Monday, June 04, 2012

Iraq snapshot

Monday, June 4, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Baghdad is slammed with a bombing, the political crisis continues, Moqtada al-Sadr makes a statement,  and more.

If someone had never heard of Michael Rubin and you told them about him, they'd probably laugh and assume you were attempting to be amusing.  Michael Rubin does actually exist and, sadly, he's 100% serious.  At Commentary, Rubin yet again plays his the-sky-is-falling card.  He's played it so many times that you have to wonder if maybe there aren't actually pigeons in the trees around his home.  Most dramatically, he played the sky is falling card when he screamed for war on that 'great threat' to the US, Iraq.  Now days, he's convinced there's a Kurdish threat to the United States, specifically, the Kurds who are part of the Kurdistan Regional Government.  This leads to his psychotic visions of the KRG as "Iran's Trojan Horse."

And he constructs a case that would be very convincing if you didn't pay attention.

Rubin wants you to know that a recent interviw had a figure which surprised him "70 percent of Iran's Iraq trade is with Kurdistan." He then tosses out an excerpt, then he's back, "While jouranlists have reported on Kurdistan Regional Government oil smuggling to Iran, the proportion cited by Hosseini surprised me, so I check the figured [sic] with the Iraqi embassy in Washington; they confirmed the 70 percent." 

He can't seriously be that dumb.  He can be dumb enough to try to fool you, right?  But not dumb enough to really think that the 70% figure is smuggled oil?

Or that the US embassy has a solid number for any alleged smuggled oil?  The whole point of a smuggled good is that it's not officially tracked.  Rubin does get that, right?

I'm not sure.  His link on the 70% goes to this Fars News Agency report -- usually seen as Iranian state press (controlled press) -- and, no, there article on "trade ties" is not about smuggled oil. 

Rubin is currently humping the bed at night in his sleep while dreaming of war on Syria and Iran.  Sometimes people will wonder if the US liars and fools who pimped the Iraq War learned a damn thing?  Michael Rubin is proof positive that, while they continue to have sticky sheets, the boys didn't learn a damn thing.

I do agree with him that the US government and the Kurdistan Regional Government are as far apart currently as they have ever been.  I disagree that this is because most US service members were pulled out of Iraq last December.  The reason that the KRG and the US have problems currently is because the US put together the Erbil Agreement and vouched for it and when Nouri al-Maliki trashed it after it allowed him a second term, the US government refused to stand by the agreement.  That's why there are problems between the two and those problems were in place before November of 2011.  So there's no need to pretend that the December drawdown created it.  And Rubin's generally smarter than he lets on, so he may be aware of that and may be trying to get the US to mend fences by spreading rumors that Tehran and Erbil are locked in an embrace?  It certainly wouldn't be the first time that Rubin 'spun' reality in an attempt to force the US government to do what he desired.

Rubin can take comfort in the fact that he's not the biggest idiot pundit today.  That's Carl Davidson explaining to Matthew Rothschild (Progressive Radio) how the US Communist Party split over Gorbachev and his group ended up being the Committee of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism ("It started as a split off the Communist Party.  They rebelled over the, you know, Gorbachev question [. . .].")

Even funnier than that is Carl bragging about how he and tired Marilyn Katz set up Barack's speech -- yes, America, Communists Carl and Marilyn set it up -- in 2002, that weak-ass "I'm against Dumb Wars."  Carl's delusion that setting up the speech or that pro-war speech was anything to be proud of is right up there on the absurdity chart with Drew Westen helping compose Barack's 2008 faux race speech and then Drew rushed around online to praise the speech forgetting to note his own input.  Only the careful listeners will note how Carl's still attempted to get back for every real and imagined slight over the last forty or so years.  I thought Eric Alterman's recent media appearences had set the standard for radio bitchy -- where Alterman was insisting that Communists betrayed the left during the McCarthy period because liberals were telling the truth but, Alterman insisted, Communists were lying.  Enter Carl.

Carl's voting for Barack again, he rushes to explain.  Even when Matthew notes the assassination of US citizens, the attack on the Constitution and so much more.  So Barack can again count on the the bourgeoisie Communist support (there are real Communists with real ethics in the US -- Carl doesn't associated with any of those people). Carl does the turkey trot down memory lane on Barack,  "Me and 8 Acorn ladies interviewed him for The New Party."  The New Party was a Chicago Communist Party front 'fusion' party and you can find criticism of it and its lackey ways -- Carl's always been a lackey -- in this Green Party piece from 1996 written by Hank Chapot.  "And then Marilyn Katz and I sat him up to give that first anti-war speech," he brags. 

Barack Obama is a corporatist and we've said that all along.  He's an imperialist as well.  I thought Carl Davidson was the one who spread the rumor that Barack was a Socialist (again, that is a false rumor).  Carl swears it wasn't him.  Elaine and I remember Carl doing that. 

Clearly, the US government has cloned Carl Davidson and that may be the scariest news of the day, dozens of Carls running through the US -- well lumbering.  Dozens of Carls insisting on action . . . after Barack gets four more years.  Dozens of Carls whoring as only he can do.  Truly scary.

With a different take than Carl's 'Barack's so dreamy and groovy, I think he was eyeing me in chem lab and I really, really hope he calls me tonight!!!!" there's the take David Swanson offers in Joanne Boyer's article for Wisdom Voices:

Swanson specifically pointed to the recent New York Times article that described the drone killings by President Obama. "If somehow it had been revealed that Obama was really George W. Bush in disguise, we would have had millions of people surrounding and protesting at the White House. Somehow, we've imagined that when Obama does this, he somehow is wringing his hands with guilt or that everyone tells themselves that secretly Obama means well. Or that it's our job to denounce Mitt Romney because some how he would be even worse. And that's fatal for us as a country.
"If you can't object to giving someone arbitrary power to kill, if you can't object to that because you can imagine someone else coming up will be even worse, then we've really tied both hands behind our back."

You have choices and you make decisions.  And don't whine about how Congress won't stand up for this or that treasured policy/belief you hold dear if you're not willing to stand up against shredding the Constitution, or endless wars, or assassinating American citizens or any of the rest.  Don't whine that Congress vote to extend the PATRIOT Act if you're going to turn around and vote for the person (Barack) who said the extension was needed.  Congress will never vote their convictions if the electorate refuses to vote their own. Instead, you send a message that you will tolerate every sell out because you'd rather live in fear all your life.

Today Baghdad was again slammed by a bombing.  And though it happened this morning in Baghdad (shortly before noon, their time) and though people in America woke up to the already reported news, the US State Dept's Mark Toner made it through an afternoon press conference without ever conveying that the US government extends its sympathies to the survivors of the attack.  The White House also had nothing to say on the issue.  At the United Nations, spokesperson Eduardo del Buey (link is text and audio) noted the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy Martin Kobler condemned the bombings, "He said that these atrocious crimes against the Iraqi people need to stop and the perpetrators should be brought to justice and he once more called for all Iraqi's to remain steadfast in the face of violence."  Again, not a word on the tragedy from the Barack Obama administration.

Kareem Raheem (Reuters) quotes police officer Ahmed Hassan stating, "It was a powerful explosion, dust and smoke covered the area.  At first, I couldn't see anything, but then I heard screaming women and children.  We rushed with other people to help . . . the wounded were scattered all around, and there were body parts on the main street." 

Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports the morning attack was a suicide bomber who attacked "the offices of Shiite religious affairs." Yang Lina (Xinhua) explains, "The Shiite endowment office is an independent body affiliated to the government and is responsible for running the Shiite mosques and their religious properties." Radio Netherlands Worldwide adds, "The attack comes amid a dispute between Iraq's Shiite and Sunni endowments, which manage the country's religious landmarks, over a shrine north of Baghdad, and a protracted political standoff that has raised sectarian tensions in a country racked by brutal communal bloodshed from 2006 to 2008." AGI quotes the deputy director of the endowmen, Sami al-Massudi, stating, "We are not accusing anyone but we are appealing to the Iraqi people and especially to the children of our religion to move swiftly to bury the discord."  AFP notes that the Sunni Endowment headquarters were attacked shortly after by at least one bombing or mortar attack (the Ministry of the Interior states it was a roadside bombing) and the Sunnin Endowment spokesperson, Faris al-Mahdawi, is quoted stating, "We reject and condemn this criminal, cowardly, fanatical attack.  These attacks aim to create divisions between the Iraqi people. There are dirty hands that are playing sectarianism, and trying to bring the country back to the years of violence." 

 An unnamed hospital source told Alsumaria early on that 16 corpses were received and 83 injured. The death toll continued to increase throughout the day.  By the end of the day, Reuters noted 26 deaths and one-hundred-and-ninety people injured.   ITV carries two photos by Hadi Mizban (AP) showing the destruction from the bomb. 

AP reports that the injured include Baghdad Health Department's Adel Ahmed who was at work when the nearby bombing attack took palce and that the ceiling in the Health Department came loose and hit him in the head.  AP offers an slide show presenation on violence since 2003 hereAFP offers a timeline of some of the major violence in the last months.

AFP quotes a restraunt owner whose first name is Mohammed declaring that, "Maliki and Allawi are fighting over the government, and we are the victims." Yes, the political crisis continues.  The Journal of Turkish Weekly quotes Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi stating that the reforms have not come to Iraq, "From my point of view, there are two phases for a country's transformation.  The first one is to erase the dictatorial regime, and the second one is to make reforms.  But Iraq now seems to be a police state."

Tareq al-Hashemi was speaking at a conference in Turkey.  He is being tried in absentia in Baghdad.  Nouri al-Maliki issued an arrest warrante in December, charging al-Hashemi with terrorism.  al-Hashemi has stated he cannot receive a fair trial in Baghdad.  His fears were demonstrated to be accurate in February when the judges held a press conference -- months before the trial ever started -- to declare al-Hashemi was guilty.  One of the judges even declared that Tareq al-Hashemi had tried to kill him.  And that accusation didn't bother anyone.  That a judge who believed (or said he did) that al-Hashemi tried to have him killed was sitting in on the case was seen as 'fair.'  Only in Nouri's Iraq.

Tareq al-Hashemi is a member of Iraqiya.  Iraqiya came in first in the March 2010 parliamentary elections.  Nouri's State of Law came in second.  Nouri began targeting Iraqiya (yet again) in the fall of 2011.  In December, he began targeting Iraqiya members al-Hashemi and Saleh al-Mutlaq.  al-Multaq is a Deputy Prime Minister.  For telling CNN that Nouri was becoming a dictator, Nouri began months of trying to have al-Mutlaq ousted from his position.  That move proved fuitlie.  But the crisis continues. This weekend Mohamad Ali Harissi (AFP) offered:

"The political crisis has reached its highest level since its beginning, but it is still running within the framework of the democratic game,"  Iraqi political analyst Ihsan al-Shammari said.
"The country is paralyzed on all levels; there is a clear political paralysis paralleled by governmental negligence and a failure of the legislative authority, while the people are disappointed and afraid of the security consequences," Shammari said.

Also noted was that Saleh al-Mutlaq was again likening Nouri to a dictator.

Al Rafidayn notes an unnamed UN source explains that the crisis is preventing the appointment of the Independent High Electoral Commission.  Back in April, one day the  UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy Martin Kobler was praising the Independent High Electoral Commission to the United Nations Security Council and discussing how important it was to the upcoming provincial elections next year and just days later Nouri was having Farah al-Haidari and Karim al-Tamimi arrested.   Karim al-Tamimi serves on the commission while Faraj al-Haidari is the head of the commission. 

How outrageous were the arrests?   That month Al Mada reported that Moqtada al-Sadr declared that the arrests were indications that Nouri al-Maliki might be attempting to delay the elections or call them off all together. He makes it clear that the the arrest needs to be based on eveidence and not on some whim of Nouri's and that it shouldn't be done because Nouri desires to "postpone or call off the election."  The provincial elections are not in the distant way off future.  They're supposed to take place next year.  At the start of next year.  Which means that the Commission has a great deal of work to do that it needs to be doing right now.  So possibly Moqtada was correct in April that this was an effort by Nouri to delay the elections.

The continued political crisis is impacting Iraqi life on all levels.  For example, that oil law that Nouri agreed to pass back in 2007?  (It was a White House benchmark -- remember those? -- and Nouri agreed to them.)  Never passed.  Good in that it helped prevent the theft of Iraqi oil, bad in that everything's still up in the air because no alternative ever got passed.  Iraq's economy is completely dependent upon oil at this point. Last January, Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) reported, "The political crisis engulfing Iraq's power-sharing government threatens to further delay a landmark draft of its long-delayed oil law -- five years after the first version was submitted to parliament. [. . .]  The first hydrocarbon draft law was agreed by Iraq's diverse politcal blocs in 2007, but its approval has been held back by infighting among Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish political groups, worrying investors seeking more guarantees for the industry."  A month later, Kadhim Ajrash and Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News) were reporting:

Iraq's proposed energy law, intended to spur foreign investment in the world's fifth-largest holder of oil deposits, will be delayed for the rest of this year due to political divisions, the prime minister's top adviser said.
The draft law, held up since 2005, may resolve a dispute about oil revenue and sovereignty between the central government and the country's semi-autonomous Kurds that has blocked an agreement with Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), Thamir Ghadhban said in an interview in Baghdad. Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq angered the government by signing a separate contract with Exxon, which operates one of the nation's largest oil fields.

Nouri's failure -- in two terms now -- to get oil legislation passed is telling of what extreme failure he is.  Jen Alic ( sums up last week's big news on Iraqi oil and gas, "Iraq's latest energy auction was a flop, and while major international companies balked at everything from unattractive contract terms to security concerns, the failure of the auction highlights how the struggle for power between north and south is shaping the future of energy in the region and beyond. " Prashant Rao (AFP) adds:

Iraq's oil ministry painted the bid round as a success, with one official arguing that a success rate of 25 percent was a "good result."
Analysts, however, disagreed.
"It was not a success," said Ruba Husari, editor of "It was not a success because the main aim of Bid Round Four was to find gas and develop it."

On the topic of oil, Press TV reports:

Elaborating on his tour of Iraq upon his return to Tehran Sunday afternoon, Rostam Qasemi described his separate talks with top Iraqi officials, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Oil Minister Abdulkareem Liaybi and Vice President Hossain al-Shahrestani, as satisfactory and said discussions went well and produced agreements on expanding oil and gas trade and collaborations, Shana reported on Monday.

A little better than that, according to Bloomberg News, "Iraq and Iran said they will take a common position on Opec's production policy when the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries meets this month."  With legal charges of price fixing have been filed in DC last month by the right-wing Freedom Watch, I'm not really sure it's a good time for OPEC members to be bragging about their work to determine things outside of meetings.

Sunday Bloomberg reported Iraq got Iran's support in their campaign to grab the OPEC secretary-general position.   And it apparently only cost Iraq $117 million in US dollars -- that's the amount Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News) reports Nouri's agreed to pay Iran "to reconstruct the sewage system in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk."  Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Brian Murphy (AP) report, "Shiite powerhouse Iran appears desperate to save the patchwork administration it helped create in late 2010 to pull Iraq out of its last major political crisis. Tehran is calling in favors among its allied factions in Iraq, and exerting its significant religious and commercial influence to try to block al-Maliki's opponents from getting a no-confidence motion."  

AFP notes that Moqtada issued a statement yesterday about Nouri, "We say, complete your (good work) and announce your resignation, for the sake of the people . . . and for the sake of partners."

How did it get to this?  A possible no-confidence vote in Nouri?   Nouri's political slate was State of Law.  It came in second in the March 2010 elections.  Iraqiya, led by Ayad Allawi, came in first.  Eight months of gridlock followed those elections (Political Stalemate I) as a result of Nouri refusing to honor the Constitution and his belief that -- with the backing of Iran and the White House -- he could bulldoze his way into a second term. The Erbil Agreement allowed Political Stalemate I to end.  Nouri's refusal to honor the agreement created the ongoing Political Stalemate II.  Marina Ottaway and Danial Kaysi's [PDF format warning] "The State Of Iraq"  (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) notes the events since mid-December as well as what kicked off Political Stalemate II:

Within days of the official ceremonies marking the end of the U.S. mission in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki moved to indict Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on terrorism charges and sought to remove Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq from his position, triggering a major political crisis that fully revealed Iraq as an unstable, undemocractic country governed by raw competition for power and barely affected by institutional arrangements.  Large-scale violence immediately flared up again, with a series of terrorist attacks against mostly Shi'i targets reminiscent of the worst days of 2006.
But there is more to the crisis than an escalation of violence.  The tenuous political agreement among parties and factions reached at the end of 2010 has collapsed.  The government of national unity has stopped functioning, and provinces that want to become regions with autonomous power comparable to Kurdistan's are putting increasing pressure on the central government.  Unless a new political agreement is reached soon, Iraq may plunge into civil war or split apart.

The Erbil Agreement allowed Nouri to have a second term as prime minister.  That was a concession other political blocs made.  In exchange, Nouri made concessions as well.  These were written up and signed off on.  But once Nouri got his second term, he refused to honor the Erbil Agreement.  Since the summer of 2011, the Kurds have been calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement.  Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr joined that call.         As April drew to a close, there was a big meet-up in Erbil with various political blocs participating.  Nouri al-Maliki was not invited.  Among those attending were KRG President Massoud Barzani, Ayad Allawi, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.  Since December 21st, Talabani and al-Nujaifi have been calling for a national convention to resolve the political crisis.

Nouri spent the first two months dismissing the need for one, arguing that it shouldn't include everyone, arguing about what it was called, saying it should just be the three presidencies -- that would Jalal Talabani, Nouri al-Maliki and Osama al-Nujaifi -- and offering many more road blocs.  As March began, Nouri's new excuse was that it had to wait until after the Arab League Summit (March 29th).  The weekend before the summit, Talabani forced the issue by announcing that the convention would be held April 5th.  Nouri quickly began echoing that publicly.  However, April 4th it was announced the conference was off.  Nouri's State of Law took to the press to note how glad they were about that.  Shakir Noori (Gulf News) offers:

A member of the Iraqi List, MP Ahmad Al Masary, said: "If things get to the process of withdrawal of confidence from Al Maliki, the required number of no-confidence votes are available, even some members of the ruling National Alliance agree with this decision." Thus, the National Alliance has two options: either to respond positively and allow the government to proceed in executing this agreement or allow the coalition to nominate a substitute for Al Maliki and form a new government headed by the alternative candidate.

But Nouri has had and still has another option: implement the Erbil Agreement.