Tuesday, January 22, 2013. Chaos and violence continue, protests continue, Nouri meets with ExxonMobil, the US State Department went through four years without an Inspector General -- that hasn't happened under any US president prior, Drone Warrior Barack Obama is sworn in for a second term as US President, and more.
Yesterday in the United States it was time for a for-show inauguration. The real inauguration took place on Sunday but celebrity Barack Obama couldn't compete with football and Honey Boo Boo so he was sworn in again on Monday and everyone pretended that was an inauguration. The White House noted Sunday (link contains photos), "Today, in two separate, private ceremonies, President Obama and Vice President Biden were officially sworn into office, marking the start of the second term." At Press TV, David Swanson observes:
In fact, he runs through a list of men, women, and children on Tuesdays, hung over from inaugurations or not, and picks whom to murder and murders them.
We are not supposed to call it murder, of course, because it is properly assassination. Except that no public figures are being assassinated; 98% of those killed are not targeted at all; some are targeted for suspicious behavior without knowing their names; one type of suspicious behavior is the act of retrieving the dead and wounded from a previous strike; and those targeted are not targeted for politics but for resisting illegal occupations. Moreover, an assassination is a type of murder.
We're not supposed to call it murder, nonetheless, because it sounds more objective to call it killing. But murder is a type of killing, specifically unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought. Killing by accident is not murder and not what the president is doing. Killing legally is not murder and not what the president is doing - at least not as far as anyone knows or according to any interpretation of law put forward. Killing indirectly by encouraging poverty or environmental destruction or denial of healthcare may be things the president is doing, but they are not murder and not drone wars.
Or as Media Channel's Danny Schechter puts it at Z-Net, "Dr. King is remembered for 'I have a dream.' Barack Obama for 'I have a drone.' How sad is that?" The Center for Economic and Policy Research's Dean Baker observes at CounterPunch, "In 2008, President Obama ran on a platform of hope and change. After four years, the biggest change is that there is no hope."
As Susan (On the Edge) points out, "Anybody who had even remotely followed his career knew this guy was trouble." But who will follow the money? In his first term, not a lot of people did. Now he's attempting to ease one of the few out the door. Saturday, Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reported:
The mandate and funding of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which was established in October 2004 and is known as SIGIR, expires in March. It will mark the end of an effort to document and fix the myriad failings of the most ambitious U.S. rebuilding effort since the Marshall Plan. The extent to which U.S. military personnel abused their positions during the war is a part of the legacy of the deeply unpopular conflict that has gone largely unnoticed.
Barack was sworn in for his second term yesterday. In all the hagiography, did you find any reality? The State Department is over billions of US tax dollars that are going into Iraq. Who's watching that money? The Inspector General of the State Department?
There is no Inspector General. Barack refused to appoint one for four years. For his entire first term there was no Inspector General for the State Department. The last Inspector General was Howard Krongard who stepped down at the start of 2008. The Inspector General is responsible for ferreting out abuse, fraud and mismanagement.
September 11, 2012, there was an attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi and a CIA annex. Tomorrow Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In the December 19th snapshot, we covered the [PDF format warning] unclassified report on the investigation led by former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Retired General Mike Mullen (former Chair of the Joint Chiefs). December 31st, a second report [PDF format warning] "Flashing Red: A Special Report On The Terrorist Attack At Benghazi" was issued by the Senate Committee On Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Both reports fault State for not preparing and anticipating. Maybe Hillary needs to be asked if lack of supervision -- such as not having an Inspector General -- allowed State to go soggy when they should have been strong? Now if they failed at the basics of protection, why are we trusting them in other areas?
The posts of Inspector General were created for a reason. What's very clear is that there is no sunshine in Barack Obama's administration. The Inspector General of the State Department is an office that was established during President Dwight D. Eisenhower's administration. For fifty years, all presidents were in compliance -- even Richard Nixon. Barack Obama is the first one to go a term without appointing anyone to that position. That's outrageous. It's equally outrageous that the 'functioning press' has forgotten to mention these facts in the last four years.
For the current Fiscal Year, State requested $4.8 billion for Iraq (State and USAID). That kind of money needs to be watch dogged. Hillary Clinton should be asked to explain why it's not being watch dogged.
Turning to repeating versus reporting. AFP repeats that 400 prisoners and detainees have been released. That 'report' is based on what Nouri's government says. Missing from the AFP repeat is the fact that provincial governors are stating the Ministry of Justice refuses to hand over a list of the names of people allegedy released. The Voice of Russia repeats the claim made today in Baghdad by Deputy Prime Minister Hussein al-Shahristani that 888 prisoners have now been released. No one wants to talk about -- or repeat? -- the reality that provincial governors have asked the Ministry of Justice for a list of those released but have been denied such a list. When departments are unable to document their actions, the appropriate response is skepticism. Need another reason to be skeptical? Azzaman reports "that the female prisoners claimed to have been released by the Iraqi authorities at a ceremony attended by Deputy Prime Minister Hussein Shahristani did not return to their parents." Where are those women?
In addition, All Iraq News notes that Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc is calling Nouri's release of 355 prisoners this week as proof that innocent people are populating Iraqi prisons and detention centers. This has been the assertion of many protesters. Over 400 women are imprisoned due to the 'crime' of being related to some man the government wants to arrest but can't find. al-Shahristani may be seen as a trusted source by AFP and The Voice of Russia but not everyone sees him as so honest. Alsumaria reports that Deputy Speaker Arif Tayfur has stated that Nouri's point-person on the protests, Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani is not negotiating with the protesters
Equally true, the prison-system needs to be cleared up immediately. What's going on is not only illegal and inhumane, it's hurting Iraq's reputation. Al Arabiya reported Saturday, "Twenty Saudi detainees in Iraqi prisons were tortured after the Iraqi national team lost the Gulf Cup football tournament to the UAE in a match supervised by a Saudi referee, according to Thamer Balheed, head of the Saudi detainees in Iraq." True or false, that story was all over Arabic social media this weekend.
We'll come back to the protesters but move over to violence for a moment. Through Sunday, January 20th, Iraq Body Count counts 220 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.
Today Iraq was yet again slammed with bombings. Press TV counts 18 dead from "bombings in and around the capital." Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports a Mahmoudiya car bombing claimed 5 lives (15 injured), a Taji suicide car bombing claimed 7 lives (26 injured) and a Baghdad car bombing claimed 5 lives (15 injured). All Iraq News notes that the Baghdad car bombing was in Shula near a popular market. In addition, Alsumaria reports a Kirkuk roadside bombing injured 3 Sahwa.
But it wasn't just bombs. Alsumaria reports 1 Sahwa was shot dead today outside of Tikrit. All Iraq News reports a Mosul battle in which assailants shot dead 2 police officers and wounded five other people including one soldier while an armed battle in Falluja left 1 police officer dead and another injured. and late last night an attack on a Falluja checkpoint left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and another injured. World Bulletin notes Major General Shakir Khalil was wounded last night when his convoy was attacked in Tikrit.
In what may end up being the most controversial violence of the day, a kidnap victim was killed by police. Alsumaria reports that police launched an attack outside Samarra on two kidnappers, killing both as well as the person being kidnapped. Saad, the kidnap victim, is the cousin of Iraqiya MP Shaalan Karim. When the police kill a kidnap victim, it's news. When the police kill a Sunni kidnap victim, it's bigger news. When the police under Nouri al-Maliki's control kill a man whose cousin is an MP of a rival political slate, it's really big news.
In terms of perspective and/or analysis, AFP offers, "The violence and political troubles come with barely three months to go before provincial elections, Iraq's first polls in three years and a key barometer to gauge the popularity of Maliki and his rivals." Provincial elections are supposed to take place in April. Others emphasize the protests. Deutsche Welle notes, "It comes following four weeks of anti-government protests in areas with a Sunni majority (like the one pictured above showing protests in Falluja on January 16) and just days after several attacks claimed more than 80 lives last week." Kareem Raheem, Ahmeed Rasheed and Patrick Markey (Reuters) observe, "Shi'ite premier Maliki's government is trying to ease mass Sunni protests that erupted a month ago and his central government is also locked in a dispute with the country's autonomous Kurdistan region over control of oilfields."
The protests continue today. In a new development, protesters are being visited by United Nations representatives. Alsumaria reports a UN delegation arrived in Ramadi today to speak with demonstrators. All Iraq News notes that they met with college students in Anbar Province yesterday. Over the weekend, what may have stood out most about the protests was Talal Ali Abbas. Sufyan Mashhadani, Ahmed Rasheed, Patrick Markey and Sophie Hares (Reuters) reported Sunday that a protester set fire to himself in Mosul and quoted protest organizer Ghanim al-Abid stating, "We don't want people to hang themselves or burn themselves, this would be against Islam. But he reached such a state of despair he set himself on fire." AP identified the person as Talal Ali Abbas and bases that on "police and hospital officials." They reveal the 26-year-old man "suffered burns on about 20 percent of his body." The Daily Star adds:
Self-immolations have had resonance in the Arab world since a Tunisian vegetable seller set himself on fire two years ago. His death in January 2011 triggered the wave of uprisings that toppled leaders across North Africa and the Middle East.
Sunday's incident in Iraq shows the frustration among Sunnis that has not ebbed despite concessions from Maliki.
As the protests continue, you have people like KRG President Massoud Barzani talking of the need for a solution. Al Mada reports on how he feels the protesters must be listened to and legitimate concerns addressed. Aswat al-Iraq adds, "Ex-Kurdish premier Barham Saleh expressed his concern on the continuation of the crises in Iraq, pointing "if these are not confronted, the country will end into party or national catastrophe, which will affect not only Iraq but the region as a whole." And Nouri's response? Alsumaria reports it's to fly off the handle.
Since December 21st, protests have been taking place. This Friday, they get kicked up another notch. And Nouri refuses to address the demands of the protesters. Alsumaria reports that Deputy Speaker Arif Tayfur has stated that Nouri's point-person on the protests, Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani is not negotiating with the protesters
The editorial board of Gulf News points out, "It is time for the political leaders to offer a more coherent way forward. In this, Maliki needs to re-start an active dialogue with Sunni and Kurdish leaders to re-establish the government's credibility as a government for all Iraqis."
With over 200 violent deaths in the month so far, you'd expect that Nouri al-Maliki would at least try to offer leadership. Instead, he demonstrates that a person can hold the office of prime minister for six years and learn nothing -- not even basic leadership skills.
Lack of leadership? Dan Ritter (Wall St. Cheat Sheet) wonders, "Can Exxon Get Its Way in Iraq?"
Domain-b.com reports, "In a sign of a possible end to its dispute with America's largest oil company, Iraq's prime minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki met with the head of Exxon Mobil yesterday to discuss the oil giant's plans in the country." AP adds, "The statement says Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Exxon Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson discussed the company's activities and working conditions in Iraq." November 11, 2011, ExxonMobil signed a deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government. In all the time that has followed, Nouri has proven he can whine if not lead.
He can lie to. Unable to handle the problem himself, July 19, 2012, he began declaring the US government was going to solve the problem for him. From that day's snapshot:
Credit to Kristin Deasy (Global Post) who was basically alone in questioning Nouri's claims:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki claimed late Thursday to have received a message from US President Barack Obama indicating that the US sided with Baghdad in its deepening row with Kurdistan over the management of the northern region's oil resources, reported Reuters.
The message from Baghdad -- which did not quote the alleged Obama letter directly or provide any copy of it -- welcomed the "positive" US position on the matter, which it said was "in the same manner as the Iraqi government is seeking," said Reuters.
The World Tribune notes, "The Kurdish Regional Government has rejected efforts by Baghdad to explore for energy in areas claimed by the Kurds. The Iraqi Oil Ministry has signed an agreement for British Petroleum to develop an oil field near the disputed city of Kirkuk."
Kirkuk provides the set-up for Nouri's latest joke. AFP repeats, "Iraq's premier yesterday called on ExxonMobil to respect the country's constitution in rare talks with the US firm's chief, an apparent reference to a deal with the Kurdish region Baghdad says is illegal." As Alsumaria notes, that assertion comes from a press release Nouri issued after the meeting.
Nouri wants to cite the Constituion?
How about citing Article 140, Nouri?
Article 140 is still not implemented. It determines who gets control of disputed regions. Instead of following the Constitution, Nouri tried to take over those regions last fall with his newly created and extra-Constitutional Tigris Operation Command. Though any military leaders are supposed to be confirmed by the Parliment, Nouri wasn't concerned about getting approval then or concerned with following the Constitution.
There is no national oil and gas law. That's also on Nouri. When the Bush White House proposed the benchmarks for success in Iraq, Nouri signed off on them (2007). One of those was the passage of an oil and gas law. It never happened. There is no national oil and gas law. His failure to get one passed shouldn't paralyze the semi-autonmous Kurdistan Regional Government. Or are they supposed to wait another six years for Nouri to try to pass one? The only one even noting that failure is World Bulletin, "Attempts to resolve the dispute have failed in part because of disagreements over a long-delayed oil and gas law meant to set a clearer framework for managing the country's vast oil reserves, the world's fourth largest."