Thursday, December 02, 2010

The loss of a minor amount of money is NOT the issue

The plump, smooth-talking stranger hailing himself as a patriot and liberator should have been enough reason for caution. And if that didn't ring alarm bells, a check of his name, Rafid Ahmed Alwan, through any internet search engine most definitely would have.
But neither instinct nor due diligence managed to stop the man the world knows as Curveball from swindling yet another government earlier this year – this time his own – in a $10,000 scam that reveals how little he has changed since his false claims helped the US come up with a pretext to invade Iraq almost eight years ago.
The return to notoriety of Curveball began in September last year when an unassuming member of Iraq's National Reconciliation Commission, Fa'al Niema Thehieb, took a call froItalicm an expatriate, now living in Germany, who said he wanted to return home to form a political party that could help the re-election campaign of Nouri al-Maliki.

The above is from Martin Chulov's "CIA source who built case for war swindles $10,000 from Iraq" (Guardian) and, I guess it's just me, I don't really see the damn tragedy. In fact, I think Chulov missed the damn story. So a professional liar scammed $10,000 from the government or 'government' in Baghdad and we're supposed to boo-hoo? This is the liar whose lies helped start the illegal war which has cost over a million Iraqi lives. This is the liar whose lies have helped to start the illegal war which has cost over 4432 lives. (Over 4432? Add in the military suicides as well as the family suicides and family deaths as a result of the added stress of a loved one deploying.) And Chulov's outraged over $10,000? Iraq's 'cabinet' just approved a $79.5 billion dollar budget and Chulov's worried about $10,000?

And, get this, he's worried about it because it's in Curveball's pocket. He's not worried about how it got there. Point? The commission he's speaking of, that's the Justice and Accountability Commission and, for those who have forgotten, they were supposed to be independent. Some people rightly called that lie out. Guardian news reports really didn't. But now we learn that this alleged independent commission was handing out money to at least one person who contacted them stating he wanted to help elect one person -- NOURI -- and they forked over money. Does Chulov not recognize news when he's typing it up?

Because something is happening here
But you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?
-- "Ballad of a Thin Man," written by Bob Dylan, first appears on his Highway 61 Revisited

In July of 2006, AFP reported:

Iraq's president and Prime Minister have announced the formation of a 30-member commission to promote national reconciliation, even as the speaker of parliament said coalition forces should leave the country.
"The commission will immediately begin its work, holding conferences and meetings, and it will prepare a media campaign for reconciliation," President Jalal Talabani told a joint news conference with the Prime Minister.
"This is an Iraqi initiative for those who are part of the political process," Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said, adding that there was much interest in the initiative from people outside the process, including disaffected army officers.
The announcement moves forward Mr Maliki's program of reconciliation first presented on June 25 to bridge sectarian gaps that threaten to tear the country apart and have taken it to the brink of civil war.

Where in the above was this 'independent' body supposed to be an arm of the Nouri al-Maliki re-election committee? Where does it say that Iraqi monies can be spent by the committee to help re-elect Nouri? It doesn't.

How many rules and laws were broken to help Nouri become prime minister-designate? 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-five 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."

Nizar Latif (The National Newspaper) explains
today, "The political deal that ended eight months of deadlock in Iraq and saw Nouri al Maliki reappointed last month as Iraq's prime minister had at its heart the creation of a new strategic council. But, with Mr al Maliki currently mulling over the make-up of his administration, exactly what form this council will take remains a mystery. More than that, the ongoing argument over its influence may yet torpedo efforts to form a national unity government. As the council has not been voted into being by parliament, it does not yet actually exist. MPs have been unable to agree even on a name for it, let alone address the core issue of its function and powers." Meanwhile Richmond Times-Dispatch reports (credited to "Wire Reports" -- which basically looks like Lara Jakes' AP report) that Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc is demanding "a bigger role in Iraq's new government." A number of reports are being filed on Hussain al-Shahristani. Ben Lando (Iraq Oil Report) is the only one so far who gets it right: al-Shahristani is not just the Minister of Oil, he's also the Minister of Electricity. Nouri named him that when the Minister of Electricity quit in May. No, it's not a real post because all cabinet ministers must be approved by Parliament and Parliament never approved al-Shahristani to the post of Minister of Elecrticity. The news today is that al-Shahristani has been nominated Deputy Prime Minister for Oil and Electricity Issues.

Does that sound strange? It should. It's not a real position. Nouri just created it. We warned you he had overpromised on posts -- promising several people they could be the same post -- and now he has to create new posts just to give the appearance of keeping his promises.

On yesterday's All Things Considered, Deborah Amos addressed WikiLeaks and Iraq. We'll note it in today's snapshot. In addition to being an NPR correspondent, Deborah Amos is the author of Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East.

We'll close with this from the Senate Democratic Policy Committee's video page. This is Senator Dick Durbin speaking on unemployment benefits (and see Ruth's "Harry Reid and the Party of Blunder" for more on Durbin):

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