Monday, January 27, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Monday, January 27, 2014. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's assault on Anbbar continue, the US government moves to send the thug more weapons, Nouri trash talks Saudi Arabia, talk continues that some provinces may not be allowed to vote in April elections, and much more.

US Senator Bob Menendez has ended his block on selling Iraq Apache helicopters.  Missy Ryan (Reuters) euters reports the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Menendez chairs, has agreed to lease and sale Nouri's government approximately 4.8  billion dollars in weapons.  John Hudson (Foreign Policy) offers a higher price tag,  "The move clears the way for Baghdad to lease six Apache attack helicopters and buy 24 more, and includes training, logistical support and equipment. The total price tag is estimated at more than $6.2 billion."  Kitabat observes that many Iraqi MPs have also objected to the proposed deal.  Kitabat also notes that Iraq's Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi, when he met with US President Barack Obama in DC last week, expressed the need for conditions on the weapons to ensure they were not used against the Iraqi people.

The biggest cost will be in blood should illegitimate leader Nouri al-Maliki manage to hold onto the post of prime minister.  While it's true that he is hugely unpopular and, as the 2013 provincial elections demonstrate, so is his State of Law coalition, it's also true that Nouri's never gotten the post of prime minister due to popular support.

In 2006, the US government nixed the Iraqi Parliament's decision to name Ibrahim al-Jaafari to a second term and insisted instead on their puppet Nouri.  In the 2010 parliamentary elections, Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya beat Nouri's State of Law meaning that Ayad Allawi should have been named prime minister-designate.  But those March election results were not honored by Nouri who refused to step down and his refusal brought the country to an eight month stand still (the political stalemate).  He was only able to accomplish that via the support of the US White House.  Ned Parker (POLITICO) explained earlier this month:

It was the April 2010 national election and its tortured aftermath that sewed the seeds of today’s crisis in Iraq. Beforehand, U.S. state and military officials had prepared for any scenario, including the possibility that Maliki might refuse to leave office for another Shiite Islamist candidate. No one imagined that the secular Iraqiya list, backed by Sunni Arabs, would win the largest number of seats in parliament. Suddenly the Sunnis’ candidate, secular Shiite Ayad Allawi, was poised to be prime minister. But Maliki refused and dug in. 
And it is here where America found its standing wounded. Anxious about midterm elections in November and worried about the status of U.S. forces slated to be drawn down to 50,000 by August, the White House decided to pick winners. According to multiple officials in Baghdad at time, Vice President Joseph Biden and then-Ambassador Chris Hill decided in July 2010 to support Maliki for prime minister, but Maliki had to bring the Sunnis and Allawi onboard. Hill and his staff then made America’s support for Maliki clear in meetings with Iraqi political figures. 
The stalemate would drag on for months, and in the end both the United States and its arch-foe Iran proved would take credit for forming the government. But Washington would be damaged in the process. It would be forever linked with endorsing Maliki. One U.S. Embassy official I spoke with just months before the government was formed privately expressed regret at how the Americans had played kingmaker.

The US-brokered Erbil Agreement was a legal contract.  To get the heads of the various political blocs to sign the contract, it had to offer them something.  In exchange for giving Nouri the second term he didn't earn, the contract called for him to do certain things (name Ayad Allawi to head an independent national security council, implement Article 140 of the Constitution -- census and referendum on Kirkuk, etc.).  The White House swore the contract had the full backing and support of the US government.  But Nouri used it to get his second term and then refused to honor any of the promises he had made in the contract.  Michael Brenner (Huffington Post) observes, "In the end, al-Maliki's reneging on those pledges to the sunnis generated growing disaffection."

With that history, the notion that votes matter is a quaint one in Iraq and the highly unpopular Nouri al-Maliki may be able to steal a third term.  In 2013, he called off provincial elections in Anbar and Nineveh.  Only US government pressure forced him to allow the two provinces to vote (months later in June).

ic of elections, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi was in DC this week meeting with various officials, doing interviews and speaking.  Thursday's snapshot contained his speech at the Brookings Institution and he noted elections in his speech including in this section:

So the political components in Iraq were not able to build the Iraqi political system or to implement the Constitution and to reach a genuine partnership and a genuine reconciliation.  They were not able to implement the laws as it should be and get rid of corruption and abuses and they did not respect all the Iraqi components as to represent them  in a fair manner in the armed forces.  According to the Constitution, they did not provide the provinces with enough funds. Also we did not adopt the law on hydrocarbons oil and gas which is very important to set a balanced relation between the provinces and the center for the production and exportation of oil.  
So some parties are implementing the Constitution based on their own perspective and this is hindering the building of the state, the national cohesion and is leading to more division.  And more and more people are being disappointed and do not trust the political process at this point as we have seen by the very low turnout in the last general elections [2013 provincial elections] and the ones before [2010 parliamentary elections]. We believe that Iraq is, at this point, at a crossroad.  The key to situation is clear and we can find a solution.  What we need though is a strong determination and the political will for everyone to agree on the Constitution and to forget the past, to move beyond the fears and to stop punishing the Iraqi people and move to reconciliation and prevent Iraq from sliding into even greater troubles.  

Friday, Missy Ryan (Reuters) reported:

Usama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni, said in an interview during a visit to Washington that he feared attempts to discourage voting or "provoke the situation" in Sunni areas, or to sideline certain would-be candidates, were designed "to weaken Sunni representation in parliament."
He also warned that poor security could pose problems for the parliamentary polls, scheduled for April 30.
"If the security conditions worsen, the elections could be postponed (or) if they are held, they will take place under inappropriate conditions," he said.

There have been charges that Nouri launched the attack on Anbar in order to improve his low polling.  There have been charges that he launched the attack to stop the parliamentary elections planned for April 30th.

Duriad Salman and Ammar al-Ani (Alsumaria) report al-Nujaifi gave two interviews Saturday, the first to Sky News and the second to Alsumaria.  Osama al-Nujaifi noted Nouri cannot continue to act unilaterally, that there are checks and balances in the system and he was concerned that Nouri thinks he's "singular" when it comes to decision making and that this could lead Nouri to attempt to postpone the upcoming election citing "poor security."  Nouri did just that last year.  And he wasn't supposed to.  He ruled that Anbar and Nineveh could not vote.  Under pressure from the US, specifically Secretary of State John Kerry, Nouri relented and, months later, allowed the two provinces to vote.

He never should have been allowed to postpone them.  He doesn't have that power.  The Independent High Electoral Commission is the only one that does and, as their name notes, they are supposed to be "independent."

If Nouri tries to keep provinces from voting, it will be worse than last time and it will be worse then cancelling the election all out.  It will be corrupt.

In another report, Duriad Salman and Ammar al-Ani report that the 'independent' commission is now saying that one or more provinces could be prevented from voting in the parliamentary elections.

Again, this would make any elections illegitimate.

This is a way to manipulate the vote and it should not be allowed to happen.

During the US Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln didn't stop the federal elections.  People voted across the country.  That was during the deadly Civil War, 1864.  He was the sitting president (having been election in the 1860 elections).  The country was ripped in two and violently fighting.  Lincoln didn't say, "Stop! We must stop these elections!"

And a cheap thug like Nouri shouldn't be allowed to stop any area from voting either.

Last week in DC, Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi also met with US General Ray Odierno (photo below from the Iraqi Parliament's website).

In 2010, Odierno wondered, ahead of the March 2010 elections, what happens if Nouri loses and refuses to step down.  The State Dept and the White House dismissed the possibility.  Odierno, of course, had made a solid prediction.

In 2010, the French government attempted to get support going for a caretaker government in Iraq -- a temporary government that would ease the transition.  The US government worked overtime to torpedo the idead.  Mohamed Gomaa Hazal (Kitabat) notes two Constitutional methods in which a caretaker government can be created.  Article 6 would require a no confidence vote and the formation of a new Cabinet to begin 30 days later.  Article 64 required the Parliament to dissolve and, no more than 60 days later, for a new government to be built.  Hazal is floating that in an apparent effort to prevent another political stalemate -- the ideas appear to be presented in an effort to implement them ahead of the parliamentary elections scheduled to take place April 30th.

One key problem with the proposal would be that Iraq has no president.

December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 following his meeting with Nouri al-Maliki (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  A year and one month later, he remains in Germany.

Jalal remains the head of the Kurdish political party the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (which nose dived in the KRG's September provincial elections).  PUK Media notes:

In the framework of his visitation to Amed in Turkey and his meetings with Kurdish politicians and officials, Malla Bakhtyar met with Selahattin Demirtash and Gultan Kishanak, BDB co-chairs, yesterday, January 26, 2014.
In the length of the meeting, Demirtash first highlighted PUK`s role in promoting the notion of having one stance with other political parties of Kurdistan regarding peace and democracy for the Kurdish nation, eventually saying: “I hope that all other political parties would have the same stance as PUK to achieve peace and autonomy to our people.”

Regarding the peace process in Turkey between Kurds and the Turkish government, Demirtash noted that the process has reached this day due to the efforts of President Jalal Talabani. Then Malla Bakhtyar, Chief of PUK executive body, added that in the past Turkey has been ruled by the military, but now, due to the pure politics of AKP party, a suitable ground for negotiations and discussions is available.

Really?  Dropping back to May 14, 2013:

May 8th,  the PKK began their withdrawal process from Turkey.  The Kurdish rebels and the Turkish government had been at war for decades but the two sides worked out a peace agreement.  Trend News Agency describes it this way,  "Imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan previously called on members of the organization to lay down arms and leave the country. Turkish authorities promised to create the conditions for PKK militants who laid down their weapons to freely leave the country."
The effort is a major one and a major one for the region.  It's amazing when you grasp how little commentary there's been on this in the west.  Maybe that's because the west wasn't involved?  Isn't that against the image of why so many dollars and pounds and francs, et al are used?  That area supposedly needs the west so much.  Some days, the talk all but insists that the Middle East can't go to the bathroom without a western escort.

If Jalal Talabani was influential in the peace process, it was by having a stroke which prevented him from being invovled.  May 8, 2013, Jalal had been in a German hospital -- receiving no visitors other than his immediate family -- for five months.  PUK imploded in the September provincial elections and they're desperate to have something to boast of.  But pretending that Talabani was the leader (on the Kurdish side) is stretching it beyond belief.

Still on Talabani, All Iraq News notes:

The wife of the Iraqi President, Hero Ibraheem Ahmed, assured joining the majority opinions over holding the fourth conference of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.The office of PUK reported in a statement received by AIN ''The Secretary and the members of the central council of PUK hosted the member of the political bureau, Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, at the building of the central council in Sulaimaniya city.''

Kitabat reports that a group of Iraqi lawyers, the Iraqi Jurists, have written a letter to the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, to Human Rights Watch and to Amnesty International declaring that the assault on Anbar is a genocide targeting the Sunni people.   The letter is composed by Dr. Tareq Ali Saleh and notes Sunnis are the victims of genocide campaign carried out by the government, that the bombing and shellings are done randomly leaving civilians targeted resulting in the deaily deaths of women, children, the elderly and unarmed civilians in their home neighborhoods, schools, orphanages and hospitals.  Under the cloak of 'terrorism,' the letter explains, a brutal extermination on the orders of the government of Tehran is being carried out.  The letter calls for an international investigation committee to be formed.

And Nouri's assault on Anbar Province is a War Crime.  Today, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi declared, "What is happening in Anbar is close to the level of declaring a have state of emergency."  UPI notes, "A monthlong battle in Iraq's Anbar province between anti-government forces and the army has killed 125 people and wounded 541 others, officials said Monday."  Reuters adds, "More than 65,000 people have fled the fighting in Falluja and Ramadi during the past week alone, the United Nations said on Friday."  NINA notes that "hundreds" continue to flee Falluja as military helicopters continue to bomb Falluja and Ramadi which today left 8 civilians dead and thirty-nine more injured.  Dar Addustour reports that multiple cities in Anbar have been placed under curfew.  Kitabat notes that religious and tribal leaders are in fear of an imminent attack.

In other violence, NINA reports a mortar attack on Qesayba Village left a father and son injured, Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Dulaimi ("commander of the 12th division") announced they had killed 2 suspects outside of Kirkuk, an armed attack in western Mosul left 2 Iraqi soldiers dead, an armed attack in eastern Baghdad left a captain in the Ministry of the Interior dead, an armed attack in western Baghdad left 1 army major dead and two Iraqi soldiers injured, 1 civilian was shot dead in Baghdad (Hurriah area), security forces announce they killed 1 suspect in Mosul, and "Unidentified gunmen stormed Alglam police station southeast of Tikrit, killing four policemen and a member of Sahwa force and cut off their heads."  Alsumaria adds that a tent shop owner was killed in Mosul and an armed clash in eastern Mosul left 2 police members dead.  PUK Media notes, "Head of the Elections Commission Office in Kirkuk Farhad Talabani escaped an assassination attempt by a bomb explosion which targeted his convoy south of Kirkuk, a police source told PUKmedia."  Through Sunday, Iraq Body Count notes 955 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.  Sunday, Margaret Griffis ( counted 45 dead and 82 injured.   Kirkuk Now reports Sunday saw 3 car bombings in Kirkuk and they have a photo essay of the aftermath here.

Meanwhile mad dog Nouri picks a fight with everyone.  Press TV quotes Nouri declaring, "The current terrorism originates from Saudi Arabia."  This despite the fact, as Press TV, that:  "The clashes in Anbar broke out on December 30, 2013, when the army removed an anti-government protest camp in Ramadi."  And that would be the Iraqi military, commanded by Nouri al-Maliki, not Saudi Arabia.

From the south, Saudi Arabia borders a huge section of Iraq.  It would have been beneficial for Nouri to have ceased the war of words and made peace with the country's government at any time during the nearly 8 years of his awful reign as prime minister.  Instead, he's attacked them publicly almost as much as he's attacked the government of Turkey (which borders Iraq from the north).  PUK Media explains:

After provoking the issue of Peshmarga with Kurds, the Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki wants to proceed to the next level.
This time, the Iraqi PM accuses Kingdom Saudi Arabia of supporting terrorism, saying: “Saudi denies its support for terrorism because the country is ruled with a sectarian knot.”
Furthermore, Maliki highlights that he reason why the terrorist groups in Syria feel they are close to victory is because they are supported by a number of countries such as Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, with the latter being the original source of terrorism.”

World Bulletin notes:

Accusing the Prime Minister of enforcing Shiite Muslim domination over the government, a number of tribes in the predominantly Sunni Muslim region of Anbar have revolted against Maliki’s government. Maliki has blamed the revolt on armed Al-Qaeda linked rebels and has ordered his troops to pound the region.
However, it seems that anyone who opposes Maliki’s new regime is automatically labeled as a ‘terrorist’ and runs the risk of being executed. Last year, around 1,200 men and women were on death row in Iraq after admitting to committing crimes, in many cases signing confessions under torture. Last week, 26 people were executed in Baghdad for committing acts of ‘terrorism.’

We noted the Kitabat article about the Iraqi Jurists earlier.  Their letter also objects to Nouri's announcement last week that he was going to form three new provinces -- from existing and occupied land.  The letter objects to Nouri's announcement, to his refusal to consult first with the heads of the provinces.  Rudaw reports today:

Nineveh Governor Atheel Nujafi accuses Iraq’s Shiite-led government in Baghdad of planning to turn Tal Afar and the Nineveh Plain into provinces in order to facilitate a shorter route for Iranian aid to the Syrian regime.
"Reviewing the maps show that the two provinces proposed are located on the shortest route between Iran and Syria in Mosul," Nujafi said in a statement seen by Rudaw.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government has been accused by the West of allowing Iranian lethal and non-lethal aid to pass through Iraqi land and air routes en route to Assad’s regime, which Tehran backs.
According to Nujaifi, there has been a systematic plan by the government in Baghdad to divide and cut off Nineveh in order to fuel sectarianism in the province.
Last week, Iraq's Council of Ministers decided to turn Tuz Khurmatu in Saladin province and Talafar in Nineveh into provinces and recommended a study to turn the Nineveh Plain and Fallujah into additional Iraqi provinces.The decision raised the ire of Iraqi Kurds, because Tuz Khurmatu and Tal Afar are both within the so-called “disputed territories” claimed by both the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the north and the Arab government in Baghdad.

It amazes me that Nouri's proposal has not been universally condemned.  It should be condemned.

These are occupied areas.

When you consider all the time the left spends today on the issue of the Palestinians, the thought that they would now stay silent as it is proposed to hand occupied lands over is appalling.  Should Nouri's plan succeed, is today's left leaving it to the grandchildren of tomorrow to fight the battle that should be fought today?

Sunday, Nouri's Council of Ministers issued the following:

Council of Ministers approved a draft law to develop Tal Afar district to be a province in the Republic of Iraq and referred it to House of Representatives, according to provisions of articles (61 / first item and 80 / second item) from the constitution.
This was stated to Governmental Media and Communication Office by a source at Council of Ministers Affairs Dep. at General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers, which assured also that resolution came at request of Tall Afar Council ,according to  request and support of people of the district.
It is worth mentioning ,that draft law to develop Halabja province,  has presented to Council of Ministers at its 54th regular session in 31/12/2013 .At this session a new resolution, No. (568) for 2013, has issued, which assigned Office of Minister of State for Provinces Affairs to study reality of districts that, submitted a request to develop into new provinces, and present it to CoMsec to discuss by  council at its sessions.

The draft law of Tal- Afar has been prepared, including the following four items:

developing the province, which its centre is Tall- Afar district, and including the following districts with its full administrative borders:
(Center of Tal Afar – Zammar commune – Rabia   commune - Alaiadi commune). 
The resolution stipulated that Zammar, Rabia and Alaiadip communes will be districts, belonging to province of Tal Afar and the villages (Aionat - Abu Maria - Tel Moss - Palace Sbrigg - Brglah)  will be communes , belonging to the districts.
This resolution has been taken because Tal-Afer is one of the largest districts, according to the population and it suffered a lot of deprivation under the former regime and it targeted by terrorist groups from outside border, that killed thousands of its sons when they approached the Center of AL- Mosul to complete their administrative papers 

Nouri's talk of partitioning has had the effect of leading other provinces to announce that they would like to use their Constitutionally granted powers to move towards semi-autonomy -- similar to what the Kurdistan Regional Government exercises now.  But those three northern provinces want fully autonomy and are moving towards it.   Rudaw reports:

Within five years the autonomous Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq will have declared independence, according to a senior energy advisor at the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)."Kurdistan is going to be rid of its status as a region within Iraq,” said Ali Balu,former head of Iraqi parliament's oil and gas committee. “A plan is underway for Kurdistan to be an independent state in the near future," he said.
Balu believes that plans and preparations are being made on the international stage aimed at declaring independence, which he says will be driven by Kurdistan’s geostrategic position and rich energy reserves.
He said that Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani’s participation at the World Economic Forum in Davos paves the way for international recognition of Kurdistan as an independent state.

Dropping back to the January 16th snapshot:

On the topic of visits, Missy Ryan (Reuters) reports Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is scheduled to visit DC next week.   Amjad Salah (Alsumaria) reports KRG President Massoud Barazani is off to Europe where he will participate in the World Economic Forum (Davos, Switzerland, January 22-25th).  He's leading a delegation from Erbil -- a KRG delegation.  Bad news for Nouri, he's not apparently going to be heading a delegation out of Baghdad.  Well, it's a World Economic Forum and Nouri's a joke on the international stage, better he stay home in his kennel and let Barzani represent Iraq.

That was a prestige moment.  Nouri wasn't able to attend.  He was too busy terrorizing Anbar Province.  No doubt they were relieved in Davos to see Barzani, rumors swirl that Nouri blows his nose on the drapes.

Turning to the issue of the US war on Syria, Yossef Bodansky (World Tribune) offers:

There is a multi-faceted war going on in the territories of Syria, as well as Iraq and Lebanon. Since the dawn of history, wars ended with winners and losers. In this war in Syria, the Assad Administration has already won and the opposition was defeated. Hence, what U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is telling Bashar Assad in Montreux is essentially something like: “Since our protégés have failed to defeat you and overthrow your government, you should now surrender at the negotiating table.”
Meanwhile, on the ground, the Bashar Assad administration won the war because it enjoys the support of 70 to 75 percent of the Syrian population. About half of all Syrians — virtually all of them Sunni Arabs — now prefer the Assad Administration to prevail because they are exhausted of war and suffering, they dread the jihadists, and they hate and mistrust the exiled opposition (the one Jabra leads and Obama supports). No verbal magic in Montreux will change this reality.

Fighting, however, continue to spread. The now fully integrated wars in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon would have ended long ago with significantly less casualties and suffering had it not been for the “leading from behind” by the U.S. Barack Obama administration. The Obama White House profoundly misunderstood the unfolding conflict and mishandled the local and regional reaction. Alas, the high price has been, and still is being, paid by the innocent civilians.

Finally, David Bacon's last book, Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press), won the CLR James Award. He has a new book, The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration.  We'll close with this from Bacon's "THE WORKERS' SCORECARD ON NAFTA"  (Truth Out):

In 1986, a provision of the Immigration Reform and Control Act created a commission to investigate the causes of Mexican migration to the U.S.  When it made its report to Congress in 1992 it found, unsurprisingly, that the biggest was poverty.  It recommended the negotiation of a free trade agreement, modeled on the one that had been implemented a few years before between the U.S. and Canada.  The commission argued that opening the border to the flow of goods and capital (but not people) would, in the long run, produce jobs and rising income in Mexico, even if, in the short run, it led to some job loss and displacement.
The negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement began within months.  When completed, it was sold to the public by its promoters on both sides of the border as a migration-preventing device.  During the debate executives of companies belonging to USAÑNAFTA, the agreement's corporate lobbyist, walked the halls of Congress, wearing red, white and blue neckties.  They made extravagant claims that U.S. exports to Mexico would account for 100,000 jobs in its first year alone.
Some skeptics warned that the agreement would put downward pressure on wages and encourage attacks on unions, because its purpose was to create an environment encouraging investment and free markets. Their warnings were met with another promise -- that a parallel labor side agreement would establish a mechanism for protecting workers' rights.
Twenty years later, workers have a scorecard.  The promises of profits from increased investment and freer markets were kept.   But the promises of jobs and benefits for working people were not.   As the commission predicted, NAFTA did lead to increasing unemployment, displacement and poverty.  Workers in all three countries are still living with these devastating consequences, while the predicted long-range benefits never materialized.

missy ryan