Monday, August 17, 2009

The census is off, Kirkuk decisions again postponed

In 2005, Iraq created a Constitution and ratified it. The Constitution held that a census would be held in Kirkuk and a referendum held there to determine the will of the residents -- did they want to be part of the central government out of Baghdad or part of the Kurdistan Regional Government? The area was historically targeted by Saddam Hussein who moved Arabs in and forced Kurds out. It is a disputed territory. As 2006 came to a close, the Bush White House began talking "benchmarks" by which "success" in Iraq could be measured. They proposed a set of benchmarks to Congress and to Nouri al-Maliki which both signed off on. The benchmarks included resolving the Kirkuk issue. The referendum has never taken place. Repeatedly, Nouri manipulates bodies such as the United Nations which then whine that the Kurds need to wait -- as if this wasn't agreed to both in the Consitution and in the benchmarks. Provincial elections took place in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces back in January and in three of the KRG's provinces in July. The missing one? Kirkuk. Nouri announced that a census would finally take place and that the entire country would vote in January elections in 2010 (kicked back from December 2009). Now BBC reports that Iraq's "has postponed indefinitely plans to hold its first nationswide census in 22 years". AFP adds that politicians (Arab and Turkmen) have declared that they will block the census and that they will work to overturn Article 140 of the Constitution. They quote Kurdish politician Sherzad Adil stating, "Article 140 is constitutional and the Iraqi government is obliged to implement it. The delay in implementing it is the fault fo the governments that followed the former regime and we hope the problems will be solved before the next (general) election." Aseel Kami and Michael Christie (Reuters) remind, "The census would have shed light on the actual ethnic composition of those areas. Many Arab and Turkmen leaders in Kirkuk opposed the survey there, and have also opposed holding a referendum on the city's fate."

Staying with northern Iraq, this morning Ernesto London (Washington Post) reports online that the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, states US forces may be position "along disputed areas" and that Nouri's thrilled with the idea and quotes Odierno saying, "I think they all just feel more comfortable if we're there."

Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal are three American citizens who visited northern Iraq and allegedly went hiking and allegedly crossed over into Iranian territory. They are being held by the Iranian government and, last week, they were moved to Tehran. Damien McElroy and Ahmad Vahdat (Telegraph of London) report that Iraqi tribal leader Farhad Lohoni is stating that eye witnesses (his family members) saw the Americans seized by Iranians who were in Iraqi territory and the Iranians were allegedly part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Meanwhile Rahmat al-Salaam (Asharq Alawsat) reports that the governments of Iraq and Iran met "to discuss border problems and implementation of the Algiers Agreement." Kareem Abedzair (Azzaman) reports on the meeting as well and notes promises on both sides to create more "border controls."

Friday, the KRG announced:

US Senator John McCain on first visit to Erbil holds talks with Kurdistan Region leadership

Erbil, Kurdistan – Iraq ( – Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Susan Collins arrived in Erbil today from Baghdad, accompanied by Ambassador Christopher Hill and senior officials. This was their first visit to the Kurdistan Region.

Senator McCain said that he was impressed by the sense of hope and optimism that he observed in the Kurdistan Region, and by the reconstruction and development efforts underway. The Senator acknowledged that, although he did not know every detail of the Region’s history, he was aware of the suffering under the former regime. With strong regional leadership and US commitment to Iraq, he said, continued success in the Region can be achieved. The Senator also praised Kurdistan Region leadership for its election, which he said was largely heralded as free and fair by international observers.

Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani, Speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament Adnan Mufti, and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani met the delegation and hosted them to lunch.

President Barzani explained, “We in the Kurdistan Region appreciate the sacrifices and contributions of the US troops for the liberation of Iraq.” He continued, “We believe in democracy and freedom, and our recent election in the Region exemplifies our commitment and enthusiasm for this process. In our dialogue with Iraq, we rely on the federal Constitution as the highest authority and the pillar of our democracy.”

President Barzani said that the US contribution to Iraq cannot be measured only by the amount of troops deployed but also by its continued engagement in the political process, in order to ensure a stable and peaceful Iraq for the future.

In response to a question from the Senators on the federal hydrocarbons law and revenue sharing legislation, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said, “We have operated under the framework of the Iraqi Constitution from the beginning, and we have done our best to reach an understanding. I believe that progress on revenue sharing legislation, in particular, will pave the way for greater understanding and dialogue on other outstanding issues.”

The Prime Minister also emphasised the economic development in the Region and the opportunities for American firms to participate in trade and commerce.

After meeting with KRG officials, the Senators went to the US Regional Reconstruction Team compound, where they met American officials on the ground. The delegation was received at the airport by Dr Fuad Hussein, Chief of Staff to President Barzani, and Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, Head of the Department of Foreign Relations.

Minister Bakir remarked, “The three Senators, Senator McCain in particular, have a great deal of influence on US decision making, and we are pleased with the opportunity to engage in substantive dialogue and to strengthen our friendship with the United States.”

The Senators also had a tour of Erbil’s ancient Citadel, including the Textile Museum and some restored buildings. Musicians and dancers entertained the delegation.

Please visit the photo gallery for photos of the Senator's visit.

We'll close with the opening of Sherwood Ross' "America's Warfare State" (Global Research):

"On my last day in Iraq," veteran McClatchy News correspondent Leila Fadel wrote August 9th, "as on my first day in Iraq, I couldn't see what the United States and its allies had accomplished. ... I couldn't understand what thousands of American soldiers had died for and why hundreds of thousands of Iraqis had been killed."
Quite a few oil company CEO's and "defense" industry executives, however, do have a pretty good idea of why the war Fadel deplored is being fought. As Michael Cherkasky, president of Kroll Inc., said a year after the Iraq invasion boosted his security firm's profits 231 percent: "It's the Gold Rush." What follows is a brief look at some of the outfits that cashed in, and at the multitudes that got took.
"Defense Earnings Continue to Soar," Renae Merle wrote in The Washington Post on July 30, 2007. "Several of Washington’s largest defense contractors said last week that they continue to benefit from a boom in spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan..." Merle added, "Profit reports from Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin showed particularly strong results in operations in the region." More recently, Boeing's second-quarter earnings this year rose 17 percent, Associated Press reported, in part because of what AP called "robust defense sales."
But war, it turns out, is not only unhealthy for human beings, it is not uniformly good for the economy. Many sectors suffer, including non-defense employment, as a war can destroy more jobs than it creates. While the makers of warplanes may be flying high, these are "Tough Times For Commercial Aerospace," Business Week reported July 13th. "The sector is contending with the deepening global recession, declining air traffic, capacity cuts by airlines, and reduced availability of financing for aircraft purchases."

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