Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Panetta goes to Iraq, Moqtada enraged by Nouri's visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Dar Addustour reports US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta arrived in Baghdad today on "an unannounced visit" -- all this time later, US officials still have to sneak into Iraq. But 'with honor!' Barack would insist, 'with honor!' Al Rafidayn notes he is expected to attend a ceremony in Baghdad Thursday.

Nouri al-Maliki continues his visit to the US. Al Sabaah reports that immunity for US troops was raised to Nouri by Barack and Nouri, according to an unnamed Iraqi who is part of the delegation visiting the US, refused to make any promises. Having just gotten 18 more F-16s approved this week, Nouri is now angling for drones as well. Dar Addustour notes that Nouri and Barack laid reefs at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and that Moqtada al-Sadr is criticizing the visit and the talks on immunity.

In a longer story focusing just on Moqtada's criticism, Dar Addustour notes that Moqtada and his bloc are stating that the US is attempting to weaken Iraq as well as the Arab and Islamic world and that economic agreements are being dangled in an attempt to trick the Iraqi politicians. Iraq continuing to be under Chapter VII at the UN is raised and the Sadr bloc states that this is proof that the US is not sincere. The continued occupation via the US Embassy is called out as well. But the trip to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier especially results in a tongue lashing at Nouri, "Maliki's visit to that tomb of the dead Americans in Washington is an insult to the blood the dead of Iraq. It would have shown more respect for Maliki to visit the cemetery in Najaf."

Still on Moqtada, Aswat al-Iraq reports, "Shiite Sadrist Trend leader called not to interfere in Syrian events, pointing that it is a country with sovereignty and dignity. Muqtada al-Sadr expressed his concern of the foreign intervention and internationalization of this case. On the other hand, a Sadrist MP denied news of sending militias to Syria to suppress the protests there, describing these accusations as aimed against the political process in Iraq."

Tensions abound in Iraq. Al Sabaah reports on issue raised in Parliament this week including Turkey's building another damn on a river thta flows through Dohuk Province (part of the Kurdistan Regional Government) which has damaged the water resources and Turkey's non-response to complaints led for calls to take this issue to the international courts. Jim Michaels (USA Today) explores Iraqi concerns and observes, "An inability to finalize a government 22 months after elections has raised concerns about the sincerity of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's efforts to form a coalition representing all Iraqis." Still on tensions, Kelly McEvers (NPR's Morning Edition, link has audio and text) reports that when the US turned over a base in disputed Kirkuk, the Iraqi military and the Peshmerga both attempted to claim it leading to six-hour standoff which included drawing guns on one another.

Kael Alford (MSNBC) has a photo series up from her return to Iraq over the summer:

When I returned this summer, the violence had diminished but was once again climbing. On the morning of my arrival in Baghdad, a loud explosion shook me awake. At first I thought it was a nightmare, but a characteristic second explosion a few minutes later confirmed I wasn’t dreaming. The target was a Turkish restaurant across the street from the compound where I was staying. No motive was known, and luckily no one was injured at that early hour. A week later, even the shattered glass of the nearby windows had been replaced and life returned to normal.

Also offering a photo essay on Iraqis is Shannon Stapelton (Reuters). Stephen Farrell and the New York Times' Baghdad Bureau survey a variety of Iraqis about their thoughts as the US military is repostured. We'll note one view and we're noting her because it is a "her" (I can't very well rage against the paper for refusing to note Iraqi women and then refuse to include the voice of an Iraqi women when they finally choose to quote one):

Nour Kasim, 30, Housewife
1. It is not the right time for America to leave Iraq with such internal conflicts and the security situation so unstable and unsafe. We need more time to stabilize security and to be ready for any external confrontation. I don’t think Iraq is ready to do this alone.
2. I don’t know exactly the American goals, but I believe that they achieved them, otherwise they wouldn’t decide to leave. I don’t have any problem with America, Saddam or any ruling party because I don’t get myself involved in politics. I hope Iraq will be liberated, but we have to be able to protect our country first.

LCPL Jonathan W. Collins died serving in Iraq (August 2004). In a letter to the Chicago Tribune, his father John K. Collins explores the topic of was the Iraq War worth it?

Finally, David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. We'll close with this from Bacon's "People of the Central Valley 5 AFRICAN AMERICAN TENANTS FIGHT A STOCKTON SLUMLORD" (People's World):

STOCKTON, CA (12/12/11) - Doyle Gardens sounds like it might be a pleasant apartment complex, where residents stroll down walkways between flower beds surrounded by greenery. Its name is a lie.
In this large apartment complex in downtown Stockton the residents, mostly poor and working-class African American families, instead live with terrible conditions. Patricia Norman points to the trash outside her door. Yolanda Jackson's sink is on its last legs, and the insulation on the door of her refrigerator can't keep the cold locked inside. Tomoro Hooper sits disconsolately beneath the broken towel racks of his bathroom, while his grandmother, Patricia Perkins, stares at the cracks in the linoleum.
In Laronda Trishell's apartment the bathroom is also falling apart,. One of the drawers in her kitchen has a bottom that doesn't slide. If she forgets when she pulls it out, all her utensils wind up on the floor.
Vicky Robinson used to live in the complex too. She still feels a commitment to the friends she made there, and today helps them get organized to force the landlord to fix the many problems. Some have even complained of bedbug and cockroach infestations. Robinson points to a hole in a window made by a bullet. Instead of replacing the glass, though, a plywood sheet sits in the frame behind to broken pane. Robinson meets with tenants around a table in the courtyard, to talk about these and other defects.

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