Thursday, December 20, 2012

Talabani in Germany as people wonder what's next?

Dar Addustour reports that the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and his family issued a statement noting that they had been in contact with the office of and family of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to check on his condition and to convey their sincere concern for Talabani's health and their hope that he have a speedy recovery.  Talabani is a Kurd and the first Kurdish president of Iraq.  Rudaw notes that Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani posted the following on his Facebook page, "I am saddened by my dear brother and president Talabani's ill health and I wish him a speedy recovery.  In following President Talabani's condition I am touch with the doctors in Baghdad."

Talabani went to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital Monday evening.  His office has used vague terms like "health condition."  Others, including the office of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, have stated Talabani had a stroke.  He was being treated yesterday by a team of Iraq, British and German doctors. Deutsche Welle points out, "Questions remain about just how ill the 79-year-old is, although doctors say he has shown signs of improvement."

Yesterday, Marco Werman (PRI's The World) spoke with Al Jazeera, PRI and the Christian Science Monitor's Jane Arraf about what was taking place.  Excerpt.

Marco Werman: So, Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq.  Where did he come from politically speaking?

Jane Arraf:  Well it's interesting that you use the term Kurdish warlord because he did actually come from a background as a fighter as all of the current Kurdish leaders of that generation did.  He was a Peshmerga, fighter in the mountains and then beame a political dissident.  And became one of the two leading figures in Kurdistan.  He is, in many ways, an integral part of the history of that unique entity known as Iraqi Kurdistan which many Kurds would like to see known as its own country.  In recent years, he's played a unique role in Iraqi politics as well.  So he came from the background of a fighter but honed his political skills and is considered really one of the best politicians in the region.

Marco Werman:  I mean, president in Iraq is really a mostly ceremonial role.  How does he actually exert that kind of power?

Jane Arraf:  Well Iraq lurches from crisis to crisis.  And Jalal Talabani has, in many cases, been the man who has stepped in to try to play a mediating role and he's able to do that because in an atmosphere where relations are essentially toxic and posionous between the prime minister and other leading figures including Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish Region.  He manages to retain ties that are cordial enough to be able to bring people together which is a pretty tough thing in a place like Iraq.  So he's brokered several recent agreements.  The most recent one -- actually just a few days ago -- which is to bring Kurdish forces and Iraqi forces -- who had been coming to head in disputed territories in the north -- to the bargaining table.  And he brokered an agreement to have them actually pull back.  He's done that repeatedly over the years.

Marco Werman:  Mmm.  So what does his illness mean for Iraq's stability?  I mean, if he's out of the picture for ahile, in a hospital for awhile, what happens?

Jane Arraf:  You know, people have been expecting this for quite awhile.  He's been in ill health.  He has been hospitalized quite a few times -- including treatment in the United States. So, in a sense, the party and Kurdish politics have moved around him and perhaps moved a little beyond him.  There will be a power struggle after he's gone.  His son has moved back to the Kurdish region from the United States.  There are other major players Barahm Saleh, the former Kurdistan prime minister.  None of them have the weight, the power -- "weight" literally and figuratively -- the power and the stature really to take his place.  And what a lot of people believe is that Kurdish politics and his own party  will in essence be transformed and might not even exist for that much longer after he's gone.

All Iraq News reports that children (plural, no number given) were injured in a Babylon bombing -- it was a landmine.

And Senator John Kerry's calling the Benghazi hearing to order (and he's noting Hillary will appear before the Committee in January)  so I need to go and wrap this up.  Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and her office notes.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Murray Press Office
Thursday, December 20th, 2012 (202) 224-2834
Murray Bill to Ensure Dignified Burial for Every Veteran Passes Senate
Bill also includes provisions to improve veterans’ benefits, including transportation assistance and the creation of a burn pit registry
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, applauded Senate passage of the Dignified Burial and Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2012. This House and Senate-negotiated package contains proposals from Democrats and Republicans in both Chambers.
The legislation includes provisions from Chairman Murray’s original bill to authorize the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to furnish a casket or urn to a deceased veteran when VA is unable to identify the veteran’s next-of-kin and determines that sufficient resources are not otherwise available to furnish a casket or urn for burial in a national cemetery. Under current law, VA is not authorized to purchase a casket or urn for veterans who do not have a next-of-kin to provide one, or the resources to be buried in an appropriate manner. Earlier this year Chairman Murray and Ranking Member Burr, joined by U.S. Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), introduced this legislation after a veteran, with no known next-of-kin, was buried in a cardboard container at a VA National Cemetery in Florida. The exposed remains were discovered during a project to raise and realign headstones at the cemetery.
The Dignified Burial and Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2012 would also establish a registry for those veterans exposed to open burn pits while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and commissions an independent scientific report on the health effects of such exposures. The legislation would expand and protect access to VA services by furnishing eligible veterans with transportation to and from VA facilities and provide transition assistance to eligible veterans and their spouses outside of military installations.
“When America’s heroes make a commitment to serve their country, we make a promise to care for them,” said Chairman Murray, following passage of the bill. “That includes helping them access VA facilities and providing them with a burial befitting their service.”
The House and Senate-negotiated package also includes authority for restoration of the Clark Veterans Cemetery in the Philippines and renames several VA facilities across the country, including the Spokane VA Medical Center, in honor of veterans and individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to veterans, to their communities, and to their country. The bill will now move on to the House of Representatives.
Kathryn Robertson
Specialty Media Coordinator
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
448 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510


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