Friday, October 19, 2012

State of the political crisis in Iraq

The political crisis continues in Iraq.  All Iraq News notes a charge by Iraqiya that politicans are not taking the crisis seriously and that politicians are very talented at creating crisis but lack the desire to end them.  Meanwhile Al Mada notes that Nouri al-Maliki is claiming to support a national partnership.

But Nouri doesn't support a national partnership.  Afer his State of Law failed to come in first in the March 2010 elections denying him a shot at a second term as prime minister, Nouri brought the country to a stand still -- with the help of and blessing from the White House -- for his very public tantrum.  Meanwhile, Barack's administration pressured the political blocs to give Nouri a second term -- despite the Constitution, despite the will of the Iraqi people, despite the way how democracy is supposed to work -- and negotiated the Erbil Agreement which outlined concessions Nouri would make in exchange for a second term as prime minister.  All the leaders of the political blocs -- including Nouri -- signed off on it after Nouri's stalemate lasted over eight months.  That was November 2010.

Nouri used the contract to grab a second term as prime minister and then he trashed the agreement.  Though Iraqiya, the Kurds and Moqtada al-Sadr have publicly called for the Erbil Agreement to be implemented.  Nouri broke the contract.  When someone breaks a promise, they don't easily earn back trust.  There is no great mystery to how to end the crisis.  Last April, various leaders met up -- Moqtada, Iraqiya head Ayad Allawi, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, KRG President Massoud Barzani, etc. -- and called for the Erbil Agreement to be implemented.

Nouri's first term was an abject failure and, two  years into his second term, it appears this one will be as well.

The Iraqi Constitution was overridden by the Erbil Agreement and apparently has been interpreted to mean that Nouri doesn't have to obey the Constitution when it comes to forming a Cabinet.  The way it is supposed to work is that the person with the most seats in Parliament gets named prime minister-designate and gets first crack at forming a cabinet.  They have 30 days to do so.  If they do form a Cabinet -- which is nominating people and getting them confirmed by Parliament -- they move from prime minister-designate to prime minister.  If they don't form a Cabinet within 30 days?  Per the Constitution, someone else is named prime minister-designate and the process repeats.

A Cabinet is not  a partial Cabinet.  This point has been made publicly by Iraqis who helped draft this 2005 Constitution.  If it was a partial Cabient, there would be no need for a 30 day limit.  The Constition states 30 days to form a Cabinet and it means a full Cabinet.

Did Nouri form a Cabinet from November 2010 to December 2010?  Nope.  And hasn't since.  This summer,  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) 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."  \\

Iraqiya accuesed Nouri of making a power grab immediately and, as the many months since have demonstrated, they were correct.  A minister is someone confirmed by Parliament.  Once confirmed, they run their ministry.  A prime minister can only remove them with Parliament's approval.  At the end of 2011, Nouri tried to remove Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq.  He could not get the votes in Parliament so al-Mutlaq has remained in his post.

Yesterday, various laughable outlets used the term "acting Minister of Defense" and the Constitution allows for no such thing.  This is a classification Nouri's invented.  An 'acting minister' is someone Nouri has decided he names -- no Parliament approval -- and who then does what Nouri tells them or they lose their job.  Because 'acting ministers' do not exist, there is no need for Parliament's approval to remove them.

In 2010, the press was full of  waves of Operation Happy Talk that allowed the security ministries to go headless.  Violence was vanishing, carried away on the wind like the fluffy tops of a dandelion weed.

As the security ministries have gone headless, the violence in Iraq has increased to the point that the press (US and Europe) has to acknowledge it (somewhat).   As this violence has increased, people should be asking why the security ministries are failures at protecting the people and the first answer is that the three security ministries remain headless.  That falls on Nouri's shoulders.

[If the pace of violence continues at the same rate for the next 11 days, October will be the lowest death toll and the press will rush to insist something amazing has happened.  As opposed to grasping the ebb and flow patterns that has gone on throughout the war.]

Dropping back to the September 27th snapshot:

The latest day's violence includes a prison attack BBC News reports assailants using bombs and guns attacked a Tikrit prison.  AFP quotes a police Lieutenant Colonel stating, "A suicide bomber targeted the gate of the prison with a car bomb and gunment then assaulted the prison, after which they killed guards" and a police Colonel stating, "The prisoners killed one policeman and wounded (prison director) Brigadier General Laith al-Sagmani, the gunmen took control of the prison, and clashes are continuing."  Kitabat states two car bombs were used to blow up the entrance to the prison and gain access and they also state 12 guards have been killed. Reports note the riot is continuing.  Alsumaria reports four guards have died, 1 police officer and the injured include two soldiers and the prison director al-Sagmani.  There's confusion as to whether a number of prisoners were able to escape in the early stages after the bombing and during gunfire.  Reuters goes with "dozens" escaping which is probably smarter than the hard number some are repeating. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports 5 police officers killed and another two injured -- the numbers are going to vary until tomorrow, this is ongoing -- and state over 200 prisoners escaped with 33 of them already having been recaptured.  If you skip the English language media, what's not confusing is why it happened and why it was able to happen.   Alsumaria reports that there are approximately 900 inmates in the prison and that many have death sentences.  Alsumaria does even more than that.  It notes the recent prison violence throughout the country and ties it into the death sentences.  These aren't just happening at random, this is about the many people being sentenced to death -- a fact the English language press either doesn't know or doesn't think people need to know.

 Yet yesterday came news from Alsumaria that the police chief of Salahuddin Province warned the Ministry of the Interior three days prior to the attack that something was up, that it appeared an escape attempt was going to be made, and more.  And the police chief put it in writing.

Al Mada reports on the document today.  Having refused to nominate anyone to be the Minster of Interior, this failure to take actions after being warned falls on Nouri's shoulders and he should be accountable and made to answer for it in Parliament.

However, despite the fact that Parliament has the Constitutional right to call the prime minister in for questions, Nouri has refused to obey the Constitution and ignored a recent request all summer long.  That should also be grounds for removal from office.  Failure to obey the Constitution, should result in removal from office or you send a message to all future prime ministers that the Constitution does not matter.

Last week came news that the Parliament wants to question Nouri on last week's weapons contracts (he made a deal with Russia to puchase $4.2 billion worth of weapons and he made a deal with the Czech Republic to puchase $1 billion dollars worth).  He may try to blow off that request as well.  If the prime minister does not follow the Constitution, why does any other citizen of Iraq have to?

While Nouri's posing today as suddenly interested in a power sharing government, All Iraq News notes that an MP in his State of Law political slate, Salman al-Moussawi, is declaring that Iraq needs to do a majority government.  A majority government is just the thing that General Ray Odierno feared Nouri would push for in 2010.  (Odierno was the top US commander in Iraq at that time.)  This would shut out non-Shi'ite voices.  As Odierno grasped, this would expell and not include, it would kill off any hopes of a Sunni-buy-in to the poltiical process and further splinter the country.  This is what Nouri's been floating for many months now and al-Moussawi is not singing from a different hymnal, it's the same song others in the State of Law choir -- including Nouri -- have been rehearsing.

Into this mix, there is Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.  The Kurd who most infamously, in his first term, declared an independent Kurdish state to be but a dream.  The Kurdistan Regional Government is three provinces in Iraq (with the province of Kirkuk, a fourth province, claimed by both the KRG and the Baghdad-based government).  Its majority population is Kurdish but its demographics do include many non-Kurds.  Simiarly, Kurds live outside of Iraq as well, the majority in fact, lives outside of Iraq.    Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) observed  in 2008, "The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period."  In addition, Kurds are spread throughout the globe and many of them see a Kurdish homeland as a goal that will be achieved, not a pipe dream.  So Jalal's words were considered outragous.

To no real surprise, shortly after making his dream speech, Jalal announced he would not serve a second term as president.  That was apparently a ploy to tamp down on objections to him over his remarks.  When 2010 rolled around, Jalal wasn't about to let go of the presidency.  Even with US Vice President personally asking Jalal to serve in another position -- ambassador, possibly -- and allow Ayad Allawi to be president as a consolation (Allawi's Iraqiya won the 2010 elections but the Barack Obama White House was not going to let him become prime minister).  Jalal could not be prevailed upon. 

In April 2011, there was the big meet-up and Jalal attended it.  The participants were standing up to Nouri's power grabs and they were calling for (among other things) implementing the Erbil Agreement.  What did they have on their side?  A no-confidence vote.

They appeared to have the votes for that (especially with the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq leader Ammar al-Hakim on baord).  They would call for a no-confidence vote in Parliament.

But . . .

as Moqtada al-Sadr always pointed out, the process could be halted at any point if Nouri would just return to the Erbil Agreement.

Nouri refused and the blocs worked on firming up support while Jalal working on betraying everyone.  When they has signatures on a petition, Jalal created a power that hadn't existed, the ability to vet signatures which included removing people from the list who had signed, admitted they had signed but now wanted their name off.  Remember that the next time you sign a petition and ask, "Will Jalal be checking this because, a few days from now, I may change my mind and want my name removed?"  The signatures were there.  Jalal insisted that they weren't and that he was stopping the petition. 

That was the end of May.  June found Jalal insisting he had a medical emergency and had to rush to Germany for a life threatening condition.  IOn Germany, the coward had knee surgery and hid out until the middle of September.  That's what cowards do.

Upon returning, Jalal tried to present himself as a 'statesman' and leader.  He was going to bring a resolution to the crisis.

Today Iraqiya MP Hamid al-Mutlaq tells All Iraq News not only does he not see an end to the political crisis but also that Jalal's efforts are futile.

And he may be right.  Certainly, upon returning to Iraq, Jalal declared he needed to go on a listening tour speaking to various leaders.  He was trying to determine the problems.  Did he have his memory removed in Germany while they were working on his knee?

The Erbil Agreement.  That's the problem, the fact that it wasn't implemented.  At various points in the last one year and 10 months, Jalal himself has been able to note that the problem was the failure to implement the Erbil Agreement.  But suddenly, it's all a mystery to him.

Further compounding the problem is the issue of a National Conference.

Since December 21, 2011, Jalal and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi have been calling for a National Conference, a meet-up of the politcial blocs to solve the crisis.  Nouri has used that time to stop such a meet-up.  He threw up various roadblocks throughout January and early February.  He then used the Arab Legue Summit scheduled for the end of March as a reason why they couldn't have a National Conference.  With the international press returning to Iraq in large numbers to cover the Arab League Summit, Jalal used the moment to announce that the National Conference would take place the first week of April.  Having little other choice, Nouri publicly echoed that.  And then State of Law worked on killing the National Conference.  They managed to do that the day of the conference and, since the international press had already moved on, they knew few would try to call them out.

Nouri destroyed the National Conference and the promoted the 'Reform Commission.'  That ended up being his supporters writing up a document that will do nothing to fix anything.  Nouri and Ibrahaim al-Jafaari discussed the document yesterday.  

Jalal's efforst futile as Hamid al-Mutlaq stated?  After returning to Iraq, Jalal announced that the meet-up would be held on October 15th.  That was earlier this week.  It was not held.  No one's said a word.  All Iraq News quotes State of Law MP Abdul Salam al-Maliki stating that soon the three presidencies will meet (Talabani, al-Nujaifi and Nouri al-Maliki) and then a national meet-up will be scheduled with the Kurds coming to Baghdad for a talk immediately before.

Maybe he's telling the truth, maybe he's not.

What's of more interest is his call for problems to be solved through the Constitution.  This has been a cry State of Law has made repeatedly and the foreign press frequently uses it to make Nouri's party sound reasoned and rational.  It's neither.

When Iraqiya or the National Alliance (Ibrahim al-Jafaari's political slate) or someone else makes the call, it's about upholding the Constitution.

Not so with State of Law.  This entry has already established Nouri has no respect for the Constitution.  So what is it with State of Law's incessant calls to return to the Constitution?

Be smarter than the US and European press.  When State of Law says we need to return to the Constitution, note they didn't make that call in March 2010.  What they mean is, "We broke the Erbil Agreement and we're not honoring it.  We used it to circumvent the Constitution and now that we have the prime minister post, we're going to pretend like we're interested in the Constitution and like the Erbil Agreement never existed."

The following community sites -- plus Adam Kokesh, Pacifica Evening News, IVAW, Susan's On the Edge, C-SPAN, The Diane Rehm Show,  IPS and -- updated last night and this morning:

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Murray Press Office
Thursday, October 18, 2012 (202) 224-2834
Sen. Murray Calls on Secretary Panetta to Provide Timeline for Promised Military Review of PTSD and Behavioral Health Diagnoses
In the aftermath of the misdiagnoses of servicemembers in Washington state, Murray calls on the Pentagon to move forward with nationwide review of mental health diagnoses since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began
Letter also calls for information on efforts to collect missing unit military records that could prove critical if certain health care problems arise from service in Iraq or Afghanistan
(Washington D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, sent a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta requesting next steps and a timeline for the execution of a critical military-wide review of PTSD and behavioral health diagnoses made since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began. The review, which Secretary Panetta promised following the misdiagnoses of servicemembers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, has seemingly stalled since being announced on June 13th.
“The Department must act with a sense of urgency in order to complete this review and to act on its findings in coordinating with other ongoing efforts to improve the disability evaluation system.” Murray wrote to Panetta. “Each of these efforts is vital in ensuring servicemembers truly have a transparent, consistent, and expeditious disability evaluation process.”
Senator Murray’s letter also addressed her concerns that records for military units in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are often used to provide information on potential health and exposure issues be carefully identified, located, and collected.
The full text of Senator Murray’s letter follows:
October 18, 2012
The Honorable Leon E. Panetta
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301
Dear Secretary Panetta:
I am writing to express my concern about two distinct issues, which taken together impact the disability evaluation process for servicemembers and veterans.
At the outset, I very much appreciate your ongoing efforts to address behavioral health diagnoses and care both within the Integrated Disability Evaluation System and throughout the Department at large. In June, as part of this ongoing effort, you announced a comprehensive Department-wide review of mental health diagnoses. Shortly after the announcement, I had the opportunity to meet with Under Secretary Conaton to discuss some of the initial steps the Department had taken in preparation for this review. However, it appears that progress on this effort may have stalled. I am writing today to request the Department’s next steps and timeline for execution of this review.
The Department must act with a sense of urgency in order to complete this review and to act on its findings in coordinating with other ongoing efforts to improve the disability evaluation system. Each of these efforts is vital in ensuring servicemembers truly have a transparent, consistent, and expeditious disability evaluation process.
My second concern relates to the ability of the Department, and specifically the Army, to identify and account for many records for units that served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The lack of access to documentation of the locations and functions of specific military units interferes with the ability of both servicemembers and veterans to obtain evidence of military service that may result in adverse health conditions now or in the future. As we have learned from prior conflicts, this lack of documentation all too often leads to hardship for veterans in establishing a relationship between military service and a specific medical condition.
The lack of accessible documents may also impede future research efforts if health care problems arise from service in Iraq or Afghanistan. For these reasons, I would like to know the current status of efforts to identify, locate and collect records for units that served in Iraq and Afghanistan. I also urge you to take all necessary steps to ensure unit records are properly archived and accessible.
I appreciate your attention to these requests and look forward to our continued work together to strengthen both the disability evaluation system and behavioral health diagnoses and care and to ensure our servicemembers and veterans have access to critical military documents.
Patty Murray

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