Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, November 25, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Iraq continues to rake in big bucks and basic services continue to be denied to Iraqis, Parliament's vote on the treaty may take place tomorrow, and more.
Starting with the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement.  The New York Times notes that there is some doubt as to whether a vote will be called in Parliament Wednesday on the treaty.  Last week, it was stated the treaty would come to a voate in the Parliament on Monday.  By Saturday, the date had changed to Wednesday at the earliest.  Now some are questioning whether it will come to a vote by then. Iran's Press TV reports that a boycott is threatened by the Iraqi Accord Front and quotes Abdelkareem al-Samarraie (of the IAF) stating, "The IAF would not enter the parliament if there was no popular referendum over the agreement or assurances from the US side."  In an apparent reaction to that, the puppet is insisting upon action.  Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reports Nouri al-Maliki and Iraq's President Jalal Talbani have launced a high-pressure effort to force Iraqi MPs to vote on the treaty tomorrow.  Should the treaty be voted on tomorrow and find 'support' in Parliament, it would next go to the presidency council made up of Talabani and his two vice presidents.  Press TV notes that the Tareq al-Hashemi, the Sunni v.p., has "also called on the country's politicians not to make any 'hasty' decision on the agreement".  Press TV also reports MP Hussein al-Faluji has declared that the treaty should include an obligation on the part of the US "to pay compensation for its 2003 invasion of the country."  'Support' in a vote is still in question because while the US and al-Maliki insist a simple majority vote is all that is needed, leaders and documents (including the country's Constitution) maintain that a two-thirds vote would be needed for the Parliament to pass the treaty.   Pepe Escobar (Asia Times) cites press reports which estimate that opponents of the treaty now have 106 votes but require 138 and that "Maliki's government is heavily betting on the pact being approved by a simple majority. There's fierce dispute also on this point - according to the Iraqi constitution, it should be a two-thirds majority (not unexpectedly, the Bush administration has already declared it will violate Article II, Section 2 of the US constitution, claiming that no Senate approval of the pact is necessary. An emasculated US Congress has responded with thunderous silence)."
In terms of US silence, look to the incoming presidential ticket.  In terms of Congress, many members of the House have been vocal.  Today US House Rep Joe Sestak contributes "Acute flaw in Iraq deal over forces" (Philadelphia Inquirer):
On Nov. 16, the Iraqi cabinet approved a U.S.-Iraqi status-of-forces agreement. This week, as the Iraqi parliament considers it for final approval, I am once again voicing my grave concerns about the agreement.               
This is probably the last chance I and other lawmakers will get to voice our objections. President Bush has chosen to craft the document as an executive agreement instead of a treaty, which means it will not require congressional ratification.            
I have always believed that the war in Iraq is a tragic misadventure that has siphoned off vital military capability from Afghanistan - especially our ability to patrol the border with Pakistan, where al-Qaeda's leadership has found a long-standing haven. That said, from my 31-year military background, I also understand the need for a deliberate withdrawal from Iraq that does not put our troops in unnecessary danger.          
Our continued presence in the region will therefore be necessary for a limited period of time. And due to the imminent expiration of the U.N. mandate that permits U.S. troops to remain in Iraq legally, we must have a new legal agreement to remain after Dec. 31.         
However, this status-of-forces agreement is simply not the best means of achieving that.     
Americans should be very concerned that, in an attempt to highlight Iraqi autonomy and the increasing bilateral ties between our countries, President Bush has put our uniformed men and women in legal peril.  
The final version of the agreement will permit the Iraqi courts to exercise jurisdiction over American soldiers under limited circumstances. What those circumstances are remains unclear, as do the crimes for which they may be prosecuted.

 Back in July, US House Reps Bill Delahunt and Rosa DeLauro co-authored "The Wrong Partnership for Iraq" (Washington Post). Last week, DeLauro issued this statement:
"Our brave men and women in uniform have performed brilliantly and after more than five -and-a-half years of war I am pleased to see the Bush Administration finally acknowledge that it is in our national interest to set a timeline to responsibly redeploy our forces out of Iraq. Many questions remain, however, over an agreement that I believe must be approved by Congress in order to have the force of law. Yet, the administration, which has utterly failed to consult with Congress on this issue, has no intention of submitting the accord for approval."
"The Iraqi Parliament is beginning a robust debate over the agreement, literally breaking out into a physical confrontation earlier today. According to the Iraqi Constitution, a 2/3 majority vote is still needed to both pass a law regulating the ratification of international agreements in general and to approve the U.S-Iraq security agreement itself."        
"While I applaud efforts in Iraq to uphold the country's new constitution, I am deeply troubled by the Bush Administration's disregard for ours. I have heard from scholars, legal experts and others on this matter and believe there is no precedent for an agreement such as this that authorizes offensive U.S. combat operations without congressional approval."         
"It is highly unlikely that the agreement will be approved by the Iraqi Parliament before it recesses in less than a week and by the U.S. Congress before the U.N. Mandate expires on December 31. I strongly urge the administration to once again work with the Iraqi Government and the UN Security Council on a brief extension of the UN Mandate, the sole instrument providing our troops with the legal authority to fight in Iraq, while giving both legislative bodies the necessary time to carefully review, deliberate over and vote on the accord. An agreement of this magnitude for the future of both countries deserves that much."
DeLauro issued that statement the same day Delahunt chaired a Congressional hearing on the issue last week.  In the case of the hearing, it wasn't Congress members that were silent, it was the press.  The only major daily newspaper coverage of the hearing was Jenny Paul's "US-Iraq security pact may be in violation, Congress is told" (Boston Globe) and no evening network newscast covered it. And NPR didn't cover it nor did Pacifica Radio, not even its fabled "Free Speech" Radio News program. No special broadcast of the hearings live, not a damn thing from Pacifica which wasted more money than they had to waste on their hideous election coverage and are now so in the red they're at risk of losing stations.  (That's not a cry for donations, they've so mismanaged listeners pledges that they really don't deserve any more.)  (Not to mention abusing the public's trust and LYING on air repeatedly by refusing to identify on air 'independent critics' who had endorsed the candidate they came on to 'analyze.')  So Congress, at least the House, really isn't the problem.  The problem is the press: All Things Media Big and Small.  Congress has not been silent.  US House Rep Barbara Lee issued the following statement last week:
"Although a final version of the agreement reached by the Administration and the Government of Iraq has yet to be publicly announced and made available, reports of the content along with leaked copies of the agreement lead to the conclusion that this agreement will be unacceptable to the American people in its current form and should be rejected.         
"For starters, the Bush agreement commits the United States to a timetable that could leave U.S. troops in Iraq until Dec. 31, 2011. Aside from the fact that the America people are plainly fed up with this unnecessary war and occupation in Iraq and want to see it ended, occupying Iraq for three more years under the Bush plan would cost American taxpayers $360 billion based on current spending levels. That money obviously could be better spent digging our economy out of the ditch the policies of the Bush Administration has put it in.       
"Second, the Bush agreement undermines the constitutional powers of the next president by subjecting American military operations to 'the approval of the Iraqi government,' by giving operational control to 'joint mobile operations command centers' controlled by a joint American-Iraqi committee. Throughout history, American troops have been placed under foreign control in peacekeeping operations only where authorized under treaties ratified by the Senate. No American president has ever before claimed the unilateral power to cede command of American troops to a foreign power.          
"When Congress next convenes this week, it should consider and pass H.R. 6846, which I have introduced in the House and Senator Biden has introduced in the Senate, which will prohibit the unilateral deployment of U.S. armed forces or the expenditure of public funds to guarantee the security of Iraq without prior approval of Congress."
The US is pushing hard for the vote to take place tomorrow. This morning on Air Force One, White House spokesperson Dana Perino told the press that US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker was in contact (pressuring) with Iraqi MPs and she stated of the treaty, "We're hopeful.  They've had a lot of debate in their country.  And I think that if you look at the violence that took place there yesterday that was indiscriminate and killed many people, that it reminds us that the Iraqis have come a long way, but they're not quite there yet to be able to take care of all their security needs on their own.  And they need -- they continue to need our support.  That's what Prime Minister Maliki has said, their Defense Ministry, amongst others.  But they'll have their debate.  And this si the process that we knew was going to take a while.  But we remain hopeful that the council of representatves will pass it out tomorrow."  Alissa J. Rubin and Campbell Robertson (International Herald Tribune) report, "Intensive last-minute negotiations were under way Tuesday to corral votes in the Iraqi Parliament" -- see, Crocker's very, very busy.  Deborah Haynes and Wail al-Haforth (Times of London) report that the Iraqi Accord Front has stated "it will only give the nod if the public is allowed to vote on the deal in a referendum next year."  Haynes also reports on the various reactions in Baghdad to the allegedly impending vote including this: "Ibti Sam al-Hafaji, an assistant hairdresser and beauticiain dressed in a white overall, plans to switch a small television set in the salon on to watch the Parliamentary vote on Wednesday. 'I am excited.  All of us are waiting for the result'." Tina Susman and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) explain, "Sunni lawmakers today listed a host of demands, ranging from sweeping political reforms to amnesty for prisoners, in exchange for supporting a pact to keep U.S. forces in Iraq through 2011, dimming Iraqi leaders' hopes for a smooth victory when parliament votes on the measure."
And the puppet is sweating bullets as he attempts to finally deliver to the White House anything of the things they've announced they must have.  Pepe Escobar also notes that "a frantic Maliki keeps threatening that in case of defeat, "extending the presence of the international forces on Iraqi soil will not be our alternative". Maliki goes for the jugular; if the pact is not approved, US forces will be constrained to an "immediate withdrawal from Iraq". Not surprisingly, the US State Department is on the same wavelength. Plus, of course, the Pentagon -- which in a surreal twist has been threatening to evacuate 150,000 troops from Iraq in a flash in case the pact is knocked out; this when the Pentagon had been insisting non-stop that withdrawing within president-elect Barack Obama-proposed 16 months is unrealistic."  Yes, but we all learned in 2008 that troops can leave very quickly and, in fact, that if Barack wanted to end the illegal war, he could withdraw all 150,000 US troops before his first 100 days were completed.  AP's Hamza Hendawi and Qassim Abdul-Zahra note that, for all of his bluster, "it is improbable that al-Maliki would abandon the idea of a renewal of the UN madate and push out the Americans, given his worries about security."  He doesn't have the guts and he doesn't have the power.  If the treaty isn't passed by the Parliament or if it isn't passed by the presidency council, al-Maliki will be begging for a UN mandate renewal in full -- and not just the partial aspect he's going to ask for to prevent Iraqi assets from being seized by creditors.  Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports that the vote is being seen as a referendrum on al-Maliki, that the puppet is seen as "autocratic" and quotes an unnamed "senior Iraqi official" stating, "He doesn't realize that a coalition put him in power."
American Freedom Campaign offers an option for you to be heard by the US Congress:

Does this sound right to you? Next week, the Iraqi Parliament is expected to vote on whether to approve an agreement setting the terms of the ongoing military relationship between the United States and Iraq. So far, so good. A legislative body, representing the people of a nation, shall determine the extent to which that nation's future will be intertwined with that of another. Of course, one would expect that the United States Congress would be given the same opportunity. That, however, is not the case. Or at least it is not what the Bush administration is allowing to happen. Shockingly, the Bush administration is not even letting Congress read the full agreement before it is signed! 
We need you to send a message immediately to U.S. House and Senate leaders, urging them to demand the constitutional input and approval to which they are entitled. 
The administration has asserted that the agreement between the U.S. and Iraq is merely a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and therefore does not require congressional approval. Yet the agreement goes far beyond the traditional limits of a SOFA, which typically set the terms for bringing materials and equipment into a nation and outline the legal procedures that will apply to members of the military who are accused of crimes. Believe it or not, the current agreement contains terms that will actually give Iraq a measure of control over U.S. forces. No foreign nation or international entity has ever been given the authority to direct U.S. forces without prior congressional approval - either through a majority vote of both chambers or a two-thirds vote in the Senate in the case of treaties.
If this agreement goes into effect without congressional approval, it will establish a precedent under which future presidents can exercise broad unilateral control over the U.S. military -- and even give foreign nations control over our troops. Congress must take immediate action. Unfortunately, they are about to adjourn for at least a couple of weeks. But it is not too late for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to make a statement, signaling their strong belief that Congress will not be bound by and need not fund an agreement that has not been approved by Congress.  
Please send an E-mail encouraging such action to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid immediately by clicking [here]      
This is truly a dire situation and we hope that you will join us in calling for action. Thank you. Steve Fox

Campaign Director 
American Freedom Campaign
Action Fund
Turning to economics, UPI reports that that October was a turnaround for Iraqi oil following the "four-month decline" as Iraq upped exports "by more than 7 percent from Sepember through October" and while oil sales brought Iraq $41 billion in 2007, in 2008 so far, they've already taken in $58.6 billion.  This while Reuters reports that "Iraq has approved a $144 million contract with Argentina's Tenaris Oil Filed Service, the world's largest maker of seamless steel pipes for the energy inudstry".  Yesterday Edward Gismatullin (Bloomberg News) reported that Royal Dutch "Sehll may bid for Iraqi fields in the first half of 2009".  The desire for new contracts (read: Greed) comes as Shell's older contract is in the news.  Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) notes that Iraq's Parliament today publicly objected to a flare gas contract awarded to Shell earlier this year and Rasheed quotes a portion of the statement: "Shell will be the sole company entitled to deal or process gas in southern Iraq.  We call this a monopoly on Iraqi gas . . . Shell will seize everything."  Despite all the money coming in, Daniel Williams (Bloomberg News) reports that the Sadr City section of Baghdad is still plagued by "lakes of sewage overflow trenches or bubble up from broken underground pipes" and also notes "electricity is still spotty, drinking water is scarce and health care is limited".
Let's stay with money for a bit more.  Bobby Ghosh (Time magazine) examines who pays Saif Abdallah who was bragging to him in 2006 that he had "helped kill dozens, possibly hundreds of American soldiers" and Ghosh quotes Abdallah stating then, "Anybody who wants to kill American soldiers, if they pay me, I work for them." And now the US tax payers fork over to Abdallah because he's an "Awakening" Council member.  As a little over half of the "Awakening" members have been turned over to Baghdad's control, Ghosh explores what might happen to the thugs placed on the payroll by the US military command:
Many Iraqis believe the al-Maliki government will string the SOI along while U.S. troops remain in the country. When the Americans have left, there will be a reckoning -- and it could well be bloody.   
After a great deal of pressure from the U.S. military, the Iraqi government this month finally took charge of paying the salaries for the 54,000 SOI in the Baghdad area. (Abdallah's group remains on the U.S. payroll.) In early November, 3,000 SOI were inducted into the police training academy. Al-Ameri says 15,000 to 20,000 SOI will be inducted into Iraqi security forces, but only after further verification. The rest will have to give up their arms and take up other jobs -- as carpenters, plumbers, electricians and so on. "We'll give them training if necessary," he adds. (See pictures of Iraq's revival.)
From thugs to arms.  Over the weekend, Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reported that, without the knowledge of the central government in Baghdad or the US, the Kurdistan region of Iraq had "three planeloads of small arms and ammunition imported from Bulgaria which has "alarmed U.S. officials who have grown concerned about the prospect of an armed confrontation between Iraqi Kurds and the government at a time when the Kurds are attempting to expand their control over parts of northern Iraq."  Today the Post quotes al-Maliki spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh stating, I don't deny there is some tension between the KRG and the federal government due to many issues.  It won't reach to a level of conflict."  Press TV quotes the KRG's official response: "The Kurdistan Regional Government continues to be on the forefront of the war on terrorism in Iraq.  With that continued threat, nothing in the constitution prevents the KRG from obtaining defense materials for its regional defense."  Meanwhile Eric Watkins (Oil & Gas Journal) explains
that the August 2007 production-sharing contracts the Kurdish government signed with various corporations continue to be ruled "illegal".
Moving to some of today's reported violence . . .

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded two people and a Nineveh bombing wounded two people.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 child wounded in a Mosul shooting.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes 2 corpses discovered in the Tigris River, near Suwayra.
Today the US military announced: "TIKRIT, Iraq – A Multi-National Division – North Soldier died from a non-battle related cause in Diyala province Nov. 24. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense." The announcement brings to 4205 the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war." 
In news of Iraq's refugee crisis, UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler announced today:
High Commissioner António Guterres arrives in Baghdad today for a 3-day visit that will include meetings with top government officials and a review of UNHCR's work with our national and international staff in the country.
The Iraq mission is the third by Guterres in 18 months and will include field visits aimed at getting a better perspective on programmes for internally displaced Iraqis as well as prospects for the possible eventual return of refugees.
There are more than 2 million IDPs and close to 2 million Iraqi refugees outside the country, according to figures provided by host governments.
*** Non-Iraq related, Kimberly Wilder (On The Wilder Side) notes an upcoming event. And if you're not familiar with Marcelo Lucero's murder, you can see Third's "Marcelo murdered by thugs, ignored by 'leaders'". ****
Greens in Suffolk work to stop the hate and to honor the life of Marcelo Lucero

The Green Party of Suffolk offers its condolences to the family of Marcelo Lucero, and hopes for an awakening and healing on Long Island after the hate crime that led to his death.

The Green Party is a different kind of political party. The Green Party was created from, and works together with, larger movements for social justice, such as the environmental movement and the civil rights movement. In Suffolk County, members of the Green Party have struggled with ways to address the murder of Marcelo Lucero through their personal efforts, movement efforts, and electoral efforts.

The Green Party sees the election process as a powerful way to address grievances with our government and to force change. Because of this, when local Greens were concerned with the direction of the County Executive during his last campaign, and concerned that he was cross-endorsed by both major parties, the Green Party set out to offer an alternative on the ballot. The Green Party campaign for County Executive in 2007 focused on tolerance and respect for immigrants.  

Unfortunately, due to the collaboration between the major parties, the fact that the major parties in Albany write the ballot laws, and the fact that the major parties control the Board of Elections, our candidate was not allowed on the ballot. Still, the Green Party continued with a write-in campaign. The Green Party candidate for County Executive was able to speak to local groups about the need to create fair immigration policies, and the need to stop discriminatory laws being proposed in the Suffolk County Legislature. We were able to hold meetings and create press releases suggesting more positive directions for government action in regards to the treatment of immigrants. And, voters had the option to protest government actions by writing in a worthy candidate who expressed their views.

As a movement, the Green Party is part of an international movement focused on its four pillars: Social and economic justice; Grassroots Democracy; Ecological Wisdom; and Non-violence. There are partisan and non-partisan networks, list-serves and clubs where Green Party members share action alerts, information, and proposals for public policy.

Personally, many local greens have addressed the issue of racism in the community and in their own lives. Green Party members have attended community meetings, vigils, and rallies to speak out against racism and against the murder of Marcelo Lucero based on discrimination against Hispanic people. The Green Party has offered people of all races workshops in dismantling racism and in understanding how white privilege affects all of us. The Babylon Green Party will host a presentation on "The Necessity of Immigrants to the LI Economy" with speaker Kirby Einhorn of LI Wins, on January 7, 2009 at 7pm at the Pisces Café in Babylon.
The Green Party of Suffolk is interested in gathering together people interested in working on issues of social justice through a personal, movement, and/or electoral strategy. And, we are especially interested in people who may want to be candidates or campaign staff for upcoming races against politicians who are not making fair and equal public policy. The local Green Party can be contacted at (631) 351-5763 or go to:
Green Party of Suffolk:
More information on the Babylon Green Party Gathering:

The January 7, 2009 Babylon Green Party Gathering will feature Kirby Einhorn of LI Wins on the necessity of immigrants to the LI economy.The event will be held at Pisces Café, 14A Railroad Avenue, Babylon, NY (631-321-1231)
www.piscescafe.net Come hungry! For directions to the Babylon Green Gathering, call 631-422-4702 or email ian.wilder@yahoo.com Children are welcome. All gatherings are free of charge, and open to the public.