Thursday, November 17, 2011

Political stalemate, secret arrests, executions

Political Stalemate I was a period in Iraq following the March 7, 2010 elections. It ended in November of 2010 only as a result of a meet-up in Erbil and the political parties signing off on an agreement in which all but State of Law made political concessions. The results of the March 7th elections, even after Nouri al-Maliki bitterly contested them and stamped his feet until a few post-election votes were tossed his way, were that Iraqiya came in first and Nouri's political slate State of Law came in second. Iraqis do not elect their prime minister, the Parliament does. Per the Constitution, Ayad Allawi, the leader of Iraqiya, should have had first crack at forming a government. First crack? You become prime minister-designate and then have thirty days to name a Cabinet (nominate people for positions and have Parliament vote in favor of them). If you can't accomplish that in 30 days, per the Constitution, a new prime minister-designate is supposed to be named.

Nouri al-Maliki refused to surrender the post of prime minister. So the March 7th elections were followed by over 8 months of gridlock, Political Stalemate I. The Erbil Agreement found all but State of Law making major concessions so that the country could pull together. (During that eight month period, Parliament had one session which was little more than roll call.) Iraqiya, the winner in the elections, was supposed to see their leader (Allawi) head an independent security commission, the KRG was promised Article 140 would finally be followed (Article 140 of the Constitution addresses disputed territories such as Kirkuk -- it calls for a census and referendum to be held in Kirkuk by the end of 2007. Nouri was prime minister then and refused to implement Article 140.) Many promises were made but the only one that concerned Nouri was that he would remain prime minister.

With all sides signing off on the Erbil Agreement, it appeared that Iraq would be moving forward on a national level. Nouri was named prime minister-designate (unofficially named, Jalal Talabani would wait two weeks before making it official to give Nouri 30 days plus two weeks to form a Cabinet). Before November drew to a close, Nouri would announce the planned census to take place in December was off. He would claim that the national security commission had to be put on hold but would be created earlier. By the time he was illegally moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister, Iraq was in Political Stalemate II. And that's where it has remained. Illegally moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister? The Constitution says 30 days to name Cabinet. That's not 'partial' cabinet, that's the full Cabinet. Nouri did not name a full Cabinet. Most importantly he said he would 'temporarily' fill the security ministries -- Defense, National Security and Interior.

The Kurds, the National Alliance and Iraqiya have all called for the Erbil Agreement to be followed ("the Kurds" does not include Goran). Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports that Nouri and Iraqi president (and Kurd) Jalal Talabani have met and that steps are being taken to resolve the issues -- of course this has repeatedly been reported for months now with no resolution as of yet. Nouri and Talabani are said to be on the same page regarding the issues. If true, this should be a big surprise to the Kurdish delegation that visited Baghdad weeks ago and found no resolution or mutual understanding with Nouri. Dar Addustour adds that supposedly the two agreed that the three security ministries must be filled. Iraqiya tells Dar Addustour that Ayad Allawi is due back in Iraq and that there will be some important developments shortly. All options are open, their spokesperson states, including a vote of no-confidence for Nouri.

Meanwhile Al Rafidayn reports that Nouri held a press conference yesterday announcing and promoting a bill that, if passed, would give the provinces more say in their own affairs -- such as implementing water and health projects. Nouri's always so good about making statements to garner support. It's following up those statements with actual action that Nouri has problems with.

Next year the Kurdish Regional Government goes fully autonomous and Nouri al-Maliki ends his reign as prime minister. Or that's what Dar Addustour reports Yasser Dagestani sees in the stars. The paper tells you that Dagestani has a PhD in astronomy. No, I don't believe that will happen. But when publications make predictions -- think of tabloids at the super market -- they're either predictions that are supposed to scare you or delight you (that's how they sell copies of the tabloids).

Dropping back to the September 7th snapshot:

In other news, David Blair (Financial Times of London) reports that it's been discovered Iraq has "the second biggest phosphate reserves in the world, after Morocco." In 2010, the Guardian explained, "Phosphorous is an essential nutrient for plant growth, along with nitrogen and potassium. It is a key component in DNA and plays an essential role in plant energy metabolism. Without it, crops would fail, causing the human food chain to collapse.
Phosphate production is predicted to peak around 2030 as the global population expands to a predicted 9.1 billion people by 2050. And unlike oil, where there are renewable energy alternatives to fossil fuels, there is no substitute for phosphorus, according to the US Geological Survey."

Dar Addustour notes that this has now been confirmed -- second biggest reserve -- with a geological survey.

In other news, Al Rafidayn reports that 11 people were executed today and quotes a spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice stating that this incuded a woman and a Tunisian. Staying on legal, Nouri's been crying 'Ba'athist!' to take out political opponents. This issue was even raised in the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday -- Senator Scott Brown raised it and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stated the White House was concerned over the arrests. Al Sabaah reports that security sources are stating there is another list of 'Ba'athists' to be arrested in Dhi Qar. Al Rafidayn adds that the list has approximately 50 names on it. In other disturbing news, Al Mada reports that Iraqi security forces in Baghdad arrested a group of youths who were speaking to one another about the unemployment problem while eating a meal at a restaurant. The forces follwed the young people home and arrested them -- after forcing their way into the youth's homes. At least six people were arrested. One is Ashraf Mohamed whose mother states who explained that she was worried about her son's where abouts and after checking with the hospitals and police was told he was being held in detention. The secret arrests are being compared to the Iraqi security forces February 25th attack on four journalists who were at a restaurant eating lunch after covering the protest in Baghdad's Tahrir Square -- they were publicly beaten, hauled off and then tortured. One of the four was Hadi al-Mehdi who was assassinated September 8th and the government has made no effort to find his killer.

We'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "Few Guantanamo Prisoners Ever Get Their Day In Court" (Veterans Today):

Far from issuing the executive order he promised to shut down the prison at Guantanamo, President Obama is keeping virtually all of its prisoners confined in limbo without trials.
Just as illegal, he is reviving discredited military commission trials set up in 2001 by the Bush regime for the handful of suspects who might ever get their day in court. During his run for the White House, Obama had been critical of the military trials.
Human Rights Watch said the continued use of such trials “is a grave mistake” and given their “substandard procedures and tainted history” HRW does not believe that their judgments “will be perceived as legitimate, either domestically or internationally.”
Of the approximately 800 suspects brought to Guantanamo, and I emphasize the word suspects, only an astonishingly few six cases have proceeded to trial, even though many prisoners have been confined there for five years or longer. Three cases went to trial under Bush and three under Obama while a seventh man, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was arraigned just the other day.
As Alexander Cockburn pointed out in the October 24th issue of The Nation, Obama said “that his advisers had told him that some prisoners at Guantanamo may be too dangerous to release. Though there was insufficient evidence to build a case, they would be held indefinitely without charge or trial.” Imprisonment for life without trial?
According to British historian/journalist Andy Worthington, author of the book “The Guantanamo Files: The Stories of 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison,” only 171 prisoners remain today. That only six men have ever come before a judge in all this time establishes U.S. jurisprudence as truly no jurisprudence at all, but a cynical system of imprisonment where men are illegally arrested, illegally transported, illegally confined and illegally tortured until they illegally confess.

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