Monday, January 14, 2013. Chaos and violence continue, protests continue, Nouri uses the Iraqi military to demonstrate in support of him, a tribal leader and protest organizer is shot dead in his home, a for-show 'release' fails to generate the spin Nouri wanted, a man Barack's Justice Department demonized took his own life, and more.
A bit of news was supposed to reassure the international community that Nouri al-Maliki was the thug the world suspected and cause them to say "Look what he's done!" instead. However, that bit of Happy Talk just got overshadowed by reality.
First for the wave of Happy Talk. Adam Schreck Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) report that some 'prisoners' were 'freed' today with some ("dozens') at a ceremony presided over by "one of the prime minister's most trusted political allies" Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani who distributed candy and Korans. Having a hard time seeing Nouri okaying candy for Sunnis? You're not alone. Though they're trying to spin this as prisoners being released to meet the protesters demands, they won't give details about the prisoners (including whether they are Sunni or not). Schreck notes that some of those 'freed' had already completed their sentences. That's really not 'freed,' that's sentence was completed and they were released. Suadad al-Salhy, Patrick Markey and Angus MacSwan (Reuters) also note the 'release' aspect, "Officials said a ministerial committee had freed 335 detainees whose jail terms had ended or whose cases had been dismissed for lack of evidence." In other words, people who should have never been held got released. And how many are women?
The western outlets -- except for AFP -- have ignored that aspect. Women are said to have been raped and tortured in the prisons. The protesters have demanded the women prisoners be released, it's not a minor point. The Arabic press grasps that. Alsumaria leads with the claim that 335 prisoners have been released over the last days and only four of these were women. Four. Alsumaria notes the mass demonstrations that have been taking place and that the demands have included demands about women prisoners. Via the BRussells Tribunal, let's note the basic demands of the protesters: In this situation it is of utmost importance that the international community exposes the true nature of the al Maliki dictatorship and stands with this broad movement for human dignity and against repression and violations of human rights. It is therefore of vital importance that all peace-loving forces support what is taking place on the streets of Iraq. The protesters are justly demanding: 1 – the immediate release of detained protesters and dissident prisoners. 2 – a stop to the death penalty. 3 – the approval of an amnesty law for innocent detainees. 4 – the abolition of anti-terrorism laws (especially Clause 4 used to target them). 5 – the repeal of unfair rulings against dissidents. 6 – fair opportunities for work based on professionalism. 7 – the end of the use of all military command based on geographic areas. 8 – the provision of essential services to all areas in Iraq neglected by the state. 9 – the holding of all members of governmental official, army or security units who have committed crimes against dissidents accountable, especially those who have violated the honour of women in prisons. 10 – a UN sponsored population count. 11 – an end to marginalization, and a stop to agitating divisions between ethnic and religious groups, and a stop the house raids without legal warrant based on the information of secret informers. 12 – a stop to financial, administrative and legal corruption. 13 – the combating of sectarianism in all its forms by returning Religious buildings and all religion properties to their rightful owners and the abolishment of law No. 19 of 2005. The International Anti-Occupation Network (IAON) welcomes the spread of these non-sectarian protests and supports the efforts of the Iraqi people to regain their full independence and national sovereignty. 10 years of foreign occupation is enough! 10 years of massive human rights violations is enough! 10 years of corruption and depriving the whole population of basic services is enough!
Now for the news that punctured Nouri's claims that things were improving, Alsumaria reports that Mohammed Taher al-Rabbo Jubouri was shot dead in his Mosul home today. The tribal leader, part of the Jabour tribe, was one of the leaders of the protests. Unknown assailants carrying machine guns stormed his home today and shot him dead. Let's all pretend this has nothing to do with Nouri. And let's pretend to that it doesn't appear that the US government hasn't recently labeled the protesters terrorists. Throughout Iraq, things are happening. There's a label for the actions taken against the protesters: counter-terrroism measures. The US military remains in Iraq and the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department of Defense of the United States of America (signed December 6th. -- see the December 10th and December 11th snapshots) allows US troops to participate in counter-terrorism operations. Someone needs to ask the White House and the State Dept (a) who is targeting Iraqi protesters and (b) is the US military being used to suppress a peaceful and popular uprising in Iraq?
The US-backed Nouri is tearing Iraq apart. At Policy Mic, Kevin Coyne offers his predictions for 2013 which include "The Doomed" countries headed for deep trouble in 2013. Topping the list?
1) Iraq:Better known to most Americans these days as "NotOurProblemAnymoreistan," Iraq is in for one rough year – which is really saying something. The federal system set up following the U.S. invasion is splitting apart at the country's regional and sectarian seams, and upcoming provincial elections in the spring will only exacerbate tensions. In recent weeks, a national protest movement against the ineffective Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has spread, but frustration with the status quo is about the only unifying element among the Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish elements taking part. In 2013, expect the rift between the cash-strapped government in Baghdad and the oil-rich autonomous Kurdish region in the North to reach a breaking point. Also, while much is said of the Sunni-Shia divide, keep an eye on rifts within the Shia majority, which may not only cast out Maliki, but also topple the regime and send everyone back to the streets to "re-negotiate" the political order…
Yesterday, Reuters noted that Minister of Finance Rafai al-Issawi was targeted with a bombing today which left two of his guards injured. Kitabat notes that al-Issawi's convoy had left Falluja and was headed for Abu Ghraib when the bomb went off. Al Mada explains he was in Falluja meeting with tribal leaders to discuss the demonstrations. World Bulletin reminds, "The Sunni Muslim minister is caught up in a crisis that has triggered protests in Sunni regions and is straining Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's power-sharing government." AFP notes protests began following "the December 20 arrest of at least nine of Essawi's guards. Essawi is a leading member of the Iraqiya bloc, which, while a member of Maliki's unity government, has called for him to quit." Al Jazeera adds, "Sunnis have also decried alleged misuse of anti-terror laws to hold members of the minority community, and claim Sunnis are being targeted. Former vice-president Tareq al-Hashemi, a Sunni, was handed down a death sentence in absentia on charges of running a death squad, a charge he denounced." Alsumaria notes that Iraqiya has condemned the attack on al-Issawi and has called on Nouri to ensures the protection and safety of Iraqi citizens.
Nouri might not have targeted the Minister of Finance is the Iraqi President had been in the country. Late on the evening of December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot), President Jalal Talibani had a stroke and was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital. Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany's Charite University Hospital. He remains in Germany currently. Al Mada reported last week that Fuad Masum of the Kurdistan Alliance states he visited with Jalal yesterday and that he is "steadily improving" that Jalal was able to shake hands, that he listened and spoke -- and spoke to those in the room in Kurdish, Arabic and English. Along with being president of Iraq, Jalal Talabani is also the head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (political party) which notes that US President Barack Obama sent a message inquiring on Talabani's health and "described President Jalal Talabani as a great friend of the United States for many years and a vital leader of the new democratic Iraq. I extend to you my best wishes for full and speedy recovery, President Obama added." The PUK also notes, "The Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, phoned Dr. Barham Ahmed Salih the Second Deputy Secretary General of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan to ask about the health of President Mam Jalal, where he expressed his happiness about the improvement in His Excellency's health."
All Iraq News notes that Moqtada al-Sadr issued a statement today calling on Nouri to listen to the protesters demands and also noting the need to resolve the issue of the presidency. Jatlal Talabani is seen as someone who is able to smooth things over and with him out of the country there's no one to fill that role. In addition, there is the role proper of president and concerns about how long Iraq can go without an acting president. Alsumaria adds that al-Sadr fears a dictatorship if the issue of the presidency isn't resolved soon. (President Jalal Talabani is in Germany recovering from a stroke.) Hurriyet quotes Moqtada stating, "If the problem of the presidency is not resolved, the dictatorship will spread to the presidency from the prime ministry, and this would make the situation worse and more problematic. Iraq is like a son without a father because it does not have its president who deals with problems and mediates." There's criticism from Parliament as well. Reuters notes, "Osama Al Nujaifi, parliament speaker and the most senior elected Sunni figure, said Al Maliki should pass a draft amnesty law to free detainees jailed on terrorism charges and modify laws that many Sunnis say are used to target them unfairly. Protesters also want to end a campaign against members of Saddam Hussain's outlawed Ba'ath party that Sunnis fear is used to harass their leaders and sideline them from politics." Sharif Nashashibi (Al Arabiya) takes issue with some in the media protraying the protests as sectarian: However, events have developed in a way that has crossed the sectarian divide, although this has not been picked up by the media, which continues to irresponsibly and inaccurately portray the situation in purely sectarian terms. Powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has come out in support of the mainly Sunni demonstrations. While he has predicted an "Iraqi Spring," there have been references in the media to a "Sunni Spring" - similar to its much-loved but overused term "Shiite Crescent" - as if Iraqis, and Arabs in general, define themselves by sect above nationality. Three days later, just before midday Friday prayers, Sadr visited one of Baghdad's most prominent Sunni mosques, and reiterated his backing for the protesters: "We support the demands of the people, but I urge them to safeguard Iraq's unity." Maliki's former ally was reportedly greeted by chants of "the unifier of Sunnis and Shiites" and "the patriot," while women ululated and showered him with candy. Ayad Allawi, the Shiite former prime minister whose secular al-Iraqiyya coalition of Sunnis and Shiites defeated Maliki in the last parliamentary elections, has called for the prime minister's resignation. The Majlis al-A'yan (council of tribal sheikhs) in the predominantly Shiite province of Basra has also expressed solidarity with the protests. Demonstrators, too, have chanted "no to sectarianism," and carried banners warning the government "not to draw the country into sectarian conflict." Leaders of the protest movement have made clear that they are not on the streets because Maliki is Shiite, or just because of policies they deem sectarian.
Alsumaria reports that Nouri has sent Iraqi forces into Samarra with the intent of stopping or 'stopping' the protest there -- 34 military vehicles arrived in Baghdad late Sunday night.
Political blocs are meeting to discuss the government's problems. Aswat al-Iraq reports, "Chairmen of National Alliance and Iraqiya Parliamentary Bloc stressed necessity to have a new political initiative to preserve Iraqi unity, calling to implement Iraqi protestors' demands and to expel all tensions between the parliament and the government. Ibraheem Jaffari of the National Alliance and Salman al-Jumaaily of Iraqiya bloc discussed Iraqi political scene and the demonstrations witnessed by Iraqi provinces." Even Nouri's sometime friend Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, is getting in on it. All Iraq News notes that al-Hakim called a meeting with the National Coalition and they agreed that the crises in Iraq needed to be resolved, that they should entertain proposals from Ahmed Chalabi's National Congress Party and they praised Moqtada al-Sadr while demanding Nouri's government start implementing the laws Parliament is passing.
On the topic of laws and bills, Aswat al-Iraq reports, Press Freedom Defence Association announced completing the first amendment to Journalists' Rights Law." Nouri's State of Law continues to throw up roadblocks. Alsumaria notes that they demanded the vote on the Federal Court Act be postponed today. All Iraq News notes that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi has decided that Minister of Youth and Sports Jassim Mohammed Jaafar will be questioned in absentia if he cannot appear before the Parliament in one week after he refused last week to attend a hearing. There are rumors of vast corruption in the Ministry. Jaafar was an MP State of Law named following the March 2010 elections. Today, the bill on the presidencies (limiting all to two terms -- not just the President of Iraq but also the Prime Minister and Speaker of Parliament) was to be read again.
In other news of Parliament, Kitabat reported yesterday on new rumors that Nouri was planning to dissolve the Parliament. Supposedly, State of Law has addressed this plan with several Shi'ite blocs in the National Alliance but not Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc.
Al Mada today reports on the Sadr bloc's response to these rumors: Nouri would not dare dissolve Parliament. Supposedly, the rumors go, Nouri's decided he can seize the presidency if he dissolves the Parliament. It's not clear -- depending on which rumor is being covered -- how but there are two arguments being put forward. In one, Nouri dissolves the Parliament and oversees everything claiming he is the only legitimate figure. In the other, Nouri dissolves the Parliament with the intent of new elections; however, when elections do take place, Nouri now holds the position of Prime Minister and President, he consolidates the two. There's nothing in the Constitution that gives him the right to grab the position. But that's never stopped him before. Dar Addustour notes a third scenario. Some background first. During Nouri's first term, Jalal was President. Iraq had two Vice Presidents then, Tareq al-Hashemi and Adil Abdul al-Mahdi. In November 2010, the two would start their second terms. In the spring of 2011, Adil Abdul al-Mahdi would resign in disgust over the corruption. Tareq was targeted by Nouri and now lives in Turkey -- he does remain Vice President. Nouri has been uanble to get the votes needed to kick Tareq out of office. A few weeks before al-Mahdi stepped down, Khodair al-Khozaei was named a third vice president. He is Dawa. He is tight with Nouri. Dar Addustour reports that Nouri wants to use Talabani being out of the country to elevate al-Khozaei to the presidency -- for longer than the 30 days the Constitution would allow -- and to then dissolve the Parliament. President Khozaei would then name Nouri prime minister-designate.
Should Nouri go forward with the questionable scenarios, one thing to keep in mind is: What happens if the Parliament dissolved? What happens is what Nouri's always wanted to happen -- his political rivals who are currently MPs lose their immunity and can be tossed in prisons.
The Sadr bloc may be sure Nouri wouldn't do such a thing, but, based on his past record, who's to say? Fakhri Karim (Al Mada) notes there appears to be no detterent to prevent Nouri from his latest attempt to monopolize power and ignoring the Constitution and the Parliament. Al Mada reports that the Kurdistan Alliance and Iraqiya are stating they no longer trust Nouri and are asking that the United Nations sit in on any political dialogue.
Saturday, Nouri and his followers staged fake protests in Baghdad. AP explains that "about 2,000" Iraqis paraded through the city streets. More realistic, Prashant Rao (AFP) reported for AFP that "hundreds" were in Baghdad. He also noted banners including "I am Iraqi, I love Maliki." Xinhua also notes "hundreds." The Iraq Times notes that they carried signs calling for Parliament to be dissolved. CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq Tweeted about the protest.
Looking at pictures of the protests, it does appear to be hundreds. And it does appear to be just men present, confession their love for Nouri ("I am Iraqi, I love Maliki"). I guess we get now why these same thugs pictured are the ones who target gays and lesbians in Iraq. They love Nouri, they sexually desire him. They deride gays and lesbians, mock them. But here they are, "Nouri's Puppies."
To get those hundreds, Nouri had his lovers bussed in from Basra, Dhi Qar, Maysana, Karbala, Wasit and Babil. Approximately 40% present were said to have been paid and some of those included Baghdad's homeless. All Iraq News notes Nouri issued a statement praising his loyalists -- specifically praising their throats.
Al Mada notes that Nouri's supporters are attempting to insist that -- despite payment and bussing the people in -- the protest was spontaneous -- just an outburst of love. Alsumaria reports MP Baha Araji, with Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc, held a press conference today in Baghdad noting that the participants were paid and refuting the claim that the protest was spontaneous. In related news, Kitabat reports today that Dawa Party officers and soldiers in the Iraqi military are being forced
Since there was no crackdown on the protest, maybe no one should refute that it was 'spontaneous'? After all, isn't Nouri claiming the genuine protests are illegal? So here's a faux-test by the Wives of Nouri al-Maliki, one Nouri's government insists was spontaneous, but there were no arrests, no atttempted arrests, no objections and Nouri even praised them.
Nouri's against 'unpermitted' protests? Doesn't sound like it. Sounds like he's just against people speaking out against him. Alsumaria notes Nineveh Province Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi has pointed out that there was no permit for Nouri supporters. al-Nujaifi notes that he doesn't oppose any group of peaceful protesters but that there are different standards for those who oppose Nouri. He also notes he saw military soldiers and officers among those protesting on behalf of Nouri.
Prashant Rao (AFP) reports that the real protests continued today "in Samarra, Tikrit, Baiji and Mosul" and that the highway between Baghdad and Jordan and Syria was again blocked. He also informs that Anbar Province tribal leaders are calling for Nouri to tender his resignation and quotes Imam Abdulrahman al-Samarraie stating, "Maliki should leave, we have him many chances but he did not do anything. He made many promises . . . but he did not fulfil these promises. He should leave." KUNA adds, "Iraq said on Saturday it was set to close two border crossings with Syria a few days after closing the Traibeel border crossing with Jordan." Wael Grace (Al Mada) explains Iraiqya (political slate that came in first in the 2010 parliamentary elections) states the border closing are an attempt to punish the provinces. Alsumaria reports that today also saw cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr issue a statement calling on people to take part in Friday's demonstrations in Iraq to show solidarity with the "innocent in Quetta, Pakistan." (January 10th, the Pakistan city was targeted with bombings.)
Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide on Friday, was by all accounts a remarkable person. But he was by no means a radical. In his brief role as an organizer with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, he was among those who were convinced that with sufficient pressure from its activist base, the Obama administration would eventually reveal its deeply obscured roots in traditional New Deal/Great Society liberalism.
It hardly needs to be said that those of us who argued against him at the time, as I did, take no pleasure in having been proven right in the years since. The most tragic indication came two years ago when the Obama justice department charged Swartz himself with a 12 count violation of the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for his attempt to acquire, via the MIT server, the JSTOR scholarly archive and make it available to the general public.
[. . .]
Those of us who only know of Swartz's work in passing shouldn't feel any compunction about doing so, and there is plenty of blame to go around.
Most conspicuously, there is the Obama administration, and its deep pocket contributors in the high tech, publishing and entertainment industries who have attempted to make what they call the "theft" and what Swartz regarded as the liberation of intellectual property a crime meriting the most severe punishment. A ridiculously disproportionate 35 year sentence was being aggressively pursued by Massachusetts Federal Attorney, Carmen Ortiz who likely viewed the prosecution as an opportunity to raise her profile within the party. The strategy seemed to be working: Massachusetts Governor and close friend of Obama Deval Patrick mentioned her as a likely successor.