Saturday, May 01, 2010

Post-election madness continues and Iraq loses an airplane

I'm drinking sweet champagne
Got the headphones up high
Can't numb you out
Can't drum you out of my mind
They're playing "Goodbye baby, Baby Goodbye,
Ooh, ooh, love is blind"
Up go the flaps, down go the wheels
I hope you got your heat turned on baby
I hope they finally fixed your automobile
I hope it's better when we meet again baby
Starbright, starbright
You got the lovin' that I like, all right
Turn this crazy bird around
I shouldn't have got on this flight tonight

-- "This Flight Tonight" written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album Blue.

Chances are Nouri's wishing someone had turned that crazy bird around before it landed in London. Damien McElroy's "First flight from Baghdad to London in 20 years ends in farce with plane impounded" (Telegraph of Lonon)reports:

The first flight from Baghdad to London in 20 years has ended in farce with the plane impounded at Gatwick airport after Kuwait went to the High Court demanding £780 million for planes stolen by Saddam Hussein.
A two decade lawsuit, the UK's longest running legal dispute, over the theft of 10 planes owned by Kuwait at the time of the 1990 invasion by Iraq resulted in the detention of the aircraft and the confiscation of the passport of Iraqi Airways' chief executive Kifah Hassan.

AFP declares
, "The first commercial flight between Baghdad and London in 20 years has turned into a nightmare for Iraq after its national airline boss had his passport seized and a chartered plane was impounded." And Hassan Hafidh and Stefania Bianchi (Wall St. Journal) adds, "The Kuwaiti government argues it has the right to seize planes owned by Iraqi Airways as compensation after Iraq seized a number of Kuwaiti planes." For context, we'll note Zahraa Alkhalisi and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News):

Iraq, holder of the world's third-largest oil reserves, still owes Kuwait about $25 billion for damage caused by the invasion and seven-month occupation by Saddam Hussein's forces. Iraq sets aside 5 percent of its oil revenue to pay the reparations, imposed under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.
Kuwait has opposed lifting the requirement, while Iraq argues that it shouldn’t continue to pay for the mistakes of the former regime and needs the money to revive the economy. Tensions flared last year as lower oil prices reduced Iraqi revenue and lawmakers in Baghdad urged their government to stop paying.

Meanwhile Lara Jakes (AP) reports that Hoshiyar Zebari (Iraq's Foreign Minister) has said the US should not be standing by observing but instead urging a solution to the post-election dispute in Iraq. He accused the Barack Obama administration of being more focused on drawdown deadlines than on the state of Iraq. Jakes adds, "The top US military commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, said last year that he planned to hold troop levels steady until two months after the elections, primarily to give a new Iraqi government time to settle. But that timeframe expires next week, and Baghdad has made little headway on forming a new government." March 7th, Iraq held parlamentary elections. Ayad Allawi's political slate led Nouri al-Maliki's by two seats. Since then Nouri has done everything he can think of in order to overturn the results. This is from Ranj Alaaldin's "Turmoil in Iraq threatens US withdrawal plans" (Guardian):

Maliki has also reportedly encountered internal problems within his Islamic Dawa party, with some factions in the group opposing another tenure for him. Any changes in his favour would constitute a political boost and help to silence his critics.

The decisions on the recount and the bans may be perceived on the Iraqi street as yet another set of attempts to sideline the Sunni voice in post-2003 Iraqi politics. But it is too easy to assume that they mark the beginning of the return to Iraq's violent past.

Although there is cause for concern, as argued this week by Simon Tisdall, the recount itself was expected since both Allawi and Maliki complained of irregularities in the voting process and count. Also, he decision to ban the candidates was made on election day itself, meaning all the political entities had ample warning of what was to come; significant in this context is that the ban will not dramatically alter the allocation of seats.

Today's reported violence?


Reuters notes a Baghdad car bombing which claimed 3 lives and left two people injured, a Mosul grenade attack which injured ten people, a Baghdad roadside bombing which left two people injured, a second Baghdad roadside bombing which injured one person and, dropping back to Friday, a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer, a Mosul mortar attack which injured one person and a Mussayab roadside bombing which left three people injured.


Reuters notes 1 man shot dead in Mosul and, dropping back to Friday, 1 teacher shot dead in Mosul.

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