Thursday, March 24, 2011

The stumbling, fumbling 'government' of Iraq

Al Mada reports on the announcement that militia groups will lay down their weapons. The announcement comes as a wave of assassination attempts plague Iraq and, the paper notes, as Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc attempts to install Ahmed Chalabi as Minister of the Interior. Which militia groups? It's not being announced. Alsumaria TV adds, "Representatives of armed factions who held an extended meeting with government representatives at the National Reconciliation Ministry affirmed that the reason for handing arms is the commitment to the agreement with the US that stipulates mainly the withdrawal of US Forces from Iraq. Iraq's National Reconciliation Ministry declined to name the armed groups for security reasons. None of these factions is related to the defunct Baath Party, the ministry said." BNO notes, "A number of armed groups inside Iraq, in its capital of Baghdad and other provinces of Salahaddin, Kirkuk, Diala and Mosul, have decided to throw their arms. They exceed five groups, which did not attack Iraqi citizens." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) quotes Amer Khuzaie, the Minister of State for National Reconciliation, "The national reconciliation is only with armed groups who carried weapons against the occupiers and not against Iraqi people." So there you have it: Groups have laid down arms. We can't know which groups. It would endanger them. But take the Iraqi government's word for it, progress is being made. No doubt just like in 2007 when Nouri was claiming huge progress was being made on providing electricity. Al Rafidayn notes criticism that claims this is an agreement between Dawa (Nouri's political parties) and the Ba'ath Party.

In Cabinet news, Dar Addoustour reports that Iraqi List MP Nahida Daini states Khalid al-Obeidi will be the nominee for Minister of Defense. Al Mada reports that the National Council appears dead. This was the body that Joe Biden and the Kurds pushed in an attempt to end the political stalemate. Ayad Allawi, whose political slate won the most votes in the March 7, 2010 elections, would be put in charge of the newly created security body in exchange for Nouri al-Maliki being allowed to continue as prime minister. Apparently everyone was willing to play stupid or else they honestly didn't suspect Nouri might not live up to his word. Allawi walked out of Parliament the day the deal was formally announced and was right to. When Nouri refused to address the National Council immediately, it was clear (check the achives) that he was not going to create the body. And so he hasn't.

Allwai washed his hands of it weeks ago and announced he would not seek to head the non-existent body. He's now been angling for the post of Arab League president. Tim Arango (New York Times) notes that the rotating presidency of the Arab League will go to Iraq and that has some in government excited about the mark Baghdad might leave. Arango observes, "Iraq, with a democracy imposed by American force, is still a volatile tableau from which to draw lessons about how to establish a democracy in the Middle East. Insurgent attacks occur daily. Its prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, has raised alarms recently with moves to consolidate power over the judiciary and the security forces. Transparency International ranked Iraq as the fourth most corrupt country in the world last year, just ahead of Afghanistan, Myanmar and Somalia. Iraq is still more violent for civilians than Afghanistan, and American soldiers still die here, as one did Sunday from a roadside bomb in the south."

Mike Shuster (Morning Edition, NPR) reports on the efforts to rebuild the Askariya mosque in Samarra and the tensions building over the project between Shi'ites and Sunnis.

Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan notes that she will interview US House Rep Dennis Kucinich on her radio program Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox this Sunday:

I gave up on Robber Class politics a long time ago and I think that most politicians are motivated by cynicism and greed, and many of my supporters and comrades will tell me that Dennis is a shill to keep the antiwar segment of the Democratic Party tied to the party—and I think they could be correct—but Dennis will stand up for peace and against blatant power grabs no matter who is president. In fact, he and Ron Paul of Texas and Walter Jones of North Carolina (both R’s) just co-sponsored a bill to have the troops out of Afghanistan by the end of this year—it failed, but it got 28 more votes than last time. It might all just be a charade, but I also know that there is no great movement of civil society pushing hard to make Congress defund the wars to end them—it’s just not there. We are failing, too.

Of course, I would be thrilled if Dennis would leave the Democratic Party and become a Green, or Independent, like Bernie Sanders of Vermont, but we need his voice where it is, for now.


And we'll close with something I'm trying to note each day: If you served in the US military and you were stop-lossed, you are owed additional money. That money needs to be claimed. DoD announces the date to file for that additional payment has been extended:

The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to April 8, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they've earned under the program guidelines.
The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Obama Friday, providing funding for federal government operations through April 8, 2011.
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss Authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.
When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts to reach them and remind them to apply. Outreach efforts including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue through April 8, 2011.
To apply for more information, or to gather more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to

The e-mail address for this site is