Friday, November 25, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Basra sacks its top security commanders, the Turkish government offers an apology to Kurds, Iraq's Parliament postpones a vote on US withdrawal, the latest round of negotiations involve thousands of US military, and more.
AFP reports that an emergency session was held today by Basra's provincial council which "took the decision to fire three security commanders" as a result of yesterday's violence. Yesterday, Basra was slammed with multiple bombings. Nabil al-Jurani (AP) explained, "Three bombs went off in a popular open-air market in Basra, police officials said." BBC News quoted shop owner Noufal Hassan, "I immediately went out of my shop and saw the blood. The nearest shops were shattered and the cars were burned." Xinhua (link has text and video) added, "Among the dead and wounded were several policemen and Iraqi army soldiers." W.G. Dunlop (AFP) counted over 65 injured and they have 19 killed and they're able to back that up with figures from the Basra health directorate, Riyadh Abdelamir. Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports that an MP said the Basra council's vote was necessary because the security command had failed and is, therefore, responsible for the bombings and that their failure indicates they don't care "about the blood of Iraqis" as evidenced by the fact that a pervious series of bombings in Basra did not result in additional security measures. Today the United Nations issued the following statement on the bombings:
The top United Nations official in Iraq today strongly condemned the series of bomb attacks in the country's southern city of Basra that has killed dozens of people and injured many more.
Media reports indicate at least 19 people died yesterday as a rsult of the apparently coordinated bombings at a market in the city, with the last of three explosions causing most of the injuries.
In a statement, the Secretary-General's Special Representative to Iraq Martin Kobler offered his condolences to the families of the victims and to the people and authorities of Basra and Iraq.
In other violence reported yesterday, Reuters notes 1 police officer and his son were kidnapped in Ramadi, a Ramadi market bombing left five people injured, the Jalawla village mayor was shot dead in a market, an attack on a Mosul military checkpoint claimed the life of 1 Iraqi solider, 1 employee of the Ministry of Electricity was shot dead in Shura, an armed clash in Baaj left one Iraqi soldier dead and an Iraqi military officer injured and a Mussayab home bombing targeted a Sahwa leaving two people injured. Today's violence, Reuters notes, included 1 police officer and his son kidnapped in Qaim, a JBela bombing injured one person and that the death toll in the Basra bombings yesterday has now reached 21. Aswat al-Iraq reports the death toll has climbed to 50 in the Basra bombing with fifty injured. In addition, they note an attack on an Amiriya military check point which resulted in the death of 1 soldier and three more injured.
On the political scene in Iraq, Aswat al-Iraq notes that although the Parliament was scheduled to vote on US withdrawal yesterday, they have postponed it. Alsumaria TV quotes MP Mohamed Al Khalidi stating, "Iraqi parliament voted during its third session of the second legislative quarter in the second legislative year presided by Parliament Speaker Osama Al Nujaifi, and in the presence of 236 MPs, to postpone voting over the legal committee's resolution regarding US withdrawal from Iraq. The voting would be carried out after hosting Iraqi Armed Forces General Commander Nuri Al Maliki. 142 MPs out of the present 236 voted for the postponement," Khalidi revealed noting that "Sader movement for its part abstained from voting." 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 adds 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. And internal conflicts keep popping up. Salah Nasrawi (Al-Ahram Weekly) observes:
A bitter row over the control of a military base in the disputed northern Iraqi province of Kirkuk is heightening tensions between the Iraqi government and the Kurds as US troops prepare to leave Iraq next month.
Last Thursday, local Kurdish police blocked the transit of Iraqi military and government officials who had traveled to Kirkuk in order to enter the Al-Hurriya military base for a handover ceremony for departing US troops.
Kurdish officials had earlier warned the government in the capital Baghdad from sending Iraqi army forces to take over the military facility, which they said they wanted to turn into a civilian airport instead.
Still on internal conflicts, Thursday Dar Addustour reported 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. Today Aswat al-Iraq notes that 1500 poured into the streets to oppose merging with Baghdad Province. And today Alsumaria TV reports Ayad Allawi, head of Iraqiya, weighed in on the issue stating, "Iraqi constitution stipulated the right to establish federal regions. We are aware though that if federal regions were formed Iraq would be subject to clashes over administrative borders, wealth as well as oil and gas [. . ..] This is not the right time to call for regions' formation,"
While it's good that Allawi recognized the Constitution in his remarks, exactly when would be the right time to call for a formation? When an oil law is finally passed? It's nearly nine years since the start of the Iraq War. It's almost five years since Nouri agreed to work with Parliament to pass one -- as part of the White House benchmarks. There are all different ways you can measure the lack of progress. So when would be a good time? 80 years from now? 180? At what point do Iraqis get to determine their own fate? And it's really sad to hear Allawi echo Paul Bremer and countless other Americans by telling Iraqis to wait because it's "not the right time" just yet.
Again, he did recognize the Constitution. That does put him ahead of Nouri al-Maliki. Ali Hussein (Al Mada) notes that State of Law (Nouri's political slate) also gives lip service to the Constitution -- "night and day," they brag -- but most repeatedly ignore and/or violate the Constitution. Hussein notes that all of Nouri and State of Law's attacks on independent bodies, freedom of expression and the powers of the Parliament were likely a test balloon for them to determine how much power Nouri can seize. Hussein notes State of Law MP Khalid al-Attiyah attempting to argue this week that the Constitution is just one document and ignoring the fact that political blocs wrote the Constitution (and passed it) and did so after "a great deal of wrangling." It would appear there is the Constitution of Iraq and there is the forever altering and changing Constitution as understood by State of Law.
Mvelase Peppetta (Memeburn) reports alarm that the government of Syria has "internaet censorship equipment." It's illegal, according to US law, for it to have this Blue Coat Systems 'filter.' How did it get it? Apparently from Iraq. The US government okayed the sale of web censorship equipment to Iraq. Did the US government bother to run that past either the Iraqi people or the American people? No. Nor did it publicize the sale.
The US government says it is investigating how the devices got to Syria and Blue Coat Systems of Sunnyvale, the California-based company responsible for manufacturing the equipment, says it is cooperating fully. If the firm deliberately violated the sanctions -- which say special permission is required to import this kind of equipment into Syria -- then it could be liable for a fine of up to US$1 million. Although the 14 web monitoring devices were shipped to Dubai late in 2010 from where they were supposed to be sent to Iraq, Iraq itself has denied any involvement in the transaction. Nonetheless in Iraq, the issue is also causing concern. Since 2004, when the US put into effect the Syria Accountability Act, for what the US sees as Syria's support of "terrorism, involvement in Lebanon, weapons of mass destruction programs and the destabilizing role it is playing in Iraq", goods that contain more than 10 per cent componentry that is manufactured in the US have been prohibited from being exported there. However it is quite possible that Syria has been able to obtain embargoed goods through third parties. The question now is what Iraq had to do with the 13 Blue Coat web surveillance devices.
Now the US government is worried about supplying freedom suppressing techonology? Now that Syria has the technology and might use it to harm the people of Syria. But the US allowed despot Nouri to have the technology even though he has a long record of suppressing freedom. Alsumaria TV reports, "State of Law Coalition didn't take long to explain Iraqi government's abstinence from voting over Arab League's resolution regarding Syria's incidents. Some leaders in the coalition expressed, in a press conference, their support to Syrian people's rights and affirmed that they are taken by surprise by the shift in some Iraqi parties' positions towards Damascus, a source told Alsumaria. " It might be easier to argue you support the rights of the Syrian people if you hadn't given them technology -- as Nouri did -- to spy on their own people. Meanwhile Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) notes that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani announced today that Iraq "opposes any Wester or Turkish military intervention" in Syira and that "Talabani also said Iraqi military commanders favoured a continued U.S. troop presence in Iraq due to weaknesses in air and navel defences."
Last week, Iraq and it's northern neighbor Turkey were involved in claims and counter-claims. Turkey claims Iraq owes it a ton of money and stopped Iraqi commercial flights from landing at Turkish airports. Iraq announced that they would do the same to Turkey and, on Sunday, Iraq did. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports Turkish flights began landing in Iraq in Thursday and Iraqi flights landing in Turkey today. The ban is off. No word on what was agreed to in order to call the ban off and since there's no announcement that Iraq has paid millions to Turkey, the issue could flare up again.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued the first official apology Wednesday for a bloody military campaign that killed thousands of Kurds in southeast Turkey at the end of the 1930s.
"If it is necessary to apologize on behalf of the state ... I am apologizing,"
Erdogan told his Justice and Development Party (AKP) members in Ankara in televised remarks.
Erdogan said the airstrikes and ground operations in the city of Dersim -- now named Tunceli -- killed 13,800 people between 1936 and 1939, according to an official document of the time he cited in his speech.
There are a lot of cute little games the press plays. For example, the increased Iraqi violence in the last 18 months is erased with the decision to repeatedly invoke the ethnic cleansing of 2006 and 2007. That little lie allows them to address that violence is on the incrase since 2009 and 2010. Another distortion they like to sell is that the PKK, a Kurdish rebel group, pops up in 1984 for no apparent reason. They ignore the historical discrimination and targeting of Kurds in Turkey by the Turkish government. Hopefully, this was the first in a series of steps Erdogan intends to take that does not involve violence or the continued bombing of northern Iraq. For 27 years now, violence has not stopped the PKK. It's unlikely to suddenly work this year.
Yesterday the Associated Press noted 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."
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
Corporate profit is indeed a huge problem in our society, but so is this ravenous consumerism that 99% of the 99% revel in. If we could break the cycle of exploitation that not only builds the crap, but also makes us believe that we can't live without it, no profound change will occur.
I guess this is what we call, "Preaching to the choir," because I believe that just about everyone who reads this is in solidarity with this message -- but, really, take a quick look around, like I do occasionally, and ask yourself if you are living the "American Dream," or the 'Nightmare."