Thursday, February 02, 2012

The never-ending political crisis

We're late because I'm juggling this morning -- and have been all week. Which is one reason why we're only now noting Dar Addustour's report from Monday about Iraq's Supreme Court. (The other reason? I wanted to see if anyone else was going to include it and thus far no English language outlet has.) Prime Minister and Thug of the Occupation Nouri al-Maliki took a simmering political crisis and brought it to a boil in mid-December by targeting Iraqiya politicians. He demanded that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his title. He demanded that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi be arrested for terrorism. I the time since, there have been multiple airings of 'confessions' on Nouri's favorite TV station. But this week the Supreme Court issued a statement making clear that they were not responsible for the airing of the confessions. We noted -- though the great unwashed Nir Rosen brigade failed to -- that Nouri airing those confessions was unconstitutional. We weren't the only ones to make that assertion (Iraqiya got very loud on the topic -- and they were right). Nouri then insisted publicly that this wasn't his decision, he'd spoken with the judiciary and they approved. Their statement makes very clear that they did not grant approval, their statements makes very clear that "innocent until proven guilty" is a judicial principle the court must follow and that they pin the blame on "the executive branch" -- Nouri.

We're going to walk through this one more time. Nouri takes an oath to uphold the Constitution. He is yet again in violation of the Constitution. If the Iraqi officials do not hold him accountable, they can go ahead and scrap the Constitution because it will be meaningless. All Iraqis are bound by the Constitution. It makes no oath to serve Nouri but Nouri had to make an oath to uphold it.

Tuesday, Marco Werman (PRI's The World -- link is audio and text) spoke with Jane Arraf about the political crisis.

Jane Arraf: This is being seen as the biggest political crisis since Saddam Hussein was toppled. And the reason that the Kurds are involved is that we ended up here with a coalition government -- engineered by the United States in part -- because no one could really agree on who should form the government. Now the coalition includes the Kurds, it includes the Sunnis and it includes Prime Minister Maliki's mostly Shi'ite parties. And the Kurds have been the king makers. They're being looked at here again as the people who could possibly solve this but there are so many missing pieces in this puzzle that no one's entirely sure it actually can be solved.

Marco Werman: Well just a few examples of the political crisis in Baghdad and then I want to ask you how the Kurds might solve it. I mean we've heard about the Vice President's arrest, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki trying to fire his deputy for calling him a dictator, no Interior or Defense Minister for almost two years. So what exactly can the Kurds do?

Jane Arraf: Well the politicians who are supposed to be leading this country cannot sit down in the same room and have a conversation. I spoke with Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi who's in exile here in northern Iraq and he said the last time he really spoke to the prime minister was a year ago. They've been communicating through text messages and things like that. And also, of course, through arrest warrants. So what the Kurds want to do is convene a conference that would bring together the Kurdish president, the prime minister, the head of the Sunni-backed party, possibly Moqtada al-Sadr and actually have them hammer out beforehand how they're going to solve this.

Jane Arraf states in the interview that al-Hashemi is a guest of KRG President Massoud Barzani. Tony Barrett (Time magazine) writes about the crisis and notes that Time investigated charges of al-Hashemi running a death squad some time ago:

Regularly accused by the Shia of running Sunni death squads, we had to do our due diligence and investigate whether or not he was really doing that or not. Turns out nothing in our battle space, which included large parts of the Sunni Triangle, indicated he was -- and that's where it would've come from. Also turns out he may be smarter than anyone guessed.
Hashimi has been in Irbil, capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq, ever since Maliki issued an arrest warrant for him in December. While we might expect "Dog the Bounty Hunter" to go get him, the reality is that Hashimi has played his cards brilliantly. There’s no way Maliki can send either Iraqi Army or Police to get him -- the Kurds have experienced relatively little of the last decade of war in Iraq and there's not a chance in Babylon that Maliki will risk starting a Kurdish secession over Hashimi -- and the Sunni know it.

Aswat al-Iraq reports, "Iraqi President Jalal Talabani discussed with Iraqiya bloc leader Iyad Alawi the current political situation in the country, calling to solve pending questions through the constitution and national partnership, according to a Presidential statement." Al Mada offers a look at various blocs and it's a political class in disarray. (As Jane notes in her interview.) It's a hundred different demands and counter-demands -- and the article's largely focusing on the Shi'ite National Alliance. But there appear to be tensions brewing there between the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Sadr bloc. (Any tensions most likely predate Moqtada al-Sadr's leadership and Amir al-Hakim's leadership and goes back to the days of their fathers. Which is not to say that both of them want to be leaders today.)

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