Friday, July 17, 2009

The fault lines between the KRG and the central government

Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region and the Iraqi government are closer to war than at any time since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, the Kurdish prime minister said Thursday, in a bleak measure of the tension that has risen along what U.S. officials consider the country's most combustible fault line.
In separate interviews, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and the region's president, Massoud Barzani, described a stalemate in attempts to resolve long-standing disputes with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's emboldened government. Had it not been for the presence of the U.S. military in northern Iraq, Nechirvan Barzani said, fighting might have started in the most volatile regions.

The above is from Anthony Shadid's "Kurdish Leaders Warn Of Strains With Maliki: Military Conflict a Possibility, One Says" (Washington Post). It's the must-read article on Iraq this morning and you have to wonder where the New York Times is?

You have to wonder or you have to stop caring and we're probably moving away from the paper for three reasons. First, in reporting last week, they offered a very bad dispatch featuring all the US talking points and nothing resembling journalism. And that was their 'big' piece. Jay Garner called it out in a letter to the paper. That didn't lead them to refile and go in depth. They just ignored it. The way they're ignoring the KRG's upcoming elections.

I'm getting sick of the paper and all the money they waste on Iraq. Forget that they can't find the 'energy' to file an Iraq article every day (which their budget should demand), they can't even keep a blog up and running. That's ridiculous. They are ridiculous.

Three, I'm looking at e-mails (two from visitors, four from community members) and wondering, "What the hell is going on with the paper now?" They flipped their outsourcing for subscription services back near the end of 2006, I believe. And they've had non-stop problems. Their latest problem? They're not getting paid for the paper. Their contractor's computer system had some sort of a glitch and they're sending out dun letters to tell people they owe for the paper. They owe? These are people who have their credit cards on file and they're supposed to be automatically billed each month on their cards. As a vistor explains, "I don't have over $170 in one lump sum to pay this month. They were supposed to be billing me each month. I've subscribed since 2004 and never had this problem. I come home and there's a letter telling me that I haven't been paying and I now owe over $170. I called that non-customer service number and, oopsie, yeah my credit card is on file. I'm told it's a problem that they've had with a number of accounts." If you're a subscriber to the paper, you may need to check and see if you've been billed each month or not. And apparently, if you haven't been billed each month, that's your fault and not the paper's. I'm not in the mood for this garbage. Since they switched contractors, they have had nothing but problems and there is no quality care at the paper, no concern over how many subscribers they are losing due to their contractors. I'm not in the mood for the paper right now. If there's an article I feel warrants attention, we'll note it. Otherwise, I'm ticked off because I don't have a lot of sympathy or admiration for incompetents who destroy newspapers and that's what the New York Times is doing right now.

(And this doesn't effect me. My 'subscription' costs several times more than the average subscription because I pay the local distributor that excessive amount to ensure that I have the paper at my home by X each morning. I could stop doing that since I'm never home anymore but I won't. However, on the road each week now, I may be less and less inclined to track down a copy of their paper each day. For those who it does effect, you should be arguing loudly. That was their mistake and they should be able to half the amount owed -- at the least -- and you should also press for a six month pricing plan that they offer new subscribers. That's the very least that should be done.)

If you read the Times, you have no idea of the tensions emerging but you do have a concept of "bad Kurds!" which might make a few people feel better but doesn't really inform anyone. In addition to bad reporting, we get bad columns like Thomas Friedman's "Goodbye Iraq, and Good Luck" -- a real load of garbage from the smug trash collector Friedman. John Boonstra calls out the column in "Friedman: Occupation only makes Iraqis 'want' and 'need' U.S. help" (UN Dispatch):

I just got around to reading Tom Friedman's column from the other day about Kirkuk Iraq. It's odd in a number of ways, from his love of using jokes to make a point, to his blithe assumption that the U.S. military has "left a million acts of kindness" in the country, and his bizarre contention that Iraq is "100 times more important" than Bosnia (what is the point of a powder keg competition between the Middle East and the Balkans, anyway?). But this is what struck me most from Friedman's outlook:

Senior Iraqi officials are too proud to ask for our help and would probably publicly resist it, but privately Iraqis will tell you that they want it and need it. We are the only trusted player here — even by those who hate us. They need a U.S. mediator so they can each go back to their respective communities and say: "I never would have made these concessions, but those terrible Americans made me do it."

First, I have a hard time believing that Thomas Friedman can reliably attest to the private desires of most Iraqis (especially when he is writing from Kirkuk, but makes no mention that Kurds, who form a substantial part of Kirkuk's population, have a notably different outlook toward Americans). Second, I have an even harder time believing that six-plus years of military occupation has made Iraqis "want" and "need" more American help (something tells me that simply observing the diversity of American military personnel has not, as Friedman weakly argues, made an impression on Iraq's own ethnic politics).

January 31st, 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces held provincial elections. The Kurdish region did not take place in those elections. Their elections take place next week. The Economist offers "Change in the air?" (unsigned, but not billed as an editorial):

AS IRAQ'S Kurds prepare to vote on July 25th for a regional assembly and a president, the buzzword is Goran, meaning change. It is also the name of a new movement that is trying to defeat -- or at least to dent -- the two parties that came into their own when the Kurds won self-rule in 1991, after the Americans and their allies chased Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait in the south and then prevented him from beating up the Kurds in the north. The elections promise to be the most hotly contested during the Kurds’ current golden era of autonomy. As Change’s campaign gathers pace, its name and logo, an orange candle on a dark-blue background, is emblazoned on buses, taxis, T-shirts, baseball caps and balloons. The movement is on a roll. Whether this translates into votes in a society where patronage and clan loyalties still largely hold sway is not yet clear.
Change says it wants to improve the lives of Kurds across the region. It castigates the corruption and cronyism of the two main parties: the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), long a fief of the Barzani clan in the north and western parts of the region around Dohuk and Erbil; and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), run by the Talabani clan in Sulaymaniyah province to the east and in the disputed lands to the south around Kirkuk.

Having wasted millions, the New York Times is now trying to make a profit via destruction of the Boston Globe. As they attack those workers and attempt a tag sale on the assets, the Boston Globe actually does more real work in journalism than the Times could ever dream of. That includes this morning's editorial "An obligation to refugees:"

AS AMERICAN TROOPS withdraw from Iraq, they leave behind a population of refugees who are only part of a humanitarian crisis encompassing war zones all around the world. The United States is the largest donor of refugee relief, yet despite this effort and the United Nations refugee program, temporary shelter and aid give little comfort to refugees who are highly vulnerable to contagious disease and violence. As people grow up and die in camps, the idea that only temporary shelter is needed has become an idyllic fairy tale. The United States should provide a haven for more refugees.
Each year the US government sets a number of refugees to resettle in the United States for protection, and this year the ceiling was raised from 70,000 to 80,000. This increase acknowledges the scale of the crisis but ignores the thousands of available spots that go unfilled each year. Existing programs to select refugees cannot meet the cap, and few refugees, who lack homes or clean water, could be expected to apply without help. Meaningful offers of resettlement require expanding support for programs that encourage eligible refugees to apply.

On the subject of refugees, Miriam Jordan (Wall St. Journal) reports that the US has agreed to take in 1,350 Palestinian refugees from Iraq -- these are apparently among the over 3,000 refugees stuck in the 'camps' between Iraq and Syria. From Jordan's article:

"These particular Palestinians are a fallout from the Iraq War," said George Bisharat, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of Law, who specializes in Middle Eastern law. "The Obama administration had to take some responsibility for the consequences of the invasion."

The news comes one week after International Middle East Media Center reported on the death of Suad Abdul-Qader Al Hallaq who died in one of the 'camps,' Al Waleed -- one week before her death, Shihada Mohammad Abu Hamad had died at the camp. Meanwhile International Organization for Migration announces money received from the US government in "US$ 10 Million to Help Returning Iraqi Families Reintegrate:"

Posted on Friday, 17-07-2009
Iraq - IOM has received US$10 million from the US Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) to meet the most urgent needs of Iraqi returnees.

Working with the Ministry of Displacement and Migration (MoDM) and host communities, IOM is assisting returnees and local residents without jobs or underemployed by providing information and counseling; grants for the purchase of tools, equipment or basic materials; and vocational and/or business training, to create or expand small businesses or to find employment.

IOM is working with returnees in Baghdad, Ninewa, Diyala, Babyl, Wassit and Missan governorates. With the new funding from PRM, IOM will assist at least 3,500 individuals in Baghdad, Babylon, Diyala and Ninewa, and will expand the geographical coverage to other governorates, namely Anbar, Basrah, Erbil and Sulaymania.

IOM monitors have identified some 52,000 post-2006 returnee families in approximately 800 locations; with the majority returning to Baghdad, and significant groups to Diyala and Anbar.

Seventy-one per cent of returnees interviewed by IOM said they had decided to return to their places of origin because of improved security or a combination of improved security and difficult conditions in their place of displacement.

Nationwide, returnees have told IOM monitors that their immediate needs are food, fuel, and non-food items (such as mattresses or cooking utensils), along with healthcare and legal assistance. In the long term, employment, shelter and property restitution are the major concerns for returnee families.

"Individual returnee families have widely differing needs. Many have come home to destroyed, damaged, or looted property," explains Mike Pillinger, Chief of the IOM Mission in Iraq.

Thirty-nine per cent of returnees interviewed by IOM reported finding their home in poor or uninhabitable condition. Others have no job or a way to support their families. In Baghdad, 64 per cent of heads of household interviewed by IOM are unemployed; 61% in Diyala and 31% in Anbar. In other cases health care services or obtaining missing documents are priority issues.

MoDM and the Kurdish Regional Government's Directorate of Displacement and Migration estimate that there are approximately 1.7 million post-2006 internally displaced Iraqis.

There are an estimated number 2.8 million internally displaced persons in Iraq. Some 1.6 million of them were displaced after the bombing of the Al-Askari mosque in Samarra in February 2006. More than 1.5 million other Iraqis are living in neighbouring countries.

IOM has also received funding for this programme from the governments of Japan, Germany and Australia's International Assistance Programme (AusAID).

Returnee reports, along with IOM's regular reporting on displacement, including governorate profiles, bi-weekly updates, tent camp updates, and yearly and mid-year reviews, are available at

For more information please contact:

Rex Alamban
IOM Amman
Tel: + 962-79-906-1779

Hugh McMillan reports on one group of Iraqi refugees who have been admitted to the US in "Iraqi family safe in Gig Harbor" (Peninsula Gateway):

Hanaa al Janabi knows what it's like to be forced to leave her homeland in fear for her life while still grieving for a murdered husband and father. She knows what it’s like to arrive in a different country, with only the clothes on her back. There was a language barrier, and she didn’t know how to provide for her children.
With help of a Gig Harbor church, al Janabi and her family also know what it's like to be safe.
Watching the fall of Baghdad, Americans saw exploding bombs and Iraqis cheer as the statue of Saddam Hussein was pulled down. Few understand the impact the violent period has had on a single Iraqi family, what it was like for al Janabi as she fled with her children along a tortuously difficult path through fear and frustration.
Al Janabi's Army officer husband, Khaled al Janabi, fell out of favor with Saddam but escaped with his family to Jordan to obtain political refugee status. As the United States prepared to invade Iraq, he volunteered as a translator and cultural adviser to the U.S. Army. During the invasion, he returned to Baghdad, embedded with the American forces.
There, while his wife was visiting him, he was recognized and killed on the street in front of her.

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends