Thursday, March 22, 2012

Nouri's Iraq (a blood bath in slow motion)

Michael Bell is a former Canadian diplomat of many years and now is Professor Bell at the University of Windsor where he focuses on the Middle East. From time to time, he also writes a column for the Globe & Mail. Today he weighs in on Iraq:

The Americans had sufficient control and influence to prevent a rout in Iraq, but as that control dissipated and their efforts at democratization became increasingly problematic, they changed horses. Since their departure, they have devoted their best efforts to helping Mr. Maliki consolidate Iraq as a viable state player because of its geostrategic importance, despite his increasingly well-documented abuses. Barack Obama’s administration is proceeding, reluctantly, with the sale to Iraq of more than $10-billion in military equipment, much of which is serviceable for control and intimidation.
Mr. Maliki has increasingly used the power of the state to consolidate his own autocracy, accused by human-rights groups of intimidation, corruption, deceit, torture and cronyism. Witness the arrest warrant issued for his Sunni vice-president, Tariq al-Hashimi. Witness his son and deputy chief of staff Ahmed, reputed to be the most powerful person in his entourage. Anyone deemed a threat is at risk for their lives in Mr. Maliki’s Iraq.

And that's Iraq. And that's the consensus that's built internationally and among those paying attention. You won't hear from US partisans focused not on Iraq but on the elections, but it's the reality of Iraq. You won't hear it in the daily lie briefings offered by the State Dept, but that's the reality and, yes, this is who the US is about to arm with even more weapons he can use on his own people.

"Use on his own people"? Wow. Flashback to 2002 and 2003 when supposedly the US was (suddenly) concerned that Saddam Hussein has used weapons on his own people. The US involvement in that and other Hussein actions were never to be examined in the media or by the government, of course. And today we see the push to arm a thug who operates secret prisons and whose actions alarm human rights groups. And no one says "boo!"

It didn't have to be that way. Barack didn't have to back Nouri. And shouldn't have after the March 2010 elections. Nouri was second choice of the Iraqi people. Barack could have backed Iraqis, instead he sided with the thug. Back in December, Iraq's former Ambassador Feisal Istrabadi was explaining Nouri on The NewHour (PBS -- link is text, audio and video):

What has been happening in Iraq in the last 24 hours cannot be seen in isolation. For the past 12 months, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has refused to appoint a permanent minister of defense. That was supposed to be one of the portfolios that went to the Iraqiya coalition. They have nominated six people for that position. Each one of them has been rejected. He has appointed a member of his own coalition, the prime minister's own coalition, as acting minister of defense. He is acting as minister of the interior. And one of his cronies is acting minister of state for national security. He has cashiered career officers and appointed cronies to senior officer positions in the armed and security forces in Iraq. In other words, the prime minister has under his control as we speak all the instrumentalities of state security in Iraq. I'll remind your viewers that, in the early 1970s, this is precisely how Saddam Hussein came to power at the time. What we -- I think Iraqis, with our history, we have to be overly cautious when we see similar actions occur as have occurred in our relatively recent past. Strength in the new Iraq must be through constitutional democracy, and not through harassment and intimidation.

But those facts and those echoes don't matter. Now they mattered to Joe Biden when he was Senator Joe Biden. They mattered to him as late as 2008. But now the great and mighty Barack (with Samantha Power cooing in his ear) declares Nouri is to be protected. And that's what the US government (and much of the US press) rushes to do.

In Tuesday's snapshot, we included the press release on KRG President Massoud Barzani's speech (it was sent to the public e-mail account). And though the press release was in English (I can't read Kurdish), this major speech really got no attention from the US papers. How does that happen?

Al Mada is among the Iraqi papers reporting on it today -- yes, in Iraq, that speech is still news. Al Mada refers to the "strong criticism" of Nouri in the speech and notes that Barzani stated Iraq was moving towards a dictatorship. Dar Addustour terms it "a strong attack" on the (Baghdad) government. That's just some of the coverage but let's include the speech again:

Salahaddin, Kurdistan Region of Iraq ( – In his annual message on the occasion of Newroz, the Kurdish New Year, President Barzani said that power-sharing in Iraq and commitment to the Iraqi Constitution are under threat and that the Kurds will decide their own course of action if these two principles are abandoned.

"Iraq is facing a serious crisis. We have tried our utmost to prevent Iraq from descending into a sectarian conflict and we have consistently avoided taking sides in this conflict. The Kurds have played a pivotal role in bringing about the new Iraq, particularly two years ago when our initiative resulted in the formation of the current government. Had it not been for our role, one can only guess what an unknown fate would have beset Iraq. It is very unfortunate that a small number of people in Baghdad have imposed themselves and monopolized power," said the President.

He said there are a number of main disputes with the Baghdad government.
"Power-sharing and partnership between Kurds, Sunni and Shiite Arabs, and others is now completely non-existent and has become meaningless. The Iraqi Constitution is constantly violated and the Erbil agreement, which was the basis upon which the current government was formed, has been completely ignored. As soon as they came to power, they disregarded the Constitution, the previous agreements that we had, and the principle of power-sharing."

On disputes between Erbil and Baghdad, the President said: "The resolution of the status of Kirkuk and other disputed areas has constantly been evaded. We have shown utmost flexibility and patience and here I want to thank our people for their patience. We have opted for a resolution based on legal and constitutional means but others have reneged on their pledges. It is impossible for us to abandon this issue because for us it is extremely significant and more than being a mere matter of principle."

He said the other main issue is allocation of funds for the Kurdistan Region Peshmerga forces which the Iraqi government has consistently refused to address, saying, "for the last five or six years funding for Peshmerga forces has been embezzled."

On the dispute regarding oil and gas exploration and management, the President defended the legality of the oil and gas contracts that the KRG has signed.

"None of the KRG contracts with foreign oil companies is unconstitutional. The main reason behind this dispute with Baghdad is not a question of legality of the contracts; rather it is that they don't want to see the KRG make progress and stride forward. "

On monopolization of power in Baghdad, the President stated that power is being concentrated in the hands of a few people and others in the political process are being marginalized, including Shiites.
"There is an attempt to establish a one-million strong army whose loyalty is only to a single person. Where in the world can the same person be the prime minister, the chief of staff of the armed forces, the minister of defense, the minister of interior, the chief of intelligence and the head of the national security council. "

The President dismissed statements that the Kurdish-Shiite alliance is close to collapse, saying, "We are committed to our alliance with the Shiites but not with this group of people who have monopolized power and with their policies have even marginalized other Shiites. The Kurds and the followers of Ammar Al-Hakim and Muqtada Al-Sadr have always shown solidarity with each other."

"It is time to say enough is enough. The current status of affairs in unacceptable to us and I call on all Iraqi political leaders to urgently try and find a solution otherwise we will return to our people and will decide on whatever course of action that our people deem appropriate."

It's amazing that, earlier this week, a number of US reporters -- or so-called journalists -- wrote about Antony Blinken's (laughable) assertions about Iraq but they haven't wanted to write about Massoud Barzani's speech. Or about the prime minister of Turkey.

Yesterday Lale Kemal (Today's Zaman) reported, "An advisor to a senior Turkish state official quoted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as telling US President Barack Obama following the US withdrawal of troops from Iraq in late December of last year that 'you [US] left Iraq in the hands of Iran once you withdrew'." Alsumaria TV notes that Turkish warplanes bombed Arbil Province.

Dar Addustour reports
a woman and her four children were slaughtered in Saffron and that security checks are being carried out -- apparently door-to-door searches -- in the neighborhood (all five were killed by a knife or knives). Alsumaria notes Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi is calling for the international community to call out the death of his bodyguard, Amer Sarbut Zeidan al-Batawi, who died after being imprisoned for three months. al-Hashemi has stated the man was tortured to death. The photo Alsumaria runs of the man's legs (only the man's legs) appear to indicate he was tortured, welts and bruises and scars.

Peter Symonds (WSWS) reflects on the Iraq War and its meaning for the US:

More insidious, however, was the political role of the liberals and “lefts” who dominated the mass anti-war protests of 2003 and promoted the illusion that the invasion could be stopped by appealing to the United Nations, or to France and Germany. The latter had opposed the war in the UN to protect their imperialist interests in the Middle East and quickly fell into line once the US occupation became an established fact.
These forces—Stalinists, state capitalists, Pabloite renegades from Trotskyism—played the critical role in subordinating mass opposition to war to one or another wing of the bourgeoisie. In the United States, they used their influence over the protest movement to channel the anti-war sentiment of broad layers of the population behind the Democrats and the election campaigns of John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008. That was the prelude, with the election of Obama, to the shutting down of the anti-war movement altogether.
Throughout the 2003 protests, the World Socialist Web Site insisted that the only social force capable of putting an end to war was the working class, through the development of a revolutionary movement against capitalism. The WSWS was the only voice that systematically warned of the danger of the illusions peddled by the pseudo-lefts that big protests alone could pressure the Bush administration and other governments to change course.
At the time, young people who had no experience of any mass movement and were swept up in the euphoria of participating in the largest-ever international protests may have had difficulty grasping the importance of the exposures by the WSWS of the various pseudo-radical groups. The subsequent evolution of this social stratum directly into the camp of imperialism, especially under the Obama administration, provides a salutary political lesson.
All of the various ex-left outfits came together last year to shamelessly back the NATO war on Libya, using the same banal humanitarian pretext: all means were justified to oust the “dictator Gaddafi.” Those who nominally “opposed” the NATO bombing supported NATO’s ground forces—the various Islamists, ex-Gaddafi loyalists, tribal leaders and bourgeois liberals gathered under the banner of the NATO-backed National Transitional Council. The result is an anti-democratic regime in Tripoli even more subservient to Washington that will act in the interests of American and European imperialism, combined with the fracturing of the country along tribal and regional lines that threatens to explode into uncontrolled civil war.

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