Monday, December 06, 2010

The violence and the stalemate continue

Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports that unknown assailants blew up a Baghdad home today killing 3 family members and injuring four more. Alsumaria TV reports that a Sunday Baquba home bombing claimed the lives of 2 children and left "their parents and brothers" injured while a corpse was discovered in Baquba and they noted the latest attack on Iraqi Christians (Baghdad home invasion in which an elderly couple was killed). And they note that Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini met yesterday with Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and prime minister-designate Nouri al-Maliki and they "discussed the situation of Iraqi Christians in light of recent mounting attacks targeting them in addition to Italy’s stand from the death penalty against Tareq Aziz." Another foreigner of note was visiting the country. Khalifa bin Abdulla bin Hassan bin Al al-Thani. Xiong Tong (Xinhua) reports that the member of Qatar's royal family was hunting in Anbar Province "when his vehicle-rolled over, critically wounding him" and he died before he arrived at the hospital.

All the continued violence and still no government. Tomorrow, for any paying attention, is nine months after the elections and Nouri's still working on forming that government.

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-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."

Alsumaria TV reports, "Iraqi political leaders, political parties’ representatives and provinces administrative units officials held a meeting on Sunday night in Baghdad attended by appointed Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki and President Jalal Talabani." It was decided that they would attempt to find a solution to the problem "by December 19." Kick the can, kick the can. And Nouri hoped he could kick it on past December 25th. He used the promised census to woo Kurdish support. No sooner was he declared prime minister-designate than the census was called off. What's forcing the issue now is Kurdish outrage as Kurdish rank-and-file grasp how little their leaders got out of the deal with Nouir and demand action, fueled in part as a result of a leaked cable. Wladmimir Van Wilgenburg (Rudaw) reports:

In leaked US diplomatic cables the Turkish ambassador to Iraq, Murat Ozcelik, told US officials on January 11th that for the first time a Kurdish official understood that Kirkuk would not be included in the semiautonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region, indicating to Turkey that a compromise and a special 10-year status for Kirkuk was needed.
Ozcelik said that, during tri-lateral negotiations on December 21st 2009 in Erbil involving Turkey, the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Kurdistan Interior Minister Karim Sinjari said the KRG had now understood that Kurdistan would not be incorporating Kirkuk into the region.

The KRG is a wealthy region of Iraq. More importantly, it has support from Kurds around the world (including in the US). Certain Kurdish leaders might have thought they could play off the Kurdish desires for their own selfish reasons (hello, Jalal) but they underestimated both the desires of those living in the KRG and what the KRG has come to mean for Kurds around the world. Their actions were ignorant and may have resulted in turning Goran into a real political party. Gabriel Gatehouse (BBC News) provides background on Kirkuk. Meanwhile Assad Abboud (News Time) reports:

Iraq's Sunnis, many of them angry that their favoured political bloc failed to win the premier's post in a power-sharing deal, are increasingly turning to the concept of forming an autonomous region.
Distrust of Iraq's Shiite-led government remains widespread among Sunnis, and many of the minority community's leaders have begun voicing calls for their own separate territory within Iraq, much like Kurdistan in the north.
"Let the Kurds take the north, the Shiites take the south, let them select who represents them -- this is not our business," said Ahmed Dhiyab al-Juburi, imam of the Abdul Rahman mosque in Muqdadiyah, a town in confessionally-mixed but majority Sunni Arab province of Diyala.

The latest Law and Disorder Radio (begins airing this morning on WBAI at 9:00 am EST and on various stations throughout the week) features many segments worth note but of primary interest for a lot of people will be the fact that Noam Chomsky is one of hosts Michael Ratner, Michael S. Smith and Heidi Boghosian's guests. Bonnie reminds that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Hiding Behind The Leg Of Her Pantsuit" went up last night.

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