We call on those states responsible for the invasion and occupation of Iraq to terminate their illegal and immoral war, and express our solidarity with the Iraqi people in their struggle for peace, justice and self-determination.

In particular, we demand:

  1. An immediate end to the US and UK-led occupation of Iraq;
  2. Urgent action to fully address the current humanitarian crises facing Iraq’s people, including help for the more than three million refugees and displaced persons;
  3. An end to all foreign interference in Iraq's affairs, including its oil industry, so that Iraqis can exercise their right to self-determination;
  4. Compensation and reparations from those countries responsible for war and sanctions on Iraq;
  5. Prosecution of all those responsible for war crimes, human rights abuses, and the theft of Iraq's resources.

We demand justice for Iraq.

This statement was adopted by the Justice for Iraq conference in London on 19th July 2008. We plan to publish this more widely in future. If you would like to add your name to the list of supporters please contact us.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

SOS from Mosul

Dear Friends
We continuously receive messages from friends and relatives in Mosul updating us. The humanitarian situation is catastrophic. Nearly one million civilians are trapped in between areas being targeted by either the American led coalition, the Iraqi army and Hashed Al Shabby militias, and ISIS. The media is only showing the suffering of the displaced people and exaggerating the advances of the army. The suffering of residents stuck inside of Mosul is being ignored almost completely. The situation can be summarized as below:

· There is little to no clean water because the water supply network and stations have been bombed. River water is being used where available. Areas that are not close to the river are trying to access groundwater from nearby farms. Some households have neither option as family members cannot leave their houses due to heavy shelling.
  · In liberated areas there is no electricity. These areas comprise less than 15% of Mosul City. Other areas are getting around two hours in the morning and two in the evening from private generators due to lack of fuel.
· Household food stocks are running low. Some families have no food due to a lack of money or a lack of access. Deaths from starvation are expected soon. Families who stored food left it behind during forced evacuations by ISIS or the army in areas of engagement. Those families could take nothing with them and have nowhere to go with their children and their elderly. Their cars are also being confiscated for use in car bombings.
 · In the Qadisiyah area of Eastern Mosul (where heavy fighting has been taking place the last few days), people have started burying their deceased in the gardens of their homes as they have no route to leave the house with the corpse or arrange for burial. They are living with the constant fear of a missile destroying their home any minute.
· Airstrikes by the American coalition have targeted complete residential buildings just to take out a single sniper with access to their rooftop. Similarly, the army is destroying houses with the use of ground missiles, regardless of whether they are occupied by families who could not leave under the heavy shooting and shelling.
· There are no hospitals currently under the control of the army. Injured or sick people need to be taken to Erbil which is a two hour ride away in clear weather. Most hospitals in Erbil do not have the capacity to handle the thousands of cases coming in from Mosul. With no money or resources, people from Mosul are not admitted for treatment. There is a serious need for mobile emergency hospitals in liberated areas.
  · Hospitals inside Mosul also lack medicine for the most basic of diseases, as well as blood for transfusions or operations and other vital supplies.
As many of you know, American military experts estimated that this operation might take months to complete. With these dire conditions, a humanitarian crisis looms for the residents of Mosul.
The Iraqi government and the sectarian militias involved in the fighting do not have the training or equipment to divert the catastrophes resulting from the fighting. They do not have the capacity to worry about an alarming rise in the civilian death rate. In fact, the increasing casualty rate in certain areas serves the sectarian demographic changes being pursued by the current government.
The same could be said for the American Coalition which is fighting to push their own agenda and working out which areas to liberate and hand over to their allies the Kurdish Peshmerga, in order to secure Mosul oil reservoirs under their control.  
In summary, the situation started out quite bad with multiple parties fighting with shocking disregard for civilians.
Dr Souad Al-Azzawi 

Saturday, 6 August 2016

After Chilcot

Mike Phipps, co-editor of the fortnightly Iraq Occupation Focus e-newsletter, looks at the establishment’s attempt to wash its hands of a still ongoing war.

Seven years in the writing, two million words and at a cost of £10 million, the Chilcot Report was finally published in July. A pretty comprehensive piece of work, you might think, but as an Iraqi friend pointed out, there’s just one thing missing from the report: Iraq.

This is a report about British governance and while it was more critical of Tony Blair than many expected, its primary purpose was to allow the political establishment to wash its hands of a war in which British troops are still engaged.

Moreover, UK forces are still being investigated for abuses they committed during the conflict. The International Criminal Court has received 1,268 allegations of ill treatment and unlawful killings committed by British forces. Of 259 alleged killings, 47 were said to have occurred when Iraqis were in U.K. custody.

Tucked away in the Chilcot Report is a reference to one of the key motives for the 2003 invasion. Sir David Manning, foreign policy adviser to Tony Blair, told the US national security adviser, in December 2002 that Britain wanted its fair share of the spoils. “It would be inappropriate for HMG [Her Majesty’s government] to enter into discussions about any future carve-up of the Iraqi oil industry,” he said. “Nonetheless it is essential that our companies are given access to a level playing field in this and other sectors.”

The consequences of a war that western elites would prefer to put behind them are still being felt in Iraq. Coalition forces involved in the aerial bombardment of Islamic State strongholds kill scores of civilians on a weekly basis, although this is rarely reported. British air strikes on Iraq and Syria increased 85% in the first half of this year. On the ground, western forces have mobilised sectarian militias to fight IS. They now stand accused of summary executions, kidnappings and other human rights abuses. The UN, not known for intemperate language, warns this could lead to a “renewed cycle of full-throttle sectarian violence”.

And these are only the immediate consequences of the US-led invasion of Iraq. To this we cold add the 5 million refugees, the million killed, the million disabled, the destruction of infrastructure, the institutionalisation of sectarian corruption and “religious cleansing”. The long-term health consequences are especially worrying, particularly the high rates of cancer in areas where western forces deployed depleted uranium munitions. A recent study links high levels of heavy metals in children’s baby teeth to the bombardments of the last decade. As in Vietnam, Iraqis could be paying a terrible price for generations to come.

One positive from the Chilcot Report is that the issue of justice is back on the agenda. Compensation and reparations may be as distant as ever, but the call to prosecute those responsible has been raised afresh by the families of British soldiers who lost their lives in Iraq. Within two weeks, members of the public helped raise £150,000 to enable the Families Campaign to engage expert lawyers to examine whether a prosecution of Tony Blair can be mounted. Watch this space!

Baby Teeth of Iraqi Children Tell Troubling Tale of War's Toxic Impacts

In an effort to learn more about the impacts of long-term exposure to heavy metals and other toxins associated with warzone bombardments and military installations, a new study released Friday examined a sample of donated teeth and discovered that the children of Iraq are suffering from alarming levels of such substances, specfically lead.
The study—entitled Prenatal Metal Exposure in the Middle East: Imprint of War in Deciduous Teeth of Children—focused on Iraq, invaded by the U.S. and coalition forces over thirteen years ago, due to the amount of bombing its population has witnessed over the last thirteen years and the troubling level of cancers and birth defects now evidenced in the population that could be related to that relentless violence. The Iraqi teeth were compared to donated samples from both Lebanon, which has seen a more moderate level of bombing and warfare during the same time period, and Iran, which has experienced relative peace since the end of the Iraq/Iran War in 1988.
"In war zones," the abstract of the study explains, "the explosion of bombs, bullets, and other ammunition releases multiple neurotoxicants into the environment. The Middle East is currently the site of heavy environmental disruption by massive bombardments. A very large number of US military bases, which release highly toxic environmental contaminants, have also been erected since 2003. Current knowledge supports the hypothesis that war-created pollution is a major cause of rising birth defects and cancers in Iraq."
Scientifically known as a person's "deciduous teeth," what are also called "baby teeth" are useful to study, the researchers explain, because they "originate in fetal life and may prove useful in measuring prenatal metal exposures." The researchers say their findings confirm the hypothesis that in war-torn Iraq the levels of contaminants found were much higher than in those countries that have seen markedly less violence.
"Our hypothesis that increased war activity coincides with increased metal levels in deciduous teeth is confirmed by this research," reads the study. "Lead levels were similar in Lebanese and Iranian deciduous teeth. Deciduous teeth from Iraqi children with birth defects had remarkably higher levels of Pb [lead]. Two Iraqi teeth had four times more Pb, and one tooth had as much as 50 times more Pb than samples from Lebanon and Iran."
To further explain the context and implications of the newly-published researchers, it is worth quoting the study at length:
In war zones, the explosion of bombs, bullets, and other ammunition releases multiple neurotoxicants into the environment, adding to the burden of childhood exposures. Recent studies in Iraq indicate widespread public exposure to neurotoxic metals (Pb and mercury) accompanied by unprecedented increases in birth defects and cancers in a number of cities (Savabieasfahani 2013). Current knowledge supports the hypothesis that war-created pollution is a major factor in the rising numbers of birth defects and cancers in Iraq.
The Middle East has been the site of a massive environmental disruption by bombardments. In 2015 alone, the USA dropped over 23,000 bombs in the Middle East. Twenty-two thousand bombs were dropped on Iraq/Syria (Zenko 2016). US military bases also produce and release highly toxic environmental pollutants in the Middle East. Though our knowledge is limited, a recent report by Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) offers a conservative estimate of two million killed in the Middle East since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. Around one million people have been killed in Iraq, 220,000 in Afghanistan, and 80,000 in Pakistan. A total of around 1.3 million, not included in this figure, have been killed in other recently created war zones such as Yemen and Syria (Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR)).
It may seem callous to focus on the “long-term” effects of war while these horrific consequences of war are here and now. Nevertheless, long-term public health consequences of war need to be better examined if we are to prevent similar wars in the future (Weir 2015). To that end, here we report the results of our last samples from a growing war-zone.
Deciduous teeth of children from Iraq, Lebanon, and Iran can show a continuum of high to low war-related-exposures in children. Measurements of environmental samples in the areas of our interest are rare in the literature. Therefore, we deduce that a continuum of high to low war-related exposures can be detected in children of the selected areas based upon the knowledge of the number and length of wars fought in each country in modern times. We do know that Iraq continues to be the target of repeated bombings and military activity, that Lebanon has been the site for multiple wars, and that military activities have occurred in Lebanon intermittently up to 2016 (Haugbolle 2010). In contrast, Iran has been the site of only one war in modern times, which ended in 1988 (Hersh 1992). Our aim is to evaluate deciduous teeth for their suitability to serve as markers of prenatal exposures to neurotoxic heavy metals.
Metals are one of the main components of bombs, bullets, and other weaponry. Buncombe (2011) offers a historic account of the very large number of bombs and bullets that were dropped in the Middle East post-2003. Additionally, 1500 US military bases and facilities—with their associated toxic pollutants—have been erected in the Middle East since 2003 (Nazaryan 2014; Vine 2014). It has been suggested that US military bases are among the most polluting operations on earth (Nazaryan 2014; Broder 1990; Milmo 2014).
In Iraq, there are currently over 500 US military bases (Kennedy 2008; Vine2014). Pollutants released from these bases have reportedly harmed human health (Institute of Medicine, IOM 2011). Metals are released in the environment in large quantities during and following wars, either by direct bombing or as a result of waste generated and released by military installations (IOM). Metals are persistent in the environment (Li et al. 2014), and their adverse effects on health—especially the health of sensitive populations (i.e., pregnant mothers, fetuses, growing children)—have been established (Parajuli et al. 2013; Grandjean and Landrigan 2014). Public exposure to war-related pollutants intensifies as wars become frequent and as the environmental release of waste associated with military bases increases. Metal exposures and toxicity are frequently reported in children, particularly those living in areas of protracted military attacks in the Middle East (Alsabbak et al. 2012; Jergovic et al. 2010; Savabieasfahani et al. 2015).
"As prenatal exposures become more severe and common in war zones," the authors write, "the accurate measurement of those prenatal exposures becomes more urgent. The use of deciduous teeth, which originate in fetal life, as a biomarker of prenatal exposure, is worthwhile if we are to protect children from such exposures in the future."


Monday, 11 July 2016

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Friday, 27 May 2016

Humanitarian aid under political pressure

Text of Mike Phipps's speech at a recent Tadhamun event in London commemorating the 13th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq

 There is a new spectre haunting the world: humanitarian intervention. It was used to justify the British Government going to war in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. Pressure is mounting on humanitarian aid agencies to skew their work to fit this new agenda, or face unpleasant consequences.

Humanitarian aid is now a multi-billion dollar industry. Humanitarian expenditure increased sixfold during the 1980s and 1990s. Most British and US agencies have developed sizeable media and advocacy departments. While many organisations prefer to duck the issue of how far lethal military force can be used to protect human rights, some agencies do call for economic and military sanctions against regimes. Western governments have been quick to utilise agency reports about human rights abuses as a justification for military intervention.

In a book some years ago, Conor Foley captured the dilemma for these groups in a simple anecdote about Iraq. “In April 2003, I attended a meeting in London involving most of the major international NGOs with British offices… A high-ranking official from the Dept of International Development (DFID)… announced that the British government had earmarked £210 million for the reconstruction of the country and that it would be encouraging bids from humanitarian agencies. A shocked silence ensued as it dawned on everyone that this amount was double DFID’s entire humanitarian relief budget of two years previously. The world’s second largest potential producer of oil is not a natural candidate for humanitarian assistance and everyone knew there were far greater areas of need elsewhere. We also knew that this assistance was being given for political reasons: to shore up support for a controversial invasion. Nevertheless, virtually no agency wished to rule itself out of receiving project funding, as they began to make clear in their presentations.”

As western powers increasingly describe their bombing missions in the Middle East as humanitarian, many charities and NGOs are getting unhealthily close to governments. UN aid agencies are regularly integrated into UN military missions, making them a target for attack. In 2013 alone, 155 aid workers were killed around the world. If fatalities have declined since then, it’s largely because the bigger international agencies are staying away from trouble, sub-contracting aid delivery to smaller local agencies.

A new book by Peter Gill, published by Zed, argues that the targeting of aid workers stemmed from western policy in Afghanistan, where, as part of a “winning hears and minds” strategy, the US and UK military had large aid budgets. US Commander David Petraeus declared money “my most important ammunition in this war.”

On the ground in Afghanistan, aid workers often arrived in new areas in military vehicles. Local recipients of western aid were strongly encouraged to inform on the enemy. One ‘reconstruction worker’ said, “The more they help us find the bad guys, the more good stuff they’ll get.” Attacks on aid workers soon followed.

So the humanitarian effort had become part of a wider counter-insurgency operation. As Bush announced: “As we strike military targets, we will also drop food.” On the ground, it became increasingly difficult to distinguish aid workers from soldiers. Meanwhile, a recent report noted that half of the $20 billion assistance promised to Afghanistan never arrived and 40% of the money delivered went on corporate profits and consultancy fees.

The conflation between western aid and the western military proved costly. Aid agency priorities were skewed and the commitment to sustainable aid programmes was sacrificed to military timetables. The US Secretary of State even described aid agencies as “an important part of our combat team.” In 2003, 85 aid agencies signed an appeal for NATO to extend its operations throughout the country.

Médecins Sans Frontières did not sign the appeal supporting the western military, but were still targeted by the Taliban. For several years they stopped work in Afghanistan. When they returned, it was the US which bombed their hospital in Kunduz, killing thirty.

In parts of Pakistan, polio vaccination teams were targeted by the Taliban, who claimed the vaccines were drugs to sterilise Muslim families. This was clearly nonsense, but gave the Taliban popular leverage to pressurise for an halt to western drone bombing of their strongholds. Their propaganda got a boost when it emerged that the CIA had recruited a local senior health official to run a fake vaccine campaign as a cover to track and kill Osama bin Laden. The damage this did to western humanitarian efforts was incalculable: all vaccinators were seen as spies.

Western policy contributes in other ways to hampering the delivery of much-needed aid. A quarter of a million people died in the 2011 famine in Somalia, but in the two years preceding, US aid there fell by 88%. The listing by the US of al-Shabaab as a terrorist organisation meant that any aid that fell into the wrong hands was a crime under US law - so many agencies self-interestedly scaled down operations. It looked as if aid was being withdrawn because those who desperately needed it were unlucky enough to be governed by the wrong people.

Other agencies filled the gaps, many from the Muslim world. But when the UK agency Islamic Relief was designated a “terrorist organisation” by Israel, the support it got from the British Foreign Office was “less than fulsome”.

So precarious is their work and so dependent are they on governmental goodwill, that many aid agencies are extremely reluctant to even discuss these problems. Muslim agencies especially are fearful of anti-terror laws and the real threat of criminal prosecution - one was even refused legal advice by a private law firm on the grounds that just offering a legal opinion might be unlawful.

Others argue that agencies are too compliant and lose sight of their core purpose. The US introduced “partner vetting”, requiring agencies to gather intelligence on their colleagues - full personal details of all locals involved in implementing projects. If the government finds a terrorist link, all funding for the project is promptly halted, without explanation or appeal. When Mercy Corps refused to collect the data, they were forced to close down a $40 million project in Afghanistan, making 300 Afghan staff redundant overnight.

Worse, NGO leaders face regular harassment by immigration and security officers when travelling through US and UK airports. One described the British Government’s response to a Muslim charity’s work in Syria as “an attempt to scare the bejesus out of us.” Increasingly, the Charity Commission, whose board members include a former head of the Metropolitan Police Anti-Terrorism Branch, is used to crack down on some NGOs. But if humanitarian aid is to have any future, it can’t be simply an adjunct to foreign and security policy.

One of the greatest problems of humanitarian intervention is that of accountability. Aid intervention tends to weaken the contract between ruled and rulers and disempowers people. As Austen Davis, former head of MSF Belgium, put it: “Humanitarian action has been accused of prolonging wars, undermining governments’ accountability to their own people, destroying markets and creating dependency, failing to address the causes of crises and so acting as a substitute for ‘real’ action.”

The desire to do good is motivated by a noble sensibility. But it may be fatally compromised when this ideal is exploited by the agendas of liberal imperialism and neoconservatve goals to wage wars of civilisation. For humanitarian foreign aid to be meaningful, political and organisational independence from state organisations is now a moral imperative.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Mosul - did the US deliberately target civilians?

“Mosul and Kirkuk bombed by US,” reported the Daily Mail on March 24th.
“The United States has been targeting Mosul and Kirkuk in recent days as Washington slowly moves troops into the region to open a new front in its ground war on Iraq, which has been waged mainly from the south via Kuwait.”

So far so unremarkable. Of greater cause for concern was an Iraqi News report two days earlier which said, “A senior security source announced on Tuesday, that dozens of ISIS militants were killed, including Arabs and foreigners, in an aerial bombardment carried out by the international coalition aviation on the University of Mosul.”

Mosul is a key stronghold of ISIS in Iraq, which the Iraqi army and their US allies have been aiming to retake for some months. But a different version of events is emerging. Reports suggest that Mosul University’s targeting by US warplanes inflicted significant civilian casualties. One source, whom I prefer to keep anonymous as she is still based in Iraq, said the University’s engineering college, science college, part of the agriculture college and vocational school had been struck, as well as the faculty members’ residential building.

Unlike the usual night-time bombardments, the air strike on Mosul University appears to have been carried out in broad daylight at a time when the campus was most crowded. Around 50 deaths, including women and children are reported, and more than double that number injured.

The bombing was carried out on the 13th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq and was evidently intended to be a spectacular reminder of US firepower. Two questions must be asked, however. Firstly, did the US deliberately intended to inflict largescale civilian casualties under the guise of its war on ISIS? And secondly, why has there been no western media coverage whatsoever of what may be a significant war crime?

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Pink-Slipping Hillary: On Remembering the Victims of the Iraq War

Ahead of International Women's Day on March 8th, the following is an excerpt from False Choices: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Clinton , edited by Liza Featherstone and forthcoming June 14 of this year.

In March 2003, just before the US invasion of Iraq, about one hundred CODEPINK women dressed in pink slips weaved in and out of congressional offices demanding to meet with representatives. Those representatives who pledged to oppose going to war with Iraq were given hugs and pink badges of courage; those hell-bent on taking the US to war were given pink slips emblazoned with the words “YOU’RE FIRED.”
When we got to Hillary Clinton’s office, we sat down and refused to leave until we had a meeting with the Senator. Within an hour, Clinton appeared. “I like pink tulips around this time of the year; they kind of remind ya that there may be a spring,” she began, looking out at the rows of women in pink. “Well, you guys look like a big bunch of big tulips!”
It got even more awkward after that. Having just returned from Iraq, I relayed that the weapons inspectors in Baghdad told us there was no danger of weapons of mass destruction and that the Iraqi women we met were terrified about the pending war and desperate to stop it. “I admire your willingness to speak out on behalf of the women and children of Iraq,” Clinton replied, “but there is a very easy way to prevent anyone from being put into harm’s way and that is for Saddam Hussein to disarm and I have absolutely no belief that he will.”
We thought the easiest way to prevent harming women, children and other living things in Iraq was to stop a war of aggression, a war over weapons of mass destruction that UN inspectors on the ground couldn’t find — which were, in fact, never found because they didn’t exist. Clinton, however, was steadfast in her commitment to war: She said it was our responsibility to disarm Saddam Hussein and even defended George W. Bush’s unilateralism, citing her husband’s go-it-alone intervention in Kosovo.
Disgusted, CODEPINK cofounder Jodie Evans tore off her pink slip and handed it to Clinton, saying that her support for Bush’s invasion would lead to the death of many innocent people. Making the bogus connection between the September 11, 2001, attacks and Saddam Hussein, Clinton stormed out, saying, “I am the Senator from New York. I will never put my people’s security at risk.”
But that’s just what she did, by supporting the Iraq war, draining our nation of over a trillion dollars that could have been used for supporting women and children here at home, which could have instead been rerouted to the social programs that have been systematically defunded over the last few decades of Clinton’s own political career, and ultimately snuffing out the lives of thousands of US soldiers — for absolutely no just cause.
If Clinton supported the Iraq war because she thought it politically expedient, she came to regret her stance when the war turned sour and Senator Barack Obama surged forward as the candidate opposed to that war.
But Clinton didn’t learn the main lesson from Iraq — to seek non- violent ways to solve conflicts. Indeed, when the Arab Spring came to Libya in 2010, Clinton was the Obama administration’s most forceful advocate for toppling Muammar Gaddafi. She even out-hawked Robert Gates, the defense secretary first appointed by George W. Bush, who was less than enthusiastic about going to war. Gates was reluctant to get bogged down in another Arab country, insisting that vital US interests were not at stake, but Clinton nevertheless favored intervention. 
When Libyan rebels carried out an extrajudicial execution of their country’s former dictator, Clinton’s response was sociopathic: “We came, we saw, he died,” she laughed. at sent a message that the US would look the other way at crimes committed by allies against its official enemies.
In a weird bit of rough justice, the political grief Clinton has suffered over the September 11, 2012, attack on a US diplomatic outpost in Benghazi that killed four Americans might never have occurred had Clinton not supported the US intervention in Libya’s civil war. While republicans have focused relentlessly on the terrible deaths of the US diplomats, the larger disaster is the ensuing chaos that left Libya without a functioning government, overrun by feuding warlords and extremist militants. In 2015, the suffering of desperate refugees who flee civil unrest — many of whom drown in the Mediterranean Sea — is a direct consequence of that disastrous operation.
Libya was part of a pattern for Clinton. On Afghanistan, she advocated a repeat of the surge in Iraq. When the top US commander in Kabul, General Stanley McChrystal, asked Obama for 40,000 more troops to fight the Taliban in mid-2009, several top officials — including Vice President Joe Biden — objected, insisting that the public had lost patience with a conflict that had already dragged on too long. But Clinton backed McChrystal and wound up favoring even more surge troops than Defense Secretary Gates did. Obama ultimately sent another 30,000 American soldiers to Afghanistan.     
Clinton’s State Department also provided cover for the expansion of the not-so-covert drone wars in Pakistan and Yemen. Clinton’s top legal adviser, Harold Koh, exploited his pregovernment reputation as an advocate for human rights to declare in a 2010 speech that the government had the right not only to detain people without any charges at Guantanamo Bay but also to kill them with unmanned aerial vehicles anywhere in the world.
When it came to Syria, Obama’s top diplomat was a forceful advocate for military intervention in that nation’s civil war. When Obama threatened air strikes in 2013 to punish the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons, Clinton publicly supported him, ignoring polls showing that more than 70 percent of Americans opposed military action. She described the planned US attack on Syria as a limited strike to uphold a crucial global norm,” although one of the clearest global norms under the UN Charter is that a country should not attack another country except in self-defense.
Clinton advocated arming Syrian rebels long before the Obama administration agreed to do so. In 2012, she allied with CIA Director David Petraeus to promote a US-supplied-and-trained proxy army in Syria. As a US Army general, Petraeus spent enormous amounts of money training Iraqi and Afghan soldiers with little success, but that did not deter him and Clinton from seeking a similar project in Syria. Together, they campaigned for more direct and aggressive US support for the rebels, a plan supported by leading republicans like John McCain and Lindsey Graham. But few in the White House agreed, arguing that it would be difficult to appropriately vet fighters and ensure that weapons didn’t fall into the hands of extremists.
Clinton was disappointed when Obama rejected the proposal, but a similar plan for the US to “vet and train moderate rebels” at a starting cost of $500 million was later approved. Some of the trained rebels were quickly routed and captured; others, more concerned with toppling Assad than fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIL), defected to the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra. In September 2015, Commander of US Central Command General Lloyd Austin told an incredulous Senate Armed Services Committee that the $500 million effort to train Syrian forces has resulted in a mere four or five fighters actively battling ISIL. Undeterred, Clinton said that as commander-in-chief, she would dramatically escalate the program.
In October 2015, Clinton broke with the Obama White House on Syria by calling for the creation of a no-fly zone “to try to stop the carnage on the ground and from the air, to try to provide some way to take stock of what’s happening, to try to stem the ow of refugees,” she said in a TV interview on the campaign trail.
While the Obama White House approved limited air strikes against ISIL, it has resisted creating a no-fly zone on the grounds that effective enforcement to prevent Assad’s planes from flying would require large amounts of US resources and could pull the military further into an unpredictable conflict.
Clinton’s position is at odds not only with President Obama but also with the position of Bernie Sanders, who, at this writing, is her main rival for the Democratic presidential nomination. Sanders has warned that a unilateral US no-fly zone in Syria could “get us more deeply involved in that horrible civil war and lead to a never-ending US entanglement in that region,” potentially making a complex and dangerous situation in Syria even worse.
Clinton did come out in support of President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, but even that position comes with a heavy load of bellicose baggage. Back in April 2008 she warned that the US could “totally obliterate” Iran in retaliation for a nuclear attack on Israel — prompting Obama to warn against “language that’s reflective of George Bush.” In 2009, as Secretary of State, she was adamant that the US keep open the option of attacking Iran over never-proven allegations it was seeking the nuclear weapons that Israel already has. She opposed talk of a “containment” policy that would be an alternative to military action should negotiations with Tehran fail.
Even after the agreement was sealed, she struck a bullying tone: “I don’t believe Iran is our partner in this agreement,” Clinton insisted. “Iran is the subject of the agreement,” adding that she would not hesitate to take military action if Iran attempts to obtain a nuclear weapon. “We should expect that Iran will want to test the next president. They will want to see how far they can bend the rules,” she said in a September 2015 speech at the Brookings Institution. “That won’t work if I’m in the White House.”
To bolster her tough stance, Clinton suggested deploying additional US forces to the Persian Gulf region and recommended that Congress close any gaps in the existing sanctions to punish Iran for any current or future instances of human rights abuses and support for terror.
It’s true that the Iran nuclear agreement allowed for additional possible sanctions unrelated to Iran’s nuclear program, but it also required parties to avoid action “inconsistent with the letter, spirit and intent” of the deal. Clinton’s call for new sanctions violates the deal’s intent.
On Israel, Clinton has positioned herself as more “pro-Israel” than President Obama. She vows to bring the two nations closer together, promising to invite the right-wing Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit the White House within her first month in office. She has distanced herself from Obama’s feud with Netanyahu over the prime minister’s efforts to derail the Iran nuclear deal and his comments opposing the creation of a Palestinian state. referring to Obama’s policy toward Netanyahu, Clinton said that such “tough love” is counterproductive because it invites other countries to delegitimize Israel. Clinton promised the people of Israel that if she were president, “you’ll never have to question whether we’re with you. The United States will always be with you.”
Clinton has also voiced her opposition to the Palestinian-led nonviolent campaign against the Israeli government called BDS — boycott, divestment and sanctions. In a letter to Jewish mega donor Haim Saban, she said BDS seeks to punish Israel and asked Saban’s advice on “how leaders and communities across America can work together to counter BDS.”
As secretary of state, Clinton missed opportunity after opportunity to shine as the nation’s top diplomat. In July 2010 she visited the Korean Demilitarized Zone with Defense Secretary Robert Gates to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the start of the Korean War. Standing at the site of the most militarized border in the world at a time of great tension between North and South Korea, she could have publicly recognized that the 1953 Armistice Agreement that ended the fighting on the Korean peninsula was supposed to be followed up a few months later by a peace treaty that would move toward reconciliation but that never happened. Clinton could have used this occasion to call for a peace treaty and a process of reconciliation between the two Koreas. Instead she claimed that the US military presence in Korea for decades had led to the current successful result, a statement hard to reconcile with sixty years of continuous hostilities.
As Secretary of State, Clinton failed miserably in her attempt to “reset” the US relationship with Russia, and after leaving office, she has criticized the Obama administration for not doing more to contain Russia’s presence in Ukraine since the 2014 annexation of Crimea. She put herself “in the category of people who wanted to do more in reaction to the annexation of Crimea,” insisting that the Russian government’s objective is “to stymie, to confront, to undermine American power whenever and wherever they can.”
It was only after Clinton resigned as secretary of state and was replaced by John Kerry that the agency moved away from being merely an appendage of the Pentagon to one that truly sought creative, diplomatic solutions to seemingly intractable conflicts. President Obama’s two signature foreign policy achievements — the Iran deal and the groundbreaking opening with Cuba — came after Clinton left. These historic wins serve to highlight Clinton’s miserable track record in the position.
When Clinton announced her second campaign for the presidency, she declared she was entering the race to be the champion for “everyday Americans.” As a lawmaker and diplomat, however, Clinton has long championed military campaigns that have killed scores of “everyday” people abroad. As commander-in-chief, there’s no reason to believe she’d be any less a warhawk than she was as the senator who backed George W. Bush’s war in Iraq, or the Secretary of State who encouraged Barack Obama to escalate the war in Afghanistan.
Clinton may well have been the administration’s most vociferous advocate for military action. On at least three crucial issues — Afghanistan, Libya, and the bin Laden raid — she took a more aggressive line than Defense Secretary Gates, a Bush-appointed Republican.
Little wonder that Clinton has won the support of many pundits who continually agitate for war. “I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy,” Robert Kagan, a co-founder of the neoconservative Project for the New American Century, told the New York Times. “If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue,” he said, “it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.”
Let’s call it what it is: more of the interventionist policies that destroyed Iraq, destabilized Libya, showered Yemen with cluster bombs and drones, and legitimized repressive regimes from Israel to Honduras.
A Hillary Clinton presidency would symbolically break the glass ceiling for women in the United States, but it would be unlikely to break through the military-industrial complex that has been keeping our nation in a perpetual state of war — killing people around the world, plenty of them women and children.  

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Iraq - the killing continues

Mike Phipps finds no grounds for optimism in recent developments.

2016 began badly for human rights in Iraq. Here are some headlines from the first few weeks of the year, focusing on the crimes of ISIS.

ISIS executes 80 people by firing squad in central Nineveh - Iraqi News (January 9th).
ISIS executes 12 people for refusing to fight security forces in Mosul - Iraqi News (January 9th).
Islamic State holding estimated 3,500 slaves in Iraq, says UN - The Guardian (January 19th).
ISIS executes 9 who fled from the combat in Mosul - Iraqi News (January 20th).
Mass grave in Iraq's Ramadi holds at least 40 Islamic State victims: - Reuters (January 28th).

Buzzfeed reported on January 9th: “The United Nations released a report revealing the “staggering” levels of violence against civilians that occurred in the Iraq conflict between Jan. 1, 2014, and Oct. 31, 2015. The U.N.’s Assistance Mission to the country spoke to victims, survivors, and witnesses of violations of international human rights or humanitarian law, and concluded that the militant group ISIS continued to commit “systemic and widespread violence” that “may, in some instances, amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide.”

Among the figures quoted in the article, the following stand out:
A total of 18,802 civilians were killed in the conflict between January 1st, 2014, and October 31st, 2015.
Between January 1st, 2014, and October 31st, 2015, 36,235 civilians were wounded.
A total of 3,206,736 people were internally displaced between January 1st, 2014, and September 29th, 2015.
An estimated 439 civilians were killed in air strikes, and hundreds more were wounded.

The last statistic underlines that not all the carnage can be laid at the door of ISIS. US air strikes continue to inflict civilian casualties, as does the shelling of the Iraqi Army. But the activities of irregulars in areas freed from ISIS control is also a major concern. Al Jazeera reported on December 4th: “Sunni Muslims are facing forced evictions, abductions, and other serious human rights abuses in areas of Iraq freed from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) control, the United Nations said. Analysts have warned that Sunni Arabs are being discriminated against in Iraq by either the Shia-led government in Baghdad or Kurdish forces in the north, helping to radicalise communities and setting back efforts to defeat ISIL.”

A few days later, Reuters reported: “Two unpublished investigations show that the United States has consistently overlooked killings and torture by Iraqi government-sponsored Shi'ite militias.” The report documented how a Shia militia organisation under the control of the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior ran secret prisons and carried out systematic kidnapping and assassinations. This was covered up by both the US and Iraqi Administrations. It concluded: “Washington’s policy of expediency has achieved some of its short-term aims. But in allowing the Shi’ite militias to run amok against their Sunni foes, Washington has fueled the Shia-Sunni sectarian divide that is tearing Iraq apart.” http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/mideast-crisis-iraq-militias/

On January 28th, Niqash reported that Diyala province was undergoing “ethnic and sectarian ‘cleansing’” at the hands of Shia militias and Kurdish troops, with Sunnis not being allowed to return to their homes following the expulsion of ISIS.

Al Jazeera also reported the mass destruction of Arab homes in northern Iraq by Kurdish forces. In what may amount to war crimes, “Kurdish forces bulldozed, blew up and burned down thousands of homes in Arab villages to avenge perceived support for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group after capturing the areas,” according to a report produced by Amnesty International.

A few days earlier a report by Human Rights Watch also highlighted the targeting of civilians by militias: “Kurdish and Shia Turkmen armed groups have repeatedly harmed and endangered civilians in clashes in Iraq’s Tuz Khurmatu district, in Salah al-Din province, since October 2015. The armed groups have killed, wounded, and abducted civilians and destroyed scores, if not hundreds, of homes and shops.”

And on January 31st, Reuters reported, “The abduction and killing of scores of Sunni civilians in eastern Iraq this month and attacks on their property by Iranian-backed Shi'ite militiamen could constitute a war crime, Human Rights Watch said.”

Meanwhile Germany is sending more troops to Iraq, the US admit they actually concealed the real numbers of its troops stationed in the country, the Czechs are sending more materiel and Turkey is still fighting Kurdish rebels on Iraqi soil. And as War on Want’s recent report “Mercenaries Unleashed” highlighted, large numbers of unregulated private military security contractors continue to operate in the country.

Britain too plans to continue its bombing campaign this year. Whether the start of 2017 will look any better for ordinary Iraqis is anyone’s guess.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter No 295

Iraq Occupation Focus
Newsletter No. 295
February 4th, 2016

Diyala Province Undergoing Violent Ethnic and Sectarian Cleansing

Niqash reports (January 28th): Locals in Diyala province say the area is undergoing ethnic and sectarian “cleansing”. Sunnis are not being allowed back into the multi-ethnic province, post the Islamic State.

U.S. military changes how it discloses civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria

Washington Post reports (January 26th): As the U.S. military prepares to expand its operations against the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria, it has altered how and when it discloses sensitive information about when it kills civilians with airstrikes.
In recent days, U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East from its headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., announced the results of investigations into 10 airstrikes “alleged to have resulted in civilian casualties and determined to be credible.” The first five were announced Jan. 15, and the second five were disclosed a week later.

Czechs to send guns, ammunition to Iraq and Jordan to fight Islamic State

Reuters report (January 25th): The Czech government voted to send guns and ammunition to Iraq and Jordan to support the fight against Islamic State, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said.

U.S. to Put 'Boots on the Ground' in Iraq to Combat ISIL

Alternet reports (January 22nd): Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced the U.S. will deploy "boots on the ground" in Iraq to help local forces fight the so-called Islamic State. The policy shift is a turnaround from the Obama's White House's previous stance of not deploying combat troops in Iraq and one sure to shape the foreign policy debate in the 2016 election.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter No 294

  Ethnic Fighting endangers Civilians; now it’s Kurds and Shiites

  HRW reports (January 17th): Kurdish and Shia Turkmen armed groups have repeatedly harmed and   endangered civilians in clashes in Iraq’s Tuz Khurmatu district, in Salah al-Din province, since October  22015. The armed groups have killed, wounded, and abducted civilians and destroyed scores, if not   hundreds, of homes and shops.

  Offensive against Islamic State in Mosul unlikely in 2016: Iraqi Kurdish   deputy PM

  Reuters report (January 16th): A much anticipated campaign to recapture Iraq's northern city of   Mosul from Islamic State is unlikely to happen this year, the Kurdistan region's deputy prime minister    said, dampening hopes the militants could be driven from the country in 2016. 
 Iraqi force enters southern oil city to disarm tribal fighters
Reuters report (January 15th): Iraq has sent an armored army division and a police strike force into        southern oil city of Basra to disarm residents amid intensified feuding among rival Shi'ite Muslim       t tribes,  local officials and security sources said.

  Pentagon Admits to 8 More Civilians Killed in Iraq

Antiwar.com reports (January 15th): In a significant shift from Centcom’s long-standing policy of blanket refusals to admit to civilian deaths in airstrikes against ISIS targets, the Pentagon today issued a statement admitting to eight civilians killed in the second quarter of 2015 in 3 separate incidents.   

   Ambassador denies U.S. conducting helicopter raids in northern Iraq

Reuters report (January 10th): The U.S. ambassador to Iraq has denied reports that the United States has been carrying out helicopter raids against Islamic State militants in northern Iraq.

Continue to read Newsletter

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Iraq occupation Focus Newsletter No 293

 Iraq Occupation Focus
www.justiceforiraq.blogspot.co.uk Newsletter No. 293 January 13th, 2016

Over 52,000 Killed in Iraq during 2015

Antiwar.com reports (January 1st): Antiwar.com has found that at least 52,045 people were killed across Iraq during 2015, while at least 19,651 were wounded. The number of fatalities reported was slightly higher than in 2014, but the number of wounded was substantially lower. These figures should be taken as very rough estimates and probably low estimates at that.

Terrified families emerge from rubble after battle of Ramadi

Reuters report (January 1st): Terrified families waved white flags as they emerged from homes reduced to rubble in the Iraqi city of Ramadi, where government troops were still battling Islamic State fighters holed up, five days after the army recaptured the city center.

80% of Ramadi destroyed

Al-Araby reports (December 30th): Islamic State group retreated from Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, after eight days of fierce battles that left nearly 80 percent of the city's infrastructure destroyed.
Neighbourhoods, homes, businesses, bridges, sewers, almost everything has been either destroyed by booby-traps and explosive devices that IS had set up everywhere around the city, or by Iraqi and US-led coalition forces airstrikes and artillery bombardment, as they sought to minimise casualties in their ranks.

Iraqi PM says Turkey not respecting agreement to withdraw troops

Reuters report (December 30th): Iraq's prime minister accused Turkey of failing to respect an agreement to withdraw its troops from the country's north and its foreign minister said if forced, Iraq could resort to military action to defend its sovereignty.

Exclusive: Iraqi army needs Kurds' help to retake Mosul – Zebari

Reuters report (December 29th): The Iraqi army will need the Kurds' help to retake Mosul, the largest city under the control of Islamic State with the planned offensive expected to be very challenging in a region home to rival religious and ethnic groups, an Iraqi minister said.

Ethnic cleansing by Sunni and Shia jihadis is leading to a partition of the Middle East

The independent reports (December 27th): Sectarian and ethnic cleansing by all sides in Syria and Iraq is becoming more intense, ensuring that there are few mixed areas left in the two countries and, even if the war ends, many refugees will find it too dangerous to return to their homes.
Communities which once lived together in peace are today so frightened of each other after years of savage warfare that the more powerful sect or ethnic group is forcing out the weaker one. This pattern is repeating itself everywhere from the Sunni towns captured by Shia militiamen in provinces around Baghdad to Christian enclaves in central Syria under threat from Isis, and in Turkmen villages just south of the Syrian-Turkish border being bombed by Russian aircraft.

Of interest to readers

Al Jazeera English TV have recently aired an episode on the situation in Iraq, featuring Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the former Iraqi National Security Advisor, freely available online here http://aje.me/1uAyTM4

The publicising of this programme by Justice for Iraq does not imply support for its editorial content.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter No 292

Newsletter No. 292 January 4th, 2016
Nine Iraqi soldiers killed by 'friendly fire' in US-led coalition airstrike The Guardian reports (December 19th): Nine Iraqi soldiers have been killed by “friendly fire” from US-led coalition aircraft during an assault on an Islamic State stronghold
Extremists' New, Evil Ways With Explosives, As They Withdraw Niqash reports (December 17th): In northern Iraq, it seems that the extremist Islamic State group's new mission is to come up with as many ways to hide as many bombs as possible, in everything from cars to fridges to books
Italy deploys troops to Isis frontline to protect company repairing Mosul dam IBT reports (December 16th): Italy is to deploy troops to Iraq to defend a strategic dam from the Islamic State (Isis) group, the government has announced. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said the 450-strong military contingent will secure the Mosul dam on the Tigris River, providing protection for an Italian firm that has secured a contract to repair it.
Latvia to deploy soldiers to Iraq, Mali in February Xinhua reports (December 16th): Latvian soldiers might be deployed to Iraq and Mali to participate in multinational operations in February 2016, a representative of the defense ministry told members of the parliament's defense, interior and anti-corruption committee.
France uses cruise missiles against Islamic State for first time Reuters report (December 15th): France has used cruise missiles for the first time against the Islamic State during strikes in Iraq, the Defense Ministry said.
The fate of Mosul in Turkey's hands? Al Jazeera reports (December 15th): On December 4, less than two weeks into the standoff with Moscow over the downing of a Russian jet operating in Syria, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, sent a convoy of several hundred Turkish soldiers, bolstered by tanks and armoured vehicles, deep into Iraq's territory, stirring another conflict in his country's troubled southern backyard.The incursion embittered relations between Ankara and Baghdad and increased tensions among Iraq's embattled communities. The dispute has also threatened to draw in the rest of Iraq's neighbours, who have high stakes in the war-torn nation.On Monday, some Turkish troops started leaving their camp in Iraq and moving north, a Turkish military source and a senior official said.
Iraq appeals to UN and demands Turkey withdraw troops from its northAP reports (December 12th): Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, has called for the immediate withdrawal of Turkish troops from northern Iraq in a national address, insisting no foreign forces are needed to fight the Islamic State group in his country
Jalawla: Iraqi city remains a ghost town after being recaptured from IsisThe Independent reports (December 12th): When the town of Jalawla was recaptured from Islamic State (Isis) many displaced families may have have harboured thoughts of returning. However, children did not return to their schools and the graffiti-covered, bomb-damaged bazaar did not reopen to great fanfare.Instead the liberators failed to agree over who would hold the town and the boarded-up shops and mosques remain closed. 

Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter No 291

Iraq Occupation Focus www.justiceforiraq.blogspot.co.uk
Newsletter No. 291 December 9th, 2015
Iraq summons Turkish ambassador to demand withdrawal of troops
Reuters report (December 5th): Iraq’s foreign ministry has summoned the Turkish ambassador to demand that Turkey immediately withdraw hundreds of troops deployed to northern Iraq, near the Islamic State controlled city of Mosul.
Sunnis suffer abuse in areas taken from ISIL Al Jazeera reports (December 4th): Sunni Muslims are facing forced evictions, abductions, and other serious human rights abuses in areas of Iraq freed from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) control, the United Nations said.
Gov't siege of Fallujah starving local population AlAraby report (December 3rd): Locals in the IS-controlled Iraqi city of Fallujah could soon starve to death if government forces continue a siege of the city, leaders in the city have said.
We don't need foreign troops to fight ISIL AlJazeera reports (December 2nd): Iraq has said that any deployment of foreign troops on its soil cannot happen without approval of its government.The Iraqi prime minister's comments came in response to the earlier announcement by Ashton Carter, US defence secretary, that the US will deploy "specialised" troops to Iraq to help fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.
Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Iraq UN Security Council reports (December 2nd): Iraq has been engulfed in a wave of violence with dramatic consequences for children, states the second report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Iraq, covering the period from 1 January 2011 to 30 June 2015. Killing and maiming, acts of extreme violence, the abduction of close to 1,400 boys and girls, recurrent attacks on schools and hospitals, the recruitment and use of children and sexual violence used as a tactic of war by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), are a few examples of the grim reality faced by the children of Iraq.
Iraqis think the U.S. is in cahoots with the Islamic State, and it is hurting the war Washington Post reports (December 1st): On the front lines of the battle against the Islamic State, suspicion of the United States runs deep. Iraqi fighters say they have all seen the videos purportedly showing U.S. helicopters airdropping weapons to the militants, and many claim they have friends and relatives who have witnessed similar instances of collusion.Ordinary people also have seen the videos, heard the stories and reached the same conclusion — one that might seem absurd to Americans but is widely believed among Iraqis — that the United States is supporting the Islamic State for a variety of pernicious reasons that have to do with asserting U.S. control over Iraq, the wider Middle East and, perhaps, its oil.
US Special Operations Forces Expanding in Iraq to Battle ISIS CBC reports (December 1st): Defense Secretary Ash Carter told Congress that the U.S. would establish a special operations "targeting force" in Iraq as part of the intensified military effort to fight ISIS.
Civilian deaths reported in Iraqi army shelling Al Jazeera report s (November 30th): At least five civilians including a child have died following Iraqi army shelling on residential areas in and around the city of Fallujah, medical sources say.