March 7th, Iraq held Parlimentary elections. They voted for members of Parliament. Those results are known. (Though Nouri al-Maliki continues to dispute them.) This week, reporting from London, NPR could explain the process of how the UK elects members to Parliament and then the Parliament picks the prime minister. Somehow, all the kings horses and all the kings pawns were unable to do the same when it came to Iraq. It is little over a month since the election too place, the members of Parliament are, again, known. What is taking place currently is the attempts to build coalition-sharing agreements that will then allow the coalition that assembles 163 members of Parliament first to pick a nominee for prime minister -- which may or may not be agreed upon -- Nouri was not the first pick in 2006. Complaints and confusion about how 'long' it is taking may stem from confusion regarding the last go-round. Yes, in April 2006, Nouri became prime minister.
However, elections had not been held in March of 2006. They were held in December 2005. December 2009 is when elections were supposed to take place. Some news outlets are offering ahistorical timelines and stating the elections were originally supposed to take place in January. No, not "originally." January was the first push back from December. At the start of 2009, it was assumed that elections would be held in December 2009 as scheduled. As the year progressed, Nouri decided they needed to be postponed until January. Allowing that to happen? That's what created most of the mess. You stick to a timetable and when you allow Nouri to break it, you spit on it. It's part of the reason he's so out of control, he's never been expected to stick to any timeline. He signs agreements with various countries and then ignores them.
It took from December 2005 to April 2006 for a prime minister to be picked. By that standard -- the only one Iraq currently has -- things are not at a standstill. In the elections, Nouri's slate came in second to Ayad Allawi's (Nouri's slate received 89 and Allawi's received 91 seats). Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports that Nouri, at least in public, appears to be courting Allawi and insisting that Allawi's slate "should be a key player in the next government." Actually, Nouri's words Friday echo -- nearly word for word -- what the Iranian government put out last Saturday. Londono notes Nouri's interview on al-Hurra where Nouri denies that he would ever release Sadrists in an attempt to win Moqtada al-Sadr's support (and the 40 seats that make up the Sadr bloc). He would never do that?
He's already doing that. It's not even a secret. Not only does the US government know but Jasim Azawi confronted Chris Hill (US Ambassador to Iraq) with it -- with Nouri doing this -- two weeks ago on Inside Iraq.
Timothy Williams and Sa'ad Al-Izzi (New York Times) offer this analysis of a segment of Allawi's Sunni supporters:
Sunnis, who live primarily in an arc north and west of Baghdad, are seen as crucial to whether Iraq can avoid the sectarian and violence that consumed it after the 2005 parliamentary elections. A spate of explosions and other attacks since the voting on March 7, including bombs detonated outside the Iranian Embassy, have killed more than 100 people and wounded hundreds more. Many blame the political void created by the elections.
In Tikrit, elements of Mr. Hussein's Baath Party and Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia remain active, and thousands of unemployed men serve as a recruiting base. There are worries that the ranks of the disaffected men could increase, and so, too, violence, if Sunnis feel disenfranchised.
"The Sunnis are concerned about their own participation in the next government, not Allawi's, but they tied their fortunes to Allawi's," said Joost Hiltermann, deputy program director with the International Crisis Group, an independent, nonprofit organization. "They have seen these elections as a possible turning point, an important reason why they joined the surge in 2007," he added. "They were promised a chance to re-enter the new political order through these elections. If they fail in this quest, all bets are off concerning their future behavior."
And what this really reminds me of -- I'm not speaking of the Post or the Times -- is college. The rest of the media is playing like the student who will not study. As an undergraduate, I was that person so one of those fingers is pointed at me as well. But we go into class and think we've really done something and we've not done a damn thing. It was only in my last under graduate year that I learned the benefits of preparing for all classes (as opposed to just the ones I was interested in). It wasn't until grad school that I was able to notice others (I was too busy catching up) and see myself in them as the student who showed up, maybe offered some guesswork that was well received and thought then "I've really done something." When, reality, all I did as an undergraduate in classes I wasn't interested in (anything other than poli sci or sociology) was waste everyone's time. We were stuck doing remedials and catch ups because of people like me.
And that's what I'm hearing right now on NPR and Pacifica. It's what I've been criticizing for some time as Amy Goodman's efforts to Red Cross the news rushing from one disaster to another. Never getting to what matters and never dealing with any topics that aren't dominating the news cycle at that moment. It is the most remedial coverage in the world and it has little more value than her headlines at the top of the hour.
That said, I'll note she's done more on Iraq this month than Diane Rehm unless you consider attacking dead reporters to be something of value. If you do, Diane's your hard working gal. "That'll be the last word," she said two Fridays ago after deciding to read an e-mail from a right-winger who smeared two dead reporters as terrorists and embedded with terrorists. That shouldn't have been the last word. That was disgraceful and shameful.
When Diane Rehm dies in the not-so-distant future, you can be sure she will be eulogized all over the press. But she herself couldn't even mention the two dead reporters by name. She expects her death to be covered. But she can't two reporters by name, two reporters who died in Iraq while trying to cover the news. She can smear them, however.
But leaving that shameful moment aside, the elections took place March 7th. If there's a long delay in anything, it's in Diane -- who has ten hours a week to fill, two hours Monday through Friday -- refusing to devote one of those hours to Iraq. (For any wondering, Diane didn't even mention Iraq in her international hour yesterday.)
Relate that back to the college analogy I was referring to before. Diane's not preparing her listeners for a damn thing. When she finally seriously covers Iraq again, she'll have to play catch up. And that's the real problem with the US. Gore Vidal rightly speaks of our collective amnesia. There's no denying that aspect. But we're distracted by a media prone to distract. And when a problem emerges we're completely unprepared. The media distracts us daily.
Who becomes the next prime minister is the business of Iraq but you better believe that it will effect the MidEast -- short-term for sure, long-term possibly -- and that will effect the West.
We live in 'protected bubbles' that pop when world events force them to. And it's because our news media does such a sorry ass job. Whether it's Iraq (our focus here) or any other international country, we are never prepared by our media for any developments taking place and forever have to play catch up and listen to Diane expressing shock as she asks, "Now how did that happen?"
Sunday's Zaman provides an analysis of the post-election period which includes:
The State of Law Alliance, led by Nouri al-Maliki, was able to secure only 89 seats, compared to 108 as predicted by many, which was the first big surprise of the election. Al-Maliki was able to pick up only 27 percent of the vote despite the fact that as prime minister of Iraq he exerted control over all resources of the country during the last four years, and this should have considerably infuriated him. Al-Maliki did not refrain from openly praising the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) during the time he was ahead of his rivals, but when it became clear that he was beaten by Allawi by a margin of two seats, he started to accuse Allawi of “helping the Baathists he banished through the door enter through the window” and harshly criticize the council for failing to manage the election and prevent election fraud. In this regard, it is rare to see in this region a prime minister who directly appoints members of the election committees and benefits from advantages of being in power fall into despair when the election results are announced, accuse the election officials and institutions of fraud and declare that he will not accept the election results.
Indeed, al-Maliki made everyone see that his threats were not only for show when he rushed to petition the constitutional court, requesting it decide whether the winning party in the election or the party which is most likely to form the government should be awarded the right to form the government under Article 76 of the Iraqi Constitution. Chief Justice Medhat al-Mahmoud stated that the group which secured 217 seats, i.e., two-thirds of parliamentary seats, should be granted the right to form the government regardless of who won the election. Encouraged by this decision, al-Maliki started to hold busy talks or negotiations with other political parties which will control parliamentary seats.
Friday's snapshot covered a US House Armed Services Comitttee's subcommittee hearing. Ava reported on it last night in "Walter Jones discusses strain on the Guard," Kat in "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and Wally in "Military Personnel Subcommittee."
Tom Doggett, Marguerita Choy and David Gregorio (Reuters) report that Rafael Ramirez, the Minister of Oil in Venequela, held a DC press conference yesterday where he termed the Iraq War "an aggression for oil."
Reuters notes today's violence includes a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured five people, 1 corpse discovered in Mosul, 1 suspect shot dead by Iraqi police in Baghdad and, dropping back to last night, a Basra home bombing which claimed the life of a wife of a Sahwa leader and injured their son.
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