Thursday, December 16, 2010

Drowning, stalemate, action

Michael Sheridan (New York Daily News) reports, "A desperate journey for freedom met a horrific end after a boat believed to carry as many as 80 asylum-seekers from Iran and Iraq broke up and sank off the Australian coast on Wednesday. The wooden craft smashed against jagged rocks near Christmas Island, breaking into pieces and dumping its passengers into the cold ocean, as witnesses said they were helpless to do anything." Bonnie Malkin (Daily Telegraph) adds, "As the refugees -- women, children and men -- were thrown, or jumped into the water, residents launched desperate, but ineffectual, rescue efforts: lifejackets were tossed but then thrown back by the wind, a rope was thrown, but it broke. The passengers stood no chance, said one resident. Another spoke of the horror of children dead in the water. Yet another told of the utter despair at being unable to help." The Telegraph estimates that at least 28 people have died but "Navy boats managed to pluck 41 people from the water and one man swam to shore. The rescue effort was suspended over night but fresh attempts to search for the estimated 28 people still missing in the morning were being hampered by continuing bad weather." Matthew Taylor (Guardian) adds, "According to figures from the UNHCR, 128 boats carrying asylum seekers have landed in Australia so far this year."
Iraq is the largest refugee crisis in the MidEast. Violence and instability has created the crisis (both stem from the US-led Iraq War). While Iraqis continue to die in Iraq and outside of Iraq, thug Nouri al-Maliki may indeed win a second term. Time magazine is wrapping up the year and they note Nouri as a "People Who Mattered." Ishaan Tharoor's sketch includes this: "Revelations in WikiLeaks' Iraq war logs, published in October, counted thousands of previously unreported civilian casualties, many at the hands of Maliki's state security forces. It's bad press the controversial politician could ill afford." Meanwhile UPI notes, "Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish lawmaker, told London's pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat that, while the main Shiite alliance in Iraq backed many proposals offered by the Kurds, the Iraqiya slate was holding up several measures. He said Iraqiya is opposed to measures describing the territorial boundaries of the Kurdish provinces and authority over the Kurdish military force Peshmerga."

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, nine 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."

While many pretend that either Nouri's already prime minister or that the stalemate is over, Mohammad Akef Jamal (Gulf News) examines what's taking place:

The Iraqi political scene continues to occupy a prominent position in the political, regional and international arena as the country's political crisis is not over yet.
Various political blocs are still searching for new methods to renew the rules of engagement to govern the country as a result of the Kurdish initiative.
The Supreme Council of Strategic Policies may well be the reason for many more issues to confront the country. The council was agreed upon by the Chairman of the State of Law Coalition, the chairman of the Al Iraqiya bloc and the president of the Kurdish region, as a solution to the government formation crisis. It was also decided that the council will be chaired by the Al Iraqiya bloc.
However, the Supreme Council for Strategic Policies is not a constitutional body. Political manoeuvres were behind its establishment and it was formed to enhance the principle of national partnership of all political blocs in the country.

From the Senate Democratic Policy Committee's video page, we'll note Senator Bill Nelson on the tax code.

Grandmothers Against the War's Joan Wile is the author of Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up for Peace. She's taking part in an NYC action this evening.

CONTACT: Bill Steyert, Vets for Peace -- 718-268-0502
Joan Wile -- 917-441-0651


On Thursday, Dec. 16, Veterans for Peace, peace grannies and others, will demand that all troops be brought home from Afghanistan immediately.
From 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., they will hold a rally on Military Island at Broadway and West 44th Street. This proceeding is cooordinated with the national Veterans for Peace STAND FOR PEACE action at the White House scheduled for the same day at noon. The New York City sympathy rally was initiated by Bill Steyert, a member of New York City's Veterans for Peace Chapter 34. Some of the vets are prepared to commit non-violent civil disobedience at 6 P.M. in duplication of that to be carried out at the White House.

"I think it was a travesty that the war in Afghanistan wasn't even brought up as an issue during the recent mid-term elections. This tragic war jeopardizes not only the lives of American troops but directly affects our economy, which is in such dire shape because money spent on war is urgently needed to create jobs at home," said Vietnam vet Steyert.

The event is endorsed by Peace Action, Brooklyn for Peace, and the War Resisters League, as well as Vets for Peace, the Granny Peace Brigade, the Raging Grannies, and Grandmothers Against the War.

Several grandmothers IN THEIR 90'S are expected to participate in the event.

Names of New York State dead in the two war zones will be read, the Raging Grannies will perform anti-war songs and brief remarks will be made by leaders in the peace movement.

The public is welcome to participate.

DATE: Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010
TIME: 5:00 - 6:00 P.M.
PLACE: Military Island, Broadway and W. 44th Street

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