Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Things Just Got Real

One good thing about HULU (there are many good things about it) is that you can sometimes find a show you really loved that's no longer on.  For me, that's THE NEIGHBORS.  Marty and Debbie move to a new house only to find out that their next door neighbors -- Jackie and Larry -- are the leaders of the rest of the neighbors and all are aliens.

"Things Just Got Real" is the third episode of the first season and it's my favorite.  I love the Oscar episode in the second season but love this one even more.

Debbie wants to be around her normal friends so she plans a girls night out.  Jackie wants to fit in with Debbie's old friends so she studies up on how women on earth behave by . . . watching reality TV shows -- "the real housewives" type of stuff.

And she spends the whole dinner turning towards the wall -- as if it's a camera -- and speaking into it to give commentary.

They're drinking sangria and one woman spills a drop on Jackie and Jackie jumps up to her feet and snarls, "Watch it, tramp!  Maybe it's no big thing to spill all over your skank wrap but some of us are dripping in class and luxury."

One of the women looks at another and asks, "What the hell?"

As Debbie's panicking, Jackie explains, "Don't worry, Debbie Weaver, I've been studying Real Housewives on one of your telephone programs."

Jackie immediately then offers, "So, Tracy, how does it feel to know that Liz has the hots for your husband?"

This creates a huge fight at the table.

Jackie turns to the wall and says, "To be honest, I really didn't think that Liz was interested in Tracy's husband but dinner was getting boring so I thought I'd spice things up a bit.''

As the fight continues, Jackie says, "Uh-oh, things just got real."

As the fight continues, Jackie mouths "My God" to the wall.

While everyone fights, Jackie speaks to the wall saying, "The truth is the Mrs. Bon Jovie reference was lost on me --"

And Debbie cuts her off with, "Jackie, shut up! Stop talking to the wall!"

I loved that show.  It had the perfect cast and it was moments like that where the show really captured how strange and weird we are sometimes.  :D

If you've never seen THE NEIGHBORS, both seasons are on HULU and you can check it out.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, March 28, 2018.  As elections approach in Iraq, ISIS makes it clear that they have not been vanquished.

Anthony H. Cordesman (CSIS) has argued:

The United States, its allies, and international organizations are just beginning to come to grips with the civil dimensions of "failed state" wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, the Sudans, Syria, and Yemen. In each case, it is clear that the civil dimension of the war will ultimately be as important as the military one.
Any meaningful form of "victory" requires far more than defeating the current extremist threat in military terms, and reaching some temporary compromise between the major factions that divide the country. The current insurgent and other security threats exist largely because of the deep divisions within the state, the past and current failures of the government to deal with such internal divisions, and the chronic failure to meet the economic, security, and social needs of much of the nation's population.
In practical terms, these failures make a given host government, other contending factions, and competing outside powers as much of a threat to each nation’s stability and future as Islamic extremists and other hostile forces. Regardless of the scale of any defeat of extremists, the other internal tensions and divisions with each country also threaten to make any such “victory” a prelude to new forms of civil war, and/or an enduring failure to cope with security, stability, recovery, and development.
Any real form of victory requires a different approach to stability operations and civil-military affairs. In each case, the country the U.S. is seeking to aid failed to make the necessary economic progress and reforms to meet the needs of its people – and sharply growing population – long before the fighting began. The growth of these problems over a period of decades helped trigger the sectarian, ethnic, and other divisions that made such states vulnerable to extremism and civil conflict, and made it impossible for the government to respond effectively to crises and wars.
These issues are analyzed in depth in a new study by the Burke Chair at CSIS entitled Iraqi After ISIS: The Other Half of Victory, which is available on the CSIS web site at is being circulated in working draft form in order to seek comments, directions and additional data, which should be sent to Anthony H. Cordesman
The study shows that the economy and infrastructure of Iraq and the other countries involved in "failed state" wars have now been further crippled by years of war. As a result, each conflict has changed the country to the point where it creates a need to establish a new structure of governance and economy that reflects major shifts in the population, the balance of power in each state, and its real-world post-conflict opportunities for development.
The cumulative result is to make "stability operations" a key part of grand strategy. Defeating a given mix of terrorists or insurgents requires aid and assistance efforts that look beyond the fighting and the short-term priorities of conflict termination. Negotiations and new political arrangements, emergency humanitarian aid, and recovery aid are all critical steps towards lasting stability.

Is that really the answer or is just a way to prolong the war and occupation even more?  In his report (PDF format, here), he argues "success will require years of patient effort."

15 years isn't enough?

Apparently not.

Apparently for the War Hawks, the Iraq War must last 100 years -- the way John McCain was saying when he was running for president in 2008.

Now in 2008, McCain was ridiculed and called out for that statement.

Today, do most Americans even pay attention?

May 12th, Iraq is set to hold parliamentary elections and no one's been bothered by the fact that Ramadan takes place from May 15th to June 14th.   Past elections in Iraq have resulted in many delays -- in the case of the 2010 parliamentary elections, many months -- to settle.  If the post-election process goes even 1/4 as poorly as it did in 2010, Ramadan will only compound that.  Holding the election three days before Ramadan was very poor planning.

Hayder al-Abadi staked his future on the premature claim that he vanquished ISIS in Iraq.  That, of course, hasn't proven to be the case.  Amnesty International's Donatella Rovera notes:

150-200 security forces members killed in attacks across in recent months. The monster is rearing its ugly head again, as elections approach and security cooperation between Iraq and is affected by tensions since referendum

And she's not the only one noting reality.

is still really active in Iraq. Yesterday, militants captured many Iraqi soldiers (using fake checkpoint). Part 1

ISIS was supposed to be Hayder's big claim to fame.

Nouri al-Maliki was ousted by Barack Obama in 2014 because ISIS had seized Mosul and other spots.  Otherwise, the US would have kept installing Nouri every four years as Bully Boy Bush and Barack had already done.  It's that 'stability' that Cordesman is arguing for.  Forget that Nouri was running secret prisons and torture sites, forget that this had been exposed in the press, forget that he was disappearing people, forget that he was having the military use tanks to circle the homes of members of Parliament that he didn't like, none of that mattered.  Nor did his attacks on journalism and journalists.  His forces kidnapped reporters who covered the protests.  Even after both NPR and THE WASHINGTON POST reported that, Nouri was still given a pass by Barack.

The passes would have continued were it not for the rise of ISIS.

Hayder was installed by Barack to to get rid of ISIS.

He hasn't.

Christopher Reuter (DER SPIEGEL) reports:

The days are clear and bright. As long as you have a wide-open view, it's safe, they insist. As long as you can see the contours of the rows of trees at the edge of the village, the bushes between the last fields and the edge of the desert.
But in wintertime, the days are short. As soon as darkness falls following a brief dusk and all outlines, colors and movements are swallowed up by the uniform blackness -- that is when the fear begins. That's what the residents of Gharib say, and urgently request that you start your journey in time, that you leave their village, that you leave the region.
Because at night, the horror returns.
Sometimes, the villagers say, the dogs sound the alarm. On occasion, tracks can be seen the next morning. And frequently, it is possible to hear the voices of the men who return at night to taunt, to threaten and to kill those who have officially been freed of the yoke of Islamic State (IS).
In early October, the Iraqi army rolled through the terrorist group's last significant stronghold in the country, the Hawija district, located southwest of Kirkuk. After just a couple of days and a few brief skirmishes, the government declared that IS had been defeated, driven away. Destroyed.
But that wasn't true then and it still isn't true today. At least not for the more than 100 villages in the fertile region, crisscrossed with rivers and irrigation canals. Even though the Hawija battle was supposed to be a fight that IS stood no chance of winning. Mosul had been retaken by the Iraqi army in the summer after months of bitter fighting, as was the city of Tal Afar. Aside from a couple of desert areas, Hawija was all that IS had left -- the same region where the series of IS triumphs, which began quietly at first, got its start back in 2013.

In addition, Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Susannah George (AP) report:

Iraq declared victory over IS in December after driving the militants from the last territory under their control, but in recent months the group has resumed insurgent-style attacks in northern Iraq.
Iraqi security officials say between 150 and 200 members of the security forces have been killed in IS attacks across the country in the past few months. The security officials, and the policeman in the taxi, spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to brief the media.
“There are empty spaces between the federal forces and the peshmerga,” said Kirkuk Gov. Rakan al-Jibouri, referring to the Kurdish forces who have been locked in a months-long standoff with Baghdad.
He said he has repeatedly asked the central government for additional forces to secure the area, but has been ignored. “This issue is not taken sufficiently seriously despite the many incidents,” he said.
Nope, ISIS isn't gone.

Hayder hasn't been very effective eliminating corruption either. MEM reported last week, "Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi yesterday ordered an immediate investigation into allegations that fake jobs in the public sector were being offered to citizens by political parties in order to win votes in the country’s upcoming general elections."

Christopher M. Blanchard (CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE) notes:

Prime Minister Abadi has announced his plan to lead a coalition of mostly Shia parties and independent Sunni figures under the framework of his Victory (Nasr) Alliance. In launching his own coalition, Abadi is competing with Vice President and former prime minister Nouri al Maliki, who, like Abadi, is a leading member of the Dawa Party. Maliki’s State of Law alliance has been critical of Abadi’s leadership, and some State of Law members are vocal opponents of Iraq’s security partnership with the United States. Several former leaders of the Popular Mobilization Force (PMF) militias organized to help fight the Islamic State are participating in the elections as candidates under the rubric of the Fatah Alliance (see textbox below).
Other prominent Iraqi figures have organized coalitions and lists to contest the election, including a largely Sunni list led by Vice President Osama al Nujayfi and the National Alliance jointly led by Vice President Iyad Allawi, COR Speaker Salim al Juburi, and former deputy Prime Minister Salih al Mutlaq. Among Shia leaders, Ammar al Hakim’s Wisdom (Hikma) movement has formally withdrawn from the Prime Minister’s coalition, but Hakim reportedly intends to coordinate with Abadi during government formation negotiations after the election. Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr is directing his followers to support the multiparty, anti-corruption oriented Sa’irun coalition. Sadr has criticized the participation of PMF leaders in the election and is campaigning on a populist reform and anti-corruption platform.

Barack Obama ousted Nouri al-Maliki in the fall of 2014 to make Hayder prime minister.  Former prime minister and forever thug Nouri wants to be prime minister again despite his flunkies repeatedly insisting that is not the case.  ALSUMARIA reported last week that Nouri has insisted Iraq is passing through a serious, make-it-or-break-it period.  Naturally, Nouri believes he's the one who can save the country -- despite nearly destroying it in 2014..  Last week, ALSUMARIA noted that he's saying Iraq needs someone who can lead the country in construction and progress.  Others who would like to become prime minister include Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr who has teamed up with five other groups -- including the Iraqi Communist Party -- for this election cycle.  Two others who'd like to become prime minister, Ammar al-Hakim and Ayad Allawi, have done joint photo-ops.  Ayad Allawi should have been prime minister per the 2010 elections.  But Nouri refused to step down for eight months and brought the country to a stalemate.  Barack Obama, then president, refused to back the winner of the election and instead brokered The Erbil Agreement which, in November of 2010, gave Nouri a second term as prime minister -- in effect, nullifying the election results and overturning the will of the Iraqi people.

March 7, 2010, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August 2010, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 

November 10, 2010, The Erbil Agreement is signed.  November 11, 2010, the Iraqi Parliament has their first real session in over eight months and finally declares a president, a Speaker of Parliament and Nouri as prime minister-designate -- all the things that were supposed to happen in April of 2010 but didn't.  Again, it wasn't smart to schedule elections right before Ramadan.

Fears that Turkey could still strike Sinjar despite PKK claims that they have withdrawn from the Yezidi Iraqi town. Would be a major violation of Iraqi sovereignty that Iraq PM Abadi can't afford so close to elections

Intelligence indicators point to a resurgent , ready to carry out multiple, large attacks in build up to elections in May 2018.

Meanwhile, Martin C. Evans (NEWSDAY) reports:

A somber string of wakes and funerals will begin Wednesday to mark the passing of the four area National Guard troops who perished March 15 in a helicopter crash in Iraq.
The men — members of the 106th Rescue Wing based at Westhampton Beach — had been among a contingent of 106th airmen who deployed to Iraq in January. The 106th’s combat specialty is rescuing downed pilots and other troops from behind enemy lines.
The four — Master Sgt. Christopher J. Raguso, 39, of Commack, Technical Sgt. Dashan J. Briggs, 30, of Port Jefferson Station, Capt. Andreas B. O’Keeffe, 37, of Center Moriches, and Capt. Christopher T. Zanetis, 37, of Long Island City, Queens — were among seven American military personnel who perished when the Pave Hawk rescue helicopter they were flying in went down near Iraq’s border with Syria.
The gatherings will begin at 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, with a wake for Briggs at the Westhampton Beach Fire Department. Briggs was posthumously promoted from his previous rank of staff sergeant.

How many more will have to die for Cordesman's "years of patient effort"?

Hassan Hassan (THE NATIONAL) observes:

For observers focusing on Iraq, the following argument often made in Washington’s policy circles about the future of the country might be a familiar one: the political system in Baghdad, put in place by the United States in 2013, has finally a real chance to be consolidated, resulting in more stability than at any other time over the past 15 years.
According to those advocating the argument, the war against ISIL has created a reality in which the Shia majority is now more able than ever to control all of the country. The argument attributes instability in Iraq over the years to Sunni rejectionist politics. Sunni rejectionism, to proponents of the idea, has created space for groups such as ISIL throughout Iraq and led to political stagnation in Baghdad.
Today, they argue, the situation has changed dramatically. Sunni rejectionists, often used as a shorthand for any person opposed to the Shia dominance in Baghdad, have been crushed. Sunnis, according to the argument, lost the bet they had placed on the rise of ISIL in the summer of 2014 to reclaim a larger place for themselves in Iraqi politics. The result is an empowered majority that could potentially take its rightful place as the leaders of Iraq.
The implication of the argument, which has been cited to the author by officials in Washington as an idea often advanced by Iraqis, is that the US must focus on supporting the historic chance rather than instating demands for political reforms that could only add to the stagnation. The idea also appeals to the basic political instincts of any official who wishes that the moment of a true “mission accomplished” is finally in the horizon.
But this is a dangerous argument. The narrative is based on a flawed logic as well as a tendency to overstate the ability of the Shia majority to sustain order beyond the relative calm that naturally follows extreme violence. It is simply a shortsighted and incomplete view that mischaracterises the situation in Iraq.

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