Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The political stalemate's impact on the violence

Violence continues today in Iraq.  Alsumaria reports a Kirkuk bombing in which 1 child was killed and two women were injured early this morning and an attack on a police patrol in Diyala Province left 1 police officer dead and three more injured.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 336 killed in Iraq this month from violence.


Alsumaria reports Iraqi President Jalal Talabani issued a statement today decrying the violence as an attempt to use the political  advantage.  Of course, the attackers could easily point out that Jalal Talabani only recently returned from Germany after fleeing there to avoid the wrath of many for going back on his promise and that Talabani seems eager to use yesterday's violence to burnish his own faded image.  Martin Chulov (Guardian) offers:

Viewed in isolation, the attacks are serious enough: the destabilising effect on a country that shows few signs of overcoming deep distrust among its Shias, Sunnis and Kurds is worrying. So too the fact that the postwar hope – the unifying influence of the state – has once again been unable to stop a multi-city slaughter.
However, when seen through the prism of the rest of the region's woes, the latest events take on an even more serious perspective. Neighbouring Syria is fast sliding towards full-blown war, with a real risk of a sectarian spillover into a region that has seen hardening sectarian positions in all corners for the last 18 months.

Sunday the Islamic State of Iraq issued a recording allegedly by Abuk Bakr al-Baghdadi in which he declared a new campaign entitled "Breaking The Walls" which would release "Muslim prisoners" in Iraqi jails and prisons and kill "judges and investigators and their guards" and also threatened to do harm on US soil.  A few e-mails came in on our noting that.  The big issue seems to be should we note it? Yes, it's news.  You could be Barack Obama and spin in front of the VFW [and a friend with McClatchy just called and asked if I could include a link to David Sider's report for McClatchy on Barack's VFW speech -- done.]  Or you can note what the recording said.  There were also questions of why we noted this one?  This one was translated by Xinhua.  I'm not interested in crazy Rita Katz and her wacko SITE.  We have always and will always ignore her translations.  The rule used to be that if you got caught lying to the press, you were no longer a trusted source.  The New York Times and others are happy to break that rule for Rita who lied to 60 Minutes.  Why outlets like the Times don't do their own translation, I have no idea.  If they did, I would include it.  But I do understand the surprise on the part of some that we included what the group was saying because we usually don't.  And that's because it's usually a SITE translation and, unlike the media, I still believe in some basic guidelines of their profession.

Emily Alpert (Los Angeles Times) has a report worth reading and she deserves credit especially for noting the group that released the audio recording is the Islamic State of Iraq.  So many outlets have already dropped that and are rushing out with "al Qaeada in Iraq" or "linked to al Qaeda in Iraq."  The group that released the statements has a name.  There's no need to be coy about it.  Considering that the group has made a public threat against the US, I have no idea why you'd want to group with various other groups in Iraq.  (al Qaeda in Iraq -- members or linked -- is a loose association of several groupings.)  The Islamic State of Iraq has publicly threatened to harm the US on US soil.  I'd say their name needs to be in US coverage and Americans need to be aware of them.

In Alpert's article, Phyllis Bennis appears breifly at the end.  Her position isn't shocking to this community.  She's arguing that what's going on would have happened regardless.  And that largely is true.  We argued repeatedly over the years -- when Bush was occupying the Oval Office, not just after Barack was elected -- that when the US pulled out, violence would likely take place.  Phyllis argues it's because the US "left behind . . . raw sectarian identity."  And that's probably true.  Iraqis, in the early years of the Iraq War (2003 and 2004), could often be heard discussing how the US was obsessed with Sunni and Shi'ite and that they asked that question always, always the first question, "Are you Sunni or Shi'ite?"  I also think it's true that a lot of people saying that were Sunni.  Meaning?  I think the US war fed the split but the split had to exist beforehand.  It was less evident to Sunnis -- they were an empowered minority (like Whites in South Africa who often couldn't understand there was problem with the way their country was run -- but to a number of Shi'ites is already existed. 

What I think Phyllis may be missing ("may" because her appearance in the article is so brief -- she may have made the next point as well but it wasn't included in the article) is that the violence would have happened because the US selected leaders.  The Iraqis didn't.  If you want to put it into a solely Sunni-Shi'ite divide (it is more complicated than that), Sunnis might have been more accepting of, for example, a prime minister who was actually legitimate. 

Nouri al-Maliki is not legitimate.  There was always going to be problems with a puppet ruler.  In 2006, the US White House (Bush) said no to Ibrahaim al-Jafaari and insisted upon Nouri al-Maliki.  That's how he became prime minister.  In 2010, Iraqis chose Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya over Nouri's State of Law which should have meant that Allawi got first crack at forming a Cabinet and being prime minister.  But the election results and the Constitution were tossed aside by the US White House (Barack) which wanted to keep Nouri as prime minister.

Allawi's a Shi'ite.  Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, also a member of Iraqiya, is a Sunni.  Iraqiya won despite all the odds because it spoke to a larger mood in Iraq -- as demonstrated the year before in the 2009 provincial elections -- to have a national identity.  The damage done can't be measured but the White House made one of the biggest mistakes when they refused to honor the will of the Iraqi people and instead rewarded Nouri and backed him in the 8 month political stalemate he created from March 2010 to November 2010. 

When puppets are put in place, they don't win popularity.  They may stay in power through support of other countries and through attacks on the people but their day of reckoning does come.  I never bought the idea that Barack was a Constitutional genius (as his answer re: Loving v. Virginia demonstrated, he didn't rack up many courtroom hours and wasn't well versed in the law -- if you're late to the party, refer to Ava and my "TV: The Surreal Life stages a comeback!") but I would never have thought he could be so historically ignorant.  (Or possibly, since Samantha Power was insistent that Barack stay, so historically unsure and willing to doubt his own knowledge base in the face of the raving Power.)

Colonialism -- from the stories he told about his grandfather (stories now revealed to be false by David Maraniss' Barack Obama: The Story)  -- was something he was supposed to be very familiar with.  Colonialism quite often ends with violence  -- the US colonies rebelling against British rule being the example Americans should be most familiar with.  So what's going on would likely have happened no matter when the US pulled out.  (Here, our position was a full withdrawal immediately.  That's still not happened with contractors, CIA, Special-Ops and various Marines guarding the US diplomatic staff.) 

Alpert also quotes Max Boot who states, "It's not out of control yet, but it's certainly moving in a dangerous direction.  The U.S. is basically AWOL."  We're don't hesitate to call out Max Boot -- check the archives.  But he's correct and if the White House is uncomfortable with that truth, then Barack can stop campaigning long enough to nominate a qualified person to be the US Ambassador in Iraq.   If Phyllis writes about Iraq today, we'll note it and we'll do the same on across-the-aisle Max Boot.

All Iraq News reports that MP Hussein Almrobei (he's with the National Alliance)  has declared that the security situation in Iraq has deteroriated ever since the political crisis started.

The political crisis is the struggle for Iraq's future.  Will one person (Nouri) determine the path or will Iraq be a shared vision?

We noted the first political stalemate.  That lasted eight months -- from March 2010 to November 2010.  It was ended when the US-brokered an agreement.  If all the political blocs would let Nouri have the second term he wasn't entitled to, a list of concessions would be made.  This is the Erbil Agreement and Nouri used it to get his second term but refused to follow it.  He had excuses from the first day and that led Allawi to lead a walk-out during the first real session of Parliament since eight months prior.  But Allawi was persuaded to return and told that of course Nouri would follow it.

Nouri didn't.  Most observes date the political stalemate -- and that is the term, even Martin Kobler used it when speaking to the UN Security Council last week -- to December 2011 when the bulk of US forces leave Iraq.  That's when Nouri begins targeting high ranking Iraqiya members such as Saleh al-Mutlaq and Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.  An argument can be made that the stalemate starts in the summer of last year when the Kurds, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr begin publicly calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement.  (An argument can be made that it starts when Iraqiya rightly notes -- January 2011 -- that Nouri has no desire to implement the Erbil Agreement.) 

Nouri's now attempting to use the Reform Commission to paper over differences.  When Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and President Talabani started calling for a national convention to address the issues (December 21, 2011), Nouri did everything he could to stonewall it and then managed to get it to implode.  This was followed by efforts to call for a withdrawal of confidence vote in Parliament.  Signatures were collected but then Jalal Talabani stabbed everyone in the back and refused to forward it on to the Speaker.  (This is when Jalal flees to Germany for "emergency surgery" -- knee surgery.)  Since then, the push has been for questioning of Nouri before Parliament.  Though the Constitution allows for it, Nouri refuses.  No surprise, when has he ever followed the Constitution.  (Not in his first term, not in his second.)  If Nouri were questioned, a no-confidence vote could be taken after.  He wants to avoid that so he's tossed out the Reform Committee -- which is basically Nouri's allies will decide what happens. 

Since April, Moqtada al-Sadr has repeatedly made clear how Nouri stops efforts to remove him: Return to the Erbil Agreement.

The poltiical crisis is Nouri's fault.  He's being asked to honor the agreement he signed to get a second term as prime minister.  It's not complicated at all.

The Reform Committee was rejected by Allawi on Saturday and by Moqtada yesterday.  Most see it as a joke (for good reason).  Just like Nouri's inability to nominate people to head the security ministries (something the Constitution required for him to become prime minister).  As  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) recently observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."

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