Thursday, November 24, 2011

Continued negotiations on US troops

Al Mada reports that the Kurds are lobbying Nouri to keep US troops in disputed areas and to secure Iraqi air space. Reportedly a consensus is building for keeping 8,000 to 12,000 US troops and this is among the details Nouri will discuss on his DC visit next month. Al Rafidayn reports that it is after this meeting that immunity will be further explored and states, pay attention because the US press never did, that MP Sami al-Asakri explained that Nouri has the power in his role as commander in chief of the military to determine the number of US troops needed (I'm adding: If any) and that the blocs gave their input but that was just input. It's Nouri's role. Yes, we did note that well over a month ago. Yes, it is rather basic and, yes, it is legally sound.

What's pushing these considerations? Could be (may not be, just could) that Nouri's in a bit of panic because while he can terrorize -- as he demonstrated repeatedly since 2006 -- the people, he can't do everything. Add to the mix efforts by provinces -- fully legal efforts -- to go semi-autonomous and with a still unresolved oil law (meaning who might or might not have claims on the money) and Nouri's desired response (which, based on pattern, will most likely be heavy-handed) and suddenly he's at risk of not only his continued war with the people he usually demonizes but potentially whole sections of a province or multiple provinces. That's what could possibly be motivating Nouri. And never forget, he's demonstrated for five years now that his sole goal is to ensure his own personal survival, it's not about the Iraqi people, it's not about the country's potential -- for Nouri, it's all about Nouri.

Dar Addustour reports on Dujail, in Salahuddin Province, and how residents took to the streets to show their approval of the possibility of Dujail leaving Salahuddin and becoming a part of Baghdad Province. Most interesting is that the same voices who screamed about Salahuddin wanting to become semi-autonomous and they want to argue that this can be done by a process . . . similar to what the Constitution's Article 119 says -- you know, what they ignored when they insisted Salahuddin Province couldn't go semi-autonomous.

The Associated Press notes that the European Union is calling for members of the EU to take in the residents of the Camp Ashraf. The camp houses a group of Iranian dissidents (approximately 3,500 people). Iranian dissidents were welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp attacked twice. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8th of this year Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out." Nouri al-Maliki is seen as close to the government in Tehran. They have made it clear that they want the dissidents out of Iraq and returned to Iran -- where they would face trial at best, torture most likely. Nouri has announced he will be closing Camp Ashraf at the end of this year. UK MP Brian Binley (Huffington Post) writes, "As things are evolving and if Maliki gets away with his plan to impose the deadline, just as the Christmas and New Year holidays are in full swing, the prospect is that the world will sit and watch while men and women are killed in cold blood or mutilated, crushed by US-supplied armoured personal carriers."
Zohreh Shafaei (Scoop News) notes the concerns over what may happen to the residents of Camp Ashraf:

I wrote about the story of my life in an article on August 2nd (American Chronicle) where I asked for help to save the life of my brother who resides in the camp Ashraf. He is the only member of family that I have left. Today, my brother and many others like him live in Camp Ashraf and are in a great danger.

The situation is highly critical now as the Iraqi government has stated that it is going to close the camp by the end of the year 2011. This ultimatum is a decision to carry out a massacre of the inhabitants of the camp, where 3400 Iranian civilians, including 1000 women live. The inhabitants have already experienced two similar attacks in July 2009 and April 2011, where 47 persons were killed and hundreds were wounded.

As for myself, I have already had six members of my family killed by the rule of the mullahs’ dictatorship in Iran. I now have only one brother left who happens to live in the camp Ashraf now. Many of the 3400 civilians in the camp have experienced similar situation as myself, and their lives are at danger now.

President Obama: The U.S. is responsible for securing the safety of the 3400 inhabitants of the camp, as the U.S. army accepted to protect their lives when they handed over their arms to the U.S. army. The fact is that by keeping the name of the MEK in the F.T.O. list, you are authorizing the Maleki government to carry out the massacre of innocent civilians

David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. He continues to be one of the country's last national labor reporters. His latest report is "Union Supporters Still Fired With Impunity" (Truthout):

When a private employer, like the Los Angeles Film School (LAFS), decides to fight the efforts of its workers to form a union, there is very little holding it back, despite the rights written into US labor law almost three quarters of a century ago.

The National Labor Relations Act says workers not only have the right to form unions, but that the government encourages them to do so, to level the power imbalance with their employers. The law sets up an election process, in which workers supposedly can freely choose a union. And it says that it's illegal for an employer to fire or punish any worker who uses these rights.
Then there's the reality, as practiced by the LAFS.

That company, set up in 1999 by the former lawyer for Occidental Petroleum, was bought by Florida-based Full Sail Film School in 2003. The film and recording business in Los Angeles has strong, well-respected unions. The studios that are the hoped-for employers for film school graduates negotiate with unions all the time. But the LAFS and Full Sail are not ordinary film schools. They are diploma mills that feed off federal loans taken out by students.

A lawsuit filed last year against LAFS says that students, who pay $18,000 to $23,000 per year tuition for a two-year AS degree, receive much less than promised. The school hands out gift cards to Target and Best Buy, the suit says, to students who list jobs at Apple and Guitar Center stores as "creative positions" on forms submitted to get the college accreditation. That allows the schools to enroll its students in federal loan programs.

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