Saturday, September 17, 2011

Government in crisis

Reuters notes a Mosul attack which left one Iraqi soldier injured, a Mosul home bombing which claimed the lives of 3 brothers and, dropping back to Friday, a Mosul attack left two Iraqi service members "and a bodyguard of Mosul Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi" were wounded."

The Iraqi government is currently wounded. Whether it's a fatal wound or not may be up to Nouri al-Maliki.

This week, Nouri's been attacking his political rival Ayad Allawi whose Iraqiya bested Nouri's State of Law in the March 7, 2010 elections. Nouri's insisted that Allawi has no place in the government.

Other participants in the government begged to differ before Nouri made those remarks and since then it does not appear Nouri's incendiary speech has scared anyone away from Allawi. Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports that Allawi and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani have agreed that the country needs a national partnership and to move away from one monopoly of power. The two met and discussed various issues including the refusal by Nouri al-Maliki to implement the Erbil Agreement agreed to last November (and the partnership agreement signed off on by all political blocs to end Political Stalemate I). Acommok reports on the ruors that the Kurds will push for a no-confidence vote in Parliament -- rumors which result in warnings from State of Law. What happens next is said to wait until Talabani returns from the US. (The article notes he's going to the US. It doesn't note it but the primary purpose for his visit is a speech he'll give to the UN.)

Before he departed for the US, Al Sabaah notes, Talabani also met with Nouri al-Maliki and the discussions included the Kurds demands (Talabani is a Kurd) which include a return to the Erbil Agreement and opposition to Nouri's gas and oil bill. It's noted that when Kurdish representatives meet Nouri in the near future, they will be bringing along copies of the Erbil Agreement as a reminder of what was agreed to by all parties. (The Kurds have also threatened to make this document public.) In yet another blow to Nouri, Ehsan al-Awadi, an MP with the National Alliance, has declared that they support the Erbil AGreement and call for it to be implemented as soon as possible. (However, 'new agreements' appears to be about the oil & gas bill and, if so, that means the National Alliance is not joining with the Kurds in decrying that proposal.)

Al Saabah also notes Nouri gave a speech to Iraq's Lawyers Association (its their 78th anniversary) and that he spoke of the need for the Constitution to recognize the role of the courts.

If that puzzles you, it's because US media ignored what that's in reference to. They haven't even reported on Allawi and Nouri's feud.

From Tuesday's snapshot:

Asharq al-Awsat interviews Ayad Allawi (Iraiqya leader who's been meeting with the Kurdish leaders -- Iraqiya won the March 7, 2010 elections) and their first question for him is about his recent comments that there was a need for early elections and a need for a vote of no confidence on Nouri al-Maliki, has his opinion changed? He replies that nothing has changed and unless the Erbil Agreement is followed, as KRG President Barzani is insisting, then early elections need to be held. He states that they should be transparent and follow the election laws. (They put it is either/or. Allawi rejects that in his first answer and again near the end of the interview when he explains that first you do the vote of no-confidence in the current government and then you move to early elections.) Asked if he doesn't find it strange that 8 years after the end of Saddam Hussein's regime, Iraqi decisions are still spoken of in light of what the US wants or what Iran wants, Allawi replies that it is clear the government (Nouri) was negotiating with Iran on how to form a government -- down to the smallest details. He states that when he met with Bashar al-Assad, president of Syria [presumably in 2010], al-Assad stated he would be speaking with Iranian officials and what was the response to Adel Abdul al-Mahdi being prime minister. The point is to indicate that Iran was being catered to. (I'm sure the US was as well, however, Allawi focuses on Iran.) Adel Abdul al-Mahdi was, until recently, one of Iraq's two vice presidents. He's a member of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council. Big Oil supported him in 2006 for prime minister and they also wanted him in 2010. His announcement that he was resigning as vice president earlier this year may have been setting up another run for prime minister.
Allawi states that the Erbil Agreement needs to be implemented, that the meet-up in Erbil and the agreement itself took place in a spirit to work together for Iraq and build something sincere but now "the other party" [the unnamed is Nouri] repeatedly finds excuses not to implement. Asked if the problem is the agreement, Allawi clearly states that the problem is "the other party" and that the agreement is clear. He rejects the notion of one-party rule and specifically names Nouri when rejecting it, stating that this is a private scheme of "Maliki" and not something with wide support even within Dawa (Dawa is Nouri's political party, State of Law is the slate Nouri ran with).

It's that interview that enrages Nouri and leads him to declare that Allawi has no place in the Iraqi government. And it's in that interview that Allawi offers the legal opinion that Nouri's use of the courts to advance his agenda is problematic due to the fact that Constitutional issues cannot be changed by the courts because, according to Allawi, the Constitution came before the Courts. Nouri controls the country's Supreme Court and has repeatedly used it to reinterpret the Constitution in his favor especially as he battled to remain the prime minister. Allawi argues that this is illegal and unconstitutional because the Constitution is the basis for all so, therefore, the Courts can't alter the Constitution. (If you carry this legal argument out, only Parliament could alter the Constitution as represenatives of the people and any alteration, like any law, would require the presidency council -- Iraq's president and vice presidents -- to agree to the change.)

That was probably the main thing that ticked Nouri off about the article. Dar Addustour has the Kurds echoing the point about the Constitution being supreme. They have to support that position because if it's not supreme than an act by the Nouri-controlled courts could render Article 140 (which promises how the issue of disputed Kirkuk will be resolved) obsolete. The article also notes that the political situation is seen as "a crisis" (where are the US reports on this, it has been building all week) and notes the Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is traveling to the KRG tomorrow to talk with leaders there about the Erbil Agreement and other issues.

Al Rafidayn covers what may be read as a step back by Nouri (I don't think it is), his agreeing with al-Nujaifi that his oil & gas bill is only a draft and that Parliament can change it. He uses the term "amend." That's why I don't see it as a step back. Nouri has insisted that Parliament does not have the power to right laws, that it can only accept proposals from Nouri's Cabinet and vote up or down on them. This move strikes me as more of Nouri backing up his belief that laws cannot originate within the Parliament and I base that call on the language Nouri uses.

While the governmental crisis continues, Fadhel al-Badrani (Reuters) reports on the brewing crisis. 22 Shi'ites were killed his week, pilgrims taken off a bus. al-Badrani misses what created the original tension or resentment following the killings. As we've noted Arab social media was inflamed over the response of a huge sum of money offered to find the killers (offered by Sunni Sawha leaders -- that didn't change the anger or resenment in Arab social media -- possibly because Sawha were already seen as turncoats) and Nouri sent in the military to investigate. It was repeatedly pointed out that the killing of Iraqi Christians and other minorities didn't result in that and, after that point had been made repeatedly, the next point emerging (primary point) was that no one could recall that sort of effort being made when Sunnis in Iraq were killed.

8 Sunnis were quickly arrested, al-Badrani notes, and public outcry forced Nouri to release four of them. (Click here for Al Rafidayn's report on the decision to release four.) Without that missing step, the one documenting the reaction to the reactions to the killings, you really can't grasp why resentments built. Al Rafidayn is currently reporting that four more -- which would be all eight -- are being released because there is no evidence against any of the eight.

If you're not familiar with Iraqi 'justice,' this doesn't happen. (And let's stay with four released until other outlets say all eight have been.) If you're arrested, you disappear into a hole and maybe a year or so later you are able to climb out or maybe you stay disappeared.

Nouri's hand was forced and it was forced because this quickly became a major incident.

There was an effort among the press (international, not Iraqi press) to turn the killings into a huge issue. And this fed the resentment expressed. Because there are mass killings in Iraq every week. None got the kind of US attention that the 22 pilgrims did. (Which is why we treated it here as a 'days' violence incident' with one line about it. By that time it was already obvious it was going to be glommed on.)

So now divisions within Iraq along sectarian lines just got firmer and the government is in crisis.

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