Saturday, December 17, 2011

Way to go, Barack! (Iraq falls apart)

Ines Tariq (Al Mada) reports on the controversy over whether or not the country's Supreme Court has issued an arrest warrant for Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi. Reportedly, Nouri al-Maliki wants al-Hashemi arrested. Nouri's political slate is State of Law. They came in second in the parliamentary elections. Iraqiya came in first. al-Hashemi is a member of Iraqiya. Iraqiya made clear Friday that things were changing and today they walked out of the Parliament.

Meanwhile Al Rafidayn reports Nouri al-Malikis asking Parliament for a vote to withdraw confidence in Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq. Nouri states he al-Mutlaq is no longer able to hold office as a result of an interview he gave to CNN. Tuesday, Arwa Damon and Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is amassing dictatorial power as U.S. troops leave the country, risking a new civil war and the breakup of the nation, his deputy warned Tuesday.
Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq told CNN that he was "shocked" to hear U.S. President Barack Obama greet al-Maliki at the White House on Monday as "the elected leader of a sovereign, self-reliant and democratic Iraq." He said Washington is leaving Iraq "with a dictator" who has ignored a power-sharing agreement, kept control of the country's security forces and rounded up hundreds of people in recent weeks.
[. . .]
"America left Iraq with almost no infrastructure. The political process is going in a very wrong direction, going toward a dictatorship," he said. "People are not going to accept that, and most likely they are going to ask for the division of the country. And this is going to be a disaster. Dividing the country isn't going to be smooth, because dividing the country is going to be a war before that and a war after that."

Like Tareq al-Hashemi, Saleh al-Mutlaq is a member of the Iraqiya political slate. Dar Addustour is reporting that the homes of al-Hashemi and al-Mutlaq as well as the home of Rafi Hiyad al-Issawi have been surrounded by "tanks and special forces." Dr. Rafi Hiyad al-Issawi was the previous Deputy prime minister (2007 through 2010). He was the head of Falluja General Hospital prior to that and he is currently the Minister of Finance. Like the other two, al-Issawi is a member of Iraqiya.

For those late to the party, it may be necessary to review the two Political Stalemates.
Iraqiya is the political slate that came in first in the March 2010 elections. 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 still came in first and Nouri's political slate State of Law still 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.

Political Stalemate I ended in November of 2010 with the Erbil Agreement hammered out in Erbil between the major political blocs (and the US) whereby every one was supposed to make concessions. The Kurds would get to keep Jalal Talabani as president. They thought they would get three vice presidents. Iraqiya won the elections in March 2010 and the political bloc was headed by Ayad Allawi. Nouri wasn't stepping down and the White House was backing Nouri. For Nouri to remain prime minister, Allawi was promised he would head a new, independent council over security issues. He was also promised that the Iraqiya candidates demonized as Ba'athists and forced out of the 2010 elections by Nouri's friends would have their names cleared.

On November 11th, the new Parliament held their first real session. They voted Osama al-Nujaifi Speaker of Parliament (he was from Iraqiya and that was part of the Erbil Agreement), Jalal was named president and Nouri was named prime minister designate (but we were all informed in the following days that this was 'unofficial' -- once named prime minister-designate, you have 30 days, per the Constitution, to put together a Cabinet and get the Parliament to sign off on each member). But what of the security council? What of clearing the names of the falsely accused?

That would come, State of Law insisted, in time.

Allawi and a number of Iraqiya members walked out. They should have refused to participate from that day forward. Instead, they foolishly believed promises (from both State of Law and the White House). Nobember 25th, Jalal 'officially' named Nouri prime minister-designate.

Nouri had created Political Stalemate I by refusing to surrender the prime minister post. He'd done that for eight months. In that time, he should have had some ideas about a Cabinet. But Nouri's problem was he over-promised to get support. So when it was time to name a Cabinet, suddenly the Cabinet had more ministers and deputy ministers than it had previously (from 37 in 2006 to 42 in 2010). And he still couldn't keep his promises to everyone.

December 22nd, the Constitution was tossed by the wayside and Nouri was allowed to move from prime minister-designate to prime minister because he'd assembled a kind of Cabinet. He named 31 out of 42 ministers and people pretended that was good enough. He had failed to meet the Constitutional mandate of naming a Cabinet but everyone looked the other way.

He refused to name the security posts: National Security, Interior and Defense. His defenders (including the White House) swore those posts would be named in a matter of weeks. His detractors saw the refusal as part of a pattern of power grabs on Nouri's part and stated he wouldn't fill the posts. This is the start of Political Stalemate II.
Six days from now, it will be a year since Nouri was wrongly (per the Constitution, per the vote) named prime minister. And Iraq still has no Minister of Defense, Minister of Interior or Minister of National Security.

Today -- but not Tuesday on radio or during the week in print -- Liz Sly (Washington Post) notes that the 'government' is "unraveling faster than had been anticipated Saturday." She also notes, "In recent days, the homes of top Sunni politicians in the fortified Green Zone have been ringed by tanks and armored personnel carriers, and rumors are flying that arrest warrants will be issued for other Sunni leaders." For days? Plural. "In recent days." Hmm. Why didn't we hear about that when it mattered? Oh, didn't want to spoil the p.r. for Barack Obama. Well, hey, there's nothing more important in the world than our Lord and Savior Barack. Certainly screwing over the Iraqi people is understandable if it advances the Cult of St. Barack, right?

It's a good report. But it's going to surprise a lot of Sunday readers of the Washington Post who will wonder how the hell this happened with no previous coverage indicating what was going on?

As is often the case, David Zucchino pens a strong article for the Los Angeles Times but, as a result of life on the ground (see above), it suddenly falls by the wayside.

It's a damn shame the US government, the White House, couldn't support the Iraqi people who knew Nouri had declared war on Iraqiya (their candidates were killed, banned from running and accused by Nouri of being terrorist repeatedly) who voted them ahead of Nouri's State of Law. It's a shame that the Iraqi people and the Constitution mattered so damn little to the White House which just had to have their thug.

Poor Barry. Unprepared to lead, ignorant of the world and looking like a complete fool as Saturday draws to a close and his words from the morning still prompting laughter. When he decided that experience didn't matter, he not only harmed the US, he harmed Iraq. And as bad as the above is -- and it's really bad -- it's not yet violence. As I pointed out earlier this week, Joe Biden never should have made his stupid remarks Tuesday night on TV. I love Joe, but it wasn't smart and it gives the GOP the video they especially need. They can intercut with Barack's airy statements and run it over footage of Iraq falling apart.

That's not an argument for staying. We have always favored immediate withdrawal. And we noted back when Barack won the election that he needed to get the troops out immediately. Had he done what many voters thought he was promising to do, the disaster that Iraq may become would be a Bush disaster.

If Iraq had broken out into all out war in 2010 -- Barack having pulled all US troops out in 2009 -- that would be Bush's problem. And Barack could say that. And no one could have argued with him. He had a mandate from the voters to immediately end the Iraq War.

But instead, he decided to own the war. And he decided to continue the occupation (by militarizing the State Dept). And he and his gang of idiots made one fatal mistake another another including backing Nouri over and over. Including repeatedly stabbing the Kurds in the back. Asking them time and again to ignore what was best for them and instead do what would help the White House. (That's not even counting all of the US money the CIA funneled into Goran -- a political party in the KRG that challenges the two existing parties.) As a friend in the administration said to me recently, there's really no marker left that the US can call in when it comes to the Kurds. The administration betrayed those who were friends to the US by supporting a thug named Nouri. In supporting a thug named Nouri, they betrayed the Iraqi people. In backing Nouri over the Iraqi Constitution, they sent a message and set a pattern that rule of law does not matter.

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