Saturday, April 18, 2009

He won't dance, don't ask him

File is under, "Will they try to make him dance too?" The top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, was yet again trotted out by the administration in an attempt to force him to say what they wanted him to. It took place last night on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric (link has video and transcript). In yesterday's snapshot, we were noting how the US State Dept was attempting to reassamble Odierno's words (take answers to one question and match them with another) in [PDF format warning] "Iraq Status Report." Odierno does not believe that the US will withdraw from all Iraqi cities by the end of June (as the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement 'promises' will happen). The State Dept grabbed an answer to a 2011 question John King asked and attempted to pass it off as though Odierno was replying to a question about the June removal from Iraqi cities. Couric's first question was about the June deadline.

Odierno: I believe we'll make that timeline in every city probably except for, probably, Mosul. There'll be a decision that will be made. We'll provide a joint assessment between Iraqis and the U.S. We'll provide that assessment to the Prime Minister Maliki who will make a final decision.

They (the administration, I'm not referring to the press) try to make him dance, don't they? It's becoming embarrassing. Not for Odierno but for the administration and their strong-arm tactics. No, the answer is "no." It does not appear that US forces will be out of Iraqi cities by the end of June. Mosul is an Iraqi city -- what you thought it was next to Dayton?

The answer's no. And Odierno further tanked the administration's talking points when Katie asked her next question.

Couric: Can you describe circumstances in which the current timetable would be rendered null and void?

Odierno: Well, first off, we have an agreement between us and the government of Iraq. And that means that all U.S. forces will leave Iraq by the end of 2011. We can never predict what might happen in the future. But I would tell you the chances of that happening are much less today than they were a year ago.

He won't leave that "we can never predict" out. The administration has been on his case to do so. They're finding out he's very stubborn. Good for Odierno. It's not his job to sell policy and shame on the administration for attempting to repeatedly force him to do so. And if I'm applauding him, you better believe those at his level are as well (which is how I first heard about it, this is fastly becoming a scandal and the administration would be smart to back off of Odierno real quick if they're hoping to push forward any other policies regarding the military -- the whole thing is leaving a sour taste in the mouths of many).

It's an interview worth watching (or reading) and we'll note one more section because it's really not covered by the US media.

Couric: Thousands of Iraqis protested in the streets of Baghdad last week, wanting U.S. troops out of Iraq. What do you think the feeling is by most Iraqi citizens toward U.S. forces there?

Odierno: Well, it's hard to gauge. I would say, though, they were calling for a million man march in Sadr City called by Muqtada Al Sadr. And they had a turnout of about 7,000. Extremely low turnout. So I think many people voted by not turning out for that demonstration. I would just say that of course Iraqis want the U.S. to leave. They want to be a sovereign country. But they don't want us to leave until they are positive that they can take over and maintain the security and stability.

So the protests finally got some air time.

In other news, UNHCR has assisted some Palestinian refugees from leaving Iraq. This press release notes that 59 Palestinians who had been trapped at Al Waleed encampment (a tent city set up at the border of Iraq and Syria, on the Iraqi side) have been transported to the "Evacuation Transit Centre" where they are supposed to remain for no more than three months as their paperwork is processed and they're resettled in other countries. UNHCR has previously noted that the Al Waleed encampment had 942 residents, so the 59 is a very minor number. Meanwhile Alsumaria reports that Kurdistan presdient Massoud Barazni met with Steffan De Mistura, UN Chief Envoy to Iraq, and US, British and EU reps: "De Mistura displayed UN proposals to solve the issue of disputed areas. These proposals will be submitted in a report to be handed to Kurdistan leader. For his part, Barazani promised to study the report and present remarks thereto. " Disputed areas refers to the oil-rich Kirkuk and other areas that the KRG and the central government in Baghdad are at odds over.

Meanwhile Azad Aslan (Kurdish Globe) reports:

The growing tension in Ninewa province between the Kurds and Arabs following the local provincial elections this year once again indicate the difficulties of reconciling the two main nations of the country that constitute Iraq.
Since the formation of Iraq after the First World War by British Empire the main conflict has always been the clash between Iraqi Kurds and Arab dominated Iraqi central government. Decades of struggle and war of the Kurds against central governments were to gain their national rights and end oppression and humiliation at the hands of Iraqi central state. This is still true even today despite the fact that the Kurds have taken serious role in setting up a new Iraqi state following the demise of Baathist regime after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. In spite of the fact that the Kurds played constructive role in forming a new federal Iraq and a new federal constitution the Iraqi Arabs (both Shiite and Sunni) continue to see the Kurds as a minority to be dominated and not as a main constitutive political element in the so-called new Iraq. Iraqi state slackness in solving outstanding issues such as Kirkuk, sharing sovereignty and carbon law according to the Iraqi constitution and its explicit intention to alter the constitution's federal structure at the expense of the Kurdish rights explains clearly that the mentality of the Iraqi Arabs of all sides, the mentality of being dominant, superior, and unchallengeable, have not changed a bit. It indicates that there is no room for the Kurds in this so-called new federal Iraq to enjoy freedom, national rights and prosperity. The grim reality is that whatever the Kurds have today in Iraq can be secured with the power of force not with the power of constitution and democracy.

Meanwhile, December 23rd, the Speaker was ousted. By Parliament. Mahmoud Mashadani had been the speaker. The Iraqi Parliament remains without a speaker all this time later. Alsumaria reports today that it is possible tomorrow's Parliamentary session will resolve the issue -- maybe through "secret ballot" or repeated election rounds. There are six candidates
Mostapha Al Laithi, Taha Al Luhaibi and Mohammed Tamim (all with the National Dialogue Front) and Iyad Al Samirrai, Hajem Al Husni and Adnan Al Bajaji (Accordance Front). The Accordance Front favors Iyad Al Samirrai (back in March, they sued to ensure that he could be a candidate). Alsumaria explains the process for voting rounds: "During the first stage, candidates compete among each others. The candidate to win should rally 138 votes out of 275 lawmakers plus one. The statement added if these votes were not reached, a second round will be carried out with the participation of candidates who got most votes in the first round. Yet, if during the second stage, candidates fail to rally 138 votes, a third round is carried out during which the candidate who obtains the majority of votes wins."

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