Thursday, December 05, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, December 5, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's State of Law tries (and fails) to spin for him, the conflict between Nouri and cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr gets more attention, one journalist sees the upcoming election as a race between Nouri and Moqtada, Nelson Mandela has passed away, US President Barack Obama is caught in another lie, and more.

International inspiration, freedom fighter and world figure Nelson Mandela passed away today.  The Tavis Smiley Show (PBS) will explore the meaning of Mandela this evening:

In a tribute to Nelson Mandela, Tavis talks with activist-entertainer Harry Belafonte, Rep. Maxine Waters and talk show host Larry King, all of whose paths crossed with this extraordinary man, and also shares a personal memory of the then-ANC deputy president’s 1990 visit to Los Angeles.
Nelson Mandela dedicated his life to fighting for equality and helped transform the future of a nation. He moved the world when he became the first Black president in a part of the world engulfed by apartheid.
From a 27-year incarceration for his activities in South Africa's anti-apartheid movement to winning the Nobel Peace Prize, becoming president of the Republic of South Africa, spending his retirement years raising money to build schools and clinics in South Africa's rural areas and sharing his life and struggles in several books, Mandela proved that one man can make a difference. The world has lost a courageous and inspiring human being.
In a tribute to his life and legacy, we're joined by three people who have very personal remembrances of meeting the great man. Harry Belafonte—a tireless advocate for justice and equality in his own right—was a longtime friend and chaired the organization that introduced then-ANC Deputy President Mandela to the U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters first met Nelson Mandela in Los Angeles during his first visit to the United States. And, venerable talk show host Larry King had the privilege of interviewing President Mandela several times.

Next topic, are you an undocumented worker in the US?  Better hope you're related to the President of the United States.  As his aunt and uncle demonstrate, when you're related to him, even though you've been ordered out of the country, you get to stay.  Everybody else, the White House insists, get out.

In his first term alone, he deported over 1.4 billion people. Wednesday morning, Cedric's "He can't stop lying" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! HE LIES ABOUT EVERYTHING!" -- joint-post -- noted an interesting development in Onyango Obama's drunk driving case -- he told the judge that Barack lived with him for three weeks.  The White House had insisted, following Onyango Obama's 2011 drunk driving arrest, that Barack had never, ever met his uncle (the only brother of Barack Obama Sr.).

Well pop goes the weasel!

Here's how Jeff Mason (Reuters) rushes to cover for Barack:

President Barack Obama lived briefly with his Kenyan-born uncle while attending law school, the White House said on Thursday, reversing earlier statements that there was no record of the two men ever having met.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said he clarified the issue with the president directly after reports that Onyango Obama, who faced deportation from the United States, said he had housed his nephew temporarily.

I know about the drunk driving only through Cedric and Wally's previous coverage.  It's not an 'issue' I follow. But even I knew that the White House stated the two had never met.

You can be sure Barack Obama also knew the White House stated it.

Or is this another moment of, "Nobody told me!"

For two years, Barack let a lie stand.  For two years, he refused to correct the record.

And now he's only doing it because his uncle's remarks in court leaked out.

Maria Sacchetti (Boston Globe) reminds:

In November 2011, a White House spokesman said he had no record of the two ever meeting. The Washington Post had also reported that scholars believed the two had never met.
The White House never moved to correct the record, until the president’s famously private uncle took the witness stand in Boston immigration court two days ago.

It's a lie.

That's not, "Impeach him!  For lying!"  But don't pretend that it didn't happen.  I'd actually be more forgiving if we were told the clarification included a lie -- because this claim that he hadn't spoken to the man in 10 years and hadn't been face-to-face with him in 20?

That's disgusting.

Barack groupie Bruce Springsteen has a song entitled "Highway Patrolman" (first appears on Nebraska):

Yeah me and Frankie laughin' and drinkin'
Nothin' feels better than blood on blood
Takin' turns dancin' with Maria as the band
Played "Night of the Johnstown Flood"
I catch him when he's strayin' like any brother would
Man turns his back on his family well he just ain't no good.

Barack had no blood relatives on the mainland (Hawaii's not the mainland, love the state, have a home there, but it's not the mainland).  At that time or after.  So to have an uncle in Boston when Barack's living in Chicago and Barack has no contact with him?

That's disgusting.

Man turns his back on his family well he just ain't no good

Apparently 'Dreams of My Father' are safe because Daddy's dead but to have your father's brother alive?  You can use him when you're going to college but you have no desire to make your own living blood relative on the mainland part of your life?  That's really sad.

But the lying part?  To the American people, that's just unacceptable.  It's not crime, you can't be impeached for it.  But it's really sad that Barack is so unable to tell the truth.  As Rebecca observed last night, noting Bruce A. Dixon's audio commentary for Black Agenda Report about Barack and Attorney General Eric Holder's remarks versus actions, "they just never stop lying, this administration."

Again, his latest lie?  Not a crime, not an impeachable offense.  It does, however, go to pattern and it goes to character.  There's a reason he's polling so poorly and is considered untrustworthy. Maybe Ann Dumham didn't teach him Aesop's fable about The  Boy Who Cried Wolf?  Let's review it by way of a scene from season two of Kate & Allie, the "Rear Window" episode written by Stu Hample -- Susan Saint James played Kate, Jane Curtin played Allie and Fred Koehler played Chip.

Allie: Have you ever heard the story of the little boy who cried wolf?

Chip: Yeah, it's about a little boy who cried wolf.

Allie:  A shepherd.  The little shepherd went into the field one day and he got bored so he cried wolf.  And all the villagers came running.

Kate:  Right and when they saw there was no wolf, they got mad and they went home.

Allie:  And the next week, he went into the field again, and he got bored again and he cried wolf again

Kate:  And all the villagers came and when they saw there was no wolf there, they really got mad and went home again. 

Allie:  But the next time there really was a wolf.  And the little boy cried wolf but nobody came. And the wolf ate the little boy.  

In the wake of yesterday's NSA spying revelations, Barack wanted to vouch for the NSA in an interview today, wanted people to believe him.  Matthew Hoye (CNN) quotes Barack declaring, "I've said before and I will say it again, the N.S.A. actually does a very good job about not engaging in domestic surveillance, not reading people's emails, not- listening to their- the contents of their phone calls. Outside of our borders, the N.S.A.'s more aggressive."

He wants to be believed.

After "If you like your plan, you can keep it."  After misleading the American public with a tale of never having met his uncle.  After that and so much more, he wants to be believed.

It's not that easy.

The lies that you tell 
Will leave you alone
They'll keep you down
They'll catch you up and trip you up
Keep you hangin' around
-- "Love You By Heart," written by Carly Simon, Jacob Brackman and Libby Titus, first appears on Carly's Spy

Moving from Barack's statements to one by the US Embassy in Iraq today:

The U.S. Condemns December 4th Terrorist Attack in Kirkuk

December 5, 2013

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad strongly condemns the December 4 terrorist attack in Kirkuk in which dozens of people were killed or injured. The United States is committed in its support to the Government of Iraq in combating terrorism. We extend our sincere condolences to the families of the victims of the attack and hope for a rapid recovery of the injured.

AFP reports:

Security forces early Thursday ended an hours-long siege at a mall in the northern city of Kirkuk but not before militants killed nine people, security officials and medics said.
The attack Wednesday on the mall in the oil rich ethnic tinderbox city, which involved a car bomb and would-be suicide bombers, came amid a surge in unrest that has claimed more than 6,200 lives this year.

In other violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports a Mada'in roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left five people injured, a Qara-Tepeh bombing claimed 1 life and left two injured, 3 people (two college students, one Sahwa) were shot dead in Mosul, 1 college student was killed in another shooting in Mosul, 1 Shabak was shot dead in Mosul, 1 Ministry of Industry employee was shot dead in Baghdad, the corpses of 2 Sahwa were discovered in Baghdad, and "Gunmen, wearing military uniforms, assassinated on Thursday 5, Dec the police officer of Aski police station after storming his house on the night of one of his sons wedding, killing three others, including the groom."

Meanwhile Aswat al-Iraq notes that "200 Badush prison guards in Mosul" have resigned "due to assassinations and threats."

As noted at the Prime Minister's official website, Nouri al-Maliki, wrapping up his two day visit to Iran, met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

nouri iran

The visit comes amid increasing division within the governing Shi’ite coalition in Iraq. It follows an announcement by the Sadrist Bloc in Iraq’s parliament, led by Moqtada Al-Sadr, and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, led by Ammar Al-Hakim, of their intention to fight the next parliamentary elections on separate lists and open the door to new alliances in order to choose an alternative prime minister to Maliki.
Meanwhile, the State of Law Coalition, which Maliki leads, insisted on Maliki’s nomination for the premiership for a third term, a move rejected by the Sadrists and the Supreme Council.

Jawad Al-Jubouri, a member of the Sadrist Al-Ahrar Bloc, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The visit may seem like a state visit by a senior official, such as a prime minister, who is working on Iraqi international relations, especially with neighboring states. However, the problem is in the timing of the visit, because carrying out two visits in close succession to two important countries, the United States and Iran, makes observers suspicious.”

There are reports that he was rebuffed.  As Dar Addustour notes, his sudden visit follows cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr's announcement that Iranian authorities had decided they would not back Nouri for a third term.  Moqtada made those statements on the weekend.  On Monday, the media learned Nouri had decided to make a sudden trip to Iran.  He did not inform Parliament of the hastily cobbled together visit.

Harith Hasan (Al-Monitor) looks at the conflict between Nouri and Moqtada:

While the last Iraqi general election in 2010 revolved around the rivalry between the State of Law Coalition, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and the Iraqiya List, led by Ayad Allawi, the upcoming elections in April 2014 are more likely to be affected by the worsening conflict between Maliki and Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr. The latter has recently emerged as a major critic of the prime minister’s policies, even calling Maliki a dictator and advising him to not seek a third term.
With the disintegration of the Iraqiya bloc and the likelihood that the next election will be an intra-communal competition, Sadr and Maliki will compete to win the largest number of Shiite votes, despite the fact that they have different constituencies. Sadr’s support is concentrated in the poor and densely populated Shiite areas, while Maliki has succeeded in securing the support of a large segment of the military, state workers and a considerable segment of the Shiite middle class, in addition to the tribal support that he gained by co-opting some tribal leaders in the south.
However, this difference in support bases may be a reason for the intensification of the conflict between them. Unlike the Supreme Islamic Council, which is the third major Shiite force and which seems more cautious in its confrontation with Maliki, Sadr’s largely fortified constituency could secure enough votes to make him the kingmaker after the election. Sadr’s explicit opposition of Maliki’s attempts to secure a third term has made him a potential target in the premier’s survival tactics. 
Among the first manifestations of the early electoral conflict between the two sides was a Nov. 2 statement by Sadr criticizing Maliki’s recent visit to Washington as an attempt to win US support to remain at his post. Maliki’s office responded on Nov. 4 in an unusually harsh statement that accused Sadr’s militia of having been involved in the sectarian killings in Iraq during the past years and of collaborating with external powers against the Iraqi government. The statement threatened a harsh reprisal in the future should Sadr not change his behavior.
Later that month, Maliki ordered the arrest of a group belonging to Sadr’s Mahdi Army, which held a military parade in Diyala. Maliki’s move looked like another message that he would not be lenient with the Sadrists, but did not lead to a confrontation between the two sides because Sadr himself had denounced the group's actions and supported Maliki’s decision to arrest its members.
The significant step in that confrontation came with the issuance of two arrest warrants and one summons for three Sadrist parliament members on corruption charges. It was noteworthy that the three lawmakers are fierce critics of the Iraqi government and the prime minister’s policies.

Those dependent upon western media may be scratching their heads over the above events.  Dropping back to the November 4th snapshot:

The Iraq Times reports Nouri launched an unprecdented attack on Moqtada today declaring that he's trying to destroy the country, that he knows ("very well knows") who is carrying out the killings and sectarian warfare in Iraq.  All Iraq News adds that Nouri accused Moqtada of joining foreign countries in plotting against Iraq.  Alsumaria notes that Sadr MP Hossein Sharifi responded that Nouri enjoys hurling accusations at rivals to deflect from Nouri's own failures in leadership.

Nouri al-Maliki:  They also remember the honorable Iraqis who firmly and strongly confronted the terrorists particularly al - Qaeda and they also remember the control of Moqtada’s militia that fostered murder, kidnapping and theft in Basra, Karbala, Baghdad and other provinces .

Wasn't that cute of Nouri to bring up militias and to target Moqtada with militia smears.   Neither should happen. As Tim Arango (New York Times) reported last September, Nouri has armed Shi'ite militias to kill Sunnis in Iraq:

In supporting Asaib al-Haq, Mr. Maliki has apparently made the risky calculation that by backing some Shiite militias, even in secret, he can maintain control over the country’s restive Shiite population and, ultimately, retain power after the next national elections, which are scheduled for next year. Militiamen and residents of Shiite areas say members of Asaib al-Haq are given government badges and weapons and allowed freedom of movement by the security forces.

That group he's backing?  A rival of Moqtada al-Sadr's.

That's the attack Nouri launched, let's move over to the arrest warrants.  From Monday's snapshot:

Let's stay with political news out of Iraq.  All Iraq News reports today that arrest warrants have been issued against two members of Moqtada al-Sadr's parliamentary bloc -- MP Jawad al-Shihaili and Baha al-Araji.  al-Araji is charged with "damaging general properties" and al-Shihaili is charged with "stealing state's revenues."  These warrants come only after Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports MPs are accusing Nouri al-Maliki of misuse of state resources on his recent trip to Basra -- including, Moqtada's bloc pointed out, Nouri offering up land plots.  MPs see the visit as typical Nouri trying to bribe for votes but the difference this time is that a law's been passed to make this illegal.

Tuesday, NINA reported:

A member of the Parliamentary Committee on Integrity, MP for the Ahrar bloc Jawad al-Shayli accused the Dawa Party behind the arrest warrant issued against him.
He said, at a news conference in the House of Representatives today that the judiciary issued an arrest warrant against him and MP Jawad Hasnawi and a memorandum of bringing against the head’sbloc Bahaa al-Araji , accusing the Dawa Party of being behind it , with the aim of political targeting, comparing the work of the Dawa Party, now with Baath Party.
He added : "The warrant relating to charges in accordance with Article 316 of embezzlement of state funds , which means the money of the medical treatment, which he took from the House of Representatives ."
He said : "The MP, of the State of law, Khalid al-Attiyah took four times this expense ," wondering : "Why did not issue an arrest warrant against Al-Attiyah, and many MPs of state of law ," adding : "The aim of these warrants is political targeting ."

Dar Addustour reported yesterday that a judiciary source states the call for the arrests came personally from Nouri.

State of Law MP Ali Shala is trying very hard to spin for Nouri.  Sadly for Nouri, Shala doesn't know how to spin.  Rudaw reports:

Shala insisted that rumors about Maliki’s pursuit of a third term and securing Tehran’s support are baseless. “These are all propaganda and only the ballot boxes can decide on the next prime minister, not the neighboring countries,” he said.
 Iran, Iraq’s eastern neighbor, is a major power-broker in Iraq, exercising great influence through Sadr and other Shiite parties it supports. 
[. . .] the State of Law official said that the National Alliance, a broad-based Shiite coalition comprising Sadrists, the Iraqi Supreme Islamic Council and State of Law, would re-nominate Maliki for a third tenure.

Rumors of a third term are baseless?  But Shala says that Nouri's going to be nominated for a third term?

Okay, is the the third term attempt baseless or not?

At least there were no prominent defections from State of Law today, right?

Yesterday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki got some more bad news:

State of Law is the coalition Nouri created.  Today it's the coalition with a high profile defection.  Iraq Times notes that State of Law's leader in Parliament, Izzat al-Shahbandar, is the topic of speculation with rumors flying that he had resigned from State of Law.  Alsumaria then reported that they could confirm the resignation via multiple sources.  Hours later, All Iraq News noted Izzat al-Shahbander had publicly announced his resignation and declared, "The SLC [State of Law Coalition] turned into a sectarian coalition."  All Iraq News also noted that al-Shahbander met with cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr on Tuesday.  Kitabat quotes him stating that Nouri's positions and actions do not reflect his own beliefs and he cites Nouri's refusal to work with political opponents or to respect the ongoing sit-ins.
This is a major blow to Nouri.  It's a loss at a time when Nouri's personal prestige was already on the decline.  It's a loss that al-Shahbander and Moqtada can spin as 'the building of a new Iraq.'  The two were at odds for some time.  In fact, in 2011, the Sadr bloc was accusing al-Shahbander (and other State of Law MPs -- but they specifically named al-Shahbander) of procuring women for Nouri in the Green Zone. Now that can be put behind them, is the message, and the unity and good of Iraq can instead be embraced.

Mustafa Habib (Niqash) reports on the disintegration of Nouri's hold on State of Law:

As political parties prepare for upcoming general elections, some very important alliances are falling apart. Shiite Muslim parties allied in the current governing coalition led by PM Nouri-al-Maliki say they will campaign alone - and they won’t promise al-Maliki another term. Amid a surge in sectarian violence, could the country finally be entering a post-sectarian political era?  

Prominent Shiite Muslim politicians in Baghdad have confessed that there is one major reason why the previously strong alliance of Shiite Muslim parties is breaking up. This alliance was what allowed current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to form his ruling coalition, the State of Law bloc. But now, as political parties start negotiating partnerships and jockeying for position ahead of the upcoming general elections, scheduled for April 2014, the formerly strong Shiite Muslim alliances have fallen apart.

A special meeting was held in Baghdad on Nov. 18 at which all member parties of al-Maliki’s alliance were present. A statement was issued afterwards declaring, “Shiite Muslim parties are enthusiastic about competing in the coming elections together”. But this seems to have been spin: The reality on the ground is very different.

“The State of Law bloc has asked that all other parties that want to enter into an alliance with it agree ahead of elections that if they win, the future Prime Minister will come from the Dawa party and that that party will not nominate anyone other than Nouri al-Maliki,” a senior politician, who did not want to be named, told NIQASH. “This is why the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Sadrist bloc are avoiding any such alliance.”

The strongest Shiite Muslim parties in Iraq are al-Maliki’s Dawa party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, or ISCI, headed by cleric Ammar al-Hakim and the Sadrist bloc, headed by another cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. There are also other minor Shiite Muslim parties such as the National Reform Trend headed by former Prime Minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, and the Islamic Virtue Party, or Fadhila, headed by controversial Najaf-based cleric, Mohammed Musa al-Yaqoubi.

Both the Sadrist bloc and the ISCI seem firm about their intentions not to enter into an alliance with al-Maliki’s party again. Both al-Hakim and al-Sadr have been critical of al-Maliki’s government, with al-Sadr being very harsh, very publicly and al-Hakim tending to be quietly critical. 

Hamza Mustafa (Asharq al-Awsat) reports:

In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Hasnawi said: “There has been a political targeting of the Sadrist Movement and the Al-Ahrar bloc, particularly given that we are approaching the elections. The reason for this is to politically destroy opponents and harm their reputations, especially as the Al-Ahrar bloc is more active than others in raising corruption issues.”
“These are part of vengeful attempts against us which have become obvious to all,” he added.
Hasnawi accused Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki of being behind the issuance of the arrest warrants. He said: “The arrest warrants are dated and these cases have been closed for a long time. There is not a single one which is related to a new case, but there are judges who work as protectors for the prime minister who issue arrest warrants according to Maliki’s demands.”
“The arrest warrant against Baha Al-Araji is related to the Red Crescent issue, which was closed in 2008, and the warrant against Jawad Al-Shahili is related to the issue of MPs’ loans and he provided parliament with receipts,” the Sadrist Movement MP added.

He also accused MPs belonging to Maliki’s own State of Law coalition of corruption. He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “All these accusations are being made while there are still some State of Law Coalition MPs, such as Khalid Al-Attiyah, who spent much more on medical treatment and have not provided any official receipts.”