Thursday, April 24, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, April 24, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue,  Reider Vissar sticks up for Nouri (again) and fails to grasp hyperbole, Nouri continues killing civilians in Falluja, campaigning continues in Iraq, a cleric is kicked out of Bahrain, and much more.

As I stated in yesterday's snapshot:

If Joel Wing or Reidar Visser see themselves as left, my apologies to them.  Although both have bent to Nouri's will too often for my tastes, I don't see them as right or left but more centrist analysts.

And Visser bends to it again today. Dexter Filkens' New Yorker article led Visser to rush -- yet again -- to Nouri al-Maliki's defense.

And his dishonesty means I'm forced to defend Dexter Filkins.

Skepticism of any report is a good thing when approaching one.  But after you've read it -- I'm not sure Visser read it all -- your criticism needs to be sound.

A colleague of Nouri al-Maliki's says he never smiles.  That's in the opening of the article.  As I noted on Sunday: "His intro should have been redone, it's a nightmare, but otherwise the writing is better than okay." The never smiles remark is what as known as hyperbole.

Yet Visser makes this his first 'fact check' and maintains, "This assertion can be easily falsified by a simple Google Image search, and one assumes the longstanding Maliki associate is talking to Filkins because he is not any longer such a close associate and that maybe that, in turn, may explain the perceived absence of smiles."

Again, it is hyperbole.  Visser calls his own competence as a media critic into question by failing to grasp hyperbole.

Then Visser wants to insist:

In his description of the 2010 government formation process, Filkins asserts that the Iraqi federal supreme court ruling that formally enabled post-election coalition forming “directly contradicted the Iraqi constitution”. This is just untrue. The problem is that the Iraqi constitution is mute when it comes to the relationship between electoral lists and parliamentary blocs. It just says the biggest parliamentary bloc will nominate the premier, and the supreme court simply repeated that sentence, with the addition that pre-election and post-election formation should be considered on an equal footing. 

Visser's wrong and I can quote him.  Why can't he -- or more importantly -- why won't he quote Filkins?

This is the section that Visser badly summarizes:

In parliamentary elections the previous March, Maliki’s Shiite Islamist alliance, the State of Law, had suffered an embarrassing loss. The greatest share of votes went to a secular, pro-Western coalition called Iraqiya, led by Ayad Allawi, a persistent enemy of the Iranians. “These were election results we could only have dreamed of,” a former American diplomat told me. “The surge had worked. The war was winding down. And, for the first time in the history of the Arab world, a secular, Western-leaning alliance won a free and fair election.”
But even though Allawi’s group had won the most votes, it had not captured a majority, leaving both him and Maliki scrambling for coalition partners. And despite the gratifying election results, American officials said, the Obama Administration concluded that backing Allawi would be too difficult if he was opposed by Shiites and by their supporters in Iran. “There was no way that the Shia were not going to provide the next Prime Minister,” James Jeffrey, the American Ambassador at the time, told me. “Iraq will not work if they don’t. Allawi was a goner.”

Shortly after the elections, an Iraqi judge, under pressure from the Prime Minister, awarded Maliki the first chance to form a government. The ruling directly contradicted the Iraqi constitution, but American officials did not contest it. “The intent of the constitution was clear, and we had the notes of the people who drafted it,” Sky, the civilian adviser, said. “The Americans had already weighed in for Maliki.”

Now Reidar Visser, I've tried to be nice.  I haven't been linking to my piece "A crackpot runs AFP, Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor" about how you thought you were being followed, that FBI posed as CIA, that you were harassed in US libraries and all the other things we should just leave behind.  But when you wrote your nonsense today, Reidar, you indirectly slammed me with voice mails as various friends in journalism called to tell me how accurate my call on you in that piece was.

Flikins is correct, Emma Sky is correct.

And, yes, I was correct.  This was one of the big things that I can remember Reider and 'others' getting wrong in real time that we went over and over.

It was a violation of the Constitution and maybe Reider doesn't quote Emma Sky from Dexter's report because he realizes she has a lot more credibility than he does?

Reidar doesn't not know the law.  When we're making arguments about the Iraqi Constitution here, it's usually pointed out to me by one of two Iraqis who actually worked on the Constitution (and one of them was a source for Dexter's article, by the way). I then look at the points they're making, walk through them with friends and then present them here.  And unlike Reidar Visser, I understand Constitutional Law and aced that and other legal courses.

Equally true, until Nouri made public the secret judgment (which he sought before the election but didn't share), the operating belief was clear -- and was used in 2006 after the December 2005 parliamentary elections.  Also true, the judges don't make law in Iraq.  But that's what they did with their ruling for Nouri.

Filkens is correct in his report, Reidar Visser is wrong and he's so appalling wrong that he's already chopping off the legs to any sort of comeback he might have.  His devotion to Nouri al-Maliki is apparently greater than his own need for self-preservation.

He's as embarrassing as the eunuchs attempting to serve War Criminal Tony Blair.

Take the ridiculous Jonathan Russell (Left Foot Forward) who screeches, "Tony Blair’s Bloomberg speech yesterday on the Middle East has been roundly criticised from various commentators, most of whom seemed to have not read or heard the actual speech. Brand Blair is considered toxic because of his legacy in Iraq, but the danger is that his valid arguments about Islamist extremism are lost."  We covered that speech in yesterday's snapshot.

Here's a little tip for Jonathan Russell, something most people know -- all of those who don't suffer from wet dreams about Tony Blair.  He's not Einstein.  Tony Blair's not even an original thinker.  There's nothing he adds that's particular to him.  His message is already being tossed around -- by neoconservatives.

Of Blair, Betty pointed out, "Tony Blair's the danger.  Today, he tried to paint others as being dangerous." The Daily Mail notes, "[. . .] as his speech yesterday made  clear, he remains in denial over his own role in inflaming terrorism by leading us into a bloody war in Iraq on the strength of a lie."  Arun Kundnani (Guardian) observes,  "Blair's supporters say he has discovered nuance. But the shift in his latest speech is not towards subtlety but a step back to the rhetoric of stability, and the abandonment of the post-9/11 neoconservative slogan of reordering the world. What remains is the hypocrisy of denouncing an ideology as inherently violent, and then launching a grand ideological war against it that results in far more violence."

All of the above goes to the fact that Tony Blair's a lousy megaphone for any idea -- even if it was a good one.   Stop the War's Lindsey German and Robin Beste note 10 facts about Blair and we'll include the first four:

1. Tony Blair has never shown a shred of remorse for the extremism of mass slaughter and destruction for which he was directly responsible, not least in Iraq.
2. Tony Blair is a supporter of extremism around the world, whether it be the dictators in Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan, the despots ruling the oil states Kuwait and Bahrain, or Israel’s apartheid regime that occupies Palestinian land in contravention of international law and countless UN resolutions. When prime minister, not content with waging illegal wars, he was up to his neck in CIA torture and kidnapping ’every step of the way’.
3. Tony Blair defends and applauds the military coup that overthrew the democratically elected government in Egypt, saying that it ‘was the absolutely necessary rescue of a nation’. He was a supporter of the Egyptian dictator Mubarak, calling him “immensely courageous and a force for good”,right up to the day he was overthrown in a popular revolution by the Egyptian people.

4. Tony Blair blindly ignores the catastrophes in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, as he endlessly promotes more western military intervention, whether it be in Syria, Iran or beyond.

Repeating, Tony Blair is not an original thinker.  His only value would be to popularize some theme or argument; however, his image is so negative that he can't even manage that.  His attempts to act as a megaphone will only harm any message someone wants to get out.

Let's stay on this cult of personality nonsense for a moment.

Anyone can get taken in, that's always a possibility.  But rational adults can realize they've been conned. Equally true, someone can support a Blair and then a Blair -- or a Nouri -- can morph into something else. At which point, the rational adult can walk away from supporting the person.

I won't support Hillary Clinton if she runs for president.

Some will.

That's their choice, that's their business.

For me, I think it was a slap in the face to her supporters for her to serve in Barack's administration.  It was four years of her supporters having to defend her daily because the partisans blamed her for everything.  They worked overtime to deny her the presidential nomination but then treated the Secretary of State as though she were the president and slammed her for what the administration did.  Barack hid behind her skirts and I think Hillary betrayed the support she had by playing 'good soldier.'

As a US senator she opposed the so-called 'surge' in Iraq.  As we now know from former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and his Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, Hillary only opposed it for political reasons/posturing.

That's actually fine with me.  And it's one of the few things she truly shares with her husband.  He was ridiculed for polling when he was president.  But that was about listening to the American people.  So Hillary listening to the people and opposing the surge?  I applaud that.

It's why, in January of 2008, I realized I'd support her for president.  1) She would poll, she would listen.  2) She wasn't being fawned over.  Her supporters wanted her to fight for them.  They weren't ooohing and aaaweing over the baby fawn emerging from the forest.

So she'd be held accountable -- by the right, by the left, by the center.  We've not seen with Barack.  We've seen a craven media fawn over him (and CBS really needs to address Sharyl Attkison's charges -- with one Rhodes brother in the administration and the other over CBS News, the network really needs to address this).  We've seen a faux left spend his first four years in office attacking Hillary so as not to say an unpleasant word about Barack.

Medea Benjamin writes and co-writes entire articles on The Drone War that overlook the person in charge of it: Barack Obama.

This is exactly what so many of us expected if he won the nomination.

That was 2008.

It's 2014 and Hillary's time in the administration coarsened her and amplified her bad habits.  When she went into her screaming fit before Congress -- that's not how you act before Congress, especially not when you're serving in an administration -- it was obvious how far gone she was.

If I were a Cult of Personality -- or a liar -- I'd just smile and say, "Hillary's so wonderful . . ."

Reider can't walk away from Nouri.

He's not the only one.

And the damage there?

Well Emo youth in Iraq were targeted and it took forever for it to get attention in the US media -- the US music media did a better job of covering it than the news media ever did and the Denver Post was the only mainstream newspaper to treat the issue seriously.

Emo was portrayed as vampires, devil worshipers and gay.  All of that combined was what an Emo was.

And this was portrayed by?  Employees of the Ministry of the Interior who went into schools and lectured children and young adults about how 'evil' the Emo was and how the country of Iraq had to be protected from these people.

There is no Minister of the Interior.  Nouri refused to nominate anyone for that post.  In fact, he refused to nominate anyone to head any of the security ministries.  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 have been filled before the end of December 2010.  They were not.  They are still not filled.

Nouri refused to fill them because once the Iraqi Parliament confirms a nominee, that nominee is autonomous.  Nouri can't fire them, only the Parliament can.  (Which isn't easy.  Nouri's gotten Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi convicted of 'terrorism' and sentenced to death with the Baghdad courts he controls but he can't get Parliament to strip Tareq of his title.)

As Ayad Allawi pointed out in January of 2011, Nouri was not going to nominate people for these posts because he was conducting a power grab.

That's what it was.

The people 'in' those posts today are not in those posts.  They were not nominated so they don't have Parliament's approval.  Without that, they serve at the will of Nouri.  He can dismiss them because they don't really exist.  This has allowed him to control the security ministries.

So when the Ministry of Interior went around to schools with their hand outs and their demonization of Emo and encouragement of violence against Emo?  That was Nouri.

And Cult of Nouri prevented this very serious issue from getting immediate attention.

The few that cover Iraq in the US didn't want to touch it.  Just like they ignored the Hawija massacre last year (Marcia noted it last night).

And maybe some, like Reidar Visser, got so into Nouri that it became more important to their own image and name that they refused to note reality to protect both Nouri and themselves.

As we've seen repeatedly, when they self-stroke, Iraqis die from violence.

Nouri doesn't want a partner-sharing government.  He made that clear in his second term -- a term he only got by signing a legal contract (The Erbil Agreement) promising to implement a power-sharing government. Now he's convinced he can form a majority government if he wins the April 30th elections.  (He's convinced he's going to win as well.) Today, Russ Wellen offers "Maliki: One of the Wrongest Horses the U.S. Ever Backed" (Foreign Policy In Focus).  Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) reports:

Thus, the only possible way to realize the State of Law's proposals for forming a majority government would be to jettison the two-thirds requirement.
But there are other factors that come to bear on the mechanisms of forming a new government. Most saliently, every Iraqi government must obtain at least 165 seats in parliament to win legitimacy.
The Iraqi electoral reality will simply not allow any political party to win that many seats, unless it forms a coalition with several other forces.
As for Maliki's State of Law bloc, according to most estimates, it will have difficulty winning more than 80 seats in the current election. Gaining an additional 85 seats will require forging alliances with several parties amid the complex map of Iraqi partisan politics.

Nouri wants a third term.  Trina weighed in on that last night, "Nouri's had two terms to fail in, it's time for a new prime minister."  Xinhua reports:

Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Salih al-Mutlak said on Thursday that he opposes a third four-year term for current Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, expressing his uncertainty for fair parliamentary elections next Wednesday.
"I do not agree that the prime minister, Mr. al-Maliki, will take a third term in office. I do not agree that any politician will take a third term (of prime minister)," Mutlak said.

All Iraq News notes:

MP, Jawad al-Bazoni, confirmed that scenario after the elections will be a compromise between the Citizen Coalition and other blocs that feel closer to the Coalition.

He stated to All Iraq Agency "The Coalition will be the key side to the reach the compromise with the other blocs."

Elaine noted Nayla Razzouk, Khalid al-Ansary and Dana El Baltaji's Bloomberg News report that Nouri was "banking on sales from the highest crude oil output in 35 years to earn him a third term."  As always for Nouri, when he claims 'success,' fate slaps him in the face.  Hard.  Reuters notes today, "Iraq's oil exports fell to 2.39 million barrels per day (bpd) on average in March, the oil ministry said, down from a record 2.8 million in February due to repeated sabotage of a northern pipeline."  Poor Nouri, he's got the reverse Midas touch -- whee everything he touches turns to s**t.  Amir Taheri (Asharq Al-Awsat) points out:

Incumbent Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki may yet win enough seats to claim a chance to form another administration. However, even if he manages to hang on, the government he would head would be different.
The coalition that has sustained him in power has simply melted away. Maliki’s core support—coming from one wing of the Al-Da’wah party—accounts for around 11 percent of the electorate. Thus without attracting other mainly Shi’a parties plus the Kurds and some Arab Sunni groups, Maliki would not have been able to keep his post.
In fact, if Iraqi politicians are mature enough they should be able to construct a different coalition with someone other than Maliki as prime minister.
Criticizing Maliki may be easy, bearing in mind his government’s failure to solve such mundane problems as the shortage of water and electricity in Baghdad, not to mention rampant corruption that, according to some Iraqis, has gone beyond the “normal” limits in so-called developing countries.
The least one could say is that the Maliki government is guilty of underachievement.

Iraq could have done much better. 

Seven days from now, Iraq is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections. Osama al-Khafaji and Ghassan Hamid (Alsumaria) have noted that there are 9032 candidates competing for 328 seats.  Though Iraqis in some parts of Anbar Province won't be allowed to vote and Iraqi refugees in Syria won't be allowed to vote, Aswat al-Iraq notes Majeed al-Sheikh, Iraq's Ambassador to Iran, declaring that Iraq will allow voting in 11 Iranian cities.  Michael Knights offers an analysis of the upcoming elections -- the after-process -- here. (No excerpt because what jumps out at me is a topic I'm tabling right now.  It has to do with the US government.)  Project on Middle East Democracy offers a roundup of opinions on the elections here. Lukman Faily is the Iraqi Ambassador to the US and he writes a laughable column for McClatchy on the elections.  We'll note this:

The steady development of our oil industry is expected to generate $5 trillion over the next two decades. Iraq intends to use these revenues primarily to rebuild our transportation; improve our education and health care; and restore our electrical, water supply and sanitary systems. All these endeavors, as well as others, offer investment opportunities for American companies.

Oh, is that what will happen?  Instead of going into the pockets of crooks in government?  Iraq's been pulling in billions throughout Nouri's second term and there's no potable water.  There is flooding.  Heavy rains can't be prevented -- and shouldn't be, Iraq needs water.  However, the flooding isn't just from the heavy rains.  When water's knee deep in Sadr City -- standing water -- it's because Nouri's refused to put any of the money from the oil into upgrading the sanitation system.  The water doesn't drain because the sewage system is inadequate.  It stands until it dries up and/or is absorbed by the ground.

On the topic of elections . . .

  • I am seeking a translator/fixer to work with me in , during upcoming parliamentary elections. Good pay. Anyone interested?

  • Read more here:
    Borzou Daragahi was part of the Los Angeles Times' Iraq team in the '00s.  Today, he reports for the Financial Times of London.

    Nigeria's Leadership notes:

    An Iraqi Minister survived an assassination attempt on Thursday, police said in what was the second attempt this week in which a senior government official was targeted.
    A roadside bomb hit the convoy of Youth Minister, Jassem Mohammed near the area of Tuz Khurmato, some 170 kilometres North of Baghdad.

    Violence aimed at candidates has become an election staple in Iraq.  It's become so 'normal' that it doesn't even raise an eyebrow or, for that matter, condemnation publicly from the US State Dept or any other US governmental body.   Hamza Mustafa (Asharq Al-Awsat) reports:

    "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki accused his rivals of seeking to place “obstacles” in the government’s counter-terrorism plans while Parliamentary Speaker Osama Al-Nujaifi, head of the Sunni-led Moutahidoun Coalition, accused Baghdad of allowing the unrest in the restive western province of Anbar to continue in order to disrupt the electoral process in Sunni-majority areas."

    al-Nujaifi is correct.  Nouri swore his assault on Anbar would be brief when it began in December and, back in January, was saying it would be wrapped up in weeks.  It's April and ongoing.

    As are his War Crimes.  He continues to shell the residential neighborhoods of Falluja.  NINA notes that four members of one family were left injured today when their homes was bombed. And NINA notes a second round of bombing left 6 civilians dead and nine injured "including two women and a child."  Could someone help me out on when Reidar Visser has used his 'keen legal mind' to call out these War Crimes which are collective punishment and are internationally recognized as War Crimes?

    In other violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports 2 people were shot dead in Mosul "in two separate incidents," 4 police members were shot dead in Jehesh Village,  Joint Special Operations Command announced they killed 2 suspects in Ramadi, security forces say they killed 12 suspects in Albuabeid, security forces announced they killed 4 suspects in southern Falluja, a Rutba bombing left 3 police members injured, a Rutbah roadside bombing left 2 police members killed and three more injured, a battle in Shora left 1 rebel dead, a Tikrit car bombing left 1 person dead and five more injured, and a suicide car bomber "in the Nile district 10 km north of Hilla" took his own life and the lives of 5 other people (eight more injured).  IANS adds the death toll on the suicide car bombing increased to 10 people dead (in addition to the bomber) and twenty people injured.  World Bulletin reports, "A local Iraqi councilor and two bodyguards were killed in an attack in the northern Diyala province on Wednesday, a security source said."  All Iraq News reports 5 Sahwa were shot dead and five more were left injured in Salah-il-Din Province.

    Meanwhile a Shi'ite cleric has been kicked out of Bahrain.  Courtney Trenwith (Arabian Business) reports, "The Bahrain Interior Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday, Hussein Mirza Abdul Baqi Mohammed, known as Hussain Najati, was representing Ali Al Sistani, the highest ranking Shia marja in Iraq and the leader of the Islamic training centre Hawza in Najaf. A marja, similar to a grand ayatollah, has the authority to make legal decisions under Islamic law."  The forced exit is attracting attention.  Press TV notes Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian objected to the expulsion and stated, "The problem with some parties inside the Bahraini government is that they are not committed to effective political dialogue." The United Nations Human Rights issued the following today:

    Bahrain should stop persecution of Shi’a Muslims and return its citizenship to their spiritual leader

    GENEVA (24 April 2014) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, today urged the Government of Bahrain to stop the harassment and persecution of the most senior religious leader of the Bahraini Shi’a Muslim community, who was reportedly forced to leave his country following threats from state security agents to arrest him and his son.
    “I have received information from reliable sources that on 23 April Hussain Mirza Abdelbaqi Najati was forced to leave his own country for Lebanon after being exposed to enormous pressure and harassment by the authorities,” the human rights expert said.
    Following Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior own statement, issued on its website on 23 April, it appears that the decision revoking Mr. Najati’s Bahraini citizenship and the orders to expel him from the country may have been made due to his position as a senior and influential religious authority among Shi’a believers, who make up the majority of the population.
    “I have expressed to the Government of Bahrain my grave concerns at what appears to be an act of religiously motivated discrimination which would seem to impose unjustified restrictions on Mr. Najati’s fundamental human rights, including his right to practice and profess peacefully his religious beliefs,” Mr. Bielefeldt stressed, warning that the case may have far-reaching implications for Shi’s Muslim community in the country.
    “Targeting the most senior and influential Shi’a religious figure in Bahrain may amount to intimidating and thus discriminating against the entire Shi’a Muslim community in the country because of its religious beliefs,” the Special Rapporteur stressed.
    Mr. Najati is one of 31 individuals whose Bahraini citizenship was revoked on 7 November 2012 by the decision of the Ministry of Interior, a decision that rendered him stateless. In this regard the UN expert urged the Government to reverse its decision, which appears to be arbitrary, and to facilitate Mr. Najati’s return from Lebanon.
    “International law, in particular the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, prohibits arbitrary deprivation of nationality, including on religious grounds,” the expert noted. “Discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief constitutes a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
    “I understand that Mr. Najati has consistently refrained from engaging into politics, and has maintained his position and activities strictly in the realm of his religion,” the Special Rapporteur said. “He is not known to have advocated violence or its use, or to have committed acts that would undermine national security or public order, nor has he been charged or sentenced for committing such acts.”
    Heiner Bielefeldt assumed his mandate on 1 August 2010. As Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, he is independent from any government, and acts in his individual capacity. Mr. Bielefeldt is Professor of Human Rights and Human Rights Politics at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg. From 2003 to 2009, he was Director of Germany’s National Human Rights Institution. The Special Rapporteur’s research interests include various interdisciplinary facets of human rights theory and practice, with a focus on freedom of religion or belief. Learn more, log on to:

    mohammed tawfeeq
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