Thursday, September 15, 2011

The illusions of Iraq (and the realities)

When all of the broadcast world goes nutty, you can generally still count on journalistic sanity from Eleanor Hall. Unlike NPR's All Things Considered which spent yesterday blaming Americans for the fact that US broadcast outlets don't cover the Iraq War, Hall notes right at the top of a segment in her program (The World Today with Eleanor Hall, Australia's ABC -- link is text and audio), "But heading overseas now, as the Afghan government and the international community try to work out how to react to yesterday's brazen attack on Kabul, violence in Iraq is getting less attention. That may be because the Australian and US governments have now officially withdrawn combat troops from Iraq, but that doesn't mean the place is stable." Here's an excerpt from her conversation with Lydia Khalil.

ELEANOR HALL: Just how fragile is Iraq?

LYDIA KHALIL: Iraq is fragile right now. It's not as unstable as it was in 2006 and 2007 but its government, the Maliki coalition, is really being held by a string. The situation is very tenuous, there's opposition parties in parliament who are opposed to Maliki and right now it's very difficult to get legislation past, major legislation is needed in order to move the country forward. So the Iraqi government can't really handle a series of major attacks like we saw in August.

And as a reminder of how bad things remain in Iraq, Dar Addustour reports the country's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari wants the Arab Summit to be held in Baghdad. And though that stated desire may distract a few, for most it will just remind that the Arab League was supposed to hold their summit in Iraq last year and did not. Due to the lack of safety. Despite Zebari claiming it would take place. Despite Zebari insisting it was just postponed.

Meanwhile Aseel Kami (Reuters) reported yesterday on the stop-gap measures Nouri al-Maliki used over the summer to give the appearance that issues were being addressed. The measures are described as "short term fixes" and scapegoats with the fired Minister of Electricity being an example of the latter. Tomorrow Iraq's First Lady Moqtada al-Sadr is scheduled to hold his pro-government stroke-fest. Dar Addustour reminds that Moqtada wants you to support the demands of government. It's good to know that Moqtada's no longer wasting his time on the people and now focused solely on his man Nouri al-Maliki. Now come on, is it going to take a pregnancy scare to get these two love birds properly hitched?

During Nouri al-Maliki's first term as prime minister, his deputy prime minister was Dr. Rozh Shaways (also spelled Ruz Nuri Shawis and Roz Nuri Shawis). The Kurdish politician remains his deputy prime minister today. This may change. Dar Addustour reports US State Dept cable from June 2005 released by WikiLeaks reveal that the brother of hte deputy prime minister joined with Iraqi business people in smuggling hundreds of millions of dollars out of Iraq and into Jordan. Al Rafidayn reports on it at length here.

Eight years after the fall of Saddam, Iraq has yet to pass a hydrocarbons law, let alone come up with a coherent spending plan for its oil wealth. Meanwhile neoliberal Todd Moss writes at The Huffington Post:

So how could Iraq manage its oil? One idea (and readers of this blog will be shocked to hear) is a universal dividend paid to all Iraqis. Colleagues Nancy Birdsall and Arvind Subramanian proposed just this idea back in 2004 as a way to try to create accountability. The idea of an Alaska-style dividend for Iraq was starting to catch on, for example, this NY Times oped by Steven Clemons, proposals from Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and even former Alaskan governor and dividend godfather Jay Hammond tried to export his grand experiment to Baghdad. Given the political and security climate of the time, the idea was thought too radical.
Is it time to think again about an Iraqi dividend? In a new CGD working paper, "Iraq's Last Window: Diffusing the Risks of a Petro-State," Johnny West asks precisely this question. West, a longtime journalist in the Middle East and founder of OpenOil, identifies a new opportunity for direct distribution of Iraqi oil rents in the planned production expansion over the next five years: [blah, blah, blah]

You know what, Todd? Iraqis have had oil longer than you've dreamed up ways to steal it. So why you don't you sit your tired ass down and let the Iraqi people decide what they want to do? It's not your right to decide for them. If you find a proposal that Iraqis are making and want to champion it, go for it. But otherwise take your big nose back to American business and quit trying to 'suggest' (tell) Iraqis what they need to do. It's their oil. It's not your oil. Your wants and hopes don't really mean a thing and it's a real shame that you and your Center for Global Development (a neoliberal lab of rape and theft) have been wrongly encouraged to believe anyone needs your 'help.' Why is Todd so 'concerned' and 'helpful'? Because the theft of Iraqi oil hasn't happened yet. And Todd knows his proposal of throwing a few pennies at a population in crisis might sell better now than earlier. Al Rafidayn notes that the White House has warned big oil to hold off on bidding currently as a result of "ambiguity" in Iraq's oil policies.

Community sites updated last night. Blogger/Blogspot's not reading most of them. This is swiped from Stan's site:

Everything below the snapshot also updated (except Third) but it's not being read by Blogger/Blogspot this morning.

We'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "PENTAGON BUDGET CUTS SAID TO BE 'ILLUSORY'"(Veterans Today):

The $178 billion in cuts the Pentagon has proposed in its own budget “are largely illusory,” according to a report in the September 5th issue of “Bloomberg Business Week”(BBW) magazine.
About $106 billion, or 60 percent, of that sum is “unlikely to materialize” according to the magazine’s defense analyst Kevin Brancato. He says the cuts are questionable because “they lack detail, they include cuts that would have happened under existing practices, or they face likely challenges from Congress.”
Some of the Pentagon’s “cuts” are mere “vague statements” that “make it difficult, if not impossible, to identify real savings.” He gives a “for instance” of an $11 billion cut for items with such descriptions as “many smaller efforts across the enterprise” and “numerous other changes across a variety of activities.”
As for the Pentagon’s plan to save $6 billion by cutting 47,000 soldiers and Marines starting in fiscal 2015, that’s questionable “because it depends on when U.S. forces leave Iraq and Afghanistan,” Brancato told the business publication.
Gordon Adams, who formerly oversaw national security budgeting in the Office of Management and Budget under President Clinton, is quoted by BBW as saying Congress could knock off $1 trillion, or 15 percent, of the Pentagon’s projected $6.7 trillion spending proposed for the next decade by reducing personnel.
“More than a third of the active-duty force of 1.4 million troops never deploys. Overhead, including support staff and other noncombat positions account for about 42 percent of the defense budget,” according to Adams, BBW says, who adds, “There’s not a business alive that does 42 percent overhead.”

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