Monday, June 11, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, some OPEC members see Iraq as a problem, the UN says the relocation of Camp Ashraf is in jeopardy, Nouri al-Maliki lives to thug another day, Jalal Talabani sells out his own people, Brett McGurk's nomination (and all that surrounds it) creates strange silences, and more.
Starting in the US. For years and years, CJR (Columbia Journalism Review) was said to be the left-wing journalism site and AJR (American Journalism Review) was said to be the right-wing. Over the years, they both denied any real tilt, insisting that they covered the media and did so with regard to issues.
But, sadly, Lisa Du is writing for Business Insider and not CJR. She is writing about the nominee to be US Ambassador to Iraq Brett McGurk and Wall St. Journal reporter Gina Chon who carried on in Baghdad in 2008 with McGurk concealing the relationship from then-US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker.
(Does AJR tilt right? I honestly don't know. I ignored that publication until I started The Common Ills. Then, if I was asked to highlight something from it, I did. But I had heard it all my life and assumed it was true. The truth is that I honestly don't know. The pieces we've highlighted here have always been strong writing. CJR? I always assumed it was left like me. But I kidded myself that being left didn't influence what it would cover. I stopped kidding about that around 2008.)
Nominated for the post in March by President Obama, McGurk's confirmation hearings finally began last Wednesday, but the bipartisan backing he'd enjoyed having served under Bush seemed to be evaporating in the wake of the scandal.
"Overnight, support for him has cratered," a Republican staffer on the Foreign Relations Committee told ABC News.
Nevertheless analysts told ABC they expect him to ultimately succeed in securing the position.
In a statement published on Gawker, the Wall Street Journal said it was "looking into the matter" and that Chon was already scheduled to go on leave this summer in light of McGurk's nomination.
Following the leaked emails Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, who is on the Armed Services Committee, has said that he will not meet with McGurk, as he typically would, the Washington Postreported.
'Senator Inhofe always prefers to meet with nominees personally before giving his support,' said his spokesman, Jared Young. 'In regards to this nominee, Senator Inhofe has heard some concerning issues, and until those issues are cleared up, he will not meet with Mr. McGurk.'
Cheri Roberts (OpEdNews) weighs in on Brett McGurk's nomination for US Ambassador to Iraq, "Is this the right man to be the new Ambassador to Iraq? I think not. If a man cannot hold up the weight of his zipper, there is no way he should be given the weight of Diplomacy." Today Peter Van Buren offers:
State claims that McGurk is "uniquely qualified" for the job, and that he was the subject of "rigorous vetting." Yet now-authenticated, salacious emails, which call into question his judgment, maturity, discretion and ethics popped up online, straight out of State's own archives and blew his once certain Senate approval on to a back burner, at best.
As part of any political vetting process, especially in the age of the web, the candidate is asked at some point "Is there anything else? Anything out there that might come up we need to know about? Any skeletons in the closet, old affairs, angry ex', anything?" Because today, if it is out there, it will surface.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is better known as OPEC. It is run by the Secretary General. Since 2007, the former Libyan Minister of Oil, Abdalla Salem el-Badri, has served in that position. A conference president is not in charge of OPEC and serves only a one-year term (and is elected with an Altnerate President who serves that same year). Calling Abdul Kareem Luaibi "OPEC president" is false. He's a Conference President and only presides over the conferences. He is not "President of OPEC" or "OPEC President." Luaibi is the Oil Minister of Iraq.
Reuters reported this morning the OPEC is concerned that a "glut of oil" is depressing the price per barrel of crude and Iraq's Oil Minister Abdul Kareem Luaibi is noted in the report, "Luaibi said his own country, Iraq, would export 2.9 million bpd next year -- up from 2.4 million bpd now. That implies total Iraqi output of 3.4 million bpd, which would allow it to overtake Iran as OPEc's second biggest producer. Iraq has ambitious plans to expand production held back by decades of war and sanctions." Peg Mackey and Daniel Fineren (Reuters) report that Saudia Arabia Minister of Oil, Ali al-Naimi, states, "Our analysis suggests that we will need a higher ceiling than current exists." They then state, "Iraq and Iran are expected to argue that Saudi Arabia should reduce supplies to help support prices." The three are apparently also divided on prices with Saudia Arabia feeling $100 per barrel of oil is fine but Iraq and Iran wanting $125 per barrel.
Middle East Economic Survey notes that Iraq's pushing for Thamir Ghadhban (close ties to Nouri), Iran's pushing for one of their former Ministers of Oil, Gholamhossein Nozari, Equador's putting up Minister of Oil Wilson Pastor-Morris and Saudi Arabia is backing their OPEC Governor Majid al-Munif. IOGN notes, "The selection of OPEC secretary generals is traditionally a fraught task, typically with unexpected compromise candidates eventually being selected." There have been 22 secretary generals so far, that covers the period from 1961 to the present (el-Badri's term runs out at the end of 2012). A citizen of Equador last served as Secretary General from 1979 to 1981. Iran can claim the first Secretary General and it's never held the post since. The Islamic Revolution of 1979 has made additional terms heading OPEC especially problematic with Arab member-states of OPEC. Iraq has held the post only once, from 1964 to 1965 when Dr. Abdul Rahman al-Bazzaz was Secretary General. Unlike Nouri's proposed candidate, al-Bazzaz was a pan-Arab nationalist. (He was also a Sunni.) RIA Novisti offers a series of photos of then-Iraqi Prime Minister al-Bazzaz arriving July 27, 1966 in the USSR for an official visit and speaking with Premier Alexei Kosygin who headed the Council of Ministers from 1964 to 1980. And here's one of then-Prime Minister Abd ar-Rahman al-Baazaz in Red Square.
In terms of prices, this year we have generally seen moving in an upward direction. However, current prices are not due to market fundamentals. Speculation is pushing prices higher. Trading is being made on the perception of a suppy shortage, rather than evidence of any actual or impending shortfall. It is related to geopolitics. In many respects it can be described as a 'fear factor'.
As we are all aware, oil is increasingly being treated as an individual asset class by finanical investors. Since 2005, the total open interest of the NYMEX and ICE Brent crude oil futures and options have increased sharply.
Una Galani and Christopher Swann (Reuters) note that Iraq's increase has thrown OPEC off balance, "If Iraq's rising output isn't calibrated with the market's ability to absorb it, oversupply could become chronic and prices could fall further. Iraq has said that it would like to rejoin OPEC's quota system in 2014. Rivals may now want that to happen sooner even though Iraq will seek a large quota to reflect its high level of reserves." In some western countries, it all comes down to what's the price at the pump but in the oil-rich Middle East, this is a very serious issue. Ahmed al-Jarallah (Arab Times) reports that "Iran's representative Mohammed Ali Khatibi" is accusing Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia of flooding the market and al-Jarallah compares that accusation to the one which led Saddam Hussein to attack Kuwait, "I think the leaders of Iran think they can repeat the same stupidity like Saddam Hussein or even more stupidity because on one hand the world at the moment cannot entertain such kinds of adventures and on the other the world will never allow it to happen under current economical hardships witnessed by several countries."
May 30th, United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) released "Report on Human Rights in Iraq: 2011." As the report notes, Camp Ashraf is "over 3,000 residents affiliated with the People's Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI)" that are being moved to Camp Liberty. These are Iranian dissidents who were welcomed into Iraq decades. That changed with Nouri's Iraq. The report notes the 36 deaths when Nouri's forces went into the camp April 8, 2011 and that it followed the assault of July 2009. The report notes that the United Nations -- specifically UNAMI and UNHCR -- have been attempting to act "as an impartial facilitator" in moving the residents to Camp Liberty.
That apparently has become more difficult. The UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler declared today, "I urge the remaining residents of Camp Ashraf to relocate to Camp Hurriya without delay. The relocation process should not be stalled. I am concerned that there will be violence if the relocation doesn't recommence. Any violence would be unacceptable. I call on the Government of Iraq to avoid any forceful relocation. Each relocation must be voluntary. The United Nations supports only a peaceful, humanitarian solution and stands ready to facilitate."
So far, approximately 2,000 have been moved to Camp Liberty (Hurriya). The last third are not moving. They state that they want the US and the United Nations to inspect Camp Ashraf for weapons while they remain present because they fear that Nouri's forces will plant things in the camp after all residents are out. (Information in this paragraph via two friends at the UN and one at the US State Dept.)
Why does when the search take place matter?
Because the US State Dept has made it an issue stating such a search will determine their classification of 'terrorist' or not 'terrorist.' If you're late to the part, from the June 1st snapshot:
Which takes us into legal news, it's a shock to the administration but most others saw the ruling coming. Jamie Crawford (CNN) reports, "A federal appeals court has ordered Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to make a prompt decision on whether to remove an Iranian dissident group from the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations." This was a unanimous decision handed down by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Why was it unanimous? Because the administration has been in violation for some time now. James Vicini (Reuters) reminds, "The appeals court ruled nearly two years ago that Clinton had violated the group's rights and instructed her to 'review and rebut' unclassified parts of the record she initially relied on and say if she regards the sources as sufficiently credible. It said Clinton had yet to make a final decision." The administration was in contempt. The courts and the executive branch were in conflict. (They still are.) What generally happens there is the court of appeals makes a united front because this is now a court issue (as opposed to the merits of the case from when it was heard earlier). Unlike the executive branch, the judicial branch has no security forces. So they want to send a message but they also want to do so without looking weak if the administration ignores them. So since two months was the target date for the State Dept to finish a review on the MEK, they gave State four months which, they hope, is more than enough time. However, the two months (as the judges know) was a guideline, not a promise. State made very clear before the court that they were not promising two months. So it could go on past four months. Four months carries them into October. If they're not complying by then, there's a good chance they won't. Whether Barack Obama wins a second term as US President or not, Hillary Clinton has already stated she was only doing one term as Secretary of State. So when November arrives, if there's no decision, there won't be a rush for one. If Barack wins re-election, he'll state that he has to find someone to oversee the department first. If Barack loses, they've already blown off the appeals court for over two years now, continuing to blow them off for sixty more days will be a breeze.
Nouri al-Maliki has twice attacked Camp Ashraf -- and done so -- both times -- while US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq. He loathes the residents and has repeatedly attempted to force them back to Iran (where they would most likely be hamed and possibly put to death). This is not an unreasonable request on their part. If the US State Dept is declaring that a search must take place of Camp Ashraf and that the search will determine whether the group is terrorist or not, of course that search needs to take place immediately.
Nouri would be doing Iran's bidding (yet again) by having weapons planted after the residents were all out. If the US is making this a determinating factor then the residents are not being unreasonable by refusing to leave -- the last residents -- until a search has taken place.
Last week, an execution took place in Iraq. Only now are details beginning to emerge. From the Thursday, June 7th:
In other news of violence, a spokesperson of the Ministry of Justice announces to Alsumaria that Abed Hamid Hmoud was hanged today. Hmoud was the former secretary of Saddam Hussein. AP adds, "As Saddam's presidential secretary, Hmoud controlled access to the Iraqi president and was one of the few people he is said to have trusted completely, U.S. officials said in 2003." And, if the ghost of Hussein came back, apparently there was fear Hmoud would control access to that as well? Whispers insist he was bad, really bad, really, really bad. And they'd tell you about it but they're sworn to secrecy on what the court was told. This is the democracy that trillions were spent on? Secret trials that result in executions? And no one can discuss what took place?
There are whispers of 'persecution of Shi'ites.' So, in twenty or so years, we can expect those who targeted Iraq's LGBT community to be put to death as well? That's not ever going to happen, is it? Because it really wasn't about 'wrong doing' -- real or merely alleged -- it was about a group given power wanting to settle old scores. Settling old scores? That only leads to new scores in need of settling. I don't support execution to begin with but when you're executing people you can't even claim killed someone, you're about vengence and not justice and you're on a dark path that never leads to sunlight.
"What you have not heard", states the commentator, "is that (Mr Hamoud) was led to his execution whilst under the impression that he was going for a medical check up. The Iraqi government didn't even notify his family or relatives or make arrangements with them to deliver his body." A chilling observation on America and Britain's "New Iraq" is that the Maliki government is "… so intent on revenge that they have waived the formalities of telling a person they were taking him to his execution." Deep concern is expressed for the fate of both Tareq Aziz and Sadoun Shakir in the light of this appalling act. They were sentenced at the same Court hearing.
In other violence, AFP reports an attack on a Hamam al-Alil police checkpoint claimed the lives of 3 police officers and left two more injured, 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Baquba, 1 police officer was wounded in a Baghdad shooting and a Khales roadside bombing injured three polices officers.
In August 2007, Beth Fouhy (AP) reported, "In a statement released by her Senate office, Mrs. [Hillary] Clinton echoed a call by the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, Carl Levin, for Iraq's Parliament to oust Mr. Maliki in favor of a leader who could restore order to Iraq's unity government." Then-Senator Clinton was quoted from her statement, "During his trip to Iraq last week, Senator Levin . . . confirmed that the Iraqi government is nonfunctional and cannot produce a political settlement because it is too beholden to religious and sectarian leaders. I share Senator Levin's hope that the Iraqi Parliament will replace Prime Minister Maliki with a less divisive and more unifying figure when it returns in a few weeks." War Criminal and Professional Buffoon Bully Boy Bush is quoted saying, "I support him. It's not up to the politicians in Washington, D.C. to say whether he will remain in his position. It is up to the Iraqi people who now live in a democracy and not a dictatorship."
What a fat liar.
So in 2007, we had a strong indication where Hillary stood out on Thug Nouri. We knew where Carl Levin, Russ Feingold, Barbara Boxer and many other Democrats stood. What we didn't know was where Professional Weenie Barack Obama stood.
But roll the dice and take a chance, it's just Iraqi lives, right?
Prior to 2010 -- George The Idiot Bush, pay attention -- had no voice in it. The US government chose Nouri al-Maliki. Not the people of Iraq. Most Iraqis didn't even know the ass from his low level position where he sucked up to Paul Bremer. They didn't know him because the coward fled Iraq in 1979, spent a few years in Syria, the rest of the decade in Iran and then went back to Syria. He only returned to Iraq in 2003. In 2006, the US government made Nouri prime minister. He was not the choice of Parliament. Until 2010, only Parliament could remove him. Though there were many talks of doing so, it never came to be.
If only it had.
If only the Oval Office currently had President Hillary Clinton.
Instead, it had the fool named Barack.
In 2010, elections were finally held. Iraqiya coming in first should have had first crack at forming a government. Some liars in the press tell you that doesn't matter and that Iraqiya -- a 'Sunni party' -- could never have had that post. That's nonsense. Saleh al-Mutlaq wasn't up for the post, Shi'ite Ayad Alawi was and not only could he be prime minister, he had been prime minister before. But because Barack is a stupid idiot who doesn't respect democracy, the US government backed and shielded Nouri al-Maliki.
We'll never know but it's likely that a President Hillary Clinton would have said, "Tough s**t, Nouri, the Iraqi people chose someone else, get your ass out of the office."
Instead it was Barack who apparently only wanted to know if he had to kiss the crown or swallow the shaft.
He apparently did a little bit of both.
Eight months after the election, nothing had happened. This was gridlock that was named Political Stalemate. It was actually Political Stalemate I but people just didn't know it then. Nouri refused to allow things to move forward. Even with the court he controlled handing down verdicts to favor him, he still couldn't pull it off, he still couldn't circumvent the will of the people, democracy and the Iraqi Constitution. To do that, he needed the support of two supposed bitter rivals: the US government and the Iranian government. The two worked together to protect Nouri for eight months so that he couldn't be forced out. When the UN was honestly wondering if a caretaker government needed to be set up -- it should have been and it should have been prior to the elections -- the White House made clear to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that no such action would be taken.
The US government then pretended to give a damn about the Kurds, the Iraqi people as a whole, democracy and peace. When's the last time the US government gave a damn about peace? World War II?
The US government would put together an agreement that would save the day! (When's the last time the US government saved the day? World War II?) Now this agreement wouldn't be perfect, the US told various political blocs, but it would end the gridlock. (The gridlock caused by Nouri demanding a second term.)
When various blocs objected to the early draft of the agreement, the US government had excuses. It told the Kurds, 'Yes, Nouri gets a second term. But, look, you get Article 140 implemented!' No, they got screwed and they know it now.
Article 140 shouldn't have required a contract for Nouri to implement it. Article 140 is part of the Constitution. As prime minister, Nouri has no choice but to implement it. However, he refused to do so during his first term as prime minister despite the Constitution stating it must be implemented by the end of 2007. (Article 140 addresses the disputed territories. Oil-rich Kirkuk is disputed with both the central government in Baghdad and the KRG claiming they have the sole rights to it. Per Article 140, a census and referndum should be held.)
Why did the Kurds go along with such nonsense? Again, the Constitution already mandated the Nouri had to hold the census and referendum but he'd ignored it. The Kurds and others went along because the US government gave their word, swore that the US President Barack Obama, himself, backed this agreement (contract) and would personally insist on it being honored.
With that kind of backing and the delusions so many had that Barack was someone of honor who could be trusted, the various blocs -- and Nouri -- signed off on the contract. Nouri used it to grab his second term and then quickly insisted upon ignoring it.
The Erbil Agreement has never been honored. And the White House doesn't even give a damn. Long after Barack is out of office, Iraqis will still remember that a US president's word was supposedly attached to a contract and that the US broke that word.
When Nouri refused to honor the contract he signed on to, Political Stalemate II began. It continues in Iraq. Last summer, the Kurds, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr began insisting that the Erbil Agreement be honored. Nouri ignored the cries.
December 21, 2011 Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi began loudly insisting that a national convention be held to address the political crisis. Professional Capon Jalal Talabani added his sotto voice to the call. Nouri rejected such a conference and then stalled on it. When it was finally scheduled, it was called off at the last minute.
Iraqiya, KRG President Massoud Barzani, Moqtada al-Sadr and the slatternly Iraqi President Jalal Talabani began exploring a no-confidence vote. When they gathered the necessary signatures -- that no one thought they would -- Jalal insisted suddenly that he had to verify the 176 signatures. First indication that Jalal would be a stumbling block.
Saturday, Alsumaria reported that State of Law was insisting that the curtain has come down on the hopes of a no-confidence vote. How did they know? Because they always had Jalal Talabani in their pocket. Kitabat reported Talabani declared Saturday night that he wouldn't forward the signatures for a no-confidence vote, thereby ending that process for the Parliament to vote Nouri al-Maliki out as prime minister. Sunday Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) noted, "Talabani has close ties to Iran, which has been using its leverage in Iraq to keep al-Maliki in place. Divisions among the prime minister's opponents may also be undercutting the no confidence push." Dar Addustour also focused on the messages that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been sending Jalal Talabani.
Alsumaria reports that the meet-up in Erbil yesterday found the participants engaged in discussions about how to mobilize Parliament to take on the issue of the power grab and Nouri's monopoly of power. There is anger over Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's refusal to forward the list of signatures for the no-confidence vote. There is also insistence that there were 176 signatures and not the 160 Jalal is claiming (after he removed four, he stated the petition only contained 160 -- even State of Law last week was noting there were 176 -- Moqtada al-Sadr also declared last week that there were 176 signatures). Moqtada al-Sadr says the process has not ended, that it's only now begun. Al Hayat notes the "shock" among some that Talabani acted as he did and that Talabani is seen as cutting some deal with Iran which will provide him some sort of political advantage over KRG President Massoud Barzani. Kurdish MP Farhad Atroshi is quoted stating that Talabani sided with Nouri because Iran threatened to use force against the KRG. I don't doubt that Jalal might tell such a self-serving story; however, it's just believable. If Iran were to attack the KRG, the backlash would be immense. Not only would it turn many Iraqis against Iran -- years of war have already made the two countries wary of one another -- it would also involve the region. Iran could not get away with an attack on the KRG and the government Tehran knows that. Others insist to Al Hayat that Jalal acted the way he did because he realized there was now a chance of a national conference and he felt his impartial stance would allow him to have more say in the conference. Others whisper that Nouri threatened people with criminal charges. Not noted, but it was reported last week that Nouri has stolen files from Parliament. From the June 5th snapshot, "Meanwhile Al Mada reports that the Parliamentary Integrity Committee is stating that Nouri has taken their files and the fear appears to be that he will use them to go after political rivals. One Commssion member states that the work of the Commission for the past months has now vanished."
Al Rafidayn reports Thug Nouri is calling for a dialogue. Political Stalemate II continues and may soon reach the two year mark.
"For the past five years," Senator Clinton pointed out, "we have continuously heard from the administration that things are getting better, that we're about to turn a corner." Still nothing. It's time "to begin an orderly withdrawal." With Petraeus, Clinton referenced the Washington Post [Cameron W. Barr's "Petraeus: Iraqi Leaders Not Making 'Sufficient Progress'"] and how the general had told them last month that "'no one feels there has been sufficient progress.' Those are exactly the concerns that my colleagues and I raised when you testified before us in September." At that time, Clinton pointed out, Petraeus responded that "if we reached that point in a year you'd have to think very hard about it. We're there now. . . . What conditions would have to exist for you to recommend to the President that the current strategy is not working?"
Nothing's changed. It was all predictable four years ago. The Obama administration pursued the same worthless strategy Bully Boy Bush did: Back Thug Nouri. And that's why nothing is accomplished in Iraq today just as it wasn't throughout his first term as prime minister.
And just as it was known then that Nouri was ineffectual, it was known then that Nouri was closer to Iran than to the US. From the same day's snapshot, this is about US Senator Barbara Boxer's exchange with then-US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker:
She then focused on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad noting, "The Bush administration told the American people more than five years ago that we would be greeted as liberators in Iraq and supporters of the war said that they would be dancing in the street with American flags." That didn't happen and not only did that not happen but when Ahmadinejad goes to Iraq, he's greeted warmly while Bully Boy has to sneak "in, in the dead of the night." She wondered, "Do you agree that after all we have done, after all the sacrifices, and God bless all of our troops . . ., that Iran is stronger and more influential than ever before?"
Crocker wanted to debate that reality. He stated it was just militias. Boxer pulled out reports that demonstrated it wasn't, where Ahmadinejad was greeted warmly even by children who gave him flowers, kissed him on both cheeks. "I'm saying that after all we have done," Boxer declared, "the Iraqi government kissing the Iranian leader and our president has to sneak into the country -- I don't understand it." Crocker still wanted to argue leading Boxer to respond, "I give up. It is what it is. They kissed him on the cheek. . . . He had a red carpet treatment and we are losing our sons and duaghters every day for the Iraqi people to be free. . . . It is disturbing."
To this day, US officials have to sneak into Iraq.
Prashant Rao (AFP) observes, "Key positions such as the ministers of defence and interior remain manned by interim choices, and rivals of Maliki, ranging from his Sunni Arab deputy premier to powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, have decried him as a 'dictator' and sought to unseat him via a vote of no confidence." And so it was an so it remains.