Monday, November 29, 2010

Iraq snapshot

Monday, November 29, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri continues to grandstand, WikiLeaks releases US State Dept documents, and more.
Today on the latest Law and Disorder Radio (on WBAI this morning and on various stations throughout the week), about half-way in, after Tina Turner singing "Never Been To Spain" -- first appears on Ike & Tina Turner's Delilah's Power), Roger Hodge discussed his latest book The Mendacity of Hope: Barack Obama and the Betrayal of American Liberalism with hosts Michael Ratner, Michael S. Smith and Heidi Boghosian.  Excerpt:
Roger Hodge: Now when it comes to Obama being better or worse than a McCain-Palin administration, I think it's kind of -- There's an argument to be made that constitutionally we might be better off under the Republicans because then the Democrats might at least be opposing these unconstitutional usurpations of authority.  It's an interesting conversation to have.  I'm not really sure where I fall down on that. But it's hard to imagine that it would be any worse in terms of civil liberties under McCain.
Michael S. Smith: Who are the corporate interests?  Identify them in terms of the people that backed Obama originally and are feeding at the trough now.
Roger Hodge: The straight forward fire sector, I think, is the biggest block.
Michael S. Smith: Fire means?
Roger Hodge: Fire meaning Finance Insurance and Real Estate.  If you look at Obama's major backers in 2008 campaign, the number one backer was Goldman Sachs.
Michael Ratner: Yeah, this is a great page.  It's actually page 45 of your book and this book is called  The Mendacity of Hope: Barack Obama and the Betrayal of American Liberalism.  It's by Roger Hodge and if you really want to figure out what went on and what's going on, get this book and it's easy to get through, it's quite well written.  Anyway, this list here is fabulous.  Goldman Sachs, as you were saying, is number one corporate backer, is that right?
Roger Hodge: That's right.  I'm excluding the universities because that's a complex case.  I should point out that under American law -- at least so far -- at the moment -- corporations can't donate directly, as you'll know obviously.  But when I say that Goldman was his number one backer -- that's a collective backer, that's a collective backer because the employees of Goldman Sachs are the ones who are making those investments.
[. . . ]
Roger Hodge: I have people, good friends in my life, who have excellent health care coverage supposedly but who are fighting insurance companies just to get basic procedures done to eliminate unbearable pain that no one denies that they have.  So having health insurance does not guarantee health care.  So the idea that Obama and the Democrats have done this historic deed and given us all the thing we've been fighting for for forty years is really kind of outrageous, incredibly frustration, because we're going to have to have this fight again.
Heidi Boghosian:  Roger, you actually sort of sum up it up in talking about health care by saying: "The health bill is of a piece with Obama's general approach to governance which is to make loud, dramatic claims about his purportedly reformist agenda -- claims that both his supporters and his enemies almost always take at a face value -- while working behind the scenes to make sure that no major stakeholder in his coalition of corporate backers will suffer significant losses."  And that could sum up most of what he's done.
Michael Smith: Yeah, that was an outstanding passage in the book, I thought
Roger Hodge: Thank you.  Thank you.  And we see it again and again.  We see it with detentions --
Heidi Boghosian: Guantanamo.
Roger Hodge: Guantanamo.  We see it with --
Michael Ratner: State secrets.
Roger Hodge: --  Afghanistan.  We see it with Iraq.  Supposedly the war in Iraq is over.  People take that at face value. 'Oh, he ended the war in Iraq.' Well he didn't.
Michael Ratner: He just said he did.
And the Iraq War drags on.  Sgt David J. Luff Jr. of Ohio died Sunday November 21st in Tikrit as a result of enemy fire.  Jack Healy (New York Times' At War blog) notes, "He was the third American soldier to die by enemy fire since the combat mission in Iraq officially ended in the summer" and quotes Col Malcolm Frost stating of the three, "All three in my brigade [Second Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division].  Iraq is still a dangerous place."  Read that over and grasp that Col Frost knows who died in his brigade and how.  Meaning?  I'd hate to be the pompous asshole who went on The Diane Rehm Show and laughed and scoffed at the idea that the press helped sell the Iraq War on any day but especially after last week's article.  Poor little Yochi, always so damn dumbThe Hill's Al Eisele has a column at Huffington Post noting the lack of coverage of the Iraq War and he notes Larry Kaplow recent piece on Iraq which we noted awhile back.  One of the things Eisele and Kaplow believe is that the oil-rich Kirkuk may not be a potential flashpoint.  I would disagree and note that the efforts on both sides -- centralized government or 'government' in Baghdad and the KRG -- to ship bodies to the region as well as the low- intensity conflict that has gone on since 2005 in the region would argue otherwise.  But no one knows -- most of all me -- what will happen until it happens. 
Today Alsumaria TV reports, "Head of Iraq's Census Operations Room revealed that the census general committee is waiting for the ministerial council meeting to decide whether to carry out the census on time due on December 5 or hold it off." The long overdue census has been much pushed back by Nouri al-Maliki for years now; however, he dangled the census throughout the stalemate as reason to support him. Should the census be again shoved back by Nouri -- as it has been for years -- could it cost him political support at a time when the clock is ticking on his efforts to form a government?  Nouri came to power in April 2006.  Iraq's Constitution mandated a census of and referendum on Kirkuk be held by the end of 2007.  As usual with Nouri, nothing got done.

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "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. November 10th a power sharing deal resulted in the Parliament meeting for the second time and voting in a Speaker. And then Iraqiya felt double crossed on the deal and the bulk of their members stormed out of the Parliament. David Ignatius (Washington Post) explains, "The fragility of the coalition was dramatically obvious Thursday as members of the Iraqiya party, which represents Sunnis, walked out of Parliament, claiming that they were already being double-crossed by Maliki. Iraqi politics is always an exercise in brinkmanship, and the compromises unfortunately remain of the save-your-neck variety, rather than reflecting a deeper accord. " After that, Jalal Talabani was voted President of Iraq. Talabani then named Nouri as the prime minister-delegate. If Nouri can meet the conditions outlined in Article 76 of the Constitution (basically nominate ministers for each council and have Parliament vote to approve each one with a minimum of 163 votes each time and to vote for his council program) within thirty days, he becomes the prime minister. If not, Talabani must name another prime minister-delegate. . In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister-delegate. It took eight months and two days to name Nouri as prime minister-delegate. His first go-round, on April 22, 2006, his thirty day limit kicked in. May 20, 2006, he announced his cabinet -- sort of. Sort of because he didn't nominate a Minister of Defense, a Minister of Interior and a Minister of a Natioanl Security. This was accomplished, John F. Burns wrote in "For Some, a Last, Best Hope for U.S. Efforts in Iraq" (New York Times), only with "muscular" assistance from the Bush White House. Nouri declared he would be the Interior Ministry temporarily. Temporarily lasted until June 8, 2006. This was when the US was able to strong-arm, when they'd knocked out the other choice for prime minister (Ibrahim al-Jaafari) to install puppet Nouri and when they had over 100,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. Nouri had no competition. That's very different from today. The Constitution is very clear and it is doubtful his opponents -- including within his own alliance -- will look the other way if he can't fill all the posts in 30 days. As Leila Fadel (Washington Post) observes, "With the three top slots resolved, Maliki will now begin to distribute ministries and other top jobs, a process that has the potential to be as divisive as the initial phase of government formation." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) points out, "Maliki now has 30 days to decide on cabinet posts - some of which will likely go to Iraqiya - and put together a full government. His governing coalition owes part of its existence to followers of hard-line cleric Muqtada al Sadr, leading Sunnis and others to believe that his government will be indebted to Iran." The stalemate ends when the country has a prime minister. It is now eight months, twenty-two days and counting. Thursday November 25th, Nouri was finally 'officially' named prime minister-designate. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) explained, "In 30 days, he is to present his cabinet to parliament or lose the nomination." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) added, "Even if Mr. Maliki meets the 30-day deadline in late December -- which is not a certainty, given the chronic disregard for legal deadlines in Iraqi politics -- the country will have spent more than nine months under a caretaker government without a functioning legislature. Many of Iraq's most critical needs -- from basic services to investment -- have remained unaddressed throughout the impasse." Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera) offered, "He has an extremely difficult task ahed of him, these next 30 days are going to be a very tough sell for all of these parties that all want something very important in this government. It took a record eight months to actually come up with this coalition, but now what al-Maliki has to do is put all those people in the competing positions that backed him into slots in the government and he has a month to day that from today."

Saturday, Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported on a press conference Nouri al-Maliki, thug of the occupation, held in which he made remarks which can be read as 'I will form a government in 30 days' or that he was carving out room for himself if he can't meet the deadline at which point he would then insist that he must be given more time and that it would take longer for the Constitution to be followed and a new prime minister-designate to be named.  In addition, Fadel quotes him stating, "The Iraqi army, the Iraqi police and the Iraqi security services are capable of controlling the security situation, and therefore the security agreement will stay. I do not feel that there is a need for the presence of any other international forces to assist the Iraqis in controlling the security situation." The context missing?  From the June 14, 2007 snapshot:

The Pentagon report has many sections and one of interest considering one of the 2007 developments may be this: "There are currently more than 900 personnel in the Iraqi Air Force. . . . The fielding of rotary-wing aircraft continued with the delivery to Taji of five modified UH II (Iroquois) helicopters, bringing the total delivered to ten. The final six are scheduled to arrive in June. Aircrews are currently conducting initial qualifications and tactics training. The Iroquois fleet is expected to reach initial operation capability by the end of June 2007." By the end of June 2007? One of the developments of 2007 was the (admission of) helicopter crashes. US helicopters. British helicopters. Some may find comfort in the fact that evacuations and mobility will be handled by Iraqis . . . whenever they are fully staffed and trained. Four years plus to deliver the equipment, training should be done in ten or twenty years, right?
You can also refer to Elisabeth Bumiller's "Iraq Can't Defend Its Skies by Pullout Date, U.S. Says" (New York Times) from July 2009. That's just the air force.  Last week, Walter Pincus (Washington Post) reported on the US Defense Dept's Inspector General report which has found that "the Iraq Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior, and the army and police units they support do not have a supply system capable of maintaining operational readiness of the Iraq Security Forces." But Nouri says it's ready. 
This is the same Nouri who blustered that foreign forces wouldn't be needed after 2006 and then went and renewed the United Nations mandate for the occupation outraging the Iraqi Parliament. To tamp down on their outrage, Nouri insisted that it would not happen again without their signing off on it. 2007 is winding down and, guess what, Nouri renews the mandate again -- without their input.

Nouri's public record is one long pattern of claiming US forces are not needed in Iraq -- making that claim publicly while doing something different behind the scenes. Or does no one remember that the Iraqi people were supposed to vote on the SOFA -- a vote that was supposed to have taken place in July 2009 and never did?

Printing Nouri's quote on US forces remaining in Iraq demands that Nouri's past history be noted or else just distributing talking points. Was he asked any questions after he made that statement? March 4th of this year, he was telling Arwa Damon (CNN) that he might ask for an extension ("depends on the future"). That was before the long and ongoing political stalemate. Exactly what's changed since March? They still don't have a government.
Since March? Reuters quotes Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh stating in London today, "Among the next government's priorities will be to approve legislation of long-awaited oil and gas law through parliament." Will that be the first priority?  Really?  Because that was announced as Nouri's first priority when he became prime minister in 2006 and it was included in the 2007 White House bench marks that Nouri signed off on.  And the calendar says it 2010.  Where did the time go, Nouri?
AP reports this morning that Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebair is decrying the release of US documents by WikiLeaks begging the question: Doesn't Hoshyar have some real work to do? Including campaign for his current job since a new Cabinet of Ministers is supposed to be appointed? Considering his remarks that angered -- his many remarks -- Nouri throughout the ongoing political stalemate, you'd think he'd be trying to keep his job. Oh, wait, that's why he's parroting US talking points.

For the latest release by WikiLeaks, we'll drop back to last night's KPFA Evening News:

Anthony Fest: The whistle blower website WikiLeaks released another trove of confidential documents today. Last month WikiLeaks released thousands of Pentagon documents most associated with the US occupation of Iraq. In contrast, the documents made public today include thousands of diplomatic cables -- communications between the State Dept and Washington and US consulates all around the world. The documents cover both the George W. Bush and the Barack Obama administrations. WikiLeaks gave an advance look at the documents to several media organizations including the New York Times and the British newspaper the Guardian. Those publications now have articles on their websites analyzing the documents. WikiLeaks says it will post the documents on its own website in the coming days although it has said its site was the target of a cyber attack today. The documents release is certain to provoke tension between the US and its allies. For example, some of the cables say that Saudi donors are the largest financiers of terror groups. Other cables detail the cover-up of US military activities. One of them records a meeting last January between US Gen David Petreaus and the president of Yemen about air attacks against rebels in Yemen. The president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, tells Petraeus, "We'll continue to say they are our bombs and not yours." According to the Guardian, the documents reveal that some Arab leaders had privately urged an air attack against Iran and that US officials had been instructed to spy on the United Nations' leadership. Among the other disclosures are deep fears in Washington and London about the security of Paksitan's nuclear weapons. Another document asserts massive corruption at high levels of the Afghanistan government saying the Afghan vice president traveled to the United Arab Emirates carrying $52 million in cash. Still other documents disparage the British military in Afghanistan.

Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports that Denmark's Social Democrats are hoping that the release will reveal "why Denmark supported the US-led war on Iraq. Documents released thus far on Iraq tend to zoom in on the Iran-Iraq relationship such as one published by the Guardian which opens:

1. (S) SUMMARY: Iran is a dominant player in Iraq's electoral politics, and is using its close ties to Shia, Kurdish, and select Sunni figures to shape the political landscape in favor of a united Shia victory in the January election. A pro-Iran, Shia-dominated, and preferably Islamist government, led by a united Shia alliance remains Iran's top priority. Toward that end, Iran is seeking to increase pressure on Maliki to join forces with the other prominent Shia coalition (Iraqi National Alliance) led by the Sadrists and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI). END SUMMARY

2. (S) Iran is arguably the most influential regional power seeking to shape and influence the outcome of Iraq's election. This message offers an assessment of Iran's efforts to shape Iraq's electoral politics in anticipation of the national election in January.

The cable goes on to argue that Iran wants a weakened Iraq with the hopes that such a country would lean more heavily on Tehran. Another US Embassy in Iraq cable insists that Quds Forces officers are spying in Iraq. Maybe they're sending cables to Tehran about the US spies in Iraq? The previous cable and this one assert that Tehran is worried about the influence of Grand Ayatollah Sistani who is not seen as sufficiently deferential to Iran and critical of some aspects of Iranian governance. David E. Sanger, James Glanz and Jo Becker (New York Times) report on King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia: "In December 2005, the Saudi king expressed his anger that the Bush administration had ignored his advice against going to war. According to a cable from the American Embassy in Riyadh, the king argued 'that whereas in the past the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Saddam Hussein had agreed on the need to contain Iran, U.S. policy has now given Iraq to Iran as a 'gift on a golden platter'."  The Guardian publishes a cable from March 2009 where "The King expressed a complete lack of trust in Iraqi PM al-Maliki and held out little hope for improved Saudi/Iraqi relations as long as al-Maliki remains in office." From that cable:
14. (S) NO HOPE FOR MALIKI: The King said he had "no confidence whatsoever in (Iraqi PM) Maliki, and the Ambassador (Fraker) is well aware of my views." The King affirmed that he had refused former President Bush's entreaties that he meet with Maliki. The King said he had met Maliki early in Maliki's term of office, and the Iraqi had given him a written list of commitments for reconciliation in Iraq, but had failed to follow through on any of them. For this reason, the King said, Maliki had no credibility. "I don,t trust this man," the King stated, "He's an Iranian agent." The King said he had told both Bush and former Vice president Cheney "how can I meet with someone I don,t trust?" Maliki has "opened the door for Iranian influence in Iraq" since taking power, the King said, and he was "not hopeful at all" for Maliki, "or I would have met with him."
On the latest release, the Rocky Mountain Collegian editorial boards offers, "In a world where even international bodies such as the United Nations are hamstrung in the face of U.S. dominance, Wikileaks serves as an essential check on American power. Ultimately, we, as American voters, can be the most effective force in limiting our nations at-times overaggressive foreign policy. And voters need to know the unpleasant facts that Wikileaks provides to make informed choices."  With Barack injured in his b-ball game (stiches for his lip last Friday), the administration's line was delivered by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today.  It was not one of Hillary's better public moments to put it mildly.  To put it bluntly, she made an ass out of herself.  Click here for full text and video, excerpt:

The United States strongly condemns the illegal disclosure of classified information. It puts people's lives in danger, threatens our national security, and undermines our efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems. This Administration is advancing a robust foreign policy that is focused on advancing America's national interests and leading the world in solving the most complex challenges of our time, from fixing the global economy, to thwarting international terrorism, to stopping the spread of catastrophic weapons, to advancing human rights and universal values. In every country and in every region of the world, we are working with partners to pursue these aims.
So let's be clear: this disclosure is not just an attack on America's foreign policy interests. It is an attack on the international community – the alliances and partnerships, the conversations and negotiations, that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity.
Hillary, let's be clear.  It's an embarrassment for a government out of control.  Out of control in terms of doing things they shouldn't and out of control in terms of poor training that allowed a British politician's sex life, for example, to be discussed in a State Dept cable.   If America takes a prestige hit worldwide -- if -- then the problem is the actions, not the exposure.  If America wanted to improve its image it could immediately end the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.  If Hillary wants to do her job she can try to stop lying to people about WikiLeaks and focusing on the issue of Iraq's LGBT community.
Pari and Dilsa are Iraqi refugees. They are also a couple and one that Sweden insists it is sending back to Iraq despite the fact that Pari and Dilsa are both women and that the LGBT community in Iraq has long been targeted. Melanie Nathan ( reports:

The Swedish Immigration Court has decided they should be expelled in a week. "We are so afraid that we can barely sleep or eat," says Dilsa. The two women, in their 30s, fell in love in Iraq five years ago. But they had [to] hide their relationship for fear of persecution. Pari's family is one of the most powerful Muslim clans in the country with governmental power. Being a lesbian in the environment was impossible and dangerous.
Pari was being forced to marry a relative, but she refused and confessed that she loved a woman.
Death sentences were issued by the clan. First Pari would be killed, then Dilsa. [. . .] Pari managed to flee to Swede in 2006. Dilsa hid at a friend's home in Iraqi Kurdistan. However, the friend's brother raped her, and she became pregnant. "I fled to Sweden three months after Pari and I had an abortion," she said.

Sweden's been sending Iraqi refugees back for some time now. The supposed 'advanced' country has ditched compassion and instead resorted to sending people to what may be their deaths. Dilsa and Pari may become the two latest this week. For more on the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community, you can refer to Iraqi LGBT. And if the US government had elected to make the targeting an issue -- instead of spending months denying it and then offering a mealy-mouthed statement or two -- maybe there would be a world-wide international outcry.

Sweden should not send them back but if Hillary has time for press conferences, she's got time to work on this issue whose solution could include admitting the two women to the United States.
In today's violence . . .
Reuters notes a Baquba car bombing which claimed 1 life and left eleven people injured.
Reuters notes 1 taxi driver shot dead in Mussayab and, dropping back to last night, 1 man shot dead in Mosul.
Reuters notes 1 police officer's corpse and 1 Sahwa corpse discovered in Baiji, 1 woman's corpse discovered in Mosul, 1 police officer's corpse discovered in Mussyayab
Lastly, Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Back On The Court" and for those who've been gone on the holiday break, Kat's "Kat's Korner: The 80s (where Cher proves them all wrong)" and "Kat's Korner: Cher demonstrates this is far from over" went up Thursday.