All Iraq News notes that a letter from US Vice President Joe Biden was delivered to the Talabanis today wishing Jalal improved health and successful treatment in Germany. The letter notes that Jalal Talabani has long been a voice of sobriety and reason and that he is urgently needed. It cites his work in the last weeks on de-escalating tensions between Baghdad and Erbil over the military-standoff between the Tigris Operation Command forces and the Peshmerga in the disputed areas. Biden stresses that Iraq greatly needs Talabani and asks the Talabani family to call on him if there is any way he can provide assistance at this time. Alsumaria adds that the letter noted Biden's distress over hearing of Jalal's medical problems and stressed the partnership between Jalal and the US.
Al-Monitor translates an article from Lebanon's As-Safir:
Although the Kurdish parties refuse to talk openly about Talabani’s successor, the name of former Prime Minister of Kurdistan Barham Saleh — an accepted figure in Washington — is being proposed in the political corridors, according to Fadil.
Historical leaders in the Kurdistan region, such as Kosrat Rasul (who has a critical health condition), Mala Bakhtiar, and General Coordinator of the Movement for Change Nawshirwan Mustafa are competing with him on the presidency of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), since there is a consensual agreement that the post belongs to the Kurds.
Other sources confirm that Sunni figures, some of which have the support of Maliki, aspire to fill the post based on the adopted sectarian quota system.
Earlier this week, we noted that there was another person who could become Iraq's new president and would have a similar profile to Jalal Talabani. That person has been exclused from reports from outside of Iraq. But, turns out, she is under consideration. Dar Addustour notes Jalal's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan political party met Friday to discuss potential successors to Talabani. The news outlet states it is coming down to three choices: Barham Saleh, Fuad Masum and Hero Ibrahim Ahmed. They state Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, First Lady of Iraq (who is in Germany with her husband Jalal), is the current favorite. However, All Iraq News reports that her brother Hluwa Ibrahim Ahmed states that the news is untrue regarding the First Lady. He notes that the family is praying -- along with all of Iraq -- for President Talabani's speedy recovery. This is me, not All Iraq News, her brother also knows, as does she, that if she's called on to serve, she must. In her family, that's really not open to debate due to the historical presence in Iraq (think the Kennedys in America). Were a successor needed, she would make the best choice because of her presence in Iraq and the region, because of the accomplishments of her family, because of the accomplishments and history of her husband and concern for her husband (either due to illness or passing away) would translate into international attention for her. She would bring a whole level of attention to Iraq that the other two being mentioned cannot.
The point of the presidency for the Kurds is to have a prominent person in the post -- personal stature of the individual can combine with the duties and functions of the office to make the presidency a powerful position. Under Jalal Talabani, that has happened. Great care must be taken in selecting any replacement. They need to come with an independent base of power that will allow them to stand up to Nouri or anyone else. Hopefully, Jalal Talabani will recover quickly and be back at work. If that does not happen or is not possible, the names so many have mentioned bring little stature to the post. Only Hero Ibrahim Ahmed has stature on the international stage -- stature that she would bring with her if she became the next president. That would be the best thing for the Kurds and it would also be the best thing for Iraq. With Nouri attempting to put a non-Kurd in the post, it would probably be good for the Kurds to begin coming together on one choice right now and to name that choice publicly so that Nouri cannot pull a double cross.
American diplomat Peter W. Galbraith (Foreign Policy) shares some thoughts on Jalal Talabani:
At this stage, the long-term prognosis for Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who suffered an apparent stroke earlier this week, is unclear. He has been my friend for 25 years and I am hoping that his innate exuberance will carry him through this latest crisis. After all, he defied even longer odds to become the first ever democratically elected head of state in the multi-millennia history of a place that is considered the cradle of civilization. It's as yet too soon to guess at a prognosis, but he clearly will be out of action for some time -- and he will be missed.Talabani, who devoted his life to the Kurdistan national cause, has been described as a unifier -- and, indeed, he may be the only unifying figure among Iraq's top political leaders. There is a certain irony to this because Talabani remains a Kurdish nationalist. When he speaks of "his country", he means Kurdistan, not Iraq. As president, he has tirelessly advocated for Kurdistan's rights under the Iraqi constitution.But, by dint of personality, Talabani has used the largely ceremonial office of president of the republic to calm conflicts among Iraq's Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds. He is, in effect, the mediator-in-chief. Most recently, he won agreement from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government to withdraw their armed forces from a disputed area around Kirkuk. In other cases, he mediated conflicts between Sunnis and Shiites, and even within the Shiite community.
On the military stand-off, Mashreq Abbas (Al Hayat translated by Al-Monitor) reports:
Talabani's health crisis has helped to prevent the escalation of the situation, after a serious security incident where Peshmerga forces targeted a government reconnaissance aircraft. Iraqi forces noted that they will firmly deal with any other attack. However, nobody guarantees that such an incident will not be repeated in the future. Moreover, there will be no time to identify which party was behind it.
Talk and statements expressing solidarity and compassion with Talabani have been circulated in political circles. People have been searching for a successor even before medical reports on his health condition have been issued. Multiple scenarios were quickly suggested, each one of them in line with the interests of a specific party. Barham Salih, Fouad Massoum and Hoshiar Zebari were mentioned in the media as potential Kurdish successors to Talabani. However, the list included new names, some of which are Sunni, in reference to a potential use of Talabani’s absence to change the power equation in Iraq.
As noted yesterday, Nouri's created a new crisis -- he sent forces into the Green Zone in Baghdad to round up 150 people working for the Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi and ten of them have been charged with 'terrorism' while the others are being 'questioned' (tortured). The arrests led to protests in Falluja, Tikrit, Samarra, Ramadi and just outside of Falluja. It also led to condemnation from Moqtada al-Sadr's parliamentary bloc and from Iraqiya (which came in first in the 2010 parliamentary elections). Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports that the solidarity is holding and that today Iraqiya and Moqtada were joined by statements from National Alliance figures including Islamic Surpeme Council of Iraq head Ammar al-Hakim and Ahmed Chalabi.
From yesterday's snapshot:
In another report, Tawfeeq quotes al-Essawi stating, "My message to the prime minister: You are a man who does not respect partnership at all, a man who does not respect the law and the constitution, and I personally hold you fully responsible for the safety of the kidnapped people." BBC News adds, "Rafie al-Issawi, a prominent member of the al-Iraqiyya political bloc, said about 150 of his bodyguards and staff members had been arrested on Thursday." Nine in some reports, the Ministry of the Interior states 10. So al-Essawi's just a liar?
Some outlets (US) had a real hard time acknowledging more than 10 taken in. I don't know if that's stupidy or cowardice. But over 10 were rounded up. The proof comes today as Alsumaria reports that 50 of those not charged have been released according to an interview MP Mohammed al-Khalidi gave with the network. Alsumaria also reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi met and, after, Barzani issued a statement condemning the treatment of the Minister of Finance.
50 detainees released is not a release of 150. Protesters outside Falluja, as Iraq Times reminds, yesterday not only cut off the road from Baghdad to Anbar Province but gave a 24 hour deadline for all 150 to be released. They also note that KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has declared that Nouri is the greatest threat facing Iraq.
Roads to Baghdad closing? Alsumaria reports that Nineveh Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi has closed the road linking the province to Baghdad. This is over one of Nouri's soldiers raping a young girl and the refusal of Nouri to obey a court order to turn the soldier over to Nineveh police.
All Iraq News notes Jay Newton-Small's interview with KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani.
All Iraq News reports 1 civilian was stabbed to death by unknown assailants in Babil Province, 1 corpse (shot to death) was discovered in Mosul, and four people were injured in a Babil Province bombing. AP adds a Baghdad bombing claimed 4 lives and left eleven people injured.
In non-violent deaths, Iraq has lost a fabled historian. Kitabat reports the well known and well respected historian, researcher and genealogist Zuhair al-Qaisi has died in Erbil at the age of 80. Alsumaria adds that he was born in Baghdad in 1932 and that his son says he had leukemia.
The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley, Susan's On the Edge, Pacifica Evening News, NPR, Iraq Inquiry Digest, On the Wilder Side and Antiwar.com -- updated yesterday and today:
iraq iraq foreign policy peter w. galbraith al-monitor al-hayat mashreq abbas
mohammad sabah time magazine jay netwon-small iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraqiraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq
iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraqiraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq
iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraqiraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq
iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq iraq