Thursday, February 17, 2011

Governor reportedly flees city

As protests continue in Iraq, violence resurfaces (first seen earlier this month when the police attacked demonstrators). Yesterday in Kut, private security and Iraqi forces attacked demonstrators resulting in at least 3 deaths and at least fifty more people injured. Al Rafidayn reports that over 2,000 demonstrators were present in the town's central square, calling out the lack of basic services (water, electricity, sanitation, etc.), the corruption and the lack of jobs. A chant of "Down with al-Maliki" -- referring to Iraq's 'beloved' prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki -- sprang up at one point. Al Mada notes the demonstrators had peacefully occupied the building housing the provincial council when the fores began firing on them which led to an uprising during which, some day, the protesters setting the building on fire; however, one protester is quoted stating that the fire erupted on its own and was not caused by the protesters. The city is now under curfew and martial law while government officials are in hiding or have fled. Dar Addustour notes reports that the provincial governor has fled the city.

Protests have continued all month and Iraq's college-age youth is calling for large demonstrations on February 25th with Baghdad as the center of protests.

Iraq youth February 25th

Meanwhile Al Rafidayn reports a member of Nouri's "State Of Law" bloc in Parliament, Jafar Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr has submitted his resignation to protest the lack of basic services and show solidarity with the protesters. Nouri's political party is Dawa. State Of Law is the slate he cobbled together to distance himself from the clannish nature of Dawa and indicate to the voters that he was about unity for all Iraqis. In other Parliamentary news, Dar Addustour reports that Parliament voted yesterday to reject the proposal of four vice presidents. Iraq had two vice presidents; however, the decision was made to up the number to three. Last week, Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq, advocated for a fourth vice president, specifically a woman with the Turkmen bloc. He encountered strong resistance including from the Kurdish bloc in Parliament. Though some saw it as an easy move (some also saw the proposal as one the Kurdish bloc would have to support since Talabani proposed it), the indications that it wouldn't be so easy were visible Sunday when Parliament refused to vote on the proposal. Zainab Suncor (Al Mada) reports that another opponent to the proposal was Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi.

His opposition (my thoughts, not the report) shouldn't be surprising. When the Kurdish bloc refused to support Talabani what Iraq was witnessing was, once again, the huge split between Talabani and KRG President Massoud Barzani (each man heads the two major Kurdish political parties). Talabani's stock has been fading for some time with some Kurds arguing he was allowed to continue as president (a purely ceremonial post) of the country only to keep him out of KRG business. Allawi has repeatedly appealed to Barzani and it's unlikely he would go against him on this issue (which was a minor to Iraqiya and had no benefits to them).

Julian E. Barnes (Wall St. Journal) notes US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expressed belief that a continued US military presence in Iraq is necessary. For those comments in full, refer to yesterday's snapshot and Kat reported on the House Armed Services Committee hearing last night with "Freedom hating Buck McKeon," Wally reported on it at Marcia's site with "Loretta Sanchez came prepared (Wally)" and Ava reported on it at Trina's site with "Gates and the absurd hearing (Ava)."

We'll note this from Oskar Castro's "Sexual Assault in the US Military: Who will become the next statistic?" (World Can't Wait):

The Service Women’s Action Network recently helped to file a class action suit on the behalf of a number of women and men who say they have been sexually victimized by their peers, or their commands in the military. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates are named as the defendants whose complicit inattentiveness enabled a culture of silence and injustice to prevail. While Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has developed into a new buzz word as a result of the U.S. wars in the Middle East, Military Sexual Trauma (MST) is not something we often hear about and some argue that we don’t because the Pentagon does not want us to. This landmark class action suit is yet another attempt to break the silence.

Tuesday, some survivors of military sexual assault, their supporters and attorney Susan Burke held a press conference announcing their lawsuit against the Pentagon. Burke and military sexual assault survivors Rebekah Havrilla and Mary Gallagher are Diane Rehm's guests for the first hour of today's The Diane Rehm Show (airs on most NPR stations and streams live beginning at 10:00 am EST).

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