Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Withdrawal and the taste police

Violence continues in Iraq with Reuters noting a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed 1 life and left another person injured, a Mosul assassination attempt on "the manager of the police internal affairs department," Baghdad sticky bombings attached to two tanker trucks resulting in 1 death and one person lfet injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured four people.

Last Wednesday, Nouri al-Maliki raised the issue and said if 70% of the political players agreed to extend the US presence, then that's what would happen. Mohammed A. Salih (Rudaw) offers four perspectives on US forces leaving Iraq from four political participants. Just as the Kurdish view (stay) was long known, so was the opinion of the relatively small Sadr bloc. So we'll ignore those two. Any observer paying attention should have long ago learned not to trust State Of Law. In addition, per Nouri's edict -- have we all forgotten -- only he or his spokesperson can speak for the government so we'll ignore the State Of Law statement. Iraqiya has remained a wildcard for many observers (including in the US government). One MP from the Iraqiya political slate, Haidar Mullah, shares an opinion which may or may not represent the consensus within Iraqiya:

The law and the constitution are run by political groups; therefore we believe that the imminent withdrawal of American troops will not have a positive impact on general security in Iraq.
We support the withdrawal, but it should be done in an orderly manner and not before several conditions are met, including the consolidation of the concept of national partnership, the disarmament of political parties and other groups—only the state should carry weapons—, and the development of the army and security forces into national forces that are protected from political meddling.
Also, agreements that Iraq has signed to procure weapons for its army must be carried out quickly, because the Iraqi army is not ready to maintain the security of the country and its borders. A hasty withdrawal of American troops would allow some neighboring countries, especially Iran, to further strengthen their existing influence on Iraq’s internal issues.
We do not believe that the presence of invading forces in Iraq will lead to the development of the country—on the contrary; the presence of such forces will further weaken Iraq. However, it is not only the US that has invaded Iraq; Iran has invaded as well, but in a more secretive manner.
Iran’s secretive role in Iraq has allowed Iran to strongly rival the US in Iraq. Iran has weapons, forces, and militias inside Iraq and fights the US in Iraqi territory. Therefore, you can say that we support the withdrawal of US troops, but at the same time have fears about another occupation in which Iran would replace the US. This would be much worse than the US invasion.

Moqtada al-Sadr's viewpoint is most likely represented in this report from the Fars News Agency:

Chairman of Iran's Expediency Council Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said withdrawal of the US troops from Iraq would pave the ground for the establishment of security in the occupied country.
Speaking in a meeting with the visiting Head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Ammar al-Hakim, here in Tehran on Tuesday, Rafsanjani said full transfer of sovereignty and responsibility of affairs to the Iraqi people would pave the ground for the country's independence and security.

To call the issue 'confusing' is an understatement, especially for US troops on the ground in Iraq. Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports, "'How many of you know when you're going to be going home?' Gen. Martin Dempsey, the US Army's top general, asked a group of soldiers during a recent visit to Baghdad. Only a handful raised their hands." Gerald Greene (Gather) adds, "Should the US and Iraq agree on some level of American troops to stay in Iraq beyond December 31 there would likely still be an increased risk of violence directed towards those troops. The number of troops that Iraq is likely to let stay in Iraq would be fairly small as they would be serving in a limited training capacity for the Iraq army. It is likely that the reduced level of troops would be in extreme danger as the Shiite militias would still want to take credit for driving them out. It is increasingly clear that the militias will fight to drive all American troops out of Iraq."

Meanwhile New Sabah reports Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh is stating that the Cabinet approved a "law on freedom of expression, assembly and peaceful demonstration." Which means what? First, the Constitution already guarantees those rights. Second, never believe anything Nouri says (or what his flack says). Third, the Cabinet does not pass laws. Nour is trying to circumvent the Constitution and trying to force Parliament to stop writing laws and only take up the Cabinet's proposals. But even in that power-grab, Nouri was not attempting to pass laws.

From Saturday's entry:

While all this goes on, the New York Times attempts to channel Lily Tomlin's The Tasteful Lady. At least Lily played that for laughs. Michael S. Schmidt and Yasir Ghazi toss around terms like "tacky" leading one to wonder how far up the food chain reporters think they are? The police tell the American outlet judging Iraqi taste that they don't have the people to police such an issue. Nor would such an issue be a crime, but the paper seems to forget that. The police don't say, but should, that in the powder keg that is Iraq, looking for new ways to piss citizens off would probably enrage the population even more.

Yes, the article was insulting. Yesterday Margaret Hartmann (Jezebel) observed:

After years of having drab colors and building regulations foisted on them by Saddam Hussein's government, the Iraqi people are now free to decorate as they see fit. The New York Times reports that this has given rise to some really unusual color choices for buildings. In other words, it's the ugliest effing country they've ever seen.

It's interesting to learn that Iraq has exploded in a "riot of color," now that the government isn't mandating that most buildings be made of beige brick, with color usually reserved for mosques. However, the Times reports this in the bitchiest way possible.

Lastly, today the first of two major veterans hearings takes place. Senator Patty Murray's office notes:

(Washington, D.C.) -- Tomorrow, U.S. Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Patty Murray will question the Deputy Secretaries of both the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on major problems confronting those agencies in caring for veterans with the visible and invisible wounds of war. Murray will focus on DoD and VA's joint disability evaluation process, military and veteran suicides, the lack of cooperation in certain areas between the two agencies, and care for amputees.

The hearing is the first of two that Chairman Murray has scheduled as part of her efforts to prevent service members and veterans from falling through the cracks of the VA/DoD system. The second hearing on these issues is scheduled for next Wednesday (5/25) and will feature first-hand accounts from veterans.

WHO: Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Patty Murray

The Honorable W. Scott Gould, Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs

The Honorable William J. Lynn III, Deputy Secretary of Defense

WHAT: Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Hearing on the State of VA/DoD Collaborations and the Challenges those Agencies Face in Caring for Veterans

WHEN: TOMORROW: Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

10:00 AM EST/7:00 AM PST

WHERE: Russell 418


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