Thursday, September 16, 2010

Stalemate and oil

Xinhua reports that Ezzat al-Shahbandar, of State of Law, told them Tuesday that "the deadlock of government formation" had been overcome. Which would mean that the government was on the verge of being formed. Don't hold your breath.

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "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 six months and nine days with no government formed.

The Iraqi National Alliance is a Shi'ite coalition. The two biggest components of the National Alliance are the ones headed by Moqtada al-Sadr and by Ammar al-Hakim. UPI reports that al-Hakim is currently conducting talks with Ayad Allawi. On Moqtada al-Sadr's group, Basim al-Shara (Middle East Online) reports:

The political movement of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is wielding increasing clout as the tortuous process of forming a new Iraqi government continues.
In recent days, the Sadrist party Al-Ahrar has indicated that it is backing Vice-President Adel Abdul Mahdi for the post of prime minister. Until now, the competition for the job has been seen as a straight fight between incumbent prime minister Nuri al-Maliki and Ayad Allawi, leader of the mostly secular Iraqiya coalition which includes top Sunni leaders.
The Sadrists’ endorsement of a third candidate exposes cracks within the Shia coalition that consists of Maliki’s State of Law party; the Iraqi National Alliance, INA, which is led by the Sadrists, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, ISCI, and a handful of smaller groups.

Meanwhile, Iraq's oil. The Financial Times of London notes the 12 oil contracts Iraq signed last year and:

Iraq's oil reserves are the fourth largest in the world, after Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Iran, but production today is barely 2.5m barrels a day, making Iraq at best a middle-weight on the international stage. The new contracts should bring a substantial stream of investment in the country’s neglected oil infrastructure, allowing production to rise to more than 10 mb/d by 2020 (the government’s own target is 12 mb/d by 2016).

Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports that Hussain al-Shahristani stated yesterday at a ceremony for the 50th anniversary of OPEC that Iraq could help meet the world need for oil "with an average of 10 million barrels a day." al-Shahristani is the Minister of Oil but, of course, in a fair world he wouldn't be. He was appointed by Nouri and approved by the Parliament. In a fair world, Nouri's term having long ago expired, the UN would have helped form a caretaker government -- that's not what Nouri has and the press should stop calling it that -- if Iraq was unable to form a government. Instead, al-Shahristani not only remains as Minister of Oil, he also holds the title of Minister of Electricity following the spring resignation of the man who held that post. But al-Shahristani was never approved, as the Constitution insists must take place, by the Parliament. That's how it works in the continuation government of Nouri al-Maliki, the Constitution and the laws are ignored over and over. Hassan Hafidh (Dow Jones) reports, "Iraq's crude oil exports fell 1.7% in August to 1.788 million barrels a day from 1.820 million barrels a day in July due to technical faults and sabotage on the country's northern pipeline, an Iraqi oil official said Tuesday."

In the US, the Democratic Policy Committee has issued a number of videos and we'll note this one from Senator Mary Landrieu.

Bradley Manning. 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. This month, the military charged Manning. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August that Manning 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." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning is now in Virginia, under military lock and key and still not allowed to speak to the press. From World Can't Wait, we'll note "Bradley Manning Day of Action - New York City Webcast:"

See: Collateral Murder footage, leaked from within the US military, and showing the murder of 12 Iraqi civilians in July 2007

Hear: Supporters of Bradley Manning, including Ethan MCord, who was seen in the video carrying a wounded child and who with Josh Steiber wrote an Open Letter of Reconciliation to the Afghan People, and Matthis Chiroux, military resister.

Learn: What you can do to stop the unjust prosecution of a 22-year-old soldier and genuine hero.

As part of the International Days of Support for Bradley Manning, events are happening around the world September 16-19. The Army says he's responsible for leaking the video footage which was named "Collateral Murder" and sent around the world by They will likely court martial him. Needless to say, the soldiers in the video -- not to mention the commanders who trained the troops for and ordered the massacre -- are under no arrest, no scrutiny, not even investigation. But Bradley Manning is locked up, facing many possible years in prison.

Also! Tune in to the west coast webcast at 7pm Pacific / 10pm Eastern

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