Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Are the political sands shifting in Iraq?

In bad news for Nouri, Al Mada reports that Speaker of Parliament Osama Najafi states that the National Alliance has confirmed that they support the full implementation of the Erbil Agreement. April 5th, KRG President Massoud Barzani noted the Erbil Agreement while speaking at an event sponsored by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy/

KRG President Massoud Barzani: We have been waiting for the last six years for promises that were not delivered, for agreements that were not honored. We have waited and everytime they give us an excuse. Once they say that there are elections in Baghdad, another time, elections in the region. Once there is election in the United States. Then there is the Arab Summit, etc., etc. We have found out that we have passed six years waiting for these promises to be delivered. We cannot anymore wait for unfulfilled promises and undelivered promises. There has to be a specific and determined timeline for this to be delivered. We got tired of this and we are fed up with that. Therefore, what we will do is that we will work on the preferred option to work with the other Iraqi groups to find a solution. If not, then we go back to our people and to put all of these realities inf ront of our people for the people to be free to make their own decision. As far as the issue of the oil is concerned, in 2007, when we were working and we reached an agreement on a draft oil hydrocarbons law, we both agreed that if that law did not pass in the Parliament until May that same year that both sides -- the KRG and the federal government -- are free to continuing signing contracts with international oil companies. Therefore, whatever we have done in the region, we have not violated the Constitution. We have acted legally and Constitutionally within the framework of the Constitution.

Political Stalemate I is the eight month period which followed the March 2010 elections. Nouri refused to step aside despite the fact that his State of Law had come in second in the elections to Iraqiya. He wanted to remain prime minister. And the US government and the Iranian government were backing him -- backing him over the Iraqi people and the will they expressed at the ballot box. In November 2010, the US-brokered Erbil Agreement was signed off on by all major political blocs. Nouri got to be prime minister for a second term and, in exchange, he made certain concessions. Among them, he would agree to an independent national security commission to be headed by Ayad Allawi (leader of Iraqiya) and he would finally abide by the Constitution (Article 140) and allow the census and referendum on Kirkuk. Nouri got his second term and promptly refused to follow the Erbil Agreement throwing Iraq into Political Stalemate II which has now lasted 16 months (December 2010 to the present). Since the summer, the Kurds have been calling on Nouri to return to the Erbil Agreement. Iraqiya has joined the call as has Moqtada al-Sadr. Moqtada is part of the National Alliance as is State of Law. Amir al-Hakim's Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq is also part of the National Alliance (ISCI, State of Law and Moqtada's bloc are the three largest components of the National Alliance).

Al Sabaah reports that the National Alliance is meeting today and the meeting has been labeled as "important." Among the items to be discussed are the relationship between Baghdad and the KRG. Hiwa Osman (Rudaw) reports on the tensions including:

Speaking to Rudaw, Shwan Muhammad, a Kurdish member of Iraqi Parliament, said, “In Iraq, no component has a major role. Nouri Maliki alone has monopolized all the powers in the ranks of the army and internal security forces.”
Muhammad believes that although a Kurd, Babakr Zebari, Iraq’s military chief of staff, must still answer to the prime minister.
“All the powers are concentrated in the hands of the commander in chief (Maliki),” says Muhammad.
Muhammad admits that a Kurd is in charge of the air force, but Maliki has created a special unit called “military aviation” that is run by people very close to him. This unit is said to have full control of 500 helicopters.
“The air force whose commander is a Kurd does not even have an aircraft,” said Muhammad, who is also a member of the defense and security committee in Iraq’s parliament.
Barzani and some of Iraq’s Sunni leaders believe PM Maliki has brought most of Iraq’s major institutions, such as the Ministry of Defense, national intelligence and the central bank, under his direct control, which they argue is unconstitutional.

As part of his continued power grab, last Thursday Nouri had the Independent High Electoral Commission's chair Farah al-Haidari and commission member Karim al-Tamimi arrested. Al Mada notes that as a result of these arrests, the United Nation's Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler states that it is unlikely the Parliament will now vote on the new commissioners for the Independent High Electoral Commission. As explained yesterday, State of Law is throwing up roadblocks to prevent the vote in Parliament.

Meanwhile Aswat al-Iraq notes, "Sadrist leader Muqtada al-Sadr called his followers to unify ranks if they desire to form their own government."

We'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "U.S. SHOULD END AID TO ISRAEL IF ISRAEL ATTACKS IRAN" (OpEd News):

The U.S. should end all aid to Israel if it attacks Iran, former U.S. Senator James Abourezk says.
It should “tell Israel outright that both American money and American political and military support will end should it decide to drag America into another Middle East war as it did in Iraq,” Abourezk wrote in an article published by the Council for the National Interest.
The former Democratic senator, now practicing law in Sioux Falls, S.D., wrote, “if Israel attacks, America will be blamed for it...because we furnish money and weapons and protection in the U.N.for Israel, such collaboration would be difficult for us to deny.”
“We are talking here about saving American lives, and saving our economy, which will surely go deep into the tank when crude oil prices spike to unheard-of levels as a result of such an attack,” Abourezk wrote in an article distributed on Internet site Information Clearing House.
“It is my view,” he continued, “that (Israeli Prime Minister) Bibi (Benjamin) Netanyanu would drop the question of an Iranian threat once he has to consider the greater threat posed by the U.S. cutting off the gift of billions of dollars each year.”
Abourezk concluded, “It’s a question of whether our elected leaders will protect Americans or Israel. Surely it’s not too much to ask that they put their own country first.” Abourezk was the first Arab-American to serve in the Senate. First elected to the House of Representatives, his term in the Senate spanned the 1973-79 period.

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