Monday, November 02, 2009

The 'intended' January elections

Meanwhile, Iraqi legislators again failed to agree on laws governing the January elections, despite warnings that further delay could prevent the vote from taking place on time. Discussions in Parliament on Sunday instead focused on other matters.

The above is from John Leland's "Scattering of Attacks in Iraq" in this morning's New York Times. Let's recap. Prior to Barack Obama being elected US President, Iraq 'intended' to hold national elections in December 2009. They then pushed the elections back to January 2010 which Barack used to break his campaign promise re: troop draw-down in Iraq (he called it withdrawal and, in his speeches, rarley included "combat" which is a meaningless qualifier anyway). All this year, they've anticipated the elections being held in January 2010 and the deadline for passing legislation was October 15th. The day before that deadline, they decided to kick decisions back to October 19th. And so it has gone, over and over. It is now November 2nd and they have no election law.

Appearing October 21st before the US House Armed Services Committee, the Pentagon's Michele Flournoy was asked of the delays in Iraq passing an election law.

Michele Flournoy: Uh, let me start by saying, you know, the draw-down plan that we have, is conditions based and it creates multiple decision points for re-evaluating and, if necessary, changing our plans based on developments on the ground. Although the government of Iraq's self-imposed deadline of October 15th for passing the elections law has passed, we judge that the COR [Council Of Representatives] still has another week or two to come to some kind of an agreement on the elections law before it will put the January date -- the early January date -- in jeopardy in terms of the election commission's ability to actually physically execute the, uh, the election. If a new law with open lists is not passed, the fall back solution for them is to return to the 2005 election law which is based on a closed list system. But that could be used for upcoming elections, the COR would simply have to vote on an election date. If that law is not passed in the next two weeks, they will be looking at slipping the date to later in January which would still be compliant with the [Iraqi] Constitution but would be later than originally planned. In that instance, M-NF-I [Multi-National Forces Iraq] would need to engage with the government of Iraq to do some contingency planning on how to secure the elections at a later date and that might well have-have implications.

Though she maintained Iraq could fall back on the 2005 election law, other bodies begged to differ. As Rod Nordland (New York Times) reported, "Iraq's existing election law was declared unconstitutional by its highest court, which said it needs to be replaced or amended." AFP reports today that KRG President Massud Barzani and US Vice President Joe Biden "pressed the need for a keay election law to be passed". BBC News reports the United Nations "had warned that it could not guarantee to endorse the polls if the bill was not approved on Sunday" -- that was yesterday and the bill was not approved. BBC points out that the 'sticky points' are Kirkuk and the issue of open or closed lists. The latter will determine whether voters vote for individual candidates and this is something that many in Parliament are opposed to.

Despite the fact that many members of Parliament are opposed to open lists, some continue to present the only road block as being Kirkuk. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (no, Virginia, they're not really about Peace) provides Marina Ottoway tells Rebecca Santana (AP), "The problem is that we are getting to a crisis. They have been trying for over a year to reach a compromise on Kirkuk." Over a year. That's a mild way of pulling it. Kirkuk was supposed to have been resolved by 2007 and hasn't been. The 2005 Iraqi Constitution mandates that the issue be resolved. Jason Ditz ( observes, "The deadlines for Iraq's January elections appear to continue to come and go with little movement from the nation's parliament."

Meanwhile Yu Zhixiao (Xinhua) offers an analysis of the current state of the MidEast:

The two wars the United States carried out years ago in its so-called preemptive offensive and its not-so-successful post-war policies have created a "volatile triangle" on the world map containing Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, analysts say.
Iraq, Afghanistan and its neighbor Pakistan, which are being bedeviled by daily bombing attacks and conflicts, now substantially form a "volatile triangle," Fu Mengzi, director of the Institute of American Studies under the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, told Xinhua.
Yang Yi, a professor and director of the strategic studies institute under the Chinese People's Liberation Army National Defense University, also agrees to the "triangle" concept.

Is the US spying on Iraq's neighbors? You know it. (The US government spied on members of the UN, remember.) But do they have a new system built for just that purpose? Iran's Press TV reports:

The US military has finished erecting an advanced radar system in Iraq to monitor the border with Iran, Syria and Turkey, a report says.
The radar system will monitor aircraft and anti-air targets approaching from the borders, several Arabic language news websites reported on Monday, citing comments by unnamed Isareli sources.
The report posted on the Palestinian Maannews website said that the system would transmit information to the Iraqi air force and some of its radar would be connected to the control tower at the Baghdad International Airport.

For those who've forgotten or never knew about the US spying (the governments of England and Australia joined in the spying as well) on the UN, refer to Martin Bright, Ed Vulliamy and Peter Beaumont's "Revealed: US dirty tricks to win vote on Iraq war" (Observer, March 2, 2003):

The United States is conducting a secret 'dirty tricks' campaign against UN Security Council delegations in New York as part of its battle to win votes in favour of war against Iraq.
Details of the aggressive surveillance operation, which involves interception of the home and office telephones and the emails of UN delegates in New York, are revealed in a document leaked to The Observer.
The disclosures were made in a memorandum written by a top official at the National Security Agency - the US body which intercepts communications around the world - and circulated to both senior agents in his organisation and to a friendly foreign intelligence agency asking for its input.
The memo describes orders to staff at the agency, whose work is clouded in secrecy, to step up its surveillance operations 'particularly directed at... UN Security Council Members (minus US and GBR, of course)' to provide up-to-the-minute intelligence for Bush officials on the voting intentions of UN members regarding the issue of Iraq.

Today Quil Lawrence (NPR's Morning Edition) reports on Camp Ashraf (link is audio and text).

We'll note the following from Sherwood Ross' "OBAMA RESUMING G.W. BUSH'S 'EXTRAORDINARY RENDITIONS'" (AfterDowningStreet):

Even though Barack Obama, the candidate, pledged to end "the practice of shipping away prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far-off countries," his FBI has been rendering kidnap victims to the U.S. The practice is still kidnapping, however; and it's still illegal.
Unlucky victim No. 1 was Raymond Azar, 45, flown from Afghanistan to Alexandria, Va., not to a foreign country. The construction manager for Sima International, a Lebanese outfit that did work for the U.S. military, Azar said he was tortured by his abductors. He might just as well have been flow to Egypt under the Bushies.
Interestingly, Azar was never charged as a dangerous terrorist, only with conspiracy to commit bribery for wiring $106,000 in kickbacks to a U.S. employee’s bank account in hopes of getting $13 million in unpaid bills okayed.
For this comparatively trivial white collar crime, Azar’s lawyers said when arrested he was stripped naked, hooded, and subjected to a body cavity search. What’s more, according to an article by Scott Horton, writing on "Common Dreams," Azar claims a federal agent showed Azar a photo of his wife and four children and told him to confess or else he might "never see them again." Azar confessed, and pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery.

Bonnie notes Kat's "Kat's Korner: Carly Simon's warm benediction" and Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Photo-Op This!" Carly Simon's Never Been Gone was released Tuesday.

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