Friday, January 06, 2012

Many meet-ups, no national conference

After yesterday's string of bombings across Iraq, today would have to be (comparatively) more peaceful. This being Iraq, that doesn't mean the violence stopped. Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) reports, "At least three explosions struck Friday near Baghdad's Green Zone, where a parade to make Iraq's Army Day was taking place, according to witnesses." Of yesterday's violence, Dan Morse (Washington Post) observes, "At least 72 people were killed Thursday in a series of attacks on Shiites in Iraq, marking the deadliest day since U.S. troops withdrew last month and raising new worries about the country’s sharp sectarian divisions."

At 8:00 pm EST last night, the White House issued the following:

The White House

Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release January 05, 2012 Readout of the Vice President's Call with Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey
In the context of close U.S.-Turkish consultation on matters of mutual interest, Vice President Biden and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed regional issues, including political developments in Iraq, by telephone today. Following up on their conversation during the Vice President’s trip to Turkey in December, the two leaders agreed on the need to advance security, support the rule of law and encourage democracy in the region. They agreed that our two governments would remain in regular contact on these issues.

The political crisis continues in Iraq. Nouri al-Maliki's attempt at seizing further power has resulted in his swearing out a warrant against Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi. Al Rafidayn reports al-Hashemi has opened an office in the KRG. In a statement, al-Hashemi noted that his new office was in Sulaymaniyah and that it was temporary. He also called for a stop to the raids and harassment on his home and offices in Baghdad as well as the homes of his staff. Two women who work for him were recently detained with no explanation provided to them. On al-Hashemi, Al Mada reports that Parliament has rejected a request to supervise the investigation of al-Hashemi noting that such an action is beyond the scope of their legal duties. The paper also notes that rumors that he will be going to Jordan have been denied by Jordanian officials. Rakan al-Majali, government spokesperson, states no request from al-Hashemi has been received.

Nouri's political slate is State of Law. al-Hashemi is currently a house guest of Iraq's President Jalal Talabani. Earlier this week, the Kurdish Alliance staged a walkout (Tuesday) during a session of Parliament to register their offense over State of Law MP Hussein al-Asadi calling Talabani (who is Kurdish) a "terrorist.' Al Mada reports that al-Asadi delivered a formal apology and has stated he will travel to Sulaimaniyah to apologize to Talabani in person.

Talabani has called for a national conference among the political blocs to address the political crisis. Alsumaria TV reports on "observers" believing Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc not attending (this was announced over the holiday weekend) could cause a problem and some think the objection is part of a larger issue with claims that the National Alliance wants the list of invitees narrowed while Iraqiya and the Kurdistan Alliance want the conference to be open to various political actors. Alsumaria also notes that Talabani met with Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi in Sulaimaniya and Talabani and Allawi remain committed to a national conference to "dismantle" the political crisis. Aswat al-Iraq covers another meet-up:

Iraqi Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani discussed with Higher Islamic Council leading member Adel Abdul Mehdi ways to deal with the present crisis in the country and the necessity to all parties' agreement on a national projects and the implementation of previous agreements.
Barzani, in a statement, copy received by Aswat al-Iraq, stressed the importance of abiding by the real partnership.
The statement added that both sides stressed that all political parties should agree on a national project, implement previous agreements and solve the present crisis to create a state of stability in the country.

Adil Abdul-Mahdi was the Shi'ite Vice President of Iraq in Nouri's first term. In the second term, he was one of two Vice Presidents originally (himself and Tareq al-Hashemi) and then there were three vice presidents. He turned in his resignation at the end of May and Talabani accepted it formally in June. (Since then, Iraq has only had two vice presidents.) Mahdi has long wanted to be prime minister. He has had the support in that from various international oil corporations. Like most rulers in Iraq (excepting the KRG), Mahdi is an exile. He left Iraq in 1969.

When he stepped down as vice president, he did so with a letter lamenting government excess. The letter and the move was seen by some insiders as Mahdi setting himself up for a potential challenge to Nouri.

As all the meet-ups go on and on and the national conference is the carrot forever dangled, I'm reminded of the singing exercise, "Many men and many women mining many mines. Many men and many women mining many mines. Many . . ." (If you're not familiar with the exercise, you go up a note with each repeat . . . as you continue with the same words, over and over.)

Wordpress isn't working right now. At some point, the entries will be cross-posted today. (Currently, they are at the other mirror site on Blog Drive.) 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 "How US Policies Fueled Mexico's Great Migration" (The Nation):

Roberto Ortega tried to make a living slaughtering pigs in Veracruz, Mexico. "In my town, Las Choapas, after I killed a pig, I would cut it up to sell the meat," he recalls. But in the late 1990s, after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) opened up Mexican markets to massive pork imports from US companies like Smithfield Foods, Ortega and other small-scale butchers in Mexico were devastated by the drop in prices. "Whatever I could do to make money, I did," Ortega explains. "But I could never make enough for us to survive." In 1999 he came to the United States, where he again slaughtered pigs for a living. This time, though, he did it as a worker in the world's largest pork slaughterhouse, in Tar Heel, North Carolina.
His new employer? Smithfield-the same company whose imports helped to drive small butchers like him out of business in Mexico.
David Ceja, another immigrant from Veracruz who wound up in Tar Heel, recalls, "Sometimes the price of a pig was enough to buy what we needed, but then it wasn't. Farm prices were always going down. We couldn't pay for electricity, so we'd just use candles. Everyone was hurting almost all the time."
Ceja remembers that his family had ten cows, as well as pigs and chickens, when he was growing up. Even then, he still had to work, and they sometimes went hungry. "But we could give milk to people who came asking for it. There were people even worse off than us," he recalls.

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