Friday, January 11, 2013

Protests continue in Iraq

Protests continue in Iraq today.  Alsumaria reports that cleric and leader of the Islamic Supreme Council delivered a sermon today calling for dialogue among all the parties and refusing to lay the blame on protesters.   Also weigh in?  Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani whose message today, delivered by Sheikh Abdel Mahdi al-Karbalai during morning prayers, was a call for unity and responsibility.  Alsumaria reports he stated that the political blocs are responsible for the current problems and that the politicians and the security services must exercise restraint and utilize wisdom.  He warned against attacking the protesters.   Cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr also weighed in today.  Kitabat notes that Moqtada explained the popular protests in Mosul, Salahuddin and Anbar are not against government but against policies and that it is the right of the Iraqi to speak their beliefs.   He noted that there had been some early mistakes (referring to some slogans and banners in early protests -- they generally expressed the not uncommon belief in Iraq that things were better before the US invasion) but that these are cries to rally the nation.  He stated that Nouri is the one throwing out obstacles.  Alsumaria reports Minister Rafia al-Issawi and Sunni Endowment president Ahmed Abdul-Ghafoor Samarrai showed their support by attending a demonstration in Baghdad following morning prayers.  All Iraq News reports Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq issued a statement today declaring that force should not be used against the protesters.   Others went further.  For example, Kitabat reports Sunni Sheikh Abdul Malik Saadi stated that it is the resposibility of Iraq's rulers to hear the protesters' demands, that it is the right of citizens to exercise their rights, and that the security forces are to provide security and their role is not to target the protesters but to protect them.  The Iraqi people are partners in the country, the Sheikh noted, citizens, military, they are partners.  He called on the protesters to be strong and patient, not to take up arms and he called on the military to protect the protesters.

Of course, there are two groups of protesters in Iraq currently.  First you have the vast group of thousands of  legitimate protesters asking for a better Iraq and then you have the tiny bands of Nouri's goons who sometimes make it into the 'hundreds.'  Both were out today.

The tiny faux group registered the most in Najaf.  Let's call them the Pat Boones.   A sign of how small they are?  All Iraq News notes "dozens."  But then few want to be an ass kisser.  Visit any high school and ask for a show of hands if you doubt it.  The Pat Boones are demanding that things stay the same and that mass arrests continue -- maybe soon they'll add that everyone ignore Nouri al-Maliki's ever-increasing bald spot.

By contrast, Kitabat notes "tens of thousands" of real protesters turned out forllowing Friday prayers.   Alsumaria notes thousands marched in Salahuddin Province to show their support with the Anbar Province protesters who are demonstrating and continue their sit-in.   The outlet notes that local officials, religious scholars and tribal leaders are part of the demonstrations and that the demands include the release of the innocent prisoners and detainees, the prosecution of those who have tortured or raped Iraqi women in the Iraqi prisons and detention centers, and for the government to change its current course.

The Iraq Times reports that Ayad Allawi, leader of Iraqiya (political slate that came in first in the 2010 parliamentary elections) held a press conference today to talk about the crisis that has led to demonstrations throughout Iraq.  He noted that Iraqiya and he himself had been sounding alarms for some time about what was taking place.  He noted the policies (being implemented by Nouri) were dividing the country and he called for unity to protect Iraq.  Iraqiya won in 2010 as part of Iraq's rejection of sectarianism.  This trend could be seen in the 2009 provincial elections as well.

It is what allowed the brand new political slate to not just perform well but to outperform expectations and defeat Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law.  Though frequently (and falsely) portrayed as a "Sunni party" by the press, Iraqiya is non-sectarian and has a diverse group of members and officials.  (Allawi himself is Shi'ite.)  The message of Iraqiya was diversity, all Iraqis for one Iraq.  And that is what the people responded to.

So why the current problems?

Because the people weren't listened to.

Per the Constitution, Iraqiya should have had first shot at forming a government.  The President of Iraq should have named a member of Iraqiya (most likely Allawi) to be prime minister-designate and then that person would have 30 days to form a cabinet.  If he or she were unable to, then the president would name someone else prime minister-designate.  This is pretty clear cut.  As is who won and who lost.

So what happened?


Bush installed Nouri as prime minister in 2006 (the Parliament wanted Ibrahim al-Jafaari).  In 2010, Barack insisted Nouri get a second term, despite what the Iraqi people wanted, despite what their Constitution stipulated, despite what is supposed to take place in a democracy.  Barack's actions were a rejection of democracy (which Iraq can't afford if it's to become a democracy, you don't send a message to the Iraqi people of, "Vote and maybe I'll respect your vote or maybe I'll just insist my puppet stays prime minister!") and they are part of the reason for the ongoing strife in Iraq.

For more on that, you can refer to John Barry's "'The Engame' Is A Well Researched, Highly Critical Look at U.S. Policy in Iraq" (Daily Beast):

Washington has little political and no military influence over these developments [in Iraq]. As Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor charge in their ambitious new history of the Iraq war, The Endgame, Obama's administration sacrificed political influence by failing in 2010 to insist that the results of Iraq’s first proper election be honored: "When the Obama administration acquiesced in the questionable judicial opinion that prevented Ayad Allawi's bloc, after it had won the most seats in 2010, from the first attempt at forming a new government, it undermined the prospects, however slim, for a compromise that might have led to a genuinely inclusive and cross-sectarian government."

The following community sites --,  Pacifica Evening News, The Diane Rhem Show and Adam Kokesh -- updated last night and this morning:

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