Monday, December 13, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, the KRG president makes comments about independence, Nouri states he'll miss his deadline but hopes he doesn't miss the Constitutional deadline, Petreaus dubbed the province a "success" in 2008 but that was two years ago, and more.
Xinhua reports that the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm Mike Mullen, met in Baghdad today with Iraq's prime minister-designate Nouri al-Maliki. The US military notes that "Mullen brought a USO troupe with him. Robin Williams, Lewis Black, Lance Armstrong, Kix Brooks, Kathleen Madigan and Bob Dipiero are visiting troops in and around Baghdad today." On his Twitter feed, Mullen explains, "All have visited [Iraq] b4." Anne Gearan (AP) adds of the meeting between Mullen and al-Maliki, "There was no discussion of specifics, such as the possibility of a residual U.S. force after the agreed-upon exit deadline, a military official familiar with the meeting said." El Nacional notes of 2008's SOFA, "The pact, however, states that both parties can provide for an extension in the deadline, although Iraqi officials say they can assume all defense and security tasks before the departure of U.S. troops." Prensa Latina observes, "The violence, however, is unstoppable and Mullen's visit came a day after 17 people, including policemen were killed and 40 wounded in several bomb attacks on government offices in the western city of Ramadi."
The attacks? Yesterday, Ned Parker and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) reported 13 dead from a Ramadi suicide car bombing and reminds the bombing takes place "a week after the killing of 26 people in a series of bombings around Baghdad." Fadhel al-Badrani (Reuters) added 41 people were injured and notes, "Hikmet Khalaf, the deputy governor of Anbar, said the blast in central Ramadi, 100 km (60 miles) west of Baghdad, targeted a complex in which the provincial council is based." There was a second bombing in Anbar Province, Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) reported, "In a small village near Baquba, the capital of Diyala Province, a suicide bomber blew himself up as Shiites gathered to march as part of the annual pilgrimage commemorating the killing of Imam Hussein in 680. The explosion killed a sheik leading the procession and his son. The attack appeared to be well planned. After the first blast, as the police arrived, a roadside bomb exploded. The bomb wounded 24 more, including a local federal police commander, Staff Col. Raghib al-Umeri, and a member of Diyala's provincial council."
What no one emphasized was what it might say about Sahwa/Awakenings/Sons Of Iraq. They originated in Anbar Province in 2005. They pick up steam in 2006 and continue to do so in 2007 and 2008. April 8, 2008, Gen David Petraeus explained to the Senate Armed Services Committee that "there are now over 91,000 Sons of Iraq -- Shia as well as Sunni -- under contract to help Coalition and Iraqi Forces protect their neighborhoods and secure infrastructure and roads. These volunteers have contributed significantly in various areas, and the savings in vehicles not lost because of reduced violence -- not to mention the priceless lives saved -- have far outweighed the cost of their monthly contracts." He and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker testified that average pay per Sahwa was $300 a month. That meant that every month, EVERY MONTH, US tax payers were forking over at least $27 million dollars -- every year, US tax payers were forking over at least $324,000,000 to pay Sahwa. At least. $300 was the average pay for rank-and-file Sahwa, leaders took home more. Petraeus insisted to the Senate Armed Services Committee that this was a cost-effective program because of "the savings in vehicles not lost" due to the attacks. Sahwa was paid not to attack US military equipment or service members. At that Senate hearing, Senator Lindsey Graham asked for an example of success in Iraq and Petraeus pointed to the 'calm' in Anbar Province.
So yesterday's violence would appear to be big news as well as a direct refutation of Petraeus' fabled 'judgment.' While Petraeus and Crocker made the rounds in April 2008, offering testimony, Senator Barbara Boxer wondered why the US tax payer was footing the bill for Sahwa when Nouri al-Maliki sat on millions in oil dollars? By the summer of 2008, the US was announcing Nouri would be footing the bill and that he would absorb the Sahwa into the security forces and governmental jobs. Nouri thought and said otherwise. Despite the outlets linked to above repeatedly reporting that the US had stopped paying Sahwa -- November 2008, February 2009 . . . -- the US continued paying Sahwa for months and months and there are still a few who are getting money. With Ike Skelton out of Congress and John Murtha dead and, of course, a Democrat in the White House, don't look for anyone in Congress to pursue documentation of CERP funds. (Walking cash for the military brass in Iraq is what CERP has turned into.) Nouri not only has refused to pay them -- checks late if they ever come -- he's not only refused to provide even 20% of them with jobs, he's hounded them, had them arrested, had them targeted. Is yesterday's violence in Anbar Province related to that? Could be. Could the first 'success' that came to Petreaus mind in 2008 be over? Could be.
Vice President Biden spoke today to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to discuss the December 15th United Nations Security Council High-Level Meeting on Iraq that the Vice President will chair. The purpose of the UN session is to recognize and reinforce the important progress that the Republic of Iraq has made and to discuss ways in which Members can continue to support Iraq's government and people. The Vice President and Prime Minister also discussed joint efforts to enable Iraq to return to the international standing that it enjoyed prior to the adoption of Chapter VII resolutions, as well as the security situation in Iraq and progress on government formation.
Alsumaria TV reports, "Iraqi political parties agreed to allocate 16 ministries including two sovereign ministries to the National Alliance, an informed source told Alsumaria News. Al Iraqiya List is expected to get nine ministries while Kurdistan Parties Coalition will get four ministries, the source said." Wednesday is the deadline Nouri gave himself (and should have been the actual deadline) to form a government. Over the weekend, he announced he wouldn't make that deadline -- a replay of April 2006. As the Iraq War nears the eight year mark, claims of progress are refuted daily by Iraq's inability to form an executive government nine months after elections. Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister-designate, swore he'd form the government by December 15th. AP quoted him stating, "We are facing a constitutional deadline and we will not tolerate exceeding it." Of course you won't, it's a Constitutional deadline. If you miss it, if you past the 30-day limit, the Constitution demands that the President immediately name a new prime minister-designate. That's not 30 days a few extra hours or maybe a few extra days. That's a hard 30 day dealine written into the country's constitution. It's not debatable.
Which doesn't mean he won't try to ignore it. Nouri's pattern suggests that he would. But if the international community goes along with it, just drop the damn pretense that anyone ever wanted Iraq to be a democracy. In order for Nouri to stay in charge these last months, the will of the people and the votes had to be ignored. Those are key components in a democracy. If Nouri's going to trash the Constitution to remain in power, the international community will be publicly confessing that the Iraq War never had any altruistic motives.
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 nine months, six 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."
The power-sharing agreement is in trouble and the Kurds remain one of the more public fissures. To put the power-sharing agreement together, Nouri promised to finally hold the census and referendum he'd long stalled on (it should have been held in 2007 per the Constitution). But having declared that the census would take place at the start of this month, after being named prime minister-designate, he quickly broke that promise -- again. The rank and file Kurds were furious, the same with the international Kurdish community was.
It's the sort of fury that bit Jalal Talabani in the rear when he declared, "The ideal of a united Kurdistan is just a dream written in poetry" back in March of 2009. He's been paying for that ever since. It's among the reasons why his party did so poorly in the July 2009 elections. Massoud Barzani's party benefitted from drawing a clear line and stating that they still supported Kurdish independence. (US outlets have just ignored the entire Kurdish story, by the way.) Massoud Barzani is the KRG President and he's once again playing the game better than Jalal. (Which is why his party, the Kurdistan Democratic Party is currently the dominant force in KRG politics.) Saturday Shamal Aqrawi (Reuters) reported, "Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani said on Saturday that his semi-autonomous region has the right to self-determination and to the disputed city of Kirkuk, which is located above some of Iraq's largest oil reserves. The fate of Kirkuk is one of the main issues of contention between the Kurdish region and the central government in Baghdad, which are locked in disputes over land and some of the world's richest oilfields." "Main issues of contention." So where's the coverage from US outlets? AFP added:
On the subject of Kirkuk, Barzani pointedly told the audience that "when it returns to the region... we will make Kirkuk an example of coexistence, forgiveness and joint administration, but we cannot bargain on its identity." The region first attained a modicum of autonomy in 1974, but Barzani's father and then-leader of the KDP, Mulla Mustafa Barzani, returned to war with the Baghdad government rather than accept that limited autonomy. Kurdistan won greater freedom after the 1991 Gulf War, but Barzani and Talabani, the region's other dominant political leader, waged war for control of smuggling routes that provided valuable tariff revenue while former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was still in power.
Today, Alsumaria TV reports that KRG President Massoud Barazani's call for self-determination Saturday have been walked back. By Barazani? No, so ignore it. Barazani rules the KRG and does he makes statements like he did on Saturday and, when they get walked back, someone else does it. In a few months, he'll give a sit-down interview -- as has been his pattern -- and we'll refine his statements from Saturday (self-determination for the KRG, Kirkuk belongs to the KRG) but he won't actually retract anything. Which is why other outlets aren't putting a great deal of weight behind the walk back. Today's Zaman this morning led with, "Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani has said that his semi-autonomous region has the right to self-determination and to the disputed city of Kirkuk, which is situated on top of some of Iraq's largest oil reserves." Barzani is the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Hurriyet Daily News reports on the six-day congress the KDP is holding ("its first congress since 1999") to discuss the status and the future of the political party. It would be foolish to disown the remarks and the sort of thing that Jalal Talabani would do -- and has regularly done which explains the PUK's dismal showing in the July 2009 elections. Salam Faraj (AFP) reports that Barzani's "drawn the ire of the country's Sunni and Shiite Arab leaders, who argue that it presages a break-up of Iraq." That's not worrying to Barzani who is not dependent upon votes from outside the KRG. The perception that he has angered them, in fact, only strengthens him in the KRG.
Meanwhile Ayad Allawi's made clear that the National Council for Strategic Policies will have to have real power for him to continue the power-sharing deal. Omar (Iraq The Model) has translated the current draft for the creation of the NCSP and, if approved as written, it appears that the NCSP would have powers of some form; however, the chain of command is not stipulated and, in fact, as currently written, it could issue strong pronouncements that had no meaning at all.
Violence continued in Iraq today. Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) reports a Balad suicide bombing claimed 4 lives and left seventeen injured. Reuters notes a Baghdad mortar attack which left five people injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured four poeple and a Mosul shooting in which two people were wounded. Gulf Times adds that "the wife a pro-government Sahwa militia member and her daughter were killed by a bomb planted near their home just south of Baghdad , security sources said."
In Iraq, Iraqi Christians fend for themselves since the latest wave of violence targeting them began October 31st with the assault on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad. Since then attacks have taken place in both Baghdad and Mosul. Samer Saaeed (Azzaman) reported Saturday that a number of those living in Mosul have left but the few remaining are even more fearful, "Amira Salem says fear and terror have become part of Christian life in the city. 'It is the same during the day and during the night. If one of our children goes to school and is late for a few minutes, we get extremely worried and afraid,' she said. She said Christians lock their doors before it gets dark every day and refuse opening them no matter who is the one knocks on the door." Those fleeing Baghdad and Mosul who remain in the country typically seek safety in the Kurdistan Regional Government. Nawzad Mahmoud (Rudaw) noted Sana left Baghdad with her five children and moved to Sulaimani in the KRG and, like Amal Yusef who also left Baghdad with her family due to the attacks -- and estimated 700 other Iraqi Christians families who have moved to the KRG since October 31st, she hopes they will have a better future there. But 19-year-old Tony Romanio faces many of the problems other Iraqi Christians do after moving, Kurdish is the official language and it is very difficult to find employment. Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) reports, "This new exodus, which is not the first, highlights the continuing displacement of Iraqis despite improved security over all and the near-resolution of the political impasse that gripped the country after elections in March. It threatens to reduce further what Archdeacon Emanuel Youkhana of the Assyrian Church of the East called 'a community whose roots were in Iraq even before Christ'." Last week kicked off with the murder of two elderly Christians -- a married Iraqi couple -- who were in the midst of selling their furniture as they prepared to leave Baghdad for good in two days.
The never-ending waves of violence have created the largest refugee crisis in the region. Jon Nielsen (Dallas Morning News) reports on Hiyam Al Dosakee and Jamal Al Obaidi, Iraqi refugees who are now in Dallas, Texas. Jamal was a publisher and a reporter and he and his family fled Iraq after he was kidnapping following his publishing an article detailing the intimidation taking place:
These people didn't want a ransom, that wasn't the purpose of kidnappings like mine. In order to control a population, you have to send a message that no opposition will be tolerated. I hoped I would not die, but I knew I would not be released. For over a month, every day, I feared that it would be my last. Three other men who were kidnapped with me were killed, but luckily the American army staged a rescue and with 7 other people I was freed. It was a difficult time for my wife and sons, and we knew that they would probably try again, and I probably would not survive a second attempt on my life. Three months later, on November 3, 2005, my family and I fled to Syria.
Meanwhile we get fan mail. The worthless Nicole Colson was mentioned at this website last week. "Faux feminist Nicole Colson (US Socialist Worker) declares, "Rape and sexual assault are very serious charges that deserve investigation. But it's impossible to take the charges against [Julian] Assange at face value given the nature of the attack on him by the world's superpowers." What is about Colson that forever finds her attacking women? Throughout 2008, she used sexism to trash Hillary but then women only pop in Nicole's writing to be trashed. She might want to take a look at that. She might also want to take a look at "impossible to take the charges . . . at face value." Trash was mentioned at Third in the article Ava and I wrote Sunday:
One male blogger felt the need to point to the Naomis and Nicole Colson and state that "feminists" were all for the questioning (inquisition) of the two women in Sweden. None of those women are feminists. Naomi Klein has a vagina. Doesn't make her a feminist. She's got nothing in her body of work that indicates she's a feminist and she harbors strong Kill Mommy desires towards her feminist mother. Naomi Wolf's feminism has always been rather loose as she's noted her distaste for lesbians and as she's revealed (see her third book) how she did her part to help her 'friends' (male) cover up a gang-rape which took place in the frat house she'd stayed the night in. In the last ten years, Naomi's had nothing feminist to write about. She's endorsed the veil and burqa -- which puts her on par with Pinochet (women in Chile were forced into a dress code immediately after the junta took over) -- and she's whined a lot about how having the perfect marriage (it collapsed) and more money then you knew what to do with (that's gone too) didn't make it any easier to find a good nanny to raise your child. Nicole Colson's a 'feminist' in that she writes about women from time to time . . . when she wants to attack them. You go, Girlie Bee.
Agree or disagree with me all you want about the case against Assange, that is completely your right.
What is not okay is the lies you are using to try and smear me. I am not "forever attacking women" nor have I ever "used sexism to trash Hillary Clinton." In fact, the paper I work for published an article AGAINST the sexist attacks on Clinton during the campaign. Anything I have written that opposes Clinton was and is on the basis of her policies, not her gender.
I expect that you know that, however, or you would have cited my supposedly "sexist" articles against Clinton. That you have no evidence to back up your lies is pretty apparent.
I take my activism, including my years fighting against women's oppression and for abortion rights, very seriously. I also take my reputation as a journalist, and what I write, very seriously.
It seems you do not. It's sad that you have to resort to lies and slander in an attempt to score cheap political points.
Oh, Nicole, you're as funny as you are ugly. I swear, after we stopped laughing at your e-mail, we thought, in case it wasn't a put on, that we should note (a) you've never held the President of the United States accountable in the blunt manner you do others and (b) your sexism towards all women -- not just Hillary -- is far too numerous for a complete list. Nor do we allow you to waste our time. But in fairness -- and for laughs -- we've printed your statement. Now go back and read your own writing, Nicole. Try justifying it then. Especially your 'cute' (and sexist) writing on Hillary's campaign songs -- by the way, steer us to where you took on the Obama Girl campaign. Oh, that's right, you didn't. Unless you're writing about Iraq, don't waste our time again, Nicole. But keep reading, it might cure you of your sexism.