Thursday, January 19, 2012

'It's just a mess'

On Morning Edition (NPR -- link will be audio shortly -- it will also be transcript later today), Sean Carberry reported on Aseel Albanna visit back to Iraq after 20 years of living in the US. It starts with the high of her exclaiming, "I can't believe I'm here, I just have sheer joy inside me." It descends rather quickly as she expresses dismay at what has happened to Baghdad, how her neighborhood "used to be a beautiful neighborhood [. . .] this is really shocking. This neighborhood used to be like all brand new houses, beautiful yards, beautiful streets, beautiful greenery and now I don't know how to describe it. It's just a mess."

Just a mess also describes the political climate in Baghdad where the political crisis continues. Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) reports that Iraqiya met in Baghdad yesterday to explore Nouri al-Maliki's ouster while Kurdish officials did the same in Erbil. Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) notes the political crisis continues to thrive and al-Salhy runs through some possibilities:

The political blocs are working out details of a conference to help sort out the political turmoil but it may not happen this month. The conference, some politicians say, could ease tensions and allow Sunni lawmakers to save face and go back to their jobs, ending the boycott.
In Sunni-majority Salahuddin province a bid to win more autonomy from Baghdad is gaining steam, although a quick resolution is unlikely. Petitions have been distributed, a constitutionally necessary step toward a referendum on greater self-rule.
Maliki's Shi'ite allies are trying to take advantage of the turmoil to win government jobs, power within ministries and provincial councils and the release of prisoners.
Kurdistan may use the presence of Hashemi and support for Maliki as bargaining chips to win concessions in its ongoing disputes with Baghdad over oil and land rights and the region's share of the national budget.

Yesterday, another arrest took place. Margaret Griffis ( explains, "Baghdad Provincial Council Vice President Riyadh al-Adhadh was arrested on terrorism charges and stands accused of financing a terrorist group in Abu Ghraib. Adhadh is a Sunni doctor who founded a free clinic in Adhamiya and is the focus of an English-language documentary on Iraq. The Iraqi Islamic Party condemned the action and called it an "unprecedented escalation" in the political arena." The arrest doesn't help the political climate. The message of late has been that Nouri is targeting Iraqiya and not Sunnis -- placing the emphasis on Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi's and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq's political affiliation and not tying in the arrests that began in October (over 800 Iraqis were arrested -- largely Sunni -- charged with plotting a coup -- less widely reported was the announcement a few weeks ago that they would all be released -- there was no plot). al-Adhadh is Sunni and part of the Iraqi Accord -- a Sunni political party which had significant problems and battles with Nouri during Nouri's first term as prime minister. For more on the Iraqi Accord, you can refer to this Carnegie Endowment for International Peace page. And, if these arrests continue, it's going to take more than the current planned PSAs to stop an increased hardening between the two major sects in Iraq.

As Nouri gears up for the reported televising of another set of 'confessions' against Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, Al Mada notes that Iraqiya spokesperson Maysoun Damluji has pointed out that the airing of these 'confessions' runs contrary to the Constitution an to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which Iraq is a signature to. She observes that it risks the impartiality and independence of the court and thrwarts the ability of a defendant to present their case fairly. I am stating that Nouri (the State) cannot release these 'confessions' to the media and still claim that they are honoring the Constitution's presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

Al Mada also covers Ayad Allawi's press conference yesterday in Baghdad. Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which came in first in the March 2010 elections. Allawi offered three options. The Erbil Agreement -- signed off on by all major political parties in November 2010 and overseen by the US government -- be honored, that the current government be dissolved and new elections called, that Nouri be replaced with a prime minister from the National Alliance. That last one's the one that enraged the non-legal genius who wanted to 'analyze' yesterday despite his lack of legal background. He felt this couldn't happen. But it actually could happen for reasons outlined in yesterday's snapshot as well as other reasons. Other reasons include Nouri was illegaly moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister. Jalal Talabani, as president, could make that call and, noting that Nouri still hasn't come up with a full cabinet, declare someone else prime minister-designate. The 'legal' 'genius' also stated that Nouri couldn't be replaced due to the fact that Iraqiya would have the largest number of members in Parliament. Actually, Iraqiya was robbed of its ability to do what the 'genius' now insists would happen. And now it's too late for that to happen. The same framework that allowed Nouri to be 'eligible' would remain. State of Law's would be unlikely to break off from the current coalition they formed with the National Alliance and others. Nouri's popularity has never been great. Polls show that to be the case with the Iraqi people (see Zogby's polling last month) and it's also true within his political 'allies.' Dawa, in 2010, after the elections, was publicly floating kicking him out of the Dawa Party. State of Law MPs, in 2010, were happy to insist at times that they could go along with another person other than Nouri being prime minister. (Their only concern was that it be from the SoL or National Alliance.)

Nothing Allawi has proposed is unconstitutional.

Violence continues in Iraq. Reuters notes a Baquba homebombing targeting a Sahwa which injured him, "his wife and one of his children" (Sahwa are also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq" -- they are largely Sunni and were put on the US payroll in the last years of the Bush administration to get them to stop attacking the US military and US military property -- as then Gen David Petraeus testified to Congress in April 2008; Nouri al-Maliki was supposed to take over paying Sahwa, he was supposed to find security jobs for some and, for others, find non-security government jobs, this was to bring them into the political process, he refused to do so); a Baquba home bombing targeted the Baquba mayor (no one was injured), four Baquba bombs targeted a Shi'ite family (no one was injured), three Baquba grocery stores were bombed, 1 police officer was shot dead in Baghdad last night, 1 person was shot dead in Jalawla last night and 1 Sahwa was shot dead in Samara last night (three other people were also shot).

Very depressing that, in the last ten hours, only Press TV has filed on yesterday's attack on the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad. And is Sam Dagher the only correspondent with an article in a US paper noting the attack? Considering the August 19, 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters and the September 22, 2003 attack, you'd think the attack would register as a major sign of concern.

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