Thursday, February 20, 2014

Nouri's assaults on Anbar and on journalists continue

In Iraq, Nouri's wars on the people are many and include a war on journalists.  Omar al-Jaffal (Al-Monitor) reports:

Iraqi journalists fear their freedoms are being restricted after an arrest warrant was issued for Sarmad al-Tai, a journalist at the Al-Mada newspaper, in January 2014. News outlets reported another 51 warrants issued for the arrest of journalists and civil activists, against whom Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had personally instigated legal action under Article 229 of the Iraqi Penal Code.
A copy of the arrest warrant for Tai circulated in the media soon after it was issued. Although many questioned the news, Tai confirmed on his Facebook page Feb. 2 that indeed a warrant was issued for his arrest by a Baghdad court. According to Tai, the warrant is a message from Maliki, sent to “spread fear among activists and journalists.”
Mazen al-Zaidi, a journalist with Al-Mada, told Al-Monitor, “If the arrest warrants are indeed part of an approach aimed at intimidating the press and the elite, then this means censorship will certainly come back, although many thought it ceased to exist after the downfall of the dictatorial regime.” He added, “It is only natural to resort to the judiciary to settle disputes and litigations, despite the political influences exerted on the judiciary.”

This is not Nouri's first attack on Al Mada, he's previously had military tanks circle the homes of Al-Mada's editor and publisher.  And, no, 'brave' US President Barack Obama, so full of bluster today, didn't say a thing then -- or when Nouri was encouraging the murders of Iraq's LGBTs, or when Nouri was attacking peaceful protesters, or when . . .

Nouri al-Maliki's assault on Anbar continues.  NINA notes the Iraqi military has been bombing the city of Falluja since dawn.  Alsumaria adds that the Anbar Province Council says Nouri agreed to stop the bombing and withdraw the military.  Ghassan Hamid and Mohammed Shafiq (Alsumaria) reports Nouri is insisting such an agreement would not be a new plan to end the crisis and that this plan existed prior.

National Iraqi News Agency reports a mortar attack on an al-Musaiyiab (Babylon Province) market has left 17 people dead and sixty-five more injured, Joint Operations Command declared they killed 10 suspects in Anbar Province, Joint Operations Command declared they killed 5 suspects in Nineveh Province, an armed battle in Mosul left 2 rebels dead and one Iraqi soldier injured, an armed battle in "Saadiya district northeast of Baquba" left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and five more injured, an al-Dujail roadside bombing left 4 Sahwa dead and three more injured, and 1 corpse was discovered dumped in the streets of Mosul (he was a prison employee who was kidnapped near the start of the month).

This afternoon, KPFA's Mark Mericle noted on the newsbreak before Doug Henwood's Behind The News that the death toll in the al-Musaiyiab mortar attack had risen to 22 .

Cleric and movement Moqtada al-Sadr announced his political retirement Saturday.  Tuesday, he delivered a speech which  CounterPunch has posted in full. Of the speech, Mustafa Habib (Niqash) explains:

In order to clarify his decision, al-Sadr then made a televised speech on Tuesday in which he said his decision was irreversible.

Besides criticizing the current government and judiciary in that 11-minute speech, al-Sadr also stressed the importance of participating in the upcoming elections, in order to bring about the change that Iraq needed.

Al-Sadr’s decision was unexpected – most political observers were waiting for a showdown at Iraq’s general elections in April, between the Shiite Muslim Prime Minister, al-Maliki, and other Shiite Muslim leaders like al-Sadr.

And almost immediately various parties gave different reasons as to why al-Sadr might be retiring.

At first some thought it was a tactical move, designed to show how bad things had become. After all, al-Sadr has said he would retire from politics before but then changed his mind.

Some said that al-Sadr was disappointed with those close to him, including politicians in his own party who had recently voted for a law giving local MPs various financial privileges – al-Sadr has always been an advocate of social welfare and has had many supporters from lower income areas like Sadr city, and he was opposed to this law. As was the leading Shiite Muslim authority in the land, the Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who told Iraqis not to vote for those MPs that supported the law.

However this hardly seems enough to make al-Sadr retire: he is powerful enough within his movement that he could dismiss anyone in his party he chose, if they behaved inappropriately.

Others felt it was a good move by al-Sadr, in that he was moving toward a separation of church and state and allowing new political leaders to come forward.

 Sami Moubayed (Gulf News) notes:

Arabs are not used to early retirement. Moqtada’s decision was shocking — to say the least — and has opened a Pandora’s Box for war-torn Iraq. The announcement took the Iraqi political scene by storm. Moqtada is king of the patron-client system in Iraq. Thousands rely on his protection in the complex world of Iraqi politics. Hundreds of his supporters dot the landscape as civil servants, soldiers, officers, teachers, MPs and cabinet ministers. They feel orphaned and vulnerable without him. They are now an easy target for the wide assortment of enemies that Moqtada has made since 2003, ranging from Al Qaida and the Baathists onto current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, who is glad to see the end of Moqtada. Although originally marketed as a prime opponent of Iraqi Sunnis, back in 2005-2006, Moqtada has since evolved rapidly, positioning himself as champion of moderation, coexistence and Sunni rights, in addition to being an ally of secular figures like the former Iraqi premiere, Ayad Allawi.

In the piece, Moubayed wonders what if this resignation is a bluff?  He offers Moqtada might be wanting people to beg him to return.  Moubayed seems unaware that there have been many requests from politicians -- including Ayad Allawi -- for Moqtada to rethink retiring.  In addition, Tuesday,  NINA reported:

The officer of public relations and ceremonies at the office of the leader of the Sadrist movement, Amer al-Husseini stressed that the decision of Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr is irreversible and his followers have to obey this matter without discussion or demonstration .
Al-Husseini statement came after he received dozens of protesters who came from Sadr City to ask their leader to reverse his decision, showing their support.
Husseini told the demonstrators outside the home of cleric Muqtada al- Sadr, "Muqtada al-Sadr appreciates you for coming and values your position and confirms that the decisions made must obey and he insists on it, for the benefit of the people and the nation, and you should not discuss or protest ."

If he was looking to be wooed to return, I don't think it makes a lot of sense for him to order the disperstion of his followers who are beseaching him to return.

Quickly, on a topic.  The Iraqi analyst that disagreed with more possible scenarios?

Some are thinking it's Joel Wing, it's not him.  In addition, I even visited his site Monday looking to include him in the range of voices on Moqtada but he wasn't writing about Moqtada.  But it's not Joel Wing.  It's also not an Iraqi.  It's an American with a think tank.  The offer was made her for his comments to go up in full and Shirley even copied that offer and e-mailed it to him but he's made no reply.  Which is fine but that's where it stands and since Martha counted 30 e-mails wondering if it was Joel Wing, I wanted to clarify it was not Joel Wing.

Oh, while we're talking about things, Richard Engle  will have a report on NBC Nightly News with Brian Willaims tonight from the Ukraine.  I'm not endorsing his report but I will endorse the blue coat he's wearing, it's very stylish and very flattering.

The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley, Jake Tapper, and Pacifica Evening News -- updated last night and this morning:

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