Thursday, August 19, 2010

The continuing stalemate

Starting with the political stalemate, Newsweek's Babak Dehghanpisheh interviews Iraq's Shi'ite vice president, Adel Abdul Mahdi:

How do you see the situation with the negotiations between the various blocs right now?

It is still critical and somehow confused.

There is a split in the alliance formed between your bloc (the National Iraqi Alliance) and Prime Minister Nuri Maliki’s State of Law.

Yes, it’s no secret there are differences. Especially about the prime-minister candidate. But the alliance is still there. It’s not dissolved or fully broken. It depends on whether they can choose one candidate or not.

Does it seem to you that Maliki isn’t willing to compromise on this issue?

Up to now he has not shown any flexibility on this issue.

Your name has been raised as a potential candidate for the prime-minister slot.

Well, I can’t jump in front of others. We are waiting for negotiations between State of Law and the Alliance. [Ayad] Allawi and Maliki are both contenders. [If they can’t reach an agreement,] I think both of them will come to us. Maliki will need the National Alliance and Iraqiya will need the National Alliance.

It's a surprisingly straightforward interview. Adel Abdul Mahdi doesn't dodge questions in it. (And that's not an endorsement of him or anyone else. I don't live in Iraq, I'm not Iraqi. Who leads the country should be up to the Iraqi people. Although some would argue the system leaves it up to the Parliament. The stalemate?

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 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. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 12 days.

Chibli Mallat (Daily Star) reports on another contender for the post:

In Iraq and the wider Middle East, Jaafar needs no introduction. His father, Mohammad Baqer al-Sadr, was the most remarkable Islamic thinker of the 20th century. He was executed without trial by Saddam Hussein, together with Jaafar’s aunt Bint al-Huda, on 8 April 1980. His cousin and brother-in-law is Moqtada, who has thrown his lot with him despite his MPs appearing on a rival list. His uncle is Musa al-Sadr, the historic leader of the Lebanese Shiite community, which was deprived of his wisdom and elegance by the Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi after he was officially invited to Tripoli in August 1978, then kidnapped and ‘disappeared.’

Jaafar’s meteoric rise shows he is his own man. He was second on the list of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki with hardly an effort at campaigning, while other candidates spent tens of millions of dollars to get elected. He has been for several years one of the closest advisers to President Jalal Talabani. The alleys and ways of thinking of Najaf and Qom keep few secrets from him. He stood up for Sunnis dismissed from running for elections while every other Shiites remained silent. He denounced the invention of a “permanent parliamentary session” that made a mockery of the Iraqi Constitution and perpetuates a shameful constitutional deadlock. For the future of Iraq as universally sought, democratic, inclusive, decent, moderate, studious and modern, Jaafar is it.

With more deaths on the Iraqi street because of a lame, impotent caretaker government, Jaafar’s public appearances have revealed to a thirsty public that they are not alone. I threw my lot behind Sayyed Jaafar’s name in private then in public, because I am convinced that the deadlock persisting since March needs to give way to confluence: the image is that of rivulets of political parties and factions meeting in the mainstream.

On Morning Edition (NPR) today, Steve Inskeep spoke with the New York Times' Anthony Shadid about the stalemate. Credit to Inskeep for knowing that Chris Hill was the outgoing ambassador -- something the top of the hour didn't know (and James Jeffrey presented his diplomatic papers in Baghdad yesterday and Hill's back in the US). Inskeep noted his previous interview with Hill and how Hill's predictions had fallen apart (see August 11th snapshot). Shadid feels there is "no coalition emerging," that the Iraqi people are upset, "in a lot of ways, it's a summer of discontent here." Privately he's told it may be "weeks and even months" before a government is formed.

Did the last US 'combat' brigade pull out of Iraq as everyone's insisting?

Apparently not. Xinhua reports, "An U.S. official from the Defense Ministry has denied that the U.S. combat troops have completed withdrawal from Iraq, the official Iraqia television reported Thursday. 'What happened was a reorganization for these troops as some 4,000 soldiers had been pulled out and the rest of the combat troops (will leave) at the end of this month,' Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell was quoted as saying. His comments came after some U.S. media said earlier that the last brigade from the combat troops has left Iraq Thursday morning two weeks before the deadline of Aug. 31." Calling it the "second fake end to Iraq War," Jason Ditz ( observes:

Officials have been pretty straightforward about what really happened, not that it has been picked up by the media, which has preferred the more pleasant narrative of a decisive military victory. Instead, the US simply “redefined” the vast majority of its combat troops as “transitional troops,” then removed a brigade that they didn’t relabel, so they could claim that was the “last one.” Even this comes with the assumption that the State Department, and a new army of contractors, will take over for years after the military operations end, assuming they ever do.

And it worked, at least for now. All is right with the world and the war is over, at least so far as anyone could tell from the TV news shows.

And James Denselow (at Huffington Post) notes, "As US combat units pulled back into Kuwait today a single soldiers was spotted shouting 'we won, we won'. What has been won is perhaps the narrative which states that despite regular bloodletting, Iraq is a success that the US can depart from with honor."

We'll note human rights scholar and international law expert, Professor Francis A. Boyle's "The Cowardice of Harvard's President Larry Summers:"

I'm not going to go through the entire history of the Israeli
divestment/disinvestment movement, except to say that in the late
summer of 2002 the President of Harvard, Larry Summers accused those of
us Harvard alumni involved in the Harvard divestment campaign of being

After he made these charges, WBUR Radio Station in Boston, which is a
National Public Radio affiliate, called me up and said: "We would like
you to debate Summers for one hour on these charges, live." And I said,
"I'd be happy to do so." They then called up Summers and he refused to
debate me.

Summers did not have the courage, the integrity, or the principles to
back up his scurrilous charges. Eventually Harvard fired Summers
because of his attempt to impose his Neo-Conservative agenda on
Harvard, and in particular his other scurrilous charge that women are
dumber then men when it comes to math and science. Well as a triple
alumnus I say: Good riddance to Larry Summers!

Debating Dershowitz

WBUR then called me back and said, "Well, since Summers won't debate
you, would you debate Alan Dershowitz?" And I said, "Sure." So we had a
debate for one hour, live on the radio. And there is a link that you
can hear this debate if you want to. I still think it's the best debate
out there on this whole issue of Israeli apartheid. Again that would be
WBUR Radio Station, Boston, 25 September 2002.

The problem with the debate, of course, is that Dershowitz knows
nothing about international law and human rights. So he immediately
started out by saying "well, there's nothing similar to the apartheid
regime in South Africa and what Israel is doing to the Palestinians."
Well the problem with that is that Dershowitz did not know anything at
all about even the existence of the Apartheid Convention.

The definition of apartheid is set out in the Apartheid Convention of

And this is taken from my book Defending Civil Resistance Under
International Law, Trial Materials on South Africa, published in 1987,
that we used successfully to defend anti-apartheid resistors in the
United States. If you take a look at the definition of apartheid here
found in Article 2, you will see that Israel has inflicted each and
every act of apartheid set out in Article 2 on the Palestinians, except
an outright ban on marriages between Israelis and Palestinians. But
even there they have barred Palestinians living in occupied Palestine
who marry Israeli citizens from moving into Israel, and thus defeat the
right of family reunification that of course the world supported when
Jews were emigrating from the Soviet Union.

Israel: An Apartheid State

Again you don't have to take my word for it. There's an excellent essay
on by the leading Israeli human rights advocate
Shulamit Aloni saying basically: "Yes we have an apartheid state in
Israel." Indeed, there are roads in the West Bank for Jews only.
Palestinians can't ride there and now they're introducing new
legislation that Jews cannot even ride Palestinians in their cars.

This lead my colleague and friend Professor John Dugard who was the
U.N. Special rapporteur for human rights in Palestine to write an essay
that you can get on Google, saying that in fact
Israeli apartheid against the Palestinians is worse than the apartheid
that the Afrikaners inflicted on the Blacks in South Africa. Professor
Dugard should know.

He was one of a handful of courageous, white, international lawyers
living in South Africa at the time who publicly and internationally
condemned apartheid against Blacks at risk to his own life. Indeed,
when I was litigating anti-apartheid cases on South Africa, we used
Professor Dugard's book on Human Rights and the South African Legal
Order as the definitive work explaining what apartheid is all about.

So Professor Dugard has made this statement. Of course
President Carter has made this statement in his book that
Israel is an apartheid state. And certainly if you look at that
definition of the Apartheid Convention, right there in front of you,
it's clear - there are objective criteria. Indeed if you read my
book Palestine, Palestinians and International Law, I have a
Bibliography at the end with the facts right
there based on reputable human rights reports, including Amnesty
Human Rights Watch, etc. Many of them were also compiled and discussed
by my friend Norman Finklestein in his book Beyond Chutzpah,
which I'd encourage you to read.

The WBUR program was On The Point and click here for the debate.

Finally, at Corrente, Sarah informs that Blackwater's Eric Prince has moved to Abu Dhabi "and, apparently, gets to keep the tons of money (remember the pallets of cash that vanished in Iraq) he / his company made. There is not sufficient profanity in the known universe. There is not sufficient profanity in the known universe."

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