Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Will Kurds hold their leaders accountable?

Reuters reported yesterday that the promised census has -- no surprise -- been delayed. But as puzzling as Reuters' website glitches of late (as they retool) is reporting that "Iraq's cabinet decided on Tuesday to postpone . . ."

What cabinet would that be?

Are we still humoring Barack and pretending that Nouri had a 'caretaker' government going on? Even after we know that the US didn't believe that nor did Iraq's neighbors? In one of the funnier moments in the article, Reuters writes "The count had been scheduled for December 5, after being delayed from October 24."

October 24th? Of 2007? That's when the census and referendum were supposed to take place, check the Iraqi Constitution. Contrast that nonsense with the straightforward opening Lara Jakes (AP) offers, "Iraq's government said Tuesday it will again delay a nationwide census that could determine the real numbers of the country's religious and ethnic groups." What AP opens with, Reuters buries in paragraph six.

It's not a good time for the Kurds in Iraq.

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-four 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."

And one of the ways that Nouri put together the power-sharing arrangement was by promising the census would take place. Kurds were very vocal with Jalal Talabani when he declared that an independent Kurdistan was just a dream ("The idea of a united Kurdistan is just a dream written in poetry" was the exact quote) about their displeasure and they were so vocal that Jalal had to announce he wouldn't seek the presidency in order to clamp down on the outcry. As is usual with Jalal, his went back on his word. And now he is the 'new' president of Iraq again and the census has been delayed. In the KRG provincial elections of 2009, disappointment with Jalal is one reason that other parties did well. So now there's no census. Let's drop back to the November 15th snapshot:

Many pundits are offering that Iran seems a clear winner and that Iraqiya seems a clearr loser. The Kurds didn't really win either -- though the Kurdish leaders got what they wanted. The new Speaker, for example, Osama al-Nufaifi was popular with Shi'ites and the Kurds went along with it after some initial discussion where they considered rejecting the choice due to the fact that he and his family are seen as incredibly anti-Kurdish. If that impression is strengthened by the way Osama runs the Parliament, look for Kurdish leadership to face some of the most difficult and stinging criticism thus far. The sort that could, in fact, allow the non-home grown Goran to be the serious challenger that the CIA was hoping it would be back in 2009.

Marina Ottaway and Danial Kaysi tackle the issue of the power-sharing arrangement in "Iraq's Parliament Elects a Controversial Speaker" (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace):

Nujeifi’s election as speaker of parliament will undoubtedly create tensions with the Kurds. He and his brother Atheel Nujeifi, the governor of Nineveh province, are considered Arab nationalists and have long rejected Kurdish claims over Kirkuk and parts of Nineveh. Their outspoken views have created alarm among Kurdish leaders. In fact, the strong stand taken by the Nujeifi brothers—as well as similar stances of other players within Iraqiya—was a key obstacle to the formation of an alliance between Iraqiya and the Kurdish parties that could have created an alternative to a State of Law government.

Nujeifi has made many statements that were bound to anger the Kurds. As a member of parliament, he accused Kurdish militias of driving people out of their residences in some areas in Mosul, a statement that spurred a Kurdish walk-out from parliament and forced Iraqiya to issue an apology and distance itself from Nujeifi’s charges. In December 2009, he also criticized the guarantees given to the Kurds by Americans through Article 140 of the constitution, calling it a violation of Iraq's sovereignty and a source for ethnic strife.

In early 2010, the Kurds even threatened to take Nujeifi to court for stating that Kurds do not belong to the Iraqi entity. While Nujeifi’s statement was ambiguous, some Kurdish members of parliament saw it as a violation of the constitution and a call for ethnic cleansing. Nujeifi also declared in a televised interview that the Kurds were implementing a widespread policy of “Kurdification” in Kirkuk and Dohuk, and that “the population of Kirkuk was originally composed mainly of Turkmen, that of Dohuk, of Christians…we haven't heard in the past of these places having Kurds in them.” He also said that Maliki had shown him documents that proved that the Kurds were taking steps to frighten Christians into leaving Mosul. Maliki’s spokesperson, Ali Dabbagh, promptly denied any such conversation. Similarly, Nujeifi also claimed that the Kurds were attempting to change the demographics in certain parts of Mosul by driving out 30,000 Arabs and Yazidis.

The following community sites -- plus the Guardian, Jane Fonda and FPIF -- updated last night and this morning:

And Trina's post is "Freeze? Barack needs to fire." We'll close with this from the Senate Democratic Policy Committee:

Unemployment Insurance Supports Americans Looking for Work and Strengthens Our Economy (State-by-State Fact Sheets)

On November 30, federal unemployment insurance benefits are set to expire. Without reauthorization, more than 2 million Americans will lose eligibility for these critical benefits by the end of December. These temporary benefits provide millions of jobless Americans with a portion of their former wages while they look for work, helping American families buy groceries and pay rent. The benefits also boost our economy by supporting important consumer spending that businesses depend on to keep employees on the payroll. Despite the critical importance of federal unemployment insurance to American families and the economy, Republicans continue to oppose a timely reauthorization of these benefits. Senate Democrats understand the hardship that millions of families experienced this summer when Republican obstruction allowed the benefits to lapse for 51 days. That is why we will continue fighting to ensure that Americans who lost their jobs through no fault of their own receive the support their families need in such challenging economic times.

You can click below for information about unemployment insurance in each state.

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends