Thursday, May 17, 2012

Moqtada waits on an answer

Alsumaria reports that the home of a member of the "military personnel" was blown up in Mosul by unknown persons andd that the house collapsed.  No one was killed or injured. In addition, police have closed down streets and are conducting a search in Kirkuk after a peshmerga was leaving his home this morning when two cars with unknown assailants pulled up and kidnapped him.  That's one of two searches and raids going on in Kirkuk today.  In addition, a neighborhood was raided after rockets attacked the Kirkuk airbase. At least one person was detainedIraq Body Count counts 14 killed yesterday: "Kirkuk: 11 bodies. Mosul: 1 by gunfire, 1 body.  Shirqat: 1 pharmacist, by gunfire."

As the violence continues, so does the political crisis.  May 28th is supposed to be the deadline for Nouri al-Maliki to announce he is implementing the Erbil Agreement or face a no-confidence vote.  Moqtada al-Sadr publicly announced the deadline.  If you don't stick to a deadline, there's no point in announcing one.  And Nouri may believe that this is just one of many deadllines he's been given (such as the one regarding Article 140, the Constitutionally mandated deadline) which he can actually blow off.  And he may be right.

March 7, 2010, Iraq held parliamentary elections.  Iraqiya, led by Ayad Allawi, came in first, State of Law, led by Nouri, came in second.  Nouri did not want to give up the post of prime minister and, with support from the White House and Tehran, Nouri dug his heels in creating eight months of gridlock, Political Stalemate I.  This only ended in November 2010 when the US brokered a deal known as the Erbil Agreement.  At a big meet-up in Erbil, the various political blocs signed off on the agreement.  Nouri got his second term as prime minister in exchange for concessions to other political blocs.  But once he became prime minister, Nouri refused to honor the agreement.  By the summer of 2011, the Kurds were publicly demanding that Nouri return to the Erbil Agreement and Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr joined in the call.  More recently, April 28th, another meet up took place in Erbil.  Participants included KRG President Massoud Barzani, President of Iraq Jalal Talabani, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi, Ayad Allawi and Moqtada al-Sadr.  The demands coming out of that meet-up were a return to the Erbil Agreement and the implementation of 18-point plan by Moqtada.

Who would replace Nouri?  A number of names have been floated.  Ibrahiam al-Jaafari has been the most promiment.  al-Jaafari has held the post before and, in 2006, the Iraqi Parliament wanted to name him to anotehr term; however, the US refused to allow that to happen and demanded that their puppet Nouri al-Maliki be given the post instead.  Just as Bush protected Nouri in 2006, Barack did in 2010.

Al Rafidayn reports today that Kurdish leaders say they are comfortable with the choice of al-Jaafari to replace Nouri as prime minister.  They also report that if Nouri doesn't meet the deadline, the plan is for Moqtada to meet with the National Alliance (Shi'ite slate that includes Nouri's State of Law, Moqtada's bloc, the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq and more) and to address the issues and options.  Alsumaria reports State of Law's Bahaa Jamal al-Din has declared in an interview with them that withdrawing confidence from Nouri would pull the country into a series of crisies.  The obvious follow up to that would be: Is that really a warning because it sounds like a threat?  Alsumaria also notes that al-Din states Moqtada's meeting with the National alliance today.  Al Mada reports National alliance MP Jawad Albzona confirms the meet-up but places it more up in the air with details not nailed down yet about issues such as the time of the meet-up.  Dar Addustour notes the National Alliance has already postponed one meet-up on this issue this week (they cancelled the planned May 15th meet-up).  Alsumaria reported earlier today that Moqtada al-Sadr is waiting on formal response from the National Alliance and it's expected to be in written form, delivered in a few hours, informing him of the National Alliance's position on the issues raised.  Moqtada  tells Alsumaria that the response will determine the next moveAl Sabaah  is reporting that  Nouri's calling for a face-to-face sit-down with political blocs.

Al Rafidayn reports on rumors that include threats to publish "secret documents" in an attempt to stop and/or start a no confidence vote.  The latest round of whispers today follow yesterday's allegation by Iraqiya that State of Law was intentionally circulating false rumors as part of a disinformation campaign.  (It's an allegation many will believe because State of Law has been doing that for weeks now.)

Nouri's got other troubles as well.  Al Mada reports that his proposal of one firearm per household continues to be criticized.  Women for Peace's Shaza Nagi declares that a group of NGO members met to discuss the proposal and to put forward various counter-proposals.  The biggest concern remains, according to Nagi, the presumed acknowledgment of this move: That the government's making clear it cannot protect the citizens.  Also troubling for Nouri is the report of mass arrests yesterday.  Al Sabaah reports 57 people were arrestedAlsumaria notes that attorneys staged a sit-in today in Diayal in protest against the random mass arrests taking place.   The arrests came on the same day Nouri gave a speech promising to punish the 'Ba'athists.'  Al Mada notes Nouri is promising to avenge the crimes of the Ba'ath Party.  He declared that the uninformed and the intellectually deviant were participating in the political process and, sadly, he wasn't confessing to his own issues.  He spoke of "mass graves" and how he will expose the crimes of the Ba'ath and that he's called on the Minister of Human Rights to assist with that.  Meanwhile Al Sabaah notes the Ministry of Health is warning that some tribes are objecting to doctors and pursuing tribal prosecutions of them which is putting medical health at risk in Iraq. 

Yesterday, the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health held a hearing.  The House Veterans Affairs Committee issued the following after the hearing:

VA Prosthetic Care at a Crossroads

May 16, 2012  
Issues: Health Care, Veterans
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, the Subcommittee on Health held a hearing to examine VA’s current capabilities to provide state-of-the-art care to veterans with amputations. The Committee heard testimony concerning VA’s proposal to change procurement processes for prostheses, potentially hindering a veteran’s ability to acquire the latest prosthetic and corresponding care and support.
“VA has been struggling to keep pace with the rising demands of younger and more active veterans with amputations,” stated Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Health. “VA must continue to provide multi-disciplinary care to maintain long-term and life-time quality of life. Placing prosthesis procurement into the hands of contracting officers is alarming. VA needs to match the determination and spirit demonstrated by our wounded warriors and recommit themselves to becoming a leader once again in prosthetic care.”
Currently, VA provides care to approximately 42,000 veterans with limb loss. As of August of 2011, 1,506 servicemembers had experienced amputations on active duty from Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. An additional 2,248 veterans underwent major amputations at VA in 2011. VA prosthetic costs have more than doubled in the past five years, yet, VA’s care has fallen behind that of the Department of Defense (DoD).
“Prosthetics are a truly individualized extension of one person’s body and mobility, not your typical bulk supply purchase,” stated Jim Mayer, a Vietnam veteran, double amputee, and wounded warrior advocate and mentor. “When today’s warriors are referred to VA and seek the newer, cutting-edge, technologically superior prosthetics they have been accustomed to [through DoD], will VA be able to meet that demand? DoD centers of excellence provide state-of-the-art and often newly evaluative prosthetics that have allowed warriors to thrive, not just in walking, but also run competitively, compete in the Paralympics, rock climb, play myriad sports and other endeavors.”
“Prosthetic technology and VA have come a long way from the Civil War era. Following World War II, veterans dissatisfied with the quality of VA prosthetics stormed the Capitol in protest. Congress responded by providing VA with increased flexibility for prosthetic options and federally funded research and development,” said Buerkle. “As a result, VA has been a leader in helping veterans with amputations regain mobility and achieve maximum independence. This is why I am troubled by VA’s proposed changes in procurement policies and procedures which shifts the emphasis from the doctors to contracting officers.”

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