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Iraq Tag

Revolting details have come to light about Islamic State’s secret chemical weapons program. British newspaper The Telegraph reported that ISIS has been testing lethal chemical on humans, as well as setting up labs and moving chemical weapons stockpiles to residential areas of the Iraqi city of Mosul. The report claims that ISIS has been experimenting on captives held at a prison camp in Nineveh, Mosul. The residents near the prison have been reporting breathing difficulties and children were developing severe rashes -- side effects associated with chlorine and mustard gas. The residents of a former Christian neighbourhood in Mosul reported that ISIS moved their chemical labs after US airstrikes on the terrorist group's chemical facility at a local university. ISIS fighters moved in the locality with huge unmarked trucks and had been dumping dead dogs and rabbits in the nearby waste heap. The Telegraph corroborated the local eyewitness accounts with an ISIS informer who verified that animals dumped in the area had previously been tested with chemicals.

At the South Carolina Debate, Donald Trump accused George W. Bush of lying us into the Iraq War by knowningly claiming there were WMD in Iraq when he knew there were none. While Trump has backed away from that statement slightly saying it might have just been a mistake, though not admitting he has backed away, his debate accusations were clear: Trump further has claimed that he was against the Iraq War before it started, though no one has been able to find any record of Trump saying so prior to the War starting.

Following Trump's eye-brow raising assertions that President Bush was not only responsible for 9/11 but purposefully and intentionally lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, he faced a barrage of criticism from the right. Those on the right argued that he was not only wrong but that he sounded a bit too much like the "Bush lied, people died" sputterings of the fringe left (and of left-leaning "journalists" like Ron Fournier). Indeed, Dick Cheney noted on Monday that Trump's comments make him seem like a "liberal Democrat." The Blaze reports:

Fifteen years ago when the Taliban controlled Afghanistan, they destroyed ancient Buddhist statues. Today, ISIS is following their lead in other parts of the region, most recently by destroying a Christian monastery in Iraq. Jonah Bennett reports at The Daily Caller:
ISIS Just Bulldozed The Oldest Christian Monastery In Iraq The Islamic State just bulldozed St. Elijah’s Monastery, the oldest Christian monastery in Iraq, which has survived every other assault for 1,400 years until now. ISIS took out the location with bulldozers, sledgehammers and perhaps even explosives.

Hillary Clinton flat-out lied when she claimed during the Democratic Debate on December 19, 2015, that ISIS was showing videos of Donald Trump's immigration comments as a recruiting tool. Despite the lack of any proof of the video claim, Team Hillary is refusing to apologize, and instead has fallen back on the more general claim that Trump still is ISIS's best recruiting tool:
“He is becoming ISIS’s best recruiter,” she said. “They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.”… When asked if Mrs. Clinton would apologize, Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said, “Hell no. Hillary Clinton will not be apologizing to Donald Trump for correctly pointing out how his hateful rhetoric only helps ISIS recruit more terrorists.”
Really? One can disagree with Trump's comments AND acknowledge that Hillary lied and Team Clinton is distracting from Clinton's own failures as Secretary of State.

In a surprise move today, Germany has announced that it is reversing current policy with regard to refugees entering the country from Austria.  While Germany continues to accept refugees, the border controls are designed to instill some order to the process.  Adam Withnall, writing for The Independent, reports:
Germany has reintroduced border controls with Austria, its interior minister has confirmed, halting all trains and deploying 2,100 riot police to help carry out checks. Speaking at a press conference called at short notice, Thomas de Maizière said the controls were being applied with immediate effect "to bring some order to the entry of refugees". . . . . A spokesperson for an Austrian rail company said German officials had begun halting all trains trying to cross the border into Bavaria from 5pm local time (4pm BST), while the situation involving traffic going the other way remained unclear. Reporting on the unexpected move earlier and citing unnamed officials, German daily Bild said the closing of the border represented "a dramatic shift in refugee policy". Der Spiegel reported that only those with "valid travel documents" would be allowed to enter the country from Austria "until further notice".

Joining Rep. Trey Gowdy and Sen. Tim Scott at a Presidential town hall forum in South Carolina Thursday, Governor Rick Perry took questions ranging from entitlement reform to national security. During a particularly emotional moment, Governor Perry went off script to discuss his deep-rooted feelings about military service. When asked by an audience member if he would close Gitmo, Perry answered, "listen, I'd keep Guantanamo Bay open. The bad guys don't need be over here. This president does not know how to, and I'm just going to editorialize here just a little bit -- this president does not know how to connect the dots. If he did, we would not be negotiating with Iran today. If he did, we would have the Castro brothers on their knees in Cuba, but we threw them a lifeline." Perry continued, "this president does not understand, either he doesn't have the experience of how foreign policy works, or he is so philosophically out of tune with the vast majority of Americans." When the conversation turned to Iraq, Perry's demeanor changed.

As a direct result of Obama's amateurish, quasi-idealistic, and completely ideological failings in Iraq, we will almost certainly end up sending ground troops back in order to undo the damage wrought by the failed Obama doctrine. Obama knows this, of course, and his plan is to run out the clock rather than make the decision that needs to be—and will be—made by the next president.  The National Journal reports:
On using U.S. combat troops? In a detailed interview with The Atlantic, Obama made his view clear. "If they are not willing to fight for the security of their country, we cannot do that for them," he said, but added that he's committed to training Iraqis over a "multi-year" period. How many, exactly, is "multi?" State Department official and ISIS expert Brett McGurk laid that out on NPR: "It's a three-year campaign to degrade the organization." Three years marked from mid-2014, of course, falls after Jan. 20, 2017, the date Obama leaves office. Translation: The strategy is to avoid sending ground troops for the remainder of his term. So stop asking.

A docudrama called Sing a Little Louder is based on a powerful true story from World War II. Set in World War II Germany, the film tells the story of a young German boy who's church was located next to the train tracks. Every Sunday at the same time, trains taking Jews to death camps passed by the church. One day, a train broke down. The cries and screams of the Jews being carted away were so loud, the pastor instructed the choir to sing louder to drown them out. Juliana Taimoorazy, the film's executive producer and President of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, says the church in the West is no different than the small German church. While Christians in the Middle East are being persecuted and slaughtered for their faith, Christians in the West are singing a little louder.

When he withdrew troops from Iraq, Obama himself proclaimed, "we are leaving behind a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq."  That was in 2011.  Flash forward to now, and Iraq is none of those things; indeed, Iraq is now an ISIS strong-hold, part of their declared caliphate. Throughout Obama's presidency, we've heard him blame President Bush for everything from the still-flailing economy to the rise of ISIS.  His supporters within the media have ensured that this message is the one that Americans hear most often, and for (too many) years, (far too many) Americans have believed what they were told. No longer. A CNN poll found that, for the first time, more Americans blame Obama than President Bush for the instability in Iraq:

[N]early the same percent of people blame President Barack Obama's policies for the current situation in Iraq as those who hold President George W. Bush responsible, the survey showed.

Overall, 44% say they blame Obama's policies for the problems in Iraq and 43% blame Bush; 11% say both are equally responsible.

Over the weekend, Islamic State forces took effective control of the Iraqi city of Ramadi. Yesterday Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren attempted to put the loss of ground in perspective, while emphasizing the unique challenges urban warfare presents to a still-young fighting force. From the DoD:
“To read too much into this is a mistake,” Warren said. “This is one fight, one episode, in which Iraqi Security Forces were not able to prevail –- today.” While ISIL was able to gain the upper hand in Ramadi, “what this means for our strategy is simply that we -- the coalition and Iraqi partners -- now have to go back and retake Ramadi,” Warren said. Defense Department officials have always said there would be ebbs and flows in Iraq’s fight against ISIL, he said, adding that “it’s a difficult, complex, bloody fight, and there will be victories and setbacks.” Iraq and coalition forces will retake Ramadi, Warren said, “In the same way we are slowly but surely retaking others parts of Iraq with Iraqi ground forces, combined with coalition air power.”
Ramadi has held several places in the Iraqi war lexicon: flashpoint, stronghold, symbol. This reality was reflected in last month's meltdown over Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey's comments about the longterm symbolic importance of the city as compared to other areas in the current conflict zone:

You may have noticed that our unbiased media is asking Republicans lots of questions about the Iraq War. Hillary Clinton is the only 2016 candidate who voted for the Iraq War as a senator; she was also directly involved with the war in her role at the State Department. Perhaps she deserves a few similar questions---when she finally decides to take one. Last night, Bill O'Reilly opened his show by discussing new initiatives America is taking to deal with ISIS, but as Charles Krauthammer pointed out, there are many questions Hillary Clinton still has to answer on this subject. As a senator, she opposed the surge in Iraq and implied that David Petraeus was lying during his congressional testimony. Does she still agree? Clinton was the secretary of state when we pulled out of Iraq in 2011. Was that a mistake?

Are you looking for a special place to visit on your summer vacation? You're in luck. ISIS has opened a luxury hotel in Iraq. Heather Saul of the Independent:
Isis opens 262-room luxury hotel in Mosul Isis has purportedly opened its own luxury hotel in Iraq's second city Mosul for members of the extremist group to stay in while visiting. Pictures circulated by Isis-affiliated social media accounts show members tending to a well-maintained garden, polishing floors and cleaning windows, expansive swimming pools and two black Isis flags flying at the front of the multi-storey building. The hotel is believed to be the Ninawa International Hotel, which received a number of positive reviews on TripAdvisor before being overtaken by militants and stripped of its branding. It has 262 rooms, two restaurants, two ballrooms and a gymnasium, among other facilities.
Paul Detrick of Reason TV produced this promotional video for the hotel:

A car bomb exploded today outside the U.S. consulate in Erbil. According to the State Department, all officials are accounted for, but as of now no one has claimed responsibility for the attack. Via NBC News:
There were no immediate reports of injuries to consulate personnel or local guards, the State Department official said. The Associated Press, citing one of its reporters at the scene, said that the blast set nearby cars on fire. Talmadge Payne, an American working as a consultant for a non-government organization in Erbil, told NBC News that he was sitting on the roof of his hotel, about a half-mile from the consulate, and felt the blast. "If I could feel the blast from here it must have been pretty significant," he said. "The room shook, and a few things fell off the shelves." He said there was a firefight, then about 10 minutes of calm, then more gunfire.
Photos posted to Twitter show a sizable explosion that caused extensive damage and may have killed up to 3 people:

U.S. troops' boots may not "be on the ground" in the sense of the popular wartime narrative, but Islamic State insurgents are getting awfully close to where those boots are stationed. From the Washington Post:
In Iraq’s western Anbar province, more than 300 U.S. troops are posted at a base in the thick of a pitched battle between Iraqi forces, backed by tribal fighters, and well-armed Islamic State militants. The militants, positioned at a nearby town, have repeatedly hit the base with artillery and rocket fire in recent weeks. Since the middle of December, the U.S.-led military coalition has launched 13 airstrikes around the facility. U.S. troops have suffered no casualties in the attacks. But the violence has underlined the risks to American personnel as they fan out across Iraq as part of the expanding U.S. mission against the Islamic State, even as President Obama has pledged that U.S. operations “will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.” In a sign of the risks, military officials said American soldiers have been transported to the Ayn al-Asad base under the cover of night by helicopter — partly to maintain a low profile for the renewed U.S. operation in Iraq but also to protect U.S. personnel amid fierce fighting west of the capital, Baghdad.
No wonder troops feel like they're getting mixed messages on what their mission in Iraq actually is.