Thursday, March 03, 2011

Suicide bombings, unraveling of support for Nouri?

Nathan Hodge's article in today's Wall St. Journal opens, "U.S. officials are beginning to talk about the possibility of keeping some troops in Iraq beyond 2011, complicating the Pentagon's plans to rein in military spending." Hodge also notes a new report from the Commission on Wartime Contracting which Mark Bruce (ABC News) covers as well as the hearing:

The State Department is not ready to assume leadership for the U.S. role in Iraq as the military draws down its mission there, Commissioners Grant Green and Michael Thibault of the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan argued before lawmakers today.
"Is the State Department ready? The short answer is ‘no,’ and the short reason for that answer is that establishing and sustaining an expanded U.S. diplomatic presence in Iraq will require State to take on thousands of additional contractor employees that it has neither funds to pay nor resources to manage,” Green testified before the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Mike Kellerman (Press TV -- link has text and video) adds: "Another couple hundred billion is estimated to pay for diplomats, CIA workers, para military advisors, embassy security, and tens of thousands of contractors. AT this Congressional hearing, several lawmakers balked at the projected price for Obama's long-term scheme to keep the American presence strong in Iraq indicating the government can no longer afford it. The US special inspector general for Iraq testified not only will it cost a lot at a time when budget cutters in Congress are slashing the State Department's budget but also the State Department is far from ready to take over the occupation of the country from the US military." If you want to end something, you work to end it. You don't, a few days after an election -- say, one in 2008 -- post a pathetic message on your supposed peace website that all is well and you're off. The Iraq War continues. Those of us who said "Out of Iraq Now!" need to figure out whether we meant it or not -- specifically "NOW!" -- or whether we were just lying to try to help Democrats do better in elections. I'm not sure what conclusion most will form but I was opposed to the Iraq War and meant it which is why I remain opposed to the Iraq War. Opposed -- not posing. There's a difference. Non-posers will gather across the country this month on the anniversary of the Iraq War with the biggest protest planned for DC. A.N.S.W.E.R. and March Forward! and others will be taking part in this action:

March 19 is the 8th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Iraq today remains occupied by 50,000 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of foreign mercenaries.

The war in Afghanistan is raging. The U.S. is invading and bombing Pakistan. The U.S. is financing endless atrocities against the people of Palestine, relentlessly threatening Iran and bringing Korea to the brink of a new war.

While the United States will spend $1 trillion for war, occupation and weapons in 2011, 30 million people in the United States remain unemployed or severely underemployed, and cuts in education, housing and healthcare are imposing a huge toll on the people.

Actions of civil resistance are spreading.

On Dec. 16, 2010, a veterans-led civil resistance at the White House played an important role in bringing the anti-war movement from protest to resistance. Enduring hours of heavy snow, 131 veterans and other anti-war activists lined the White House fence and were arrested. Some of those arrested will be going to trial, which will be scheduled soon in Washington, D.C.

Saturday, March 19, 2011, the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, will be an international day of action against the war machine.

Protest and resistance actions will take place in cities and towns across the United States. Scores of organizations are coming together. Demonstrations are scheduled for San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and more.

The Iraq War isn't over. BBC News reports that a Haditha suicide bomber has taken his own life today and the lives of many around him. NPR's Mike Shuster (on the hourly headlines) says that the death toll could rise and that most of the victims are "police or army personnel who gathered at a bank to receive their pay." Reuters counts 10 dead so far with twenty-six injured.

Among the big stories in Iraq today, Ayad Allawi's announcement. Al Rafidayn reports the Iraqiya leader has given a TV interview in which he has declared he will have no part of the National Council on Supreme Policies. He termed his decision "final" and said Iraqiya could nominate or back someone else for that post if they want to. Iraiqy won the most votes in the March 7th elections which should have meant Ayad Allawi had first crack at forming a government but the Constitution wasn't followed. To end the stalemate, the US government increased the pressure on various parties resulting in an agreement largely brokered by the Kurds which gave Nouri the prime minister poster and would make Allawi head of the National Council on Supreme Polcies; however, that body has still not been created. For those who can remember, after the agreement there was much fan fair in Parliament the next day . . . except for Iraqiya walking out as it became obvious that their rewards in the agreement were not priority. Among those who walked away then was Allawi. It probably would have been smart for others in Iraqiya to have taken a stand back then when it might have made a difference. Dar Addustour reports the assertion that the National Council wil lbe formed. When? Iraq still doesn't have a full Cabinet. In related news, New Sabah reports that Iraqiya is stating Nouri is using his '100 days' (a time of review Nouri's given himself) not to reform, but to stall. Arab News reports: "The Chairman of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), Ammar al-Hakin, and the Leader of al-Iraqiya Coalition, Iyad Allawi, have discussed on Wednesday the activiation of the agreements, reached among different Iraqi political parties, to activiate the national partnership to respond to the people's demands, an SIIC statement said on Thursday. In further related news, Alsumaria TV reports, "Al Sadr Front threatened to stop supporting the government of Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki if he keeps on his weak performance and failures. The front even hinted about allying with Iraqiya leader Iyad Allawi to form a parliamentary majority in case the government fails to provide its people the needed services within the six month deadline set by Sadr’s referendum."

Protests are called for tomorrow in Iraq. Daniel Serwer (Washington Post) notes, "Iraqis have been thinking about what they need to do to achieve national reconciliation: Redefine the relationship between citizens and the state, reform education at all levels, suppress incitement, limit foreign interference in domestic politics. Members of parliament I spoke with wondered what it would take to produce a 'culture of forgiveness.' There was a healthy debate." At the Council on Foreign Relations, Raad Alkadiri offers this take:

These protests have not reached the scale of those witnessed in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, and demonstrators have not demanded regime change per se. Nonetheless, the tight security measures taken to contain the “day of rage” protests in Baghdad -- including blocking access to the city and putting a tight military cordon around Tahrir Square, the focal point of the demonstrations -- and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s efforts to link the unrest to al Qaeda and Baathist provocateurs suggest that his government is rattled. And with good cause, because if Baghdad cannot respond effectively to popular demands, the current government’s political survival is no less at stake than those in Cairo, Tripoli, and Tunis.
Although there is undoubtedly an element of contagion influencing events in Iraq, which began with small demonstrations in Baghdad led by intellectuals and professionals, the protests there are driven by local grievances. Popular anger at the persistent lack of services -- especially electricity -- has been rising steadily over the past few years. Demonstrations protesting power shortages occurred in Basra last summer, expressing a frustration common to Iraqis across the country; some parts of Baghdad, for example, received around two hours of electricity per day from the national grid in early February. Iraqis also share growing resentment toward pervasive government corruption, a factor that has been particularly important in driving demonstrations against the regional administration in Kurdistan. Iraq ranked 175 out of 178 countries on Transparency International’s 2010 corruption index. Meanwhile, there is broad resentment of the high salaries and generous benefits that public officials have granted themselves, especially given the government’s apparent ineptitude.
None of these grievances is new; Iraqis have complained about poor services and unresponsive government since the U.S. invasion in 2003. But in the bloody, chaotic years that followed Hussein’s fall, security was the biggest popular concern. Now that levels of violence have diminished, Iraqis’ patience with their government’s inadequacies is wearing thin.

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