Dan Morse and Asaad Majeed (Washington Post) explain, "The attacks come amid a political crisis that has virtually paralyzed the government in the last six weeks." Nouri kicked off the political crisis by refusing to honor the November 2010 Erbil Agreement he signed off on (the agreement which allowed him to become prime minister despite his State of Law coming in second in the March 2010 elections). He intensified the conflict in October 2011 when he began ordering the arrest of hundreds of Sunnis -- insisting that they were attempting to launch a coup and were terrorists. As reported by the Iraqi media earlier this month, most have been released and the rest are expected to be -- there was no coup attempt. Then came December and Nouri's return from DC, emboldened by his face-to-face with supporter Barack Obama. Nouri immediately demanded that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post and that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi be arrested for terrorism. Both al-Mutlaq and al-Hashemi are Sunnis and members of Iraqiya. Last week saw several prominent Sunnis and Iraqiya members arrested in various provinces.
Since last month, President Jalal Talabani (Kurd) and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi (Iraqiya) have been calling for a national conference. This month there was a meet-up of various political players to firm up the details for the national conference and a final meet-up was supposed to have taken place last Sunday; however, over the weekend, Talabani had to travel to Germany for spinal surgery and the meet-up is now on hold. This week, Nouri and State of Law began demanding that if any national conference takes place, it can't be called a national conference. As Sheikh (Dar Addustour) notes that demand as well as the demand that it not be open to all political leaders but just the the three presidencies (Talabani, Nouri and al-Nujaifi) and the leaders of blocs in parliament and Sheikh notes that the demands, if implemented, will be like a bullet to the body and kill the hopes of any success of resolving the crisis.
Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq leader Ammar al-Hakim is in Turkey currently (meeting with officials) and AP quotes him stating, "I want to invite Iraqiya to return to parliament and take its place in parliament. We say that we will examine their just demands and do whatever is necessary."
In other news . . .
Remember Nawal al-Samarraie? She was the Minister of Women's Affairs during Nouri's first term as Prime Minister. February 6, 2009, she was in the news when she resigned because her ministry was not properly funded (a meager monthly budget of $7,500 a month was slashed to $1,400) and she states, "I reached to the point that I will never be able to help the women." That was very embarrassing for Nouri. So naturally the New York Times worked overtime to ignore it. (See Third Estate Sunday Review's "NYT goes tabloid.") NPR's Corey Flintoff covered it for Morning Edition (link has text and audio).
Nouri didn't care for Nawal al-Samarraie or the needed attention she raised. Which was reflected in his second term when he tried to erase women completely. From the December 22, 2010 snapshot:
Turning to Iraq, Liz Sly and Aaron Davis (Washington Post) note, "A special gathering of the nation's parliament endorsed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for a second term in office, with lawmakers then voting one by one for 31 of the eventual 42 ministers who will be in his cabinet." AFP notes that all but one is a man, Bushra Hussein Saleh being the sole woman in the Cabinet. And they quote Kurdish MP Ala Talabani stating, "We congratulate the government, whose birth required eight months, but at the same time we are very depressed when we see the number of women chosen to head the ministries. Today, democracy was decapitated by sexism. The absence of women is a mark of disdain and is contrary to several articles of the constitution. I suggest to Mr Maliki to even choose a man for the ministry of women's rights, as you do not have confidence in women." Ala Talabani is the niece of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Imran Ali (Womens Views On News) reminds, "The new constitution stipulates that a quarter of the members of parliament be women and prohibits gender discrimination." Apparently concern about representation doesn't apply to the Cabinet (and, no, Nouri's attempts at offering excuses for the huge gender imbalance do not fly).
42 posts to fill and Nouri couldn't think of a single woman? And wouldn't have if Iraqi women hadn't gotten vocal on the issue. (And note that Nouri increased the Cabinet from 31 in his first term to 42.)
We bring that up because Nouri did finally find a woman and named her to be Minister of the State for Women's Affairs. The woman is Dr. Ibtihal Kassid. And Al Mada reports the lovely doesn't believe in equality stating equality "harms women" but she's happy to offer government dictates on what women should be wearing. No, she's not a minister. She's many things including words we won't use here but she's not friend to women and that's why Nouri picked her. A real woman fighting for other women? Nouri can't handle that. A simpering idiot who states that women should only act after their husband's consent? That gender traitor gets a ministry. She's currently at work devising a uniform for Iraqi women.
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