Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Iraq's 'intended' elections scheduled for March 7 (for now)

Iraq's presidency council has again delayed the parliamentary elections, setting March 7 as the new date for the nationwide vote, an official said on Wednesday.
"The presidency council and the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) have agreed that the coming legislative elections will be on March 7 next year," Naseer al-Ani, President Jalal Talabani's chief of staff, said in a statement.
He said the latest decision came after a meeting at Talabani's residency late Tuesday which included Talabani and two vice presidents, Adel Abdul Mahdi and Tariq al-Hashimi, along with Faraj al-Haidari, head of the IHEC.

The above is from Anne Tang's "Iraq sets parliamentary elections on March 7" (Xinhua) on the new 'intended' date for elections. Al Jazeera explains, "The election, which will now fall on a Sunday, the first day of the working week in Iraq, is seen as a crucial step towards consolidating Iraq's democracy and securing a complete US military exit by the end of 2011, as planned." Prashant Rao (AFP) reminds that the new date is "almost six weeks later than the originally planned date of mid-January". An overview of the changes resulting from Sunday's measure Parliament passed shortly before midnight can be found here. These are still 'intended' elections. After what's taken place in the lats months, nothing should be accepted as a done deal until the elections are actually held. (For example, Nouri might postpone the elections citing 'rising violence'. That's the fear of one European diplomat.) CNN reports that today a presidential decree is supposed to be issued making March 7th the election date.

Yesterday, Robert Knight ( KPFA's Flashpoints Radio) offered an interpretation of the vote that is incorrect. He stated that the upcoming elections would also involve a vote on the SOFA which would determine whether or not "it is allowed to stand" and, if not, "the Obama administration would be legally obligated to end its mission a year sooner". That's been repeated a lot and we should have called that out before. Maybe I listen more closely to Robert Knight? (Intended as a compliment.) Here's the deal, the up and down on the SOFA -- if it takes place -- would end the SOFA if that was the vote and Nouri didn't step in and try to save it (he's twice overruled Parliament to continue the illegal war -- twice he extended the UN mandate without their permission and against their expressed wishes. But if the SOFA ends, that doesn't have to mean US troops come home.

The SOFA is a contract. People keep forgetting that and that's why so many mistakes are made in discussing it. If the SOFA is overturned and nothing replaces it, then the US authorization to be on the ground in Iraq would expire 12 months from the date that Nouri formally notified the US government of the intent to end the SOFA. Now Nouri could delay the formal notification. And he will be Prime Minister immediately after the elections take place because it will take weeks for all the processes to take place (and the new Parliament will elect a prime minister, not the people). If it was still Nouri, he could, for example, choose to wait until January 2011 to notify the US government of the desire to exit the SOFA. He might not but Nouri's crazy and you never know what the puppet-thug will do next.

Leaving aside that option, there is also the notion that the US can remain on the ground in Iraq without some coverage in the legal form. Legally, can they do that? They are not supposed to. But this SOFA so pointed to today? Legally, it wasn't supposed to have taken place as anyone with Constitutional Law knowledge can tell you. If the administration attempted to do that, the biggest problem would be the press throwing Joe Biden's words back at him because, as Senator, he is repeatedly on record saying if there is no legal agreement, US troops must immediately come home. Other senators have made the same observation (and they are legally correct); however, he is now Vice President so his past statements and judgements would tend to be a bit more high profile.

Let's say the SOFA does come to a vote and Iraqis reject it, the US follows the law (in some form) and let's say Nouri or a new prime minister immediately notifies the US. Does that mean US troops out in 12 months?

That's where I disagree with Robert Knight. And I know why he's saying it, it's an assumption that's been made repeatedly. But it's incorrect. The SOFA is a contract. We've pointed out here (since it was passed by the Parliament in 2008) that it can be replaced with a new agreement at any time, including in 2011. And that's true as well in terms of if the SOFA comes to a vote and if Iraqis reject it. If all rules were followed, all legalities, that could still allow 12 months for the US government and the puppet regime to hammer out a new agreement.

I understand why Robert Knight is saying what he's saying. (And he's not the only one saying that.) But I think we're forgetting it's a contract and that contracts can be renewed, replaced, ended, broken, a wide, wide variety of responses and results.

In England, the Iraq Inquiry continues. Reporting on yesterday surfaces and a lot of it is weak -- and the further from England, the weaker some get. Some aren't being solid and are wishful thinkers. It does 'our side' no good to lie. From the transcript, this is the section being reported on by some and subverted by others (again, I'm not referring to the British Press:

[John Scarlett]: It was emphasised that that kind of policy would
have consequences for the ability to deploy chemical and biological warheads or the necessary delivery systems. Now, an update, an assessment staff update on
10 March noted the report, which in fact was issued on 7 March yes, intelligence, which was issued on 7 March actually it was, I think, two reports that it
was essentially saying there were two versions of the same report, that Iraq had no missiles which could reach Israel and none which could carry germ or biological
weapons. The leadership had ordered the dismantlement of the missiles known Al Hussein, 600kilometre range missiles, to avoid discovery and they thought that they could be quickly reassembled. The JIC had over many months
throughout this period reported the assessed existence of these missiles, up to 20 was the expectation. But all along, it had been reported that they had been
disassembled and concealed. And DIS advised and this was noted in the update


SIR JOHN SCARLETT: Defence Intelligence Staff advised, and this was noted in the update, that depending on the method of disassembly used, it might be possible to reassemble in one or two days. But if it was very complex disassembly, then it would be longer. SIS advised that the reference to "germ and biological" might also refer to chemical, just from the context, although that was speculative. So that was what the 10 March reference was about. On 17 March, intelligence was received that chemical weapons had been disassembled and dispersed and would be difficult to reassemble. Saddam had not yet ordered reassembly nor, indeed, asked about chemical weapons. Now, that report was referred to in a JIC note of
19 March, which was discussed the same day in a JIC meeting of 19 March, which was the last meeting, of course, before the conflict actually began. The reports were assessed in the context of the policy of dispersal and concealment. They were not understood to be an indication that chemical and biological weapons did not exist. Indeed, they didn't say that but, of course, it was clear from the reports
that they might be difficult to find. Previous reporting and updates had already reported separately on the difficulty that Iraq was having or was reported to have in developing or redeveloping chemical warfare warheads for ballistic missiles. And so that issue, which was referred to in a 7 March report was noted in the update on 10 March, about not having warheads capable of dispersal was already a feature of reporting from the end of 2002 and had been noted in
updates. An update at the end of December had noted that had noted that point, but had also noted the intelligence had said that chemical warheads were still
available for shortrange artillery, rockets and so on.

Some are creating dates from the above and presenting them as facts. Some are embarrassing themselves. It needs to stop. (Though I doubt it will.) Blair is supposed to testify in the new year. He should be asked a number of serious questions. Lying (for 'our side'!) does not prepare us for what's needed next year nor does it inform anyone. There are a number of things Blair needs to be asked about from Scarlett's testimony; however, point of fact, the term "Blair" or "Tony Blair" never appears in Scarlett's testimony. "Prime Minister" does come up and generally to trace the chain of command for documents. Specifically referring to Tony Blair? That's this exchange:

SIR RODERIC LYNE: So your assumption is that on 10 and 19 March respectively, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the Defence Secretary, the Chiefs of Staff, would have actually seen the update and then the JIC note of 19 March?

SIR JOHN SCARLETT: They would also have seen – assumption, that's a slightly loose word. I was certainly working absolutely on the basis that these updates by this stage, that they were being read carefully.

SIR RODERIC LYNE: Did you get any feedback, any questions about them?

SIR JOHN SCARLETT: About that particular point?

SIR RODERIC LYNE: Yes, did somebody after 10 March ring you up and want to ask you about it?


SIR RODERIC LYNE: There was no visible reaction to it?

SIR JOHN SCARLETT: Of course, as I have said, it wasn't new information and the disassembly was a longstanding item

SIR RODERIC LYNE: So it was presented as confirming a existing

SIR JOHN SCARLETT: It wasn't actually presented as that at the time. It was just reported in the update as being intelligence which had been received. But the intelligence reports themselves, as I have said, went through independently to the Prime Minister and, I'm
sure, to senior ministers, because that's the way the system worked.

Blair should have known. There's nothing in Scarlett's testimony that says he did. Other witnesses have stated Blair knew. There's no need to distort what Scarlett said. Doing so, putting a lie like that out there, will allow Blair to show up and claim, "I never saw it." And then, "And Sir John never said I saw it. He spoke of the chain of command and what he believed. This entire thing has been distorted." And, in this case, it would have been distorted. Scarlett's testimony states he believes Blair saw them and that he operated under the belief that Blair saw them. Others have testified Blair knew. Don't confuse the witnesses with each other. It's how you lose. Especially when you forgot that Blair has friends on the Inquiry panel. Gordon Rayner (Telegraph of London) provides straight reporting:

Sir John Scarlett, who drew up the dossier on which Mr Blair’s all-important claim was based, admitted the confusion would not have arisen if he had “spelled out” the fact that the 45-minute claim referred to battlefield munitions rather than long-range missiles.
But he shifted blame for the misunderstanding onto Tony Blair, saying greater emphasis had been placed on the 45-minute claim because Mr Blair’s foreword to the dossier was “overtly political”.

Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) provided a live blog walk through of Scarlett's testimony yesterday.

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends