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US Embassy Anti-Air Defenses Activated Over Baghdad As Death Toll Rises In Night Of Chaos

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Murtadha Al Sudani/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Update(2140ET): The American embassy in Baghdad has reportedly engaged inbound rocket attacks with its air defense system, the C-RAM which protects aerial threats against the Green Zone.

Some reports suggest the streets have finally grown calmer in the early morning hours (local time), but this is after an evening and overnight death toll of at least 15, including unconfirmed reports of police casualties. AFP citing local medical sources also says some 350 protesters were injured. 

Currently the Kuwaiti embassy in Iraq is urging all of its citizens to leave the country, and its likely that more regional and gulf states will follow, especially if violence spreads to other provinces. 

Below: a brief collection of videos from some of the night’s chaotic scenes of clashes between pro-Sadr protesters, rival militant factions, and security forces…

* * *

Update(1702ET)By all accounts the situation into the overnight hours (local time) Baghdad has continued to spiral, with one well-known regional Mideast correspondent describing a “full implosion” – despite security forces attempting to enforce a strict curfew meant to clear the streets. The Republican Palace, which is where Iraq’s gridlocked parliament meets (though which has now been suspended by acting prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi), was occupied by armed protesters earlier in the evening.

CNN reports of the latest, “At least five people have been killed and more than 40 have been injured in violent clashes that erupted in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone on Monday, following an announcement by powerful Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr that he was withdrawing from political life, medical sources told CNN.” Earlier, though unconfirmed reports, said at least eight had died amid clashes with police. These numbers were quickly updated and the death toll is expected to go higher into the night: At least 12 protestors killed (AFP), 2 security members killed (Arabiya). State trying to impose a curfew but situation is out of hand. Protestors aggravated by status quo, militias roaming Baghdad, Gov MIA… Long night for Iraq,” Joyce Karam summarizes.

“Several witnesses told CNN the security forces pushed protesters out of Iraq’s Republican Palace by firing tear gas and live bullets. Hundreds of protesters stormed the building inside the Green Zone following al-Sadr’s announcement, Iraqi security officials told CNN on Monday.”

The White House previously denied widespread claims that an embassy “evacuation” was in progress – but at this point it seems more than likely that key personnel are being whisked to safety given the crumbling security situation in the supposedly ‘high-secure’ Green Zone.

In a twisted bit of tragic irony, all of this is of course happening the very week, almost to the day, of another anniversary and grim legacy of America’s two-decade long ‘war on terror’…

Pro-Sadr protesters were earlier seen taking over the swimming pool at the iconic Republican Palace built by Saddam and kept in tact after the 2003 US invasion.

More video to emerge showing just how intense ongoing clashes among political factions and with police are:

* * * 

Update(1337ET): The White House is addressing viral video which purported to show a military helicopter on top of the US Embassy in Baghdad following Iraqi protesters breaching the high-secure Green Zone.

“Reports of an Embassy evacuation are false. Ensuring the safety of US government personnel, US citizens, and the security of our facilities remains our highest priority,” a White House official said in the hours after the security situation unraveled. The official called reports of violent confrontation with police “disturbing” after a curfew for the Iraqi capital went into effect.

“Now is the time for dialogue, not escalated confrontation,” the official said. “We join the call by parties across the Iraqi political spectrum to remain calm, abstain from violence, and resolve their political differences through a peaceful process guided by the Iraqi constitution.”

Though little is confirmed, there are reports of several killed as videos of gun fights continue to emerge. Currently there are reports that pro-Sadr militants are roaming around Tahrir Square and near the Green Zone at the moment, with key government buildings also having been breached.

* * *

Days of pro-Muqtada Sadr protests and unrest have reportedly resulted in Baghdad’s high secure Green Zone being breached Monday, placing international diplomatic missions and foreign embassies under threat.

AFP is reporting that an exchange of gunfire has been observed as dozens or possibly hundreds of supporters riot, with police using riot control measures like water cannons to repel an attack on the Green Zone. There are unconfirmed reports that the sprawling and iconic Iraqi Republican Palace has been forcibly breached with protesters inside.

The fresh unrest appears to be in response to Sadr being pressured to exit politics, with the influential Shia cleric tweeting earlier in the day, “Earlier I decided that I would not interfere in political affairs. And now I announce my final retirement (from politics) and the closure of all institutions (belonging to the Sadr movement).”

The past months have witness periodic unrest as Shia factions struggle to form a government, which has also resulted in sporadic violence amid gridlock in parliament. Against this backdrop, for the last two years pro-Iran militia groups have launched occasional rocket attacks on US bases and even at times the heavily fortified American embassy. Sadr’s supporters believe there’s a conspiracy against him.

Though as yet unconfirmed from the US side, there are widespread reports that the United States Embassy which is located inside the Green Zone is currently being evacuated.

Convoys of international vehicles have also been seen speeding from the areas of unrest, exiting the confines of the Green Zone.

Below are some developments according to Iraqi war correspondent Ali Almikdam:

  • closure of the shrine of Imam Al Kadhim
  • Intense security deployment near Baghdad International Airport.
  • Sadr’s supporters storm the government palace & the Republican Palace.
  • Curfew in Baghdad.
  • US embassy is evacuating

Purported footage of protesters breaching the symbolic seat of government for the Iraqi state, which is at the heart of the walled Green Zone:

This post was originally published at Zero Hedge

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World at War

Rand Paul Calls Out Complete Lack Of Oversight On Ukraine Aid

“Didn’t someone try to legislatively mandate a special inspector general to scrutinize Ukrainian spending?”

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Steve Watson

Tomas Ragina / Getty Images

Senator Rand Paul reacted Monday to news that the Biden administration is struggling to account for some $20 billion in aid that was sent to Ukraine, noting that both political parties ignored his call for an inspector general to overlook it.

A report from Fox News, linked in a tweet by Paul, notes that according to there Washington Post, the Biden administration inspected only 10% of 22,000 weapons the U.S. has provided to Ukraine between February and November.

It also outlines how Republicans could push for audits to determine where all the military aid is going and how much of it is ending up in the wrong hand.

“Didn’t someone try to legislatively mandate a special inspector general to scrutinize Ukrainian spending?” Paul urged, adding “Oh, that’s right, it was my amendment and most Democrats AND Republicans opposed any semblance of oversight.”

Just a fortnight ago, following the throughly debunked “Russian missile attack” on a Polish border town, which turned out to be a Ukrainian missile that had stayed off course, Biden asked Congress to provide another $37.7 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine.

The United States has already pledged more than 52 billion euros in military, financial and humanitarian aid to Ukraine since the war began in February 2022 and October 3, way more than any other nation or nations combined.

Infographic: Where Most Aid to Ukraine Comes From | Statista

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    Ukraine Tells People Not To Panic As WHO Warns Of ‘Life-Threatening’ Winter

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    Zero Hedge

    Andrii Dubchak/Donbas Frontliner via Zaborona/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)

    The World Health Organization (WHO) announced in a Monday statement that the power situation in Ukraine is so dire that it will potentially be “life-threatening” for millions of Ukrainians due to the recent devastating series of Russian air attacks on the national energy grid.

    “Put simply – this winter will be about survival,” Hans Kluge, regional director for Europe at the United Nations’ health body, said from the Ukrainian capital. “This winter will be life-threatening for millions of people in Ukraine,” he added. 

    The attacks, the last major wave of which came this past Tuesday and continued intermittently into the weekend, are “already having knock-out effects on the health system and on the people’s health,” Kluge described. 

    “Continued attacks on health and energy infrastructure mean hundreds of hospitals and health care facilities are no longer fully operational,” the WHO official said. “We expect two to three million more people to leave their homes in search of warmth and safety,” he forewarned. 

    Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal last Friday estimated that half of the entirety of the country’s energy infrastructure has been disabled by the Russian attacks at this point. Millions are already without power as temperatures plunge and Kiev saw its first snow of the season starting days ago. 

    “Unfortunately Russia continues to carry out missile strikes on Ukraine’s civilian and critical infrastructure. Almost half of our energy system is disabled,” Shmyhal was cited in Reuters as saying.

    Politico reported last week that Congressional leaders had been given classified intelligence reports detailing the expected impact of Russia’s campaign to degrade Ukraine’s power grid. 

    “The Ukrainian government is warning Western allies that it is anticipating increased Russian attacks on its energy infrastructure in the coming days and that Kyiv does not have enough replacement parts to bring heat and power back online if those occur, according to two congressional officials and one Western official briefed on U.S. intelligence,” the report said.

    Politico detailed further that “Ukrainian officials have in recent days asked their American counterparts and more than half a dozen European countries for assistance preparing for a prolonged period with limited electricity and gas — a scenario Kyiv expects to complicate fighting on the ground and displace civilians, the officials and an adviser to the Ukrainian government said.”

    Amid emergency rolling blackouts and city or regional mandates banning use of large appliances and other imposed consumption limits, Ukraine government officials are urging the people not to panic. “Denying the panicky statements spread by social networks and online media, we assure you that the situation with the energy supply is difficult, but under control,” the energy ministry said in a Saturday statement.

    This post was originally published at Zero Hedge

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    AP Fires Reporter Behind False Report Claiming ‘Russian Missiles Struck Poland’

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    Chris Menahan | Information Liberation

    Artur Widak/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

    The Associated Press on Monday fired one of two reporters with a byline on last week’s now-retracted report that claimed “Russian missiles” had “crossed into NATO member Poland” and killed two people.

    From The Daily Beast, AP Fires Reporter Behind Retracted ‘Russian Missiles’ Story”:

    That report, which was widely cited across the internet and on cable news, was taken offline the following day and replaced with an editor’s note admitting the single source [a “senior U.S. intelligence official”] was wrong and that “subsequent reporting showed that the missiles were Russian-made and most likely fired by Ukraine in defense against a Russian attack.”

    On Monday, the AP fired James LaPorta, the investigative reporter responsible for that story, Confider has learned.

    The piece, which was originally co-bylined with John Leicester (who is still working at the AP), attributed the information to a single “senior U.S. intelligence official,” despite the AP’s rule that it “routinely seeks and requires more than one source when sourcing is anonymous.”

    The only exception, according to its statement of news values and principles, is when “material comes from an authoritative figure who provides information so detailed that there is no question of its accuracy”—a situation that seemingly did not occur, as the report was fully retracted last Wednesday.

    When reached for comment, an AP spokesperson did not comment on LaPorta’s ouster but instead wrote: “The rigorous editorial standards and practices of The Associated Press are critical to AP’s mission as an independent news organization. To ensure our reporting is accurate, fair and fact-based, we abide by and enforce these standards, including around the use of anonymous sources.”

    The Washington Post blamed internal “confusion and misunderstanding” for the report:

    Internal AP communications viewed by The Post show some confusion and misunderstanding during the preparations of the erroneous report.

    LaPorta shared the U.S. official’s tip in an electronic message around 1:30 p.m. Eastern time. An editor immediately asked if AP should issue an alert on his tip, “or would we need confirmation from another source and/or Poland?”

    After further discussion, a second editor said she “would vote” for publishing an alert, adding, “I can’t imagine a U.S. intelligence official would be wrong on this.”

    Woman moment.

    But a person at the Associated Press familiar with the larger conversations surrounding the story that day said LaPorta also told his editors that a senior manager had already vetted the source of LaPorta’s tip — leaving the impression that the story’s sourcing had been approved. While that editor had signed off on previous stories using LaPorta’s source, that editor had not weighed in on the missile story.

    Easton said the organization did not anticipate any discipline for the editors involved.

    “She” voted to publish this bombshell report that violated the AP’s own rules on the use of anonymous sources and risked sparking WW3 because she couldn’t “imagine” a senior U.S. intelligence official could be wrong but she is not being fired — only LaPorta is getting canned.

    Some great “standards” you got there, AP!

    This post was originally published at Information Liberation

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