Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Nouri's laughable Reform 'Commission'

Bremer Walls was a popular name for the concrete walls that went up around Baghdad -- not around Iraq because there was never any US concern over securing Iraq -- that were also known as blast walls.  Though called that in 'honor' of Paul Bremer -- the US's first post-invasion Bwana in Iraq, these concrete barriers became especially popular -- or at least resorted to -- in 2006.  At one point that year, while Nouri al-Maliki (who'd just been installed by the US as prime minister) was out of the country, it was announced that they were going up all over Baghdad and Nouri publicly responded that, no, they weren't.  Guess who won that round?  (Yes, they went up all over Baghdad.)  They were especially 'useful' during the ethnic cleansing of 2006 and 2007 since they could control traffic ('herd' people).  Many have come down.  Today Alsumaria reports that Baghdad Operations Command has announced their intent to take down 930 of them in the Sadr section of Baghdad.  This at a time when violence is on the rise.

Today All Iraq News notes a Falluja home invasion of a police officers home in which 1 family members was killed and five more were left injured.  Alsumaria notes 2 corpses were found dumped on a main road in Mosul, both men had been shot to death.

The political crisis continues in Iraq.  Al Rafidayn notes that Nouri has been very skillful in playing various political blocs against one another, tossing them off balance and allowing him to continue doing whatever it is that they had been objecting to before he pitted them against one another.  (They also note Sunday's violence -- over 100 dead, over 400 wounded -- and speak with analyst John Drake who feels that the violence was more likely carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and not supporters of Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.)

The political crisis has lasted over a year.  You can chart its beginning to the end of December 2010 when it should have been clear that Nouri was trashing the US-brokered Erbil Agreement (which gave him a second term as prime minister) or the summer of 2011 when Iraqiya, Moqtada al-Sadr and the Kurds were all calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement publicly.  The political crisis can be seen as beginning in December of 2011 when Nouri's war on the Sunnis moves from mass arrests of academics and the elderly in the fall of that year to targeting Iraqiya (with his demand that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post and his arrest warrant for Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi -- al-Mutlaq and al-Hashemi are members of Iraqiya and also Sunni).

Immediately after the political crisis begins, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and Iraq President Jalal Talabani begin calling for a National Conference -- a meet-up of the political blocs -- to address the crisis.  Nouri is immediately against it and says it's not necessary.  He'll go for a reform commission, he insists, but not a national conference.  He tries to throw one road block after another before the National Conference as prep meetins are held.  In late February, he announces it can't take place in March because the Arab League Summit will be held in Baghdad that month.  Talabani uses the international press spotlight to schedule the National Conference -- he did that by announcing the weekend before the Summit, with press arriving in Iraq in large numbers that were only expected to increase (and did increase -- for the Summit) that they would hold the National Conference Thursday, April 5th.  The announcement having been made to the press, Nouri tries to save face by announcing it himself while instructing his State of Law MPs to work on killing the conference.  The day of the conference al-Nujaifi is forced to hold a press conference to announce that the National Conference is off.

It was supposed to be re-scheduled.  Nouri then focused his efforts on killing a no-confidence vote.  Once he had done that (with the tremendous help of Jalal Talabani), he announced that the reform commission he'd earlier spoken of would do the work the national conference was supposed to.


That was never going to happen.  And it ended up being nothing but a set of non-binding statements written by his National Alliance allies.  Turns out it was even worse than that.  Al Mada reports today that the National alliance is stating that they will review the reform paper before it's put forward.  Review it?  Al Mada reports State of Law wrote it.

State of Law is Nouri's slate.  Nouri wrote his own little 'reform' list.  Iraqiya is the political slate that came in first in the March 2010 elections.  Nouri's slate came in second.  Nouri is part of the National Alliance (as is Moqtada al-Sadr and his bloc of MPs and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and other Shi'ite groups).  The Reform Commission was supposed to be similar to the National Conference -- a face to face meet-up of blocs where the various issues were addressed.  Instead, it became a paper written by elements of the National Alliance sympathetic to Nouri.  Now it's become a paper written by State of Law.

It is a joke.  I-Was-Right rights today go to Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi who was the first Iraqi to publicly call out the Reform Commission and note that the whole thing was nothing but a distraction.

The Reform Commission will accomplish nothing.  Nouri implemented a power-grab at the end of 2010 and has continued it.  That's part of the objection -- and why some Iraqi politicians have compared Nouri to Saddam Husssein.  The idea that the man accused of a power grab can have his political slate write the reforms is laughable.

Part of Nouri's power grab was ignoring the Constitution which requires a prime minister-designate to name a Cabinet in 30 days or else someone else will be named prime minister-designate and get the 30 days to accomplish the task.  The Constitution requires that you name the Cabinet in 30 days or you don't get moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister.  That's not 'partial Cabinet.'  That's name your Cabinet.

Nouri couldn't do that because he wouldn't do that.  He never named ministers to head the Interior, Defense or National Security.  And, again, Ayad Allawi was the first to publicly call this out.  He said it was a power-grab.  The press insisted it wasn't.  They insisted that in a matter of weeks, Nouri would name nominees for these posts.  It's now September 2012 and he's never named nomineess.  Al Mada notes Iraqiya is calling for nominees and saying they need to come quickly in light of Sunday's violence.  Iraqiya MP Hamid al-Mutlaq states that the country is vulnerable to terrorists as a result of Nouri leaving those positions empty.  All Iraq News adds that Iraqiya has submitted a list containing the names of four members they say are qualified to be Minister of Defense.

The PUK is Talabani's political party (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan).  They tell Al Rafidayn that Jalal will return at the start of next week.  In May, as the no-confidence vote on Nouri was about to happen, Jalal suddenly began declaring signatures void.  He then ignored the request of the Kurdish officials that no one leave Iraq.  Iraq's vagabond president fled to Germany with his office insisting that he needed life-threatening surgery.

That ended up being knee surgery.  (What a close call!)  He has remained in Germany ever since.  He's been said to be on the verge of returning before.  He may or may not return next week but his political party is stating he will be returning.

He did note yesterday that the Sunday sentencing of his Vice Presdient Tareq al-Hashemi to be hanged was not helping the crisis.  Al Manar runs BBC's report about Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declaring today that al-Hashemi is welcome in and safe in Turkey and that "We will not hand him over."

Jonah e-mailed asking that we note this Democratic Underground highlight of  Johnny Barber's "We Are at War" (Common Dreams):

On a single day in Iraq last week there were 29 bombing attacks in 19 cities, killing 111 civilians and wounding another 235. On September 9th, reports indicate 88 people were killed and another 270 injured in 30 attacks all across the country. Iraq continues in a seemingly endless death spiral into chaos. In his acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination for President, Obama claimed he ended the war in Iraq. Well… not quite.

Lastly, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Her office notes:

FOR PLANNING PURPOSES Contact: Murray Press Office
Monday, September 10th, 2012 (202) 224-2834
WEDNESDAY: Markup of Pending Veterans Legislation
At a markup on pending legislation, Senator Murray will advance her Mental Health ACCESS bill, Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act, and the GI Bill Consumer Protection Act
(Washington, D.C.) –Wednesday, September 12, 2012, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, will chair a markup to examine and vote on legislation pending before the Committee. Senator Murray will seek to advance her servicemembers and veterans mental health legislation, the Mental Health ACCESS Act of 2012. Senator Murray will also seek passage of her Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvements Act of 2012 , which would expand fertility treatment and care for seriously wounded veterans, their spouses, and surrogates, and the GI Bill Consumer Protection Act, which would provide servicemembers and veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill and other VA education programs with an online tool to help them judge a school’s performance with other veterans, among other resources. View the full agenda for Wednesday’s hearing below.
WHO: U.S. Senator Patty Murray
WHAT: Markup: Meeting to consider legislation pending before the Committee
WHEN: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
10:00 AM ET/7:00 AM PST
WHERE: Russell 418
Full Agenda
I. S. 3340 (Murray) (Committee Print), Mental Health Access to Continued Care and Enhancement of Support Services (ACCESS) Act of 2012. To improve the provision of mental health care to members of the Armed Forces and veterans, to improve assistance to homeless veterans, to improve the provision of health care and benefits to veterans, and for other purposes.
II. S. 3322 (Sherrod Brown) (Committee Print), Servicemembers’ Protection Act of 2012. To strengthen enforcement and clarify certain provisions of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and chapter 43 of title 38, United States Code, and for other purposes.
III. S. 3313 (Murray) (Committee Print), Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvement Act of 2012. To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the reproductive assistance provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs to severely wounded veterans and their spouses, and for other purposes.
IV. S. 2259 (Tester), Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2012. To provide for an increase, effective December 1, 2012, in the rates of compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for the survivors of certain disabled veterans, and for other purposes.
V. S. 2241 (Murray) (Committee Print), GI Bill Consumer Awareness Act of 2012. To ensure that veterans have the information and protections they require to make informed decisions regarding use of Post-9/11 Educational Assistance, and for other purposes.
VI. S. 1707 (Burr), Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act. To amend title 38, United States Code, to clarify the conditions under which certain persons may be treated as adjudicated mentally incompetent for certain purposes.
Kathryn Robertson
Specialty Media Coordinator
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
448 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510

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