Thursday, October 11, 2012

Iraq: Weapons, violence and cholera

The I Files is a series from the Center for Investigative Reporting.  The Center's Amanda Pike notes the series return:

The I Files returns to its regularly scheduled programming this week with an eclectic and wide-ranging array of investigative videos from around the world.
First, we feature three stories dealing with an issue that deeply divides American society – gay rights and religion.
This issue is not faced by Americans alone. In post-Saddam Iraq being gay, or even looking gay, can be a death sentence.  “Gay Witch Hunt in Iraq” is a BBC investigation into the ongoing, systematic and organized violence against gays in Iraq. This story presents a new angle on the problems facing the country, one Iraq’s Western-backed government refuses to acknowledge. In fact, a spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki tells the BBC that Iraqi homosexuals could avoid persecution altogether if only they would “live their lives a normal way.”

The BBC's investigative series was real reporting.  Good for the Center for noting it.  Sad that they are among the few in America who bothered to.

Violence continues in Iraq.  All Iraq News reports that 1 lawyer, Mohammed Mjul Sultan, was shot dead in Mosul today and a Mosul roadside bombing left four police officers injured.

Dar Addustour notes Nouri al-Maliki left Moscow yesterday for Prague.  In Russia, Iraq's prime minister and chief thug completed weapons deals valued at $4.2 billion.  RIA Novosti observes, "Arms industry analyst Ruslan Pukhov of the Center for Analysis of Strategy and Technologies, a Moscow-based think tank, said the deal showed Baghdad's desire to break Washington's monopoly of arms supplies to the new government there." Defense Industry Daily offers up "Baby Come Back: Iraq is Buying Russian Weapons Again:"

The first challenge the deal must overcome is Parliamentary. Maliki can sign the deal, but Iraq’s legislature has to authorize the money for the purchases in its budgets. There has already been some pushback from that quarter, and time will tell how Maliki fares.
The next challenge will involve fielding, though this an easier hurdle. Iraq never really stopped operating Russian weapons, including tanks, artillery, helicopters, and guns. Some were scavenged and restored from the Saddam-era military. Others were provided by US allies. Still others, like Iraq’s Mi-17 helicopters, were bought using the USA itself as an intermediary. What’s different about these buys is that they involve a direct relationship with a new source for support, and also involve new roles within Iraq’s reconstituted military. Working our those kinks, and training to use their equipment’s full capabilities without endangering their own forces, is going to take work and time.

At The National Interest, Paul Pillar is more interested in figuring out what the deal means:

We can draw several implications from this news. One is that it fills in further the picture of what legacy was left in Iraq by the U.S. war that ousted Saddam. The regime that emerged from the rubble is not only increasingly authoritarian and narrowly sectarian and not only chummy with Iran; it also is becoming a client of Moscow. A trifecta of failure.
A second lesson concerns the notion that committing military support to a new regime in the making is essential for having a good relationship with it and to be considered a friend rather than a adversary once such a regime comes to power. This idea is being heard increasingly as an argument for doing more to assist rebels in Syria. We need to get in on the ground floor with the new bunch and accept risks and commit major resources, it is said, in order to be held in favor by whatever regime emerges from that rubble. But the United States got in on the ground floor more than once in Iraq—with the Baathists in 1958 and with the successors to Saddam after he was overthrown. In the latter case it did so with the expenditure of enormous resources. And look how much friendship and influence it bought.

Maybe in tonight's US vice presidential debate, how the US lost out on a $4.2 billion puchase (and all the jobs that would have entailed) can be addressed?  Probably not.  BBC's Rami Ruhayem shares, "Until recently, Mr Maliki seemed to possess a magical ability to keep both Washington and Tehran happy.  But recent events suggest Baghdad could eventually face the unnerving possibility of having to choose one or the other." All Iraq News reports that Nouri has met with the Czech Republic's Prime Minister and explained that they wish to increase economic and military ties.  In Prague today, he's also declared that he hopes to work with the Czech Republic in building oil refineries in Iraq.

As Nouri goes on a weapons spending spree, Iraq still can't provide its people with the basics.  Electricity goes in and out.  Potable water is a dream in many areas.  Potable water is especially an issue this time of year as the annual cholera outbreak arrives in Iraq.  All Iraq News reports that water trucks are being used in Baghdad.  These trucks contain potable water -- safe drinking water.   Al Mada reports that Baghdad is very afraid of a cholera outbreak as Sulaymaniyah and Kirkuk have seen outbreaks and at least two people have recently died due to cholera.  Alsumaria reports that local government in Babylon is assembling a body to address any cholera outbreaks.  A national plan to address the health crisis remains absent -- this despite the fact that the cholera outbreaks are now a yearly occurrence and have been for years now.  Only in Nouri's Iraq.  But, hey, Nouri is stockpiling weapons.

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