Tuesday, July 13, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, US Gen Ray Odierno warns about potential attacks on US bases in Iraq, tensions continue between northern Iraq and Turkey, Iraq's LGBT community continues to be targeted, and more.
Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reports the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, stated today that an Iraqi Shi'ite group -- backed by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps -- is plotting attacks against US bases in Iraq and quotes him stating, "In the last couple weeks there's been an increased threat. We've increased our security on some of our bases. We've also increased activity with the Iraqi Security Forces. This is another attempt by Iran and others to influence the U.S. role here inside Iraq." AFP adds, "Odierno said specific intelligence had been received which showed the insurgents planned to strike US bases, although it was not clear if the Tehran government was involved." Ben Lando (Wall St. Journal) quotes Odierno saying the drawdown is going as scheduled and the withdrawal should as well "unless we think that the government is going to fail, which could create incredible instability, which would not allow us to move forward with the politcal process".
Oh, so the US is leaving as long as Iraq's able to move forward with its political process. Well thank goodness that's not an issue, right? Thank goodness there's no problem there.
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 it is four months and six days. And counting.
On the latest Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera, began airing Friday), Jasim Azzawi discussed the political stalemate with the Arab Lawyers Association's Sabah Al Mukhtar and the Institute of World Politics' Joshua Muravchik.
Sabah Al Mukhtar: I think it is absurd to talk about politics in Iraq. Iraq is an occupied territory. You have two leaders there who are appointed by the Americans. Both of them are the Vichy of France. They are fighting over power and nothing else because the agenda of both of them is identical. Both of them are protecting the interests of America. Both of them have zero interests in the Iraqi interest. The records of both of them shows that. The results which have just been illustrated in your report indicates that those people care absolutely nothing about Iraq and this is an exercise in trying to put a face lift -- It's like a Monopoly game. This is not a state. This is not politics. This is just a Monopoly game which the Americans is playing and Iraq's history had before -- just like other countries in the region where the Foreign Office used to fight the India Office, both of them used different factions of the same audience to make them fight and pretend as if it is the same situation, again we are repeating the same situation in Iraq. When the British left Iraq, they left them with three documents. One of them was a Constitution which now we have failed. [. . .] The second one are the treaties for oil and now the Iraqis have signed the agreement. The third one was the military presence of Britian in Iraq and now we have the American presence and all of this talk about pulling it and what have you, this is just for the domestic consumption of the USA. They're going to leave something like 50,000 military men plus 100,000 mercenaries which will bring back the figure to 150,000 soldiers.
And the other guest? Americans need to get a damn grip when they go on Al Jazeera. When you've just started speaking and you're screaming at the top of your lungs, you look like an ass and you're disgracing not only yourself but the entire United States. Six yelling tirades in less than ten minutes. That's disgraceful. So was the name calling. So was screaming "Shut up!" over and over at Jasim who is the host of the program. For those trying to pin Joshua Muravchik on the political map, he's another Socialist who became a neoconservative. For those trying to pin Joshua Muravchik on the social skills map, he's a pig.
Sabah Al Mukhtar: You cannot have a democracy under occupation. But the Americans have changed everything upside down. So you have an occupier who comes into a country and he calls it a liberation and you have a foreigner who tells the nationals that he's bringing democracy there because he's ruling them -- sending us Mr. Biden who is the vice president of America, not Iraq, to try and have a government. And this is democracy?
At the US State Dept today, Iraqi Foreign Ministry Hoshyar Zebari met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (link has a video and text).
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: Well, hello, everyone, and I'm delighted to be welcoming back to the State Department a colleague and a friend, someone who has served his country with great distinction. And I am very pleased to have this opportunity with Foreign Minister Zebari here to reaffirm the importance and strength of the long-term strategic relationship between the United States and Iraq. I also, Minister, offer our sincere condolences for the loss of life suffered in recent attacks against religious pilgrims and security forces in Iraq. But I am confident that Iraqis will not be deterred from working together to build a new future of peace and security for all of their people. This will be the second meeting of the Diplomatic Joint Coordinating Committee of the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement. This committee guides our engagement on a wide range of diplomatic, cultural, economic, and security issues. It is the roadmap for our long-term partnership. The foreign minister is co-hosting the committee along with Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Jeff Feltman, and they are working on a range of common concerns, including Iraq's removal from UN Chapter 7 sanctions and other important matters that are of concern to Iraqis. We also discussed the critical need for Iraq's political leaders to continue the hard work necessary to form a proportionate and inclusive government that represents the voices of Iraq's diverse communities and can deliver on the promise of democracy. More is needed from everyone involved. The United States expresses no preference for the outcome in the government formation, but we share a sense of urgency. The people of Iraq deserve to have a government that is ready to meet their needs, and we hope that that occurs soon. The Iraqi security forces are growing in confidence and capability, which has been evident in the way that they've handled some of these recent attacks. As our Ambassador Chris Hill recently said, our soldiers may withdraw from Iraq, but our interests will remain. We are committed to this relationship, and after August 31st, 50,000 U.S. troops will remain in Iraq to train, equip, and advise Iraqi security forces, conduct joint counterterrorism missions, and protect ongoing U.S. and civilian military activities. We are working every day to create a very strong foundation for a long-lasting relationship between the United States and Iraq, and the reduction in troops in no way reflects a decrease in American engagement with Iraq or our commitment to the Iraqi people. Guided by the Strategic Framework Agreement, the United States will continue to be an active partner and supporter as Iraqis strengthen their democracy, improve their security, and reintegrate fully into the regional and global community and economy. We believe a sustained U.S. role will be crucial to lasting peace and security in Iraq. But ultimately, we recognize the long-term success of the Iraqi nation depends upon the leaders and people of Iraq. It is their determination and hard work that will make the difference. The strong turnout in the March 7th election underscored their resolve, but we know some delays have occurred on the road to forming a government, but we're betting on the Iraqis. We think the Iraqi people are a tough, resilient, determined people who are more than up to the task. And the United States will stand with the Iraqi people for the long term. So again, Minister Zebari, thank you for your visit, thank you for your friendship and cooperation, and I look forward to continuing to work with you.
Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari: Thank you. Thank you very much, Madam Secretary. It's always an honor and pleasure to see you, whether here in Washington or in Iraq. I am here with my delegation, in fact, as Madam Secretary indicated, to convene the second session of the Joint Coordination Committee for Political and Diplomatic Cooperation. This is a message to all the people of Iraq, to the region, that our long-term relationship is there and it will flourish, it will be strengthened; it has nothing to do with the drawdown of U.S. troops by August 31st. I think this long-term strategic friendship and cooperation has been enshrined in an agreement which is to the benefit of the people and of the region's people of some stability. In fact, we come from New York and we had good discussions with the secretary general, with a number of the permanent Security Councils, the P-5, in order to discuss means and ways for Iraq to get out of Chapter 7 regulation. And here, Madam Secretary, I want to thank you and the U.S. Government for all the help and the assistance you have given us, in fact, to get Iraq back to its rightful place in the community of nations. And we are making progress on a number of issues. We discussed, as you know, the efforts -- the current efforts of government formation. And this is an Iraqi issue and the people of Iraq, the Iraqi leaders, in fact, face this challenge to form their own representative government based on the outcome of March the 7 historic elections. Now we have some delays. Eventually, I think a government will emerge and we are doing our best, in fact, to do that in order to avoid any constitutional governmental vacuum. I think that people are aware of the urgency. As you have, we as Iraqi also feel a sense of urgency. But we are confident we will overcome and we will form our next government. And once again, thank you very much for hosting us and it's a pleasure to see you. Thank you.
And we'll note this from the questions and answers.
Nihad Ali: This is Nihad Ali from Al Iraqiya Channel, and the first question goes to the foreign minister of Iraq. Mr. Foreign Minister, you met yesterday with the secretary general of the United Nations as well as the ambassadors of the various member countries of the Security Council. You -- did you -- what is -- is there a ceiling, a timeline ceiling, for taking Iraq out of Chapter 7? As well, did you discuss the crisis of the formation of the Iraqi Government? The second question goes to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Despite the visit, the recent visit of Vice President Biden to Iraq, until now there are no signs that Iraq is going out of its crisis pertaining to the formation of the government. Did you discuss with Foreign Minister Zebari any suggestions about this issue?
Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari: Welcome to you. And yes, we met with the Secretary General of the United Nations Mr. Ban Ki-moon as well as the ambassadors of the five permanent countries, members of the Security Council. We discussed the ways and the means of -- and other measures that the Iraqi Government has been undertaking in order to take out Iraq from the provisions as well as the repercussions of Chapter 7. And in the past year, we have achieved a lot of progress, mainly pertaining to ridding Iraq of weapons or at the issue -- about the issue pertaining to the weapons of mass destruction, as well as issues pertaining to the remaining contracts related to the Oil-for-Food and also issues pertaining to our relationship with our brother country Kuwait. Therefore, we are building on all what you have been achieving over the past year and we will continue to do so.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: We discussed at great length the status of government formation. I reiterated that the United States does not have any preference in the outcome as to who is awarded what position, but we are concerned by the delay. We think that there needs to be more of a sense of urgency to resolve this matter. I watched with interest as the people of Iraq demonstrated over the lack of electricity in the very hot weather that they are suffering through. And it takes a government to solve such problems. So we urge the leaders of Iraq to reach an agreement and to put their personal interests behind the national interest. And therefore, anything the United States can do, we stand ready to do, in order to encourage the government formation as soon as possible.
As the violence and the political stalemate continue, evaluations continue to come in. An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy offers "Bring Paul the Octobus to Iraq. We need him badly" at Inside Iraq which includes:
I talked to some people I know and others I met by chance. All of then agreed upon one point. They all feel so sorry that they participated in the last election. They all repeated one sentence: "we had been decieved by our political leaders". Members of my family praised me because I did not participate.
since no one can pridect what might happen during the coming days and since our unique political leaders can not reach any kind of agreement about the most important issue (chosing the coming Prime Minister) and since its not really late. I suggest that we send a delegation to Germany as soon as possible to bring Paul the Octobus to Iraq before the german turn him into delecious meals and before the Dutch marines assassinate him because he predicted their loss. In this issue, we have to cooperate with Spain to save the octobus's life and prepared a great glass pool for him provided with some good mussels. We should also put each mussel in a small glass box writing the names of the politicians who are fighting over for the Prime Minister position and mainly Nouri Al Maliki and Ayad Allawi and Adil Abdul Mahdi. Of course we will have other names.
Turning to some of the reported violence . . .
Timothy Williams and Tim Arrango (New York Times) reports two Baghdad roadside bombings claimed 2 lives and left five people injured and a Mosul grenade attack on a TV news crew which left eight children and one police officer injured. Ahmed Rasheed, Rania El Gamal and David Stamp (Reuters) report at least 9 dead in Diyala Province as a result of a coffin bombing.
Reuters reports Sahwa leader Khudair Awad al-Jubouri and 4 of his family members were assassinated in Yusufiya yesterday.
Sahwa, Iraqi Christians, Iraqi women, the list is endless. Everyone's a target in 'democratic' Iraq. That would include the Iraqi LGBT community. UK Gay News reports:
Hard on the heels of an Iraqi police raid on a Kerbala 'safe house' for gays, run by the London-based Iraqi LGBT, comes news that there has been another raid -- on a Baghdad male beauty parlour, with five men arrested.
Iraqi LGBT reported this evening that five gay mean were seized by "Interior Ministry forces" in the raid on June 25.
The latest raid was on a house used as a business for services such as waxing and massage in the Baghdad district of Karada.
Such services have long been used in a country with a body building tradition.
Iraqi media coverage, which included three days of TV reports, however described the house as used for prostitution, according to Iraqi LGBT.
However, witnesses have told Iraqi LGBT that this was not the case. Neither waxing nor massage is illegal in Iraq however it is 'forbidden' by Shia clerics.
Staying with violence, Saturday AFP reported that the Turkish government has informed the governments of the US, Iraq and the KRG that it wants it to hand over rebels in nothern Iraq which they number at 248 and one official (unnamed) is quoted stating, "The net is tightening." Press TV added, "The list included senior PKK chiefs such as Murat Karayilan, Cemil Bayik, and Duran Kalkan. The call was made shortly after military and civilian leaders in Turkey voiced growing frustration with Baghdad and the Iraq-based US military over their inaction in confronting the PKK." Umit Enginsoy (Hurriyet Daily News) reports today that unnamed sources say the US has increased it's "cooperation" with Turkey: "The U.S. and Turkish militaries have been sharing intelligence about the PKK since November 2007, when President George W. Bush agreed to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's request in the wake of stepped-up attacks by the outlawed group, which is listed as a terrorist organization by both countries as well as the European Union. Stronger U.S. support for Turkey's fight against the PKK has been reflected in a number of recent developments, sources said Monday, citing increased Turkish access to Iraqi airspace, an agreement to transfer attack helicopters and the ramping up of intelligence sharing." Northern Iraq is shelled and bombed by both the Turkish government and the Iranian government. Today Human Rights Watch issued "Iran/Iraq: Iranian Attacks Should Not Target Iraqi Civilians:"
Iran needs to take all feasible precautions to spare civilians at risk of serious harm from artillery bombardment and other military operations in an area that includes dozens of Kurdish villages inside northern Iraq, Human Rights Watch said today.
The Iranian attacks, directed against the Iranian Kurdish armed group Party for Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), intensified in late May and have led to the displacement of more than 500 families, wounded an unknown number of villagers, and killed a teenage girl. Iraqi villagers also told Human Rights Watch, which visited the area in late June, that Iranian border guards have targeted their livestock and sometimes fired at the villagers themselves.
"Iran should take all feasible precautions to spare civilians from artillery and other attacks," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Firing artillery shells into populated areas, especially where there are no military targets, and targeting livestock are serious violations of the laws of war."
Since June 3, 2010, about 500 families have fled their border villages to crowded tent camps elsewhere in Erbil and Sulaimaniya provinces, joining about 250 families who had fled Iranian shelling in previous months. Aid organizations and local municipalities have struggled to meet the displaced families' basic needs. The recent attacks also led an unknown number of other Kurdish civilians to flee elsewhere throughout the countryside and to surrounding towns.
Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Philip Shenon (Daily Beast) reported last month that the US government is attempting to track down WikiLeaks' Julian Assange. Last Tuesday, the military charged Manning. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported he had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Today on Antiwar Radio, Scott Horton discussed the issues with Glenn Greenwald. Strangely, Glenn Greenwald was able to talk about what Bradley was charged with, what he was alleged to have done. Example below.
Glenn Greenwald: Well one of the interesting parts of the charging document is how different it is than the chat logs that were released by Wired magazine in which he allegedly confessed to this hacker Adrian Lamo which is what started this case in the first place. There's a lot of facts that are very different if you look at what the charging documents said he did versus what he allegedly said in those chats.
In the final moments, Scott would point out that Wired refused and refuses to release the alleged transcripts in full (unexpurgated) and Glenn would talk about how, based on his legal experience, when someone refuses to do that, they generally are attempting to conceal something that doesn't jibe so easily with the rest of the narrative. This was a very brief segment
In an update from Monday, AP notes that Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan court appearance yesterday resulted in a verdict of "not guilty of crossing a police line during an anti-war protest in March." You can click here for another AP brief on the trial. Cindy wasn't the only one on trial (the AP names no other defendants) and Jon Gold (Peace of the Action) writes about the trial and how Matthis Chiroux, Elaine Brower and Lafloria Walsh were found guilty of failure to obey" while he, Cindy and Jim Veeder were not. Jon Gold reports:
After the prosecutor and defense were finished, and the time came for the judge to make his decisions, I thought for sure we were all going to be convicted. The first words the judge said had to do with the prosecution proving things "beyond a reasonable doubt," so I thought for sure we were done. I pulled out my prepared statement to read in the event I was convicted, and had it ready to go. Much to my surprise, I never got to read it, which was kind of a disappointment, but I did get to read it during the press conference we had this morning, so all is good.
I was the second to be let go, and Cindy was the third. The case against Cindy seemed strong enough that she was going to be convicted, but the judge seemed to be on her side. She was completely surprised when she was acquitted. I'm glad the judge was at least able to do that for her. A late birthday present.
Lynne Stewart is a political prisoner. She's certainly not a criminal. She's an attorney behind bars in prison. But you only go to prison if you break the law, right? That used to be the US judicial system. Lynne's in prison for breaking . . . some guideline. Did you realize that? Did you grasp that she broke no law? That no law on the books can be pointed to, no government prosecutor can waive it in the air and say, "This is the law Lynne broke." Lynne is no criminal. She's an attorney who has defended a wide variety of clients. Usually ones very few other attorneys would touch. In the US judicial system, every one deserves a fair trial. Lynne's career has been all about that. And that's probably why the Bush administration targeted her.
That guideline that she broke? It happened while Bill Clinton was president. The Justice Dept was fully aware of it. Then-Attorney General Janet Reno looked into the matter. Reno had the wisdom to grasp that if no law was broken, then there's no prosecution. The Clinton Justice Dept did not seek to put Lynne on trial. Later, the Bush administration would put her on trial and make that trial not about the laws but all about 9-11. The trial which took place in NYC.
Lynne was convicted of doing her job. What a proud moment for American justice or 'justice.'
Events tomorrow and Thursday in support of Lynne:
July 14, 2010
March from Tom Paine Park (Worth St. between Centre & Lafayette Streets)
3 blocks to Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC- where Lynne is detained)
7-9pm Vigil in Support of Lynne
At Metropolitan Correctional Center 150 Park Row
JULY 15, 2010
Sentencing is at 2:30pm, we will be there at 11am
500 Pearl Street
Doors will open at 2pm
LET'S PACK THE COURT!!!
As she so often does, Ruth noted Taking Aim. (Airs Tuesdays on WBAI.) Mya Shone and Ralph Schoenman are the hosts. They spoke with Ralph Poynter about Lynne Stewart. And this is from last week so it includes an action that has already taken place.
Mya Shone: First we're going to a very brief update with Ralph Poynter about the case of Lynne Stewart.
Ralph Schoenman: And about the rally tomorrow or rather on Thursday.
Mya Shone: Thursday. Ralph?
Ralph Poynter: Yes, Mya.
Ralph Schoenman: How are you Ralph?
Ralph Poynter: Yes, I -- As you know, our hearts are in our throats. We're waiting for the re-sentencing of Lynne Stewart. And we're very upset that she was sentenced at all, that she was found guilty of terrorism by way of a press release and a prison regulation. And we've lived seven months of Lynne's incarceration in the prison system. With her medical situation, being in the hospital handcuffed and shackled while being there and dealing with this. And hoping to get some relief come next July 15th when she is re-sentenced. And many of us --
Mya Shone: Ralph, on Thursday, July 8th, 6:00 p.m., Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South, speakers include our one and only here Ralph Scho, yourself, Chairman Fred Hampton Jr., Pan-African --
Ralph Poynter: Yes, Pan-Africa. We have many --
Mya Shone: Many others.
Ralph Poynter: -- on the issue of imprisonment and incarceration in general in America. And, as I was saying, we're hoping that we get an improvement because although Lynne has -- Her liver has proved not to be cancerous, it was quite a scare for us. And we're hoping that she would get home -- house arrest where she could go to the hospital and take care of the problems she had when she first went into the hospital. So the event that you mentioned tomorrow is to help us you know like help us keep our spirits up and to help Lynne keep her spirits up. And also the 14th at Tom Paine Park, right down on Center & Worth, we're going to gather at 5:30 and have a little cermony and then march three blocks to MCC and speak on Lynne's behalf for about two hours, from seven to nine-thirty to life up her spirits to be ready for the sentencing.
Mya Shone: Great. Okay, all out Thursday July 8th at six p.m., the Judson Memorial Church
Ralph Schoenman: And remember, brothers & sisters, Lynne Stewart is being victimized because the government is involved in attacks on people of the world and the United States, 9-11, 1993, these are the government's actions for which they seek demons in order to create the architecture of the fascist state. Stand together, fight for Lynne, fight for ourselves, fight for the salvation of this society and for a fundamental change in its rule and its conduct. See you Thursday.