Saturday, July 24, 2010

Continued violence, continued stalemate

In Iraq's third-largest city, buildings are bombed out and scarred by thousands of bullet holes. But unlike in many parts of Iraq that have calmed significantly in recent years, much of the damage is recent.
Mosul and the surrounding province of Nineveh are a microcosm of Iraq's most explosive and unresolved conflicts as the United States prepares to draw down to 50,000 troops by Sept. 1. Kurdish and Sunni Arab leaders battle over disputed lands, provincial and central government officials wrestle for control, and Sunni insurgents continue to slip back and forth across the porous borders with Turkey and Syria.
"We will remain a thorn in the chest of the Americans," reads a graffiti tag on one Mosul building.

The above is from Leila Fadel's "Mosul struggles with ethnic divides, insurgency" (Washington Post). And that as Reuters notes 2 police officers shot dead today in Mosul and a Mosul grenade attack which injured 18 people, plus a Basra roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and wounded four people (and may or may not have injured "foreign contractors") and 2 people kidnapped in Daquq -- including the son of the city's mayor. Meanwhile CNN notes that the US military is stating that Iraqi forces have killed "a suspected al Qaeda in Iraq leader".

And the political stalemate continues in Iraq. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. It's four months and five days and, in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. Today makes it four months and seventeen days without any government being established.

Today Andrew Lee Butters (Time magazine) weighs in:

Instead, Maliki and Allawi are playing factional politics, negotiating with avowedly sectarian or ethnically oriented groups in search of a majority coalition. Maliki has united with the conservative Islamist Shi'ite parties that favor more autonomy for Shi'ite majority southern Iraq, though he still doesn't have enough votes to form a government because radical cleric Muqtada al Sadr, who controls the largest faction within the Shi'ite coalition, refuses to accept Maliki staying on as prime minister. For his part, Allawi is flirting not only with Sadr (on Monday, the two men met in Damascus and called for Maliki to step aside) but also the Kurds. This is surprising because Allawi and the Kurds were major rivals during the election and remain ideological opposites. (Allawi favors centralization in Baghdad, while the Kurds want more autonomy for Kurdish northern Iraq.)

The stalemate continues and what Time and Butters forget/don't know, is that private concerns over Nouri became public concerns in an open Congressional hearing this week. But, hey, let's all pretend that didn't happen, right? Let's all pretend the Congress isn't concerned that Nouri's attempting to stall the process until US forces are down to 50,000 at which point he announces he's a strong-man.

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