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Iraq Tag

Various news outlets are reporting the crash of a helicopter being used in the humanitarian relief effort for the Yazidi refugees in Iraq. Jim Sciutto who has been covering the crisis in Iraq for weeks reports that Vian Dakhil, the only member of the Iraqi Parliament representing the Yazidi minority group was on the helicopter. Additional reports now say the helicopter pilot was the only death, but many of the passengers are injured including Dakhil and her son who was on board as well.

Jonathan Krohn has become to the first western journalist to reach the mountains in Northern Iraq where tens of thousands of Yazidis, a Middle Eastern religious sect, took flight to escape the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) forces that moved into the Kurdish parts of Iraq last week. Krohn describes the scene of human suffering in stark terms in his first dispatch for The Telegraph.
I was on board an Iraqi Army helicopter, and watched as hundreds of refugees ran towards it to receive one of the few deliveries of aid to make it to the mountain. The helicopter dropped water and food from its open gun bays to them as they waited below. General Ahmed Ithwany, who led the mission, told me: “It is death valley. Up to 70 per cent of them are dead.” Two American aid flights have also made it to the mountain, where they have dropped off more than 36,000 meals and 7,000 gallons of drinking water to help the refugees, and last night two RAF C-130 transport planes were also on the way. However, Iraqi officials said that much of the US aid had been “useless” because it was dropped from 15,000 ft without parachutes and exploded on impact.
Perhaps in response to Krohn's report, late Sunday the U.S. Department of Defense released these two videos showing Iraqi refugees on the ground retrieving the humanitarian aid after being dropped by U.S. forces.

Protesting the Iraq War under President Bush was a cottage industry for Democrats, even though they voted for it. But now that Obama's hand has been forced, Democrats are doing their best to lend cautious support. Kristina Wong of The Hill describes the liberal predicament:
Left frets over Iraq mission creep The president's expansion of the U.S. military mission in Iraq is conjuring up two dirty little words for anti-war Democrats: Mission creep. Just two months ago, when Obama announced he was going to send up to 300 American troops to Iraq, he emphasized that they would only have an advisory, non-combat role. On Friday, however, U.S. fighters bombed terrorist targets in northern Iraq. Hours before, the president had announced he was authorizing such strikes as well as the airdropping of aid to Iraqi refugees stranded on a mountaintop. The White House has stressed that the two missions — the airstrikes and the airdrops — are narrow and discrete. But neither has an end-date, prompting concern from some Democrats and liberal anti-war groups. “I oppose open-ended military commitments, which the president’s actions in Iraq could become,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I am deeply concerned that these actions could lead to prolonged direct military involvement, which I would strongly oppose,” he added. Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), another senior Democrat on the committee, said he supported the president’s actions, but “as one of only 23 senators who opposed the war in Iraq, I do not believe this should be an extended campaign involving US ground troops.”
Even Elizabeth Warren has been forced to make a statement on the subject. Naturally, she supports Obama's decision.

President Obama gave a press conference this morning on Iraq before heading out for vacation: A particularly controversial portion was the assertion (starting at 7:50 of video) that it wasn't his decision to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq. The President is being pilloried by conservative experts and pundits after his remarks this morning. The progressives at VOX aren't buying it either.

While over 700 journalists were covering the Gaza conflict, few paid attention to the mass slaughter in Iraq of the Yazidi, who are on the verge of a true genocide at the hands of ISIS. Finally the impending massacre is getting coverage, but it may be too late. The Washington Post reported two days ago:
Stranded on a barren mountaintop, thousands of minority Iraqis are faced with a bleak choice: descend and risk slaughter at the hands of the encircled Sunni extremists or sit tight and risk dying of thirst. Humanitarian agencies said Tuesday that between 10,000 and 40,000 civilians remain trapped on Mount Sinjar since being driven out of surrounding villages and the town of Sinjar two days earlier. But the mountain that had looked like a refuge is becoming a graveyard for their children. Unable to dig deep into the rocky mountainside, displaced families said they have buried young and elderly victims of the harsh conditions in shallow graves, their bodies covered with stones. Iraqi government planes attempted to airdrop bottled water to the mountain on Monday night but reached few of those marooned.... Most of those who fled Sinjar are from the minority Yazidi sect, which melds parts of ancient Zoroastrianism with Christianity and Islam. They are considered by the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State to be devil worshippers and apostates.
WaPo updates today:

Every morning for most of 2014, it seems we wake up in dreaded anticipation of what horrible news has happened overnight and around the world. There are so many things going on -- Israel/Hamas, Ukraine/Russia, passenger jets falling from the sky (or vanishing), the U.S. border crisis -- that it is sometimes hard to fathom. Let's not forget the battle for Iraq is still in the mix. We covered the eradication of the Christian population in the territory held by the Islamic State on Monday. But the news of Iraq's overall situation seems to have faded from the American news media's short attention span the past couple of weeks. Quick update: things aren't getting better. There is a bit of good news on the political reconciliation front in Baghdad. The Iraqi Parliament elected a new President for the nation yesterday.
Iraqi MPs have elected Kurdish politician Fouad Massoum as president, succeeding Jalal Talabani. Mr Massoum, 76, is a founding member of Mr Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party. Since 2003 Iraq's president has always been a Kurd, while the prime minister is a Shia and the parliamentary speaker drawn from the Sunni Arab bloc. Iraq is facing a radical Sunni insurgency and is struggling to agree on a new coalition government. The presidency is the second major government post to be filled, after Salim al-Jabouri was elected as parliament speaker last week.

The breaking news via Twitter on Wednesday night was quite alarming. The United Nations seems to be playing down the significance of the threat, but the Iraqi government's warning was specific that this material could be used in creating weapons of mass destruction.
Iraq has notified the United Nations that Sunni militants seized nuclear material from a university in the northern city of Mosul last month as they advanced toward Baghdad, the nuclear regulatory body of the United Nations said on Thursday. Gill Tudor, a spokeswoman for the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is based in Vienna, said in a statement that the organization’s experts believed the material — thought to be uranium — was “low-grade and would not present a significant safety, security or nuclear proliferation risk.” Word of the seizure first emerged in a letter to the United Nations dated July 8 and seen by reporters from Reuters, which quoted it as saying that “terrorists” from the insurgent Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, known as ISIS, had taken control of the materials. The letter said that almost 90 pounds of uranium compounds had been kept at the university and that the materials “can be used in manufacturing weapons of mass destruction,” Reuters said.
The first question that comes to many Americans' minds is: How can there be uranium material left in Iraq? After all, the Bush Administration was skewered by the media (and continues to be) when they presented the "yellowcake" evidence at the United Nations prior to the 2003 Iraq War. And, as that TIME article pointed out, even the Bush Administration admitted in 2003 that they messed up on the yellowcake evidence.

The self-proclaimed leader of the united Islamic State, or Caliphate, appeared for the first time in public on Saturday since his military organization took large parts of territory in northern Iraq. Before being named "caliph" Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (known as ISIS).
In a sign of [ISIS] confidence, the hitherto secretive Baghdadi made an unprecedented public appearance in the militant-held north Iraq city of Mosul, ordering Muslims to obey him, according to a video distributed online on Saturday.
Baghdadi addressed followers in a mosque in Mosul and delivered a Ramadan prayer and call to arms. According to @Francois_Gatete -- here are several excerpts of the video translated into English.

Secretary of State John Kerry was in Egypt on Sunday at the start of his trip to the Middle East and Europe this week, during which the situation in Iraq is expected to be a major discussion point. Kerry met in Cairo with newly elected Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, followed by a joint news conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri. When asked during that news conference if U.S. policy was the cause of recent violence in Iraq and Libya, Kerry said, "The United States of America was not responsible for what happened in Libya, and nor is it responsible for what is happening in Iraq today," reported Newsweek. More on Kerry's comments from NPR:

Militants led by ISIS have reportedly seized a border post at one of the border points between Iraq and Syria, as the situation in Iraq continues to remain unstable. From Reuters, Iraq militants take Syria-border post in drive for caliphate:
Sunni fighters seized a border post on the Iraq-Syria frontier, security sources said on Saturday, smashing a line drawn by colonial powers almost a century ago with the aim of creating an Islamic Caliphate stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to Iran. The militants, led by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), first moved into the nearby town of al-Qaim on Friday, pushing out security forces, the sources said. Once border guards heard that al-Qaim had fallen, they left their posts and militants moved in, the sources said. Sameer al-Shwiali, media adviser to the commander of Iraq's anti-terrorist squad, told Reuters that the Iraqi army was still in control of al-Qaim.
A senior Iraqi official also said the towns of Rawa, Ana and Huseiba were under the control of militants, according to CNN. The border crossing of Al-Qaim is significant because of its location, as it would allow militants easier access between Syria and Iraq. arwa-damon-cnn-tweet-iraq

In a press conference today, President Obama announced that the U.S. was relocating some personnel out of Iraq, and sending reinforcements for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Obama also stated that there would be increased monitoring and surveillance of ISIL insurgents, and increased military support for Iraq, including joint operations centers in Baghdad. Additional equipment also would be sent, in addition to a "small number of American military advisors, up to 300." But, he emphasized, "American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq" The U.S. is prepared, though, to take "precise" military action if circumstances warranted, but not to support "one sect" against another. As to failure to leave residual forces, Obama said "that was a decision made by the Iraqi government."

President Obama notified Congress on Monday that starting Sunday, June 15th, approximately 275 U.S. Armed Forces personnel were deploying to Iraq to provide security for the U.S. Embassy and its staff in Baghdad. (Read the full text of the letter). From USA Today:
President Obama notified Congress on Monday that about 275 U.S. military personnel are deploying to Iraq to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Obama also said the troops are equipped for combat and will remain in Iraq until the security situation becomes such that they are no longer needed. These forces are entering Iraq with the consent of the government there, White House press secretary Jay Carney said. He said the report to Congress is consistent with the War Powers Resolution. The Pentagon said 170 of the troops arrived over the weekend in Baghdad and another 100 were moved into the region to help with embassy security as some of the staff was being relocated in the area. The embassy remains open and operating.
While the US embassy remains operating, the State Department announced on Sunday that additional security personnel would be added to the staff in Baghdad, though some of its other staff would be temporarily relocated. The United Nations also announced Monday that it has relocated nearly 60 of its staff from Baghdad to Amman, Jordan, according to Thomson Reuters.  A spokesman for the UN indicated that additional relocations could be possible in the next few days. The news comes after insurgents have advanced in Iraq in recent days, and on Monday reportedly seized the northern city of Tal Afar, according to the NY Times.

This inconvenient flashback is brought to you by the Washington Free Beacon:
Vice President Joe Biden predicted in 2010 that Iraq would be “one of the greatest achievements” of the Obama administration. Appearing on CNN’s Larry King Live, Biden told King “It [Iraq] could be one of the greatest achievements of this administration.” He continued, “You’re going to see 90,000 American troops come marching home by the end of the summer. You’re going to see a stable government in Iraq that is actually moving toward a representative government.”
Here's the video: Paul Waldman of the Washington Post has a rather unique take on what's happening in Iraq:

To refresh your memory in light of recent events in Iraq, this is how it went down in there in 2011:
The U.S. had tried to extend the presence of our troops past Dec. 31 [2011]. Why did we fail? The popular explanation is that the Iraqis refused to provide legal immunity for U.S. troops if they are accused of breaking Iraq's laws... But Mr. Maliki and other Iraqi political figures expressed exactly the same reservations about immunity in 2008...Indeed those concerns were more acute at the time...So why was it possible for the Bush administration to reach a deal with the Iraqis but not for the Obama administration? Quite simply it was a matter of will: President Bush really wanted to get a deal done, whereas Mr. Obama did not. Mr. Bush spoke weekly with Mr. Maliki by video teleconference. Mr. Obama had not spoken with Mr. Maliki for months before calling him in late October to announce the end of negotiations. Mr. Obama and his senior aides did not even bother to meet with Iraqi officials at the United Nations General Assembly in September. The administration didn't even open talks on renewing the Status of Forces Agreement until...a few months before U.S. troops would have to start shuttering their remaining bases to pull out by Dec. 31. The previous agreement, in 2008, took a year to negotiate.
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