Saturday, January 28, 2012

Biden calls Iraqiya, State of Law spreads rumors

In Iraq, the political crisis continues. CNN reports: US Vice President Joe Biden spoke today with Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and spoke on Friday with Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi:

"The two Iraqi leaders described deliberations under way among all Iraqi political factions and parties in the run-up to a proposed national conference led by President Jalal Talabani," the White House statement said. "The vice president discussed with both leaders the importance of resolving outstanding issues through the political process. The vice president and Iraqi leaders agreed to stay in close touch as events unfold."

In addition the White House, the Iraqi Parliament also released a statement. KUNA reports, "A statement by the parliament said Biden and Al-Nujaifi, who is a member in the Iraqiya List, discussed ways of narrowing the gaps between the parties to end the political conflict. They also discussed the national conference that would bring about participation of political forces to discuss the political process." AFP offers a good summary of the political crisis which includes:

Last month, the Iraqiya bloc began a boycott of parliament and cabinet to protest what it charged was Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's centralization of power, and has since called for Maliki to respect a power-sharing deal or quit.
Authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, a Sunni. Meanwhile Maliki, a Shiite, has said his Sunni deputy Saleh al-Mutlak should be sacked after the latter said the premier was "worse than Saddam Hussein."

Actually, "good" isn't accurate, AFP offers the strongest summary of the crisis any English language news outlet has managed. Meanwhile Al Mada reports that the Sadr bloc -- lead by Moqtada al-Sadr -- has reached an understanding with the League of Righteous (the Sadr bloc holds approximately 40 seats in the Parliament; the League of Righteous has no seats) and neither bloc will criticize the other during the current governmental conflict. If the agreement is sincere and holds, Moqtada's just managed to yet again bypass Nouri al-Maliki who's spent the last weeks attempting to cozy up to the League of Righteous with the hopes that by elevating them, he could weaken Moqtada al-Sadr's power base. Meanwhile Al Rafidyan repeats State of Law's claims that Iraqiya is imploding internally. State of Law (Nouri's political slate) came in second to Iraqiya in the March 2010 elections and the two are rivals. For weeks now, State of Law's been working two whisper campaigns: the first, that Iraqiya is about to rejoin the process; the second, that Iraqiya is imploding. So far, neither rumor has turned out to be true but still they whisper and still the press treats each utterance as if it were for the first time. Which is how you get this Dar Addustour article promoting State of Law's claim that Iraqiya is imploding.

Nouri al-Malliki targeted Iraqiya by insisting that Tareq al-Hashemi be arrested. Then he ridiculously claimed he (Nouri) was threatened by the Iraqi judiciary with arrest if he didn't order al-Hashemi's arrest. He did that because he was polling even worse among Iraqis than he had been prior to December. Making his lie even more ridiculous is the fact that he's arrested two women who worked for al-Hashemi. Amnesty International notes that the two women remain imprisoned nearly 30 days later:

Two women employed by Iraq's Vice-President's Office were arrested on 1 January 2012. Their current whereabouts are not known. The Iraqi authorities issued an arrest warrant against the Vice-President and it is believed they have been arrested in relation to this. Amnesty International fears they are at risk of torture and ill-treatment

AFP quotes Amnesty stating, "One of the employees, Rasha Nameer Jaafer al-Hussein, was arrested from her parents' house in Baghdad's Zayouna district on 1 January without a warrant. The other employee, Bassima Saleem Kiryakos, was arrested on the same day after her house in the Green Zone in Baghdad was raided by over 15 armed security men wearing military uniform. The officers did not have an arrest warrant." Nouri's responsible for those arrests. It would be cute to watch his American online apologists justify this but then, it's two women, and, as we all know, those assholes don't give a damn about women. So we'll note the obvious that won't get noted otherwise, behavior is modeled. While some may argue that the behavior is a carry over from Saddam Hussein's days, it's very much true that the US military in Iraq grabbed family members -- innocent family members -- in the way that the mob used to target family members -- in order to force Iraqi males to turn themselves in.

Dan Morse (Washington Post) has an article on the Awakenings. Unless he's able to disprove then-Gen David Petraeus, he's wrong. Morse says it was approximately "80,000 other Sunni fighters." As top US commander in Iraq, Petraeus testified to Congress in April 2008 that the Awakenings (also known as Sahwa and Sons Of Iraq) were more than just Sunni. Dropping back to the April 8, 2008 snapshot for the reporting we did on the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing:

The most dramatic moment came as committee chair Carl Levin was questioning Petraeus and a man in the gallery began exclaiming "Bring them home!" repeatedly. (He did so at least 16 times before he was escored out). The most hilarious moment was hearing Petraeus explain that it's tough in the school yard and America needs to fork over their lunch money in Iraq to avoid getting beat up. In his opening remarks, Petraues explained of the "Awakening" Council (aka "Sons of Iraq," et al) that it was a good thing "there are now over 91,000 Sons of Iraq -- Shia as well as Sunni -- under contract to help Coalition and Iraqi Forces protect their neighborhoods and secure infrastructure and roads. These volunteers have contributed significantly in various areas, and the savings in vehicles not lost because of reduced violence -- not to mention the priceless lives saved -- have far outweighed the cost of their monthly contracts." Again, the US must fork over their lunch money, apparently, to avoid being beat up.

"Shia as well as Sunni." If the Washington Post is stating Petraeus (now the head of the CIA) was wrong or lying, I'll happily get on board but it'll be just as soon as they provide some supporting evidence. Until then, that was what the top US commander in Iraq, who implemented the program, testified to Congress. So it's over 91,000 and they were "Shia as well as Sunni."

Here's reality, Sahwa is targeted repeatedly. Yesterday, while going through the snapshot to establish that over 400 violent deaths have taken place in Iraq since December 19th, that really stood out, how often Sahwa (and the family members of Sahwa) have been targeted in the last weeks. But that's not Morse's article. His article is a piece that could have run in the New York Times. And there are NYT writers who may argue that they already wrote that article . . . in 2009.

At this late date to assert the following is insanity: "For years, the Iraqi government has struggled to carry out a U.S.-brokered plan to find military or police jobs for the Sunni fighters [. . .]. How the government treats them over the coming months represents a chance at reconciliation or a threat to widen the country’s sectarian divide, especially if Sons of Iraq members strike out on their own, or even worse, defect to groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq." I've removed his characterization of the Sahwa and, again, it's not Sunni according to Petraeus. What's being described, what needed to take place, that was supposed to have happened years ago.

Instead, the US continued to make payments after 2008. When Nouri finally took over payments (not the first time the press announced he had, not the second time and not the third time), Sahwa learned that they wouldn't be paid regularly or at all. They were targeted with arrests and attacks. US correspondents covering Iraq for McClatchy always did a better job with Sahwa than any other outlet (the Los Angeles Times was always more sympathetic to the Kurds than other outlets, the New York Times worshipped at the feet of Nouri from April 2006 forward). It's a shame McClatchy's no longer doing in depth reporting on Sahwa because they're really the only outlet that's qualified for it.

The Sahwa are being targeted. That's happening right now. Today Xinhua reports the wife and daughter of a Sahwa were shot dead outside their Baghdad home. Reuters notes a Sinjar home invasion last night which left a married couple (Yazidis) dead, a Ghazaliya Friday bombing which claimed the life of 1 person and left six others injured, two Mahaweel sticky bombings today which claimed 1 life and left another person injured, 1 person shot dead in Tuz Khurmato, a Tuz Khurmato sticky bombing which injured one person and another which injured two people.

Meanwhile things are so bad in Iraq that pretending that the already postponed Arab Summit will still be held in Baghdad gets more and more difficult. Dar Addustour notes that "some Arab countries" are stating that the Arab Summit will have to again be postponed.

We'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "U.S. MAY HAVE PLAYED ROLE IN JAMAICA‘S 2010 MASSACRE" (Scoop):

To what extent, if any, did the U.S. Department of Homeland
Security(DHS) participate in the slaughter of scores of Kingston,
Jamaica’s, Tivoli Gardens residents on May 24th, 2010?
The community was run by drug lord Christopher (Dudus) Coke, a
self-proclaimed “president” wanted in the U.S. for drug and firearms
When he would not surrender to authorities, the Army’s Jamaican
Defense Force(J.D.F) and the Jamaican Constabulary Force(J.C.F.)
breached the barricades Coke’s men had erected and gunfire erupted.
Resistance was light and the defenders melted away. Unarmed residents
who had not taken the opportunity to leave Tivoli by bus prior to the
gunplay were not so lucky.
“No fewer than (73 civilians) were killed (as well as one soldier)” in
the operation to get Coke, and three other community residents are
missing, writes Mattathias Schwartz in last December 12th’s “The New
Yorker.” .
Although Jamaican authorities say many of those slain were armed
gunmen allied with Coke, they recovered just six guns during the
assault and to this day “the Jamaican government has refused to make
public what it knows about how the men and (three) women of Tivoli
Gardens died,” Schwartz writes.

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