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Monday, July 04, 2016

The retaking of Fallujah by the Iraqi military




After ISIS defeat, Fallujah victory takes on sectarian tones


FALLUJAH, Iraq — A highway overpass in Fallujah is plastered with Shiite banners, graffiti and posters of militia leaders, a virtual shrine to victory over the Islamic State group in this majority Sunni Muslim city.

The fight to wrest Fallujah from ISIS control appears to have inflicted considerably less damage to the city's infrastructure than past battles. But scenes like this have the potential to undermine the military’s success and hamper the broader fight against ISIS by reigniting the sectarian tensions that helped fuel the militant group's rise in Iraq.

After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Fallujah, once a town made wealthy by trade and industry, became the epicenter of an insurgency against U.S. forces and the militant opposition to the Shiite-dominated central government. When it fell under IS control, Iraqi officials repeatedly pointed to Fallujah as a source of the car bombs and other explosives used to attack Baghdad and other areas from the front-line fight.

On Sunday, a week after Fallujah was declared “fully liberated" from the Islamic State, a massive suicide truck bombing claimed by ISIS struck a bustling commercial street in downtown Baghdad, killing at least 142  people, the single deadliest bombing in Baghdad in years.

The operation to retake Fallujah, which had been held by ISIS since 2014, was announced in late May. In a bid to reduce sectarian conflict and prevent abuses, Iraq's military said the government-sanctioned Shiite militias participating in the fight would not enter the center of Fallujah. But days later, Shiite militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, or Hashed, were seen walking openly in the streets.

The special forces commander overseeing the Fallujah operation, Lt. Gen. Abdul Wahab al-Saadi, declined to comment on these sightings. But he said the symbolic value of the city for both Iraqis and IS militants made the liberation of Fallujah an especially sensitive operation.

The highway overpass, in particular, has become emblematic of Fallujah's turbulent recent history. A year ago, it was the scene of the brutal killing of an Iraqi soldier by ISIS. Images released by the militants show Mustafa a-Athari, a Shiite from Sadr City, being paraded through town before he was hanged from the overpass as crowds of residents cheered.

Al-Athari was quickly upheld as a martyr, and Iraqi militia leaders pledged to avenge his death, calling on the government to allow them to launch an operation to retake Fallujah. The powerful Iraqi Shiite militia, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, pledged to “crush the skulls" of those responsible.

The event echoed an incident more than 10 years earlier, when an angry mob hanged four American security contractors from a bridge just half a mile (about one kilometer) from the site of al-Athari's murder. The 2004 public killing of the Americans became an iconic image that changed the U.S. public's perception of the Iraq war and preceded a brutal U.S. military response. Thousands of Iraqis and 153 American troops were killed and large parts of Fallujah were virtually leveled.

"This is the city in which some of the worst crimes against humanity have occurred," said al-Saadi, the special forces commander. “It began with the killing of the Americans and continued with the murder of al-Athari."


Small groups of Shiite militiamen fought under the banner of the federal police, but once the operation was declared complete, the militia fighters began raising their own flags. Some Iraqi commanders — speaking anonymously, because they are not authorized to discuss the operation — said the militiamen set fire to houses in the city. The special forces commander said that ISIS militants set homes alight before their retreat.

The alleged misconduct in Fallujah was small in scale compared to the destruction carried out by Shiite militia participating in the battle for the Sunni-majority city of Tikrmt, north of Baghdad.

A spokesman for Asaib Ahl al-Haq, the powerful militia, denied that Shiite militiamen had entered the center of Fallujah and rejected claims that they could destabilize the city.

"We are here for the sake of stability" said Jawad al-Talabawi, who repeated that Shiite groups remained on the city's outskirts. “We gave the blood of our martyrs for the liberation of Fallujah, but do not have any further ambitions."

Yet at the highway overpass — located to the west of the center — fighters were snapping selfies and shouting Shiite slogans. From a nearby pick-up truck blasting music and bearing a Hashed flag, cold water and yoghurt drinks were distributed to a group of soldiers.

"The country of Imam Ali forever! The country of Imam Ali forever!" they shouted, a popular chant in support of the revered Shiite holy man.

One Fallujah resident, Sheikh Hadi Muhammad Abdullah, who had returned home for the first time in two years, said he was shocked to see militiamen and Shiite graffiti in the city center, describing them as a personal insult.

“It's not a good sign," he said, arguing that the Shiite presence demonstrates that the government isn't serious about reconciliation with Iraq's Sunnis.

The government in Baghdad "believes that Fallujah is the center of terrorism in Iraq," Abdullah said. "But for us it's the center of resistance. The resistance started as pure, but others like Daesh corrupted it,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

Although the military campaign in Fallujah is largely over, the special forces commander al-Saadi conceded that what comes next in the city could be equally important in containing IS.

"No kind of military solution alone will ever succeed in ending terrorism in Iraq," al-Saadi said. “You have to fight their mentality, the entire system."

Maj. Ali Hanoon, one of al-Saadi's deputies, fought in Fallujah alongside American troops in the mid-2000s. He remembers the day the contractors were hanged, and the brutal crackdown that followed.

He said that a decade ago, U.S. forces discovered that that the greater the hardship inflicted on the community, the more local support for militants grew.
He wasn’t surprised when Fallujah fell to IS in 2014, he said, and he won't be surprised if the militants return.

"We'll be back again," Hanoon said. "Daesh will return, just under a new name and stronger."
Associated Press writers Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Sinan Salaheddin and Muhanad al-Saleh in Baghdad contributed to this report

23 comments:

  1. No Americans were killed or wounded in this "fight for Fallujah."

    With a little bit of luck (and the right President) maybe we'll be able to say the same the next time.

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  2. There wouldn't have been any this time except O'bozo pulled the troops out too soon.

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  3. Commentary



    Here's Why FBI Director Comey Can't Give Hillary A Free Pass

    FBI Director James Comey has a unique opportunity to press the reset button on government corruption by holding Hillary Clinton accountable for her mishandling of classified material while secretary of state. (AP)
    FBI Director James Comey has a unique opportunity to press the reset button on government corruption by holding Hillary Clinton accountable for her mishandling of classified material while secretary of state. (AP)

    SCOTT S. POWELL
    7/02/2016


    When FBI Director James Comey laid his hand on the Bible and recited his oath of office on September 4, 2013, swearing to "faithfully discharge the duties of the office ... without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion," he probably didn't expect he might have to move against the heir apparent leader of the party under which he would serve.

    The facts known about actions taken by Hillary Clinton while secretary of state surrounding the use of an unsecure private email server for conducting government business show that she violated 10 federal statutes. Several are national-security-related felonies, just three of which include: 1. disclosure of classified information (22 documents were Top Secret), 2. unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents, and 3. destruction of evidence (erasure of the hard drive and deletion of some 30,000 emails by Secretary Clinton) after a government investigation had commenced (Benghazi hearings began Oct. 10, 2012).

    Comey knows of a related but lesser law violation in handling classified material by General David Petraeus that was recently adjudicated. Petraeus was fined $100,000 and sentenced to two years' probation for providing his personal notebooks containing classified information to his biographer, although no classified information was ever exposed. Hillary Clinton's email server containing more voluminous classified and Top Secret information was reportedly breached and exposed by notorious Romanian hacker "Guccifer" and by the Russians (who have 20,000 Clinton server emails in their possession). So Comey can't easily give Secretary Clinton a pass and at the same time be true to his oath of office.

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    1. The fact that the administration under which Mr. Comey serves has conducted itself with unprecedented partisanship and lawlessness makes it even more important for him to uphold the law and recommend indictment. The American people need to see that both lawlessness and dereliction of duty are not given a pass and that no one is above the law.

      The country is now at the edge of an abyss from years of obfuscation, unaccountability, subterfuge and law evasion by the Obama administration that have numbed much of its citizenry into an acceptance of government corruption and abuse of power. Resetting Americans' trust in government needs to start with holding people in high office, like Hillary Clinton, accountable.

      But there is another reason this step is necessary. Hillary Clinton has been an integral part of the Clinton Foundation, which is unprecedented in size and global scope as an influence-peddling political slush fund. According to the foundation's own recent tax returns, just 10% of expenditures go to charitable grants, with the bulk of the balance spent on salaries and benefits, lavish travel and conference organizing. The record shows that the Clinton Foundation took large contributions from several business magnates who soon thereafter received clearance for controversial international business deals. Saudi Arabia contributed $10 million to the Clinton Foundation before Hillary became secretary of state. A few years later the Hillary Clinton State Department formally cleared the largest single sale of military aircraft to the Saudis.

      The most plausible explanation for Hillary Clinton's circumventing longstanding federal rules on secure communication -- and for her insistence on implementing a private email server -- was simply to conceal a conflict of interest in continuing a role in the Clinton Foundation while also serving as secretary of state. It is instructive that Secretary Clinton's top aide, Huma Abedin, was simultaneously on payrolls of both the State Department and the Teneo Group, an influence-peddling consulting operation founded by a Clinton confidant. Additionally, a private email server would protect disclosure of fund-raising activities for Hillary Clinton's anticipated run for president.

      As the FBI investigation nears its completion, Comey can find solace in the words of the 26th U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, who declared: "We cannot afford to differ on the question of honesty if we expect our republic permanently to endure. Honesty is not so much a credit as an absolute prerequisite to efficient service to the public. Unless a man is honest, we have no right to keep him in public life; it matters not how brilliant his capacity."

      A central issue of the November election is to choose new leadership to disabuse the American citizenry of accepting dishonesty and abuse of power in government. If Comey can rise above political pressure and just do his job, he has a unique opportunity to press the reset button on government corruption and bring about an essential course correction in these troubled times. That would be a historic and truly heroic accomplishment.

      Scott Powell is senior fellow at Discovery Institute in Seattle and managing partner of RemingtonRand LLC.

      http://www.investors.com/politics/commentary/heres-why-fbi-director-comey-cant-give-hillary-a-free-pass/

      Delete
  4. Bald Eagle Sex - The Acrobatic Mating of America's National Bird

    http://www.livescience.com/55278-animal-sex-bald-eagles.html

    ReplyDelete
  5. Eagle Scout gets Fucked:

    http://nypost.com/2016/07/05/teen-maimed-in-central-park-explosions-tragic-birthday-wish/

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    1. Jeez, what a world these days.

      That's really sad.

      Delete
  6. FLASHBACK: Trump insisted on including Jews, blacks at Palm Beach golf course in 1990s...

    Roiled Old Social Order....DRUDGE

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  7. .

    The bullies of Black Lives Matter

    Margaret Wente

    The Globe and Mail

    Published Monday, Jul. 04, 2016 4:33PM EDT

    Toronto’s legendary Pride Parade is a festival of inclusiveness – a good-natured rainbow coalition that embraces every letter of the LGBTQ alphabet. It’s so inclusive that even straight people march in it. Its message is: Loud, proud and unbowed. Nobody can bully us any more.
    Well, almost nobody. The new bully on the block is Black Lives Matter, a tiny group of noisy activists who borrow their branding and their belligerence from the United States. They’ve proved they can bully just about anyone, including city hall, the mayor and the provincial Premier. The Pride Parade was a pushover.

    Black Lives Matter was this year’s guest of honour at the Pride Parade. They graciously returned the favour by accusing their hosts of “anti-blackness,” and halting the parade until their demands were met.

    “We are under attack,” shouted Alexandria Williams, one of the Toronto group’s co-founders. “Pride Toronto, we are calling you out!” Ms. Williams said, as reported by the Toronto Star. She accused Pride of “a historical and current culture of anti-blackness” that is “deeply embedded in the festival.”

    You’d think, just weeks after the slaughter in Orlando, that they might have chosen to cede the spotlight to the dead and wounded, who really were under attack. But no. The Black Lives Matter activists are firmly convinced that they are at the very top of the pyramid of oppression. Only after the parade’s executives meekly agreed to all of their demands (basically, more money for their projects) did they allow the show to go on.

    Most of these demands were harmless. But one was not. BLM insists that the Pride Parade has to kick out the police floats, which have been a popular staple for years. This is wrong, and sad, and bad. Police participation in the parade is a welcome symbol of solidarity and inclusion – and also an important message to the public that gay people exist in every walk of life. But BLM activists loathe the police, who, they believe, are racist to the core. So they have to go. (Side note, for what it’s worth: Toronto’s police chief is black.)


    {...}

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    1. {...}


      The short history of Black Lives Matter in Toronto proves that so long as you’re the victim group du jour, bullying and intimidation can win you obeisance from officials, to say nothing of reverential coverage in the media. When they staged a sit-in outside police headquarters to protest police racism, the Toronto Star depicted them as freedom fighters. After they demonstrated outside the home of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, she met them on the steps of Queen’s Park and declared, “I believe we still have systemic racism in our society.” When they accused the city of racism for shortening the schedule of an African music festival (the neighbours had complained about the noise), the city hurriedly restored it. In response to their demands, both the city and the province have called for investigations into the racist practices of the police – despite the obvious fact that Toronto is one of the most racially peaceable cities in all of North America.

      We’re not problem-free, of course. There are the usual controversies over random stops by police, and to what extent these stops amount to racial profiling. The police recently killed a mentally disturbed man who was black (although there’s no sign his skin colour was a factor). These issues are worth discussing. But we’re not Ferguson, or anything like it. By pretending that Toronto is just another racist hellhole where police routinely gun down black kids, the Black Lives Matter folks do not create a useful forum for discussion. Nor do they pay much attention to the black kids who are gunned down by other black kids. Don’t those lives matter, too?

      Don’t ask. Identity politics trumps everything these days, and the more minority identities you possess, the greater is your claim for recognition, redress and a soapbox. For instance, Black Lives Matter co-founder Janaya Khan describes “themself” as a “Black, queer, gender-nonconforming activist.” Which means there’s probably no better place to be on Earth than here. Better here, at any rate, than Jamaica, Mexico or Istanbul, where the Pride Parade was broken up by tear gas.

      The trouble is that when bullies get their way, they just keep on bullying. Sometimes the victims are so cowed they’ll even thank them for it. Toronto is planning to bestow this year’s award for race relations on none other than Black Lives Matter. I can’t wait to see what they’ll demand when they get it.


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    2. It's all Smirk's fault.

      He just isn't welcoming enough.

      He deserves a good non lethal not injury but terrifying mugging to make him see the light, and open up a bit.

      Let the BLM folk and the muzz have at him a bit, the racist.

      Delete
  8. .

    The Chickens are Coming Home to Roost

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/05/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-us-consulate-kuwait.html?_r=0”> Suicide Bombings Hit 3 Cities in Saudi Arabia, One Near a Holy Site

    BEIRUT, Lebanon — Bombings rocked three cities across Saudi Arabia on Monday, including near the Prophet’s Mosque in the holy city of Medina, raising the specter of increasingly coordinated attacks by militants seeking to destabilize the monarchy.

    A suicide bomber struck near the United States Consulate in the coastal city of Jidda in the morning, wounding two security officers. Then, near dusk, when Muslims were ending their daily Ramadan fasts, other blasts struck near a Shiite mosque in the country’s east and at a security post in Medina, killing four guards, according to the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television network.
    The blasts in Saudi Arabia followed a bloody week in which terrorist attacks caused mass casualties in the largest cities of three predominantly Muslim countries: Turkey, Bangladesh and Iraq.

    The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and in Baghdad, and it is suspected of carrying out the one in Istanbul...


    .

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  9. FLASH: FBI Director Comey will address reporters at 11AM ET today at FBI HQ DC... Developing....DRUDGE


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    1. This seems odd....is Comey going to sell out ?

      So soon ?

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    2. Will make statement and take off-camera questions from reporters... Developing....DRUDGE

      This is going to be a big deal...

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    3. The FBI hasn't had enough time yet to do a proper investigation of The Clinton Foundation and all the corruption there....

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    4. Maybe Comey is going to RESIGN ?

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    5. Quirk's had more experience with the Law at these high levels than any of us, but he seems to have clammed up....

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    6. Well bullshit.

      She mishandled everything, but no charges.

      What a crock.

      Delete
  10. It is now Trump’s election to lose.

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  11. Move to the next thread. I’m closing this one off.

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