Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Nouri's continued electricity scandal

Joe Randazzao (Burlington Free Press) argues, "No matter how the American debt crisis is ultimately resolved, the end result will be a winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Quite simply, we can no longer afford them." While the war costs are destroying the nation, it's equally true that sanity rarely parades at the top. In other words, what's so obvious looking at the fall of the USSR was pretty obvious in real time as well. But no one at the top halted the military operations and the country fell apart as a result. That may or may not happen in the US. But I'm trying to make clear that just because the US can't afford them doesn't mean the government will end them. The refusal to be practical is why empires fail. (And all empires fail.) Pat and Chuck Wemstrom (Journal-Standard) also call for withdrawal, "Just bring the troops home. We are not fighting any of these wars because our country is threatened. The Afghan troops we meet in the field were children during 9/11 and rightly believe that they are defending their country from outside invaders. It must be terrible to live in a country where just in the last 150 years the people have had to fight British, the Russians and now the Americans."

Meanwhile Al Mada reports that the State of Law's Ihsan al-Awadi is stating that the US military is attempting to create a crisis to sell their continued presence on Iraqi soil. What crisis? By saying they can repel Iranians on the border. (Iran is shelling northern Iraq and possibly entering into northern Iraq as they target Kurdish rebels.) In addition, the Ministry of the Interior has stated that weapons are coming across the border Iraq shares with Iran -- echoing claims by the US military and possibly echoing claims for the US military. Alsumaria TV adds, "Iraq Interior Minister former deputy Adnan Al Assadi told Alsumarianews that smuggling arms from Iran thru Missan Province is ongoing in large quantities in an official and unofficial way and it includes rockets and mortars. He also stressed that arms smugglers are being overlooked."

Negotiations with the US government to extend the US military presence in Iraq takes a back seat in the Iraqi press to Nouri's latest scandal. On Saturday, he sacked the Minister of Electricity (which may or may not require the approval of Parliament -- no approval has been granted thus far). His office has stated that false contracts were signed. But, as the story has continued, it's emerged that Nouri's signature may be on some of the contracts as well. The Great Iraqi Revolution reports, "Wasit province police stops a young man from burning himself protesting against the bogus electricity contracts that the Iraqi government is involved in." Dar Addustour reports Sabah al-Saadi, who serves on Parliament's Integrity Commission, states that the dummy contracts had the signatures of Nouri al-Maliki and his deputy Hussein al-Shahristani. The report also notes grumbles in Parliament about Nouri dismissing the Minister with an MP stressing that is the job of Parliament. Aswat al-Iraq also notes, "A Legislature of al-Iraqiya Coalition, led by Iyad Allawi, has charged Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, his Deputy for Energy Affairs Hussein al-Shahristany and the sacked Electricity Minister, Raad Shallal, with having their signatures on the so-called 'illusionary' contracts made public recently." And noting real world consequences of the contracts, Ammar Karim (AFP) observes, "Mismanagement and bureaucratic deadlock in Iraq's electricity ministry have short-circuited a quick-fix plan for some 50 power plants to alleviate the country's severe power shortage, officials say."

Meanwhile Al Rafidayn reports that, according to the Deputy Minister of Electricity, Hussain al-Shahristani, the Minister of Electricity is still carrying out his job duties despite his 'dismissal.' The article also notes that there are MPs saying Nouri can't fire on his own (needs approval of Parliament) and that there are increasing grumbles that whatever the state of electricity in Iraq, it was Nouri's responsibility and therefore his fault. Had the story broken in the fall, it might have had less impact. But in the days of 100-degree-plus weather, the electricity issue is a daily issue for Iraqis.

We'll close with this from Kelley B. Vlahos' "Iraqi Allies Scrambling for Exits" (Antiwar.com) about the Iraqis working with/collaborating with the US military who are now fearful over the thought that the US military might leave at the end of the year:

The total number of Iraqis who have been or are still on the payroll of the American government or a contractor working for the American government is elusive. According to the Congressional Budget Office, some 70,500 were working on U.S.-funded contracts as of 2008. Citing government figures, Miller pegged the number as closer to 118,000 for the Los Angeles Times in 2007.

Who knows how many Iraqi allies will be searching for the exits when more significant numbers of U.S. forces leave and most of the American presence is confined to the walled city that is the U.S. embassy. Critics say without proper planning of their welfare, their fate is not dissimilar to those working for the British, who did not have an evacuation plan for its interpreters when it they pulled out of Basra in 2006. Militia members began systematically targeting the British helpers, at one point killing 17 translators in one mass public execution.

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