Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Provincial elections

In today's New York Times, Timothy Williams and Suadad al-Salhy contribute "This Time, Iraqis Hear and See Candidates" which is a lengthy article for Iraq by the paper's current standards. The reporters note no elections in Kirkuk; however, they forget to note that Irbil, Dohuk and Suleimaniyya are also not holding provincial elections. Only 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces will be holding elections. No, that's not really the benchmark established by the White House. And elections were supposed to take part much, much sooner. Due to the refusal to pass a law forever, provincial elections could not take place in 2008. When the law passed? As Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reported in October, "Iraq's presidency council passed a critical law Wednesday to organize provincial elections that were originally scheduled for Oct. 1 and now are likely to be held sometime early next year. . . . Despite the law's stated deadline of Jan. 31 for elections in 17 of Iraq's 18 provinces, there may be a further postponement, according to the Independent High Electoral Commission."

So not only is the benchmark not met but they're not even following the law they passed which set elections for 17 provinces. Repeating, only 14 provinces are scheduled to hold elections January 31st. That's left out of the article today, so much is left out of the article and so much that makes it into the article is iffy at best. We'll note this from the article:

Provincial councils are roughly the equivalent of state legislatures in the United States, and the balloting for them is expected to correct underrepresentation in local governments among Sunni Arabs, particularly in areas where there has been heavy insurgent and sectarian violence, including Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala and Nineveh Provinces. Sunni Arabs largely boycotted the 2005 provincial elections.
There is widespread fear, however, that the vote may set off a new round of clashes. At least one candidate has been assassinated by political rivals and a number of opposition candidates have been arrested, several of whom are being investigated for terrorism-related charges in Diyala.

Fear? The United Nations has been issuing warnings on that repeatedly (click here for November 11th). Jafar Jani's "Ahead of Provincial Elections, Iraq's Parties Embark on Paper-and-Glue Battle " (Baghdad Life, Wall St. Journal) noted the elections earlier this week and also noted how posters are put up by one candidate, then taken down and replaced with new posters. That detail doesn't make it into the New York Times article today either.

Raising the flag

Baghdad Life's "New Embassy May Be Ill-Timed, But Holds Potential" (Wall St. Journal) notes the US Embassy in Baghdad opening:

And even though it's interesting to see that the largest U.S. embassy ever has finally found a home in my hometown after decades of hostility and no diplomatic ties between both countries, to some extent the high-priced endeavor sounds ill-timed: the U.S. both is burdened with unprecedented foreign debts and has been dealing with its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The host country isn't better off either. It has been mired in problems such as foreign debt, ethnic violence and reconciliation hurdles, and slow to nonexistent reconstruction efforts. To invest this huge amount of money in building a vast, walled-off concrete building in the war-battered capital, whose infrastructure has been devastated by the U.S.-led invasion, sounds a bit ostentatious.

FYI, there's no byline on the piece so we're just crediting the website.

We've noted the statements by Iraq's Foreign Ministry on the assault in Gaza. We have not noted the Kurdish Regional Government's December 30th statement because I was unaware of it. An e-mail asked that we note it:

KRG statement on the events in the Gaza Strip

Unfortunately the recent events in the Gaza Strip have led to violence and war, resulting in the death of a large number of people and heavy damage to properties. This can only increase the humanitarian suffering on both sides and move us farther away from a just and lasting solution.

The Kurdistan Regional Government expresses its concern over the escalating violence and our sadness for the loss of life on all sides. We believe that dialogue and a commitment to peaceful negotiations are the only way to resolve these disputes and we hope that all parties will cease violence and open discussions on a cease-fire immediately.

And for a reminder. The Foreign Ministry issued the following December 29th:

Foreign Ministry Condemns Israeli Brutal Aggression on Palestinians

The Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Iraq condemns the Israeli brutal attack against Palestinians that caused many civilian casualties. The act of the Israeli authorities is incompatible with basic international human law and human rights.

The Foreign Ministry calls for the United Nations, Arab League, other organizations and the International and Human institutes to stop this aggression. We call for the Palestinian parties to join forces with all good people in the world to protect the rights and interests of the Palestinians and enable them to practice their legal rights according to International Law.

And December 31st, they issued:

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari "We Support any Effort Agreed by Arab States Concerning the Israeli Bombing"

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari stated that Iraq supports any effort by Arab states on the Israeli shelling of areas in the Gaza Strip controlled by Hamas in a statement to Al-Jazeera on Saturday and that the Iraqi stance is with Arab solidarity and what the Arab countries agreed upon.

Minister Zebari added that Iraq would be in favor of any decision in this regard. Israel launched air raids on positions in the Gaza Strip controlled by Hamas and killed two hundred people.

Community sites updating since yesterday morning:

I went ahead and put in Trina as well because she deserves a link as well. Like Marcia and Stan last night, I'm noting Ruben Navarrette Jr.'s "Reid is a master politician (no compliment intended)" (San Diego Union-Tribune via San Jose Mercury News) on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's continued attacks on Senator Roland Burris. Here Navarrette is exploring who qualifies as a racist:

Maybe we should broaden the criteria a bit. Let's say that, if you scheme to put your own interests above the interests of a particular racial group relying on racist assumptions about who is electable so the end result is that you exclude members of that racial group, then some might call you a racist. With that as the standard, Reid might have a shot at the title.

Senator Roland Burris

Senator Roland Burris needs to be seated and Harry Reid needs to apologize for trying to prevent that. It's not going to be pretty for Reid in the history books when they write up how few Black Senators there were and how, in 2009, Reid was championing one White person after another (Caroline Kennedy, Tammy Duckworth, etc.) while refusing to seat Burris.

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