Thursday, July 26, 2012

Iraqi fighters down a helicopter and more

Violence continues in Iraq.  Xinhua notes this late Wednesday violence, "As many as seven al-Qaida fighters and five security members were killed in clashes at a former al-Qaida stronghold in Iraq's eastern province of Diyala, a provincial police told Xinhua on Thursday."  AP notes that 11 police officers were killed late last night and early this morning and "Diyala provincial spokesman Salih Ebressim Khalil said militants targeted the Iraqi army helicopter, killing one soldier, wounding another and forcing it to make an emergency landing."  Al Rafidayn reports that a Tikrit car bombing has left 5 people dead and ten injured.

Like violence, the political crisis continues.  Tuesday evening, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met with Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq.  al-Mutlaq belongs to Iraqiya which came in first in the March 2010 elections while Nouri belongs to State of Law which came in second.  Dar Addustour reports that the two discussed the stalemate, upcoming provincial elections and the election commission.  Alsumaria notes that Ayad Allawi (head of Iraqiya) has stated today that the need to question Nouri before Parliament continues and needs to be speeded up.  Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law came in second to Iraqiya which should have ended any hopes Nouri had for a second term as prime minister.  But the White House backed Nouri -- and spat on the Iraqi voters and the Iraqi Constitution -- allowing Nouri to create Political Stalemate I which lasted for 8 months.  It was ended when the all parties -- including Nouri -- agreed to the US-brokered Erbil Agreement.  It gave the Kurds this, Iraqiya that, etc.  Nouri?  It gave him a second term as prime minister. He used the Erbil Agreement to get that, pretended he was going to honor the contract but, as soon as he was named prime minister, he tossed it aside.  Since the summer of 2011, the Kurds, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr have been publicly calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement.  This is Political Stalemate II.  Currently, there is a move -- and it's Constitutional -- to call Nouri before the Parliament and question him.  After questioning,  a vote could be taken to determine whether or not the answers he provided restored confidence in him or meant that the MPs registered a no-confidence vote.

Alsumaria notes that Ayad Allawi stated he was reviewing the strategy for the next move.   All Iraq News adds that he restated, in the press statement, his opinion that the Reform Commission was a waste of time.  Back on December 21st, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi (a member of Iraqiya) and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (a Kurd) began calling for a national conference to address the ongoing stalemate and/or crisis.  Nouri threw every road block he could think of to delay and stop that from happening.  In June, suddenly he wanted a Reform Commission to 'solve' the problem.  The Reform Commission is a joke.  It's always been a joke. It's Nouri's pets declaring what they want for him and it has no teeth so even if the other political players had full participation, nothing would come from it.  Allawi notes that the Erbil Agreement needs to be reinstated and that a series of 'reforms' prepared by (Nouri's) National Alliance isn't going to change that.  He notes the demands remain the same as they've been all along. 

In a sign of what a tool the National Alliance is becoming for Nouri (largely Ammar al-Hakim and Ibrahim al-Jafaari's segment of the National Alliance) on Saturday, Nasiriyah reported that the National Alliance was vowing to refuse to allow the bill to pass that would limit a prime minister to two terms (it would also put a two-term limit on the presidency and on the Speaker of Parliament but the National Alliance is only concerned with Nouri).

Today the Parliament was supposed to pass an Election Law which would allow for provincial elections in March of next year.  Nasiriyah reports that the vote has been postponed. Also today, Alsumaria notes, the temperature is expected to reach 49 degrees Celsius. That's 120 degrees Farehnheit (actually 120.2 degrees).   Al Rafidayn notes that today's been declared a holiday as a result of the heat.

Iraq has the attention of some.  At the right-wing Commentary, Max Boot weighed in on the topic yesterday including this:

But there are still things we can do to try to prevent Prime Minister Maliki from alienating Sunnis even more than he already has. The fact that the Iraqis are counting on major weapons sales from the U.S. (the Pentagon has just placed an initial order for 16 F-16s) gives us a certain amount of leverage, albeit limited leverage–the Iraqis are rich enough to buy weapons elsewhere if we refuse to sell them. But we can at least try to condition our weapons deliveries on continued Iraqi progress on governance and human rights.
To do that effectively, however, we need high-level attention focused on Iraq. That has been totally lacking in the Obama White House, which has handed off the Iraq portfolio to Vice President Biden–only he has a multitude of other responsibilities and doesn’t seem to be particularly focused on Iraq. The president, meanwhile, appears to be totally disengaged, treating Iraq as if it were his predecessor’s problem, not his. This helps to explain why we couldn’t get the status of forces agreement and why we are not able to exert much leverage at the moment to counteract strong Iranian and sectarian influence in Baghdad.

Max Boot is not an idiot -- even though we're on opposite sides of the political fence, I don't think he's an idiot.  But it bothers me that he rightly suggests non-US troops on the ground things the US can do when The Nation magazine (see the July 9th snapshot) falsely presented the choices as troops on the ground or nothing at all.  Good for Max Boot for knowing that.  Sad for The Nation for not having a clue.  Also weighing in on Iraq is China Daily's editorial board which notes:

The wave of violence across 19 Iraqi cities on Monday, which left 111 people dead and at least 235 injured, has shocked the international community. The heaviest death toll in two years in Iraq highlights the after-effects of the Iraq War, and should be a message of caution for those who are still keen on forcing another regime change in the Middle East.
Monday's violence, which came after al-Qaida had warned that it would try to retake lost territory, carries the stamp of the terrorist group. But it is not enough to just condemn the cruelty of terrorists and remind the world community of the daunting task of uprooting terrorism.
In fact, Iraq has been in a quagmire of political instability, sectarian rift and violence ever since the United States pulled its troops out of it in December.

And, again, I want to note that Dan Murphy has a very comprehensive overview of the current situation in Iraq at the Christian Science Monitor

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