Thursday, July 16, 2009

Nouri and his thug power

Two weeks after U.S. combat troops withdrew from Iraq's major cities, amid sporadic outbreaks of violence countrywide, Iraqi authorities aren't asking American forces for help. Although U.S. troops are "just a radio call away," in Baghdad and five other major urban areas, it appears the Iraqis haven't asked even once.
In Baghdad, the Iraqis also won't allow U.S. forces on the street, except for supply convoys.
The failure to trigger the "Onstar option" suggests that the government of Iraq and its military think that they can deal with the car bombings, homemade bombs and attacks with silencer-equipped handguns that have plagued parts of the country in recent days.

The above is from Mike Tharp's "Iraqis have told U.S. military no patrols permitted in Baghdad" (McClatchy Newspapers). Now explain again why the US military is in Iraq? Supposedly to manage a smooth transition. But the US installed Nouri al-Maliki, a thug, and the US can't do a thing to protect Iraqis. If Nouri launches another ethnic cleansing, like 2007, what happens? The US can't enter the cities without al-Maliki's permission so how does their presence protect anyone -- anyone except Nouri?

That's something people should be thinking about and it's something that the US Senate once discussed. In fact, along with Senator Russ Feingold, one of the best speakers on this topic was then-Senator Joe Biden, now vice president of the United States.

April 10, 2008, the US Senate's Committee on Foreign Relations, then chaired by Biden, held a hearing. Biden noted, "We've pledged we're not only going to consult when there is an outside threat, but also when there is an inside threat. We've just witnessed when Mr. Maliki engaged in the use of force against another Shia group in the south, is this an inside threat?" He went on to point out that this "internal threat" aspect to then-proposed agreements with Iraq (since rammed through by the Bush administration and continued by the Obama one) requires that the US "support the Iraqi government in its battle with all 'outlaw groups' -- that's a pretty expansive committment." It also required, in his words, that the United States "take side in Iraq's civil war" when "there is no Iraqi government that we know of that will be in place a year from now -- half the government has walked out. Just understand my frustration. We want to normalize a government that really doesn't exist."

Senator Feingold pointed out, "Given the fact that the Maliki government doesn't represent a true coalition, won't this agreement [make it appear] we are taking sides in the civil war"?

No, that hearing didn't blaze through the next day's papers. No, it didn't get tremendous attention. It should have. And those who ignored it in real time should be paying attention now. The same issues exist now and the US military's position in Iraq is no longer a hypothetical. The agreements were rammed through. What power does the US military have? Why is it still present? To allow al-Maliki to remain in power? To allow him to launch another attack on the Iraqi people?

Sam Dagher's "Bombings in Iraq Kill 11 People" (New York Times) covers some of yesterday's violence -- some because there were 20 reported deaths before the work day ended in Baghdad. He quotes Abbas Mohammed issuing a common complaint, "Where is the government? Where are the security forces? If they cannot control the situation, then let our sons take over." Our sons? He could mean the "Sons of Iraq." Sahwa. "Awakening." If he does mean that, Dagher doesn't explain it. Reuters notes that six pilgrims were wounded in a Baghdad bombing last night and eight were wounded in a Baghdad roadside bombing today.

Alsumaria cites the Iraq's Minister of Finance Bayan Jaber stating that increased "revenue from oil plus about $2 billion in fees from mobile phone companies will provide the country a supplementary budget of up to $3 billion".

Where does the money go? Not to the people. Aseel Kami (Reuters) reports on a 'housing' project. It's not housing, it's mixed -- housing and commercial. The project has a $30 billion price tag on it. Sounds impressive. Nouri's going to spend some money with at least some of it going to address the housing needs of Iraqis. But that's not really what's going on. The price tag is $30 billion. $20 billion of that will come from foreign investment (which most likely indicates the investment in the commercial district and not housing) while, over ten years, Iraq will kick in $10 billion. That's one a year. And how much of that will go to housing, no one knows. Kami notes that "Baghdad like other Iraqi cities is woefully behind the times when it comes to basic services such as water and power, not to mention an ever-more-desperate lack of suitable housing. "

Farah Stockman's "A wreath laid in Iraq" (Boston Globe) posted yesterday afternoon:

UMass Boston professor Padraig O'Malley laid a wreath today at the site of a bombing in Iraq that killed at least 72 people last month which appeared to be aimed at fomenting ethnic tensions in the volatile Kirkuk region.
Kirkuk is one of five "divided" cities participating in a peace forum established in Boston by O'Malley this past April. Elected representatives from Kirkuk visited Massachusetts this past April to learn about how Boston had overcome violence and division during the busing crisis of the 1970s.

On the subject of Kirkuk, Mohammed A Salih offers "US diplomacy leaves Kurds adrift" (Asia Times):

More signs of US involvement are emerging as Admiral Michael Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US military, visited Kirkuk on Monday with the aim of urging Kurds, Arabs and Turkomans there to reach a power-sharing agreement. The US had been widely criticized in the recent months for not doing enough to settle disputes among Iraqi factions, especially Kurds and Arabs.
Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group (ICG) believes that unilateral decisions by Kurdish leaders such as the draft constitution were partly due to US reluctance to throw heavier diplomatic weight behind efforts to address the ethnic problems in the country.
But Biden's very new central role to steer US policy in Iraq, he says, shows that "Obama's administration means business".
"And his visit to Iraq is a sign that the US is serious in its efforts to broker a deal [on problems between Kurds and Iraqi government]," Hiltermann told Inter Press Service in a phone interview from Jordan.
However, as attempts to forge an agreement intensify, the key question is what kind of a deal is possible and sustainable.

The Kurdish region votes (parlimenatry and presidential elections) July 25th. The upcoming elections have gotten very little from domestic news outlets, the same ones so eager to pimp the January 31st elections non-stop. Why the silence on the KRG elections?

For one thing, the January 31st elections were never about the elections. They were about US outlets justifying their own withdrawal from Iraq, the story was an attempt to tie a bow around it all, call it a gift, grab your coat and hit the door. Second, those elections were fairly easy to cover. US reporters stayed in Baghdad, relied on stringers to flesh out details from beyond the Green Zone and offered 'reports.' The KRG? Too far from the Green Zone.

McClatchy does intend to have Adam Ashton reporting on the KRG elections, FYI. On the subject of female internal refugees and touching on the KRG, this is from Dawn Calabi's "Iraq: Don't Forget Displaced Women" (Refugees International):

As a humanitarian talking with displaced Iraqis be prepared for a lot of anger. "You destroyed my country," said one woman. "Those ruling have no place for us. What will you do?" Millions of people have been displaced inside and outside the country. Small numbers have returned home. For others, insecurity, plus the absence of the rule of law, infrastructure, employment prospects, or basic services like water, sanitation, education or health care prevent them from returning home. Individuals or members of groups targeted for religion, ethnicity or politics are unlikely to return. These families, often headed by women, live in extremely poor, overcrowded conditions, subject to extreme heat and cold. Many are skeptical Iraq will invest the political and financial resources needed for safe sustainable returns.
In Erbil, a displaced woman living in a tent wanted the world to understand. "We need security in Iraq…tell the politicians to make an agreement. Poor people are the victims of the struggle. Kurd, Arab, Sunni, Shia, Christian, we are all one people, Iraqis, and we need a secure country! Ask our government, the Government of Iraq and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) to pay attention to our needs, to see how we are living and suffering."
Unlike last year, Iraq has not contributed to the UN or neighboring countries aiding its citizens. The KRG complained of receiving insufficient funds to pay grants to people registered as internally displaced and insufficient medicines for those with chronic illnesses. But displaced people inside Northern Iraq are grateful to the KRG.

Women aren't helped by 'marital payments'. That's not in the above, it's a story that's circulating. Allegedly, men who will marry out of their sect will receive money from Nouri's administration. First, that's offensive, period. Second, a woman married to a man who 'found' her to get paid is probably not going to have an 'enjoyable' life after the payment money is gone and considering the new divorce laws enshrined under US occupation, she's going to have a very difficult leaving him although he will be able to leave her with great ease. He'll also be able to falsely accuse of her of anything, kill her and, at the most, 'suffer' through police questioning before being released.

New Zealand's TVNZ wants you to know
that Baghdad's night life is 'thriving.' Any who caught the BBC World Service yesterday heard the news of the Baghdad concert. What an advance it was. Oh, it took place in the afternoon. It had to because, due to the violence, people are still not comfortable going out at night. But the concert was a hit.

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sam dagher