Monday, March 02, 2009

Provincial elections still cause ire

Hundreds of Shiite protesters took to the streets Sunday in restive Diyala province, asserting that electoral fraud had deprived Shiites of seats on an influential provincial council.

The above is from Zaid Sabah and Sudarsan Raghavan's "Hundreds of Iraqi Shiites Protest Voting Results, Allege Fraud" (Washington Post) and it's the story of thousands marching to protest the official results or 'results' which gave 15 seats to Sunnis, 6 to Kurds, 5 to Shi'ites and 3 to "a secular party" (Kim Gamel, AP), and protesting now because all complaints over the January 31st provincial elections held in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces must be lodged by March 9th and the winners will be seated March 24th. Sabah and Raghavan call this demonstration "the first significant" one and note the demand "that the electoral commission be replaced, declaring that it was influenced by Sunni officials. Many Shiite voters in the province could not find their names on voter lists while large numbers of people displaced by violence could not return to their home areas to cast ballots, Shiite politicians have said."

Staying with Iraqi politics, let's drop back to the Jan. 12th snapshot:

Willam Brockman Bankhead was the Speaker of the US House of Representatives for over four years. He died unexpectably of a heart attack on September 15, 1940. (For those unfamiliar with Bankhead, he was the father of Tallulah Bankhead.) The following day, Sam Rayburn became Speaker of the House. The following day. December 23rd, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani was forced out of the Speakership of the Iraqi Parliament. The week prior he had stated he was resigning. He attempted to take that back but a large number wanted him gone as Speaker and had wanted him gone for some time with repeated public efforts to oust him.

Today's March 2nd. They've had over two months to find a new Speaker -- it was their decision to oust Mahmoud al-Mashhadni -- and they still haven't done their job. Friday afternoon, Gina Chon filed "Iraq Parliament Members Squabble Over Next Speaker" (Wall St. Journal's Baghdad Life) noting that Parliament still cannot pick a Speaker:

Now lawmakers are waiting for the country's Supreme Court to rule on how many votes are needed to select the next speaker. About a week ago, 136 lawmakers of the 230 who were present chose the Iraqi Islamic Party nominee Ayad al-Sammaraie as the next speaker. But some argued that the rules say he needs an absolute majority of the 275-member parliament, which is 138 votes.
The Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest Sunni political party, accuses Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his Shiite Islamic Dawa Party, of unfairly trying to block Mr. al-Sammaraie, who is seen as a strong personality who could challenge Mr. Maliki's agenda in parliament. Those who opposed the vote say they are just following the rules.
In addition to fighting to become speaker of the parliament, Mr. al-Sammaraie also has the tough job of being head of the body's finance committee, which is currently studying ways to trim Iraq's $60 billion proposed national budget for 2009 by an additional 7 percent. Alarmed by falling oil prices, lawmakers say the current budget based on oil at $50 a barrel is unrealistic and further cuts are needed. There have already been three different versions of the budget submitted by the ministry of finance because of the falling oil prices.

Staying with the topic of the country's Parliament, an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy offers "OUR LAWMAKERS" which details Friday a mosque visit where an Iman who is also an MP declared "that the lawmakers voted for a resolution that gives each lawmaker a 600 squared property and permanent diplomatic passport for the lawmaker and his family's members. The Imam criticized the lawmakers saying 'the tradition everywhere in the world that the parliament doesn't vote for resolutions or laws that is related to the interest of its members.' He also asked the presidency council to reject the law."

Moving over to England, David Leppard (Times of London) reports on the continued response to England's Sec of Defense John Hutton's revelations in the House of Commons last Thursday that the UK turned over to prisoners in Iraq to the US:

Lord Carlile of Berriew QC has accused ministers of providing only a "limited" account of the UK's role. In comments that will add to the growing political clamour over the issue he called for Gordon Brown to appoint a senior judge to investigate UK complicity "in the rendition of captured men and women to foreign governments".
Carlile said the inquiry, which would be held in private but would publish a public report, should examine the cases of two suspects handed over by the SAS to American forces in Iraq in 2004.
It should also examine the case of Binyam Mohamed, the British resident and former Guantanamo Bay prisoner, who claims he was tortured with the complicity of MI5 while held in Pakistan in 2002.

Moving to the US, 28-year-old Kristoffer Walker is an Iraq War veteran who has stated he is not returning to Iraq. His decision has led so-called professionals to make fools out of themselves as two Wisconsin papers' editorial boards flaunted how loose their grasp of the basic facts were. (A right-wing, student newspaper also disagreed with Walker's decision; however, they got their facts right putting them way ahead their allegedly professional counterparts.) By contrast, the Shepherd Express picked Kristoffer Walker as a Hero of the Week:

This couldn't have been an easy decision. But Spc. Kristoffer Walker of Green Bay isn't returning to Iraq. Walker enlisted in the Army after 9/11 and served one year in Iraq. He later joined the Army Reserve; his unit was called up in July and deployed in October. Now home on leave, Walker said he won't return to the battlefield. "I signed up to defend the Constitution and defend the country against foreign enemies. But I'm not going to do something immoral and contrary to the contract I signed up for," he told a reporter.

Meanwhile Tom Foreman Jr. (AP) reports on Lisa Pagan who was discharged (honorably) four years ago and has been recalled to duty despite attempting to receive a hardship waiver. Pagan arrived at Fort Benning, Georgia yesterday with son Eric and daughter Elizabeth. And that's a good segue for noting another person who was discharged and now the military wants to recall. Matthis Chiroux who wrote last month:

March 12, I'll attend a board hearing in St. Louis, Missouri, to determine what the nature of my discharge from the Individual Ready Reserve will be. The Army has alleged "misconduct" and they're shooting for a "general discharge," but I'm pushing for "honorable," as my refusal to deploy was not an act of misconduct.
I will attend this hearing in uniform as ordered, but only for the purpose of these administrative proceedings. I'm not contesting the fact that I did not report as ordered to deploy to Iraq. However, I intend to paint a clear picture of my convictions to the military, and I seek to corroborate them with first hand accounts of occupation.
No person is bound to act against the dictates of conscience, let alone their understanding of the law. I know the occupation of Iraq and further the Global War on Terror to be an illegitimate and ultimately murderous campaign waged for economic gain, fueled by misinformation and greed. I know it to be in violation of not only international law, but the U.S. Constitution. Far more importantly, it is against the dictates of my own conscience, and never again will I compromise my humanity to support or ignore the crimes of my government.

The Kurdistan Regional Government announces:

President Talabani and PM Barzani hold successful talks with South Korea

Seoul, South Korea. – Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani met this week with South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak in Seoul to discuss strengthening economic cooperation between the two countries.

This is the first visit of an Iraqi president since the two countries established diplomatic ties. The Iraqi delegation, which included several federal and regional ministers, also discussed strengthening political, commercial and cultural exchanges with South Korea.

In talks with President Lee Myung-Bak, President Talabani said that Iraq is a rich country that values good relations with South Korea and cooperation in energy and infrastructure. He valued the contribution of the Korean Government and military to the liberation of Iraq and their assistance in reconstruction efforts. The President called upon Korean companies to start business in Iraq and offered his country’s full support.

Prime Minister Barzani noted the Korean Zaytun Division’s reconstruction projects and its successful integration with the Kurdish community while based in Erbil, capital of the Kurdistan Region. The Prime Minister also thanked KOICA, the Korean government’s development agency, for its assistance package and help in strengthening the capacity of Kurdistan Regional Government civil servants.

Prime Minister Barzani said, “We already have a strong relationship with Korea due to its role in the liberation of Iraq, and this visit is another step forward in strengthening our friendship. We look forward to continued and increased Korean involvement in infrastructure projects in the Kurdistan Region and throughout Iraq.”

During the four-day visit Iraq and South Korea signed a MOU on oil-for-infrastructure development. In addition, Seoul’s Incheon International Airport and Erbil International Airport agreed to the terms of a 31.5 million dollar service agreement, with the Korean side providing training and management expertise.

Prime Minister Barzani and other members of the delegation visited the plants of SK Energy, Hyundai Heavy Industries and POSCO's southeastern industrial complex. Korea's leading business associations, including the KNOC and KOGAS, hosted events at which the country’s leading construction, energy and infrastructure companies had the opportunity to meet the Iraqi leaders.

Bonnie reminds that Kat's "Kat's Korner: The charity album that just takes" went up yesterday as did Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Rounding up Lucy"and, by the way, Isaiah has another comic this morning and one for Tuesday.

The e-mail address for this site is