Reuters reports Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's website was hacked today by TeaM KuWaiT HaCkErS who posted a photo and a message: "You want to be like Bashar al-Assad. You are a destroyer. Bashar is finished and victory is very close. God help you sons of Iraq against the tyranny." AP describes the photo as "a picture of wailing black-clad women in mourning." Dar Addustour notes this is the second time in the last weeks that Nouri's website has been hacked and that the hack comes as Iraq already faces turmoil. AFP observes, "The discord comes amid weeks of demonstrations in Iraq's majority-Sunni north and west originally railing against the targeting of their community by the Shiite-led authorities but have increasingly called for the premier to go." Kamal Naama (Reuters) offers, "The protests are evolving in the most serious test yet for Maliki and his fragile government that splits posts among Shiites, Sunnis and ethnic Kurds, who were already deadlocked over how to share power for more than a year."
Yesterday Iraq saw the largest turnout yet for the ongoing weeks of protest. Alsumaria reports that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi appeared at an appearance today in Samarra that the government has begun the process of listening to the demonstrators. al-Nujaifi was flanked by government and tribal officials and, holding a microphone, spoke directly to those engaged in an ongoing sit-in. While al-Nujaifi was received with respect, another wasn't so lucky. Deputy Prime Minister of Energy Hussein al-Shahristani is seen as another powerless Nouri al-Maliki lacky. He was given time. In the middle of January, protesters met with him in Salahuddin Province and Anbar as well. But what followed was Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports that he wanted to speak in Mosul yesterday but the visit was officially called off due to "bad weather" when in fact, Mosul protesters and the local government had made clear that he was not welcome. Earlier this week, the demonstrators did agree to meet with Martin Kobler, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq. But then the United Nations has a better reputation in Iraq than does Nouri's State of Law political slate (al-Shahristani is a State of Law member).
The protests are fueled by many things but the moment the match hit the gas was when Nouri's forces targeted the staff of the Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi. Pakistan's The News explains, "The demonstrations were the latest in a wave of rallies that have continued largely uninterrupted since late December, sparked by the arrest of a group of guards of Finance Minister Rafa al-Essawi, a senior Sunni leader. Maliki faces myriad problems, including vocal opposition from many of his erstwhile government partners less than three months before key provincial elections. Iraqi authorities have taken several steps aimed at curbing the protests. " Al Mada reports that al-Issawi declared today that protesters will not leave the streets until their demands are met. That would be very smart, for protesters to grasp Nouri throws around empty promises very easily. They should demand solid results. Not only does All Iraq News report today that the Kurdistan Regional Government announces Nouri has gone back on his agreement with them regarding oil but there is also Nouri's long record of breaking one agreement after another ('give me 100 days and I will end corruption,' The Erbil Agreement, etc.). Al Mada notes he's once again promising that patience will allow for a dialogue. If people need more reason to doubt Nouri's sincerity, they can refer to All Iraq News' report that State of Law MP Salman al-Mousawi has delcared that all the demands by protesters are "unreal" and unrepresentative of the Iraqi people.
Violence today? Alsumaria reports 1 Sahwa shot dead in Samarra. All Iraq News notes a Mosul car bombing claimed the life of 1 man and left his two sons injured and, also in Mosul, 1 man was shot dead outside his home. AFP deserves credit for this brief article on how the Ministries of Defence, Health and Interior are saying only 177 people died from violence last month in Iraq but AFP's own count shows 246 dead. (A slightly longer version of the AFP report can be found here.)
Yesterday's snapshot noted the election of the Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, Archbishop Louis Sako. Harry Hagopian (Ekklesia) describes Sako as, "A renowned polyglot and relatively young at 65, he might help strengthen the ties between the Chaldean community within Iraq and the larger Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and those in the West -- some of whom were trying to transfer the Patriarchal See from its traditional location in Baghdad to the USA." AP quotes the Archbishop declaring yesterday, "I will do my best to serve the Iraqi people. I hope peace and security will prevail in my country." The election comes at a crucial time for Iraqi Christians. Matteo Fagotto (Toronto Star) reports:
The Iraqi Christian population has shrunk to between 300,000 and 500,000, down from a high of 1.3 million people in 1991, according to recent estimates, raising fears about the possible extinction of one of the most ancient Christian communities in the world.
A recent report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) shows that the number of displaced Christian families in the four northern governorates of Iraq (three of which are in Kurdistan) has decreased from 1,350 to fewer than 500 in 2011. Meanwhile, the same year, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in neighbouring Turkey recorded an increase in Iraqi refugees, half of them (around 1,700) Christians.
All Iraq News notes that Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, issued a statement today congratulating Archbishop Sako on his new position.
The flooding continues in Iraq. People have been evacuated from their homes, homes have collapsed, water has been knee deep in Baghdad and there's been no action from Nouri. All Iraq News notes that Nouri has finally called a Cabinet meeting for Sunday to address the flooding.
The following community sites -- plus Antiwar.com, NYT's At War blog, Pacifica Evening News and Adam Kokesh -- updated last night and today:
And Trina's "Quiche in the Kitchen" which isn't showing up yet. US Vice President Joe Biden was in Munich today and spoke. The White House has corrected some of his speech. Some of it they have let stand. What does the speech say to Iraqis? Here are four paragraphs -- the first is included only to show that the White House has gone through and corrected Joe where they felt he was wrong. So clearly, they stand by Joe's remarks on Iraq:
In each of our countries, we’ve had fine men and women who have made significant contributions while they were actively involved in the political process. But many of them, upon leaving that political office they held, recede into private life and their contributions end. I would suggest that Dick Lugar’s* [*sic- Sam Nunn’s] contributions have been as profound from the day he left the United States Senate and public elective office as they have been when he was in public office, and I believe you’ll see the same thing can be said of my very close friend, Sam Nunn* [*sic Dick Lugar]. We, as a country, are lucky to have them both and I would argue everyone assembled in this conference is lucky they are still deeply involved in the security interests of all of us involved. So again, congratulations, Sam. Congratulations. (Applause.)
It’s great to be back among friends. When I say among friends, I mean not only the distinguished guests that are from around the world who have joined us in this conference. I also mean to be back here in Germany, to be back here in Europe. I have traveled over 640,000 miles since I’ve been Vice President, and most of the time the President sends me to places that he doesn’t want to go. (Laughter.) So I’ve spent an awful lot of time with McCain and others in Afghanistan and Iraq, and so it’s nice to be here in Germany. (Laughter.) It’s nice to be invited back. (Applause.)
You remain, to state the obvious, America’s oldest and our closest allies. And it’s hard to imagine a single threat or a single opportunity that cannot be addressed more effectively if we do so together. Simply put, President Obama and I continue to believe that, Europe is the cornerstone of our engagement with the rest of the world and is the catalyst for our global cooperation. It’s that basic. Nothing has changed.
Where we come from is a place that understands that this European alliance is critical to our interests. When I came to Munich four years ago this week, I focused on the challenges of our time, and how this new administration in our first term of office planned on dealing with those challenges. Those challenges included Iraq and Afghanistan; addressing the failure of Iran to meet the international obligations with regard to its nuclear program; managing the crisis of the global economy, which was in a precarious position at that moment; fighting terrorism; repairing our relationships between the United States and Russia.
And today, I’m pleased to report on the undeniable progress that we’ve made together in each of these fields. Four years ago, American foreign policy -- and the majority of the discussions with our friends and partners -- was dominated by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, we’re in the process of turning the page on more than a decade of conflict following the September 11, 2001 attack, and we ended the war in Iraq responsibly. And together we’re responsibly drawing down in Afghanistan, and by the end of next year, the transition will be complete.
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