Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Nouri doesn't want the political crisis called a 'crisis'

As Baghdad is slammed with bombings today, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observes, "The latest attacks raised concerns among ordinary people about the ability of Iraqi security forces to ensure security in this country, particularly after the United States withdrew troops by the end of 2011. However, Iraqi people are more concerned now about the political crisis." The ongoing political crisis was started by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who demanded that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post and that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi be arrested for terrorism. al-Mutlaq and al-Hashemi both belong to Iraqiya which came in first in the March 2010 elections (Nouri's State of Law came in second). The two men are also Sunnis. Nouri appears to be targeting both Sunnis and Iraqiya as evidenced by several arrests last week. (Iraqiya is a political slate made up of Shi'ites -- such as leader Ayad Allawi, Sunnis and others. It's success in the 2010 elections echoed the main thread of the 2009 provincial elections which was that Iraqi voters wanted to move away from sectarian politics.) Along with arresting various politicians, Nouri's also decided that he can toss out members of his Cabinet who are members of Iraqiya. He's decided he can do that even though the Constitution is clear that a prime minister can only remove a member of the Cabinet with the approval of Parliament. Parliament's held no vote but Nouri insists he's removed members.

The chief task of the prime minister is building a strong Cabinet. That's why when the president of Iraq names a prime minister-designate they have 30 days to name their Cabinet (propose nominees and have Parliament vote on them). If, per the Constitution, they're not able to do that within 30 days, then the president is supposed to select another prime minister-designate. In November 2010, Nouri was named prime minister-designate. As December 2010 drew to a close, he was illegally moved to prime minister. He had not proposed a full Cabinet. Most noticeable, the security ministries (Ministry of Interior, Ministry of National Security and Ministry of Defense) were empty. The US press rushed to assure it was only a matter of weeks (as if the 30 day deadline in the Constitution didn't matter?) while his critics declared Nouri would not name anyone to the posts, that this was a power-grab on Nouri's part and he intended to control the ministries by refusing to name real ministers. (His so-called 'acting' ministers are not real ministers. They have not been approved by Parliament for those positions so they have no real power and are merely rubber stamps for Nouri.)

It's one year and a month later and Nouri still hasn't managed to name people to those posts. His inability to do so speaks to his failure as a leader and underscores that the Constitution had a 30 day requirement for a reason. One who is so indecisive and laid back to security should not be put in charge of a country that has seen violence inflicted by foreigners as well as by native persons.

The Constitution does not allow a prime minister to -- all on their own -- remove a minister and that's because they're supposed to have used their best judgment when proposing the Cabinet. If they didn't, it's up to the prime minister to persuade the Parliament to strip a minister of his/her post.

Nouri's repeated violations of the Constitution are setting a very dangerous pattern should Iraq ever, under the current system, get a new prime minister. If the Constitution's not going to be the supreme law of the land, then there are no checks and balances on the three branches of government. The only thing more appalling than Nouri's failure to follow the Constitution is the US press refusing to call out these violations.

Since mid-December, President Jalal Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi have been calling for a national conference to address the the political crisis. Two Sundays ago, there were a meet-up of major blocs to outline some aspects of the conference. Last Sunday was supposed to see a second meeting that would firm up the details; however, Talabani had to go to Germany for spinal surgery so the meeting was postponed. Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports the National Alliance is of differing views on the issues and that Nouri held a meeting yesterday with a few invited players where he insisted that (a) "political crisis" not be used (the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq rebuked the notion that the situation should not be described as a "crisis"), (b) that it not be called a "national conference" and other details to obscure reality of the mess he caused.

The political crisis has been building for months. The March 2010 elections were followed by eight months of Nouri refusing to surrender the prime minister post or allow Iraqiya the first shot at forming a coalition government. Nouri had the White House's backing or he wouldn't have survived those eight months. To end the stalemate, the US government helped broker an agreement known as the Erbil Agreement in which Nouri was allowed to remain prime minister but he would need to create an independent security commission headed by Allawi and he would need to honor the Constitution's requirement for a referendum on Kirkuk (per the Constitution, that was supposed to have taken place by the end of 2007 but Nouri ignored it in his first term).

Nouri used the Erbil Agreement to become prime minister -- it can be argued the Erbil Agreement was why he was moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister even though he failed to meet the Constitutional requirement -- and then trashed it. These days, Nouri and his sycophants (including those who pass themselves off as 'independent analysts' but are really just part of the Nir Rosen Locker Room) insist the Erbil Agreement is unconstitutional. If that's the opinion that will prevail then Jalal Talabani needs to explain Nouri was illegal and unconstitutionally moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister.

Al Sabaah notes that Nouri also spoke with Ibrahim al-Jaafari yesterday. The two are political rivals so that should have been interesting. (al-Jaafari was the choice in 2006 to be prime minister, to, in fact, continue as prime minister -- but the White House overruled the Parliament and insisted on Nouri.) al-Jaafari's office issued a statement stating that they had discussed ways to address the country's national priorities. Meanwhile Bahaa al-Araji of the Sadr bloc met with Iraqiya members and they addressed the issue of the charges against Tareq al-Hashemi agreeing that politicians should not be making charges in the media -- Nouri -- and that the matter should be left up to the judiciary. Alsumaria reports that Tareq al-Hashemi has referred to Nouri's nonsense statements a few weeks back as a "joke" and not believable.

Here's Nouri

That's Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Here's Nouri" illustrating that moment -- Nouri whines, "Wah! They made me go after Tareq al-Hashemi!" In the background, Moqtada al-Sadr utters a disapproving, "Nouri!" When even Nouri realized he'd gone too far and was ticking off Iraqis -- regardless of their sect or ethnicity -- he began insisting to the press that he didn't want to arrest Tareq al-Hashemi but the judiciary insisted he do so or he would be arrested himself! (If that's true -- no, it's not true -- then shouldn't the judiciary have arrested Nouri by now? Not only is al-Hashemi a guest of President Jalal Talabani's and not arrested but Nouri waited until after al-Hashemi left Baghdad to issue the warrant. So shouldn't Nouri be arrested?)

As al-Hashemi notes, the whole thing is an insane joke on Nouri's part.

Al Sabaah also notes that al-Jaafari hosted a meeting at his home last night, invited were several members of the National Alliance. Aswat al-Iraq reports that Iraqiya MP Hamid al-Mutlaq has alternative plans if a national conference fails. Aswat al-Iraq also notes, "Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr called his 'resistance' followers to be prepared to face the US Embassy in Baghdad, if they did not stop their breaches."

Yesterday US News & World Report's Debate Club offered Iraq as the topic. Ideally in the snapshot today we'll note various views. It was a lively exchange with many people making many different arguments. We'll quote from Phyllis Bennis' "It's Already Too Late in Iraq" right now:

Far from being "too soon," the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq came more than eight years too late--and still, the war isn't over. This war should never have been launched, so it can't be ended soon enough.
The war was based on lies--remember the "weapons of mass destruction" that weren't there, the "links to 9/11" that never happened, the "mobile weapons laboratories" that didn't exist? Withdrawing troops now, after eight years of occupation, doesn't mean the U.S. achieved victory. It was a defeat for the U.S. and a disaster for the people of Iraq. A terrible dictator (who had been armed, paid, and backed by the U.S., we should not forget) was indeed overthrown. But Iraqis faced years without security, basic services, electricity--let alone democracy, human rights, or independence.

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