scandal 'happy birthday, mr. president'

'scandal' airs on abc, thursday night.  the latest episode is "happy birthday, mr. president."

this continued the show's winning streak.

so we get this tv anchor on live tv and he doesn't know what the hell he's talking about - or rather what's being said in his ear piece.  he realizes in front of every 1 that president fitzgerald grant has been shot.  several times in fact.

the episode goes forward but also provides flashbacks.  i'm going to the flashbacks, okay?

it's right after the election.  olivia's in charge of the white house press office.  she sends every 1 working under her home to change and go to the inauguration balls.

she steps out into the hall and hears cyrus (her mentor and about to be the white house chief of staff) yelling with james in the press room.  james tells him, 'i'm your boyfriend, not your dirty secret!'

cyrus leaves in a huff and sees olivia.  he says he was just giving a reporter some information.

she nods and he leaves after she turns him down on going to the balls.

she looks at an upset james - who doesn't see her - and over him at the t.v. screen behind james which shows fitz dancing with his wife, the new 1st lady millie.

later olivia's alone in her office when she gets a call.  she's summoned to the oval office.  she points out that they promised the affair was over after he became president.  they can't resist each other and make love.

the next day, fitz goes jogging with his security detail.  the tall 1 explains that there are cameras all over the white house and every morning some 1 reviews the footage to see if there is something to archive or not.  he states he saw nothing worth archiving.

fitz wants to know where he can go without cameras. camp david.

he, cyrus and olivia go to camp david and work on the state of the union speech and he and olivia make out.

she's excited and rushing to her door 1 night when, boom, there's millie.  millie wants to take her out to eat, her and fitz.  they've been working so hard.

now at 1 point fitz takes olivia to the original constitution.  apparently they can't keep their hands off each other there either.  on inauguration night she gave him a flag pin.  it has 48 stars, not 50.  because it was eisenhower's.  millie will see it on fitz and be thrilled.  she'll talk about how she read a book on dolly madison when she was a little girl and never thought she'd end up 1st lady.

okay so she and fitz (millie and fitz) are in the oval office posing for photos and she notices fitz isn't wearing his flag pin.  where is it?  he lost is.  he really doesn't know.  but while he's saying that, she sees the short and fat secret service guy make a face.  he's the 1 millie always leans on to find out what's really happening.  so he gives millie the pin.  she confronts olivia.

she tells olivia that they're all doing what they have to.  and they're all on the same team.

we're seeing why olivia left the white house.

now remember the conspiracy to put fitz in the white house was cyrus, olivia, millie, the supreme court judge and the southern lobbyist.

kate burton plays the vice president.  she hasn't been on this season until the episode thursday.

so she shows up about a supreme court justice retiring.  she's got a list.

cyrus, olivia and the now supreme court judge look shocked.  fitz explains that the deal (to get the woman as his running mate) was that she'd get to pick the 1st appointee to the supreme court.

the supreme court judge (now) confronts olivia and cyrus.  she tells them she did not do what she did, she did not whore, just so she could give up what she was promised.  they better make sure she's the new supreme court judge.

olivia and cyrus get on it.  they find out that the v.p.'s choice has a criminal record (sealed because it's juvie). they let her choice be announced and then they leak the truth about him to james.  cyrus tells james he has something for him and james says something like, 'the last few years of my life!' and he starts to walk off but cyrus tells him he's going to want this.

so the story blows and the v.p. confronts olivia and cyrus.  olivia plays dumb (convincingly).  i felt like cyrus intentionally gave it away.  but the v.p. already knew, she knew that they torpedoed her choice.  she tells them she's not a team player anymore, that it's all about her from now on.

so that's how the supreme court judge in on the conspiracy became a supreme court judge.

let me throw this in, but it's a bit out of order, cyrus is talking about how he doesn't like the outdoors and his ex said so and his ex.  olivia lets him know she knows it's james.  how?  she told him it was the worst kept secret in d.c.  he says that he can't have this relationship, he's a republican.  olivia - who can't have her affair with fitz, right - offers some good advice.

okay, olivia's in her office and her assistant tells her that there was this and that and oh, a reporter called about some voting irregularity in ohio.  who was that reporter, olivia wants to know, and she tells her assistant she'll handle the call back.

she gets huck to do research and finds out who tipped off the reporter.  huck looks awful.  olivia gives him cash and keys and tells him to get some clippers and shave it and then shower and shower before he touches anything in her apartment.  she's taking him in.

she then goes to the lobbyist.  remember we've now learned that the voting machines (rigged) were by his company.  so she tells him about the problem.

next day, she's getting ready to brief reporters.  her assistant tells her kim jong il is acting crazy, something else is going on and, oh, there was an explosion in california.


they don't know yet..  could be an angry ex-girlfriend.  and then she mentions the name of the company

olivia realizes in that moment ...

she confronts the lobbyist as they sit on a park bench.  yeah, he did it.  he ordered it.  and it's too late for either of them to get their cherries back (his line) so she better just handle it.  but this woman, olivia points out, the ex-girlfriend lindsay dwyer, she's going to be set up for the murder of those people with the bomb.  he doesn't care.

olivia goes to cyrus.  cyrus is with james.  they're happy.  they're going to get married, james tells her, and adopt a baby.  james is really happy but notices olivia's bothered so he says she can have cyrus, he just got engaged and he has plenty of things to do.

as soon as he leaves, olivia tells cyrus that the southern lobbyist had 6 people killed and he's going to frame this linsday dwyer.

cyrus shows the ugly side of him by insisting that the 6 died for their country and lindsay's going to be serving time for her country and this is the most important thing and blah blah.

and olivia just looks dismayed.

you get why she left the white house.

lindsay dwyer, if you don't already know is olivia's employee quinn perkins.  last season, quinn was a mystery who couldn't remember a chunk of past.  and wouldn't talk about the rest.  olivia knew the truth but no 1 else (huck knew) did.  and then quinn's boyfriend was killed (for getting too close to unearthing the conspiracy) and quinn finds him.  olivia explains they have to clean the scene.  abby and harrison point out that's illegal.  they have to clean because quinn will be the suspect.  why?

because she was before.

quinn isn't quinn. and that's when it begins to crack and we learn stuff.

last episode, quinn tricked huck and was able to find out that she was kidnapped and transported in the supreme court justice's plane - she confronted huck with that and pointed out that the judge is olivia's close friend.

so now we know why olivia left the white house.

now let's go to current times.  fitz is in surgery, millie's covered in blood and not leaving his side, olivia finds the flag pin on the floor of the hospital.  she's back at the white house because of the crisis.

the vice president lands on the south white house lawn - only the president is allowed to do that.  cyrus goes to confront her and she's planning on becoming president and acting like she is.  he explains the constitution to her.  she becomes the president if fitz steps down, is impeached or dies.  none of that has happened.  he tells her she's going with the guards to the bunker and they can carry her if they have to because their job is to get her there and protect her.

remember olivia's dating the senator now?  he's in the bunker too.

when things are judged safe and the bunker people are let go, the senator immediately calls olivia.  he tells her the vice president was lobbying the cabinet in the bunker to vote to replace fitz with her right now (which they can do).  she just needs 2 more votes.

olivia goes to talk to cyrus and they try to figure out what to do.

olivia decides only millie can stop this.  she goes to millie who thinks olivia's there to tell her fitz is dead.  when she learns that's not the case, olivia tries to sit by her and millie tells her (loudly) not to and not pretend that they are friends.  olivia explains what the v.p. is up to and that they need millie to go out before the cameras.  there are all these rumors.  rumors millie's shot, etc.  she tells olivia she'll need a fresh set of clothes.

she goes before the cameras and does a great job.  and fitz would have been secure except the doctor can't say if it's a day or a week or when that fitz is going to come to.  the episode winds down with cyrus throwing things in his office as the vp is in the oval office getting sworn in by the supreme court justice.

and if that seems like, 'let me up for a breath!'  oh, you just don't know.

the last scene of the episode?

 we're right after the gun shots on fitz.  we're up in a hotel room.  a man in a red hoodie with a rifle is packing up.  and grabbing shell casings.  oh, look, it's huck.

can you believe it?

this is the most action packed show on t.v.  shonda rhimes is my hero, my goddess, you name it.  she has created an amazing show.  kerry washington is so wonderful as olivia.

if you're not watching 'scandal,' please start.

don't feel, oh, i've missed it already.

right before this show started airing last season, c.i. told me to watch, told me it was great, blah blah blah.  i'm just not some 1 who responds.  i should.  c.i. doesn't hype.  if she says something's worth it, it usually is.

then right before the 2nd season started up with new episodes, i opened up the disc set of season 1 c.i. sent me.  i was hooked.

and season 2 is even more amazing.

this is an incredible show.  everything we want from t.v.

thank you, shonda rhimes, for creating this wonderful, must-see t.v. show.

let's close with c.i.'s 'Iraq snapshot:'

Friday, December 7, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, a day after bad reporting finds AP looking even more foolish with their false 'report' as tensions continue between Baghdad and Erbil, a Shi'ite leader explains how Shi'ites end up siding with the Kurds over Nouri's current attack, we look at Syrian refugees in Iraq, and more.
The month isn't even ten days old yet, through Thursday, Iraq Body Count counts 39 people killed from violence in Iraq so far this month (13 alone yesterday).   Violence continues today.  Alsumaria notes a Diwainya armed dispute lead to 2 people dead and a third injured, and a Baghdad home invasion killed 1 SahwaAll Iraq News adds a Mosul attack left 1 police officer dead and two more injured, a Musayyib mortar attack left six people injured, a Mosul internet cafe owner was shot dead and 1 person was shot dead outside their Mosul home. and a Babylon roadside bombing left one person injured.
Yesterday, Al-Shorfa reports, Nouri al-Maliki's Baghdad government announced that 7 previously armed groups were joining the political process and they "include the 20th Revolution Brigades, Malek al-Ashtar Brigade, Khalid Bin al-Walid Brigade, Arab Tribes Sons Brigade, Omar Bin al-Khattab Brigade, Children of Iraq Brigade and Saqr Quraish Brigade." This as Al-Bayyna reports a member of the Parliament's National Reconciliation Committee issued a statement declaring that reconciliation does not mean bringing in former Ba'athists. He asserts that de-Ba'athifcation is the law of the land. De-Ba'athification is the policy Paul Bremer oversaw in Iraq that forced Iraqis out of jobs. That was the military, that was the government. The reason? Belonging to the Ba'ath political party. That's a part that Saddam Hussein would eventually head in Iraq. It's also a player throughout the Middle East and part of a pan-Arab movement. De-Ba'athifcation is seen as a huge mistake. And Nouri agreed to what we call de-de-Ba'athifcation. He agreed to that in 2007. But he never implemented it and, judging by the remarks today, there is no governmental interest in healing that division.

Alsumaria reports that Minister of Transportation Hadi al-Amiri declared today that 15,000 families have suffered as a result of the refusal to implement Article 140.  al-Amiri states that this has led some families to be denied Iraqi nationalities. As the leader of the Badr Organization, al-Amiri is part of the National Alliance (also known as the Ntional Iraqi Alliance which is led by Ibrahim al-Jaafari).   What is going on?  Why are so many Shi'ite politicians turning on Nouri publicly as he goes after the Kurds and the threat of a war with the Kurds looms?   Qassim Khidhir Hamad (Niqash) spoke with the Islamic Supreme Council's Bashir Adel Gli this week.  The Islamic Supreme Council is another Shi'ite political party which belongs to the National Alliance.
NIQASH: How do you feel about the current relationship between the Shiite Muslims of Iraq and Iraq's Kurdistan people?
Bashir Adel Gli: The relationship between Iraq's Shiite Muslims and the Kurdish people is a historic one. It goes back to the time that [religious leader] Grand Ayatollah Muhsin al-Hakim [the grandfather of Ammar al-Hakim, current leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council] issued a fatwa [religious edict] in 1965 that forbade Shiite Muslims to fight with the Kurdish.  
This decree was copied and distributed all over Iraq and it had a big impact on Shiite Muslim soldiers.
He issued that decree after some Sunni Muslim clerics issued a totally different fatwa saying that their followers were allowed to kill the Kurdish. The [Sunni Muslim-dominated] authorities were trying to find some way of justifying their ethnic cleansing and killing of the Kurdish people. And what al-Hakim said at the time made them very angry.
As a result, 70 members of al-Hakim's family were arrested and later killed.
Basically Shiite Muslim ideology says that Shiites must support the oppressed at all times; and that they must not support the dictator, no matter who that dictator is.
NIQASH: So how do you see the current problem between Erbil and Baghdad: is it a Shiite Muslim-Kurdish problem?
Bashir Adel Gli: No, it is the problem between the Dawa Party [headed by Nouri al-Maliki] and the government of Iraqi Kurdistan. It is not a problem between Shiites and Kurds in general.
And that is part of the how and why Nouri is losing ground at present on this issue.  Turning to a Twitter conversation.  Derek Brower is the editor-at-large of Petroleum Economist and he just left the KRG.
If Maliki still pushing idea of Peshmerga replaced in territories by local force, don't see KRG accepting that since implies Pesh withdrawal
@IraqiPolitics I agree. Just returned from Kirkuk, where the two sides are v close to
a scrap. Either serious brinkmanship or impending war.
@derek_brower hi, thanks for your coverage, AP now reporting initial agreement between both sides, any signs from the ground.
@jamesbr01 I'd be sceptical, unless things changed in the few hours since I've returned from Kirkuk. But always possible.
"I'd be skeptical" of the AP report "unless things changed in the few hours since I've returned from Kirkuk" Twetted Derek Brower yesterday afternoon.  Apparently we're all going to have to learn to be skeptical of AP because their report was wrong.
There has been no agreement.  Tonight, Alsumaria reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani issued a statement stating that the only way to end the current crisis is to implement Article 140.  The main part of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution reads:
The responsibility placed upon the executive branch of the Iraqi Transitional Government stipulated in Aerticle 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law shall extend and continue to the executive authority elected in accordance with this Constitution, provided that it accomplishes completely (normalization and census
and concludes with a referendum in Kirkuk and other disputed territories to determine the will of their citizens), by a date not to exceed the 31st of December 2007.
That's from Iraq's 2005 Constitution.  In the spring of 2006, after the Iraqi Parliament wanted Ibrahim al-Jafaari as prime minister (it would have been his second term) and the White House nixed the choice and insisted that Nouri al-Maliki be made prime minister, Nouri took an oath to uphold the Constitution.  Article 140 is a part of the Constitution and it is very clear in its wording that it must be implemented by December 2007.  Yet for Nouri's entire first term he refused to honor the Constitution.  Kirkuk is oil-rich and it is claimed by Nouri's central government out of Baghdad and by the Kurdistan Regional Government with both set of players making historical arguments on why they should be the one to lay claim to Kirkuk.  The way to settle it, as the Constitution made clear, was a census and a referendum.  But Nouri refused to implement Article 140.  His term came to an end in early 2010.  Iraq held parliamentary elections in March 2010.  Nouri's State of Law came in second to Iraqiya.  2010 saw the continuation of a trend that emerged in the 2009 provincial elections.  Iraqis were not interested in sects.  They were interested in a national identity. 
Having come in second to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya, Nouri quickely stepped down -- and, no, he didn't.  He refused to.  He refused to let Iraqi move forward.  From the November 1, 2010  snapshot:
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "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." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's seven months and twenty-five days and still counting.
The stalemate would continue for over a week more.  Nouri was able to stamp his feet and stop the political process because the US government refused to side with the Iraqi voters.  Instead of calling for the will of the people to be honored, the Barack Obama White House demanded that Nouri get a second term.  From  John Barry's "'The Engame' Is A Well Researched, Highly Critical Look at U.S. Policy in Iraq" (Daily Beast) last September:

Washington has little political and no military influence over these developments [in Iraq]. As Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor charge in their ambitious new history of the Iraq war, The Endgame, Obama's administration sacrificed political influence by failing in 2010 to insist that the results of Iraq's first proper election be honored: "When the Obama administration acquiesced in the questionable judicial opinion that prevented Ayad Allawi's bloc, after it had won the most seats in 2010, from the first attempt at forming a new government, it undermined the prospects, however slim, for a compromise that might have led to a genuinely inclusive and cross-sectarian government."
When your preferred candidate loses the vote, how do you install him to a second term?  You ignore the Constitution and create a new 'understanding.'  So in November 2010, the White House brokered a new contract known as the Erbil Agreement.  The contract was signed by the leaders of Iraq's various political blocs.  In the contract, Nouri agrees to give political party A various concessions if political party A will allow him a second term as prime minister.  So Nouri promises various things to the various parties.  To the Kurds, he promises, among other things, that he will finally implement Article 140.
The US government vouches for the contract with the White House pledging they will uphold it.  But Nouri pretty much breaks it immediately.  Iraqiya calls him out and the US press treats it as a misunderstanding and swears Nouri's going to honor the contract. But he doesn't.  And months turn into a year and he still hasn't and his State of Law is insisting the contract is illegal (if Nouri was installed prime minister by an illegal contract, grasp this, then Nouri is not prime minister).  By the summer of 2011, those calling for Nouri to honor the contract include Iraqiya, the Kurds and cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr.   That's when the second political stalemate is evident.  This is kicked up to a crisis in December when, following the departure of most US troops, Nouri decides to go after Iraqiya.  For weeks, he'd been targeting Sunnis and Iraqiya members (sometimes they are the same thing) in various provinces, having them rounded up as terrorists.  But now he was demanding that Iraqiya's Tareq al-Hashemi be arrested and that Iraqiya's Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post.  Tareq al-Hashemi is Iraq's Vice President.  Saleh al-Mutlaq is Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister.  To remove either from their post requires the consent of Parliament.
Nouri couldn't get the votes.  But he does control the Baghdad judiciary.  Which is how Iraq ended up the only country in the world with a sitting Vice President convicted of terrorism.  Tareq remains the Vice President -- despite being found guilty of 'terrorism' and despite being sentenced to death multiple times.  That crisis sent off alarms in Iraq and out of Iraq as a Sunni dominant region looked askance at Nouri and his puppet court in Baghdad. 
It created a major crisis and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi (a member of Iraqiya) and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (a Kurd) both started calling for a National Conference on December 21, 2011.  But Nouri refused it.  Iraq was still dealing with that unresolved crisis -- which the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler called a political stalemate when reporting to the United Nations Security Council back in his July 19th presentation to the UN Security Council (see the July 19th snapshot and the speech is also covered in the July 20th snapshot).  But Iraq is the land where Nouri piles crazy on top of crazy so with an ongoing stalemate already taking place as a result of a crisis Nouri caused, he set out to create another.  After refusing for years to implement Article 140 to resolve the dispute of Kirkuk and other disputed lands, Nouri, a few months ago, sent a new group of forces under his command (Tigris Operation Command) into the disputed areas.  The Kurds saw this as an attempt by Nouri to 'settle' the dispute in Baghdad's favor by having Nouri's forces occupy and control the areas.
The tensions increased and increased until last month the Kurds sent the Peshmerga into the same areas.  The military standoff continues.  Al Mada reports Islamic Superme Council of Iraq leader Ammar al-Hakim is calling for calm.   As the report continues, you'll note something in all the Iraq reporting today on this topic, consider it the Iraqi press saying "Suck it, AP," that Nouri al-Maliki has spoken with Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi about what al-Nujaifi spoke to KRG President Massoud Barzani on Tuesday about; however, Nouri's not spoken to Barzani.  Translation, there is no deal.  We noted it yesterday, the AP got it wrong when they 'reported' that Nouri said a deal had been reached.  That is not what he said.  Sadly, some US outlets have picked up on AP's garbage and have presented as fact. 
Rudaw reports:

As many Iraqis worry about a possible war between Iraqi troops and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in the disputed northern territories, the country's senior Shia clerics have issued religious prohibitions against such a conflict. 
The latest reaction came on Wednesday from the Najaf Hawza, the prominent Shia religious institution, which issued a fatwa saying that, "Fighting the Kurds is haram (religiously prohibited)."
"Those Iraqi soldiers who die in battle against the Kurds are not considered martyrs," the Hawza said in a statement. Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ignited tensions by sending in his controversial Dijla forces into the northern disputed territories that are also claimed by the Kurds. 
The autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government dispatched thousands of its own Peshmerga forces into the territories, setting off a tense stand-off that has endured for weeks.

All Iraq News reports that this morning Sheikh Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalai, in a prayer sermon, declared that the conflict should be resolved by the Constitution.  Juma Abdulla (Al-Bayyna) adds that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has warned that Nouri al-Maliki is playing with fire by his actions.  Last night, Al Mada filed a lengthy report on the press conference that AP distorted.  Al Mada notes -- as other Iraqi outlets did yesterday -- that Nouri's remarks were that there were two proposals currently -- not that the situation had been resolved (as AP falsely reported) and that he declared this at the joint-conference he held with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (AP also 'forgot' that fact). (For Ban Ki-moon's remarks at the news conference see yesterday's snapshot.)  All Iraq News adds that the Secretary-General spoke with KRG President Massoud Barazni over the phone yesterday.  Al Mada reports that Ban Ki-moon also met with Osama al-Nujaif and Parliament.  UNAMI provides the remarks he made to Parliament:
Your Excellency, Osama al-Nujaifi, Speaker of the Council of Representatives,
Distinguished Heads of Political Blocs,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for your warm reception. I am honoured to be here. 
The democratic transition over the past decade has advanced thanks to the leaders and people of this great country. Iraq has re-emerged as a leader on the regional and global stage. And as current Chair of the Arab League, you are steering the region at a critical time in its history.
Iraq is making important progress in strengthening its state institutions. I welcome the establishment of the independent Human Rights Commission and the Board of Commissioners of the Independent High Electoral Commission. Your task now is to guarantee the independence of these bodies.
You face many challenges. I am especially concerned about strained relations among Iraq's main political leaders. This problem hampers the adoption of necessary reforms and constitutionally mandated legislation. It impedes effective governance, the delivery of services and the fair distribution of resources.
Above all, I worry that increased political polarization could stoke sectarian violence and reverse the precious security gains against terrorism in recent years.
 To guard against this, I urge all political leaders to engage in an inclusive dialogue to resolve their differences in the spirit of the Constitution.
 Your role is critical. As elected representatives of the people, you have immense responsibility to promote democracy, safeguard political freedoms and advance social progress and well-being.
There is no alternative to national reconciliation and peaceful co-existence for all communities in a united, federal Iraq. There is no alternative to reaching a mutually agreeable understanding over the issues of wealth-sharing and disputed internal boundaries.
The Iraqi people will have another important chance to choose their representatives during the Governorate Council elections.
Credible elections will be crucial to consolidating the democratic transition.
This is particularly important for the overdue elections in Kirkuk. I urge the communities there to forge consensus on a way forward.
The United Nations remains steadfast in supporting the Government and the new Board of the Independent High Electoral Commission to ensure fair and credible elections across Iraq.
Excellencies, This is a time of tremendous challenge across the region. There is a real threat of a destabilizing spill-over of the violence in Syria. This crisis is at the forefront of international concern -- and it is a legitimate source of worry for Iraq.
I thank Iraq for its constructive engagement in the search for a solution, and for its generosity in hosting numerous Syrian refugees. The United Nations will continue working to provide humanitarian assistance.
On the important goal of normalizing relations between Iraq and Kuwait, I was encouraged earlier this year by steps taken under the leadership of Prime Minister al-Maliki and the Emir of Kuwait. But I am concerned that progress could be threatened by the lack of confidence between the two countries and lack of progress on outstanding issues.
It will take courage and statesmanship to move beyond a difficult past and embark on a new era of cooperation. I have made this clear in my meetings with leaders from both countries. Today, I again call on you to unite behind this goal so that Iraq – a founding member of the United Nations – can regain its rightful place in the community of nations.
I am confident that decisive steps to fulfil this country's outstanding international obligations on boundary maintenance, compensation for farmers and missing persons and property will enable the Security Council to positively consider restoring Iraq's international standing. I – along with my Special Representative – will spare no effort to help achieve this goal.
Excellencies, Iraq has vast human resources, especially the country's youth. Half of all Iraqis are under the age of 18. I hope you will nurture these future leaders.
Women are another powerful force -- but they are still marginalized. Quotas have made it possible for women to make up one quarter of the Council's representatives, but there is only one female electoral Commissioner and one female State Minister. Iraqi women are bright and talented. They should be empowered to engage in building the future of this great country.
The United Nations is also working with Iraq to protect the environment,  preserve natural resources and fight the menace of dust storms.
I have just come from the Doha Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
I am committed to advancing progress on climate change and to addressing the challenges it poses for Iraq. Dust storms have doubled over the past two years and they are expected to double again in the next two. This is a serious regional issue which demands a regional response.
In all these areas, the United Nations will continue to be your partner.
As always, we will listen to your concerns and your ideas. We are here to support you as the Iraqi people forge a shared future of lasting stability and peace.
Thank you very much.
Shukran Jazeelan.

All Iraq News reports al-Nujaafi and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani discussed ways to resolve the crisis late yesterday evening.  Osama al-Nujaifi issued a statement afterwards thanking Talabani for his continued efforts at resolving the crisis.   And the outlet notes that MP Susan Saad (with the al-Fadhila Party) issued a call today for direct dialogue to end the crisis, noting that it does not serve Iraqi interests for the crisis to continue.  In her statement, she uses "we" and makes clear she is speaking on behalf of the al-Fahila Party. None of the above is needed if, as AP wrongly 'reported' yesterday, an agreement between Baghdad and Erbil had been reached.

November 29th (see that day's "Iraq snapshot"  and the November 30th "Iraq snapshot"), the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq, Martin Kobler, addressed the UN Security Council on the state of Iraq.  We'll wrap up his presentation today.
Martin Kobler:  The exploitation of the environment and natural resources has far-reaching implications for the future of Iraq, encompassing political, security and developmental priorities.  In particular, the generation of harmful dust storms in the region continues to increase, bringing with them associated health hazards and hampering economic activities.   UNAMI and the UNCT continue to work closely together on this important issue.  I have attended several meetings to promote regional approaches to such transboundary issues and I am actively working with the governmnt of Iraq and UNEP to hold a symposium on dust storms in southern Iraq in early 2013.  Complimentary efforts by UNAMI and the Humanitarian Country Team have ensured a timely and effective response to the humanitarian dimension in Iraq of the ongoing conflict in Syria, including a range of protection and relief activities.  The flow of refugees has already exceeded projected numbers.  As of 18 November, there were more than 50,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq.  In addition, almost 55,000 Irais have returned from Syria since 18 July 2012.  We anticipate that the influx will continue thus swelling the numbers of those displaced. The UN is working closely with the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration to respond to the situation.  The Humanitarian Country Team continues to monitor the situation, and coordinates regularly with partners and government authorities to ensure preparedness and an efficient and timely response.  It has developed contingency plans in-line with the UN's Syria Regional Refugee Response Plan, which are continuously updated in response to emerging developments.  Efforts are also taking place to ensure that camps are fully equipped and prepared for the coming winter and necessary equipment distributed to refugees and returnees (like distribution of blankets and kerosene, prefabricated structures instead of tents).  I also call on the government of Iraq to reopen al-Qaim crossing point so that vulnerable persons in need of protection are able to leave Syria.  Only 30 percent of the third Refugee Response Plan is covered and many refugees continue to pour into Iraq on a daily basis and I, therefore, appeal to all member states to step up and cover the remaining 70 percent of the plan. 
In the middle of the week, Refugees International released a field report on Syrian Refugees which noted that there are 400,000 know Syrian refugees in Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.  Known?  Many refugees will never attempt to register with the United Nations.  Registering with the UN provides a document, a paper trail, and refugees often fear such a trail -- they fled due to fear and may fear being found by those in Syria that they fled, they fled for safety and may fear that a host country will force them to leave.  There are many reasons why you will never have 100% registration among refugees of any crisis.   On Iraq, the report notes:
Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has declared Syrian Kurds to be their brethren and has welcomed them into northern Iraq with a tremendous amount of goodwill. The KRG has done a laudable job of integrating urban refugees fleeing Syria into the national systems, and offers them the same benefits as their own nationals. However, the KRG's social services structure is feeling the strain of serving this extra population and needs outside support. To ensure that assistance is available to both camp and urban Syrian refugees in northern Iraq, the international community must support the KRG's generosity by designating funding for humanitarian assistance in northern Iraq.
When significant numbers of Syrian refugees began arriving in Iraqi Kurdistan early in 2012, they were generally well-received by their host communities. About eight months ago, the KRG opened Domiz camp in Dohuk Governorate, hoping it would help it provide for everyone more efficiently and make the best use of limited resources. Unfortunately, some of the camp's structures and programs have been slow to develop and many residents lack the assistance they need. Similarly, in the urban areas, Syrian refugees' needs have outstripped the KRG's ability to address them. While refugees have access to the KRG's own social services, those services themselves are underdeveloped in some cases and unable to serve additional clients.
[. . .]
As in other countries hosting Syrian refugees, the three governorates of Iraqi Kurdistan -- Dohuk, Erbil, and Suleimaniyah -- are feeling the strain of hosting their guests. The Domiz camp in Dohuk alone has 15,000 refugees in residence, and tens of thousands more are living in the nearby cities. The KRG has been struggling for the past year to provide for everyone. In keeping with the best practices recommended by the UNHCR, Syrian refugees outside of the camp have access to the national services of the KRG. However, the reality is that once people run out of financial means to rent a residence, they are very likely to have to move to Domiz in order to have a place to live. Getting services in the camp is a challenge in itself, as the space is overcrowded and service provision is still developing. In order to promote self-sufficiency, and to avoid creating tensions in either an overcrowded camp or an overburdened community, services in both settings must be made adequate and sustainable. 
Refugees International's report on Iraq only notes what the Kurdistan Regional Government is doing.  Kobler is calling for the al-Qaim crossing point to be re-opened.  That's not a KRG issue.  Most refugees coming into the KRG from Syria are doing so through the Rabi'aa crossing.  al-Qaim is in Anbar Province (which is not in the KRG).    October 21st, Nouri closed the al-Qaim crossing point.  In one weekly report after another, the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) has repeatedly noted that al-Qaim refugees do not have freedom of movement. 
"Winter is already here and UNHCR and its partners still lack 50 percent of the funds needed to get everyone through the next few difficult months," declared Angelina Jolie who, with Brad Pitt, made a $50,000 donation to UNHCR Thursday.  "Despite all the good work being done so far, it's clear here on the ground that all resources are now stretched to the limit.  This is going to be a very tough few months.  Winter can be harsh here, even dangerous for refugees who may already be weakened by their ordeal.  Many have been brutalized in unimaginable ways.  They deserve all the support we can give them."  Anyone who would like to dnate -- at any level -- can visit this UNHCR page.  It's a bad economy, no one has to feel guilty or justify how they're spending their money.  I won't know if you donated or not and it's your business not mine.  But at this time of they year, many people look for places to donate and the UNHCR helps refugees around the world. 
September 28th, the US State Dept, under court order to reconsider their opinion that Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) were terrorists, announced that they had reviewed the classification and "decided, consistent with the law, to revoke the designation."  This decision is important with regards to Iraq because approximately 3,400 MEKs were in Iraq, invited in by Saddam Hussein.  When the US invaded Iraq in 2003, these people were disarmed by the US military and were told this would be in exchange for US protection.  As  CNN noted after the State Dept took the MEK off the terrorist list, "since 2004 the United States has considered the group, which has lived for more than 25 years at a refugee camp in Iraq, 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions." Despite being re-classified, however, the MEKs in Iraq remain, at present, unable to find asylum in other countries.  Kobler ended his presentation to the Security Council last week by noting this group of people.
Martin Kobler:  Finally, Mr. President, I wish to emphasize that Camp Liberty, also called Camp Hurriayah, was only meant to be an interim facility to facilitate the Refugee Status.  Determination and subsequent resettlement in third countries.  As this process is now well in progress, I should like to take this opportunity to reiterate the Secretary-General's appeal to Member States to offer resettlement opportunities to former residents of Camp Ashraf.  Without such an undertaking, there can be no sustainable solution for the residents.  Currently, only 100 residents remain in Camp Ashraf, while over 3,100 residents have been peacefully transferred to Camp Hurriyah near Baghdad.  The government of Iraq insists to close Camp Ashraf in the next days.  It requested the last 100 residents be relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  For obvious reasons, UNAMI cannot be directly involved in negotiations on the property of Camp Ashraf residents.  My colleagues and I, however, have spared no efforts over the last weeks to facilitate meetings between various merchants and the government of Iraq.  These various merchants and the government of Iraq.  These efforts, regretfully, were unsuccessful, leading to a stalemate over the last weeks.  The government of Iraq considers this stalemate as an attempt by the residents to delay the relocation of the remaining 100 persons.  The government of Iraq's patience is, therefore, wearing thin.  I call on the residents of Camp Ashraf to cooperate with the government of Iraq to solve all outstanding questions related to property.  We have come a long way. I also call upon the government of Iraq to maintain the peaceful relocation of the residents as stipulated in the Memorandum of Understanding, to demonstrate restraint, and be as flexible as possible when it comes to resolving property related issues.  UN monitors in Camp Hurriyah monitor the human rights and humanitarian situation of the residents on a daily basis.  They are, however, often denied access to certain areas of the camp by the residents.  This hinders the performance of their duties.  They are working hard in an impartial manner under very difficult circumstances.  They have my full confidence.  I urge the residents to engage constructively with the government of Iraq and the United Nations so that Camp Ashraf can be closed peacefully and efforts can focus on the residents' resettlement to third countries.  Mr. President, coming to the end, on the face of the many challenges ahead I outlined earlier in my briefing, it is imperative that Iraq stays the course to complete its transition to an inclusive democracy, provides stability and prosperity for its people and exercises a positive influence throughout the region.  With Member States' support, UNAMI will continue to assist the people and the government of Iraq in these truly worthy endeavours.  The substantial cut of USD 30 million, I regret to say, to UNAMI's budget next year will require that we do more with less.  I know I can count on UNAMI's dedicated staff to work on behalf of you towards these goals and I would in particular thank the government of Iraq for its coooperation during this year 2012 and I am looking forward to another year of good cooperation in 2013.  Last but not least, I do thank the Security Council for its continued support throughout the year.  Thank you very much.


al gore is right

jake miller (cbs news) reports:

In a speech before the New York League of Conservation Voters on Thursday, former Vice President Al Gore criticized Obama's lack of concerted action to address climate change, saying that while he deeply respects "our president and the steps he has taken," it's time to move beyond lip service.
"We cannot have four more years of mentioning this occasionally and saying it's too bad that the Congress can't act," said Gore, according to Reuters, arguing that the White House must act more aggressively to dispel the inertia that has gripped Capitol Hill's response to climate change.

al gore is right.

but he's right on many levels.

for example, it is time to move beyond lip service.

and i agree with him about that regarding barack needs to act.

i also, however, argue that al gore needs to do something more than offer weak words.

and those words are embarrassingly weak.

deeply respects 'our president'?

wtf al?

they gave you a nobel peace prize for environmentalism and you have to ass kiss to call out?

al gore, you're a f**king embarrassment.

i see now why maureen dowd felt you were practically latctating.

how else to explain your sniveling?

i've really had it.

either the environment matters or it does not.

if it matters, stop kissing barack's ass.

call him out.

because if it matters, his inaction wasn't a nuisance, it was criminal.

is that not clear to you, al?

i won no f**king nobel peace prize but it's pretty damn clear to me.

translation, al, speak strongly or shut the f**k up.  we don't need you modeling weakness and planned helplessness.

let's close with c.i.'s 'Iraq snapshot:'

Thursday, December 6, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visits Iraq, AP is so busy misreporting that they miss out on the visit, the standoff remains, the US and Iraq just signed a new agreement, an Iraqi official used the signing opportunity to publicly call out what Iraq has alleged are Israeli spying devices that have been hidden on the F-16s that Iraq has purchased, in a tale of two press releases we find the US State Dept can get a title correct while the US Defense Dept doesn't have a clue, and more.
The press is supposed to want to report. If they can be accused -- collectively -- of a bias its having a desire for conflict because conflict makes news. So explain Qassim Abdul-Zahra's AP story this morning which has only been teased out to a longer story by this afternoon despite it grossly misunderstanding what was stated by Nouri al-Maliki about the country's most recent crisis which Nouri sparked when he sent forces into the disputed regions of northern Iraq. Let's deal first with what actually happened today. All Iraq News notes Nouri held a news conference with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today and Nouri declared that there were proposals (plural) to resolve the current standoff between Baghdad and Erbil. Alsumaria reports Nouri said there were two proposals for ending the military standoff in disputed areas between Nouri's Tigris Operation Command and the Kurdish Peshmerga. One proposal is locals are in charge of security while another proposal is a joint patrol by Nouri's Tigris forces and the Peshmerga. The key on the second proposal would be whether or not the Peshmerga remains under Kurdish control.
Also today All Iraq News reports Iraqi President Jalal Talabani gave a speech about how this crisis is threatening the security and the peace. Al Mada adds that Talabani declared that threatening language -- a reference to Nouri's speech on Saturday -- has no place in this discussion. And as Thursday ended in Iraq, Alsumaria reported that Talabani met with Ahmed Chalabi who gave his support to Talabani and his efforts to peacefully resolve the crisis. All Iraq News notes that Talabani also met with US Ambassador to Iraq Robert S. Beecroft today and they agreed on the need for a peaceful solution to this ongoing dispute.
That's all really basic. Yet this morning, AP wanted to report that Nouri stated an agreement had been reached on how to resolve the crisis. That's not what's reported by Arabic outlets. They report Nouri held a press conferences and talked about proposal(s). They continued to insist an agreement had been reached as the day went along. No agreement's been reached. Jalal Talabani wouldn't have given the speech he did today or met with Chalabi to discuss the crisis if it was resolved.
Let's drop back to the November 26th snapshot:
In a development everyone is trumpeting, representatives from the KRG and the central Iraqi government met in Baghdad today. KUNA notes, "Iraq's federal government and provincial government of Iraq's Kurdistan region reached an agreement in principle stipulating return of all military foces to their previous locations." In principal? And that's the more upbeat version. Isabel Coles and Alison Williams (Reuters) lead with, "Iraqi military leaders agreed on Monday with commanders from the Kurdistan region to defuse tension and discuss pulling their troops back from an area over which they both claim jurisdiction." That's not quite the same thing and when you include a quote from Iraq's "commander in chief of the Iraqi armed forces" (that would be Nouri) that states the two sides will "discuss a mechanism to return the forces which were deployed after the crisis to their previous positions." So they're going to discuss that. And even less has been accomplished according to Almanar, "Top federal and Kurdish security officials agreed in Baghdad on Monday to 'activate' coordinating committees between their forces and work to calm the situation in northern Iraq, a statement said." Almanar also notes that those attending the meeting including US Lt Gen Robert Caslen.
As we noted the next morning, that story fell apart. AP was one of the outlets that got that story grossly wrong. You'd think they'd have learned and you think the fact that the press feeds on conflict would mean that the same reporters wouldn't repeatedly fall for the same "Everything solved! Nothing here to see!" This morning, we pointed out that if an agreement had been reached, KRG President Massoud Barzani and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani would probably be making announcements. That didn't strike AP as strange? That the person who initiated the conflict would be the one to announce it was over?
And if that doesn't seem plausible how about the fact that there's nothing on the KRG website about an agreement being reached? There is this article in Arabic (probably there in Kurdish as well but I can't read Kurdish). It's about today's meeting of Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and his Cabinet and among the topics discussed was the conflict and the Tigris Operation Command and how the General Command of the Peshmerga states that they are prepared to defend and protect if violence breaks out. Barzani noted that he was speaking with all Kurdish leaders including KRG President Massoud Barzani.
Seems to me if a deal was reached, KRG President Massoud Barzani would know and I don't see why he'd keep it from the Prime Minister (who is also his nephew). Again, it's just not plausible. Last time when AP and others pulled this nonsense, I didn't name them, I just said outlets. Well I'm sorry this is the second time you're claiming events happened when they didn't, the second time that your 'solution' story tells the world "Look away, nothing to see here." It's a bit hard to excuse it. It goes against what Iraqi outlets are reporting happened, it goes against what's plausible and it goes against the nature of journalism.
On the standoff, let's note two views of what's unfolding. First, David Romano (Rudaw) offers this take:

From my perch in the West, far outside the halls of power in Baghdad or Erbil, it's hard for me to know how serious the threat of outright conflict between the Kurds and Maliki has become. As a political scientist, however, I know of too many historical cases where such tensions led to wars that none of the parties intended or really wanted. In other cases, some of those who chose or desired war expected a quick victory, only to become mired in terrible, grinding and long lasting fighting. The region remembers when Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1967 famously took provocative action after action, from threats and blockades against Israeli shipping to demanding the withdrawal of United Nations observer forces from the Sinai. Finally the Israelis attacked, and somehow took him by surprise and then proceeded to defeat the combined forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria in 6 days. Several years later, Saddam Hussein thought to launch a similar surprise attack on Iran, after its new religious leaders began inciting Iraqi shiites to revolt. Expecting quick victory similar to Israel's lightning war of 1967, he instead condemned Iraq and Iraq to eight years of war, poverty and over a million war dead. The point is that when you overturn the cart, or even threaten to turn it over, no one really knows where its contents will fall.
If serious armed conflict between Maliki and the Kurds does erupt, intentionally or not, the media war of interpretation will undoubtedly rage as well. How such conflict gets framed will likely play a crucial war in determining the winner, in fact. If Mr. Maliki manages to cast the issue as a war between Kurds and Arabs (or "an ethnic war," as he recently referred to a possible conflict), the advantage will go to him. Given how seriously Arabs outnumber Kurds in Iraq, the medium and long-term consequences of such a framing of the conflict would prove extremely disadvantageous to Kurdistan. Mr. Maliki and his "State of Law" Party will tell Iraqis that Barzani is trying to expand Kurdistan's borders at Arab expense. Under such circumstances, it would be hard even for Arabs who oppose Maliki not to rally to his cause of protecting Arabs against Kurdish maximalism. As long as leaders in Kurdistan insist that Article 140 be implemented and the disputed territories be given a chance to join Kurdistan, it will prove extremely difficult to oppose Maliki's framing of the issue as one of "Arab vs. Kurd."

And for another view, Qassim Khidhir Hamad (Niqash) speaks with the Islamic Supreme Council's Bashir Adel Gli

NIQASH: Despite all this though, it seems that both sides are sending more military into the disputed areas every day. People here in Iraqi Kurdistan are frightened, they think that war is inevitable.
Bashir Adel Gli: I have no fear. There won't be a war.
NIQASH: And what makes you so sure of that?
Bashir Adel Gli: Because al-Maliki has a lot of opponents in Baghdad – such as the Islamic Virtue Party [the Fadhila party], the Islamic Supreme Council, the Sadrists [Editor's note: the latter three are all Shiite-Muslim dominated] and the Iraqiya party. All of his opponents simply won't let this happen. And the Kurdish won't allow the Kurdish military [the peshmerga] to attack the Iraqi army either.
NIQASH: So what do you think will happen in Iraqi politics in 2013?
Bashir Adel Gli: I can't really predict that. But I do think it will be the end of al-Maliki. I think if al-Maliki tries to run for the third term, he will find that those opposed to him will multiply.

On a related note, Ayad al-Tamimi (Al Mada) reports that the National Alliance (Shi'ite political body headed by Ibrahim al-Jafaari) declared that they believe Nouri is attempting to isolate them politically. Dar Addustour notes the talks going on between KRG President Massoud Barzani, Moqtada al-Sadr (cleric and leader of the Sadr movement) and Iraqiya head Ayad Allawi over the current crisis and the belief that Nouri has escalated this.

From yesterday's snapshot, more problems for Nouri:
A few weeks ago, Nouri attempted to end the food-rations card system and his spokesperson announced, November 6th, that it was over. It wasn't over because it's too popular. The Iraqi people wouldn't stand for it nor would the politicians (except for those in Nouri's State of Law). So Nouri had to back down. Moqtada al-Sadr was one of the leaders on that issue.
But he and Moqtada tangled weeks before that as well. It happened when Nouri said there was no oil surplus money that could become dividends for the Iraqi people and Moqtada al-Sadr expressed doubt and disapproval. All Iraq News explained in October that Moqtada and his poltical bloc have not let the matter die or just resorted to words, they're actively working with the Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi and the Minister of Planning Ali Shukri to find oil money that can go to the Iraqi people with plans to set aside 25% of future revenues for that. Moqtada and his bloc continued working on the issue and had the people's support. In November, All Iraq News reported that a delegation from the Sadr bloc met with Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi to discuss this issue and find out what the progess was on it and to announce that they will continue to stay focused on this and ensure that the country and its children benefit from the oil.
While Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc was fighting for the people and doing so in the open, Nouri was doing something else. Alsumaria reports that MP Bahaa al-Araji of the Sadr bloc held a press conference today outside Parliament to reveal that Nouri al-Maliki filed a lawsuit to dismiss the budget item on sharing the oil suprlus with the citizens from the year's budget. The court -- no surprise, it's not a real court -- ruled in Nouri's favor. Only now, after the ruling, do they find out what Nouri was doing behind everyone's back.
Today Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports that the Sadr bloc stated the surplus amount was $20 billion and that the lawsuit Nouri brought will prevent the Iraqi pepole from receiving 25% of the surplus. All Iraq News notes that Sadr-bloc MP Iqbal al-Ghurabi declared today that denying the Iraqi people their portion of the surplus was part of a war Nouri is waging on the Iraqi people.
How nice for the White House -- which kept Nouri on as prime minister even after the Iraqi people voted otherwise -- that just as Iraq gets a high profile visitor who commands international attention, UN Secretaty-General Ban Ki-moon, the English language outlet that most Americans will see Iraq news from is saying the conflict is over.
The Voice of Russia noted the Secretary-General went to Baghdad today from Kuwait. They were one of many news outlets around the world noting the visit. Why was the Secretary-General in Kuwait? To talk about Iraq and Chapter VII.
Thursday his Special Envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler delivered a report on Iraq to the Security Council (see Thursday and Friday's snapshot).

Martin Kobler: In addition to the hydrocarbons legislation, we are continuing to provide technical advice and assistance on the establishment of the Federation Council, the reform of the judicial system, and the adoption of laws on minority communities and political parties. At the regional level, Iraq continues its re-emergence onto the international stage. Earlier this year, Iraq demonstrated renewed commitment to meeting its remaining obligations under Chapter VII of the Charter and to improving its bilateral relations with Kuwait. Progress will, however, depend upon the restoration of confidence between both sides. Over the past few months, I stepped up my engagement with Iraq and Kuwait to see how the United Nations could best facilitate the resolution of outstanding issuse in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the Security Council. And, in this context, I recently held high-level meetings in Iraq and Kuwait in which I was encouraged by the strong commitment that both Prime Minister al-Maliki and the Amir of Kuwait expressed by normalizing relations between their two countries. I very much hope that they will now be able to move quickly. They can count on the UN in this regard. I am happy to report to the Council today that I spoke to Foreign Minister [Hoshyard] Zaebari this morning. He informed me that, first, his government had nominated the names for the technical team of the border maintenance project today and, second, the government would start immediately to update the list of farmers entitled to compensation. A meeting with the farmers will take place as soon as possible. I welcome those steps and call on the Government of Iraq to initiate work on the border mainenance project without further delay. I also appeal to the government of Iraq to continue to demonstrate the goodwill necessary to fulfil Iraq's other outstanding obligations, in particular with regard to missing persons and property. The commitment of Iraq to fulfil those obliations will be conducive to the normalization of relations between the two countries. And I equally call on the government of Kuwait to continue to act in a spirit of flexibility and reciprocity, as reflected earlier this year by the important reciprocal visits of the Amir in Baghdad and the Prime Minister in Kuwait. On a different note, I remain fully committed to continue to work with both governments to resolve bilateral issues, at their request. I am hopeful that the agreement between Kuwait and Iraq for the cancelation of pending lawsuits against Iraqi Airways and on navigational rights in the Khor Abdullah waterway will facilitate improved relations between the two neighbors.

That was part of the reason for his visit. AFP also notes, "The visit also comes at a time of high tensions between Iraq's federal government and the autonomous Kurdistan region, during which military reinforcements have been sent to disputed areas in the country's north." Nouri's remarks -- the ones the Iraqi outlets got correct but AP got 'creative' on, those remarks -- were made at the joint press conference that Nouri held with Ban Ki-moon. Here's what the UN Secretary-General said at that press conference:
Assalamo Alaykom, Good afternoon,
I am pleased to be back in Baghdad for the fourth time, and second time this year. My last visit was in March when Iraq hosted the Summit meeting of the League of Arab States. That Summit showed Iraq's steady progress toward regaining its rightful place in the region, the Arab world and the broader international community. I congratulate such leadership and achievement.
Today, I had productive meetings with President Talabani, Prime Minister Al-Maliki and and I am going to have a separate meeting with Foreign Minister Zebari, and also I will be meeting the Speaker of the Council of Representatives. I will also have the honour of addressing the Heads of Political blocs and elected members of the Council of Representatives.
We have discussed a wide range of issues, particularly relations between Iraq and Kuwait. We also addressed relations between the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government. And we reviewed the situation in Syria – which we are all deeply concerned about.
Iraq-Kuwait relations have improved much since March. I believe that a historic opportunity is at hand to fully normalize relations between the two States.
It is time for both countries to put the past behind and usher in a new era of cooperation. I strongly support the efforts of Prime Minister al-Maliki to fulfil without further delay Iraq's outstanding Chapter VII obligations – especially the maintenance of the boundary and the compensation of the farmers.
I have come here from Kuwait. I had good meetings with both Prime Minister al-Maliki and the Emir of Kuwait. I appealed to their statesmanship and asked that they redouble their efforts. This will greatly benefit the people of both countries in the long-term.
In my meetings with the Iraqi leadership, we also discussed the political situation here. The ongoing impasse between political blocs is a disservice to the people of Iraq, who look to their leaders to deliver a better future.
I also expressed hope that divergences over disputed territories in Northern Iraq can be resolved. There is no alternative to peaceful coexistence within a united federal Iraq. The United Nations Assistance Mission (UNAMI) stands ready to help reach this goal.
We discussed the situation in Syria and its impact on Iraq. I am particularly concerned about the humanitarian situation. I thank the Government of Iraq for its generosity and hospitality towards Syrian refugees. I urge the Government to continue to keep the borders open to enable Syrian refugees and Iraqi returnees to seek safety in Iraq.
UNAMI, led by my Special Representative, Martin Kobler, will remain steadfast in supporting the people and Government of Iraq in securing peace, stability and prosperity. I can assure you that the United Nations will stand by the people and Government of Iraq in promoting further stability and peace and sustainable development under the leadership of Prime Minister Al-Maliki. It has been a great pleasure for me to work with you and I will continue to work with the Iraqi Government and people.
For AP to be right, Ban Ki-moon would have to be congratulating both sides on resolving the dispute. He would not have stated, "I also expressed hope that divergences over disputed territories in Northern Iraq can be resolved." Ban Ki-moon was at the press conference and didn't even notice what Nouri was saying? It's not plausible. AP got the story wrong. We called it out this morning, I was on the phone with a friend at AP early this afternoon, they should have killed the story then. Instead they've passed on myth and lies.
Why? You need to ask them.
Ask them also why they ignored Rose Gottemoeller's press conference in Baghdad. She's with the US State Dept. Alsumaria reports that she held a joint-press conference with the acting Minister of Defense and she noted that the US is watching what is developing and is calling for a peaceful solution which avoids military escalation.
And while AP was lying, it was missing not just the reality of that crisis, it was ignoring important things that were actually said. The UN News Centre notes:
While Mr. Ban also used his address before the political blocs to praise Iraq for making "important progress" in strengthening its state institutions, he said women in the country were "still marginalized."
The UN chief noted that quotas made it possible for women to make up one quarter of Iraq's Council of Representatives, the country's main elected body, before pointing out there was minimal female representation in other key posts.
"Iraqi women are bright and talented," he said. "They should be empowered to engage in building the future of this great country."
There was much more of importance that the Secretary-General spoke of and we'll note some more of it tomorrow, hopefully, however a UN friend made a point to call me and say the Secretary-General spoke of women (I called out Kobler's report to the Security Council last week for ignoring women -- see the snapshots from last week). So we will include the above, I will not that he spoke about women and I will say that what the Secretary-General said on that topic was needed and helpful. And what would have been even more helpful? If, instead of making stuff up, AP could have reported on those remarks.
Turning to violence, All Iraq News reports 1 corpse was discovered in a village to the south of Mosul, a Jurf Naddaf attack left 5 police officers dead and last night a Mosul car bombing left one police officer injured. Alsumaria adds that 1 military officer was injured in a Falluja shooting, a bombing on a road between Baghdad and Anbar Province left two Iraqi soldiers injured, a Falluja bombing left three Iraqi soldiers wounded, a Mosul attack left 1 Iman wounded, a Mosul armed attack claimed the life of 1 shop owner, 1 person was killed in an attack on a Mosul clinic and a Kirkuk roadside bombing left one soldier injured.
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made news today with regards to Iraq. The Defense Dept issued the following:
Under the auspices of the Strategic Framework Agreement, the Governments of the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq reaffirmed their commitment to an enduring strategic partnership during the second meeting of the Defense and Security Joint Coordination Committee on December 5-6, 2012 in Baghdad.
The meetings held at the Iraqi Ministry of Defense were co-chaired by Iraqi Defense Minister Saadoun Al-Dlimi, the U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Miller, and the Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller.
Defense and Security Cooperation is one of the cooperation areas that were agreed upon in the Strategic Framework Agreement signed in 2008 between the United States Government and the Government of the Republic of Iraq in order to strengthen cooperation in areas of mutual interest for the two countries.
The United States and Iraq discussed efforts to continue strengthening their security cooperation, enhance Iraq's defense capabilities, modernize Iraq's military forces, and facilitate both countries' contributions to regional security. The two delegations explored U.S.-Iraq training opportunities and Iraq's participation in regional exercises.
The United States and Iraq also discussed the strong and growing foreign military sales program, a symbol of the long-term security partnership envisioned by both countries. The United States stated its support for Iraq's efforts to meet its defense and security needs.
Both delegations reviewed regional security issues. They exchanged views on the conflict in Syria and its effects on regional stability, with both sides urging an end to the violence and support for a political transition that would represent the will of the Syrian people. The two sides agreed to continue consulting closely on regional security matters.
The capstone event was the exchange of a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Defense Minister Saadoun Al-Dlimi and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. This agreement represents the enduring strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq, and provides mechanisms for increased defense cooperation in areas including defense planning, counterterrorism cooperation, and combined exercises.
Finally, the United States and the Republic of Iraq committed to convene a third recurring Defense and Security Cooperation Joint Coordination Committee meeting in Washington, D.C., during 2013 to continue discussions on the enduring security and military cooperation between the two countries.
View the Memorandum of Understanding at: http://www.defense.gov/releases/US-IraqMOUDefenseCooperation.pdf
Saadoun al-Dulaimi is not Minister of Defense. I don't know why the US government can't be accurate, I expect more from the Pentagon. Iraq has no Minister of Defense. This position was supposed to have been filled back in 2010. However, Nouri never nominated anyone for that post. al-Dlimi is a deputy defense minister and he is called "acting Defense Minister" by Nouri. But he is not the Minister of Defense -- that's a position that Parliament confirms you for and he's never gone before Parliament for confirmation. It's sad when the Pentagon is either willing to lie or just that ignorant. But they get the name wrong as well: It's Saadoun al-Dulaimi -- not "Saadoun al-Dlimi" as the press release reads. Back in July, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."
There's no excuse for the DoD either lying or getting this wrong. If you think this is something minor, ask yourself why State could get it right when Defense couldn't? That's right, the State Dept has a press release on the meet-up as well:

Under the auspices of the Strategic Framework Agreement, the Governments of the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq reaffirmed their commitment to an enduring strategic partnership during the second meeting of the Defense and Security Joint Coordination Committee on December 5-6, 2012 in Baghdad.
The meetings held at the Iraqi Ministry of Defense were co-chaired by Iraqi Acting Minister of Defense Saadoun Al-Dlimi, the U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Miller, and the Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller.
Defense and Security Coordination is one of the areas that were agreed upon in the Strategic Framework Agreement signed in 2008 between the United States Government and the Government of the Republic of Iraq in order to strengthen cooperation in areas of mutual interest for the two countries.
The United States and Iraq discussed efforts to continue strengthening their security cooperation, enhance Iraq's defense capabilities, modernize Iraq's military forces, and facilitate both countries' contributions to regional security. The two delegations explored U.S.-Iraq training opportunities and Iraq's participation in regional exercises.
The United States and Iraq also discussed the strong and growing foreign military sales program, a symbol of the long-term security partnership envisioned by both countries. The United States reaffirmed its support for Iraq's efforts to meet its defense and security needs.
Both delegations reviewed regional security issues. They exchanged views on the conflict in Syria and its effects on regional stability, with both sides urging an end to the violence and support for a political transition that would represent the will of the Syrian people. The two sides agreed to continue consulting closely on regional security matters.
The capstone event was the exchange of a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Defense Minister Saadoun Al-Dlimi and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. This agreement represents the enduring strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq, and provides mechanisms for increased defense cooperation in areas including defense planning, counterterrorism cooperation, and combined exercises.
Finally, the United States and the Republic of Iraq committed to convene a third recurring Defense and Security Joint Coordination Committee meeting in Washington, D.C. during 2013 to continue discussions on the enduring security and military cooperation between the two countries.
"Acting Minister of Defense." State got it right. Why couldn't the Defense Dept?
Currently, you can't view the Memorandum of Understanding mentioned in the DOD announcement. The link in the press release above returns an error message. Since Panetta's been working on a number of issues and since Brett McGurk has been saying the easiest way to send some US troops back into Iraq (not all left) was with a Memo of Understanding, it's a shame we're not able to read the document at present. Alsumaria reports that Saadoun al-Dulaimi and US Deputy Defense Secretary Jim Miller held a joint-press conference in Baghdad with al-Dulaimi stressing that the delivery schedule on the F-16s was too slow and had too much red tape but the US had agreed to change that. He also used the opportunity to publicy repeat the charges that Iraq found the first delivery of F-16s contained Israeli spy equipment inside the cockpits of the planes -- these were devices to spy on whomever was in the plane -- these were not devices the pilot would use to spy. From the November 1st snapshot:
Yesterday's snapshot: noted that the current US Ambassador to Iraq Robert S. Beecroft had blown his credibility (claiming there were no US troops remaining in Iraq to the Iraqi press and, as All Iraq News pointed out, also claiming that there was no desire for US troops to be sent back into Iraq) and that this wasn't a good time for that to happen:
All Iraq News reports Iraqis state they have found Israeli recording devices on the
F-16s the US has supplied so far. The Iraqi Air Force leadership has sent a letter objecting to the device to Lockheed Martin, manufacturers of the F-16s. Fars News Agency adds, "Iraq's air force has found out Israeli company RADA has planted information recording systems in its F-16 fighters recently purchased from the American Lockheed Martin Company."
Dar Addustour reports today that the Iraqi Air Force first sought comment from the US government and when they received no answer from the US government, about what they see as spying devices, they asked Lockheed Martin. I have no idea of whether they're spying devices or not. But at some point, someone in leadership in Iraq is going to realize that if there is one set of spying devices, there may be two or more. Someone will shortly grasp that the set discovered may have been intended to be discovered in order to conceal more important devices. That's sleight of hand -- look here, not over there. Again, this wasn't a time where the US face to Iraq should have thrown away credibility by lying that all US troops were out of Iraq and that the US government wasn't attempting to work on a new agreement with Iraq governing US troops.
If Miller had a public comment on that during the news conference, Alsumaria doesn't note it.
Leon Panetta had public comments aplenty when the Secretary of Defense joined VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to discuss the new transition assistance program. Former US House Rep Bob Filner (the newly elected Mayor of San Diego) has long used his time on the House Veterans Affairs Committee (where he alternated being Ranking Member with being Committee Chair) to point out that the service member gets training on going into the military but, when it's time for a discharge, they're frequently rushed on out. Panetta and Shinseki held a press conference to note that they were working on the Transition Assistance Program.
Secretary Leon Panetta: The Vow to Hire Heroes Act mandated that all service members participate in the TAP program in order to prepare them for life after the military. We've got a large number of -- of individuals in the military, you know, as we transition over these next few years in terms of our force structure, we're going to have a lot of people going into this system.
Senator Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, championed The Vow to Hire Heroes Act. Panetta also noted, "We also know that we're dealing with the problem of suicide in the military and among our veterans. It's a terrible, terrible challenge that we are dealing with. And we have got to do everything we can, between DOD and VA, to ensure that our systems are equipped to give our people the help they need in order to deal with these unique circumstances that we're confronting." And Senator Murray is calling for more mental health resources as well as for DoD and VA to come up with a joint-suicide prevention plan.
As Secretary Erik Shinseki noted, they were also there to discuss the new documentation methods for veterans, the IEHR [Integrated Electronic Health Record]. This was the focus of a Congressional hearing earlier this week.
US House Rep Mike Michaud: On July 18th, the Subcommittee held a hearing on military sexual trauma in which we explored how veterans who suffered from MST related PTSD have only one in three chances of having their claims approved. You talked about the challenges of these veterans in your testimony today. Can you elaborate further on your testimony on how and why VA regulations should be relaxed to improve these outcomes?
Richard Dumancas: Uh, yes, sir. What we've experienced is at the RO [Regional Office] level is raters are still confused on the regulations, the policy that's set in place and we don't know if it's a lack of training or guidance. They're just so confused on the actual policy so they're basically just denying it and letting the Board of Veteran Appeals handle it. So it comes up here to DC, we get remanded because -- It's frustrating. It's very frustrating. So that's -- I hope that answers a little bit for you.
That's from Wednesday afternoon's House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs. US House Rep Jon Runyan is the Chair of the Subcommittee, US House Rep Jerry McNerney is Ranking Member. The Subcomittee heard from two panels. The first panel was The American Legion's Richad Dumancas, the National Organization of Veterans Advocates' Michael Viterna and Disabled American Veterans' Jeffrey Hall. The second panel was the VA's James Neighbors, the National Archives and Record Administration's Scott Levins and VBA's Alan Bozeman.
Both the Chair and the Ranking Members spoke of reports about lost , mishandled and inaccurate records. At the start, Chair Runyan explained, "I called today's oversight hearing to discuss an important yet often overlooked apsect of the veterans' benefits process -- access to various service department records. Such records are often necessary and vital for a veteran to prove their claim. As Chairman of DAMA, I am troubled by information regarding the handling of records that has come to my attention. [. . .] Often, a single record or notation can be the difference in whether a veterans' disability claim is granted or denied. This is why we must work together to ensure that no records are lost, overlooked or otherwise unable to be associated with an individual disability claim."   We'll note this key exchange that may explain one reason things get lost in the system.
Chair Jon Runyan: What is the rationale for handling service members' records differently -- the personnel record differently from the health and dental? Common sense would say if you kept it all one, it wouldn't be fragmented.
James Neighbors: I understand sir. I do know the rationale that I understand is that different organizations within the military services are developing the records. Beyond that point, I believe also how they've grown up through time -- as far as where the records were developed, as far as paper based, now moving into an electronic base is another piece that has possibly kept them apart. How we're obviously going into the future will be aligning and moving those things together. I do understand, uhm, your rationale and your understanding of why that makes common sense. It does. Pulling things together and ensuring that does make great sense. I do
know that when we outprocess these patients -- excuse me, these service members -- when the outprocessing center person, they look and ensure that all of those records are put into one binder. So in other words medical, dental and personnel records -- the popular DD214 as it's known -- all go into one binder as it's shipped off to them and the various copies going to the various locations. As we're moving forward in the electronic age, we're going to be moving into a kind of similar arrangement with the two that we just talked of the IHR and the paper. Does that answer your question, sir?
Chair Jon Runyan: Yeah, I think getting there is the key to it.
James Neighbors: Yes, sir. I understand.
Chair Jon Runyan: And also what challenges have the DoD really encountered in implementing the integrated health record -- electronic health record?
James Neighbors: I can tell you, sir, that I have viewed what we call the initial operating capability timeline and that timeline is being met right now. I know that the initial design review has just been met. In fact, just earlier -- the 27th through 29th of November. It is -- It is a large undertaking, there is no doubt. I mean, it is billions of dollars. I would say from my perspective and from the DoD's perspective, it is an endeavor like we've probably not done on the business side before other than what we have done within the DoD itself. We have actually brought DoD together, I think. And while we are working very closely with VA and partners in getting there -- I don't want to say it is necessarily challenging but it is pulling cultures together that are obviously between our two organizations.
That's a small sample of the hearing. I've edited out a ton. We may revisit the hearing in tomorrow's snapshot if there's time and room. We will finish up Martin Kobler's UN Security Council presentation. We've covered everything but the last few paragraphs of his report -- those paragraphs focused on Camp Ashraf.