Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Violence and silence: Iraq

The day after September has been hailed as the most violent month in Iraq in two years, violence continues as does fear and silence.  On fear, Alsumaria reports that in Basara accusations are being tossed around following the assassination last Thursday of former Governor (2005 to 2009) Mohammed Misbah Waili with some accusing a clan within the province and the clan accusing unnamed foreign powers.   On the silence, Mohamad Ali Harissi (AFP) reports that Sunday's violence (at least 33 dead, at least 106 injured, according to AFP's count) was met with silence and that no sympathy was expressed or violence noted on the websites of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani or Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi, that -- like the three politicians -- state TV channel Iraqiya focused on football and ignored the violence, that the bulk of the papers ignored the violence and the official government paper al-Sabah waited until page four to mention the violence and then under the headline "Bagdad Operations [Command] announces foiling an attempted terrorist plot with eight car bombs."  Al Rafidyan carries the AFP report here.  Today, Alsumaria reports, a Kirkuk armed attack which left 2 people dead.

On the subject of Kirkuk, All Iraq News reports that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq's Martin Kobler's deputy Gyorgy Busztin  met to discuss the issue of elections in disputed Kirkuk.  Fearing that no law will be passed in time for provincial elections, al-Nujaifi stated that they will leave it to the three presidencies (President of Iraq Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and al-Nujaifi) to resolve the issue.Considering the record for political resolutions in Iraq, that seems more than a bit optimistic.

Optimism is what Jalal Talabani seems full of currently as he works Baghdad.  Al Mada reports Talabani continues meeting with the leaders of various poltical partices, blocs and forces -- yesterday with the head of the National Alliance Ibrahim al-Jaafari and the head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Ammar al-Hakim.  Jalal is on a listening tour.   Which is fitting since his ceremonial post comes with few actual powers.

All Iraq News notes that Ammar al-Hakim talked about the need for a national dialogue when he met with Talabani.   Reallly?  Then maybe al-Hakim should have supported the call for a National Conference.  Remember that?  December 21st, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and President Jalal Talabani were both calling for a National Conference.  Nouri stalled it and circumvented it.  He couldn't have done that on his own.  Little Buddy Ammar helped him a great deal.   All Iraq News reports MP Mohammad Iqbal is calling on Talabani to pressure the blocs to modifty their course.  Nice suggestiong but when has Talabani ever had the spine to pressure anyone? 

Yesterday, four votes were supposed to have taken place in Parliament -- the credit bill, the amnesty bill and the infrastructure bill as well as a bill about speech.  The votes did not take place.  Dar Addustour reports that Iraqiya and the Kurdistan Alliance denied the Parliament a quorum and did so by sitting in the cafeteria in the courtyard and refusing to enter the chamber. Saturday, Nouri's State of Law indicated they were more receptive to passing the amnesty bill (they're the ones preventing it) but did so only after Thursday saw their desired infrastructure bill not voted into law.  Last week, Mustafa Habib (Niqash) explains a variety of objections to the infrastructure bill with two MPs going on the record but it's this last objection, that no one wants to own up to, that's the real issue:

And behind the scenes, further reasons were given for the antipathy being directed at a legislation the country really seems to need badly: the upcoming elections. Al-Maliki is not a popular man – a large group of MPs have recently tried to oust him from his position. And with upcoming elections, they're worried that his main motivation with a law like this – which relates to many things that the Iraqi voters need and want – is to increase his own popularity with electors, without concern for consequences.

Hossam al-Saadi (Al Mada) reports today on the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization's warning that the world could face a global food crisis which makes this a good time to note Waheed Ghanim's report for Niqash last week:

Basra’s farmers say the oil industry is “occupying” their land – and that the one thing the Iraqi government is forgetting in its race to get oil firms in and farmers out, is the rising cost of the food Iraq can no longer grow itself.
Just over a year ago, Saleh Mohammed was farming in the Qurna area, west of the southern Iraqi city of Basra. But then the oil companies came. And today the land that Mohammed once farmed belongs to international oil giant, Exxon Mobil. And Mohammed himself works as an employee on the periphery of one of the oil production facilities.
Mohammed is 30 and his field of expertise is agriculture; he knows the ways of nature. He worked on his 2.5 hectare property planting wheat, barley and dates and everything he knew, he learned from his parents and grandparents, who had farmed the land before him. He really doesn’t know much about the oil industry. Yet, like so many others here, he too now wears the grey overalls and cap of oil facility workers.
"When the American, Russian and British oil companies started to come here, the government just wanted us to disappear,” Mohammed says. “They even offered us financial compensation to do so. Now some of us work as watchmen, some of us as gardeners and some as labourers with the oil companies for around US$600 a month. And I didn’t really have a choice in this matter – I have a wife and four children to look after."
Mohammed is not alone. It’s estimated that there are 43 billion barrels of oil under the ground in this region. Almost all of Iraq’s oil currently comes from here. All of which clearly means big business, not only for the oil companies, but also for the Iraqi government.

Ann's "Neil Young" went up this morning.

In the United States, Senator Patty Murray chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (which holds a joint-hearing this week with the House Veterans Affairs Comittee).  Her office notes:

Monday, October 01, 2012 (202) 224-2834
Chairman Murray’s Statement on IG Report Detailing Waste at VA Conferences
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, released the following statement after the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Veterans Affairs released a report on their investigation into two conferences in Orlando run by VA’s Office of Human Resources and Administration.
“I am deeply dismayed by what the Office of Inspector General has found regarding these conferences. The blatant waste of taxpayer dollars and government employees improperly accepting gifts cannot, and will not, be tolerated.
“The IG report highlights failures in areas that have continually been problems for VA, including contracting and human resources. I expect the Department to act quickly to address these longstanding shortcomings.”

Matt McAlvanah
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct


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