Friday, June 08, 2012

McGurk and the political crisis

The Telegraph of London picks up on the 2008 Baghdad e-mails Brett McGurk sent a female reporter he hooked up with.  In the e-mails, McGurk makes it clear that Ryan Crocker -- then-US Ambassador to Iraq -- should not find out about the relationship.  Brett McGurk is now nominated by US President Barack Obama to be the country's new Ambassador to Iraq. Possibly, Barack's plan is for McGurk to seduce Iraq one Iraqi at a time?

Is that how the White House hopes to resolve the political crisis?

Al Rafidayn reports that Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq gave a speech yesterday at the Cultural Forum insisting that while he has defended the government he has also criticized it. 

one on one summit

 Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "One-on-One Summit" lampooned the increasingly close relationship Ammar has with Nouri.

 In his speech yesterday, Ammar declared that ISCI was not part of the problem but that they wanted to be part of the solution and to support everyone. That would be a change because all Ammar's supported so far this year was Nouri.

Nouri is facing a no-confidence vote in Iraq.  His refusal to honor a signed contract between him and the political blocs has ticked off many.  The Al Rafidayn article notes that Daw's Abdul Halim Zuhairi (Dawa is a political party -- Nouri's political party; State of Law is Nouri's political slate) is insisting that Moqtada al-Sadr is harming the nation and splitting the Shi'ite ranks.

Right there is your problem.

Moqtada al-Sadr is splitting Shi'ite ranks?

That's a sectarian way of looking at -- apparently the only way Dawa knows how.

You'd think the statements would be condemned.  They won't be.

Regardless of whether or not there's a no-confidence vote, what has happened is that Iraqi leaders have demonstrated they can go beyond sects and work together -- Moqtada, KRG President Massoud Barzani, Iraqiya's Ayad Allawi and others.  They've presented a united front arguing that the Erbil Agreement needs to be followed as agreed to.

Kitabat notes that Brett McGurk testified Wednesday to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the "deep divisions" between Sunnis and Shi'ites.  And they note his comments regarding Kirkuk.  We'll note that section from the hearing (he's responding to Senator Richard Lugar's question).

Brett McGurk: Thank you, Senator.  It's a really critically, critically important point.  I have worked with Prime Minister Maliki for a number of years and all the Iraqi leaders and I've worked with him in his capacity as the prime minister.  As I said in my written statement, I would try to focus now on dealing with the Iraqis in an institutional way.  So dealing with Malliki as the prime minister now, if there was a new prime minister tomorrow, I would have the same close working relationship with him.   I've worked with four Speakers of the Parliament, for example.  You need to focus on the institution.  When you're in Iraq and dealing with all sides, there are different narratives to the political proces.  The government that was put in place in 2010, as you know, took eight months to put in place.  When it finally came together, it represents 98% of the Council of Representatives.  They're represented in the Cabinet.  That naturally leads to a lot of inefficienies, a lot of rivalries, a lot of intrigue and that is certainly going on now.  Uhm, Maliki will say that his opposition figures who are in his  Cabinet won't share responsibility for governing.  The opposition figures say Maliki is consolidating power.   They're all right.  And we need to work with all of them to live up to their prior agreements and to work within the Constitutional system to change the process.  You mentioned the Kurds and this is critically important and I would plan to visit the Kurdistan Region as much as possible.  I'd like to be up there, if I'm confirmed, at least once a week because it's the personal interaction between the ambassador and the Iraqi leaders that's so important for keeping everything stable and for bridging areas of disagreement.   The Kurds are having some difficulties with the Baghdad government right now, the Baghdad government's having difficulties with the Kurds.  The real rivalry is [KRG President] Massoud Barzani and Prime Minister Maliki.  Uh, we have to play an important role in mediating that effort.  Uh, I would just leave it at there's a Constitutional system in place now.  This is the third Iraqi government, the second Parliament, The Iraqis are going to fight through their politics under the Constitutional rules they themselves have devised.  We cannot direct outcomes through that process.  When we try to do that, the unintended consequences are quite enormous.  But we can help bridge differences. We can mediate back and forth and be constantly, actively engaged and that's what I intend to do if I'm confirmed.

 At present, Nouri can still stop a no-confidence vote.  If he implements the Erbil Agreement, the no-confidenc vote is tabled.  But time may be slipping away for that.  Alsumaria reports that Salah al-Obeidi, of Moqtada's spokesperson, states they are moving forward on the no-confidence vote and that, as Iraqi President Jalal Talabani pledged in the April 28th meeting, the next step will be for Talabani to write a memo to the Speaker of Parliament calling for the no-confidence vote.  Kitabat adds that, Shi'ite, Kurd, Sunni,  the common opinion is that Nouri is "a despot and a dictator."

Judith S. Yaphe (Foreign Policy) has a lengthy analysis of the political crisis:

Maliki has made similar moves toward political consolidation. Borrowing Allawi's popular tactic of building a secular, Iraqi national coalition, Maliki tried to build a pan-Iraqi coalition in the months leading up to the March 2010 election and wooed disaffected Sunni Arab leaders unhappy with Maliki's chief rival Ayad Allawi's secular and cross-national Iraqiyya Party. When this proved insufficient to win over Sunni Arab and secular supporters, he turned to sectarian rhetoric. He moved closer to Shiite extremist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose militia he had previously shut down and leaders arrested, and accused his rivals of supporting the return of the Baathists and the purge that would follow their return. When the Iraqiyya Party with Sunni Arab support won 91 seats and Maliki's State of Law party only 89, Maliki rejected the results and as commander-in-chief declared that without a recount there would be a return to violence. Although the constitution said the party winning the majority in the elections had the first right to form a new government, the court decided that a post-election coalition could take that right from the party winning the most seats. Sadr's joining Maliki gave the prime minister the authority to move forward and ignore Iraqiyya and its leaders.
In [. . .] 2010 in an effort to paper over the bitterness of the "lost" election, Maliki went to Irbil, capital of the Kurdistan Regional Authority, to negotiate with the Kurds and prominent Sunni Arab politicians, including parliamentary leaders Nujayfi and Salih al-Mutlak and Iraqiyya leader, Allawi. He agreed to a 15-point agenda which promised a new degree of power-sharing among Iraq's Sunni and Shiite Arabs and Kurds and the appointment of a Sunni Arab and a Shiite Arab to head the defense and interior ministries. He also promised to create a National Council of Strategic Policies to oversee, approve or veto any major legislation after the prime minister signed it. Leadership of the council was promised to Allawi. Maliki, however, reneged on his commitments. He refused to name a defense minister or an interior minister or establish the special commission and Allawi in turn refused to compromise.
By late 2010, Maliki had brought the supreme federal court under his direct control. In January 2011, the judiciary, described by Toby Dodge as "pliable," ended the independence of several agencies established during the U.S. occupation that were supposed to oversee elections, protect human rights, and fight corruption under his control and placed them under direct control of the prime minister's office. For example, the courts found the Independent Higher Education Commission's (IHEC) link to the legislative branch of government to be a violation of the separation of powers. Several months later, its chairman, who had worked to preserve the integrity of elections from Maliki's manipulation, was arrested and charged with corruption. Dodge also claims that in 2010 the Higher Judicial Council ruled that new legislation could only be proposed by the cabinet, giving the prime minister and not parliament the ability to propose legislation. The right of parliament to question ministers was also ended. If true, then this would be a major set-back for the institutional checks and balances the United States hopes to ensure in post-Saddam Iraq. On the day of the U.S. withdrawal ceremony in Baghdad in December 2011, Iraqi security forces surrounded the residences of several prominent Iraqi Sunni Arab politicians, including Deputy Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, to arrest him on charges of coup plotting in 2006 to 2007. Maliki also threatened Iraqiyya leader Salih al-Mutlak and Speaker Osama al-Nujayfi. 

The e-mail address for this site is