Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, April 3, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Qatar offers a message to Nouri al-Maliki, tensions continue between Nouri and the Kurds, Barack Obama calls Nouri ahead of a planned national conference in Iraq, a journalist is assassinated in Baghdad, and more.
This week's. Black Agenda Radio, hosted by Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey (first airs each Monday at 4:00 pm EST on the Progressive Radio Network),  features coverage of the United National Anti-War Coalition conference in Stamford, Connecticut where both hosts were among the speakers.  Another speaker was Black Agenda Report's Margaret Kimberley:
Margaret Kimberley: It's a great pleasure to be here today, speaking to a group of people who proudly proclaim themselves to be anti-war.  Now I was told I only had three minutes to speak which is both a hard and easy task at the same time so I'll get to my main point which is pretty simple: You cannot be anti-war and pro-Obama.  We can't discuss the issue of NATO and the G8 without talking about Barack Obama. The two events were initially planned to take place in Chicago which is no coincidence -- it's the President's home and his political base.  His former Chief of Staff [Rahm Emanuel] now serves as the mayor there.  And these events were intended to be coronations for the Obama Doctrine which states that the United States can kill and steal whenever it wants to and wherever it wants to and does so in a fashion which keeps liberals happy even as acts which they decried under Bush are carried out by Obama.  Those of us who are anti-war are not fooled because a Democrat makes war instead of a Repbulican or because the current war making Democrat is a Black man.  As we all know, the G8 meeting was moved from Chicago to Camp David because the President and his G8 friends are afraid of protest.  They are afraid of us. The change of venue for the G8 summit is a sign of success but we can't rest on our laurels and forget the awful forces represented by NATO and the G8. These forces will not be happy until the people of the world accept their rule without question or protest. We know that the goal of the G8 is to turn the whole world into Greece -- a country which, among other things now, has no mimimum wage, no regulation of corporate activities and a shrunken welfare safety net.  NATO is an organization which should have outlived its usefulness.  It was always a counter-weight to the Warsaw Pact nations but the Soviet Union no longer exists and former Warsaw Pact and Soviet Republics like Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania, Latvia and Estonia are now all NATO members.  Actually, I should correct myself there.  There is a reason for NATO to exist and that is to further the interest of empire and western capitol.  NATO is a tool of western imperialism and we saw that all very clearly in Libya.  The United States, France and the UK conspired to bring down a sovereign nation's government, kill its leader,spread a race war and lynch law and divide Libya into weak fiefdoms incapable of stopping their collaborators from turning over their resources to NATO and G8 countries.  The bombings of civilians and the lies told to the world about a phony humanitarian agenda were all carried out in NATO's name. Now I know that anti-NATO and G8 protests are being planned this weekend and I also know that the Nobel Peace Prize winning president recently signed legislation which makes it a felony to protest at national security events where Secret Service are present and that makes these actions very dangerous.  But speaking of protest just as an aside, the actions at political conventions this summer should be restricted to the Democrats.  They are, after all, the party in power. They are the only ones who we need to protest to.  But even so -- even so, resistance is still the order of the day. Thank you very much.
Of the conference, Glen Ford explains:

I was privileged to present the coordinating committee's draft of the Action Plan to UNAC's national conference in Stamford, Connecticut, this past weekend. "This action plan does not just target some U.S. wars," said the committee's statement. "It does not target the currently unpopular wars. It does not shy away from condemning wars that remain acceptable to half the population because the real reasons for them are obscured in the rhetoric of humanitarian intervention. It does not advocate that we avoid putting U.S. boots on the ground by mounting embargoes that bring economic devastation on the peoples of Iran. It does not condone war by other, more sanitized, means. It does not cheer on wars that minimize U.S. combat deaths by the use of robotic unmanned planes or the highly trained murder squads of the Joint Special Operations Command. It does not see war by mercenary as somehow less threatening to the peoples of the world and the U.S. than war by economic draft. It does not give credit to Washington for removing brigades from one country in order to deploy them in the next."

The document demands an end to "all wars, interventions, targeted assassinations and occupations" and U.S. withdrawal from "NATO and all other interventionist military alliances."

UNAC's reasoning is rooted in the principle that all the world's peoples have the inherent right to self-determination, to pursue their own destinies -- the foundation of relations among peoples, enshrined in international law but daily violated by the United States.

Alsumaria TV reports a TV broadcaster was killed by a sticky bombing in Tirkit yesterday.  AGI notes that the journalist's name is Kamiran Salaheddin and that he "worked for the Salaheddin channel, which was founded in 2004" by US forces. The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory has a photo of the 35-year-old here and they explain that he held a Masters degree in the Arabic language, had previously worked for the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, that he had been working for the channel since 2005 and that his survivors include his wife and their two children. Reporters Without Borders notes:

Reporters Without Borders condemns Salahaddin TV presenter Kamiran Salaheddin's murder last night in the centre of Tikrit (170 km north of Baghdad). Aged 35 and the father of two children, he was killed at around 9 p.m. by a bomb placed under his car.

"We offer our condolences to Salaheddin's family, friends and colleagues," Reporters Without Borders said. "The Iraqi authorities must do everything possible to ensure that those responsible for his death are brought to justice. His murder must not go unpunished."

The White House released the following today:
Read out of the President's Call with Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki
President Obama called Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki today to congratulate the Iraqi people on the success of the Arab Summit hosted in Baghdad last week, and on Iraq's continued reintegration into the region as a sovereign, independent state.  The two leaders discussed the United States and Iraq's joint efforts to advance peace and security in the region as strategic partners.  The discussion also covered the political situation in Iraq, and a range of other shared interests.  President Obama expressed the United States' firm commitment to a unified, democratic Iraq as defined by Iraq's constitution, as well as his support for Prime Minister Maliki's participation in the ongoing dialogue convened by President Talabani tasked to reconcile Iraqi political blocs in a flexible and open manner. 
Barack must have been bored and needing to play with his puppet today.  The Arab League Summit, for Iraq, was a failure (see "Editorial: Successful summit for Iraq?").  But for those who delude themselves otherwise, the question to ask is why Barack called Nouri today?  The summit was Thursday.  Had Barack run out of his March minutes?  Exactly what was the hold up on that call?
Oh, because the summit praise was smoke up the ass.  The actual point of the call was to try to coax the puppet into playing nice tomorrow when a national conference is supposed to be held.
Iraq's been in political crisis for over a year now. Since December 21st, President Jalal Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi have been calling for a National Conference. Supposedly that will take place tomorrow. Hevidar Ahmed (Rudaw) reports that Iraqiya's Haidar Mulla states they "will only paticipate in the convention if the Erbil Agreement is implemented and the security posts are finalized beforehand." The three security ministries -- Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of the Defense and Ministry of National Security -- were supposed to be named by the end of December 2010. That was how Nouri al-Maliki would move from prime minister-designate to prime minister -- per the Constitution. Instead, he was moved without naming a full Cabinet and those posts remain empty all this time later, have never been filled while violence has increased in Iraq.

By not filling them, Nouri controls them. He ignores the Constitution and declares someone 'acting' minister. Then they do what he tells them or he fires them. If he nominated someone for the post and the person was confirmed, Nouri could not fire them. He would not Parliament's backing. Since December, he's been trying to strip Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq of his post. Thus far Parliament has refused to go along with him so al-Multaq retains his post.

Ahmed reports:

Muayad Taiyb, spokesperson for the Kurdistani bloc in Iraqi Parliament, believes Barzani is avoiding the convention because he believes it won't solve anything.
"Massud Barzani is not hopeful about the results of the convention; that's why he will not participate in it."
Mulla believes that Barzani's decision to not attend the convention will affect the positions of other political leaders.
"If President Barzani does not participate in the convention, then neither will Alawi," he said. "Massoud Barzani is a key figure in the political process in Iraq. His absence at the convention will make it have no value."
The State of Law Coalition has left many political issues unresolved with the Kurdistan Region and the Sunni-dominated Iraqiya bloc.
Taiyb says, "The State of Law bloc has issues with both the Iraqiya bloc and the Kurds. The convention is meaningless without Iraqiya's participation because the main issues in the political process in Iraq are between Iraqiya and the State of Law."
Earlier this week, Al Rafidayn noted that Iraqiya's concerns include Saleh al-Mutlaq and Tareq al-Hashemi and that, for the conference to have real meaning, KRG President Massoud Barzani, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq's Ammar al-Hakim and Moqtada al-Sadr would need to attend.  Barzani will not be attending.  He's out of the country on a diplomatic tour and has already arrived in the United States.  Today he spoke with the Washington Post's Jackson Diehl and Jim Hoagland and Diehl reports:
"The more you look at it, the more you see the situation going toward conflict and chaos," he said Tuesday.
To the south, in Baghdad, Barzani sees Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki "concentrating power," having driven the leader of Iraq's Sunni population to seek de facto asylum in Kurdistan. "Iraq right now is facing a crisis," he told me and The Post's Jim Hoagland during a visit to Washington. "There may be some people who do not want to call it a crisis, but it is a crisis. This is not the Iraq we struggled for: We are seeing the consolidation of power under one party and one ruler."
Hadi Jalo tells Hamza Hendawi (AP), "The sectarian war has moved away from violence to soft conflict fought int he state institutions, government ministries and on the street.  What was once an armed conflict has turned into territorial, instituationalized and psychological segregation."  Henawi explains that Sunnis are basically blacklisted from employment in the government and at colleges and that Shi'ites in charge "stonewall them when they seek help locating the remains of loved ones."
Iraqiya members Saleh al-Mutlaq and Tareq al-Hashemi are political rivals of Nouri al-Maliki's -- he leads State of Law, they belong to Iraqiya.  (Iraqiya came in first in the March 7, 2010 elections.)  In addition, while Nouri is a Shi'ite, al-Mutlaq and al-Hashemi are both Sunni and some see the attacks on the two men by Nouri as both political attacks and sectarian attacks. 
Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, whom Nouri wants arrrested but has been in the KRG as a guest of KRG President Barzani and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, went to Qatar on Sunday (and states he will return to Iraq when he finishes up his diplomatic tour that will include visits to other countries).  Nouri's government is engaging in a war of words with the government of Qatar over Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi's visit to the country.  Yesterday the Deputy Prime Minister of Energy al-Sharistani -- who apparently believes his title is much more elastic than it would appear to be -- declared that Qatar should hand over al-Hashemi. It was never going to happen. But Nouri and his minions have their answer today. AP  reports that Qatar's State Minister Khaled al-Aiityah has stated that they will do no such thing.  RTT News adds, "Qatar's State Minister for Foreign Affairs Khaled al-Attiyah stated at a press conference held Tuesday that Hashemi could not be extradited to Iraq as requested by Baghdad because there was no court judgment against him. The minister also noted that Hashemi still holds the post of vice-president." Alex Delmar-Morgan (Wall Street Journal) offers, "Qatar's stance is likely to sour already strained ties with Iraq where the pursuit of Mr. Hashemi by the Shiite-led government is stoking political tensions and threatening to destabilize the country's delicate sectarian balance."
Laith Saud:  Well let's look at this from three different angles.  The first angle being that the moment the United States departed from Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, began to consolidate his power and go after any potential political rivals. So, in terms of analysis, there's a great deal -- a great deal of evidence to suggest that these are trumped up charges against Tareq al-Hashemi, the Vice President of Iraq.  So he seeks refuge in the Kurdish region, in northern Iraq, which is semi-qutonomous and has its own security forces and which he was there until very recently.  He decides to go to Qatar this past Sunday in order to engage in diplomatic talks with the Qataries, in particular the Prime Minister of Qatar, which was a huge slap in the face to al-Maliki considering that the vice president is wanted.  However, if you look at what happened at the Arab League just these recent days ago --
Jerome McDonnell:  And it took place in --
Laith Saud: In Baghdad. 
Jerome McDonnell: For the first time in forever.
Laith Saud: Yeah, for the first time since 1990.  The Qataries sent very low-level representation to that Arab Summit which was kind of a slap in the face of Iraq again or, in particular, Nouri al-Maliki.  The message that the Qataries were sending was that they believe the Sunnis in Iraq are being marginalized, that, in fact, they are being repressed, and this was their way of challenging what they see as the more sectarian role that they feel that Iraq is playing in the Middle East.
Jerome McDonnell:  And Iraq sees that there are some Shi'ites that are being marginalized in Bahrain.
Laith Saud: Exactly.
Jerome McDonnell:  And they see some actions where they think the Saudis drive -- driving the old army into Bahrain is not cricket with some of the Shi'ites there.
Laith Saud: No, you're absolutely right, Jerome. And what's happening is the sectarian discourse, the sectarian narrative is really reaching a high level pitch in recent years.  So you have Shi'ite governments or so-called Shi'ite governments if we could use such a term talking about the persecution of Shias in Bahrain and, on the flip side, you have Sunni governments -- if you want to use such a term -- talking about the persecution of Sunnis in Shi'ite countries like Iraq and in the middle of all of this is Syria where you have a -- an essentially Shi'ite government that is seen to be persecuting its largely Sunni population.  Now, is this posturing?  Are these really sectarian conflicts? Are these essentially not sectarian conflicts and this is a guise by which people are battling out for resources? I tend to think so.  But there's no question that the sectarian nature of the narrative has reached a new level.
And of course it's not just Qatar.  AP notes, "Nouri al-Maliki, launched a thinly veiled attack on both nations during a news conference on Sunday in Baghdad, saying their desire to arm Syrian rebels would deepen the conflict there."  They go on to note "a column published in Tuesday's Saudi-owned, pan-Arab Al-Sharq al-Awsat, editor-in chief Tariq al-Hamid  . . ."  That's this column.  We noted it yesterday, we noted Tariq Alhomayed's column yesterday, when Arab News ran it.  Excerpt.
Likewise, the Al-Maliki government has remained in power as a result of Iranian pressure, despite Al-Maliki losing the elections and coming second behind Iyad Allawi, so how can he fear for the region now if Assad is overthrown by force?
How can Al-Maliki attack Saudi Arabia and Qatar following the Arab summit in Baghdad, after both countries attended the meeting, and especially given the positions of both countries in the days leading up to the event.
Meanwhile, ahead of the summit Al-Maliki had announced that his government could not defend Assad. So how, nearly three days after the Baghdad summit, can Al-Maliki turn on Saudi Arabia and Qatar today? Of course, this is clear deception, and evidence that Al-Maliki's government cannot be trusted. Had he attacked "these two countries" before the Baghdad summit, then matters would have turned out differently.
Most important of all, in addition to the fact that we cannot trust the Al-Maliki government, is that the Iraqi government is trying to secure a safe passageway for the transfer of Iranian weapons to the Assad regime, and this is what a witness -- a dissident Syrian official -- reported to the Friends of Syria conference in Istanbul.
It's not enough for Nouri and his lackeys to be engaged in a public feud with Iraqiya, it's not enough enough for them to be involved in a public feud with Iraqiya and the government of Qatar.  It's not enough for them to be in a public feud with Iraqiya, the government of Qatar and the government of Saudi Arabia, no, they have to also attack the Kurds.  Al Rafidayn notes Deputy Prime Minister of Energy Hussein al-Shahristani asserts that the Kurds are diverting oil to Iran. Alsumaria TV reports the Kurdistan Alliance is accusing al-Shahristani of declaring war on them and they are calling for him to apologize to the Kurdish people for his accusations. They deny that they are smuggling oil to Iran.  RT observes:
A bitter dispute over oil revenues between Baghdad and Kurdish authorities highlights the escalating tensions that could split war-torn Iraq apart. However, anti-war activist Mike Raddie says the chaos is 'all part of the plan.'
Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region halted oil deliveries to Baghdad on Monday, claiming the central government owed it $1.5 billion. The region's Ministry of Natural Resources said that despite exporting 50,000 barrels per day, "there have been no payments for 10 months, nor any indication from federal authorities that payments are forthcoming."
Baghdad shot back, saying they have incurred $6.65 billion in lost revenue over the past few years after Kurdish authorities short-changed them on crude exports. The central government has further accused Kurdistan of smuggling oil through Iran.

The National notes, "It is yet another example of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki's government consolidating power, which in turn is deepening the divisions within the country."

In other news, Alsumaria reports that Minister of Planning and Development Ali Shukri declared that Iraq's budget depends 92% on oil and that they need to diversify and find other avenues for income. That's a call Tareq al-Hashemi's been making publicly since 2009.

Turning to the US, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office notes:
Tuesday, April 03, 2012
Contact: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834
Official U.S. Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee hearing will bring to top VA and Pentagon officials to the region to answer questions and discuss mental health care concerns, putting local veterans to work, and improving transition services
Hearing will also feature the stories of local veterans and servicemembers, veterans advocates, and businesses in order to highlight challenges and ongoing community efforts
(Washington, D.C.) -- Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, will hold a field hearing tomorrow in Tacoma on the unique opportunities and challenges that the South Sound and Washington state continue to face as thousands of veterans return to the region.  This official Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee field hearing will explore how the military, veterans, business, and non-profit communities can work together to improve the transition home for those returning to Washington state.  In particular, the hearing will focus on improving mental health care, employment opportunities, and community outreach for returning veterans.
The hearing will feature testimony from top VA and Pentagon officials, local servicemembers and veterans, business leaders, and veterans' advocates.  Members of the public are encouraged to RSVP if they plan to attend the hearing to fieldhearing@murray.senate.gov
WHAT:       U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs Field Hearing
"Washington's Veterams: Helping the Newest Generation Transition Home"
WHO:         U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman, Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee
                  Dr. Robert A. Petzel, Under Secretary for Health, Veterans Health Administration,
                  Department of Veterans Affairs
                  Dr. Susan Pendergrass, Director, VA Northwest Network (VISN 20), Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs
                  Willie Clark, Western Area Director, Veterans Affairs
Dr. Jo Ann Rooney: Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Department of Defense
                  Lieutenant General Thomas P. Bostick, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-1, United States  Army
                  Major General Richard W. Thomas, Commanding General Western Regional Medical Command, Senior Market Executives for TRICARE Puget Sound, United States Army
                 Local Servicemembers and Veterans
                 Business Leaders
                 Veterans' Advocates
WHEN:      TOMORROW: Wednesday, April 4, 2012
                 Hearing Starts at 10:39 A.M. PST | Doors Open at 9:45 A.M. PST | Cameras
                 are encouraged to come early for set-up
WHERE:    The STAR Center
                 3873 South 66th Street
                 Tacoma, WA 98409
Map it
Public Transportation Routes:  Pierce Transit Bus Route 53
Parking                                    On-site Parking is available
For more information about this hearing or other activities of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, please visit www.veterans.senate.gov
Press interested in coming are encouraged to RSVP to eli_zupnick@murray.senate.gov