Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Political Stalemate II gets worse

If you thought things couldn't get worse in Iraq's ongoing Political Stalemate II, you were mistaken. Hossam Accomok (Al Mada) reports a group is preparing to enter the mix: the Justice and Accountability Commission. For those who've forgotten, this committee had remained in the shadows for most of 2009 and many members of Parliament assumed that since legislation had not been passed keeping the committee active, the committee was no more. But then it popped up and began doing Nouri al-Maliki's bidding by smearing various politicians (primarily Sunnis and primarily Iraqiya members, but not just them) as "Ba'athists" and declaring them unfit to run for office. Ahmed Chalabi and his boy pal Ali al-Lami ran the thing (Ali al-Lami was killed not that long ago) and it was thankfully dead. But now it's back and Nouri's Dawa wants control of it. How frightening is it? Even the Sadr bloc is voicing cirticism (they state it demonstrates the primacy of political parties as opposed to national unity).

De-Ba'athification was a policy the exiles wanted and the US implemented. British intelligence agencies and military strongly called out the de-Ba'athification process during testimony before the Iraq Inquiry. One of the White House proposed benchmarks of 2007 (signed off on by Nouri) was a reconciliation (de-de-Ba'athification). It was supposed to be implemented. Instead a weak law was passed and there was no follow up (as most observers guessed would happen). In 2010, critics of the Justice and Accountability Commission were repeatedly told this was its last breath. Clearly that wasn't the case and it is now set to continue to be a body that will launch smear campaigns against political enemies.

The Kurds and Nouri al-Maliki remain at logger heads over the Erbil Agreement (the political deal that ended Political Stalemate I and the deal Nouri reneged on as soon as he got what he wanted out of the deal), Article 140 of the Constitution (guarantees that a census and referendum will be held to resolve the issue of disputed Kirkuk -- the Constitution mandated that be held by 2007 but Nouri's long refused to follow the Constitution) and Nouri's proposed oil & gas bill. The Kurds have publicly floated the possibility of a vote of no-confidence. If a vote of no-confidence succeeded, it would trigger a new vote in the Parliament for prime minister. Speark of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi visited the KRG yesterday to discuss the situation with the Kurds.

What was discussed? Dar Addustour reports that al-Nujaifi isn't saying but that the meeting with the KRG president reportedly lasted at least two hours and that al-Nujaifi is now supposed to meet with Nouri to convey the Kurds' viewpoint. Al Sabaah reports that a lower level meeting took place in Baghdad yesterday to discuss implementing the Erbil Agreement (participants included Saleh al-Mutlaq and Deputy Prime Minister Ruz Nuri).

Meanwhile there is the Integrity Commission. Nouri recently forced its chair to resign (he did that during his first term as prime minister as well). Al Mada reports that Iraqiya is supporting the reinstatement of the chair over Nouri's objection. This comes as Dar Addustour reports the Integrity Commission is teaming up with Parliament's Integrity Committee and the Supreme Judicial Council to address open files on corruption (files that have not been followed up on). There is talk of as many of 11 arrest warrants possibly coming about from the open files. Meanwhile Dar Addustour reports MP Sabah al-Saadi is stating there is no arrest warrant out against him and that the claims of one stem from Nouri al-Maliki attempting to cover up his own corruption and he states Nouri has deliberately kept the three security ministries vacant and he charges Nouri is willing "to sell Iraq to maintain his hold on power."

Meanwhile Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi (Daily Star) reports on findings from documents leaked by WikiLeaks:

One notable case that has come to light from these cables involves the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. On April 3, 2003, as Saddam Hussein’s regime was on the point of falling, the moderate and non-sectarian Shiite cleric Abdul Majid al-Khoei, who had been in exile in the United Kingdom, returned to his home city of Najaf. Just one week later, Khoei was beaten and hacked to death by a mob. According to witnesses, he was first dragged to Sadr’s office and then to a nearby roundabout where he was killed.
Although Sadr denies accusations of involvement in the atrocity, a senior Iraqi judge, Raed al-Juhi, issued an arrest warrant against him in April 2004, on suspicion of ordering Khoei’s murder. One can of course ask why Sadr does not simply go to court if he is so confident of his innocence. In fact, there is a plausible motive for his role in the murder. As Hayder al-Khoei, Abdul Majid’s son and a researcher at the Centre for Academic Shi’a Studies in the United Kingdom, has pointed out, Sadr and his followers, whom Hayder’s father opposed, wanted to assert themselves as a political force in post-Saddam Iraq.
Today, it can be more easily understood why Sadr is not held to account over the arrest warrant. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki depends on the Sadrists as allies, along with the Kurdish factions, to maintain his coalition government in place. However, until the release of the diplomatic cables it remained unclear why the arrest warrant was not enforced during the tenure of the non-sectarian Iyad Allawi. He was interim prime minister before Iraq’s elections of 2005.

And we'll close noting Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin's commentary on Barack's plan or 'plan' to reduce the deficit:

The more than $1 trillion in defense "savings" that the White House claims is based on a projection the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) put out last March, which found that war costs would top $1.7 trillion over the next ten years. However, that projection was never meant to accurately forecast the costs of the wars over the next decade. The report just took this year's costs for Iraq and Afghanistan ($159 billion) and added inflation for every year in the future.

In other words, the CBO number was the projection if the United States kept the current number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan until 2020. However, nobody ever thought that was the plan. The CBO was required to do the math that way, as they do with all such projections.

At today's White House briefing, reporters were quick to point out that Obama never planned to keep that many troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for the next ten years. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Jack Lew's response was to point out that the House GOP had used the same faulty logic in Paul Ryan's budget plan.

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