Turkey Hints at Reopening its Consulates in Mosul, Basra

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Turkey Hints at Reopening its Consulates in Mosul, Basra

Saturday, 30 June, 2018 – 09:30
Ankara – Saeed Abdelrazek
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced Friday that Ankara began taking measures to reopen its consulates in Mosul and Basra that have remained shut for years due to security threats.

Turkey closed its consulate in Mosul in 2014, shortly after ISIS advanced on the city and stormed the mission on June 11 of that year, kidnapping 48 people including the Turkish consul.

Among the captives were also employees at the consulate and their family members, including three children, as well as members from the Turkish special operations force.

The captives were released after three months.

Later, the former Turkish consul accused Ankara of handing him over, along with the consulate staff, to ISIS.

As for the Turkish consulate in Basra, the Iraqi foreign ministry announced on January 21 that it had struck an agreement with Turkey to reopen it following its closure in 2014 due to security threats.

In April, Turkey’s ambassador to Baghdad Fatih Yıldız said that the Basra consulate will reopen soon. In remarks to Turkish media, he said that Turkey is a huge country and can’t be restricted to specific parts of Iraq.

Turkey has a border with southern Iraq, and has sent humanitarian aid to provinces in central Iraq, he said.

He added that the Turkish consulate building in Basra is still there and that talks must be held with local figures and tribal leaders before reactivating the diplomatic mission.

Preliminary Results Show Sadr ahead of Abadi in Iraq Elections

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Preliminary Results Show Sadr ahead of Prime Minister Abadi in Iraq Elections

Monday, 14 May, 2018 – 11:00
Supporters of Marching Towards Reform list celebrate with portraits of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, after preliminary results of Iraq’s parliamentary election were announced in Baghdad. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Iraqis sprung a political surprise by voting for two electoral lists opposed to the current political class during Sunday’s parliamentary elections, showed preliminary results on Monday.

Powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and a rival bloc of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) appeared to surge in surprise preliminary results from the country’s first poll since the defeat of the ISIS terrorist group.

Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, who is the internationally favored incumbent, lagged behind after a vote hit by record abstentions.

The ballots of some 700,000 security personnel who voted and some one million Iraqis abroad were yet to be tallied up, meaning Abadi could get a boost five months after he announced victory over ISIS.

According to partial results seen by AFP, the Marching Towards Reform alliance of Sadr and his communist allies was ahead in six of Iraq’s 18 provinces and second in four others.

Next in the running is the Conquest Alliance, made up of ex-fighters from the mainly Iran-backed PMF, with results putting them ahead in four provinces and second in eight others. The head of the list is Hadi al-Ameri, a long-time ally of Tehran.

Both Sadr and Ameri are long-time political veterans well-known to Iraqis, but they pitched themselves as seeking to sweep clean the country’s elite.

Sadr’s apparent victory does not mean his bloc could necessarily form the next government as whoever wins the most seats must negotiate a coalition government, expected to be formed within 90 days of the official results.

Turnout was 44.52 percent with 92 percent of votes counted, the Independent High Electoral Commission said – that was significantly lower than in previous elections. Full results are due to be officially announced later on Monday.

The commission did not announce how many seats each bloc had gained and said it would do so after announcing the results from the remaining provinces.

During the election campaign, frustrated Iraqis of all shades complained about their political elite’s systematic patronage, bad governance and corruption, saying they did not receive any benefits of their country’s oil wealth.

Iraq has been ranked among the world’s most corrupt countries, with high unemployment, rife poverty, weak public institutions and bad services despite high oil revenues for many years. Endemic corruption has eaten at the government’s financial resources.

Celebrations erupted on the streets of Baghdad after the commission’s announcement, with thousands of Sadr’s supporters singing, chanting, dancing and setting off fireworks while carrying his picture and waving Iraqi flags.

Many of his supporters chanted “Iran out”.

Whoever wins the election will have to contend with the fallout from US President Donald Trump’s decision to quit Iran’s nuclear deal, a move Iraqis fear could turn their country into a theater of conflict between Washington and Tehran.

He will also face the mammoth task of rebuilding a country left shattered by the battle against ISIS — with donors already pledging $30 billion (25 billion euros).

The results unexpectedly showed former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who was touted as a serious challenger to Abadi, lagging behind.

You Are A King: But Only Of Rubble And Sand

You Are A King: But Only Of Rubble And Sand

 

What are wars actually fought for? Is it the land, is it for the minerals beneath the land? Are wars fought for so-called glory by the soldiers or maybe because of the ego’s of a country’s leaders? As I am writing this I am simply thinking aloud to you my readers, contemplating these words as I type them. Really, what do you think, what do you believe? To you, what is worth fighting for, worth killing for? I have killed before and I am sure that I would have no problem killing again if I felt that it was necessary even though I am very much in my own mind, a pacifist. There are few things that I would ever consider harming another person for as I deplore all violence yet every person has to decide what their personal ‘line in the sand’ is. I know that some folks will say that there is nothing that could get them to pull the trigger on another person, but are they being honest with themselves? If people broke into your home and they were going to butcher you and your family if you didn’t stop them and the only way to stop them was to kill them, whose lives are more important to you?

 

The first paragraph was put more as a personal decision but now I would like to discuss with you the concept of a war breaking out in your home country, in your state, your county, your town. If you are being attacked by a nations military, by their soldiers and weapons, what would you do? Would you try giving up and begging for mercy hoping that they won’t kill you and your family or that they won’t put you all in a labor camp as they burn down everything you ever worked for? Most all wars throughout history have been fought because of the leaders of nations who felt they had the right to invade another country, to try to kill their leaders and to take the treasures that country possessed. Treasures can be many things, it can be using the other country’s population for slave labor, it can be for gold, diamonds, or oil or even the other country’s abundance of timber. Yet there is the reality that all wars do not generate from outside a nations own borders, some wars are simply home-grown as in the case of most ‘Civil Wars’.

 

Here in the U.S. we had our own Civil War back in 1860-1865 that seemed to generate from the concept of slavery of Black folks. I know some Historians say that slavery had nothing to do with the starting of that war but via the different History classes I took in College I still believe that the slavery issue was the foundation of this conflict. As far as I have ever found out this war was all on us, the American White people of the day. What I mean by this is that I do not believe that another nation like England, Canada, Mexico or France were interfering inside our borders trying to cause a war. There is a good bit of evidence that the leaders of the Confederacy had thought that they could convince England to come to their aid with their Navy being that the South had no Navy but the Union did. The reason for this line of thought was that the Confederate States sold a lot of cotton to England but when the war started England simply turned to India to supply them with all the cotton they needed. Our Nations Civil War would have been to create two Nations instead of the one that existed then and now.

 

Not all Civil Wars are for the purpose of splitting one Nation in half. Some Civil Wars are an attempt to simply over through the existing government and to replace it with another form of governance like say from a Monarchy to a Democracy. Some Civil Wars are fought because of Religion as in a government that is run as a Catholic society when the majority of the people are Protestants who don’t want to be ruled by a Pope. In the Middle East there have been many Civil Wars during the past 1,400 years and basically all of them had to do with Islam. I know that there were the Crusades 8-900 years ago where the Pope ordered Catholic Armies to retake the ‘Holy Lands’ from the ‘Pagan’ Muslims just as the Muslim Armies had taken over the ‘Holy Lands’ and the whole Middle East from the Christians and the Jews back in the 6-700’s A.D.. Yet the reality is that during this past 1,400 years almost all of the Civil Wars and wars in general have been fought as a war between the majority Sunni Muslims against the minority Shiite Muslims. Their hatred in general, of each other is only surpassed by their hatred of Christians and Jews.

 

Now I would like to speak with you about what is going on in the Nation of Syria for a few moments. The Ruling family of Syria is the al-Assad’s. Hafez al-Assad took control of Syria in 1970 and he held power until his death in 2000. At this time the current ‘President’ his son Bashar al-Assad took power. So the al-Assad family has had control of Syria for the past 48 years now. Bashar did seem to try to portray himself as a ‘moderate’ to the western world up until many of his own people rose up in protest of his leadership in March of 2011. This Civil War though has had many players with much cause and effect. There are many people who believe that this war was pushed along by Hillary Clinton when she was the U.S. Secretary of State at that time. There has been a lot of outside influence showing its ugly face since the early days of this war. Among the ‘outside’ players has been Iran, Russia, Iraq, Turkey, Hezbollah, the U.S. and Israel as well as the Kurd’s. One of the other huge issues has been a group calling themselves the Islamic State, or ISIS who was trying to set up a Sunni Caliphate in eastern Syria and western Iraq. The al-Assad family belongs to a Shiite sect of Islam so the al-Assad government was able to pull in the big Shiite players of the Islamic world mainly Iran and their proxy Hezbollah out of Lebanon to help them fight and to destroy ISIS. Russia has had a Naval base in Syria for several decades and has been an ally of Syria for a long time so in 2014 President Putin of Russia started supplying Air Power to help out the Assad government.

 

My question for the everyday people of Syria who decided to try to over through President al-Assad back in 2011 is, do you believe that your efforts were worth it? Back before March of 2011, back before the shooting started weren’t you far better off that you are now? Wasn’t your Nation a better place to live then than it is now? By no means am I saying that President Assad is a good moral person but didn’t you have a better style of living then than you do today? Back before the war began the Syrian government allowed Christians, Shiites and Sunnis to all practice their faith without fear of being killed just because of your faith system. Didn’t you then have food in your markets, electricity in your homes and trash pickup on your streets? For me, looking in from the outside it looks like it was a terrible mistake going to war against the al-Assad government. Now this last part is pointed toward President al-Assad. Sir, you are still the Ruler of Syria and it is my belief that you will be for many more years, but, your Nation is in shambles, you are a President of Rubble and Sand and not much else. When this war is over as it almost is now, your Nation, your people have suffered greatly, you have no economy and it is going to take trillions of dollars and decades to rebuild back to the point you were at in March of 2011. Yes you are still the President of your Nation, but my question to you is like unto the one I asked your people earlier in this article, was it worth it?  My questions meaning is, if you could see the damage to your country as it sits today would you say that you staying in power was worth all of this death and destruction. If you could go back in time and simply have resigned as President in March of 2011 if that was what it would have taken to not have had this war, would you have stepped down?

Trump tweets 5 key ISIS leaders captured

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Trump tweets 5 key ISIS leaders captured

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday that five of the “most wanted” ISIS leaders have been captured.

Spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve Army Col. Ryan Dillon tweeted on Thursday that Iraq captured five key ISIS leaders as part of Operation Roundup. The tweet did not specify when or where the five were captured, nor give any names. Dillon’s tweet said the capture was a coordinated operation between Iraqi and the US backed Syrian Democratic Forces.
“#Iraq captures 5 key Daesh leaders during #OperationRoundup. The arrest is a significant blow to Daesh & demonstrates close coordination between #ISF & #SDF in their fight to #defeatDaesh. @CJTFOIR is committed to lasting defeat of Daesh & setting conditions for stabilization,” that tweet said.
This story is breaking and will be updated.

Turkey Hands over Baghdadi-Linked ISIS Leader to Iraq

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Turkey Hands over Baghdadi-Linked ISIS Leader to Iraq

Thursday, 3 May, 2018 – 11:15
Residents look at wreckage at the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad, Iraq. Reuters file photo
Baghdad – Hamza Mustafa
A militant commander, held in Baghdad, confessed on Wednesday having been in direct contact with ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

He added that he met Baghdadi in the summer of 2017 for the last time.

Iraq’s judiciary announced that the Central Criminal Court of Iraq, or CCCI, has upheld confessions given by the detained ISIS official, whose name was not disclosed.

He was first arrested in Turkey and then handed over to Iraq following extensive Iraqi intelligence efforts.

Judge Abdul Sattar al-Birqdar, in an official statement, said the CCCI has issued the documented confessions of the detained suspect, in which he admits affiliation with ISIS and meeting with Baghdadi.

Baghdadi disappeared after ISIS’ defeat in its main Syria and Iraq strongholds. Many reports claimed his death, but none were confirmed.

“The arrest was made by virtue of joint efforts of Iraqi intelligence service and the Turkish security services,” Birqdar declared.

“The suspect confirmed that the last meeting between them (Baghdadi and the suspect) was in July last year,” Birqdar said.

He added that the detainee was a member of the general committee overseeing ISIS affairs after dividing the organization into five “caliphates” in Iraq, the Levant, Africa, Europe and the Gulf.

The suspect also claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack which targeted Iraq’s Al Tarmia town, located north of Baghdad, in the hopes of shaking up national security prior to elections scheduled for next week.

Strategic and military experts told Asharq Al-Awsat that what happened in Al Tarmia is a clear breach of security.

“There is an imbalance, whether in the nature of investigating intelligence efforts or the speed of response by the security services,” said Dr. Moataz Mohieddin. “There are still sleeper cells in these areas.”

Israel Is Not The occupier

                                           Israel is not the occupier-First Published On 9-23-2013

 

The Hebrew/Jewish people are not the occupier of the Holy lands, saying they are is an ignorant statement in itself. That statement is about as intelligent as saying the Navajo people are the occupiers of the white man’s lands in New Mexico. The Jewish/Hebrew people had lived in the Holy Lands for about 2,200 years before the creation of the Islamic religion. If people would check the history books you would find that Islam began in/about 630 A.D.. You might also be surprised to find out that Christian and Jewish Peoples dominated the whole Middle-East at the time of Islam’s inception. Israel is today only on a small sliver of the land that actually belongs to Her. If you look at the map of Israel that God Himself gave to the Hebrew people then you would see that it is not the Israelis who are living on Palestinian land.  By God’s orders all the land that the media is saying Israel is the ‘occupier’ of is totally a lie and they know it. In fact every inch of the ground that is currently Israel as well as all of Gaza and the West-Bank belongs totally 100% to Israel not the ‘Palestinians’.

When Mohammed came back to Mecca from Media he came as a conquering general, not as a Holy man. Soon thousands of uneducated violent men were ridding rampant across all of the Middle-East and then up into France and Spain until they were finally turned back by force, back across the sea into North Africa. Holy man, really? Their MO was the same then as it is now, murder everyone who refuses to bow to their God, then take all of their possessions as spoils of war.

The Quran is not the primary Holy book of Islam; it is the secondary book of their faith. The Quran is the “sayings of the Prophet”. There is a book called the Hadith which is the book of “the works/actions” of the Prophet. All “good” Muslims are required to “do as the prophet did, to imitate his works”. This is the book that Islam tries to hide from the rest of the world because it shows their “action plan for Jihad on the rest of all the nations”.  It is no secret to the 20% or so of their faithful male population that can read, nor to the 50% or so of their preachers who can read, that Islam is at war with the rest of the world, and that war will never stop until Gabriel sounds God’s trumpet.

The Western countries and America are to lazy and to ignorant of religious realities to understand that a billion people are at war with them. There is an old reality, when only one side of something is at war, that is the side that will win. If you know Scripture, you would know these things and you would be able to see this blueprint being followed.

About 98-99% of all of the earth’s people who follow the God of love/kindness/ and caring are going to be murdered for their faith and for their possessions. Those that conform to the evils that are now upon all the earth in the effort to just get along, and to survive for now, will be crushed like the grapes in the wine-press at the sounding of God’s trumpet. All I can do is to feel sorry for those shallow scared people, that and pray for them to wake up before they are also murdered by this “God” of hate. God is love, God is not hate. If you are a person who is following a God of hate, you will forever live in the fire with him.

When you begin to realize that in the Middle-East that with Islam and with Judaism their religion is their politics and their politics is their religion, maybe you will begin to understand reality a little more. Just like Hamas took over Gaza and next they will root out Fatah (because they consider them to be more liberal), in the West Bank. Fundamental Islam will not share any power longer that they feel is necessary to do so. ISIS is a Sunni group, among the things they are trying to eradicate is everyone who is not a faithful follower of Sunni Islam, that does include all Shiite Islamist believing people. Iran is Shiite as is the Government of Syria and Iraq. For now this is where ISIS is concentrating most of it military power, for now. People the Middle-East is a total tender box, when it goes up the world economies are going to have the proverbial cow. This hell will soon be on our shores. Most folks in the world are totally unaware of it but many of the first shots have been fired in WW-III. If President Putin would wake up and realize where his and his country’s real enemies are and stop trying to act like a WWII thug it would be very helpful for world and Russian economies and their safety. We the people must have each others backs or we will all die.

Do you see how much good all the blood and money we poured into Iraq has done? Now we will have civil war there until one sect rules the others, then we get another cancer for their “Supreme” leader. Next, the president of Afghanistan is in talks with the Taliban to work out a government sharing plan “with American guidance”. Why did we “the west and the US” put all the blood and money into this country, to get this result? It will not be long until their president is dead or living in exile, and the Taliban will again rule that country. The only way to put an end to terrorism is to completely eradicate the cancer that is trying/going to kill you. America and the West are of to weak of a stomach for that. This is why one of the three Demons/anti-Christ will be from the Americas’, and all who will not “submit” to them will die. Friends/people/brothers, the world IS at war, everyone, everywhere has a decision to make (doing nothing is in itself a decision), are we going to die like free God-loving human beings, hoping and waiting on Gods’ trumpet, or we will die like animals on our knees before the ultimate tyrant.      

 

The people of Israel are well aware of all of these truths about their neighbors on all sides. The people of Israel know that they are hated by almost all of their neighbors people and their Governments. These people know that everyday they and their families are on the front lines of this war that all of the west seems to turn a blind eye to, as much as they feel they can get away with. If you pretend something isn’t there, it isn’t is it? The American Government doesn’t seem to understand the region. Our Governments Leaders all need to wake up, Israel is the best friend the United States has ever had. 

                                            

The Middle-East, Syria, How Much Blood Per Acre Is The Land Worth?

The Middle-East, Syria, How Much Blood Per Acre Is The Land Worth?

 

Sometimes on our evening news we see scenes of places where wars are going on in the ‘Islamic world’. Whether the landscaping is from Libya, Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan, folks these people are fighting over and losing their lives over what is nothing but rubble. Folks before George W. Bush ran us into Iraq so he could show his daddy ‘how it’s done’, these battle scenes we have been seeing on the evening news were the cities that are now rubble, some had hundreds of thousands, some millions of residents. In the places where buildings are still standing they are so mauled they will need to be torn down even if a total peace started right now. What I am getting at here is a financial question. Think about it for a moment, if Cities like Knoxville Tennessee, Lexington Kentucky, and Deadwood South Dakota were standing in total rubble what would be the cost of the rubble being hauled to a huge land dump/buried and then having the land scraped clean? Then of course there is the cost of reconstruction. Just in the cities that I just mentioned the cost would probably be several hundred billion dollars. What do you think the rebuild cost will be to remake a whole country like Syria from the ground up? If the Syrian President told ISIS that they could have the City (the ruins) of Aleppo, what would they have gained? They would have a lot of stone, a lot of rock, and a whole lot of dry baron dirt. No economy, no infrastructure, no housing, no people, total brain-drain, no food, no transportation system, what piece of dirt over there is worth anyone’s bloodshed? Should the world maybe realize that there is more behind these wars than just wanting the dirt? Could the real issue be the raw hatred of each other (Shiite – Sunni)? If this is the case (and it is) then it makes no sense for ‘the West’ to spill any of our blood over there because this is a fight that will only end when one has killed-off the other, no matter how much of our blood we give to each of them because they both hate our guts. Should the whole world pull a Donald Trump and maybe put a wall up around all of the Middle-East, deport all people whom believe in Islam and make them stay there and fight it out until only one or the other exist? Thing is the world would still have to keep the winner walled in because you know that the winners would unleash all their hate on you as soon as they get back into your country.

Trump Finally Gets Something Right: Syria

Trump Finally Gets Something Right: Syria

 

The folks that read my articles know, I am not a fan of President Trump. Personally I believe that he is the biggest scumbag to set in Our Oval Office since Andrew Jackson, Our Nations 7th President back in the first half of the 1800’s. To me this is saying a lot since in my own lifetime we have had some very despicable men for Presidents, the likes of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton and the two Bush’s. Yet this clueless ego maniac we have now is such an idiot and habitual liar that he is a total disgrace to Our Country. Yet, even the most ignorant person in the world can upon a rare occasion get something right and I believe that he is correct concerning the U.S. getting our military out of Syria.

 

By what all the Generals had been saying up until this past week, ISIS has been at least 90% destroyed in Syria and ISIS is supposed to be the only reason that we went into Syria in the first place. Technically when a Nation sends their military into another country without the permission of the government of that country you have committed an act of war against that country. Yet even though the government of Syria has not declared an act of war against the United States for our actions in their country they have told us very plainly that we are not welcome there and that they want us out. Syria is and has been quite the ‘dance floor’ ever since the U.S. sent in troops and started bombings there. Syria’s government with the help of their allies Russia, Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Hezbollah from Lebanon have won this Civil War there. Even though we may not like it President Assad is going to stay in power there and we have no right to be there. The only real allies that the United States has had there has been the Kurdish people whom we have used and betrayed over and over again. We have spent a lot of effort to not get into a direct fighting war with Syria or any of her allies and it is now past time to get our military out of Syria before we do get into a shooting war with Russia or Iran, or even with our supposed NATO ally Turkey. Honestly one has to wonder if a lot of the top military brass at the Pentagon as well as our Security Agencies like the CIA and the NSA are wanting a shooting war with these countries. Besides, you know that the Military Contractors that build the War Machines would love it, more billions of dollars for their bank accounts. Quite honestly, wars help a nation’s economy, it keeps people employed and off of the unemployment lines.

 

So, I believe that in this case President Trump is correct about getting our military out of Syria. We, our government, has committed an act of war against the nation of Syria simply by being there unasked and unwanted. We, the people of the United States are very fortunate that the government of Syria and all of her allies have not declared war on us yet. Though, if we continue to stay there this is going to happen, there is no way that it can be avoided. One of the issues that has irked me since George W was our President is the fact that Our Nations National Guard and even members of Our Coast Guard are off fighting in these foreign wars, this should never ever have happened. Right now on our southern border with the Nation of Mexico President Trump is talking about sending Our Military to the Border to ‘defend’ it from civilians crossing into Our Country. I have a couple of thoughts on this for you to consider. One, if the President is going to do this, it should be National Guard Units going there, not our regular military. Two, tell me, once we put thousands of Military Personnel on the Border, what are they going to do? Are they going to start shooting all of these unarmed men, women and children? I can’t tell you that I know the answer to every thing, I wish I could, but I can’t. This article is like most that I write, I am just trying to get you to think about the issue that I have brought up for your consideration. Thank you for your time folks, I appreciate you stopping in.

Not Just The VA That Is A FRAUD Against Combat Veterans: Its The DOD, Army Also?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS AND THE LOS ANGELES TIMES)

AMERICA

U.S. Soldiers Told To Repay Thousands In Signing Bonuses From Height Of War Effort

The Pentagon is seeking millions of dollars from nearly 10,000 current or former soldiers in the California National Guard, saying they didn’t deserve re-enlistment bonuses. Here, soldiers from the state’s Guard force are seen in 2010, resting during transport in northeastern Afghanistan.

Brennan Linsley/AP

In most cases, when an employer pays a signing bonus to attract new workers, that payment is understood to be essentially unrecoverable. But the Pentagon has a different understanding — and it’s ordering the California National Guard to claw back thousands of dollars paid to soldiers who reenlist to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And in many cases, an employer would also have a tough time arguing that decade-old lapses in its own oversight should trigger wage garnishment’s and tax liens against its workers. But again, this is the U.S. military, and its officials say the law requires them to reclaim the over payments.

That’s the gist of a report by The Los Angeles Times, which says nearly 10,000 soldiers are now scrambling to pay back signing bonuses that helped the Pentagon cope with the task of using an all-volunteer service to fight two prolonged international conflicts.

In addition to doling out cash for re-enlistment, the Pentagon offered student loan repayments. The incentives were seen as crucial to the military’s effort to keep its ranks flush, but auditors say that the rules should have limited the largest payments to certain skill areas — and that in the rush to staff the war effort, the bonuses were given out too liberally, the L.A. Times reports.

Responding to the newspaper’s story Sunday, the California National Guard points out that the repayments are part of a federal program run by the National Guard Bureau and the Department of the Army.

The state military service says:

“The California National Guard does not have the authority to unilaterally waive these debts. However, the California National Guard welcomes any law passed by Congress to waive these debts.

“Until that time, our priority is to advocate for our Soldiers through this difficult process.”

In its statement, the service adds that its adjutant-general, Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, created an assistance center that has helped some of its soldiers “retain $37 million dollars of original bonus payments.”

The problem of improper use of military troop-level incentives isn’t limited to California — but the state has emerged as a focal point because of two factors: the large size of its Guard force, and a history of over payments.

A scandal over the California Guard’s use of bonus money was first unearthed in 2010, when the Sacramento Bee reported that its incentive program had misspent as much as $100 million. The program’s one-time leader, former master sergeant Toni Jaffe, was later sentenced to 30 months in prison, after pleading guilty to making $15 million in false claims.

When it was first discovered, that scandal was deemed “war profiteering” and was said to have benefited Guard members who hadn’t logged any combat duty; high-ranking officers were mentioned. But in the years since, lower-ranking service members have complained about garnished checks and a prolonged review process, saying they’ve done nothing wrong.

With the work of 42 auditors who reviewed the California cases now complete, the repayments are back in the spotlight — and service members and veterans, as well as members of the public, have been venting their anger.

On the California Guard’s Facebook page, several people hijacked a post about training to comment on the bonus repayments, with one man writing, “The officials who screwed over our service members need to do the right thing and pay back the money. DISGUSTING.”

And after the Guard responded to the Times story today, a commentor criticized its stance, writing, “Meanwhile vets are suffering while one bureaucracy waits to ‘welcome’ another bureaucracy to take responsibility and force it to do the right thing. Pathetic.”

Revelations about fraud and mismanagement in the Pentagon’s retention program emerged after the program’s budget swelled between 2000 and 2008 — when the Defense Department went from spending $891 million for selective re-enlistment bonuses to spending $1.4 billion on them, according to a 2010 research paper by the RAND defense institute. By the end of that period, the military was also spending $625 million yearly to pay enlistment bonuses.

It’s not unusual for signing bonuses to have strings attached. But in the civilian world, conditions for repayment are often limited to cases where an employee spends less than a year in their new job. In the case of the California National Guard, soldiers who say they held up their end of the contract — serving the required three or six-year re-enlistment period — are being told to repay a key incentive.

One of them is Robert Richmond, who has begun an online petition that calls for the Army to “stop stealing back signing bonuses 10 years later.”

Richmond says he signed the contract in good faith, and in his petition, he describes a scenario that’s reminiscent of the recent Wells Fargo cross-selling scandal, saying that a lower-ranking figure has been punished for committing fraud that was motivated at least in part by a need to meet targets set by her superiors.

Richmond also appears in the L.A. Times story; here’s a sample from his petition:

“Like many other soldiers, I honorably completed my contract in 2012 and two years later they sent me a letter stating I had to pay the money back. Each contract has a different excuse. They stated the reason I was not eligible for the contract was because I had over 20 years of service at the time. I had originally signed up more than 20 years prior, but had breaks in service and only had 15 credible years of service, not 20. Although at the time, they informed me I was eligible for a bonus, now they are saying I was not.”

Like other veterans who are refusing to pay up, Richmond is now incurring interest on the repayment amount.

In its General Rules about the recovery of pay and bonuses, the Department of Defense states, “As a general rule, repayment will not be sought if the member’s inability to fulfill the eligibility requirements is due to circumstances determined reasonably beyond the member’s control.”

But after dozens of auditors reviewed its system that had paid soldiers bonuses without determining their eligibility, the California National Guard’s veterans started getting repayment notices.

“People like me just got screwed,” a 42-year-old veteran tells the Times.

That veteran, former Army captain Christopher Van Meter, fought in Iraq. He tells the newspaper he refinanced his mortgage to repay $25,000 in re-enlistment bonuses and $21,000 in student loan repayments.

Another veteran — former Army master sergeant Susan Haley, who served in Afghanistan and spent more than 25 years in the service — tells the newspaper that she’s now sending the Pentagon $650 each month to repay $20,500 in bonuses.

“I feel totally betrayed,” Haley says.

To put those dollar figures in perspective, we can look at the Army’s payment and retention policy — specifically, a summary of its Selective re-enlistment Bonus program that was laid out early in 2006:

“The objective of the SRB program is to increase the number of re-enlistment in critical MOS’s [Military Occupational Specialty] that do not have adequate retention levels to man the career force. Although Department of Defense policy permits SRB payments of up to $45,000.00, soldiers may be paid bonuses up to six times their monthly basic pay at discharge, times the number of years of additional obligated service, or $20,000.00, whichever is less.”

While some veterans are working to repay the money, others are filing appeals, engaging in what’s likely to be a prolonged fight against the service to which they once belonged. California Guard officials tell the Times that they’ve been helping veterans through the appeals process.

“We’d be more than happy to absolve these people of their debts,” Maj. Gen. Matthew Beevers, deputy commander of the California Guard, tells the Times. “We just can’t do it. We’d be breaking the law.”

One of the earliest reviews of the Army’s post-Iraq invasion bonus system came in 2007, when the Defense Department’s Inspector General examined the program called the re-enlistment, Reclassification, and Assignment System (RETAIN) . But at the time, the central issue wasn’t whether too much money was being paid, but rather whether the service was paying out bonuses quickly enough.

Iran’s Facing a Mutiny From Within the Mosque

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BLOOMBERG NEWS)

 

Iran’s Facing a Mutiny From Within the Mosque

A growing number of prominent Shiite clerics are questioning whether the supreme leader can claim divine authority.
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Behind the scenes.

 Photographer: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

It’s not surprising that the arrest of a prominent Iranian cleric — even one that led to protests in Iran and the Arab world — hasn’t made a ripple in the Western news media. After all, the Tehran regime makes arbitrary arrests all the time.

But this is different: The controversy over the detention of Ayatollah Hussein Shirazi this month is reigniting an important debate over whether Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, should be able to claim divine sanction for his unlimited powers to rule the state.

Although there has been an ongoing debate in Shiite Islam since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini institutionalized the system of clerical rule, or velayat-e faqih, shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, discontent is now growing. Specifically, there is an increasing belief across Shiite communities that the consolidation of all powers in one person is antithetical to the Shiite tradition and that the position of supreme leader should be reformed or dissolved altogether.

Things came to a head on March 6 near the holy of city of Qom, when Ayatollah Shirazi was detained, reportedly by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. The cleric and his very influential father, Grand Ayatollah Sadiq Shirazi, are fierce opponents of Khamenei’s rule. The younger Shirazi reportedly called the supreme leader “the pharaoh” during one of his recent lectures, providing the pretext for his arrest.

Protests quickly followed, and not just in Iran. After Shiite clerics in Kuwait and Iraq condemned the arrest, there was unrest in the Iraqi holy Shiite cities of Karbala, Najaf and Basra, as well as in Kuwait City. Demonstrators in London gathered outside the Iranian Embassy; four were arrested after they climbed onto the porch and took down the Iranian flag. None of these protests was large — estimates range from several dozen to several hundred participants — but they are notable nonetheless.

The Shirazi family, whose members have been clerics since the 19th century, represent an influential school of Shiite thought. Grand Ayatollah Shirazi has a vast presence online: he gives lectures in Persian and Arabic with English subtitles that are broadcaston 18 television channels and three radio stations across the Muslim world.

Some leading figures in the Shirazi school favor the separation of mosque and state, a Shiite tradition with a long-established history. Others are not against velayat-e faqih in principle, but oppose how Khomeini and Khamenei have corrupted the concept by concentrating all control over the state in a supreme leader who is virtually impossible to remove from power.

Many other clerics in Qom, the center for Iran’s religious seminaries, are also against supreme clerical rule on theological grounds, even if they are not adherents to the Shirazi school.

When I was a reporter for the Guardian newspaper in the 1990s, I interviewed many Iranian clerics who told me they did not believe a living person should have divine and absolute powers. The supreme leader, they said, cannot represent God on earth. The Tehran regime was so intent on keeping this dissent a secret that I was barred from traveling to Qom.

But now, four decades after the Islamic Revolution, the genie is out of the bottle. Widespread discontent within Iranian society has empowered the Shirazis and other religious leaders to make their views public. In Iraq, too, the Najaf religious leaders vehemently oppose supreme clerical rule and are finding avenues to reduce Iran’s religious and political influence over their country.

In the run-up to May’s Iraqi national elections, Shiite religious parties are forming coalitions with Sunnis and nationalists in the hopes that the next parliament will consist of fewer Iran loyalists, and that the next prime minister will be more liberated from Tehran’s demands.

If nothing else, this should debunk the notion that all Shiites are alike. Arab Shiites have historically held different political and religious views from those in Iran, but are often considered in the West to be loyalists of the Islamic Republic.

For all these reasons, the Shirazi protests have been significant. Iran’s special clerical court initially sentenced the younger cleric to 120 years in prison. The hardline prosecutor-general, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, accused his Iranian supporters of being “a Qom-based group that has been active in Iran for years,” in an attempt to minimize the numbers of clerics and others who support the Shirazis views.

But this argument became harder to make as the protests spread. And now there are uncomfirmed reports that Iranian authorities released Shirazi on March 18, two weeks after his arrest. If true, the heavy-handed sentence and its subsequent retraction illustrate the Islamic Republic’s struggle to balance a growing sense of vulnerability with the fear of alienating the body of clerics upon whom its legitimacy ultimately rests.

The Shirazis are not the first prominent Shiite religious leaders to question the supreme leader’s divine authority. In 1999, I conducted an interview with Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who spent many years under house arrest before to his death in 2009.

He articulated the views that many clerics who are now part of the protest movement still hold:

“The supreme leader has no authority to act singlehandedly or in a despotic manner,” Montazeri decreed. “He can never be above the law and cannot interfere in all the affairs, particularly the affairs that fall outside his area of expertise, such as complex economic issues, or issues of foreign policy and international relations.”

Nonetheless, in his nearly 30 years as supreme leader,  Khamenei has done everything described above. Now that his rule is coming to a close, there is increasing support among high-ranking Shiite clerics that the job should die with him.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Geneive Abdo at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Tobin Harshaw at [email protected]

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