Monday, December 20, 2010

Don't have the baby gifts delivered just yet

Not Quite There

Illustration above is Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Not Quite There" and, goodness, was he correct, talk about a crystal vision. Alsumaria TV is reporting, "Iraqi Cabinet spokesman Ali Al Dabbagh announced that Prime Minister-designate Nuri Al Maliki will announce the new government formation in today's Parliament session." But it's Nouri, so nothing's ever simple and it always comes with a serving of heavy drama. AP, earlier this morning, reported that the announcement was going to be delayed. AP grasps what so many others don't: "Al-Maliki has until Saturday to present his Cabinet under a 30-day deadline imposed by Iraq's constitution. If he does not, President Jalal Talabani will assign another member of parliament to do it." Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News), writing before the delay entered the news cycle (partial or full delay), noted, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will unveil his national unity cabinet today, keeping the security portfolios to himself until a deal is reached with other groups, Abdul Hadi al-Hassani, a member of his parliamentary bloc, said." So what's going on? Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) explains, "Political infighting and last-minute horse-trading delayed the formal announcement of a new Iraqi government on Monday, lawmakers said, as Iraq sought to end a 9-month vacuum created by an inconclusive election."

Earlier in the morning, Zhang Xiang (Xinhua) was reporting that, according to an unnamed MP, "The announcement of the cabinet will be later this week, mostly on Wednesday's parliament session." But 15 minutes ago, Xinhua's Lu Hui filed an update noting that the current plan is for Nouri to announce some of his nominees today. In both stories, Xinhua demonstrates a grasp of the Iraqi Constitution. Example from the one by Hui, "Maliki still has to meet his deadline of Dec. 25 after he has been formally asked by the Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to form the country's next government after the rival political blocs approved earlier a power-sharing deal that ended the eight-month political deadlock. According to the Iraqi constitution, Maliki has to form his cabinet within 30 days after his official nomination as PM- designate by the president. The new government and its agendas must win the approval of an absolute majority of the members of the Council of Representatives." So that's AFP (see last night), AP and Xinhua who have actually read the Constitution. Other outlets can't make that claim.

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 National 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 nine months, thirteen 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 do that from today."

Ayad Allawi's going along with the power-sharing agreement -- so far -- due to the security council position he's been promised in a security council that is also promised. There has been no legislation passed by Parliament to create such a council. Nor is there going to be any move towards that this week. So Allawi is pinning his hopes on what may be as opposed to what is. Maybe he'll have bet wisely. But this is the same Nouri who assured the Kurds in 2006 that their support meant the 2007 census would go through and Kirkuk resolved. And that never happened. He used the same promise this go round and the Kurds fell for it. And then, after he was formally declared prime minister-designate, it was quickly announced that the census to finally take place at the start of December was delayed -- delayed again. But maybe Allawi has some sort of marker no one knows about or some special reason to believe that Nouri -- who has repeatedly double crossed the Kurds -- would never leave him hanging?

Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) reports
that opinions are divided among Iraqi politicians as to what Nouri will or won't announce -- if anything -- today.

At Inside Higher Ed, Jim Owens contributes a smug essay (that many may find overtones of racism and xenophobia in) about the joys of teaching in Iraq (to Iraqis, as opposed to certain types of Americans) and about how great it is blah, blah, blah. Jim Owens crap seems like so much propaganda even before compared to this from Gabriel Gatehouse (BBC News) today:

Souad Abdullah was once one of Iraq's most famous singers. Today, she is a recluse, hiding in her small flat with the curtains drawn, working away at a sewing machine in the semi-darkness.

In February 2006 her son, Khalil, was snatched from the streets of Baghdad. He was taken in Sadr City, a vast suburb of Baghdad, which was then under the control of Shia militias.

As a Sunni, Khalil's chances of survival were slim. His kidnappers called Souad on the phone. They made her listen while they tortured him. She paid a ransom but they killed him anyway.

"I'm afraid just to step outside my flat, because they might shoot me," she says, even now. "I want an end to this nightmare. I'm exhausted."

Liz Sly (Washington Post) reports
on the battle for fast food franchise control in the Green Zone and how the US appears to be losing. Is it losing? It's losing new customers. Has it lost the market in Iraq? That would depend upon what's inside the fortress posing as an embassy.

Lastly, David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. We'll close with this from Bacon's "The People of Watsonville 2 -- Migrant Head Start" (Political Affairs):

Children of migrant farm workers, many of them from indigenous Mixtec families from Oaxaca, begin learning basic reading, writing and social skills in a day care nursery school program run by Migrant Head Start, part of the Pajaro Valley Unified School District. Children who go through Head Start programs learn much more quickly, and have an easier time making social adjustments, once they begin regular school.
The Migrant Head Start program has been going on for two decades. It tries to provide both childcare and a learning environment for the children of people who work in the fields, including families who travel with the crops. Other families work several months in the U.S., and return to Mexico during the off-season.

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