Monday, December 09, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Monday, December 9, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's two terms as prime minister have accomplished nothing for Iraq, but his son has profited, we explore when a State of Law defection is not a 'defection,' Ahmed Chalabi thinks he knows who should be Iraq's next president, questions continue to swirl around Iraq's current or 'current' president, and more.

All Iraq News reports that Ammar al-Hakim, head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, has declared that the security situation in Iraq has grown worse due to the fact that, "Some officials have assumed some security key posts by paying bribes which resulted in disturbing the security situation."  It's difficult to see the comment as anything but a criticism of Nouri al-Maliki, chief thug and prime minister of Iraq, since Nouri is not only prime minister but the head of all security ministries as a result of his power grab and refusal to obey the Constitution.

Regardless of whether bribes were involved or not, when you've made yourself  Minister of Defense (military) and Minister of Interior (police), you've made yourself responsible for any increase in violence.  So the 309 violent deaths for the month so far?  That would be on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, on Minister of Defense Nouri al-Maliki and on Minister of Interior Nouri al-Maliki.

December 4th, Nouri suffered a high profile defection from his State of Law coalition as the head of SoL in Parliament, MP Izzat al-Shahbandar, announced his resignation and declared Nouri had turned SoL "into a sectarian coalition."  State of Law finally found a response today.  All Iraq News reports MP Maryam al-Rayis offered that State of Law was used to "politician who always change their political stances and relase contradicted statements."  Of course they got used to it -- Nouri's the head of State of Law.  Meanwhile Alsumaria reports that MP Sami al-Askari is going to great pains to insist that he has not also left State of Law.  He states he and Nouri remain tight, their relationship is "good" and he's not leaving State of Law.  Yes, he's formed State of Loyal, a group to run in the upcoming parliamentary elections.  Yes, that means he is not running for re-election as part of State of Law.  But that doesn't mean, he insists, that he's left or deserted State of Law.  Again, not running with them, created new group to stand apart from them, but -- he insists -- this departure should not be seen as a departure.  Apparently, like Ross with Rachel, they are on a break.

The Kurdish Globe reports:

At least 2, 461 people have participated in an opinion poll which launched by Kurdistan Institution for Political Affairs. The poll contained different questions to evaluate the performance of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Iraqi institutions.
The participants took part across the Kurdistan Region?s cities. They were from different social class models.
The result of the poll shows that around 70 percent of the Kurdish people have no confidence in the Iraqi federal government.
At least 77 percent of the voters said that they have confidence in Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani.

In September, the three provinces in the Kurdistan Regional Government (northern Iraq's semi-autonomous region) held provincial elections and, in  "The KRG elections" at Third, Jim and I discussed those elections:

Jim: Right.  But to me the more interesting thing was the KDP's success.

C.I.: Why is that?

Jim: The press has said repeatedly that Massoud Barzani has overstepped his bounds, that he's unpopular, etc.  And you've argued differently for two years now.  If you were wrong, KDP wouldn't be in the lead.

C.I.: I don't know where the nonsense on Barzani got started.  He's very popular.  The press has always insisted that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is popular. He's also a Kurd -- like Barzani -- and he heads what had been the other dominant party, the Patriotic Union Kurdistan.

Jim: That's right.  Going into this election, it was a two party race.  The PUK and the KDP were the dominant political parties in the KRG -- like the Democrats and the Republicans in the US.  With the results of Saturday's elections, that has now changed.

C.I.: Right.  Gorran is now one of the two dominant parties.

Jim: But back to Barzani.  The press, Joel Wing and so many others kept insisting that Barzani was passe, over, loathed, etc.  But his party got the most votes.

C.I.: Well, first of all, he's the head of the party.  Voters voted for the party.  I don't know that you can extrapolate that he's very popular just from the results of this election.  But I do think that if he was as unpopular as many in the press have tried to pretend.  If he were, I would argue, he would have dragged the KDP down and they would not have won the most votes.

FYI, Joel Wing got his panties in a wad over Jim's remarks and then got his panties in a tighter wad when Jim referred Joel to Joel's own writing that backed Jim up. To be clear, no one needs to hear from Joel in an e-mail.  There are many that Jim's ignoring because when you say, "You wrote it here" and provide a link, the next e-mail from Joel needs to "My bad, my mistake" not more crazy justifying rants.  Again, no one needs an e-mail from Joel.

The poll demonstrates the popularity of Barzani.  Those who spent the bulk of 2012 and 2013 insisting Barzani was unpopular -- with no evidence to back it up -- might need to recalibrate.  We'll come back to Barzani.  The 70% that lack confidence in Nouri's government?

The Kurds have many issues with the federal government including who has the right to claim Kirkuk, federal monies and control of their region's own oil.  These are issues that Iraqis in the other 14 provinces (let's ignore Kirkuk Province since Nouri has) don't have.  So you could argue Nouri's popularity could be much higher in the 14 provinces.  But it's also true that being semi-autonomous means the Kurds are far less wrapped up in Nouri's daily failures.  So disapproval of Nouri's government in the fourteen other provinces could be high -- even if not as high as 70%.

I'd argue it is high.  2010 revealed strong disappointment with Nouri al-Maliki as evidenced by the votes in the 2010 parliamentary election which Nouri's State of Law lost.

What's taken place since 2010?

For one thing, violence has increased.  Dramatically.  The Iraqi people are surely not pleased about that and no doubt blame Nouri as well as the Minister of Defense and the Minister of Interior and . . .  Oops.  Back in July 2012, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."  Those positions were supposed to be filled -- per the Constitution -- by the end of December 2010.  Three years later and they still aren't.  Because Nouri wanted to make a power grab and steal those positions -- which he did.  He is the Minister of the Interior (police) and the Minister of Defense (military).  So he is completely and 100% responsible for the security and he has failed.

Paul Crompton (Al Arabiya News) reports today:

Iraq’s fragile government is not doing enough to support foreign investment and businesses, which face an ongoing battle against corruption and bureaucracy, experts say.

The World Bank’s annual Doing Business Report, which measures business regulations worldwide, put Iraq near the bottom of the list in their 2012 report, just three spaces above Afghanistan.

Yes, there's the issue of corruption.  Iraq remains one of the most corrupt countries in the world.  In 2012, Transparency International ranked 177 countries, the higher up the list, the more transparent and less corrupt you were.  In 2012, out of 177 countries, Iraq came in at 169 -- 168 countries in the world were more transparent than Iraq.  This month, Transparency International released their latest rankings.  You might think nothing could be worse for Iraq than being 168 on a list of transparent countries.  You would be wrong.  It has now fallen to 171 out of 177.  Only six countries in the world are considered more corrupt than Iraq (Libya, South Sudan, Sudan, Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia).  Corruption just gets worse in Iraq.

Those with longer memories may remember the early 2011 protests in Iraq -- taking place while the media focused on Egypt and other countries.  Nouri, fearing that he would be overthrown by the Iraqi people, announced he would not seek a third term.  He's now going for a third term -- his word is meaningless -- and just visited Iran to get the support of officials there.  Cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr has stated Iraq does not need a third term of Nouri.  Aswat al-Iraq reported Saturday that Iraqiya weighed in, "In a statement today, the bloc pointed out that Iraq lived for eight years in a state where political visions are absent and bad deteriorated security condition, in addition to corruption."

In early 2011, Nouri promised not to seek a third term and he promised that if the people would give him 100 days he would end the corruption.  He was never going to end the corruption -- he's part of the corruption.  He's stealing money from the government -- from the Iraqi people, it's their money.  He lived in near poverty when he lobbied the US government to invade Iraq back in those years when he fled Iraq.

Yet now, he and his family are rolling in the dough.  As noted at CNN  last year:

Iraq’s Kurdistan Democratic Party’s official newspaper, Khebat, revealed that Nouri Maliki’s son has expensed over $150 million of the Iraqi people’s assets purchasing castles and hotels in foreign countries. The newspaper wrote quoting a source: After his father became Chairman of the Dawa Party, Ahmed Nouri al-Maliki purchased the Marry Anderson Castle in London for a price of £40 million. In addition, he purchased the Seyedeh Zainab Ambassador Hotel in Damascus at a price of $35 million, and is now purchasing the Ajmon Ambassador Hotel at a price of $75 million.
The source added that Ahmed Nouri al-Maliki has purchased an 85 thousand square meter land in front of the Zainab Hotel for $52 million.
Iraq’s Kurdistan Democratic Party’s official newspaper, Khebat, added: Iraqis who live with power outages and no public services, and while a day doesn’t go by that a number of people don’t lose their lives as a result of explosions, ask the Maliki government: Where does Maliki’s son bring all this money from?

When a video posted to YouTube exposed the lavish lifestyle Ahmed was living in London, YouTube was ordered to take it down by the government of Iraq.  And being the cowards that they are, YouTube did remove the video.  And it's description.

Fortunately, we'd noted the video and its description prior to that so we can still include the description that Nouri's government demanded YouTube censor:

In this short video, Ahmed, the gangster son of one of the world's most corrupt leaders Nuri Al-Maliki, drives his Ferrari around central London, while he was on a �200 million property spending spree with Iraq's money. Ahmed was of course cleared of all charges in a huge corruption case involving Iraqi Government procurement of Russian arms in 2012. 
Nuri Al-Maliki is known to own numerous several properties and a hotel in the UK, and has long been rumoured to be planning to live here when his time as the chief bribe taker in Iraq is over.
He also owns the Seyedeh Zainab Ambassador hotel in Damascus.
London is the natural home of blood soaked African warlords, Russian gangsters/Oligarchs, and of corrupt Middle Eastern despots, and their offspring.
Iraqi puppet leader Nuri Al-Maliki's gangster son Ahmed is spending the Iraqi people's money very wisely
Iraqi puppet leader Nuri Al-Maliki's gangster son Ahmed is spending the Iraqi people's money very wisely
Iraqi puppet leader Nuri Al-Maliki's gangster son Ahmed is spending the Iraqi people's money very wisely
Iraq,Corruption,Bribery,,London,London,C­ity of,United Kingdom (UK/GB)

You need to ask yourself how Nouri's son can afford a Ferrari, let alone all the other stuff.  Nouri  was a pauper in exile.  He was the outside of Iraq 'head' of Iraq's Dawa political party but that wasn't a money making position.  Dawa's efforts were focused on overthrowing Saddam Hussein.  That's where the focus was and that's what the limited money was focused on.  Nouri, his wife Fareeha Khalil and their five children lived at near poverty levels in Iran, Syria and Jordan.   Not all exiles struggled economically.  Some had money they earned, some had family money.  Nouri had nothing.  Which is why the press didn't note his efforts prior to 2003 (or, really, until Bully Boy Bush installed him as prime minister in 2006).  Exile Ahmed Chalabi, for example, had money.  (Some of which came from questionable means -- at one point, he was facing charges in Jordan, those charges were dropped.)  And the press sucked up to Chalabi.

But Nouri had nothing.  And his son's driving a Ferrari in England and buying properties?  Where'd the money come from?

In October, Peg Mackey (Reuters) reported, "Production of nearly 3 million bpd earned Baghdad $94 billion in 2012 and netted $61 billion in the first eight months of this year."

Where all the billions go, no one can answer.  Nouri's head of the government and he can't -- Excuse me, he won't say where the money is going. It's not going to the Iraqi people.  But Nouri's son, when not terrorizing Iraqi people by attacking them in their homes, zips around in pricey cars.

Where are the jobs?

In November on Here and Now (NPR -- link is audio and text), Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson spoke with the BBC's Hadya al-Alawi about Iraq.

Hadya al-Alawi: I mean, how can I explain that life there is terrible? There is no electricity, and it's boiling hot in Iraq at this time. There is no water. The basic, main services are not provided in the country. I mean, security is very important. How can you go out about your daily life without knowing that you can come back, actually, to your kids at night? Or how can you go to work thinking I'm going to die today in an explosion, for example?

In March, Lara Jakes (AP) reported, "An estimated 18 million people of Iraq's population of 30 million are younger than 25, according to data provided by the CIA and the United Nations. [. . .] Unemployment remains high among young Iraqis.  Only 46 percent of people aged 25 to 30 had jobs in 2009, the government study showed."

The announcement that only 6.4 million lived below the poverty line (announced at the end of August) really wasn't good news.  6.4 million would be approximately 1/5 of the country's population -- living below the poverty line.  That ignores all living at poverty level.

We've long pointed out Iraq's young population and how it effects politics.  We'll note it again.  Nouri's State of Law repeatedly loses the youth vote.  That only increases each election.  It's why Nouri's remained silent about the voter registration efforts while other Iraqi leaders like Moqtada al-Sadr, Ammar al-Hakim and Ayad Allawi have repeatedly issued statements urging people to register for the upcoming elections (Allawi even taped a video PSA on the issue).  Every year, 800,000 young people become eligible to vote in Iraq.  It's in Nouri's interest to make sure they don't.  He does best with reactionary voters on the far end of middle age.

Let's go back to Barzani.  His opposition to Nouri has made him a significant figure on the world stage.  It's increased his popularity in the KRG and throughout Iraq.  So it's not a big surprise that  Ahmed Chalabi told All Iraq News that KRG President Massoud Barzani would make a great president for Iraq.

That's not surprising.  Chalabi likes to make alliances with power players and Barzani is one.  And he's the strongest choice for President of Iraq.  Dropping back to the November 15th snapshot:

In 2014, Iraq's supposed to hold Parliamentary elections.  This will mean, among other things (if elections are held), that someone will be selected to be President of Iraq.
The KDP is coming off a huge victory and KRG President Massoud Barazani is looking for the next post to tackle.  What if that post is the Iraqi presidency?  Which would see him resign as the KRG President and possibly upgrade his nephew, the current prime minister of the KRG, into the post of presidency?

[. . .]
Barzani's got two years tacked on to his presidency of the KRG.  That's 2014 and 2015.  Then what?
He can't have a third term (the two years tacked on was consolation for the fact that, during his first term, the law was passed limiting the office to two terms).  He has an international presence.
Hoshyar Zebari's a joke.  Even his own party, PUK, is now lukewarm on him and that's before he attempted to stab the Talabani family in the back.
A Kurd as prime minister of Iraq?  Not happening in 2014.  So that leaves the presidency or Speaker of Parliament and, of the two, the presidency has more prestige.
And the Kurds consider it their position.  Talabani  insisted to US Vice President Joe Biden (in the fall of 2010) that the presidency belonged to the Kurds.  (Talabani was being asked to step aside and let Ayad Allawi take the post since his Iraqiya got the most votes and since the US government would not allow Allawi to be prime minister because they were backing Nouri.)
If it's a Kurdish position, Barzani would be the most likely choice to fill it.

Iraq's Constitution requires that the government have a president.  Yet they currently have no president.

Jalal Talabani is the President of Iraq.  Or he's supposed to be.  The question continues to be: Can you be the president of a country you're not in?  Last December,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.  At least as far as anyone knows.

Or 'knows.'

Because no one knows.

The Talabani family has hidden him away and refused to allow various government officials to meet with him (including Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi). reports, "The leader in Kurdistan Alliance, Dr Mahmoud Othman, an independent member said on Sunday, that the absence of President, Jalal Talabani for a full year impacted Iraq and the Kurds, noting that Talabani is still alive, criticizing the way of not declaring anything about him and his health. Mysteriously ill Talabani had suffered from a stroke mid-of last December and since then he was transferred to a hospital in Germany for treatment then disappeared."  Othman 'knows' based on what?  Has he suddenly met with Jalal?

Jalal may be alive, he may be dead -- no one but his family knows -- and his medical team.  All Iraq News reports that the "Governor of Kirkuk and the physician of the Iraqi President Jalal Talabani" isued a statement denying any statements have been made by them and this is in response to rumors that Jalal or his corpse has been moved from the German hospital.

The reported violence kicked off today with, as NINA reported, an attempt to storm Anbar Province's Karmeh police station.  The assault left 1 police officer dead and another injured.

NINA also notes a Baquba car bombing claimed 4 lives and left ten more injured, a Haditha roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left two more injured,  and 2 police officers shot dead in Mosul. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports a Burhiz bombing which claimed 12 lives and left twenty-four injured.  Reuters adds the bombing was near a cafe frequented by Sahwa and quotes bombing victim Ahmed Saied stating,  "I opened my eyes minutes later and dust covered the place.  Many cars were burning and shrapnel was everywhere.  While police were evacuating me, I saw many killed and wounded people at the scene."  BBC News adds, "A roadside bomb exploded near a market in Baghdad's eastern Besmaya district, killing at least two people, officials said.  In a village just north of Baghdad, a car bomb killed three police officers and wounded nine others."

That's 25 reported deaths and 46 reported injured.

On the above reported violence, the Reuters story?  Sylvia Westall and Alistair Lyon were among the journalists responsible.  There's also "a Reuters reporter in Baquba" -- throughout the illegal war, journalists have been at risk -- especially Iraqi journalists.  It's why one of the finest reporters to cover Iraq was Sahar Issa.  The Iraqi female worked for McClatchy Newspapers for many years (until McClatchy lost interest in Iraq) and Sahar Issa is her work name, not her real name.  Like many other Iraqi correspondents, she couldn't use her real name due to safety concerns (for herself, her children, her whole family).

Things are getting worse with more harassment of Iraqi journalists by Nouri's forces.  Let's again note  Aswat al-Iraq November 30th report:

Press Freedoms Observatory reported that the Iraqi police are "pressing" journalists to "sign written pledges not to practice their field work", as well as detaining them for hours in Najaf and Missan cities. 
 Baghdadiya correspondent in Najaf Rasha al-Abidi said to the Observatory that she "suffered reactions by the people when covering the latest floods in the city". 
 She added that one of police officers demanded her to sign a written pledge not to work in journalism "for good" in order to release her, but she refused till some personalities interfered for her release, while her camera was kept with the security force.   

Reporting today on yesterday's violence, Rudaw notes:

In a different incident, a hand grenade was hurled into the home of Kawez Parwez, a Kurdish journalist in Kirkuk working for Zagros TV, which belongs to the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Kirkuk. 
 "I was sitting at home when it happened and I was slightly hurt by smashed glass from a window,” Parwez told Rudaw by telephone. "I don't have any personal feud or social issues with anyone," he added. 
The attacks came only days after the murder of Kurdish journalist Kawa Garmiyani, the 32-year-old editor-in-chief of Rayalla magazine, who was shot dead in the town of Kalar in Iraqi Kurdistan on Thursday.

On yesterday's violence, Iraq Body Count notes 58 violent deaths yesterday and that Sunday's violence brought the number of violent deaths for the month so far to 284.  Adding the 25 so far today, there have been 309 violent deaths for the month so far -- and it's not even the half-way mark.

We're about to wind down.  Didn't see your own issue highlighted?  I'm not spending forever on these snapshots.

But I e-mailed  the public e-mail account!

Did you?

Did you also include an attachment?

Despite the fact that we've said for years that we don't and we won't open attachments?

How many more times do we have to say that?

Your issue might have made today's snapshot.  But three of you sent attachments and I'm hoping that tomorrow you will have re-sent without attachments. No one working the public account is going to open attachments.

Maybe you're one of the 25 who sent their own writing?

Normally that's fine.

But the 25 I'm talking about?

You didn't include links.  You didn't note where you were published.  Googling by me and nine others couldn't find your writing online.  We don't have that kind of time.  If you want to be highlighted, include the link.  And stop sending the Bully Boy Bush pieces.  I'm not interested.

I'm kind of embarrassed for you that in 2013 you think the height of bravery is calling out Bully Boy Bush.  Wow, I guess I qualify for a Profile In Courage -- not for this site but for flipping the bird to an enraged Dick Cheney while he was running the country.

Life has moved on.   Can you?

Bully Boy Bush is a War Criminal.  I don't pretend otherwise.  He's also not the most important thing to Iraq or even the world in 2013.  Life does move on.

We'll close with an important issue, an actual one, freeing a political prisoner.  US political prisoner Lynne Stewart,   was eventually tossed in prison.  The 'crime' happened on Attorney General Janet Reno's watch.  Reno has her detractors who think she was far too tough as Attorney General.  She also has her supporters who see her as a moderate.  No one saw her as 'soft.'  Reno had her Justice Department review what happened.  There was no talk of a trial because there was no crime.  No law was broken.  The Justice Department imposes guidelines -- not written by Congress, so not laws -- on attorneys.  Lynne was made to review the guidelines and told not to break it again.  That was her 'punishment' under Janet Reno.  Bully Boy Bush comes into office and the already decided incident becomes a way for Attorney General John Ashcroft to try to build a name for himself. He goes on David Letterman's show to announce, after 9-11, that they're prosecuting Lynne for terrorism.

Eventually tossed in prison?  Even Bully Boy Bush allowed Lynne to remain out on appeal.  It's only when Barack Obama becomes president that Lynne gets tossed in prison.  It's only under Barack that the US Justice Depart disputes the judge's sentence and demands a harsher one (under the original sentence Lynne would be out now).  Lynne's cancer has returned.

She needs to be home with her family.  Her time is limited and it needs to be spent with her loved ones.  Lynne's a threat to no one -- not today, not ten years ago.  She's a 74-year-old grandmother who has dedicated her life to being there for people who would otherwise have no defenders.  Even now in prison, she shows compassion towards those who have had none for her.  Barack Obama needs to order her immediate release.  If he fails to do so, then it should be a permanent stain on his record.

“HELP BRING ME HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS” a life and death appeal from renowned people’s attorney Lynne Stewart.

“I need to ask once again for your assistance in forcing the Bureau of Prisons to grant my Compassionate Release. They have been stonewalling since August and my life expectancy, as per my cancer doctor, is down to 12 months. They know that I am fully qualified and that over 40,000 people have signed on to force them to do the right thing, which is to let me go home to my family and to receive advanced care in New York City.

“Yet they refuse to act. While this is entirely within the range of their politics and their cruelty to hold political prisoners until we have days to live before releasing us – witness Herman Wallace of Angola and Marilyn Buck – we are fighting not to permit this and call for a BIG push.”

Lynne Stewart, FMC Carswell

Take Action between now and the New Year. 
Telephone and send emails or other messages to Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Charles E. Samuels, Jr. and Attorney General Eric Holder.

CHARLES E. SAMUELS, Jr., Director Federal Bureau of Prisons
(202) 307-3250 or 3062;

(202) 353-1555;

Contact U.S. Embassies and Consulates in nations throughout the world

LET US CREATE A TIDAL WAVE OF EFFORT INTERNATIONALLY. Together, we can prevent the bureaucratic murder of Lynne Stewart.


In a new 237-page report entitled “A Living Death,” the American Civil Liberties Union documents unconstitutional practices permeating federal and state prisons in the United States.
Focused on life imprisonment without parole for minor offenses, the ACLU details conditions of 3,278 individual prisoners whose denial of release is deemed “a flagrant violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment” occurring on an increasing scale.
The ACLU labels the deliberate stonewalling as “willful,” a touchstone of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Department of Justice flagrant violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
These conclusions corroborate the findings of Human Rights Watch in 2012: “The Answer is ‘No’: Too Little Compassionate Release in U.S. Prisons.”
The Report is definitive in exposing arbitrary and illegal conduct that infuses every facet of the treatment accorded Lynne Stewart.
“…the Bureau has usurped the role of the courts. In fact, it is fair to say the jailers are acting as judges. Congress intended the sentencing judge, not the BOP to determine whether a prisoner should receive a sentence reduction.”
Lynne Stewart’s medical findings show less than twelve months to live as stipulated by her oncologist at FMC Carswell.

The Federal Bureau Prisons has failed to file the legally required motion declaring solely that the matter is “with the Department of Justice.”