Monday, November 19, 2012

The tensions between Erbil and Baghdad

Alsumaria reports nine people are injured from a chlorine leak at a water plant outside Baquba. If the lack of potable water does harm the Iraqi people, the lack of safety precautions at the water plants just might.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki continues to inflame tensions between Baghdad and Erbil with the forces he sends into northern Iraq which has left many Kurds with the impression he's using those forces to take over disputed territories.  Press TV (link is text and video) reports, "The Dijla armed force must be stopped. That is the message from the president of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region. Dijla Operations Command was launched in June by Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The force aims to eliminate the remnants of terrorism in Diyala, Kirkuk and Salahaddin provinces."  Dijla Operations?  It's also known as  Operation Command Tigris.  From Friday's snapshot:

The big violence in Iraq today?   Alsumaria reports violence resulting from Nouri's Operation Command Tigris.  Alsumaria reports a clash between the Tigris forces and members of a Kurdish official's protection detail left many injured (over ten and possibly one dead).  All Iraq News reports 1 person is dead -- a civilian and the outlet says all the injured were Tigris forces. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports that 1 Iraqi soldier also died and states that clash took place in Khurmato "when Iraqi soldiers attempted to search a house belonging to Goran Najam, a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, officials said.  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is the current leader of the PUK."  Sinan Salaheddin (AP) offers, "The clash occurred as police commandos were attempting to arrest a Kurdish smuggler in the city of Tuz Khormato, said Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir al-Zaidi, of the newly formed Dijla Joint Military Command. When the smuggler took shelter in the offices of a Kurdish political party, police tried to break into the building, but gunmen guarding the office opened fire, he added."  Peshmerga spokesperson Jabbar Yawar tells Alsumaria that this was a personal problem between the two and is now contained. 

Saturday, AFP noted that "the head of Baghdad's recently established Tigris Operations Command, Lieutenant General Abdulamir al-Zaidi, told AFP that the incident did not involve the peshmerga and was rather an attempt to arrest a man accused of offences including murder and kidnapping."  And Saturday KRG President Massoud Barzani weighed in on Friday's events with a statement posted to the KRG website in which he declared the blood of every Iraqi is important regardless of religion, ethnicity or doctrine.  He offered his condolences to the family of Aziz al-Salmen who died.  And while noting that the death was tragice, he states that the KRG if ready to defend their land from any attack.

Al Mada reports that the KRG's Interior Ministry's spokesperson declared Sunday that they had learned of a plan to send Nouri's Tigris forces into Tuz Khormato and that the Peshmerga will not allow it to happen.  Alsumaria reports Nouri's State of Law is saying that the Peshmerga needs to join the Iraqi military.  That would certainly kill their independence, right?  And Nouri's done such a great job 'absorbing' other forces, right?  Sahwa ("Sons of Iraq," "Awakenings") provided security for as little as $300 a month.  But rather than absorb them, Nouri targeted them with arrests, refused to absorb them into the Iraqi forces or the Iraqi government and as violence has risen, especially in the last year, a strong argument can be made that some of the increase in violence results from Nouri's refusal to utilize and pay the Sahwa. 

Hiwa Osman (Rudaw) offers his take on these events:

The events of the past few days and possible armed clashes between the Peshmerga and Prime Minister Maliki’s Dijla forces south of Kirkuk, reminded everyone that there are certain red lines that Kurds cannot afford to be divided on.
Meanwhile, the Kurds should seize this opportunity and translate the results into a framework that would set the rules of the game in Kurdistan, and the new Iraq.
Events such as these should also be a wakeup call to pseudo Iraqi allies who claim to be with the Kurds, but neither do nor say anything when the Kurds need them.
It is obvious that Maliki has been building up for the moment of conflict between the Kurds and Arabs. Furthermore, his arrogance after the failure of a motion to withdraw confidence from him led him to believe that he can divide the Kurds into two or three blocs.

Meanwhile All Iraq News reports Barzani and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani are both in Erbil (KRG) and expected to meet today.  Talabani is a Kurd and heads the PUK -- one of the two main political parties in the KRG.  Barzani heads the KDP, the other major political party.  Alsumaria notes that Talabani and Barzani are expected to discuss the crisis over the Tigris forces. 

Bonnie reminds that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Grand Bargain" went up last night.  On this week's Law and Disorder Radio,  an hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) topics addressed include Bradley Manning, the Petraeus scandal, Gaza, torture, Cuba  and they discuss the 75th anniversary of the National Lawyers Guild with Jim Lefferty (host of KPFK's The Lawyers Guild Show -- Thursday nights) who is the Executive Director of the LA chapter of the NLG. Sarah Chayes covered Afghanistan for NPR.   She left NPR to work for the US government in Afghanistan.  She's currently with the Carnegie Endowment and has a Los Angeles Times column calling for an adjustment in foreign policy:

The first way Obama can constructively harness Petraeus’ downfall is to reorient the CIA toward its core function: intelligence-gathering. Of late, a body-count culture has prevailed at the CIA, exemplified by the secretive drone campaign. If 60 intelligence professionals are assigned to planning and monitoring each drone in the air, as has been reported, that’s 60 who are not on the ground in country, interacting with locals, gaining an intuitive feel for the dynamics. Obama should resist the temptation to put another target-focused operator at the helm of the CIA.
Another main civilian component of U.S. power is its diplomacy. Obama should also use this moment of transition to think through what kind of State Department he really needs. Perhaps the most important foreign policy challenge Obama faces in his second term is how to expand, restructure and reinforce the range of civilian instruments of U.S. power. That is a generational task, but one the current crisis has provided an unparalleled opportunity to tackle.

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