Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Chris Hill is not troubled or concerned

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is moving onto very thin ice with his rejection of his country's elections -- and the entire country could well take a plunge with him.
It is one thing if Maliki simply expressed his opposition to the leader who won the elections, Iraqiya head Iyad Allawi; however, Maliki is denouncing and challenging the whole elections as fraudulent.
Maliki’s tirades and rationales lack any substance on at least three counts. First, he happens to have been the prime minister during the poll in question; should the ballot have been irretrievably tainted, that would in fact be a damning indictment of his leadership.

The above is from "Editorial: Maliki's challenge imperils all of Iraq" (Lebanon's Daily Star) and Lebanon is one of Iraq's neighbors. Caryle Murphy (UAE's the National Newspaper) notes that another neighbor, Saudi Arabia, contains many people who are excited by the prospects of Allawi being the winner and "If Mr al Maliki stays in power, Mr Eshki added, Iraq will continue to suffer from terrorism because 'the Baathists … don't like him'. But with Mr Allawi at Iraq's helm, 'the terrorists will not find any group that will welcome them'." And Duraid Al Baik (Gulf News) reports on Iraqi attitudes towards Allawi's slate's apparent victory (they won the count released last Friday), fear as they see his supporters targeted, fear "that Al Maliki and his supporters will not hand over authority peacefully." And before we go any further into events in Iraq, the above should give most people pause. Most people. Not the uninformed. Enter Chris Hill. Yesterday on NPR's All Things Considered, Noah Adams spoke (link has text and audio) with the US Ambassador to Iraq:

ADAMS: Now, the current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, he's just not happy at all. He wants a manual recount. He's putting a lot of pressure on the election officials. He said, no way will we accept the results, he said that flatly. And he likes to remind people that he is, indeed, the commander-in-chief. If you're an Iraqi citizen, aren't you figuring he's going to take this election any way he can?

Ambassador HILL: Well, I think, you know, anyone who's lost an election by 0.045 percent probably is feeling a little grouchy that day. And so I think Mr. Maliki was probably not very happy to see those results. On the other hand, he has made clear that what's necessary is that everybody needs to follow the law, including himself. But, you know, he's going to challenge some of the results, I think as any candidate would. And the key thing here is not that he doesnt have a right to challenge results in specific areas, but he needs to do it lawfully according to the procedures.

Nouri's just a grouchy bear, insists Chris Hill, as if Little Nouri was awakened from naptime too quickly and just as soon as he finishes his juice and cookies, he'll play nice. NPR's Deborah Amos (writing at Global Post) provides a more clear-eyed perspective:

Stung by his loss, Maliki rejected the official tally and invoked his status as commander-in-chief as he warned of violence. Maliki’s top aide, Ali al-Adeed, was more explicit when he said Iraq's Shiites would not accept the legitimacy of Allawi’s victory. Maliki’s warnings prompted an unusual on-the-record observation from a senior U.S. embassy official, Gary Grappo, who acknowledged that Maliki's coalition would "take advantage of all means at their disposal to try to eke out a victory."
While Grappo went on to express confidence that Maliki and his allies would work within the judicial system, the system has been far from neutral, both before and after the election. Power in Iraq centers around personalities rather than institutions. As long as Maliki remains in office, he can manipulate government resources to press his advantage.
On the day before the election results were announced, the Supreme Court interpreted an ambiguous constitutional clause in a way that gives Maliki an edge. While the constitution stipulates the largest bloc in parliament gets the first chance to form a government, it is unclear whether the largest bloc is determined by the vote or groups that merge after the election. The judges ruled that the later is permissible, which means if Maliki can convince smaller blocs to join him in the next few days, he can deny Allawi the first shot at forming a government.

Deborah Amos' Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East has just been released in hardcover and this evening at six, she'll be in Cambridge at the Harvard Coop discussing the book.

Timothy Williams (New York Times) reports that Iraq's Justice and Accountability Commission -- a paralegal committee whose mandate expired many years ago and whose membership was not appointed by Parliament -- has decided to disqualify six winners in the Parliamentary elections and this "could prove critical to the election's outcome because the political alliance headed by Ayad Allawi, the country's former interim prime minister, won only two seats more than Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s coalition in the March 7 contest." McClatchy's Hannah Allam (Christian Science Monitor) notes that if the "federal court upholds" the barring, not only would Allawi's slate lead their lead but it also "could threaten hopes that the elections would pave the way to a new unity government". As the Washington Post's editorial board observes, "On Monday, the pernicious Iranian-backed Accountability and Justice Commission piped up again, seeking to purge six winners it considers tainted by past association with Saddam Hussein; not coincidentally, the purging could be useful to politicians who run the commission." Martin Chulov (Guardian) adds, "The vanquished Maliki continues to show signs that he will not fade away, describing as "impossible" Allawi's attempts to build a coalition. Maliki made the comment in a television interview, in which he also said "the game is still very much on", in relation to who will be Iraq's new leader." Ned Parker and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) report on the tensions arising from the para-legal body's latest move:

A senior Iraqiya member reacted furiously Monday, seeing the announcement as an effort to undermine the slate's quest to assemble a coalition of 163 seats to form the next government. He warned of dire consequences if the judiciary rules in Lami's favor and takes away Iraqiya seats.
"No doubt, if they try to isolate Iraqiya then definitely the aim of doing that is to push the country toward civil war. . . . Maybe this is the intention of Iran. They want their people to control Iraq for another four years," said Iraqiya member Falah Naquib. "Maybe half the country or more will not accept what they are trying to do."

Leila Fadel (Washington Post) quotes Falah al-Naqib as well and he tells her that if the banning is approved by the court and if it robs Allawi's slate of their lead, "It would be civil war, absolutely no doubt. I think the United States and other allies should find a solution for this problem. Otherwise, we're seriously going for a civil war, and this time, it's a big mess." BBC News presents the voice of average Iraqis talking about the turmoil and we'll note Afaf:

I had wanted Mr Allawi to win because he seems more democratic and we want change. So I'm really satisfied with the result.

But I do fear what will happen next. I'm afraid Iraq will be driven towards civil collapse or a regional war. Other people are more optimistic, believing Iraq can be rebuilt.

There must be a coalition, but it won't be satisfactory for either party, because each has its own goals. Even if a coalition is achieved, the battle for power and position will continue.

The most important thing is that even if it didn't go totally to plan, terrorist attacks failed to stop the steady stream of Iraqis voting. We are still here, still strong, nothing can stop us.

Again, Chris Hill is not troubled. Proving that the simplest mind sleeps easiest.

At Vanity Fair Mark Bowden embarrasses himself panting over Gen David Petraeus. Did Kitty ever lust over Omar as publicly as Mark does Petraues? (No.) (Bradley for those scratching their heads.) A more clear-eyed view of military brass can be found in Jeff Huber's Antiwar.com piece.

And we'll close with this from Cindy Sheehan's "Peace Outlaws" (World Can't Wait):

The day after I got out of jail, I decided to go to the Hill to attend a robotic warfare hearing and I quickly made a small sign that said: “Drones Kill Kids,” and I was holding it quietly in my lap as I listened to the testimony. Holding small signs is generally tolerated, if you don’t wave it, or hold it up and block anybody’s view. Having no intention of interrupting the hearing since I was interested in the topic, I was surprised when a staffer of the Chairman, John Tierney, approached me and told me to put the sign away, or I would be kicked out, along with my colleague, Josh Smith who was sitting next to me and also holding a sign.
I patiently explained to her that holding a sign was my right and I was being quiet and respectful. Sure enough, during the break, the Capital Hill police came to eject us from the hearing.
The next day, we found out that Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates were testifying on the 33 billion dollar supplemental war-funding bill. The hearing was changed from a Senate office building to the Capitol building and put into a small, small room. We decided that we would try to at least get close to the closed hearing to express our freedom of speech, so we headed to the Capitol and got in line at the visitor center.
About eight of us were in line for about three minutes when a phalanx of Capitol Hill police (including motorcycle and bike cops) approached us and asked what our “intentions” were. I said that if they didn’t ask everyone in line that same question, their presence and interrogation bordered on “harassment.” A female cop averred that she didn’t think it was “harassment”-- isn’t that nice, a harasser doesn’t think she’s harassing?
After standing in line to get in, then standing in line to get a ticket for the Capitol Hill tour, and then watching a movie about our wonderful Congress and the wonderful things it does and has done, (even bragging about the brutal Indian Removal Act of 1830) we got into the Capitol and were followed by the same phalanx of cops. At one point, I peeled off and went up a staircase and a member of our group heard a cop say: “oh, oh, we lost Cindy.” Needless to say, we were all promptly rounded up and escorted out of the building.

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caesar ahmed