Saturday, June 25, 2011

Did NYT get 'creative' to help Nouri?

Michael S. Schmidt and Tim Arrango (New York Times) have a confusing article which opens, "Fifteen months after an election that was supposed to lay the groundwork for Iraq's future, the government remains virtually paralyzed by a clash between the country’s two most powerful politicians, who refuse to speak to each other." Are they simplifying for an audience they assume doesn't follow what's going on in Iraq or are they simplifying to mislead?

Nouri al-Maliki and Ayad Allawi have gone through periods in the last months where they didn't speak to one another and periods where they did. They currently don't. And let's look at why.

You and I both want to be prime minister. Your group ends up with more votes than mine in the elections. Per the Constitution, you are supposed to be given first crack at forming a Coalition and then named prime minister-designate and form a Cabinet (which requires nominating people and having Parliament approve them). At which point, you will become prime minister.

But I throw a fit and scream and yell and cry for recounts and still won't allow the process to move forward. I'm a big baby for over nine months and so leaders of all the political blocs -- including your bloc and mine -- go to Erbil for a meeting. There it is decided that I will be prime minister but an independent security commission will be created and you will be the head of it.

Following that meeting, I end up prime minister-designate. I never name a full Cabinet but bully and whine my way into being declared "prime minister" despite having failed to meet the Constitutional requirements. Having become prime minister, I now refuse to create the commisssion I promised to in Erbil.

Would you have any desire to talk to me after that? If you didn't, I don't think any sane person could blame you for avoiding me.

In the above scenario, you're Ayad Allawi and I'm Nouri al-Maliki and that is how events unfolded so it's no surprise that Allawi wants nothing to do with Nouri.

In November, Nouri was supposed to be nominating a full Cabinet. The New York Times and others covered for Nouri and pretended that the failure to do so was no big deal. It was a very big deal. And when you start disregarding a country's constitution, don't be surprised when other parts of it fall out. A constitution is supposed to be a country's supreme law of the land.

Nouri's disrespect for the Constitution demonstrates a disrespect for the law.

Can you catch the mistake in this from the Times: "In December, the two politicians, Ayad Allawi, the leader of the Iraqiya bloc, and the country’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, entered into an American-backed power-sharing agreement." The reporters get it correct that the Erbil agreement was "American-backed" but they place that in December. And do so again later in the article, "The power-sharing agreement in December allows . . ." No, November. It was November.

From the November 10, 2010 snapshot:

Leila Fadel (Washington Post) notes the latest rumors that a deal has been reached and explains the expected process: "Legislators are expected to meet Thursday afternoon for only the second time since the inconclusive March 7 election. Under the deal reached Wednesday, the parliament is expected to appoint a speaker from Iraqiya, then name the current Kurdish president, Jalal Talabani, as president. He, in turn, will name Maliki as prime minister. Maliki will then have to put together a cabinet that a simple majority in Iraq's parliament will have to approve." Whomever is named PM-designate -- whenever they're named -- will have 30 days to pull together a cabinet. Nouri's past history of ministers walking out -- as well as his own boasting in April 2006 that he'd put together a cabinet before 30 days -- are forgotten, apparently. Also forgotten is what this says: Elections are meaningless.
If the rumors are true about the make up of the next government and that does come to pass, the message is: "Elections are meaningless, voters stay home." The president and the prime minister remain the same? Only the speaker changes?
They didn't need a national election to change the speaker. Mahmoud Mashadani had been the Speaker and was repeatedly the victim of a disinformation campaign by the US State Dept -- with many in the media enlisting (such as in 2006 when he was in Jordan on business and a certain reporter at a certain daily LIED and said he was in Iraq, hurt and sad and refusing to see anyone -- that lie would have taken hold were it not for the Arab press). He stepped down. When he did so, Iyad Samarrai became the next Speaker and that was done by Parliament, no national elections required. So the message from the 2010 elections appears to be -- if rumors are correct -- that there is no point in voting. Iyad Samarrai got vanished from the narrative. Reporters and 'reporters' like Quil Lawrence (declaring victory for Nouri March 8th, one day after the elections) might have been a little more informed if they'd bothered to pay attention. Mahmoud Mashadani stepped down as Speaker. It took FOUR months for a new speaker to be appointed. And that was in the spring of 2009. Why anyone thought some magical mood enchancer would change things in 2010 is beyond me.
In a bit of classic understatement, an unnamed Iraqi official tells Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor), "It looks a lot like the old government." And for that, people were imprisoned this year and died this year?

From the November 11, 2010 snapshot:

An Iraqi journalist tells the BBC today, "I think a lot of people who voted this time round will have hoped for a change, and will be disappointed to see the same people in charge." John Leland, Jack Healy and Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) add, "Iraq's lawmakers took a small step toward forming a government of Thursday evening, hammering out the details of a deal struck one day earlier to end an eight-months political impasse."
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. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's eight months and three days and still counting.

Today the KRG website announces:

Baghdad, Iraq ( - Iraq's political leaders yesterday agreed to hold the parliamentary session as scheduled on Thursday and to name an individual for the post of Speaker of the the parliament (Council of Representatives). The Speaker post will go to the Al-Iraqiya bloc, which is headed by former prime minister Ayad Allawi.
During the meeting, which was attended by the leaders of all the winning blocs at President Masoud Barzani's Baghdad headquarters, agreement was reached on two other points: to create a council for strategic policy and to address issues regarding national reconciliation.
President Barzani, who sponsored the three days' round of meetings, stated that today's agreement was a big achievement for Iraqis. He expressed optimism that the next government will be formed soon and that it will be inclusive and representative of all of Iraq's communities.
Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports one hiccup in the process today involved Ayad Allawi who US President Barack Obama phoned asking/pleading that he accept the deal because "his rejection of post would be a vote of no confidence". Ben Lando, Sam Dagher and Margaret Coker (Wall St. Journal) confirm the phone call via two sources and state Allawi will take the post -- newly created -- of chair of the National Council On Higher Policy: "Mr. Obama, in his phone call to Mr. Allawi on Thursday, promised to throw U.S. weight behind the process and guarantee that the council would retain meaningful and legal power, according to the two officials with knowledge of the phone call." So all is well and good and . . . Ooops!!!! Lando, Dagher and Coker file an update, Iraqiya wasn't happy and walked out of the session. Prashant Rao (AFP) reports that "a dispute erupted in the Council of Representatives chamber when the mostly Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc argued that the agreement they had signed on to was not being honoured, prompting the bloc's MPs to storm out. [. . .] Specifically, Iraqiya had called for three of their lawmakers, barred for their alleged ties to Saddam Hussein's Baath party, to be reinstated before voting for a president." As The Economist noted earlier today, "An actual government is not yet in place; last-minute hiccups may yet occur." AP notes, "A parliament vote on the government could still take several weeks, as the factions work out the details of who gets what posts."

From the November 12, 2010 snapshot:

Yesterday, horse trading allowed Iraq's Parliament to elect a Speaker, , and to elect Jalal Talabani (again) to the ceremonial post of president. Despite assurances and claims to US officials that Nouri would be named prime minister-delegate November 20th, Talabani immediately named him and the US government is currently attempting to figure out whether this was due to concern over the Iraqiya walkout or was part of a deliberate effort on the part of Nouri's bloc and the Kurds to deceive their US benefactors. On the horse trading, Nussaibah Younis (Guardian) weighs in:
If Iraqi politics is to continue in this way, we can all sit back and relax -- waiting every five years for the elections that mean nothing, the backstage horse trading in which politicians nakedly vie for personal advantage, and finally the divvying up of power between groups in a way that promises to hamstring the new government before it has even begun.
The 2010 elections gave Iraq's politicians a rare opportunity to take politics in another direction. Together, Allawi and Maliki gained overwhelming support because they spoke of Iraqi unity, reconciliation, and reconstruction. But when it came to forming a government, self-interest won. Neither could bear the thought of not being prime minister, and both were content to drag the process on and on -- waiting to clinch a political advantage while ordinary Iraqis paid with their lives in the escalating violence.
Jalal Talabani named Nouri prime minister-designate. That is not prime minister. Good for Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) who captures this: "Mr. Talabani then formally nominated Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki for a second term in office, giving him 30 days to form a cabinet of ministers." This is explained in Article 76 of [PDF format warning] the Iraqi Constitution:
First: The President of the Republic shall charge the nominee of the largest
Council of Representatives bloc with the formation of the Council of Ministers
within fifteen days from the date of the election of the President of the Republic.
Second: The Prime Minister-designate shall undertake the naming of the members of his Council of Ministers within a period not to exceed thirty days from the date of his designation.
Third: If the Prime Minister-designate fails to form the Council of Ministers
during the period specified in clause "Second," the President of the Republic shall charge a new nominee for the post of Prime Minister within fifteen days.
Fourth: The Prime Minister-designate shall present the names of his members of the Council of Ministers and the ministerial program to the Council of
Representatives. He is deemed to have gained its confidence upon the approval,
by an absolute majority of the Council of Representatives, of the individual
Ministers and the ministerial program.
Fifth: The President of the Republic shall charge another nominee to form the Council of Ministers within fifteen days in case the Council of Ministers did not win the vote of confidence.
Steven Lee Myers explains, "The long delay in forming a government -- still at least a month away -- frustrated the administration throughout the summer". And he documents some of the efforts by US President Barack Obama himself including phone calls. We've already noted that the US government thought they had a promise regarding the nomination of prime minister-designate coming in on November 20th -- they were either lied to or the walkout changed the dynamics. Eli Lake (Washington Times) emphasizes failed efforts on the part of both Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to get Jalal Talabani to step aside and to do so in order that the (ceremonial) post could be filled by non-Kurd Ayad Allawi. The president's son, Qubad Talabani, confirms to Lake that Barack pressured his father to step aside and states that "the Kurds were disappointed with the United States" over this.Qubad Talabani states, "The Kurds have been the strongest ally and partner of the United States since before the liberation and certainly during it. And for the United States to be leaning on us, as they are now, in effect handpicking the new leaders of Iraq, is not respectful of Iraq's parliamentary system and touches on all of the insecurities of the Kurds, that the United States will once again betray us." What would the Kurds have received if Talabani had stepped aside? Lake reports that Joe Biden promised them both the post of Speaker of the Parliament and the Minister of Oil.

The power-sharing arrangement was in November. Not in December. November.

The two reporters tell us that Nouri and Allawi "have been unable to agree on who should run the Interior and Defense Ministries, the government's two most important departments."

Do they not know that Arabs read the New York Times? (Al Mada often runs reports on the paper, for example. Dar Addustour frequently mentions it.) Do they not realize how ridiculous they look to foreign readers with absurd statements like that?

Iraq security ministries are well reported on in the Arab press. They are three ministries and all remain without a Minister in charge of them: the Interior Ministry, the National Security Ministry and the Defense Ministry.

Three, not two.

And what's the nonsense of blaming Allawi?

Per the Constitution, Nouri was not supposed to have been moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister until he had put together a Cabinet that Parliament had voted in favor of (Parliament has to give thumbs up to each minister). If he was unable to do that in thirty days, that was the end of him -- per the Constitution.

Nouri didn't follow the Constitution. Unable to create a full Cabinet, he named himself 'temporary' head of those three ministries. There's nothing in the Constitution that allows that. And he should have been tossed aside for trying.

But these ministries should have heads at the end of last year. That's all on Nouri. Why the New York Times wants to haul Allawi into this is beyond me. Nouri and only Nouri was supposed to name a Cabinet. He failed. He's failed ever since. That's on him and to try to turn it into anyone else's blame is nonsense. Nouri was prime minister at the time of the March 2010 elections and fought like crazy to ensure he remained prime minister despite not being the people's choice.

He wasn't even the choice of Moqtada al-Sadr's followers, for those who've forgotten. In April 2010, Moqtada held a referendum to figure out who he would support. He said he'd go with whomever his followers picked as their number one choice. From the April 7th snapshot:

Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc won 40 seats in the Parliament. Kadhim Ajrash and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) report that Ibrahim al-Jaafari "won 24 percent of the 428,000 ballots cast in the internal referendum, ahead of al-Sadr's second cousin, Jafar Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, who obtained 23 percent, Sadrist spokesman Salah al-Ubaidi said today in the southern city of Najaf." Al Jazeera notes that Nouri al-Maliki received 10% of the vote and Ayad Allawi 9%.

Tim Arango and Michael Schmidt's story today insists, "But at the first session of Parliament, the agreement unraveled when Mr. Maliki appointed himself as the minister of both interior and defense, claiming that because of the country’s tenuous security environment he needed more time to vet the candidates." The first session of Parliament? They actually had a session in June of 2010. But their first real session with actual business was in November 2010. November 11th. We noted it above. In that first session, Nouri did not appoint himself anything. Why are the incapable of getting the facts right?

The Plan for Day 101

Above is Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Plan For Day 101." And while we knew Nouri would work overtime to distract, who knew a US paper would work so hard to assist him?

After it happens over and over and after it continually paints Allawi in the wrong, you start to feel it's not an honest mistake but an intentional one and that they are intentionally lying in order to trick readers. If that's not the case then the New York Times really needs to hire fact checkers because this article repeatedly makes clear that editors are not up to the job of fact checking.

It's also cute, as the reporters note the war of words between Allawi and Nouri and their camp, that they FAIL to inform readers of last week's developments. The Erbil Agreement was addressed in a Monday meeting at Jalal Talabani's house (Allawi remained in London and skipped the meeting). At that meeting, according to Jalal, it was agreed that State Of Law and Iraqiya would stop using the press to attack one another. Jalal was so very proud of that. But less than 24 hours after Talabani's announcement . . . Nouri's State Of Lawers were attacking Allawi in the press. (We caught it and pointed it out. )

I have no idea why the New York Times is unable to get their facts straight but, reading the article, it appears that facts really aren't that important to the paper and that the omissions are far more telling than anything making it into the article.

Reuters notes 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Kirkuk, an attack on a Mosul military checkpoint resulted in the deaths of 2 Iraqi soliders, 1 "employee of the Electricity Ministry" was shot dead in Baghdad, a Baghdad roadside bombing injured two people, a Baiji attack resulted in 1 suspect and 3 Iraqi soldiers being killed, and, dropping back to Friday, one police officer was shot dead in Baghdad.

Cindy Sheehan has just posted the transcript to her interview with journalist Robert Fisk (to hear the 2010 interview, click here).

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