Monday, December 03, 2012

Nouri's crazy hits the fan

As the crises continue in Iraq, Alsumaria reports a source with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan has declared that they expect the United States government to apply pressure to Nouri al-Maliki to stop the current crisis he has created and that the US government may be forced to stop supplying Nouri with weapons -- remember the 36 F-16s Iraq has on order, the first 18 are supposed to arrive in March.  While the PUK is just one of many political parties in Iraq, it is one of the two dominant ones in the KRG and it is the political party headed by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

Al Mada reports US Ambassador Robert S. Beecroft went to Erbil and met with KRG President Massoud Barzani over the continued crisis between Baghdad and Erbil that Nouri created by sending forces into disputed areas after six years of Nouri's refusing to implement Article 140 of the Constitution to resolve the disputed areas.

Iraq's Constitution was written in 2005.  At the time of the writing -- and still today -- there were areas in dispute.  Three provinces are part of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region.  In addition, Kurds feel they have a right to other areas including oil-rich Kirkuk.  The central government out of Baghdad also feels it has a claim to Kirkuk.  What you have is two sides attempting to make historical claims to one piece of land.  That will never resolve the issue, as the writers of the Constitution knew.  So they created Article 140.  It calls for a census and a referdum to resolve disputed areas.  Nouri al-Maliki is installed by the US government as prime minister of Iraq in the spring of 2006.  Article 140 is supposed to be implemented no later than the end of 2007.

Despite having had six years to implement Article 140 (and despite forever promising he was just about to), Nouri has refused to implement it.  The climate was not just one of mistrust on this issue, it was one of Nouri refusing to follow the law.  And he made it worse a few months ago by sending Iraqi forces (Tigris Operation Command) into these disputed areas.  The Kurds fear that he is doing that to 'resolve' the dispute by force.

Barazni's office released a statement following the meeting with Beecroft noting that they explained Nouri's actions went against the Constitution and that they have made their position clear on this matter to the various concerned parties in Iraq including the religious authorities in Najaf.  Kitabat notes that, on the US side, it is said that Beecroft states the US government opposes any unilateral action to grab control of the disputed areas.

As Sheik (Dar Addustour) opines that the crisis is only the latest in a series.  Al Mada notes that the religious authorities in Najaf are said to be troubled by the escalation of the conflict.  They're not the only ones troubled.  Wael Grace (Al Mada) notes that the actions are troublinging investors and would-be investors dismaying the business community in Iraq.  Also watching the situation closely is the government of Turkey.  Rudaw reports, "Turkish officials say they are following recent tensions between the Kurdistan Region and the Iraqi government with concern."  Alsumaria reports Iraqiya head Ayad Allawi declared today that Nouri al-Maliki's actions have been an assault on the Kurdish region.  It's noted that Allawi has spoken via telephone with both Barzani and Talabani about the issue already today.

On Thursday, tensions could have been eased.  Dropping back to that day's snapshot:

Tensions continue between the KRG and the Baghdad-based central government over Nouri sending in the Tigris Operation Command forces into disputed regions, as Martin Kobler noted today when addressing the UN Security Council.  In an interesting development, Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports Nouri is said to be angry because his generals are not providing him with details and summeries of the ongoing negotiations with the Kurdish Peshmerga officials.  If Nouri is really being kept out of the loop, that says a great deal about how much his power has faded in the last weeks.  Even more surprising since the Peshmerga has published the main points the two sides agreed upon:
1. Forming an operational mechanism, principles of cooperation and joint committees in the disputed regions. The joint operations in the disputed regions of Kurdistan will remain unchanged but the mechanism of operation will be revitalized between the federal forces and the forces of the Kurdistan Region.
2. The meetings of all the joint operations committees will be rescheduled to once a month. This will be increased if deemed necessary, especially for meetings of the SAC.
3. The location of the meetings and coordination for the meetings will be organized by the command of the Iraqi Armed Forces who will work as a coordinator for the work of the committees, especially the SAC.
4. A follow-up procedure will be conducted for the work and the decisions of the joint committees and punitive measures will be taken against any defaulting party or individual.
5. Any party or individual will be punished in case of reporting misleading information to their superiors in order to create problems and crisis at any level.
6. The SAC must be immediately informed about any problems that arise in the disputed areas in order to immediately work on solving them.
7. The agreements must be honored and the commanders, officials and individuals who violate the terms of the agreements will be punished.
8. Forming a quick mechanism to pull out all the forces of both sides that were mobilized to the region after Nov. 16, 2012. Pulling out these forces must be transparent, truthful and supervised by the supreme committee members after the consent of the SMC.
9. Reconsidering the decision of forming operations command in the region, especially the Tigris Operations Command, and giving back the authority of security in Kirkuk to the police, Asayish and internal forces.

But Nouri had to uncork the crazy.  He rejected the negotiations outright and, to make matters even worse, he delivered a threatening speech on Saturday.  As Kitabat notes, Nouri threatened Iraq's other political leaders publicly.  And now Alsumaria reports that a large number of Peshmerga are moving towards Kirkuk.

Things have not been going Nouri's way for some time.  Possibly, Amar al-Hakim can be bought off with his political party being put in charge of Baghdad, maybe not.  The Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq is beginning to grumble that al-Hakim's gotten a little too close to Nouri (your father's enemies don't easily transform themselves to his supporters who only put you in charge of the party because you were his son).  But can everyone be bought off in the midst of the continued scandal of Nouri's Russian arms deal?

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.  It's not going away.

And it's made Nouri a joke on the international stage -- which hurts investment in Iraq.  Nouri signed a deal and then trashed it.  Was it corrupt?  Maybe so.  If so, he should have known before he signed it.  Among all the leaders of countries in the world, Nouri now looks like the most rank amateur.  He brings that shame on Iraq.  And he does so after six years in office.

Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports Parliament's Integrticy Committee began their questioning yesterday of the officials who went to Russia with Nouri -- including the 'acting' Minister of Defense.  Yeah, Nouri should have had a Minister of Defense looking over that deal.  But, oops, despite Constitutional requirements, Nouri never nominated anyone for that post.  As part of a power-grab, he wanted to leave it open.  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."  Rumors swirl in Iraq right now that Nouri's former spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh (who is reported to have fled the country) has passed on papers to the Committee -- documenting the corruption.  What is known is that State of Law's Izzat Shabandar is scheduled to testify Tuesday.

In violence, Alsumaria reports a Kirkuk mortar attack injured a police officer.  Friday ended the month of November.  Iraq Body Count counted 244 deaths from violence in the month.


Bonnie reminds that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Nation Bullpen" went up yesterday.  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, Stop and Frisk, Jeremy Hammoud, a discussion of environmentalist Judi Bari (with guest Darryl Cherney) and a discussion of the new film Lincoln with history professor Bruce Levin.

In other news,  David Bacon asks, "Who's Responsible for the Fire That Killed 112 Garmet Workers?" (Berkeley Daily Planet):

The day after Black Friday demonstrations of workers and supporters in front of hundreds of Walmart stores across the US., a fire killed 112 workers making clothes for Walmart at the Tazreen Fashions factory in Bangladesh. This was the most recent of several such factory fires, leading to the deaths of another 500 young women.

These fires are industrial homicides. They can be avoided. The fact that they're not is a consequence of a production system that places the profits of multinational clothing manufacturers and their contractors above the lives of people. The same profit-at-any-cost philosophy is leading to growing protest among workers who sell those garments in U.S. stores over their own wages and conditions, especially at Walmart.

The Bangladesh fire tells us a lot about the conditions under which the garments consumers bought this Black Friday were made. Reports from the scene say there were no fire escapes. Several young women jumped from the windows to get away from the flames, as their sisters did a century ago in New York City, in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. Most Tazreen workers were trapped inside and burned to death.

David Bacon's most recent book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. He reported on the Black Friday Wal-Mart protest for In These Times.

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