James Morrison (Washington Times) reports, "Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, told a top State Department official to inform the Iraqi government that Congress is growing impatient with its failure to keep the dissidents of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq safe from assaults."
What's Morrison talking about?
As of last month, Camp Ashraf in Iraq is empty. All remaining members of the community have been moved to Camp Hurriya (also known as Camp Liberty). Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks. The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one. As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out." Those weren't the last attacks. They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept. (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.) In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions." So the US has an obligation to protect the residents. 3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf. They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part. A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday. That was the second attack this year alone. February 9th of this year, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah. Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured. Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release." They were attacked again September 1st. Adam Schreck (AP) reported that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.
Dropping back to September 16's snapshot:
US Senator Robert Menendez issued a statement on the attack which included, "I hold the Iraqi government directly responsible to protect the community, to investigate this matter thoroughly, and to prosecute the perpetrators of this heinous act. I am deeply concerned for the seven hostages who were taken during this attack. The Iraqi government should act swiftly to determine their whereabouts and ensure their safety. There is added urgency for the global community, as well as for the United States, to help resettle this community outside of Iraq, and end this cycle of ongoing terror attacks." Seven Ashraf hostages? Nouri's government denied they existed but they did and do. Last week, UNHCR issued the following statement:
These seven are all known by UNHCR to be asylum-seekers, and the agency hopes to have an opportunity to interview them. In light of the numerous and persistent reports over the past week that these individuals may be at risk of forced return to Iran, UNHCR calls upon the Government of Iraq to locate them, to ensure their physical security, and to safeguard them against return to Iran against their will.
US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher issued a statement noting them and the continued attacks on the Ashraf community. He observed, "The refugees disarmed themselves with faith in U.S. Government guarantees of their safety. If we fail them, nobody will believe us again."
This morning, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on Iran and its nuclear ambitions (or perceived ones). Senator Robert Menendez is the Chair of the Committee. Senator Bob Corker is the Ranking Member. Appearing before the Committee today were two panels. The first panel was the State Dept's Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, the second panel was Washington Institute for Near East Policy's James Jeffrey (Jeffrey was also a US Ambassador to Iraq -- one of four in Barack's first term and don't forget failed nominee Brett McGurk), the Institute for Science and International Security's David Albright and the Council on Foreign Relation's Ray Takeyh.
From the first panel:
Senator John McCain: In the situation as it relates to the Camp Ashraf people, we know that they were Iranian dissidents. At one point, they were designated as a terrorist organization. But the United States government, it's true, gave them an assurance that if they moved [to Camp Liberty] they would be protected. We know that the Iranian influence has increased in, uh, in Iraq. In fact, we know now that Iraq is alive and well and doing extremely well moving back and forth across the two countries. Now there was a murder of, I believe, 51 people who were members of this camp and many of them had in their possession guarantees from the United States of America that they would not be harmed. What-what lessons -- First, are these facts true? And, second, if they are true, what message does that send to people who we say will be under our protection?
Wendy Sherman: Senator, uh, I share your, deep concern about what happened, uh, at Camp Ashraf. This was a vicious attack in September 1st and many lives were lost. And the US continues to press the government of Iraq at every opportunity, at very senior -- at the most senior levels to ensure the safety and security of residents at Camp Hurriya where many of the MEK were moved for better safety. We strongly and swiftly condemned the attack. We of course extend our condolences to the victims' families and we are working with the government of Iraq and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, UNAMI, to peacefully and voluntarily transfer the surviving residents to safety at Camp Hurriya on September 12th. And we are working for the protection of the people in Camp Hurriya because we do not want a repeat of this. So, to date, the government of Iran -- of Iraq has moved in over 700 large T-walls, over 500 bunkers, over 600 small T-walls and nearly 50,000 sandbags. UN monitors visit the camp daily in accordance with the MOU to asses human rights and humanitarian conditions. But I must say, Senator, the real answer to this, to the safety and security of all the people in the camps -- who wants to live in a camp? -- is resettlement to third countries to get out of Iraq and to get out of harms way. And I would call on all the people who are here today representing the rights and the interests of the MEK and the leaders of the MEK in the camps and in Paris, uh, to allow this resettlement to go forward because until the resettlement happens safety and security is going to be a risk. We will do everything in our power to keep people safe in these camps. But, as you point out, the al Qaeda threat is increasing in Iraq and it is difficult.
Senator John McCain: And I hope that this issue will be raised with the Iraqi government. And we in Congress may have to look at the kind of aid and how we are extending that to Iraq if this kind of thing is going to be countenanced by the Iraqi government. I don't -- I've used up all my time. And I thank you for your response.
Chair Robert Menendez: Before I turn to Senator [Edward] Markey let me echo what Senator McCain has said in this regard. And I put out a statement in this regard, I also talked to our Department. You know, America went to the MEK and we said, 'Disarm and we will protect you.' And then we ultimately left and that protection has not been there. You can put up I don't care how many tons of sand bags but when elements of the Iraqi forces actually may very well be complicit in what took place, sand bags aren't going to take care of the problem. And I agree with you that resettlement is a critical part. Maybe the United States could be part of leading the way in saying to a universe of these individuals that in fact you can be resettled to the United States. And that would get the rest of the world to offer further resettlement. But it is unacceptable to lose one more life when American commanders gave these individuals a written guarantee towards their safety. And it sends a message to others in the world that when we say we are going to do that and we do not, they should not trust us. And for one thing that this Committee can do since it has jurisdiction over all weapon sales is that I doubt very much that we are going to see any approval of any weapon sales to Iraq until we get this situation in a place where people's lives are safe.
First off, I counted at least 15 Ashraf supporters attending the hearing. (They wore yellow.) Second, I don't mean to be rude here, but why don't you know your facts?
We were at the hearing today because we knew there was a good chance that Ashraf would be raised. McCain and Menendez are among those who regularly raise the issue. So the State Dept should have known that as well.
Instead, it's like an AA meeting facilitated by someone who never did the steps. To answer McCain's two questions, she had to pull out 'The Big Book.' The State Dept cheat sheet. She was reading aloud and had no idea what she was quickly skimming. That's how she made this mistake:
We of course extend our condolences to the victims' families and we are working with the government of Iraq and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, UNAMI, to peacefully and voluntarily transfer the surviving residents to safety at Camp Hurriya on September 12th.
And "we are working" on something that took place September 12th? She had no idea until she finished her skimming while testifying that the US was not "working" because everyone had been moved out of Ashraf by the 12th.
She still didn't grasp what she'd read:
But I must say, Senator, the real answer to this, to the safety and security of all the people in the camps -- who wants to live in a camp? -- is resettlement to third countries to get out of Iraq and to get out of harms way.
"In the camps"? There's only one camp now, Camp Hurriya. Second, learn. Do your damn job and learn. It shouldn't be that damn difficult when you consider all the money US taxpayers are giving the State Dept to work in Iraq (only Afghanistan exceeds Iraq in terms of the State Dept's budget). Wendy Sherman showed up knowing nothing about the topic. "Who wants to live in a camp?"
Camp Ashraf was established decades ago. The residents didn't want to leave it. Not for Camp Hurriya, not to move anywhere else. It had become their home.
That's why the international press showed them with tears, the first group forced out. They were crying because they were leaving their homes.
If you don't grasp that, you shouldn't be speaking on the topic on behalf of the US government.
Wendy Sherman doesn't want to live in a camp?
But Wendy Sherman isn't a Camp Ashraf resident nor is she every person on the face of the planet. Meaning? What she likes and doesn't like does not get reflected 100% across humanity. She needs to stop try to be the Voice of All People and instead learn some facts.
We're not done yet because she wasn't done yet showing her ignorance. She said, "We will do everything in our power to keep people safe in these camps. But, as you point out, the al Qaeda threat is increasing in Iraq and it is difficult." First off, no, the US government is not doing everything in its power. It could take some of the US forces (including the unit Barack sent in fall 2012) and have them protect Camp Hurriya. Or it could demand that United Nations security forces go in and protect the people of Hurriya.
Second of all, al Qaeda?
How stupid is Wendy Sherman?
She didn't have the brains to realize Ashraf would probably be an issue. Then she wants to blame al Qaeda?
It was most likely Nouri's forces. Barring that, it was fighters from Iran who were waived in.
If the State Dept is so stupid they think al Qaeda is in Iran, then the whole world's at risk.
al Qaeda in Iraq is a Sunni phenomenon (created by the Iraq War). The MEK are Shi'ites from Iran. The people who want them out of Iraq? Shi'ites. Not Sunnis. al Qaeda in Iraq has no interest in the 3,000 or so MEK. They're not upset that the MEK has been at war with the government of Iran. They don't care. It's not their battle.
Wendy Sherman needs to learn her facts before she next offers Congressional testimony. And here's a little clue for her bosses, tossing her the State Dept big book as a cheat sheet doesn't cover it. Here's another clue: Pay attention to members of Congress.
We quoted Senator Menendez's statement in full when it was released -- that wasn't even a month ago. How did the State Dept miss that statement on Iraq? And what fool didn't realize that Senator Robert Menendez is Committee Chair Robert Menendez of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee? That used to be chaired by John Kerry, who is now over the State Dept, so I would think there would be a level of awareness. This is the Committee that provides oversight of the State Dept.
Wendy Sherman was an embarrassment. Part of that's not her fault. State Dept witnesses have gotten so lax and -- like Wendy today -- are more concerned with snapping a variation of 'let me finish speaking' then of knowing the basic facts. That's something to be addressed department wide by the Secretary of State (Kerry). But going into that hearing she should have some awareness that Iraq -- Iran's neighbor -- would likely come up as a topic in the hearing.
Equally true, 7 Ashraf residents remain missing. The US government -- including the State Dept -- believes Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister and chief thug in Iraq, has them in one of his secret prisons. The UN has called on him to release them. But, as Alsumaria has repored, Nouri has issued a statement declaring his security forces were not holding any hostages. He denies they exist. That's 7 people the US government swore it would protect. And Wendy Sherman didn't think this topic would come up?
Let's go back to Chair Menendez for just a moment.
Chair Robert Menendez: And for one thing that this Committee can do since it has jurisdiction over all weapon sales is that I doubt very much that we are going to see any approval of any weapon sales to Iraq until we get this situation in a place where people's lives are safe.
On the US and Iraq and weapons, John Hudson (Foreign Policy) reports today that Iraq will not get the US drones that the Iraqi government has been calling for:
Though neither Iraqi nor U.S. officials will say who called off the drones, it's no secret who began discussing them in the first place. In an August 17 trip to Washington, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters that Baghdad is seeking U.S. advisers, air surveillance or drone strikes to combat al-Qaeda's grip on the country. "We cannot fight these increasing terrorist" threats alone, he said. Speaking of drone strikes specifically, he said as long as they were used to "target al-Qaeda and their bases," without "collateral damage," Iraqis would welcome them.
That same month, Iraqi ambassador to the U.S. Iraq Lukman Faily reiterated Iraq's interest in drones. "The reason we're now considering drone support is because we need to get better control of the sky so we can track and destroy al-Qaeda camps in the country," Faily told The Cable.
It's not hard to understand why they'd be interested in the unmanned aircraft. On Monday, the detonation of 15 car bombs in Baghdad left dozens dead in an event that would've shocked any other country not embroiled in a civil war. However, in Iraq, it was only the 38th such atrocity in the last 12 months. In 2013 alone, Iraq is averaging 68 car bombings a month. The United Nations reports that 5,740 civilians were killed since January, which is almost two times more deaths than recorded in all of 2010.
Despite the staggering numbers, the U.S. isn't about to open up a new drone war in Iraq. "The use of lethal drones has not been discussed nor is it even under consideration for Iraq," an administration official tells The Cable.
Yesterday, in Iraq, two more helicopters were shot down (4 died in the first crash, none died in the second). The drones in question would be presumably be predator drones. Iraqi air space is already invaded by drones. First off, drones fly in from Turkey. Those may be Turkish drones or CIA drones. In Bully Boy Bush's second term, the Turkish government gave land for a CIA sub-station and got drones in return. The drones flying in Iraqi airspace may also be part of the CIA presence in Iraq or the US army's Special-Ops forces. In addition, the Iraqi press has quoted various Iraqi officials insisting that neighbor Saudi Arabia flies drones over Iraq.
Were Nouri's government to get predator drones from the US government, you can be sure they would be used to fire on people -- as opposed to mass arresting them -- and the world saw what he did with helicopters. A peaceful sit-in is taking place. The governor of Kirkuk tells Nouri his SWAT cannot enter the province so he avoids the roads and uses the helicopters (the /US supplied) to drop his SWAT in. And the result? That would be the April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija resulted from Nouri's federal forces storming in. Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk) announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault. AFP reported the death toll eventually (as some wounded died) rose to 53 dead. UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).
Though they won't be getting drones from the US (for now anyway), they are planning to send something into flight. Alsumaria reports Abdul Karim al-Samarrai, Minister of Science and Technology, states they will launch a satellite in April.
Oren Dorell (USA Today) reports, "While jihadi fighters spilling over from Syria's civil war are a major factor, the violence is also a result of unresolved political stress between Iraq's Shiite majority and a disillusioned Sunni minority, and shows that the USA needs to rebuild its influence in the country, especially with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said Kenneth Pollack, an analyst at the Brookings Institution." He quotes Pollack stating, "We've got to rebuild our influence with Iraq and restrain all the different sides. We need to get Maliki to make significant concessions and slowly push both sides to rebuild that deal we hammered out in 2008."
Turning to the violence, NINA notes a Mosul bombing claimed 2 lives and left six more people injured, police Lt Majid Anwar Ahemd's Falluja home was invaded leaving him injured, a police officer and a civilian were injured when their car was shot up in Shuhada, an Albu Faraj sticky bombing injured one police officer and three civilians, a Mosul roadside bombing left two Iraqi soldiers and one civilian injured, a bombing near Mosul General Hospital claimed the lives of 5 police officers and left three more injured, 2 Shabanks (wife and husband) were shot dead in Mosul, a Baquba sticky bombing injured one person, 2 border guards (Iraqi and Syrian border) were shot dead, a Baghdad football field bombing claimed 4 lives and left thirteen people injured, and police say they shot dead a suspected bomber in Mosul. Alsumaria notes the death toll from the football field bombing has risen to 5 (injured is 22) and they note the man in charge of the Mosul Office of Real Estate was shot dead in front of his home. Of the football field bombing, AFP points out, "The bombing in Madain, south of Baghdad, was just the latest in a string of attacks this year targeting young men playing Iraq's favourite sport."
There was also kidnapping news. All Iraq News notes that a group of farmers were kidnapped in Samarra. Why? They were said to have been cooperating with the federal police forces. The outlet also notes that kidnappers released some kidnapping victims today and they were then "transported to Tikrit where one of them has lost his mind due to severe torture and passed away when he arrived at the hospital," according to a police source.
On violence, Mustafa Habib (Niqash) reports:
Having lived through years of violence and war, many Iraqis didn’t believe the hype about the recent “summer of terror”. In general, they didn’t think there could be all-out sectarian war again so soon. But over the past few weeks this has changed: real signs of sectarian conflict are starting to emerge again, corpses are being left on streets, and ordinary Baghdadis are starting to worry.The Shiite Muslim family headed by local man, Abbas, lives in Sadr City, in Baghdad. Recently the family members have been watching TV news reports all about death, violence, murder, kidnapping and internal displacement in their country. Not that far away in the mainly Sunni Muslim neighbourhood of Saidiya, in southern Baghdad, the Sunni Muslim family headed by Mohammed, has been watching the same reports.
And despite their sectarian and social differences, the two families share one fear: that a sectarian conflict is about to start in Iraq again.
Both families have as much reason to fear this as any other Iraqi: A member of Abbas’ family was killed during the last round of sectarian violence when the family was living in the mostly Sunni Muslim area of Amiriya. Meanwhile Mohammed’s brother was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in 2006 – they still don’t know what happened to him but can only assume he was killed.
And Baghdadis in particular know about the signs of sectarian conflict. When violence erupted between 2006 and 2008 between Shiite Muslims and Sunni Muslims, Baghdad was at the centre of much of the unrest because of the variety of different sects and ethnicities resident here.
For months now, Iraq has been being tormented by a wave of carefully coordinated bombs and terrorist attacks. Security forces appear to have been unable to stop these – recently one even went off in the mostly peaceful, semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. But although these events are clearly frightening and they terrorize the population, most locals have not believed they were leading to the start of a new sectarian conflict.
Still on violence, dropping back to the June 8, 2010 snapshot:
In November of last year, Rod Nordland (New York Times) explained the 'bomb detectors' in use in Iraq: "The small hand-held wand, with a telescopic antenna on a swivel, is being used at hundreds of checkpoints in Iraq. But the device works 'on the same principle as a Ouija board' -- the power of suggestion -- said a retired United States Air Force officer, Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, who described the wantd as nothing more than an explosive divining rod." They are the ADE 651s with a ticket price of between $16,500 and $60,000 and Iraq had bought over 1,500. More news came with arrests on January 22: "Caroline Hawley (BBC Newsnight -- link has text and video) reports that England has placed an export ban on the ADE-651 'bomb detector' -- a device that's cleaned Iraq's coffers of $85 million so far. Steven Morris (Guardian) follows up noting that, 'The managing director [Jim McCormick] of a British company that has been selling bomb-detecting equipment to security forces in Iraq was arrested on suspicion of fraud today'." From the January 25th snapshot:
Riyad Mohammed and Rod Norldand (New York Times) reported on Saturday that the reaction in Iraq was outrage from officials and they quote MP Ammar Tuma stating, "This company not only caused grave and massive losses of funds, but it has caused grave and massive losses of the lives of innocent Iraqi civilians, by the hundreds and thousands, from attacks that we thought we were immune to because we have this device." Despite the turn of events, the machines continue to be used in Iraq but 'now' an investigation into them will take place orded by Nouri. As opposed to months ago when they were first called into question. Muhanad Mohammed (Reuters) adds that members of Parliament were calling for an end to use of the machines on Saturday. Martin Chulov (Guardian) notes the US military has long -- and publicly -- decried the use of the machines, "The US military has been scathing, claiming the wands contained only a chip to detect theft from stores. The claim was based on a study released in June by US military scientists, using x-ray and laboratory analysis, which was passed on to Iraqi officials."
Today the BBC reports police raids took place at "Global Tech, of Kent, Grosvenor Scientific, in Devon, and Scandec, of Nottingham. Cash and hundreds of the devices have been seized, and a number of people are due to be interviewed under caution on suspicion of fraud." Michael Peel and Sylvia Pfeifer (Financial Times of London) add, "Colin Cowan, head of City police's overseas anti-corruption unit, said investigators were seeking further information from the public about the manufacture, sale and distribution of the devices. Det Supt Cowan said: 'We are concerned that these items present a real physical threat to anyone who may rely on such a device for protection'."
The next big news on the 'magic' wands was in the May 2nd (May 2, 2013) snapshot:
The wands didn't work, they were never going to work. The liar who sold them, and got rich off them, James McCormick, was convicted last month. Robert Booth and Meirion Jones (Guardian) report, "A jury at the Old Bailey found Jim McCormick, 57, from near Taunton, Somerset, guilty on three counts of fraud over a scam that included the sale of £55m of devices based on a novelty golfball finder to Iraq. They were installed at checkpoints in Baghdad through which car bombs and suicide bombers passed, killing hundreds of civilians. Last month they remained in use at checkpoints across the Iraqi capital." Today, Jake Ryan (Sun) reports, McCormick, who is 57, was sentenced to a "maximum ten years today."
Robert Booth (Guardian) notes Saad al-Muttalibi ("adviser to Nouri al-Maliki) is insisting Nouri's considering suing on behalf of the victims. Actually, the families of the victims should be suing Nouri for allowing those things to be used for the last years, even after the wands were globally revealed to be a joke. The Belfast Telegraph notes that McCormick "showed no reaction as he was told his 'callous confidence trick' was the worst fraud imaginable." Jake Ryan quotes Judge Richard Hone stating, "The device was useless, the profit outrageous and your culpability as a fraudster has to be placed in the highest category. Your profits were obscene. You have neither insight, shame or any sense of remorse."
As we have repeatedly noted, Nouri can't sue. He doesn't have standing. Victims may be able to but Nouri would also be named in the suit. He would be sued along with McCormick. That's because even after the conviction, the wands continued to be used. In fact, they're still in use today.
The Press Association notes today:
The fake detectors were still being used at checkpoints in Iraq as recently as two days ago, when a wave of car bombs struck Baghdad, killing 55 people, the Independent reported.
The paper said more than 4,500 people had been killed in Iraq since McCormick's conviction in April.
The Iraqi government had promised the devices would be phased out and replaced by sniffer dogs, but only two provinces in the south of the country have so far installed canine units, the newspaper reported.
Iraqi officials are reported to have complained that contradictory statements have been made to them from the government, leading to delays in the fake devices being banned.
A schoolteacher who witnessed one of Monday's explosions said: "I went through one checkpoint on the way in [to Sadr City] where they had the detectors just before the bombing.
"They look like wands and they are supposed to bend when they spot a bomb. But they are useless, everyone knows that."
That's on Nouri al-Maliki. And it's not minor.
When a leader of a country puts the people at risk as a result of a fake security device? He needs to be sued, he needs to be impeached. He is unfit for office.
For elections to be held in 2014, a law has to be passed. Iraq is supposed to hold elections in 2014, parliamentary elections. The last ones were in March 2010.
That's not how it was supposed to be. They were actually supposed to take place in 2009. But they failed to pass the election law on time. And what they did pass was unfair so Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi used his veto right to stop the law. What was unfair? The Iraqi government made the decision that Iraiq exiles and refugees outside of Iraq could vote. But they were doing a lousy job with polling stations in the areas that Sunni refugees immediately fled (at that time: Syria, Jordan and Lebanon). al-Hashemi saw this as an attempt to disenfranchise a group of people and stopped the law. (He did give consent in time for a new law to be passed, however, the Parliament couldn't get it together to do so in time.) Under Nouri nothing happens on time. Each election brings more problems than the one before. And it would be so nice if, for once, the Iraqi High Electoral Committee and the United Nations Assistance Missionfor Iraq were not having to scramble at the last minute. (The UN and IHEC need at least three months lead time to prepare for a national election.) Sunday, September 29th, UNAMI released the following:
Baghdad, 29 September 2013 – The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, today met with the Parliament Speaker, Mr. Usama Al-Nujeifi, as well as with heads of several political blocs at the Council of Representatives. كوردى
“I urge all political leaders to reach a compromise on the adoption of the draft election law as soon as possible, and to make sure that Iraq adheres to the electoral calendar, according to the constitutionally stipulated timeframe,” Mr. Mladenov said. “The United Nations will continue to work with all political blocs and entities to facilitate reaching an agreement on the draft election law, and will continue supporting the electoral process”, he concluded.
All Iraq News reports that not only did the Parliament not pass an election law today, they're not going to take up the issue again until Monday. Ayad al-Tamimi (Al Mada) reports that the Legal Committee met and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi participated in the meeting where it was discussed that the election would take place in all 18 provinces and the Kurdistan Alliance is saying the compensatory seats have to be based on voter turnout. Amjad Salah and Ammar al-Ani (Alsumaria) repors on this objection as well.
It's not just that group or just that issue. Ghassan Hamed and Muhannad Mohammad (Alsumaria) speak with an MP from Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc, Hakem al-Zamili, who reveals it's more than one group and that, if the delays continue, the Sadr bloc is happy to go public about who is blocking the vote. It may not seem like a big deal right now. Three months heads up, not that big. But I remember August 2009. And how it wasn't going to be a big deal for the legislation to be passed then either. But it took months. Plural. This is nonsense. These matters are left until the last minute. The Iraqi people don't deserve this and shouldn't accept it.
On the topic of oil, Ben Lando's latest article at Iraq Oil Report is entitled "September exports down by 500K bpd." Today Rudaw covers the topic as well:
Last year, for the first time since 1989, Iraq’s monthly oil production was able to surpass Iran’s production quota inside the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Iraqi monthly oil production export hit a high of 2.7 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2012, while Iran’s fell from 2.2 million in 2011 to a low of 1.5 million in 2012. This was largely due to tightened US and international sanctions.
Many thought that Iraq had become a stable oil producing country in the region, but one year after achieving the higher production rates Iraq once again became an unreliable source of oil. Production was again down to 2.3 million bpd by July this year.
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