Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Iraq may vote on election law . . . next Monday

Mr. Hamza has spoken in Iraq, too, and he said the questions vary greatly. While people in the United States want to know how to make democracy work in Iraq, people in Iraq just want water, electricity and food, he said.
"Sometimes the answer is not democracy. Some dictatorships are much better than some democracies," he said. He supports whatever form of government the people decide they want that also stops the bloodshed and brings order to daily life.
"If that's dictatorship, I'm all for it," he said.
He believes the United States needs to leave Iraq in order for the country to make its own decisions and take responsibility for them.
Mr. Hamza, who has toured the United States with a booth labeled "Talk to an Iraqi," said he doesn't speak for all Iraqis. "I actually don't even represent the views of my own family."

The above is from Jacqueline Reis' "Iraqi journalist fears for future generations" (Worcester Telegram & Gazette). Meanwhile Iraq still hasn't passed the election law. The one that was supposed to have been passed by Parliament no later than . . . last Thursday. Jeff Mason (Reuters) reports that "Barack Obama urged Iraq on Tuesday to complete an election law so that a January poll is not delayed" and it didn't make a damn bit of difference. Iran's Press TV reports the Parliament took a pass again today and quotes Speaker of Parliament Iyad al-Samarrai, "The issue has failed and has been moved on to the Political Council for National Security." They are now 'planning' to vote on Monday . . . "if the council, comprising of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani and the leaders of major political parties, make a proposal by Sunday." Jane Arraf observes in "Discord as elections looms in Iraq" (Global Post):

As Iraqi parliamentarians struggled over the past week with exactly how democratic they really want to be, it was telling that the brightest spot of democracy and certainly the savviest public relations campaign was playing out across town in Sadr City.
Members of parliament for the past two weeks have been trying to pass an election law that would pave the way for national elections by the end of January, which are wanted by the voters and required by the Constitution. A vote Thursday became bogged down in a dispute over how voting would take place in Kirkuk, the city disputed by Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and every other group that wants to lay claim to its oil and historic homelands. It stalled again on Monday.
The delay has so alarmed both the U.S. and the U.N. that they’ve both issued statements urging parliament to get its act together and pass the law. The U.S. has been so fixated on the January elections that worry over the timing and type of elections has eclipsed the almost unspoken fear lurking in the background that elections done badly could be even more destabilizing than no vote at all.

Meanwhile Mary Beth Sheridan (Washington Post) reports Richard Lopez Razo, former US State Dept program manager in Iraq, is facing charges of "accepting tens of thousands of dollars in kickbacks in exchange for steering contracts to Iraqi construction firms" while in Iraq (2005 through 2008) "as a logistics specialist for three U.S. companies".

From Monday's snapshot:

Meanwhile Thomas Grove, Shamal Aqrawi and Janet Lawrence (Reuters) report that today eight members of the PKK would cross the border into Turkey (from Iraq) and turn themselves over "to Turkish military forces [. . .] in a gesture of support for Turkey's Kurdish initiative". AP says it is 34 turning themselves over but only 8 of the 34 "are rebels". Hurriyet Daily News reports this took place at 4:00 pm: "The group comprised 26 people, including nine women and four children, from the Mahmur camp in northern Iraq and eight PKK members from the Kandil Mountains. The group is coming 'not to surrender but to open the way for peace,' DTP co-leader Ahmet Türk said earlier Monday at a press conference in Silopi, on the Turkish side of the border. NTV television reported that they would be taken in by Turkish authorities for questioning once they're in the country." BBC News adds, "As Kurdish Turks gathered in Istanbul, thousands of supporters waving PKK flags were waiting in Silopi to greet the 34 Kurds as they crossed the border. Some had come from a refugee camp in Makhmour, south of Mosul in Iraq." Deutsche Welle quotes Turkish government spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin Allen stating, "It is a very good sign, it is one first fruit of the democratic initiative."

Xinhua reports that "all the 34" have been released by Turkey now and Al Jazeera adds, "'Welcome peace ambassadors! Kurdistan is proud of you!' chanted thousands of Kurdish demonstrators waiting outside the border area as the group, some dressed in combat fatigues, climbed aboard a bus to travel to Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast."

And we'll note Sherwood Ross' "Obama Steps Up Killer Drone Raids Despite Deaths of Civilians" (ZNet):

Since taking office, President Obama has sanctioned at least 41 Central Intelligence Agency(C.I.A.) drone strikes in Pakistan that have killed between 326 and 538 people, many of them, critics say, “innocent bystanders, including children,” according to reliable reports. The drone is a remotely controlled, unmanned aircraft.
"Even if a precise account is elusive," writes Jane Mayer in the October 26th The New Yorker, "the outlines are clear: the C.I.A. has joined the Pakistani intelligence service in an aggressive campaign to eradicate local and foreign militants, who have taken refuge in some of the most inaccessible parts of the country."
Based on a study just completed by the non-profit, New America Foundation of Washington, D.C., "the number of drone strikes has risen dramatically since Obama became President," Mayer reports.
In fact, the first two strikes took place on Jan. 23, the President’s third day in office and the second of these hit the wrong house, that of a pro-government tribal leader that killed his entire family, including three children, one just five years of age.
At any time, the C.I.A. apparently has "multiple drones flying over Pakistan, scouting for targets,” the magazine reports. So many Predators and its more heavily armed companion, the Reaper, are being purchased that defense manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, of Poway, Calif., can hardly make them fast enough. The Air Force is said to possess 200.
Mayer writes, "the embrace of the Predator program has occurred with remarkably little public discussion, given that it represents a radically new and geographically unbounded use of state-sanctioned lethal force." Today, Mayer writes, "there is no longer any doubt that targeted killing has become official U.S. policy." And according to Gary Solis, who teaches at Georgetown University’s Law Center, nobody in the government calls it assassination. "Not only would we have expressed abhorrence of such a policy a few years ago; we did," Solis is quoted as saying.

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