The Obama administration has reportedly conditioned military intervention in Iraq on the resignation of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Iraqi and U.S. officials said Wednesday Maliki’s government has asked the Obama administration to launch airstrikes on Sunni militants. General Martin Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed Iraq’s request in Senate testimony.
Gen. Martin Dempsey: “Well, first of all, we have a request from the Iraqi government for air power. And—”
Sen. Lindsey Graham: “You do?”
Gen. Martin Dempsey: “We do. And we—”
Sen. Lindsey Graham: “Do you think it’s in our national security interest to honor that request?
Gen. Martin Dempsey: “It is in our national security interest to counter ISIL wherever we find them.”
According to a report in The Independent of London, the Obama administration has told senior Iraqi officials that it would intervene militarily only if Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki left office. Maliki, who is Shiite, has been widely criticized for deepening Iraq’s sectarian divide. But speaking earlier today, a spokesperson for Maliki rejected calls for his resignation. Meanwhile in Washington, President Obama hosted top lawmakers to discuss whether he would need congressional approval for any military strikes in Iraq. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told reporters he does not expect Obama to seek congressional authorization for additional military support to Iraq’s government.
Iraq’s request for U.S. airstrikes comes amidst conflicting reports over a battle for Iraq’s largest oil refinery in Baiji. Militants have apparently taken control of most of the facility, but the Iraqi government claims it has repelled their attack.
Libya has condemned a U.S. raid that nabbed a suspect accused of plotting the 2012 attack in Benghazi. Ahmed Abu Khattala was captured by U.S. Special Forces over the weekend and immediately whisked away to a U.S. ship. The Obama administration says it plans to try him in civilian court. On Wednesday, Justice Minister Salah al-Marghani called the U.S. raid a violation of Libyan sovereignty and said Khattala should be brought back for trial inside Libya.
Said al-Saoud, Libyan Foreign Ministry spokesperson: “The government condemns this unfortunate attack on Libyan sovereignty, without prior knowledge of the Libyan government, in a time the city of Benghazi suffers from security disruptions.”
Saleh al-Marghani, Libyan justice minister: “Mr. Abu Khatalla and others are wanted in a number of cases. And as you know, the security situation in Benghazi has crippled the security forces, leaving them unable to enforce these orders.”
In a letter to the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, defended the raid by invoking the U.S. right to self-defense under Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. Power called Khatalla a “key figure” in the Benghazi attack and said he was planning new violence against Americans. Khatalla is reportedly being held on a U.S. ship and undergoing an FBI-led interrogation. It is unclear if he’s been read a Miranda warning of his right to remain silent and obtain legal counsel.
Florida has executed a death row prisoner convicted of killing his wife and young son nearly 30 years ago. John Henry was the third prisoner to be put to death in the United States this week following executions in Missouri and Georgia. They are the nation’s first executions since Oklahoma’s botched killing in April. The Oklahoma prisoner, Clayton Lockett, writhed and groaned on the gurney before dying of a heart attack 43 minutes after his lethal injection. Several executions were delayed or stayed in the aftermath of Lockett’s death, with defense attorneys citing the threat of similar suffering.
Newly released emails suggest the auto giant General Motors ignored yet another defect in vehicles that it only recalled just this week. The 2006 Chevy Impala was recalled on Monday as part of a new recall of 3.4 million vehicles that can shut off if their keys are jarred while bearing extra weight. But in a 2005 message to nearly a dozen colleagues, GM employee Laura Andres warned about driving a 2006 Impala that had stalled. After consulting with an engineer, Andres said: “I think this is a serious safety problem, especially if this switch is on multiple programs. I’m thinking big recall.” The new recall comes on top of the earlier recalls this year of around 20 million cars, including 6.5 million for ignition switch defects that GM ignored. The defective switches have been linked to at least 13 and possibly hundreds of deaths. Appearing before a House panel investigating the GM scandal, General Motors CEO Mary Barra faced questioning from Republican Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania.
Rep. Tim Murphy: “You’ve been with the company for 30 years, right?”
Mary Barra: “I have.”
Rep. Tim Murphy: “How does someone who has spent an entire career within the culture of GM change the culture of GM? I believe there’s 210,000 employees or so at GM. You mentioned 15 were fired. That’s 99.999 percent, if my math is right, of the people are the same. If you haven’t changed the people, how do you change the culture?”
Mary Barra: “Well, again, the people — the 15 people that are no longer with the company are the people that either didn’t take action they should or didn’t work urgently enough to rectify this matter, and they are no longer part of this company.”
It was Barra’s third appearance before Congress since GM began recalling millions of cars in February.
A U.S. military tribunal has charged an Iraqi prisoner at Guantánamo Bay with war crimes. Abd al Hadi al-Iraqi is accused of plotting and ordering attacks on Western troops in Afghanistan. He has been held at Guantánamo for more than seven years and is classified as one of 16 “high-value” prisoners. Military prosecutor Mark Martins said the case against al-Iraqi is strong, while defense attorney James Connell said the United States mishandled the case by failing to bring charges for years.
Brig. Gen. Mark Martins: “This is evidence we are confident can be proved — can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, which is why we bring it. And I will have to leave it at that.”
James Connell: “What happened here is that the justice process was hijacked by the CIA, and when Mr. al-Baluchi came into his custody, he was placed — held in CIA custody until September of 2006 instead of being presented to a justice system.”
Al-Iraqi’s case could help decide the future of the military tribunal system for Guantánamo prisoners. It is unclear if the tribunal will hear conspiracy charges against him since conspiracy is not considered a war crime.
President Obama has unveiled new measures aimed at protecting marine life from pollution and over-fishing. The United States will create the world’s largest ocean preserves by expanding federally protected waters in the Pacific Ocean. In a video message to the State Department’s “Our Oceans” summit, Obama also unveiled new curbs on illegal fishing.
President Obama: “Today, I’m building on that progress by directing the federal government to create a national strategy to combat black market fishing that threatens our oceans, undermines our economy, and often supports dangerous criminals. And like Presidents Clinton and Bush before me, I’m going to use my authority as president to protect some of our most precious marine landscapes, just like we do for mountains and rivers and forests. These are just a few of the steps the United States is taking to keep our oceans strong and healthy.”
Under Obama’s plan, the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument would expand from 87,000 square miles to more than 782,000 square miles.
Former Montana Democratic governor and potential presidential hopeful Brian Schweitzer has been quoted using homophobic and sexist language in comments about high-profile lawmakers. An article in National Journal quotes Schweitzer speculating about the sexuality of outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, saying: “Men in the South, they are a little effeminate. They just have effeminate mannerisms. If you were just a regular person, you turned on the TV, and you saw Eric Cantor talking, I would say — and I’m fine with gay people, that’s all right — but my gaydar is 60-70 percent. But he’s not, I think, so I don’t know. Again, I couldn’t care less. I’m accepting.” In the article, Schweitzer also criticizes Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein for her staunch defense of U.S. surveillance programs by saying: “She was the woman who was standing under the streetlight with her dress pulled all the way up over her knees and now she says, ’I’m a nun,’ when it comes to this spying! I mean, maybe that’s the wrong metaphor — but she was all in.” Schweitzer’s name has been floated as a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2016.
A video featuring Republican Senator Thad Cochran is getting more attention this week as Cochran faces a tough battle for his seat in Mississippi. Senator Cochran squares off against a tea party-backed challenger in a Republican primary runoff next week. On Friday, Fox News posted an interview with Cochran where he appears unaware of Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s historic loss to a tea party-backed challenger of his own in Virginia last week.
Interviewer: “What happened in Virginia the other day, does that concern you for your chances here in this runoff?”
Sen. Thad Cochran: “I don’t know what you’re talking about. What happened in Virginia?”
Interviewer: “With Eric Cantor losing his seat.”
Sen. Thad Cochran: “Well, I haven’t really followed that campaign very closely at all.”
Sen. Thad Cochran: “Really.”
Interviewer: “Well, Eric Cantor lost his seat as the majority leader.”
Sen. Thad Cochran: “Yeah, well, it happens. You know, members of Congress, some win, some lose. It’s not an automatic proposition that you get re-elected just because you’ve done a good job.”
Cochran’s spokesperson Jordan Russell told ABC News Cochran knew about Cantor’s loss but “felt like the question had been asked and answered enough.”
A federal court has dismissed a civil rights lawsuit filed by peace activists in Olympia, Washington, over spying by a U.S. military informant who infiltrated their group. Democracy Now! first broke this story in 2009 when it was revealed an active member of Students for a Democratic Society and Port Militarization Resistance was actually an informant for the U.S. military. The man everyone knew as “John Jacob” was in fact John Towery, a member of the Force Protection Service at Fort Lewis. He also spied on the Industrial Workers of the World and Iraq Veterans Against the War.The exposure of the spying also led to disclosures of intelligence gathering and sharing about the activists by the Air Force, the federal Capitol Police, the Coast Guard and local and state police. But this week, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Leighton ruled Towery did not violate the activists’ civil rights because he was acting out of legitimate safety concerns for the Fort Lewis base, not seeking to stifle political speech. The activists say they plan to appeal the ruling, saying it “fundamentally compromises the Constitution.”