to Tal Afar and it is quite evident that they are preparing for a long-term war,” local sources quoted an Iraqi security official as saying on Monday.

    In late August 2015, a senior Iraqi intelligence official revealed that the US helicopters drop weapons and other aids for the Daesh terrorists in the Western province of al-Anbar.

    Yet, he said the helicopters could have also been sent from Turkey or Israel.

    He added that in addition to dropping aids, the helicopters transfer the ISIL ringleaders and wounded members from the battleground to some hospitals in Syria or other countries which support the terrorist group.

    The official cautioned that such assistance further prolongs the conflicts in Anbar, adding that when the Iraqi army and popular forces purge the terrorists from Anbar province, the US helicopters will transfer the ISIL ringleaders to other regions to prevent the Iraqi forces’ access to ISIL secrets.

    Meantime in February 2015, a senior lawmaker disclosed that Iraq’s army had shot down two British planes as they were carrying weapons for the ISIL terrorists in al-Anbar province.


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    Why the Kurdish referendum means the end of Iraq

    by Peter Van Buren - September 27, 2017

    There are many worthy markers that America’s Iraq Wars have been a terrible, terrible waste, but as history loves a signature event, let it be the 25 September, 2017 Kurdish independence referendum. While the referendum is non-binding and the final vote tally may not be known for several days (though it will certainly be “yes” to independence), the true results of America’s decades of war in Iraq are already clear.

    Along with the ongoing decimation of Iraq’s Sunni population, the referendum means that in practice “Iraq” no longer exists. In its place is a Shiite state dominated by Iran, the de facto new nation of Kurdistan, and a shrinking population of Sunnis tottering between annihilation or reservation-like existence, depending on whether the United States uses the last of its influence to sketch out red lines or abandons the people to fate.

    The waste comes in that a better version of a de facto tri-state Iraq was available in 2006. Every life lost (out of a million some, including 4,424 Americans), every dollar spent (in the trillions), and every unanticipated outcome suffered (rise of Daesh, conflict in Syria, de-democratization of Turkey) since then has been unnecessary.

    The post-World War One failure to create a Kurdish state resulted in 30 million Kurds scattered across modern Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria. The 2003 American invasion of Iraq destroyed civil order in much of the area populated by those Kurds and opened the door to Iranian influence. Iran and its Iraqi-Shiite allies directed political violence against Iraqi Sunnis, paving the way for a Sunni protector, Daesh, to move in.

    When the American-trained (cost: $25 billion) Iraqi national army dropped its weapons and ran in 2014, and Shiite militias proved too weak to fill the breach, Obama reinserted the American military into Iraq, saving the Kurds, by then also under threat from Daesh. The United States subsequently turned those Kurdish fighters loose in Iraq and later Syria against Daesh. It was expediency over strategy; there was no force otherwise available in bulk. And it kind of worked. In the short run.

    The Kurds, with American help, blunted Daesh’s progress. The problem was that while American diplomacy, the carrot-and-stick of aid, and the difficulty of maintaining long-distance logistics saw the Kurdish forces replaced by Shiite militias in some locations, the Kurds held on to their gains in the north, having in most instances displaced Iraqi Sunnis. Victorious and bloodied, the Kurds were not about to renounce their hard-earned gains.

    The need for American arms did force Kurdish leaders to postpone an independence referendum, opposed by Washington, in 2014. Three years later, with Daesh mortally weakened, Washington no longer holds sway over Kurdish ambitions. And although the 25 September referendum has no legal force, Kurdish leaders will use the vote to push Baghdad for full autonomy. Donald Trump, the fifth consecutive American president to make war on Iraq, may be the last – simply for lack of an Iraq to fight over.

    The ground truth of autumn 2017 – a Kurdistan in the north, a Shiite state in the south, a marginalized Sunni population out west – is pretty much the deal that could have been had in 2006 when then-Senator Joe Biden proposed dividing Iraq into statelets. Biden wanted the United States to leave a “residual force to combat terrorists and keep the neighbors honest.” The Senate actually passed a resolution supporting Biden’s idea.

    It probably would have stabilized the region. The Middle East in 2006 was a very different place.

    In 2006 Iran faced an American military as yet undamaged by an additional decade of grinding war. That military sat on both Iran’s western border with Iraq and its eastern border with Afghanistan. The Iranian nuclear program was years behind where it is today. Syria was a relatively stable place under not-then-yet-enemy of the free world Bashar al-Assad; indeed, the British-educated Assad was initially seen as a minor reformer. Turkey was stable. Russia was not a major player in the Middle East.

    With many of 2017’s regional Pandoras still in the box, by Middle Eastern standards security in a divided Iraq would have been manageable via a modest American military presence.

    Instead, events of the last decade mean the chance of Kurdish independence adding to regional stability is near zero. Iran, fearing that an independent Kurdish state could threaten its own sectarian balance, is already conducting maneuvers on the border, has canceled flights to and from Kurdistan, and will push its proxies in Baghdad to take action. Will Turkey, now politically distant from NATO, move to open war over disputed borderlands with Kurdistan? The Turkish parliament just extended its authorization for cross-border incursions for another year. Will Kurdish minorities in Turkey and Iran see this all as their moment to rise? Will Israel, which backs Kurdish independence in its search for regional allies, supply weapons?

    In a best-case scenario, where everyone tacitly acknowledges Kurdistan while maintaining the status quo (as with Taiwan, which officially exists as a part of China even as it acts like an independent nation) there may be a measure of stability in the near term. Baghdad will talk tough even as it allows the Kurds a surprising amount of free reign – for example, Baghdad has withdrawn its police from contested Kirkuk, leaving Kurdish forces fully in charge of the oil-rich city. Kurdistan already has full control over its own education, security, military, taxes, and diplomatic representation. Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan regional government, has experimented with diplomatically vague language, saying “self-determination wouldn’t mean a direct separation from Iraq.”

    Darker predictions involve Syrian-Russian forces contesting Kurdish occupiers inside Syria. Iranian-backed Shiite militias have signaled plans to re-enter Kirkuk, and Turkey already has a running war with Kurdish fighters; tank maneuvers are ongoing with new threats gushing out of Ankara.

    American policy has been a blurry gray for some time, calling for the referendum to be postponed without actually supporting or opposing independence. Traditionally the State Department favored a united Iraq somehow, while the Pentagon, with its history of in-the-dirt cooperation with Kurdish fighters stretching back to the 1991 no-fly zone and Operation Provide Comfort that essentially established the preliminary borders of Kurdistan, has been more sympathetic towards independence. The wording of America’s reaction (there has been no post-election statement issued as this is written) to the referendum could signal which part of government is making foreign policy in Iraq these days.

    What seems clear is the American role going forward will be mostly limited to diplomacy, and that, regardless of who is carrying out the task, is not the country’s strong suit these days. There seems no appetite in Washington for large-scale troop redeployments, the kind of boots-on-the-ground necessary to decisively shape events.

    The American military, which once could have played a role similar to its help in bringing peace to former Yugoslavia, instead will exist as a crumple zone among its own warring semi-allies. Such a scenario exposes what might have been in 2006 when the United States could have managed events, and 2017, when America can do little more than witness them.


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    Wilkerson says ‘Israel’s security’ was motive for Iraq war– though not in NYT op-ed

    Retired Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson had a piece in the New York Times on Monday, in which he discussed the parallels between the runup to the Iraq war and the direction things are going with Iran. He identified the source of pro-war analysis as the Foundation for Defense of Democracies – but stopped short of explaining that this organization is “the neoconservative wing of the Israel lobby.”

    The next day, in another interview, he was eager to talk about this connection. Does NYT self-censor?

    There was an excellent headline in the New York Times two days ago— “I Helped Sell the False Choice of War Once. It’s Happening Again”– on a piece by retired Col. Lawrence Wilkerson.

    Wilkerson served as Colin Powell’s chief of staff in the runup to the Iraq disaster, and he wrote that the Secretary of State’s “gravitas” was used by the Bush administration to sell a war that destabilized the Middle East. A similar runup of claims is today being plotted by advocates of war in Iran. In both cases, a Washington braintrust pushes “falsehoods.”

    Today, the analysts claiming close ties between Al Qaeda and Iran come from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which vehemently opposes the Iran nuclear deal and unabashedly calls for regime change in Iran.

    It seems not to matter that 15 of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11 were Saudis and none were Iranians. Or that, according to the United States intelligence community, of the groups listed as actively hostile to the United States, only one is loosely affiliated with Iran, and Hezbollah doesn’t make the cut. More than ever the Foundation for Defense of Democracies seems like the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans that pushed falsehoods in support of waging war with Iraq.

    It’s good that Wilkerson called out FDD in the NYT, but the curious thing about the op-ed is there is no mention of who this gang is, the neoconservative wing of the Israel lobby. FDD is funded by Bernard Marcus and other giant Israel supporters; “FDD’s chief funders have been drawn almost entirely from American Jews who have a long history of funding pro-Israel organizations,” John Judis wrote.

    Just as AEI, Bush’s thinktank for the Iran catastrophe, was funded by Bruce Kovner and Roger Hertog and other Israel backers, who gifted that Pentagon office with neoconservatives Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, who had lately advised Netanyahu.

    But openly addressing the Israel lobby is obviously a redline in the New York Times. Because when Lawrence Wilkerson went on the Real News yesterday to discuss his op-ed, he brought up neocons and “Israel’s security” right off the bat!

    I think what you’re seeing with people like UN Ambassador Nikki Haley a neoconservative par excellence and other people from the wings as it were, as we had during the march to war with Iraq, Richard Perle for example was one of the most effective of those people from the wings. Like, the FDD, who are pushing what was the agenda originally with regard to Iraq and its being the first state to go. In other words, they wanted to do Syria. They’ve tried that, incidentally and they wanted to do Iran. They wanted to sweep the Middle East for various and sundry reasons, not the least of which was Israel’s security, oil and so forth, but they wanted basically to sweep the Middle East.

    Wilkerson said that the “principal reason, longterm reason” that the U.S. was confronting Iran was that (in the words of his interviewer) “Iran acts as a deterrent in some ways to US and Israeli aggression in the region, through primarily its support of Hezbollah and also the Assad government in Syria.”

    It is a pity that a man of Wilkerson’s experience and wisdom is not allowed by the New York Times to speak of the Israel interest, when it is at the top of his mind. And a sad reflection of how our mainstream discourse has simply failed to deal with an important truth.

    More than twelve years ago, the Atlantic killed the landmark article by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer saying that the Israel lobby had pushed the U.S. to invade Iraq, and the article was then published by the London Review of Books, and many establishment voices sought to banish the news by accusing the distinguished authors of anti-Semitism. At that time, Wilkerson expressed support for Walt and Mearsheimer. The paper contained the “blinding flash of the obvious,” he said, and he had taught the scholars’ ideas at two Washington, D.C. universities. (Though Alan Dershowitz came down on him for doing so.)

    But we’re always back to Square one on this question. When President Obama said in 2015 that it would be an “abrogation” of his constitutional duty to listen to Israel and renounce the Iran deal, he was accused of endorsing the dual loyalty canard, etc. When he said that Democratic senators were under fundraising pressure to oppose the deal, there were more such accusations. Though Obama was speaking the truth. Round and round we go, and never move forward.


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    The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the U.S. Invasion

    March 19 marks 15 years since the U.S.-U.K invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the American people have no idea of the enormity of the calamity the invasion unleashed. The U.S. military has refused to keep a tally of Iraqi deaths. General Tommy Franks, the man in charge of the initial invasion, bluntly told reporters, “We don’t do body counts.” One survey found that most Americans thought Iraqi deaths were in the tens of thousands. But our calculations, using the best information available, show a catastrophic estimate of 2.4 million Iraqi deaths since the 2003 invasion.

    The number of Iraqi casualties is not just a historical dispute, because the killing is still going on today. Since several major cities in Iraq and Syria fell to Islamic State in 2014, the U.S. has led the heaviest bombing campaign since the American War in Vietnam, dropping 105,000 bombs and missiles and reducing most of Mosul and other contested Iraqi and Syrian cities to rubble.

    An Iraqi Kurdish intelligence report estimated that at least 40,000 civilians were killed in the bombardment of Mosul alone, with many more bodies still buried in the rubble. A recent project to remove rubble and recover bodies in just one neighborhood found 3,353 more bodies, of whom only 20 percent were identified as ISIS fighters and 80 percent as civilians. Another 11,000 people in Mosul are still reported missing by their families.

    Of the countries where the U.S. and its allies have been waging war since 2001, Iraq is the only one where epidemiologists have actually conducted comprehensive mortality studies based on the best practices that they have developed in war zones such as Angola, Bosnia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guatemala, Kosovo, Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda. In all these countries, as in Iraq, the results of comprehensive epidemiological studies revealed 5 to 20 times more deaths than previously published figures based on “passive” reporting by journalists, NGOs or governments.

    Two such reports on Iraq came out in the prestigious The Lancet medical journal, first in 2004 and then in 2006. The 2006 study estimated that about 600,000 Iraqis were killed in the first 40 months of war and occupation in Iraq, along with 54,000 nonviolent but still war-related deaths.

    The U.S. and U.K. governments dismissed the report, saying that the methodology was not credible and that the numbers were hugely exaggerated. In countries where Western military forces have not been involved, however, similar studies have been accepted and widely cited without question or controversy. Based on advice from their scientific advisers, British government officials privately admitted that the 2006 Lancet report was “likely to be right,” but precisely because of its legal and political implications, the U.S. and British governments led a cynical campaign to discredit it.

    A 2015 report by Physicians for Social Responsibility, Body Count: Casualty Figures After 10 Years of the “War on Terror”, found the 2006 Lancet study more reliable than other mortality studies conducted in Iraq, citing its robust study design, the experience and independence of the research team, the short time elapsed since the deaths it documented and its consistency with other measures of violence in occupied Iraq.

    The Lancet study was conducted over 11 years ago, after only 40 months of war and occupation. Tragically, that was nowhere near the end of the deadly consequences of the Iraq invasion.

    In June 2007, a British polling firm, Opinion Research Business (ORB), conducted a further study and estimated that 1,033,000 Iraqis had been killed by then.

    While the figure of a million people killed was shocking, the Lancet study had documented steadily increasing violence in occupied Iraq between 2003 and 2006, with 328,000 deaths in the final year it covered. ORB’s finding that another 430,000 Iraqis were killed in the following year was consistent with other evidence of escalating violence through late 2006 and early 2007.

    Just Foreign Policy’s “Iraqi Death Estimator” updated the Lancet study’s estimate by multiplying passively reported deaths compiled by British NGO Iraq Body Count by the same ratio found in 2006. This project was discontinued in September 2011, with its estimate of Iraqi deaths standing at 1.45 million.

    Taking ORB’s estimate of 1.033 million killed by June 2007, then applying a variation of Just Foreign Policy’s methodology from July 2007 to the present using revised figures from Iraq Body Count, we estimate that 2.4 million Iraqis have been killed since 2003 as a result of our country’s illegal invasion, with a minimum of 1.5 million and a maximum of 3.4 million.

    These calculations cannot possibly be as accurate or reliable as a rigorous up-to-date mortality study, which is urgently needed in Iraq and in each of the countries afflicted by war since 2001. But in our judgment, it is important to make the most accurate estimate we can.

    Numbers are numbing, especially numbers that rise into the millions. Please remember that each person killed represents someone’s loved one. These are mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters. One death impacts an entire community; collectively, they impact an entire nation.

    As we begin the 16th year of the Iraq war, the American public must come to terms with the scale of the violence and chaos we have unleashed in Iraq. Only then may we find the political will to bring this horrific cycle of violence to an end, to replace war with diplomacy and hostility with friendship, as we have begun to do with Iran and as the people of North and South Korea are trying to do to avoid meeting a similar fate to that of Iraq.


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    Oil for Israel: The Truth about the Iraq War, 15 Years Later

    By Gary Vogler, University of Kansas Blog

    Oil mogul Marc Rich, pardoned by Bill Clinton, was part of a pro-Israel network that worked to get Iraq’s oil to Israel.

    April 24 marks the 15th anniversary of my initial entry into Baghdad as the senior oil advisor to retired Lieutenant General Jay Garner, our US government civilian leader in Iraq. It was the beginning of my six plus years in Iraq working on the oil sector and denying the allegation that the Iraq war had an oil agenda. I can no longer refute such an allegation.

    Was there an oil agenda for the Iraq war? If you had asked me that question four years ago, I would have said no, absolutely not. And, I said no on national television in 2014.

    Ambassador L. Paul (Jerry) Bremer and I went on the Rachel Maddow Show to refute Maddow’s position that the Iraq war was largely about oil. Specifically, I said that I had not witnessed any serious oil agenda during my time at the Pentagon and in Iraq. I cannot honestly say that today. So what has changed my mind?

    Phil Carroll (the retired Shell US CEO who became my boss in Baghdad in May 2003) and I agreed that if either of us saw anything close to an oil agenda in the summer of 2003, we would both resign and leave Iraq. Phil and I had spent time in the US army during our younger years before our careers in the oil industry and both of us detested the thought of US soldiers dying so that some oil company could profit from it. We were looking for an agenda involving US oil companies. The President’s critics were looking for the same thing and even implying in the US press that it was taking place. We did not see it.

    Up until 2013 my focus was on execution of plans and helping the Iraq oil sector as best I could. I had little desire to research about an oil agenda. I was in denial. I believed that my country sent me to Iraq for a noble reason and that people in my government just got the WMD issue wrong. I refused to entertain the idea that oil played any part in their decision.

    Paul Wolfowitz reverses Cabinet decision

    I saw things that I did not understand during 2003, but wrote them off as distractions to our mission. Such as, why did Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy Secretary of Defense, verbally reverse the decisions made by the President’s cabinet about an export pipeline through Syria just before the war started? We had discussed the Syria export pipeline during our prewar policy discussions. No oil infrastructure was supposed to be targeted during the invasion. The final written policy agreed by the President’s cabinet in late December 2002 stated that exports through that Syria pipeline should be used as leverage with the Syrian government to get their cooperation. The pipeline was not supposed to be destroyed.

    Paul Wolfowitz, considered the architect of the Iraq War, is known for being a passionate supporter of Israel.

    However, Wolfowitz verbally reversed that guidance during a video teleconference with General Franks about a week before the invasion. The one large pump station that pumped oil through the Syrian export pipeline was destroyed early in the war. It was the only intentional oil infrastructure target. Secretary Rumsfeld announced to the NY Times the day after the pump station destruction that it was destroyed to punish Syria for helping Saddam smuggle oil outside of the United Nation’s oil for food program. Such explanation made no sense.

    The attack on the pump station punished the future government of Iraq much more than Syria. Iraq lost an export channel and a $50 million pump station. Syria only lost the toll fees from any export barrels that Iraq would export through the pipeline in the future. Iraq incurred more than 95% of the punishment. This had all been discussed during our prewar planning and that is why the written policy approved by the cabinet stated as it did. So why did Wolfowitz reverse it? It made no sense to me until I started doing some serious research in the last few years while writing my book.

    Using the Google search tool, I was able to find things in 2014 and 2015 in the foreign press that were real eye-openers. There were several articles in the Israeli and British press from 2003. I learned several new facts. I learned about an oil agenda and the players involved, but the most important was that I learned motives. I had many sleepless nights. I learned that a person cannot sleep when they are angry and the more I learned, the angrier I became. I had been a volunteer for all of my time in Iraq. I risked my life for seventy-five months in Iraq working for what I thought were noble reasons. The more I learned the more I realized that there was an oil agenda and I was just an unknowing participant.

    Oil for Israel

    The oil agenda I discovered and experienced was to supply Iraq oil to Israel. The players were the neoconservatives in the Bush Administration, their favorite Iraqi – Dr Ahmed Chalabi and the Israeli government. One of the motives was because Israel was paying a huge premium for its oil imports and this premium had just started in the late1990s. The agenda called for the reopening of the old Kirkuk to Haifa pipeline and its significant expansion. When this pipeline plan became unattainable in the 2nd half of 2003 then Chalabi took other actions to get inexpensive Iraqi oil to Israel.

    A much more credible explanation for intentionally destroying the Syrian export pipeline than what Secretary Rumsfeld told the NY Times was found in the British press. The Guardian, a London newspaper, quoted a retired CIA agent just after the Syria pipeline attack. “It has long been a dream of a powerful section of the people now driving the Bush administration and the war in Iraq to safeguard Israel’s energy supply. Rebuilding the old Kirkuk to Haifa pipeline would transform economic power in the region, cutting out Syria and solving Israel’s energy crisis at a stroke.”

    This was just one of several facts that I discovered during my research. Our nation’s second President, John Adams, was quoted as saying, ”Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” Ten facts are discussed at the end of my recently published book and include the following five that I consider tipping point facts. These five facts made me realize that I had been in denial for many years. After learning these facts coupled with my other experiences, I recognized that there really was an oil agenda.
    Retired CIA agent told UK Guardian: “It has long been a dream of a powerful section of the people now driving the Bush administration and the war in Iraq to safeguard Israel’s energy supply. Rebuilding the old Kirkuk to Haifa pipeline would transform economic power in the region, cutting out Syria and solving Israel’s energy crisis at a stroke.”

    First, Israeli Infrastructure minister Joseph Pritskzy was interviewed in the Israeli press on March 31, 2003 – before the US Forces had even taken Baghdad. He was identifying how the Iraq war would benefit Israel economically. He was in contact with civilians at the Pentagon and they were planning to reopen the pipeline between Kirkuk in Iraq and Haifa Israel – a pipeline that was the only export pipeline in Iraq from 1934 until 1948 when Israel came into existence and the pipeline was closed by the government of Iraq. The pipeline through Syria was built to replace the Haifa pipeline after 1948. Pritskzy identified that Israel was paying a 25% premium for the oil imports they were receiving and the reopened pipeline to Haifa would eliminate the premium and be a huge economic benefit to Israel.
    https://i2.wp.com/israelpalestinenew...00%2C224&ssl=1 300w, https://i2.wp.com/israelpalestinenew...68%2C573&ssl=1 768w" sizes="(max-width: 728px) 100vw, 728px" style="margin: 0px 0px 5px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; font-size: 15px; vertical-align: baseline; background-image: initial; background-position: initial; background-size: initial; background-repeat: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; height: auto; max-width: 100%; display: block; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: "Open Sans", Arial, sans-serif;">
    Henry Kissinger chats with Joseph Paritzky, former-Minister of Energy and National Infrastructure of Israel. Paritzky was interviewed in the Israeli press on March 31, 2003 – before the US Forces had even taken Baghdad. He described how the Iraq war would benefit Israel economically. He was in contact with civilians at the Pentagon and they were planning to reopen the pipeline between Kirkuk in Iraq and Haifa Israel.

    Netanyahu found investors for oil pipeline in 2003

    Second, the Israeli finance minister in 2003 was Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s current Prime Minister. The Israeli press reported that Netanyahu went to London in 2003 to find investors willing to invest in the expansion of the Kirkuk to Haifa pipeline. A quote from his sales pitch about the oil pipeline to Haifa went this way – “and this is no pipe dream.”

    Douglas Feith & Marc Zell

    Third, the number three person at the Pentagon in 2003 was Doug Feith. Feith’s law partner for fifteen years before Feith joined the Bush administration was Marc Zell. Zell was interviewed in 2004 in an article entitled “How Ahmed Chalabi conned the neocons.” Zell is quoted as saying that Chalabi promised to reopen the Kirkuk to Haifa pipeline and enable a huge amount of business between Iraq and Israel. Zell went on to further criticize Ahmed Chalabi saying “Ahmed Chalabi is a treacherous, spineless turncoat.” The nerve of this guy Zell – criticizing his partner in crime who helped push us into a war that would eventually cost us 4,489 KIAs and over $2 trillion just so that he could make $millions in profits.
    US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman with Marc Zell in Israel in 2016. Zell helped push the U.S. into a war that would eventually cost us 4,489 KIAs and over $2 trillion just so that he could make $millions in profits.

    Scooter Libby, Marc Rich, & Mossad

    Fourth, Scooter Libby was Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff in Washington. Libby had a secure communications link to Ahmed Chalabi in Baghdad during the summer of 2003. Libby was also linked to the nefarious oil trader Marc Rich. That name might be familiar to you. Marc Rich was the person who President Clinton pardoned on his last day in office from crimes of income tax evasion of $100 million and trading with the enemy. Libby was Marc Rich’s lawyer for many years while Rich made $billions moving Iranian crude oil through a secret pipeline through Israel.

    The pipeline carried oil from the Red Sea Israeli port of Eilat to the Mediterranean port of Ashkelon. This secret pipeline was constructed in 1970 and Marc Rich transported Iranian oil through this pipeline for over 20 years, until the mid 1990s. He moved the oil through Israel to his customers in the Mediterranean and Israel received what oil it needed – at a discounted price. This arrangement stopped sometime after 1994 when Rich was forced out of the company he founded. The original company was called Marc Rich & Co, AG and located in Switzerland. The name was changed to Glencore in 1995 after Rich was bought out.

    Both Marc Rich and Scooter Libby developed a very close relationship to the Israeli government and especially the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence group. The former British foreign secretary from 2001 to 2006 was Jack Straw. Straw said of Scooter Libby, “It is a toss up whether he is working for the Israelis or the Americans on any given day.”
    Lewis Libby, testifying for Mark Rich, flanked by Rich’s lawyers. Rich was pardoned by Bill Clinton for $100 million tax evasion after Israeli leaders & partisans brought pressure on Libby’s behalf. The British foreign minister said of Libby: “It is a toss up whether he is working for the Israelis or the Americans on any given day.”

    Mike Makovsky & Douglas Feith

    Last, there was a young analyst assigned to our Energy Infrastructure Planning Group (EIPG) at the Pentagon back in October 2002 by the name of Mike Makovsky. Makovsky had no recognizable experience in the oil industry and no applicable experience in government – so his role on our team was somewhat contentious. The security people at the Pentagon refused to grant him a top secret clearance and he refused to deploy to Iraq with the rest of us, remaining at the Pentagon as the Pentagon’s so-called expert on the Iraq oil sector.

    Years later, I learned that Doug Feith over-ruled the Pentagon security group to get Makovsky his top secret clearance. Something that I did not know was even legal. I also learned that AIPAC (the Israeli Lobby group) placed Makovsky in Doug Feith’s group at the Pentagon. I also learned that Makovsky left the US in 1989 to join the Israeli foreign service. My CIA contacts told me that Israel’s foreign service is 98% Mossad, the Israeli intelligence. So, it prompts a question – why was a Mossad contact with no oil experience placed in a key Iraq oil position at the Pentagon in 2002 through 2008? The only reasonable conclusion was to support the identified oil agenda for supplying Iraqi oil to Israel. Makovsky is currently the CEO of JINSA – an Israeli lobby think tank in DC.
    Michael Makovsky, CEO of the neoconservative Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA), at a September 2013 meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. AIPAC and Douglas Feith over-ruled a Pentagon security group to give Makovsky top secret clearance. Despite no oil experience, Makovsky was placed in a key Iraq oil position at the Pentagon.

    The Alternative Plan

    It became evident that the Haifa pipeline plan was unattainable late in the summer of 2003. The neoconservatives learned that the pipeline no longer existed inside Iraq and Ahmed Chalabi recognized that the Iraqis were violently resisting the idea of an oil pipeline to Israel.

    In July 2003, the Iraqis started attacking oil pipelines. This led to severe shortages of gasoline and diesel for the population. Gas lines quickly became several kilometers long in 100-degree heat in Baghdad. The National Security Council (specifically Frank Miller) had a tirade on our video teleconference because pictures of the long gas lines were all over the US press and making the administration look bad.

    It was recognized in Baghdad that the attacks had to be an inside job, but we would not be able to confirm it until years later. We eventually learned that the reason for the attacks was because the Iraqis were reading in the Baghdad Arabic press that the Americans were shipping their oil to Israel through a pipeline to Haifa. Israeli government leaders were announcing in their press that the Americans would soon reopen the Haifa pipeline and the Iraqi press just picked up the stories.

    Oil ministry insiders began attacking their own pipelines after reading the Iraqi press. Chalabi convinced the neocons to give up on their primary plan of opening a pipeline to Haifa in 2003. He executed an alternative plan to get oil to Israel. He ordered the reversal of our CPA policy of not selling oil to brokers. The timing of the Chalabi order was very opportune because both Phil Carroll and I were out of the country. Phil and I endorsed the policy of not selling to brokers in order to minimize the risk of corruption.

    Iraq crude oil was sold to Glencore, founded by commodities manipulator Marc Rich.

    Chalabi ordered the oil ministry to sell their oil to Glencore, the commodity brokerage company created by Marc Rich that had supplied as much as 90% of Israel’s crude oil over the last three decades. Iraq crude oil was sold to Glencore throughout the remainder of CPA and through the summer of 2004.

    The facts cannot be denied. History should accurately reflect an oil agenda for the Iraq war of providing Iraqi oil to Israel.



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