United for Peace of Pierce County, WA - We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy.

NEWS: Western media semi-hysterical, but Arab states seem unfazed by events in Iraq

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The U.S. is evacuating some employees from its embassy in Baghdad and "preparing to open direct talks with Iran on the situation in Iraq and ways to counter the radical Sunni militia there," USA Today reported.[1]  --  The Associated Press said it had "verified" images posted by militants "that appeared to show their gunmen massacring scores of captured Iraqi soldiers. . . . the total could not immediately be verified."[2]  --  "Iraqi authorities appear to be trying to limit the dissemination of such images and other militant propaganda being shared through social media and to deny the militants their use for operational purposes."  --  A.P. said of Baghdad that "the city of 7 million is not in any immediate danger of falling to the militants."  --  On Monday Iraqi state media reported the Iraqi media had struck back at ISIS forces, CNN reported.[3]  --  But CNN also reported that "ISIS accumulated several victories across Iraq on Sunday.  --  The northwest Iraqi city of Tal Afar fell to ISIS . . . Also Sunday, ISIS gained control of two villages in Adhaim, in its first push into Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad."  --  Meanwhile, President Barack Obama's domestic critics railed at American inaction.  --  But "Arab states largely have remained silent publicly or limited themselves to calls for a unity government in Iraq that defuses the anger of Iraq's Sunni Muslims," the Wall Street Journal reported.[4]  --  "Saudi Arabia, the region's most powerful state, separated from Iraq by a high-tech border fence, hasn't commented on ISIS's advance," said Ellen Knickmeyer.  --  "In western Iraq, Sunni tribal leaders independent of ISIS insisted on Sunday that their forces were fighting, too, along with former Sunni Iraqi military forces and other Sunni groups."  --  Fahed Nazer, a former analyst for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, said that any U.S. involvement "has and will continue to be recruitment gold for al Qaeda." ...

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BACKGROUND: 'Into the abyss' -- profile of Nouri al-Maliki, admirer of double & triple cross

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In late April, the New Yorker published a long profile of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that makes for interesting reading, now that Iraq is in crisis.  --  Writing on the eve of the 2014 parliamentary elections in Iraq, Dexter Filkins was mostly in agreement with the view that Iraq "is falling again into civil war, and that it is Maliki who has driven it to the edge."[1]  --  Filkins characterized Maliki as "an apparatchik become the boss."  --  By Filkins's account, Maliki was selected to become prime minister of Iraq by the CIA and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad early in 2006.  --  According to Filkins, Maliki believes that all politics is short-term, and admires historical figures who were masters of the double and the triple cross.  --  It was Maliki who ordered the gruesome lynching of Saddam Hussein.  --  By Filkins's account, Maliki is still in power because the U.S. supported a Iranian-brokered agreement to make him prime minister after 2010 parliamentary elections, even though his coalition had lost the election.  --  The goal:  to effect a quicker American exit from Iraq.  --  Filkins is sympathetic to the notion that "even a modest force would have been able to prevent chaos."  --  Within 24 hours of the last U.S. troops leaving Iraq, he says, Maliki began "using the security forces to go after his rivals," "crack[ing] down on dissent -- especially Sunni dissent," and "centraliz[ing] authority in his office."  --  "As Maliki gathered power, he set out to banish every trace of Sunni influence from the bureaucracy."  --  There are signs he is grooming his son as a dynastic successor.  --  COMMENT:  Filkins's article is not exactly prescient (it never even mentions ISIS) but it does include many observations that help explain why Iraq is now breaking up.  --  Filkins is an enormously skillful writer, but one who likes to tell American readers what they like to hear and who is not a reliable guide to history.  --  This account should therefore not be given more credence than it deserves.  --  Above all, Filkins has built his career on conveying to Americans the reassuring message that they are good; that they are innocents abroad, doomed to noble failure; and that the U.S. national security state is legitimate....

Last Updated on Monday, 16 June 2014 00:38 Read more...
 

BACKGROUND: Despite $50bn intel budget, US blindsided in Crimea, Iraq

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The CIA maintained a "presence" in Baghdad, but had "largely stopped running networks of spies inside the country since U.S. forces left Iraq in December 2011," Foreign Policy said Thursday.[1]  --  The CIA was tracking groups like ISIS "through satellite imagery and communications intercepts -- methods that have proven practically useless because the militants relay messages using human couriers, rather than phone and email conversations, and move around in such small groups that they easily blend into the civilian population," Shane Harris said.  --  "The intelligence agencies' inability to predict the latest crisis in Iraq is likely to fuel critics of the Obama administration's management of other global crises, including in Syria and Ukraine." ...

Last Updated on Sunday, 15 June 2014 20:34 Read more...
 

NEWS: ISIS forces pause 2 hours from Baghdad

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There were conflicting reports on Saturday of whether ISIS or Iraqi government forces were in control of al-Dhuluiya, a key town "within striking distance" of Samarra and about 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Baghdad, CNN reported.[1]  --  (Samarra is a city of 350,000 dominated by Sunnis but the site of several Shia holy sites.  --  Samarra is 125km (78 miles) north of Baghdad.)  --  CNN reported that an unnamed Iraqi army commander "predicted that if ISIS were to enter Baghdad, any Sunni soldiers there would defect, leaving only troops of Shiite origin to fight alongside Shiite militia groups."  --  But the New York Times reported that ISIS militants had "halted their advance within a two-hour drive, and there was no indication that they were seeking to push into Baghdad proper."[2]  --  Rod Nordland and Alissa J. Rubin said that there appear not to have been any "decisive engagements between the insurgents and the Iraqi military, and there was no clear evidence to support an Iraqi general’s claim on Saturday that the Iraqi Army had rolled the militants back in those towns."  --  The area that ISIS has seized "essentially reconstitutes what the American military, during its war here, called the Sunni Triangle:  an area where Sunnis predominate and which provided fertile ground for the rise of the Sunni insurgency.  --  It was also the area that cost the Americans by far the most casualties of the war."  --  The ISIS forces "have managed to imperil all three of the major highways leading to the north and Kurdistan, effectively cutting Kurdistan off from the rest of Iraq and worsening the risk that the country could be dismembered." ...

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BACKGROUND: On the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (or Syria) (ISIL or ISIS)

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For those without the time or patience to peruse it themselves, here is a summary of the information in the Wikipedia article on ISIS.[1]  --  Or, if you prefer, ISIL.  --  The difference hinges on the difficulty of translating the Arabic term al-Sham, which refers not to present-day Syria but so-called 'Greater Syria,' often dubbed 'the Levant' in modern Western literature and encompassing the Eastern Mediterranean region.  --  Either translation is defensible.  --  A few other related sources have also been consulted....

Last Updated on Saturday, 14 June 2014 01:24 Read more...
 

CARTOGRAPHY: The scale of ISIS operations

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The Washington Post published a map on Friday superimposing Iraq and Syria on the eastern United States to give a sense of the scale of operations of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which aspires to redraw the map of the Middle East and is now on the attack in Iraq.[1] ...

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NEWS: Iran open to working with US in Iraq to check ISIS, support Maliki

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The Pentagon is blaming the sectarian policies and governance of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the aftermath of the U.S. departure in 2011 for the "structural breakdown" of Iraqi military forces, Defense One reported Thursday.[1]  --  A new approach may be in the offing, since many in the Pentagon believe the present situation is not a continuation of the U.S. "mission" in Iraq.  --  "In the halls of the Pentagon, many service members are disappointed that Iraq has spiraled out of control," Stephanie Gaskell said.  --  "But many agree with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, who said in January that U.S. troops had completed their mission in Iraq."  --  War makes strange bedfellows, and there is so much concern in Tehran about the turn recent events have taken in Iraq that the Iranian leadership is open to "the possibility of working with the United States to support Baghdad," Reuters reported Friday.[2] ...

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NEWS: US response to Iraq crisis expected 'within a few days'

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The White House is "scrambling" to counter the dramatic success of this week's sudden ISIS offensive in Iraq, but "the frenzy of activity has yet to produce a tangible American response," the New York Times reported late Thursday.[1]  --  The Associated Press reported that the president "was expected to decide on a course of action within a few days."[2]  --  Airstrikes and the shipment of weapons seem likely; "There were no calls for putting American troops back on the ground in Iraq, and Obama's advisers said the president had no desire to plunge the U.S. back into a conflict there," Julie Pace and Lara Jakes said....

Last Updated on Friday, 13 June 2014 15:12 Read more...
 

ANALYSIS: Architects of Iraqi disaster telling us what to do now -- will we never learn?

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Here they come: the claims that Barack Obama is to blame for the mess in Iraq.  --  According to Robert Parry, such claims are "a direct consequence of the failure to enforce any meaningful accountability on the neocons and others who pushed the Iraq War."[1]  --  "The same pundits and pols continue to shape U.S. public opinion today and are dominating the narratives on Iraq and Syria," despite the fact that they were responsible for the catastrophic disaster that is Iraq....

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NEWS: Kurds seize Kirkuk after Iraqi troops flee; Iraq 'on the brink of disintegration'

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Iraq is "on the brink of disintegration," and Kurdish forces seized Kirkuk after Iraqi government troops abandoned the important northern oil city, the Washington Post reported Thursday.[1]  --  In the White House, President Barack Obama (now being blamed by many for having abandoned the country the U.S. invaded in 2003) said his "national security team is looking at all the options," the New York Times reported.[2]  --  "I don't rule out anything," he said.  --  While the U.S. president hesitated, "[t]here were unconfirmed reports that Iran, an ally of Mr. Maliki’s Shiite-led government, had sent Revolutionary Guards into Iraq to help him fight the Sunni militants.  --  The Times of London, in its account, said the Iranians included a 150-member unit of the Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force."  --  But "Iraqi Shiite militia leaders contacted in Baghdad said they knew of no such assistance from Iran." ...

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 June 2014 23:42 Read more...
 

NEWS: 'At least half a million' flee after 'sudden collapse of the Iraqi army'

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In May Iraq asked the U.S. to bomb ISIS "staging areas" with drones or warplanes, but "so far, the administration has signaled that it is not interested in such a direct American military role," the New York Times reported Wednesday.[1]  --  According to the Wall Street Journal, which "was the first to report the request," the White House "is mulling several options, 'including the possibility of providing "kinetic support" for the Iraqi military,'" NBC News reported.[2]  --  But this is like applying a Band-Aid to an amputated limb, given that Iraq is seeing a major military collapse:  the London Guardian reported that "two divisions of Iraqi soldiers -- roughly 30,000 men -- simply turned and ran in the face of the assault by an insurgent force of just 800 fighters."[3]  --  "At least half a million residents of northern Iraq are reported to be on the move, with most attempting to flee to the Kurdish far north where border officials were overwhelmed and expecting refugee numbers to increase sharply in coming days," Martin Chulov, Fazel Hawramy, and Spencer Ackerman said.  --  Save The Children called it "one of the largest and swiftest mass movements of people in the world in recent memory."  --  The border between Syria and Iraq is "increasingly irrelevant."  --  "Statements released by the group claimed that the assault on Mosul was the beginning of the end of the Sykes Picot agreement -- the post-colonial settlement which in 1916 enshrined the nation states of Syria and Lebanon and influenced the drawing of the Jordan and Iraq borders.  --  ISIS commanders say they are fighting to destroy the post-Ottoman nation state borders and restore a caliphate that submits to fundamentalist Islamic law." ...

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COMMENTARY: For what? For what?

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Michael Moore's thoughts and feelings on the fall of Mosul are eloquently expressed.[1] ...

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 June 2014 01:15 Read more...
 

NEWS: Mosul, Iraq's 2nd-largest city, falls to ISIS

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Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, has fallen to ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [or 'the Levant'], formerly known as al-Qa’ida in Iraq).  --  Iraqi forces defending the city "apparently crumbled," and thousands of residents are on the roads, fleeing the region.  --  Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki "ordered a state of emergency for the entire country and called on friendly governments for help, without mentioning the United States specifically," the New York Times reported.  --  ISIS's stated goals are "erasing the border with Syria and establishing an Islamic state that transcends both," Suadad al-Salhy and Tim Arango noted.[1]  --  The Christian Science Monitor called the fall of Mosul a "crushing defeat for not only Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's security policies but for Iraqi politics as a whole."[2]  --  "The scale of the catastrophe . . . can't be overstated," Dan Murphy said.  --  He characterized the ISIS military as "well-organized and armed."  --  The Washington Post recalled that Mosul "was once held out as a success story for the U.S. counterinsurgency effort in Iraq."[3]  --  Liz Sly and Ahmed Ramadan said that ISIS now "controls what amounts to an unofficial state across swaths of the north and east from which government forces have been ejected." ...

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TRANSLATION: 'This grotesque reform must be opposed' (Jean-Luc Mélenchon)

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In an entry posted on his blog on Saturday and translated in toto below, Front de Gauche co-leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon posted his reasons for opposing the proposed administrative reorganization of France proposed by French President François Hollande.[1] ...

Last Updated on Monday, 09 June 2014 06:19 Read more...
 

COMMENTARY: Angry, unhealthy debate on Bergdahl manipulated by media pros

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On Saturday Donna Brazile refuted nine of the dubious assertions fueling the uproar over the release of an American soldier held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan.  --  She marveled at viciousness of "a media firestorm . . . the likes of which we have rarely seen," but said that it was "fed by misinformation, misplaced anger, and passion" and that she saw "evidence . . . of a public lynching of Sgt. Bergdahl, based on information now revealed as selectively fed to the public by skillful media professionals."[1]  --Mark]

Last Updated on Sunday, 08 June 2014 07:02 Read more...
 

COMMENTARY: 'The backlash against globalization has arrived' (Nouriel Roubini)

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On Saturday, noted economist Nouriel Roubini added his voice to those who see parallels between the 2010s and the 1930s.  --  "As in the 1930s, when the Great Depression gave rise to authoritarian governments in Italy, Germany, and Spain, a similar trend now may be underway."[1]  --  Major political consequences are coming:  "If income and job growth do not pick up soon, populist parties may come closer to power at the national level in Europe, with anti-E.U. sentiments stalling the process of European economic and political integration.  Worse, the euro zone may again be at risk:  Some countries (the United Kingdom) may exit the E.U.; others (the U.K., Spain, and Belgium) eventually may break up."  --  Roubini concluded with a grave warning:  "In the 1930s, the failure to prevent the Great Depression empowered authoritarian regimes in Europe and Asia, eventually leading to World War II. . . . Today’s backlash against trade and globalization should be viewed in the context of what, as we know from experience, could come next." ...

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ANALYSIS: France's Front National: 'Hard to define, shifting & unformed, inconsistent'

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In a nuanced analysis of France's Front National, the BBC's Hugh Schofield said Thursday that the far-right party "has an unresolved contradiction at its heart.  --  It may seek to be mainstream, but the belief in something more radical -- a revolutionary return to 'national values' -- has never entirely gone away."[1]  --  The party's baggage is heavy and alarming:  "Its origins lie in the Catholic, monarchist right that never accepted the republic.  --  That strand in French politics led the anti-Semitic campaign against Captain Alfred Dreyfus; fought Communists in the 1930s; ranted against Freemasons and Jews; joined the collaborationist Vichy regime during World War II; fought a rearguard battle against Algerian independence."  --  But "[r]ight now everything is conspiring to make [Marine Le Pen's coming to power in Paris] seem possible." ...

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COMMENTARY: 'China-Russia strategic alliance fundamental fact of 21st century'

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Never mind that a billionaire ended up in Ukraine's presidency as a result.  --  Officially, the U.S. claims the overthrow of the Yanukovych régime was the heroic expression of the popular will.  --  But as Pepe Escobar sees it, that narrative is just pablum for the masses (if they happen to be paying attention).  --  "The putsch in Ukraine -- part of Washington's pivot to 'contain' Russia -- just served to accelerate Russia's pivot to Asia, which sooner or late would become inevitable."[1]  --  The U.S. doesn't have much to show for its recent wars.  --  "China is buying at least half of Iraq's oil production -- and is investing heavily in its energy infrastructure.  --  China has invested heavily in Afghanistan's mining industry -- especially lithium and cobalt.  --  And obviously both China and Russia keep doing business in Iran.  --  So this is what Washington gets for over a decade of wars, incessant bullying, nasty sanctions. and trillions of misspent dollars." ...

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TRANSLATION: A left analysis of European election results in France: nothing can stop the Front National

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Front de Gauche leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon has a very dire view of the significance of the May 25 European election results in France, in which the far-right Front National party won a percentage of the vote (24.85%) that was higher than that of any other.  --  For Mélenchon, the handwriting is on the wall.  --  "[B]ecause the dynamic is with her, nothing any more can block Madame Le Pen's way," Mélenchon said.  --  Mélenchon posted his views on Friday on his blog; they are translated in their entirety below.[1] ...

Last Updated on Saturday, 31 May 2014 06:39 Read more...
 

NEWS & COMMENT: Obama affirms belief in American exceptionalism

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Speaking at West Point on Wednesday, President Barack Obama declared that his foreign policy is grounded in the hubristic theology of American exceptionalism.  --  "I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being," CNN said he told graduating cadets.[1]  --  CNN referred to this religiously grounded theory as "a tenet of conservative ideology."[1]   --  COMMENT:  Obama's American exceptionalism is a licentious variant of the doctrine.  --  It allows an imperial president to pursue whatever good (and goods) he declares to be imperative to the national interest, even as it condones and sometimes inspires evils like torture, the Iraq war, mass surveillance, nuclear weapons, and militarism.  --  Obama said that "American values and legal traditions don't permit the indefinite detention of people beyond our borders."  --  But since he signed the 2012 NDAA, he apparently thinks they do allow the indefinite detention of people inside U.S. borders....

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NEWS: Ukraine's Poroshenko unleashes heavy weapons at Donetsk airport, killing dozens

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"[W]hen a group of around 200 separatist fighters attempted to seize [the Donetsk airport in eastern Ukraine] in the early hours of Monday morning they met with serious resistance, including air strikes," the London Guardian reported Tuesday.[1]  --   "[T]he airport appeared to be a red line for the Ukrainian authorities, and when a group of around 200 fighters attempted to seize it in the early hours of Monday morning they met with serious resistance, including air strikes" and, for the first time, "heavy weaponry," Shaun Walker said.  --  The Ukrainian interior minister said the airport was "completely under control," and said Ukrainian forces had taken "no losses."  --  Reuters said that "more than 50 pro-Russian rebels" had been killed.[2]  --  Newly elected Ukrainian President Petro "Poroshenko and other leaders in Kiev may have calculated that the election, by bestowing legitimacy on the authorities, makes it harder for Putin to justify intervention," Sabina Zawadzki and Gabriela Baczynska said.  --  Wednesday's New York Times reported that among the rebels' wounded were "Chechen soldiers of fortune" from inside the Russian Federation.[3] ...

Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 May 2014 05:09 Read more...
 
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United for Peace of Pierce County meets 7:00-8:30 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of every month at First United Methodist Church in Tacoma (621 Tacoma Avenue South).

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