Alissa J. Rubin and Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) quote one-time "Awakening" Council leader Sheik Hammid al-Hayes who is unhappy with the early (and unofficial) results thus far in Anbar, "If the results aren't acceptable, then we'll bring back the old days. We will use rifles again, and we will eliminate the Islamic Party." When the US military keeps you and your underlings on the US tax payer dime ($300 a month per "Awakening" member), you'd think the monthly stipend might require a few civics lessons. Now "Awakening" free, al-Hayes demonstrates yet again exactly the type of person the US was paying off . They scream, they yell, they threaten violence and . . . they get their way. Ned Parker, Caesar Ahmed and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) quote Sheik Ahmed Buzaigh abu Risha vowing, "If the percentage is true, then we will transfer our entity from a political to a military one, to fight the Islamic Party and the commission." If the Iraqi Islamic Party is declared the winner in Anbar, the "Awakenings" say they will begin a slaughter. And instead of being called out, they're getting catered to. Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports, "A coalition of parties that competed against the Iraqi Islamic Party in Anbar submitted complaints that the commission considers grave, commission chief Faraj al-Haidari said, 'We will deal with it seriously because it might change the result of the election in this province,' he said."
Al Arabiya News Channel notes Anbar is "under curfew for a night". Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) observes how "quickly" the officials go into motion for the ones making threats in Anbar, "The Independent High Electoral Commission sent a committee from Baghdad Wednesday to recount ballot boxes from some polling stations in the province after tribal leaders accused the Iraqi Islamic Party, IIP, which currently controls the provincial council, of rigging the vote. The accusations of vote rigging came from an especially important source, Ahmed Abu Risha, the head of the province's Awakening Council, which is widely credited with bringing calm to Anbar." Oh, yes, that voice of peace Sheik Risha. And what did LAT quote him saying? "If the percentage is true, then we will transfer our entity from a political to a military one, to fight the Islamic Party and the commission." Andrew England and Ernesto Londono (Financial Times of London) note, "The IIP is one of the few Sunni Arab groups that took part in 2005 elections, which were boycotted by Sunni Arabs. It has been the community's main political force and had run the council in Anbar" and they quote the Iraqi Islamic Party's Omar Abdul Sattar stating that these threats of violence by people unhappy with the preliminary results are "unacceptable and totally rejected." UPI explains, "The Awakening Councils had looked to secure seats on the provincial councils as reparation for their role in routing al-Qaida militans from Anbar as part of the U.S.-led counterinsurgency strategy known as the surge." These are preliminary results -- unofficial ones. That needs to be remembered. And if al-Maliki wasn't attempting to spin the results and the press wasn't so eager to help him (we're ignoring the installment in today's news cycle on that), we'd follow Thomas E. Ricks' example (which, as noted Tuesday morning, was the plan). But since we can't, we'll note an obvious fact. "Awakening" Councils members were collaborators with the US in the occupation of Iraq. Anbar especially rejected the illegal war and occupation on and of Iraq. While "Awakenings" turned when a buck or two was popped in their g-strings, that doesn't mean the people did. If the results hold, you may see the people -- and we made this point when NYT did their ridiculous "Everything is beautiful in the province and the people are so happy" 2007 article -- really didn't want anything to do with US collaborators. If so, that's not surprising. When France was occupied, the French loudly rejected the collaborators. And continued to make known what they thought of them -- to this day. Those who go to work for the enemy -- and a foreign force occupying any country is that country's natural enemy -- are collaborators and, no, they are not popular with the home-grown population. And Monte Morin and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) quote the menacing Sheik Risha promsing, "There will be very harsh consequences if this false election stands. We won't let them form a government."
That's some performance from Sheik Risha. The sort that would land many in jail. Instead Confessions of an Aging Drama Queen ends up the center of attention with people rushing to listen to his moans. Sam Dagher (New York Times) reports:
Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki sent a deputy, Rafie al-Issawi, a Sunni who is an Anbar native, to the provincial capital, Ramadi, to meet with Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha, the head of one of the main tribal slates that ran in the elections last weekend. Sheik Risha -- who transformed the American-backed Awakening movement, which helped quell the insurgency in Anbar, into a political party -- has threatened to take up arms against the Iraqi Islamic Party, which he has accused of cheating.
Top Iraqi military officials, including the commander of ground forces, Lt. Gen. Ali Ghaidan Majid, attended Wednesday's meeting in Ramadi, according to Sheik Aifan al-Issawi, one of Sheik Risha's allies and a candidate on his slate. He said it was agreed that a number of ballot boxes from several polling stations would be recounted or excluded from the final count because of the allegations of fraud.
He threatens violence -- he continues to threaten violence -- and he gets his way. All the people who peacefully demonstrated against not being permitted to vote? They're ignored. But it's rush down to make nice with Sheik Risha when, if it was anyone else, the US military would be rushing down to arrest him. And al-Maliki can't stand Risha. The fact that the sheik is being catered to indicates just how little control al-Maliki still has.
Dahger speaks with another tribe leader from the area, Sheik Ali al-Hatem, who has (like many in Anbar) frequently been in conflict with Sheik Risha (al-Hatem has also had issues with the Iraqi Islamic Party)who notes that each tribe put up their own candidates so you had slates competing against each other as well as competing against IIP. He states that Risha is "sowing rifts among the tribes" and that the violence could become "intratribal": "Ahmed is playing with fire. We will confront him if he acts this way and divides the tribes." al-Hatem doesn't call on al-Maliki to reign in Risha, he calls on the US military to do so. (If that happens, it may take place during today's meet-up in Anbar.)
"We will form the government of Anbar anyway," Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) quotes Risha swearing. Raghavan observes:
Here, in the cradle of the Sunni insurgency, tribal leaders nurtured and empowered by the United States appear ready to take control the old-fashioned way -- with guns and money -- if their political ambitions are frustrated.
Abu Risha and other leaders of the Awakening, the U.S.-backed Sunni sheiks who rose up to quell the insurgency, charge that Sunni politicians of the Iraqi Islamic Party have committed electoral fraud, which party officials deny. The allegations, coupled with threats to use arms, have prompted provincewide curfews and strict security measures. Although the United States handed responsibility for the security of Anbar to the Iraqi government in September, U.S. Marines this week returned to Ramadi in observation roles, patrolling areas from which they had largely withdrawn.
Iraqi election monitoring officials have found the allegations serious enough to investigate, and election commission chief Faraj al-Haidari said initial assessments could be released as early as Thursday. But he also suggested that the allegations might have been driven more by the struggle for power than by evidence, saying there would be no need to hold new elections in the province.
Again, Risha stamps his feet and threatens violence and gets his way. All the people turned away from the polls and refused the right to vote? All Faraj al-Haidari has to offer them is this 'pithy' little comment, "It's not our fault that some people couldn't vote because they are lazy, because they didn't bother to ask where they should vote." Again, they should have ditched the peaceful protest and run around threatening violence -- that's the only way al-Haidari would have listened. Sheik Risha works the commission the way he wants to.
And you need to grasp how ludicrous the claims of Risha, et al are. Now ludicrous doesn't mean that they are false. I believe they are but I don't know that. But reporters do know and did report on the vast number of Iraqis in Baghdad, for example, being refused the right to vote. But that's not being investigated. Risha's drama leads to an investigation. Risha is unhappy that his slate of candidates appear (no vote counts are final yet) to have done poorly. He insists that his candidates should have done better and that voter fraud is responsible for them not doing better. Risha says the ballot boxes were stuffed. Don't worry about whether he's right about that or wrong for a second. Just grasp that is the basis of his assertions. Now note this from Monte Morin and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times): "Tribal sheiks and their followers here in Ramadi, the provincial capital, and in Fallouja charge that their political rivals gained control of local election offices and stuffed ballot boxes the day after the elections. Election officials reported that 40% of eligible Anbar voters cast ballots, but tribal candidates say the turnout was half that and that the additional votes are false." Less than 40% voted -- according to the people asserting voter fraud, only 20% of registered voters in Anbar bothered to vote.
Do you not see the conflict in the two positions? "We are popular and we should have won!" vs. "They cheated because really only 20% of the registered voters voted!"
If you're argument is that 80% of registered voters stayed home, you can't make the claim that you're popular with voters at the same time. The two positions are in conflict.
For those who need to believe the Risha -- and ignore the conflict in his argument -- you can click here for Leila Fadel's co-written nonsense -- remember McClatchy has repeatedly defended and supported the "Awakening" Councils -- some have called what McClatchy's done "cheerleading" for "Awakening." (And before little McClatchy gets its itty-bitty feelings hurt again and feels the need to whine, most outlets have a bias. McClatchy's has always been to the "Awakenings," other outlets have noticed that the Los Angeles Times, for example, is overly cozy with the KRG.)
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