Friday, November 30, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Ali al-Dabbagh swears he's being attacked by Nouri's media office, talks between Baghdad and Erbil are now off, the UN's Martin Kobler insults Iraqi women, 'forget's to inform the UN of a planned conference in Baghdad (to be presided over by Zebari) in which the Iraqi Constitution will be called out as a tool of impearlism, the US military allows a prosecutor to present a case that argues the families of military suicides should be filing charges against the DoD right now in a huge class-action lawsuit, and more.
Today is the 921st day Iraq War veteran Bradley Manning has spent in military custody. Today, he again spoke in court and we start with that because the US military has yet again demonstrated it is a culture that refuses to adapt and is so rooted in the status quo that it is responsible -- continues to be responsible -- for the deaths of its own.
Background, Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. Bradley has yet to enter a plea and has neither affirmed that he is the leaker nor denied it. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions.
Bradley appeared in military court yesterday and we'll note various details about the case itself. But the most important detail is one that effects all serving and veterans who have served -- as well as their family members.
No, it did not. AP, from time to time, exists solely to keep Dorothy Parker's adage alive: You can lead a whore to culture but you cannot make her think.
Taking away his clothes was never about his protection. And, at Third, we noted that as soon as those details became public and we pointed out that there were non-cloth items he could be provided with to wear if it really was about his safety. (And didn't the military then suddenly discover that to be true?) It was not about his protection.
Bradley being forced to sleep in the nude -- nude and on full display -- is not normal, it is not therapeutic and for the AP to suggest that it is is as offensive if they started running "She asked for it" columns on rape.
If the US military wasn't trying to punish Bradley (I believe they were trying to humiliate him, my opinion), their actions do not suddenly become 'good.' It goes to the larger issue that you have a lot of idiots who don't know what they're doing.
Forcing anyone to be on public display is humiliating and counter-productive enough, adding nudity to it?
Immediately after he was taken into military custody, Bradley was transferred from Iraq to Kuwait. He was not told what was taking place or if he would stay there or be moved. Extraordinary rendention was already well known and discussed in the press. When Jane Mayer was an actual reporter and not the partisan hack she's since morphed into, you could read all sorts of tales by her about what the US government was allowing to be done in the name of 'interrogation.'
In such a climate, a very young man, already under stress, was taken into military custody. He had no idea what would happen to him. In Kuwait, at one point he made a knoose. He's called it that in his testimony. The artist rendering of what prosecutor held up is not actually a knoose. It's a sheet with a series of knots in it.
The military prosecution is attempting to assert that this knoose or 'knoose' along with another statement is why certain measures were taken with Bradley. The AP apparently feels it is their job to make the military's case for them as opposed to being a skeptical press.
The statement? Arriving at Quantico, he was admitted. When he was being admitted into Quantico, Bradley wrote on a form, in response to a question about suicide, "always planning and never acting."
Are you telling me that the US military didn't have a follow up?
If there was a follow up verbal question, then there was a follow up verbal response. Why isn't that noted?
Because it wouldn't back the military's assertion? Possibly.
That's disturbing. More disturbing would be that there was no verbal follow up to a statement like that on a form.
To be clear, that statement is perfectly 'normal.' At different points in their lives, many Americans will consider suicide. Maybe for a few seconds each time they do, maybe in an elaborate fantasy that has actually deals with something other than suicide.
The statement is not 'troubling.' For a number of reasons. One, it is an opening to discuss a serious issue and, two, it demonstrates that the person being assessed has some comfort level discussing the issue. Someone being admitted who was planning to kill themselves and wanting to kill themselves once admitted to a facility, most likely would be close-lipped about any sucidal thoughts.
The narrative that the military prosecutor presented to the military court is that Bradley arrived back in the US and wrote during the intake assessment that he was "always planning and never acting" upon. "Planning" should have resulted in Bradley being asked to define "planning." Is that thinking, is that an abstract, is that an elaborate plan? If you were to take your own life, how would you do it? A whole string of questions were prompted by "always planning and never acting."
Where were those questions?
Was someone too uncomfortable to ask? Was a medical professional not present at intake? That seems strange considering the high-profile nature of Bradley's case even then; however, I would assume the military would train those working at Quantico or any other brig on suicide.
What it appears is that, at best, Bradley suffered because the military is not training those required to do supervision on issues like suicide.
Yesterday, the Defense Dept released the US Army's suicide numbers for last month: "20 potential suicides: five have been confirmed as suicides, and 15 remain under investigation" which is an increase of five from September's numbers. DoD notes that 2011 resulted in 165 deaths confirmed as suicides and that 2012 has seen 105 confirmed and 61 which are still being investigated. So if all under investigation currently were to be ruled suicide, October will be the month that 2012 surpassed 2011 for number of army members taking their own lives (166 is the number of suicides if the 61 under investigation end up determined to be suicides). With two months of data remaining for the calendar year, it is likely 2012 will see an increase in the number of suicides.
Quantico brig would be a natural location for potentially at-risk persons. Those working at Quantico should have a minimum level of training. That minimum level should have included staff providing direct supervision -- eyes on -- of Bradley being alarmed over what public nudity might do to the mental well being of a supposed suicide risk.
There was nothing healthy about what was done to Bradley. If the military's narrative, as presented by the prosecution, is correct, then the Defense Dept is the cause of suicides. It's not merely failing to provide assistance, it's creating an unhealthy environment that encourages and assists suicides via its own ignorance and negligence.
This is not an abstract. There is a suicide crisis in the military today.
Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. This week, she proposed that the Defense Authorization Bill be expanded so that it will "require DoD to create a comprehensive, standardized suicide prevention program."
Senator Patty Murray: Time and time again, we've lost servicemembers and veterans to suicide. But while the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs have taken important steps towards addressing this crisis, we know more must be done. We know that any solution depends upon reducing wait times and improving access to mental health care; ensuring proper diagnosis; and achieving true coordination of care and information between the Departments. This amendment would require a comprehensive, standardized suicide prevention program across the DoD. It would require the use of the best medical practices, in suicide prevention and behavioral health programs to address serious gaps in the current programs.
Murray's remarks appear in full in the November 28th snapshot. I strongly support Murray's proposal. Not only that, I hope attorneys around the country start thinking class-action lawsuit against DoD. A huge number of veterans and servicemembers have taken their own lives. They've often done so because the help they needed was not present and the people who should have seen the risks weren't trained to see the risks.
If the military is going to stand by the assertion that what Bradley experienced -- the 'diagnosis' and the 'treatment' -- was standard and humane military treatment, then it's really time for lawyers to start filing law suits against the DoD and the VA regarding suicides.
Today's testimony was Bradley's second day of testimony. Yesterday, Courtney Kube (NBC News) reported, Bradley testified that he was taken into military custody May 27, 2010 and then to Kuwait's Camp Arifjan where he was held in a tiny cell "with no air conditioning" for several weeks and, "I was a mess, I totally started to fall apart." Raf Sanchez (Telegraph of London) adds: Wearing his dress blues uniform, Pfc Manning talked quickly and often smiled nervously as his lawyers argued that his pre-trial imprisonment was illegal and should lead to all charges being dismissed. His testimony began with his imprisonment in Kuwait in May 2010, where was held in a "cage-like cell" that his guards would ransack up to three times a day in search of contraband. "I remember thinking I'm going to die. I'm stuck here in this cage and I don't know what's going to happen," he said.
AFP reminds, "A UN rapporteur on torture concluded Manning was subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment at the Quantico brig." He would be move to Quantico in Virginia. Bradley wasn't the only one offering testimony at his pre-trial this week. RT notes that the navy doctor who the government had charged with evaluating Bradley testified Wednesday. Capt William Hoctor stated, "I had been a senior medical officer for 24 years at the time, and I had never experienced anything like this. It was clear to me they had made up their mind on a certain cause of action, and my recommendations had no impact." Larry Shaughnessy (CNN) adds, "But Capt. William Hocter said his regular recommendations to ease Manning's heightened confinement status within weeks of his arrival in Virginia were not acted upon by commanders." BBC News continues, "Pte Manning's glasses were confiscated, he had to request toilet paper and was forced to remove his underwear at night." Hoctor felt frustrated and stymied. John Bailey (NBC News) quotes the doctor testifying, "It was clear to me that they had made up their mind on a certain course of actions and my recommendations didn't really matter." Ed Pilkington (Guardian) explains, "Three Quantico forensic psychiatrists who gave evidence to the court this week agreed that within days of arriving at the marine base Manning had recovered his mental health and was no longer a risk to himself. They consistently recommended that the soldier be put on a much looser regime. But the authorities would not listen." Again, this was not acceptable treatment. It doesn't even qualify as acceptable supervision.
Julie Tate (Washington Post) reports, "At one point in spring 2011, Manning testified that he told his guards he could kill himself with his underwear if he wanted to do so. He said he was forced to sleep naked under a suicide smock for nearly two months after the incident. On one occasion, he said, he was forced to stand naked in front of his cell during morning attendance." Sky News adds, "David Coombs, defending, revealed on Wednesday that the chief legal officer at Quantico at the time, Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Greer, made light of the underwear episode in an email, composing a rhyme in the style of the popular Dr Seuss books. The message said: 'I can wear them in a box. I can wear them with a fox. I can wear them in the day. I can wear them so I say. But I can't wear them at night. My comments gave the staff a fright'."
Along with verbal testimony, the pre-trial also explored digital evidence. Ray McGovern (CounterPunch) reports, "According to the e-mail evidence, the controversy over the rough handling of Manning prompted Quantico commander, Marine Col. Daniel Choike, to complain bitterly that not one Army officer was in the chain of blame. Choike's lament prompted an e-mail reply from his commander, Lt. Gen. George Flynn, offering assurances that Choike and Quantico would not be left 'holding the bag'."
Luis Martinez (ABC News) reports, that the judge is expected to release a decision on "a potential plea deal" in the next month. Shashank Bengali (Los Angeles Times) elaborates: The military judge, Col. Denise Lind, accepted terms Thursday under which Manning could plead guilty to a series of lesser counts of providing classified information to WikiLeaks, including a battlefield video file, dozens of war logs, and other classified material. Manning could enter the plea — which includes a maximum of 16 years in prison — as soon as next month. It wasn't immediately clear whether prosecutors would continue to pursue the more serious charges, which experts have said will be harder to prove.
Let's move to Martin Kobler's testimony. As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Kobler, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy in Iraq, addressed the UN Security Council in New York yesterday. We included a part of his testimony yesterday with the plan being for the rest to be included today. Won't be happening. There's not enough space. The intake issue (Bradley's) is not a minor issue and it directly effects (and reflects) the way Bradley was treated while going to the larger issue of the military's mishandling of potential suicides. So we'll do some of the testimony today and wrap up in Monday's snapshot.
Marin Kobler: During Iraq's busy electoral calendar ahead, the stakes will be high, not only for Iraq's political leaders competing for electoral support, but also for the consolidation of Iraq's transition. The elections must be conducted credibly. Working with the new Board of Commissioners, UNAMI will continue to coordinate United Nations support for the development of a sustainable, self-reliant and professional Independent High Electoral Commission. UNAMI also continues to faciliate political dialogue between representatives of all components in the disputed areas. UNAMI is working to facilitate consensus among the components of Kirkuk in view of the provincial council elections in the governorate. It has established an informal forum for dialogue with the political representatives of Kirkuk's components, with proposals in each of the following four main areas: power-sharing, determining the date of elections, security arrangements, and the review of the voter registry. So far, there has been no agreement on conducting the elections for Kirkuk provincial council which have not taken place since 2005 due to differences on the voter registry. Elections in Kirkuk could be a stabilizing factor throughout the governorate.
That Kirkuk has not had elections since 2005 is damning, no matter how Kobler tries to dress it up or how he ignores Article 140 -- and he did ignore Article 140, never once mentioning the article of the Constitution specifically dealing with Kirkuk.
Martin Kobler: Whilst relations between Baghdad and Erbil have deteriorated in some ways during Iraq's political stalemate, as highlighted in the Secretary-General's report, there is also some cause for optimism.
The talks in Baghdad between Iraqi and Kurdish military commanders brokered by a three-star American general broke down on Thursday, two days after the prime minister announced both sides had agreed on pulling back forces in part of the disputed areas. Officials on Friday said there were no new talks scheduled.
Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani, who has described deployment of Iraqi forces as a plot against the Kurds, accused the Iraqi prime minister of reneging on the agreement and vowed that Kurdish forces would deter Baghdad's "militarism."
The previously mentioned Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution explained how Kirkuk and other disputed areas would be resolved. The Kurdish Regional Government was set up after the start of the first Gulf War and is a semi-autonomous region of three provinces. Iraq is also made up of the centeral-government out of Baghdad. Oil-rich Kirkuk is one of the areas that both claim they have the right to. The 2005 Constitution explained that the disputed regions would be resolved by a census and referendum.
It also stated that this would be done no later than the end of 2007. Nouri al-Maliki was installed as prime minister in the spring of 2006 (installed by the Bush White House which objected to Parliament's choice of Ibrahim al-Jaafari). Nouri has repeatedly refused to implement Article 140. Then, in the last months, he has sent forces (Tigris Operation Command) into the disputed areas. The Kurds, among others, see this as an attempt on Nouri's part to seize these areas.
Dr. Martin Kobler: In particular, the agreement reached to resume official oil exports from the Kurdistan region and the steps to adopt a hydrocarbons use and management framework deserve encouragement and support. Legislation on the management of hydrocarbons and revenue-sharing has been blocked for a number of years. It has become a major source of tension between the central and Kurdistan Regional governments as well as to the overall socioeconomic progress. The approval of such legislation would signficantly advance the resolution of the question of the disputed internal boundaries, since a large number of unexplored oilfields lie within these areas. It would also contribute significantly to improving relations between Baghdad and Erbil. UNAMI is also strengthening its efforts to support Iraq's legislative agenda, as mandated by the Iraqi Constitution.
In 2007, with Democrats just put in control of both houses of the US Congress, they were demanding that Bully Boy Bush stop insisting 'progress' was taking place in Iraq without backing it up. They wanted metrics by which to measure progress. The Bush White House proposed -- and Nouri al-Maliki signed off on -- a series of benchmarks. Iraq would quickly accomplish these benchmarks and that would demonstrate progress. Failure to do so, Democrats promised (empty promises, it turned out) would mean defunding.
One of those benchmarks? The hydrocarbons law. It takes a lot of gall for Kobler to speak of 'progress' on that issue when there has been none. Here is the only defintion of progress on the hydrocarbons law: Passing a hydrocarbons law.
Kobler, in his speech, wanted to talk about the Arab League Summit (a failure he attempted to spin) and about Iraq's neighbors. But he left out what the Iraq Times had already reported this week: A move to host, in Baghdad, another Arab summit. Why didn't that result in a wave of Happy Talk from Kobler?
He didn't mention it because the point of the meet-up would be to discuss the constitutions of various regional countries -- including the sense that Iraq lives under shame because it has a Constitution that was written by Americans, the British and Iranians. Hoyshar Zebari, whom Kobler mentions elsewhere in his speech, is set to preside over the meet-up.
How will that play? A summit in Baghdad decrying the Iraqi Constitution as a tool of occupation. Think that might prompt Nouri to give up even the pretense of honoring it?
World observers should be nervous, to say the least, but Kobler didn't manage to include it in his presentation.
Martin Kobler: In addition to the hydrocarbons legislation, we are continuing to provide technical advice and assistance on the establishement of the Federation Council, the reform of the judicial system, and the adoption of laws on minority communities and political parties. At the regional level, Iraq continues its re-emergence onto the international stage. Earlier this year, Iraq demonstrated renewed commitment to meeting its remaining obligations under Chapter VII of the Charter and to improving its bilateral relations with Kuwait. Progress will, however, depend upon the restoration of confidence between both sides. Over the past few months, I stepped up my engagement with Iraq and Kuwait to see how the United Nations could best facilitate the resolution of outstanding issuse in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the Security Council. And, in this context, I recently held high-level meetings in Iraq and Kuwait in which I was encouraged by the strong commitment that both Prime Minister al-Maliki and the Amir of Kuwait expressed by normalizing relations between their two countries. I very much hope that they will now be able to move quickly. They can count on the UN in this regard. I am happy to report to the Council today that I spoke to Foreign Minister [Hoshyard] Zaebari this morning. He informed me that, first, his government had nominated the names for the technical team of the border maintenance project today and, second, the government would start immediately to update the list of farmers entitled to compensation. A meeting with the farmers will take place as soon as possible. I welcome those steps and call on the Government of Iraq to initiate work on the border mainenance project without further delay. I also appeal to the government of Iraq to continue to demonstrate the goodwill necessary to fulfil Iraq's other outstanding obligations, in particular with regard to missing persons and property. The commitment of Iraq to fulfil those obliations will be conducive to the normalization of relations between the two countries. And I equally call on the government of Kuwait to continue to act in a spirit of flexibility and reciprocity, as reflected earlier this year by the important reciprocal visits of the Amir in Baghdad and the Prime Minister in Kuwait. On a different note, I remain fully committed to continue to work with both governments to resolve bilateral issues, at their request. I am hopeful that the agreement between Kuwait and Iraq for the cancelation of pending lawsuits against Iraqi Airways and on navigational rights in the Khor Abdullah waterway will facilitate improved relations between the two neighbors.
Let's be honest, Kuwait's government's more than happy with what Iraq's done thus far and regularly calls for Chapter 7 to be lifted.
Martin Kobler: Iraq, Mr. President, is a rich country -- in both natural and human resources. But I am concerned by the investment climate, the impact of Iraq's red tape and the role of the public sector. Iraq's state apparatus continues to be affected by corruption and capacity shortfalls, which undermine governance and limit the delivery of services. This is exacerbating discontent, in a context where natural resources are abundant and the public's expectations for better standards of living remain partly unfulfilled. In support of Iraq's efforts to build its institutions to provide good governance and the rule of law, UNAMI and its partners in the United Nations country team intend to increase their efforts to strengthen the independence and capacity of state institution, including the Federal Supreme Court, the Independent High Commission for Human Rights and the Ministry of Human Rights. UNAMI and the country team continue their efforts to strengthen the High Commission for Human Rights, which has yet to become fully operational, as well as the Ministry of Human Rights and civil society organizations. Those are the key partners in monitoring the implementation of the National Action Plan on Human Rights -- a milestone document that represents the government's commitment to implement recommendations from the universal periodic review process under the auspices of the Human Rights Council.
But this week, before Kobler spoke (granted he just read aloud from prepared remarks to which he added "Mr. President" and changed "that" to "this"), a fight broke out in the halls of Parliament between Iraqiya and State of Law with State of Law denying women were being tortured in Iraqi prisons. Why wasn't this noted in the report?
Martin Kobler: To date, this year, 123 people have been executed in Iraq. 53 of them since July. The latest executions were carried out on 11 November, when 11 convicts were executed, including one Egyptian. I continue to reiterate the Secretary-General's call in his report for the government of Iraq to consider a moratorium on all executions, in accordance with the relevant General Assembly resolutions. As I indicated to the Council in my last briefing, UNAMI will continue its close partnership with the country team, with a particular focus on three key areas with important political, developmental and governance implications, namely, youth, women and the environment. Youth is a critical, but neglected, demographic in Iraq. The National Development Plan and the current development assistance framwork highlight the importance of investing in youth. Despite that, indicators point to high education dropout rates, while Iraqi youths continue to suffer from an unemployment rate of almost 20% and low levels of civic participation and engagement. To address those worrying trends, I have established a youth advisory group and appointed two young Iraqi youth ambassadors to strengthen United Nations advocacy, including through social and media outreach activities. To generate and mobilize the government's commitment, we are also promoting youth-orientated initiatives, including a youth parliament and a national human development report on youth for 2012, led by the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Development Programme, which has included a consultation process with 1800 youths in all governorates. We will also sustain our efforts to promote gender mainstreaming and the empowerment of women. For example, we are supporting access to justice for women, as well as training police officers to provide legal assistance to women survivors of gender-based violence.
And that was Kobler's full remarks on women. That may surprise some since there was a time when he couldn't shut up about Iraqi women when appearing before the Security Council. But as we pointed out then that meeting (presided over by US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice) was all about ignoring the attack on Iraq's LGBTs and Emo youth. For one report, suddenly women mattered. For one report. suddenly Kobler was talking non-stop about women.
It was only because the alternative would require him to speak of gays and he apparently finds that 'icky.' Fortunately for him, Susan Rice found the topic 'icky' as well and had no statements to make during the meeting she presided over at the press conference she held after. Even though the targeting and the murders were being reported by all outlets -- including Rolling Stone -- it wasn't something Kobler or Rice wanted to speak of.
Kobler did have a tiny note in his written paper acknowledging that something was taking place. What, he wasn't sure of. But he would provide details in his next report to the Security Council.
Martin Kobler, we're still waiting for you to supply those details.
We got a little talk about women in this presenation. That is new. Previous presentations to the Security Council by the Special Envoy to Iraq frequently left women out. But apparently, something more "gross" and "disgusting" than women has been found by the office of Special Envoy: Iraq's LGBTs.
It was really disgusting to hear Kobler prattle on about violence and minorities and never once note the attacks on Iraq's LGBT community. It was disgusting.
It was disgusting that Susan Rice never bothered to raise the issue. As evidenced by this White House announcement, the administration is aware that this is LGBT Pride Month. Somehow the memo didn't reach Susie Rice. If the US LGBT community has any sense of community with those LGBTs living in other countries where their lives are threatened for who they are, US LGBTs would insist that the White House start proving they give a damn about LGBT rights.
These photo ops and press releases are bull f**king s**t if in hearing after hearing, the administration refuses to address threats to LGBTs. Susan Rice presided over the Security Council hearing today. She had it in her power to set the agenda. She was happy to slam that hammer down repeatedly announcing "So ordered" after she'd issued an edict. But she wasn't happy or willing to use that power to address the plight of Iraq's LGBT community. Since the start of this year, many have been killed. This isn't a secret, it's well reported, and we've certainly covered it here.
Martin Kobler and Susan Rice and the United Nations and the White House enable those killings by refusing to address the murders in what they call a hearing on the "the situation in Iraq." There's no excuse for that. Shame on them for their non-actions and their silence.
Martin Kobler only wanted to talk about Iraqi women at any length when it allowed him to avoid the hunting and killing of Iraqis thought to be gay. With that not in the news, he was yet again happy to ignore Iraqi women.
That doesn't present a good image of the United Nations to the world. While the UN's slogan is "Welcome to the United Nations. It's your world," as Kat noted last night, Martin Kobler presenation said, "Welcome to the United Nations. It's your world -- if you're a man."
We'll wrap up with Kobler's presentation on Monday and hopefully get in the Congressional hearing there was never space or time for.
Nouri's former spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh is back in the news. Today All Iraq News reports that he's accusing Nouri's Media Affairs Office Ali al-Moussawi of a media lynching as Nouri attempts to weasel out of the corruption charges regarding the $4.2 billion weapons deal with Russia on al-Dabbagh. In a written statement to the news outlet, al-Dabbagh alludes to information about Nouri's inner circle that he could reveal. al-Dabbagh has twice publicly denied any involvement in the arms deal. Al Mada notes that in his written statement, he cited his six years of being a spokesperson for the Iraqi government as proof of his integrity. Kitabat quotes it in full and that includes insisting that his image is being distorted and that his reputation is unfairly maligned. As a result, he insists, he can no longer do his job. That might have carried more weight had he issued it when he was still in Iraq and before he reportedly fled the country.
October 9th, with much fanfare, Nouri signed a $4.2 billion dollar weapons deal with Russia. After taking his bows on the world stage and with Parliament and others raising objections, Nouri quickly announced the deal was off. The scandal, however, refuses to go away. TheIraq Times states Nouri's offering up Ali al-Dabbagh and others to protect the truly corrupt. Meanwhile, All Iraq News notes National Alliance member and one-time MP Wael Abdul Latif is calling for Nouri to quickly bring charges against those involved in the corruption. (The arms deal is now treated by the Iraqi press as corrupt and not allegedly corrupt, FYI.) Latif remains a major player in the National Alliance and the National Alliance has backed Nouri during his second term. With his current hold on power reportedly tenous and having already lost the support of Moqtada al-Sadr, Nouri really can't afford to tick off the National Alliance as well. Kitabat reports MP Maha al-Douri, of Moqtada's bloc in Parliament, is saying Nouri's on a list of officials bribed by Russia for the deal. The outlet also notes rumors that al-Dabbagh is leaving the UAE for Bulgaria.
Adding to the view of Nouri as an incompetent on the world stage are the issues emerging over another big contract. Dar Addustour reports that Rotana Arabia, a cell phone company, signed a contract with Iraq woth as much as $30 million. The contract was brokered by Saadoun al-Dulaimi who is the Minister of Culture. Nouri's calling for the contract to be cancelled, citing corruption. He wants the Ministry to cancel the contract. Not the Minister. He can't ask Minister of Culture Saadoun al-Dulaimi to do anything because no one can find him and he's reportedly fled the country.
Today All Iraq News reports that the Ministry of Culture is insisting there is no final contract with the cell phone service provider.
Yesterday, violence broke out across Iraq . . . including in the halls of Parliament:
All Iraq News reports an "altercation" took place in Parliament today between several deputies and led Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi to immediately adjourn the session and postpone the next session until Saturday. Thrown fists have not been uncommon in the Iraqi Parliament in the last seven years but it has been some time since there were any reports of physical violence among MPs. Whatever happened, All Iraq News notes it took place in the hallway. Alsumaria also terms it an "altercation" and notes that prior to that, the Parliament had read six bills and was discussing the allegations of torture in Iraqi prisons and detention centers.
Al Mada reports today that the fight was between State of Law (Nouri al-Maliki's political slate) and Iraqiya (led by Ayad Allawi) and that it was over the issue of what is happening to Iraqi women in prisons and detention centers as well as an allegation that State of Law had attempted to bury the report and refusing to allow Parliament's Committee on Women to issue the report on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (November 25th). Dar Addustour notes that the Committee report is said to have found that women are being arrested without judicial warrants and that, while in prison, women are being tortured to force confessions against their husbands. The Ministry of the Interior denies the charges. Who's in charge of that Ministry? That's right Nouri al-Maliki. Because he refused to nominate anyone to head it.
As Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed in July, "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." The Iraq Times notes that Parliament's Commission on Human Rights has declared that Nouri's government is responsible for any torture of detainees or prisoners.