7:30, he said that he'd be here by six
It's looking dirty, I guess he's up to his old tricks
-- "Blue Limousine," written by Brenda Bennett, first appears on Apollonia 6's self-titled album
And it appears Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister and chief thug of Iraq, is up to his old tricks.
All Iraq News reports:
The administration of Baghdad International Airport received several arrest warrants and travel ban issued against several members of the Iraqi Parliament.
A source of Baghdad International Airport reported to All Iraq News Agency (AIN) ''The list of MPs included Hayder al-Mullah, Salim al-Jabouri, Ashor Haky, Raad al-Dahlaki, Qayis Shather, Ahmed Suleiman and Hussein Dakan.''
''The former Minister of Finance, Raffia al-Essawi, was among the MPs banned of travel,'' the source added, noting that ''A copy of the names of banned MPs was delivered to the Airport security.''
Hayder al-Mullah is a prominent critic of Nouri al-Maliki. He is a member of Iraqiya, the political slate that beat Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law in the 2010 parliamentary elections. Qayis Shather, Salim al-Jabouri and Raad al-Dahlaki are also members of Iraqiya.
Yet again, Nouri is going after members of Iraqiya. Yet again, Nouri is going after Sunni politicians.
And where is the US government?
As always when it comes to their pride and joy, looking the other way.
Since December 21, 2012, protests have been ongoing in Iraq. Today was no different. Iraqi Spring MC reports protests continued in Samarra and Baiji. Alsumaria reports those protesting in Najaf called for the cancellation of the MPs pension program. Activist Ayed al-Kaabi tells the news outlet that they reject politicians joining their protests due to the hypocrisy factor. Another activist, Hussam al-Yas, tells All Iraq News, "The place of the demonstration at al-Sadrain square to be close to the religious authorities to that supported the public demands and rejected the privileges granted to MPs and key officials. We will continue in our efforts to end the injustice through session and seminar."
The assault on Anbar Province continues. Mustafa Habib (Niqash) is one of the few reporters who's been able to report from inside Falluja:
Six weeks have passed since the Iraqi government lost control of the city of Fallujah. The city is now surrounded by the Iraqi army and internally it appears to be under the control of Sunni Muslim and tribal militias, although it is hard to tell exactly who is in charge.
As you near the city you see what appear to be preparations for a long battle. Barriers made out of dirt effectively block all four sides of the city. Behind them there are hundreds of armed men, some with anti-helicopter weaponry, and armoured cars.
Although the winter weather is cold – as low as 3 degrees Celsius – the militias behind the barriers avoid making fires because they don’t want the Iraqi army to be able to see their exact whereabouts.
“When the government was threatening to invade a few weeks ago, the militants started planting improvised explosive devices around the four entrances to the city,” Saeed al-Jumaili, a resident of Fallujah, tells NIQASH.
“Houses on roads leading into the city have also been mined in order to stop any attempts to enter,” al-Jumaili says. “It’s a complicated network of mines that’s only known to a few of the militants.”
So who exactly are the militants in charge inside Fallujah? Currently what is best described as a rebel military council controls the city’s security. It is composed of various Sunni Muslim factions, most of which are armed or militant. This includes the Army of Al Murabiteen, the Asadullah al-Ghalib brigades, Hamas of Iraq and a number of other Sunni Muslim brigades. Also on the military council though are local Sunni Muslim men who once served in the Iraqi army. Apparently most of the latter do not consider themselves radical and they say they are not affiliated with extremists or Al Qaeda.
Al Qaeda is also represented on the council though and its faction goes by the now-well-known name of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS – locally known as Daash. The only group that doesn’t seem to be playing a role on the council are local security forces, like the police.
The armed factions that are not affiliated with Al Qaeda have many men at their disposal but they don’t have as many arms. And while ISIS only has several hundred men in the city, they are well armed, well trained and battle hardened. Daash also has several dozen suicide bombers in the city.
All up, the council has 15 members including community leaders, tribal elders and members of the various armed factions. It meets twice or more each week to discuss the security situation in Fallujah. It makes decisions by voting.
National Iraqi News Agency reports, "Head of the parliamentary bloc of Iraqiyah Slate MP, Salman Jumaili urged the government to stop military shelling Fallujah and other cities of Anbar province, warning the government of harm consequences in case of continuation of the random bombardment which causing a real humanitarian disaster." But that's never been a concern of chief thug and prime minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki. Which is why violence continues today in Iraq as Nouri's assault on Anbar Province leaves people dead and yet again targets hospitals and residential areas. NINA also notes, "MP, Ahmed al-Misari warned the secretary general of Homat al-Iraq Movement warned in a statment today of a humanitarian disaster because of the continued displacement of thousands of families from the cities of Anbar to neighboring provinces." But while this displacement is becoming a growing concern to the United Nations, it means nothing to Nouri al-Maliki.
AFP notes, "Iraqi forces fought on Friday to retake part of a northern town and nearby areas seized by gunmen, the latest instance of authorities losing ground to militants, an official said." This is success?
Yesterday, Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) observed, "militants took over a northern Iraq town in Salah ad Din province. Militants have tried to take over the town as recently as last year, but considering the events in Anbar, this attempt could be more serious. Far from Anbar province, militants have taken over Suleiman Bek, where they are still in control."
Nouri can boast and beat his puny chest all he wants, but that's not success. It is failure, it is exposed weaknesses, it is future targets should another round start up months from now.
What his assault on Anbar has demonstrated is how weak he is, how ineffective and how quickly Iraq could splinter at any given moment.
Brute force did not keep Iraq together but it may be the way to fragment the nation into a loosely held federation -- or to fragment it into a series of independent countries.
Nouri is a failure as prime minister and that was clear before his idiotic assault on Anbar but the assault has exposed just how weak he is and how his leadership has weakened the country, not strengthened it.
Yesterday, All Iraq News reported, the government banks in central Baghdad were closed and the employees evacuated by security forces. This is success?
There is no success in Iraq, there is no success under Nouri.
There is only violence -- continual violence.
National Iraqi News Agency reports a Saqlawiyah suicide bomber took his own life and the lives of 7 Iraqi soldiers (four more were left injured), police say there was a rocket attack on Alhurriyah military air base in Kirkuk, Iraqi military bombed Falluja General Teaching Hospital doing substantial damage and this is "the third bombing of the hospital during the last 24" hours, a Sahwa leader's home in Mosul was blown up, and the Iraqi military's bombing of Falluja residential neighborhoods left 3 dead (including Mufti Rafi Rifal) and eleven injured.
Iraqi Spring MC notes the military's bombing in Falluja killed Sheikh Khalil al-Qubaisi Nada as well.
Iraqi Spring MC also reports a woman in Falluja had to have her leg amputated as a result of wounds from today's military bombings.
National Iraqi News Agency reports Major General Mohammed al-Dulaimi states the 12th Division killed 6 suspects in Albu Assaf, an armed clash in Falluja left 1 rebel dead, an armed clash in Ramadi ended when rebels set fire to a police station, Iraqi security forces say they shot dead 6 suspects in eastern Ramadi, Dijlah Operations Command announced they shot dead 10 suspects, and an armed conflict in Kirkuk left 1 police member dead (one civilian and two more police were left injured). Iraqi Spring MC also reports Sheikh Ahmed Khaz'al was shot dead in Falluja by one of Nouri al-Maliki's snipers. All Iraq News adds security forces shot dead 3 suspects "near Mahaweel and Musaiyb districts."
Last week, the US House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on Iraq. Appearing before the Committee was the US State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Brett McGurk. We've covered the hearing in the February 5th Iraq snapshot, February 6th Iraq snapshot, February 7th Iraq snapshot and the February 13th snapshot as well as "Prashant Rao's naive and Hannah Allem's got a grudge to f**k" which details the main themes of the hearing (and how Rao was terribly naive to believe Hannah Allem's hideous Tweets which were nothing more than her working her grudge against the Ashraf community). The issue of Iraq's expected April 30th parliamentary elections? It was raised in the hearing.
US House Rep Doug Collins: I want to turn back, it was asked a little bit earlier about the elections and really, from serving in Iraq back in '08 as my colleague has as well, I understand the relationship between the Sunni and the Shia is something -- is, I think there's a huge mistrust, it goes back generations. It's a multitude of issues there. And it looks like the current government has done very little to really relate with that -- or work on that issue. Experts in Iraq have talked about al Qaeda in Iraq, Islamic State of Iraq, and increasingly building alliances with Sunni tribal leaders and suggest to this mess, in 2013, to try to win more Sunni support. How would that translate into the next round of Iraq elections? Can we -- can we really see a move from Shia to Sunni? And what does that mean for the region? And answer that and then I want to talk about Iran's possible influence as well. Just speak to the elections at this point.
Brett McGurk: Uh, thank you. First, Congressman, thank you for your service. And it's a very important question and an insightful question. This election coming up is going to be pivotal and also extremely interesting. The first national election, December 2005, there were really three main lists, people to vote for. There was a Shia bloc, a Sunni bloc and a Kurdish bloc. Uhm, the 2010 elections, there was a little bit more choice: really two Shia blocs, the Sunni parties were under one main list also with some Shias -- a kind of cross-sectarian list -- and then the Kurds. This election, everything is really fractured so you have about four Shia lists, three Sunni lists and even the Kurds are running on four different lists. So what's going to happen out of those results is going to be a number of different permutations in terms of forming governments uh-uh coalitions. So the hope is that this election will give rise to the possibility of more cross-sectarian, more issue-based politics emerging. As difficult as that is going to be, if you look at the candidate lists and the coalitions, there is that possibility there. But as I mentioned earlier, what al Qaeda does very effectively is targets the fault line which has existed for 1400 years -- targeting symbolic areas and trying to increase fear in particularly the Shia population which just rises the sectarian debate and discourse in the country. So on the positive side, you have an election that's shaping up with a number of different choices, a number of different lists which will allow for cross-sectarian coalitions. On a negative side, you have extremists who are trying to incite and inflame the sectarian dimensions in the country.
As the informal campaigning heats up, so do the rumors. Alsumaria reports Ibrahim al-Jaafari has had to issue a statement denying that he was pulling his name from the elections. al-Jaafari was prime minister before Nouri -- in fact, the Parliament wanted to name him prime minister (again) in 2006 but the US White House refused to allow that to happen. They demanded instead that Nouri be named prime minister. al-Jaafari is the head of the Shi'ite bloc the National Alliance.
The elections will not only determine who sits in Parliament, they will also determine who is president of Iraq and (if the White House can keep their big nose out of it just once) who will be prime minister.
On the topic of the presidency, Hevidar Ahmed (Rudaw) reports, "Barham Salih has refused a proposed nomination for the Iraqi presidency by his Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), saying he prefers to stay and help repair internal problems that are tearing his party apart, sources tell Rudaw."
The 'current' president of Iraq is Jalal Talabani. December 2012, Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke. The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 following Jalal's argument with Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot). Jalal was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital. Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany. He remains in Germany currently. Even if he were in good health, he couldn't run again having occupied the post twice. The Constitution limits the president to two terms (in fact, it can be argued that clause also limits the prime minister to two terms).
Currently, it is informal campaigning -- as Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) notes -- but posters of Nouri are plastered throughout Baghdad:
Paradoxically, when you ask people with close ties to the government about the insistence that prevails in spreading Maliki’s posters everywhere, they refer you to the posters depicting religious leaders and transform your question into an accusation: “Why should Maliki be prevented from putting up his posters, while the posters of clerics fill the streets?”
The main issue revolves around the fact that the government is responsible for dealing with any illegal phenomenon. The people may implicitly pardon its inability — engendered by its limited capacities — to combat the spread of social tensions resulting from the chaotic spread of posters portraying religious leaders, despite the fact that doing so is its duty. But no one can forgive the government for participating in this festival of posters; all in the name of fair competition.
The IHEC Spokesperson and Member of the Board of Commissioners (BoC), Mr. Safaa al Mosawi declared on 5 February that the BoC has excluded 69 candidates from running for the upcoming Iraqi parliamentary elections scheduled on 30 April 2014 after auditing the criminal restrictions of the candidates based on the data returned from the Ministry of the Interior.
Mr. al Mosawi said that the decision was taken based on the legal provisions in effect.
The IHEC reserved its right to mention the names and will inform their political entities on the need to replace these names with new one within three days from the date of notification.
The IHEC has sent the lists of names of all male and female candidates which amounted to 9,364 names to the the Accountability and Justice Commission. The IHEC has sent these names to the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of High Education and Scientific Research for the purpose of auditing and ratifying them to check that they are not included with the measures taken by these Ministries as part of preparations to run the upcoming Iraqi parliamentary elections scheduled on 30 April 2014.
Yes, we noted the 69 many days ago. The real question here is why the IHEC is issuing a statement on February 13th about something they publicly addressed February 5th?
Let's wind down on the topic of a religious minorities in Iraq, the Christians. Ava Thomas (Baptist Press) reports on what some are calling a "Christian hemorrhage" in Iraq. Thomas notes:
But sometimes what breaks Alan's heart the most, he said, is how the tragedy is lost on many Christians in the West.
"I'm afraid the Christian world has forgotten that there are hurting people in Iraq," he said. "Do we in the West have the courage and boldness to engage lostness in the midst of tragedy? My heart breaks when I read of 20, 30, 60 who have been killed. I wonder if they ever had a chance to hear the gospel."
He said he also wonders if Christians in the United States remember that they have brothers and sisters living out their faith in heavy persecution in Iraq.
"They feel forgotten, and we need to tell them they are not forgotten," Alan said.
Christians in Iraq live their lives in the shadow of blast walls like everyone else there, but they also face extra pressure because of their faith, he said. Terrorists occasionally bomb churches or open fire on worship services like several gunmen did in 2010, killing more than 50 at a Catholic church in Baghdad.
Thomas' report does not note a Congressional hearing. There were reporters present, a handful, but they were present. I don't know what happened, I can't find any reports on it. The hearing was Tuesday.
Subcommittee Chair Christopher Smith: We are here today to focus attention on the persecution of Christians worldwide, a topic which has been neglected by our media and world leaders -- including those in the United States. Today's focus on anti-Christian persecution is not meant to minimize the suffering of other religious minorities who are imprisoned or killed for their beliefs: as the poet John Donne wrote, "Any man's death doth diminish me." We stand for human dignity and respect for life from the womb to the tomb, and this subcommittee has and will continue to highlight the suffering of religious minorities around the globe, be they Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan, Ba'hai in Iran, Buddhists in occupied Tibet, Yazidis in Iraq or the Muslim Royhinga people in Burma. Christians, however, remain the most persecuted religious group the world over, and thus deserve the special attention that today's hearing will give them. As one of today's witnesses, the distinguished journalist John Allen has written, "Christians today indisputably are the most persecuted religious body on the planet, and too often their martyrs suf fer in silence." Researchers from the Pew Center have documented incidents of harassment of religious groups worldwide -- a term defined as including "physical assaults; arrests and detentions; desecration of holy sites; and discrimination against religious groups in employment, education and housing" -- and has concluded that Christians are the single most harassed group today. In the year 2012, Pew reports, Christians were harassed in 110 countries around the world. This is particularly true in the Middle East where, as one of those we will hear from today, Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, has said, "flagrant and widespread persecution of Christians rages even as we meet." Archbishop Chullikatt was the papal nuncio to Iraq, where we have seen repeated violent assaults on Christians, such as the as the October 31, 2010 assault upon Our Lady of Deliverance Syrian Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad in which 58 people were killed and another 70 wounded. Attacks such as this have led the Christian population of Iraq -- whose roots date back to the time of the Apostles-- to dwindle from 1.4 million in 1987 prior to the first Gulf War, to as little as 150,000 today, according to some estimates. Much of this exodus has occurred during a time in which our country invested heavily in blood and treasure in seeking to help Iraqis build a democracy. As we witness the black flag of al Qaeda again fly over cities such as Fallujah, which we had won at the cost of so much American blood, we wonder how it is that for Christians in Iraq, life appears to be worse now than it was under the vicious dictator Saddam Hussein?
He was speaking Tuesday morning at the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations. The witnesses appearing before the Subcommittee were Elliott Abrams (US Commission on International Religious Freedom), John Allen (Boston Globe associate editor), Tehmina Arora (Alliance Defending Freedom-India), Benedict Rogers (Christian Solidarity Worldwide), Jorge Lee Galindo (Impulso 18), Khataza Gondwe (Christian Solidarity Worldwide) and, providing briefing but not testimony (as Chair Smith noted) Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt (Holy See Mission at the United Nations).
On the hearing, I attended for Iraq and my notes are mainly on Iraq because that's our focus here. Christians around the world were covered in the hearing, that's beyond our scope. Second, Elliott Abrams? I consider him an Iran-Contra crook. On any other topic, his remarks wouldn't even be considered worth repeating. But as a religious representative, I would hope he even could be honest. That's not always the case. There's a British 'holy' man we no longer quote because over seven years ago, he was caught lying in his testimony -- lying about the Jews of Iraq, saying they were all gone when they weren't and having a fit when he found out his testimony was going to be reported on. That was only one of his lies. Since he is a proven liar, that 'holy' man is not quoted here, he is not noted here.
For an overview, we'll note John L. Allen explained in his testimony that there are 2.3 billion Christians around the globe and "some two-thirds of whom live outside the West." Elliott Abrams' opening remarks were overviews and specifics. He did not have time to deliver all of his prepared remarks but, in that written testimony, he did break down by country. This is Abrams on Iraq:
Over the past few years, the Iraqi government has taken positive steps to improve security for religious sites and worshippers and address some concerns of the country's smallest religious minorities, including Christians. Nevertheless, the government has failed to stem non-state actors' egregious and increasing violence against Iraqi civilians, including attacks targeting religious worshippers, sites, and leaders, as well as individuals for their actual or assumed religious identity. The Syrian crisis has emboldened extremist groups in the country that are linked to al-Qaeda and heightened Sunni-Shi'a tensions, but the Shi'a-led Iraqi government often has exacerbated the situation by acting in a seemingly sectarian manner.
The primary victims of violence in the past year were members of the Shi'a majority, including pilgrims celebrating important holidays, but all Iraqis were at risk. Members of the smallest minority communities, including Christians, Mandaeans, and Yazidis, continue to experience violence, intimidation, and discrimination, particularly in areas disputed between the central government and the Kurdistan regional government. Although they reported fewer violent incidents than in past years, these groups continue to report that they feel a perpetual sense of fear. These ancient comm unities' numbers in recent years have been reduced due to their fleeing the country; their flight has threatened their continued viability in Iraq.
The Christian community, once estimated to number between 800,000 and 1.4 million, is now said to stand at 500,000 or less. Christians in Iraq include Chaldean Catholics, Assyrian Orthodox, Assyrian Church of the East members, Syriac Orthodox, Armenians (Catholic and Orthodox), Protestants, and Evangelicals . The worst single attack on Iraqi Christians in recent years was the October 31, 2010 hostage siege at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Baghdad, during a mass, which left more than 50 people dead, including two priests, and more than 60 injured.
Some Christians have hailed the Iraqi cabinet's January 2014 announcement supporting in principle the creation of three new provinces, including one in the largely Christian Nineveh Plains, as having the potential to stop the emigration of Christians, though the details of the plan and its implementation remain to be seen. Many members of the smallest minorities also have urged reforms to provisions in Article 2 of the Iraqi Constitution that give Islam a preferred status. They argue this favoritism towards Islam provides a potential justification for discrimination against non-Muslims.
The United States government needs to encourage and help the Iraqi government be a government for all Iraqis, regardless of their religion, sect, or belief. All U.S. military or security assistance should be accompanied by training for the recipient units on universal human rights standards and how to treat civilians, particularly minorities. The U.S. government also should ensure that religious freedom and minority rights are part of the negotiations between the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) and the Iraqi government on disputed territories, and should press the KRG to address alleged abuses against minorities by Kurdish officials in these areas. U.S. programs should focus on promoting religious freedom and tolerance, fostering human rights compliance and the rule of law, and improving minorities' ability to organize and effectively convey their concerns to the government. Development assistance should prioritize areas where marginalized communities are concentrated. USCIRF currently is evaluating recent developments in advance of its 2014 determinations. The Commission recommended in 2013 that Iraq be designated a CPC.
And Archbishop Francis Chullikatt noted in his briefing:
One of the most graphic illustrations of ongoing brutality confronting Arab Christians is the emergence of a so-called "tradition" of bombing s of Catholic and other Christian houses of worship every Christmas Eve, which has been going on now for the past several years. Will there be no end in sight for this senseless slaughter for those whom that very night proclaim the Prince of Peace in some of the oldest Christian communities in the world?
Iraq is on fire and that's our focus and we're not always able right now to include a hearing in day of snapshot. I bring that up because a friend congratulated me on ignoring this hearing. It was Wednesday, the day after, and I said I wasn't ignoring it, that I'd get it in by Friday and that it was so little on Iraq, I'd need to pair it with some reports or news on the topic of religious minorities. (The above is everything on Iraq except for an aside Abrams offered -- a half-sentence -- on sanctions in the 90s.) But I wasn't ignoring it and I told my friend, a Democrat in Congress, that when I noted the hearing, I'd note one key detail: No Democrats on the Subcommittee were present. On the Republican side, there were many present who don't serve on the Subcommittee (Dana Rohrabacher and Frank Wolf being just two). So Democrats not on the Subcommittee could have attended and would have been welcomed.
However, US House Reps Karen Bass -- who is Ranking Member of the Subcommittee -- and David Cicilline and Ami Bera elected not to attend. They had other more important things to do. Karen Bass had plenty of time to join Russ Feingold for breakfast on the day of the hearing and, of course, she had time for the White House State Dinner that night. She just couldn't make time for the Subcommittee she'sserves on as the Ranking Member.
I have no idea if this is disdain for the Republican members of the Subcommittee, or for the witnesses appearing or for just the topic -- or maybe all three. But she just got elected out of the 37th California district to Congress, she's facing her first re-election effort. Maybe she thinks she's in her old district? But the 37th district is highly religious -- including highly Christian -- a huge number of Catholics for example.
So when there's a hearing of the Subcommittee you're Ranking Member on and the topic is the persecution of Christians, even if means killing your social calendar, you make it to that hearing.
I'm really tired of the nonsense in the House. They need to get their House in order. The gold standard of both the House and the Senate is the Veterans Affairs Committees -- Committees and Subcommittees -- where people work together regardless of party.
This nonsense of a hearing on religious persecution that not one Democrat bothered to attend?
That's shameful. And I am not a religious person. But I will show respect for those who are and for their religions whatever they may be. It's a darn shame that the same can't be said for Bass, Cicilline and Bera. And it's not going to be unfair if their constituents now assume that Bass, Cicilline and Bera don't care about those who are persecuted for their religions.
iraqi spring mc