Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The ongoing political crisis

Al Mada reports Osama al-Nujaifi, Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, has called for the Iraqi military to promote national unity and not suppress the people, noting that human rights abuses by the military are threatening the country. He also called on the military to stay out of political disputes. Dar Addustour adds that he declared public freedoms to be among the most important accomplishments in the transformation of Iraq to a democracy. He decried the use of violence against Iraqis and the arbitrary arrests. AFP quotes al-Nujaifi stating, "We find that human rights in Iraq have suffered massive violations. Human rights have not been achieved amid the deteriorating of the political process in Iraq. It is clear the development of the nation is based on how much human rights are respected. Losing these rights is destroying democracy."

Arbitrary arrests could include the over 500 arrests Nouri al-Maliki has ordered recently on the pretext that Sunnis were plotting a coup -- including elderly college professors apparently. He labeled the "Ba'athists" and "terrorists," as he so loves to do, and insisted that these arrests were based on credible information -- in fact, Libya had given the information! Uh, no. And the questionable arrests that started in November appear more questionable today. Now it appears it was the start of the political crisis Nouri al-Maliki started in the middle of last month by insisting that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi was a terrorist and had to be arrested and that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq must be stripped of his office. Both al-Hashemi and al-Mutlaq are Sunnis. They are also members of Iraqiya -- a non-sectarian political slate which came in first in the March 2010 elections. Nouri heads the rival slate State of Law.

The editorial board of the Louisville Courier Journal (via the Leaf Chronicle) covers the political crisis:

For starters, the timing supports fears that Mr. al-Maliki is moving to purge the government of meaningful Sunni participation. In addition to seeking Mr. al-Hashemi's arrest, Mr. al-Maliki asked the parliament for a no-confidence vote against another prominent Sunni leader, Saleh al-Mutlaq, a deputy prime minister. Mr. al-Maliki also threatened to exclude Iraqiya, the main Sunni party, from participation in the unity government.
Meanwhile, hundreds of former members of the Baath Party, through which Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq as leader of the Sunni minority, have been arrested in recent weeks, and Sunni officials' compounds in Baghdad have been surrounded by Mr. al-Maliki's security forces.
All in all, the situation reeks of Shiite vengeance against Sunnis and strongly suggests that Mr. al-Maliki intends to become a new Iraqi dictator.

Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) runs down possible outcomes of the crisis including:

Maliki could also face opposition within his own bloc, where some factions appeared to be using the crisis to push for a new prime minister or to negotiate for posts or other benefits.
Maliki's move against Hashemi and his demand that parliament dump Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, another Sunni leader, sparked Iraq’s worst political crisis in a year.
The Shia leader has presented Iraqiya with a challenge to sideline Hashemi, one of its senior leaders, or lose its sway in government. Iraqiya may ultimately have to decide whether it stays together or splinters, and cracks have already appeared.

Partitioning Iraq into sections (the existing semi-autonomous KRG would be joined a Sunni section and a Shi'ite section) is a hot topic these days. Leslie Gelb (see yesterday morning's entry) swears it's the only way -- ONLY -- to save Iraq. Run like hell from anyone telling you there is only one way to do something, run like hell, especially if you're at an airport. Ivan Eland (Antiwar.com) makes an argument for partitioning without sounding like he wants your first born. But what I want to emphasize here is the following section:

After its forces have withdrawn, why should the United States be concerned with the devolution of power in Iraq? Because if power is not decentralized, Iraq is liable to degenerate into a civil war that will make the conflict in 2006 and 2007 look mild. Sectarian violence is already increasing. And of course, the United States, which is responsible for the current mess, may be pressured by the Iraqi central government, other Iraqis, or the international community to return its forces to the internecine bloodletting to stanch the carnage. Although President Obama maintains that U.S. troops will not return to Iraq even if the civil war resumes, pledges of nonintervention have been later broken by previous presidents, especially after elections.

I have a low threshold for War Hawks. If Eland says Barack said it, I'm sure he did, probably in one of his two weeks of speeches. But he also told the New York Times, in 2008, the exact opposite, that he had no problem sending troops back into Iraq. And, as Eland notes, pledges from politicians are meaningless.

People say a lot when they want the job
Lining up eager around the block
Promising, promising never to quit
Well it's a full time job to be a hypocrite
-- "People Say A Lot," written by Carly Simon, first appears on her This Kind Of Love.

Many are pushing partitioning. If partitioning takes place, the people supporting it need to be Iraqis. It's their country and it's their decision. For everyone walking through the possibilities like Eland, there are many more pushing it for other reasons. Al Rafidayn notes that Paul Bremer is pushing it. Many people would argue that Bremer's 'helped' enough. And 'helpers' who were War Cheerleaders -- like Bremer and Gelb -- risk looking like they're advocating federalism for less than alturistic reasons. Meaning? The KRG has many advisers and it will be fine regardless when it comes to oil deals. But split the rest of Iraq into a Shia and Sunni section? It makes fleecing Iraq's oil (and gas) a lot easier. Especially when corporations work fears as they will do.

CNN notes the Parliament was scheduled to reconvene today and they weigh in on the political crisis:

In an online statement, the head of the Sadrist parliamentary bloc Baha'a al-Araji said Iraq is facing a new era with problems that rob the nation of stability and sovereignty.
The Sadrist bloc serves as a key ally of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite.
Al-Maliki managed to forge a fragile coalition and secure a second term in office because of backing from followers of al-Sadr, the powerful leader of the notorious Mehdi Army that fought some of the fiercest battles against U.S. forces.
Al-Maliki's tenuous support among Iraq's Sunnis, who feel marginalized by a Shiite-dominated government, was further strained after he ordered the arrest last month of Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashimi on charges that he ordered bombings and assassinations.
With the Sadrist statement Monday, al-Maliki's hold on power appeared to be further eroding.

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