Monday, April 28, 2014

Iraq snapshot

Monday, April 28, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, violence slams the polling centers in Iraq as security forces vote, refugees outside of Iraq are voting, the press is too busy doing everything but reporting, we do a slow walk through of the myth that the Iranian government (pressuring Moqtada al-Sadr to support Nouri al-Maliki in 2010) ended that political stalemate, and much more.

David A. Andelman (USA Today) notes, "Reuters' veteran Baghdad bureau chief Ned Parker reports fighting in Anbar province alone has displaced over 400,000 people, while thousands of soldiers have deserted or been killed."  We'll focus on Anbar tomorrow but will note chief thug and prime minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki continues his War Crimes of collective punishment in Anbar Province.  Today, NINA reports, his bombing of residential neighborhoods left 1 civilian dead and three more injured.  Again, we'll note Anbar tomorrow -- including the fact that a little bit of maturity came into the picture today in terms of analysis of the situation.

Instead, we're going to focus on the parliamentary vote.

While Iraqis vote in the parliamentary elections on Wednesday, Iraqi security forces voted today.  The Latin American Herald Tribune reports, "The turnout Monday was 91.46 percent" and quote Independent High Electoral Commission member Maqad al Sharifi declared that was "the highest registered since the commission was created in 2005."  Al-Shorfa quotes IHEC spokesperson Aziz al-Khaikany stating, "More than one million Iraqi soldiers and policemen this morning went to 534 election centres around the country to choose their representatives as part of the early voting for members of the security forces, who will be busy Wednesday securing citizens' voting."

Press TV has a video report here. Al Arabiya News has an AFP photo essay here. Loveday Morris (Washington Post) adds that "prisoners and hospital patients and staff members" also voted today.

Iraqi refugees are also voting outside the country and many voted yesterday. Today, in Iraq, the security forces are voting.   What's at stake? Osama al-Khafaji and Ghassan Hamid (Alsumaria) have noted that there are over 9000 candidates competing for 328 seats.

Alice Fordham continues her streak of worst reporting this month.  Having falsely declared on NPR most recently that Anbar Province wouldn't be voting, Alice latest report is an online number and didn't make the broadcast.  In it, she writes:

Maliki's critics say he has authoritarian tendencies, using the security forces and the judiciary to sideline his enemies. In addition, his rivals say he has a harsh sectarian streak that favors the Shiite majority over Sunni Muslims and other minorities. But a lot of Iraqis keep voting for him. 

How many, Alice, how many vote for him?  You're working for a US outlet -- for the moment, anyway.  And you damn well know most Americans don't have a clue about a parliamentary system.  Reality, less than one million will vote for Nouri al-Maliki.  Prime Minister isn't a position on the ballot.  Nouri's name only appears on the ballots in his district.

Nouri al-Maliki wants a third term.  Apparently using his second term to tear apart the country and increase violence wasn't enough for him. But all of the third term talk confuses a number of people in the US.  Nouri is running for the Parliament.  That's what these elections are and that's why they're called parliamentary elections. He has campaigned outside of Baghdad for others in his State of Law.  He campaigned, for example, this month is Basra.  And Moqtada al-Sadr's supporters staged a very prominent protest against him while he was in Basra.  But Nouri's name won't appear on ballots in Basra.

Confusion weighs heavily and there's no effort made to explain.  Explaining might require telling truths and it's much more important to lie to the people and to pimp Nouri as a sure thing.

For example, listen to what the International Crisis Group's Maria Fantappie tells John Beck (The Vice):

“The security situation there will not allow many to reach the polling stations,” she said, “and those who do will be risking their lives.”
A lack of international observers might mean that those do attempt to participate won’t be voting in a free and fair environment. Fantappie believes this underscores a wider issue: a growing lack of trust in the electoral process, especially in Sunni-populated areas.
“The big difference between this election and the elections in 2010 is that since then, a large portion of the Iraqi population, especially in Sunni populated areas, don’t trust the political process and don’t see the elections as something which can really reshape the power balance in the central government institutions,” she said.

Huh.  Do people read that and think that's an explanation?  Or complete in any form?

She ends stating, "The big difference between this election and the elections in 2010 is that since then, a large portion of the Iraqi population, especially in Sunni populated areas, don’t trust the political process and don’t see the elections as something which can really reshape the power balance in the central government institutions."

That's a conclusion?

Hell no.

Why does "a large portion of the Iraqi population" not "trust the political process" and not "see the elections as something which can really reshape the power balance in the central government institutions"?

Those comments beg an answer and none is provided.

What happened was a country new to democracy turned out in March 2010 to vote and they voted for Iraqiya in enough numbers to allow this new coalition headed by Ayad Allawi to beat the incumbent prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law.

If you'd risked your life to vote in 2010, chances are you weren't thrilled to see your vote rejected.

We're going to review but first let's review how they lie because the press lies so damn much.

Here's Mohamad Ali Harissi (AFP) pretending to explain how the loser -- Nouri, always Nouri, his whole damn life he's been a loser -- ended up remaining prime minister:

The landscape for the April 30 election differs markedly from 2010, when Maliki faced off with Shiite ex-premier Iyad Allawi, who at the time headed a secular Sunni-backed coalition.
Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc narrowly edged out Maliki, but the incumbent still managed to maneuver to secure the premiership by winning the backing of powerful neighbor Iran and allying with other Shiite parties after the election.
Iraqiya has since fractured into multiple factions and Maliki’s principal Shiite rival in the 2010 polls has also broken down into several blocs.

That's a bit of lie.  First, let's deal with the "multiple factions."  People are lying and saying this is something it's not.  The political parties, this is what it is, feel that smaller parties and blocs were given greater weight in the 2010 voting and had more power in the eight-month plus political stalemate that followed the 2010 elections.  I thought Nouri was losing his hold last week when we highlighted Reidar Visser's analysis arguing that.  We highlighted it, however, because Iraqiya has been slammed by the press, insulted, said to be kaput because they had broken into smaller groups.

But since then, two analysts have explained to me on the phone that this is not a sign of breaking up so much as it it's the various political blocs attempting to game the system for the post-election battle.

Now let's deal with the other thing, the whole lie that Nouri was able "to secure the premiership by winning the backing of powerful neighbor Iran and allying with other Shiite parties after the election."

I don't know why you'd lie about this at AFP unless you felt France was so tiny and insignificant that it couldn't publicly take on the US government.

Is that the issue?

Are AFP and Mohamad Ali Harissi so scared of the US government?  Poor little babies, poor little lying cry babies.


First off, the US government backed Nouri as well and did so for months and months.  This is from John Barry's 2012  "'The Engame' Is A Well Researched, Highly Critical Look at U.S. Policy in Iraq" (Daily Beast):

Washington has little political and no military influence over these developments [in Iraq]. As Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor charge in their ambitious new history of the Iraq war, The Endgame, Obama's administration sacrificed political influence by failing in 2010 to insist that the results of Iraq’s first proper election be honored: "When the Obama administration acquiesced in the questionable judicial opinion that prevented Ayad Allawi's bloc, after it had won the most seats in 2010, from the first attempt at forming a new government, it undermined the prospects, however slim, for a compromise that might have led to a genuinely inclusive and cross-sectarian government."

The US government backed Nouri.  So did the Iranian government. No one, however, backed the Iraqi voters who showed real courage in voting and who chose a national Iraqi identity by voting for Iraqiya which was not a secular party but one with Shi'ites (such as Allawi), Sunnis (such as Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi) and various minorities.  Iraqiya was promoting one Iraq.  That's why it also had women -- real women, not 'tell me how to vote' women.  And it was one Iraq, that's what they were campaigning on.  People responded to that message in 2009 during the provincial elections.  These strands became strong roots by the 2010 parliamentary elections.

Nouri has splinted Iraq in his second term, pitted this group against that group and taken Iraqi back to levels of violence not seen since 2008.  Had the US government (or the Iranian government, but I'm a US citizen and I need to hold my government accountable not play it safe by pointing at other countries), had the US government backed Iraqiya, the country would be in a better place today.  What if the government had failed even more than Nouri's?  It wouldn't have mattered, the point would have been that a national identity would have been embraced instead of the warring factions on the ground in Iraq today.

Iran?  October 17, 2010, Martin Chulov (Guardian) reported on pressure from the government in Iran and how it had made cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr back Nouri (after Moqtada had refused to do so for months):

 The Guardian can reveal that the Islamic republic was instrumental in forming an alliance between Iraq's Nouri al-Maliki, who is vying for a second term as prime minister, and the country's powerful radical Shia cleric leader, Moqtada al-Sadr.
The deal – which involved Syria, Lebanon's Hezbollah and the highest authorities in Shia Islam – positions Maliki as a frontrunner to return as leader despite a seven-month stalemate between Iraq's feuding political blocs.

And if you're a real idiot or a coward or a whore, that's how it happened.

But if you have flat lined and you still have brain waves, you might have noticed Chulov mentioned "seven-month stalemate."

Did you catch that?

The political stalemate was the frozen government, the inactive Iraqi government, following the March elections.  At the time, Iraq set the record for longest time between elections and the formation of a government.  That stalemate lasted eight months.

Iran did what they did in month seven.

If that, pay attention, was what ended things then October (month 7 of the stalemate) would have been the last month.

But Iran may have gotten Moqtada on board with Nouri, it did not, however, end the stalemate.

The US government -- who backed Nouri throughout the stalemate -- ended it.  US President Barack Obama ordered US officials to negotiate a contract that would give Nouri a second term.  This is The Erbil Agreement signed by Nouri and all other heads of the political blocs.  In exchange for giving Nouri a second term, the leaders would get various things that they wanted.  Ayad Allawi would head a newly created and independent national security council, for example.  Or the Kurds?  They wanted Article 140 of the Constitution implemented.  All these agreements were put in writing, put into a legal contract to give Nouri a second term as prime minister.

This is from Ned Parker, "Who Lost Iraq?" (POLITICO).

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.

This is from Ned Parker, "Iraq: The Road to Chaos" (The New York Review of Books)**:

Meanwhile, instead of producing a decisive outcome, the 2010 election left the country deeply divided. The vote was a near draw between Maliki and Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc, and it took nine months of negotiation and heavy involvement from both the Americans and Iranians to forge a new “national unity” government. According to the compromise reached, it was to be headed by Maliki with important cabinet positions allocated to Iraqiya, including the vice presidency and the ministries of finance and defense. Allawi himself would head a new military and political council, a step the US had strongly pushed for. But as soon as the new government was seated, Maliki refused to relinquish control of the defense and interior ministries, and thwarted the establishment of Allawi’s council. He eventually chased his Sunni vice president and finance minister away with the threat of arrest warrants. As Maliki saw it, his political survival depended in part on ruthlessly limiting his opponents’ power, and he could not leave himself exposed to enemies, whether Shiite Islamist rivals or members of the Sunni opposition. 

The voters didn't give him a second term.  Why would they feel dejected today?

Because they voted to replace Nouri.  That was the 2010 winning vote.  Instead, they were stuck with Nouri because the US government, Barack Obama, went around the voters, went around the Iraqi Constitution and went around basic principles of democracy to ensure that Nouri al-Maliki got a second term.

Why would they feel dejected?

Because, in the end, their votes didn't matter.

Because, in the end, the vote was stolen by the US government.  

The Erbil Agreement is in November 2010.  That's what ends the then-ongoing political stalemate.  Not Iran pressuring Moqtada.  

Leila Fadel (Washington Post) notes the latest rumors that a deal has been reached and explains the expected process: "Legislators are expected to meet Thursday afternoon for only the second time since the inconclusive March 7 election. Under the deal reached Wednesday, the parliament is expected to appoint a speaker from Iraqiya, then name the current Kurdish president, Jalal Talabani, as president. He, in turn, will name Maliki as prime minister. Maliki will then have to put together a cabinet that a simple majority in Iraq's parliament will have to approve."  Whomever is named PM-designate -- whenever they're named -- will have 30 days to pull together a cabinet.  Nouri's past history of ministers walking out -- as well as his own boasting in April 2006 that he'd put together a cabinet before 30 days -- are forgotten, apparently.  Also forgotten is what this says: Elections are meaningless. 
If the rumors are true about the make up of the next government and that does come to pass, the message is: "Elections are meaningless, voters stay home."  The president and the prime minister remain the same?  Only the speaker changes?
They didn't need a national election to change the speaker.  Mahmoud Mashadani had been the Speaker and was repeatedly the victim of a disinformation campaign by the US State Dept -- with many in the media enlisting (such as in 2006 when he was in Jordan on business and a certain reporter at a certain daily LIED and said he was in Iraq, hurt and sad and refusing to see anyone -- that lie would have taken hold were it not for the Arab press).  He stepped down.  When he did so, Iyad Samarrai became the next Speaker and that was done by Parliament, no national elections required.  So the message from the 2010 elections appears to be -- if rumors are correct -- that there is no point in voting.  Iyad Samarrai got vanished from the narrative.  Reporters and 'reporters' like Quil Lawrence (declaring victory for Nouri March 8th, one day after the elections) might have been a little more informed if they'd bothered to pay attention.  Mahmoud Mashadani stepped down as Speaker.  It took FOUR months for a new speaker to be appointed. And that was in the spring of 2009.  Why anyone thought some magical mood enchancer would change things in 2010 is beyond me.

The rumors Leila reported were accurate.  From the November 11, 2010 snapshot:

Today the KRG website announces:

Baghdad, Iraq ( - Iraq's political leaders yesterday agreed to hold the parliamentary session as scheduled on Thursday and to name an individual for the post of Speaker of the the parliament (Council of Representatives). The Speaker post will go to the Al-Iraqiya bloc, which is headed by former prime minister Ayad Allawi.
During the meeting, which was attended by the leaders of all the winning blocs at President Masoud Barzani's Baghdad headquarters, agreement was reached on two other points: to create a council for strategic policy and to address issues regarding national reconciliation.
President Barzani, who sponsored the three days' round of meetings, stated that today's agreement was a big achievement for Iraqis. He expressed optimism that the next government will be formed soon and that it will be inclusive and representative of all of Iraq's communities.
Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports one hiccup in the process today involved Ayad Allawi who US President Barack Obama phoned asking/pleading that he accept the deal because "his rejection of post would be a vote of no confidence". Ben Lando, Sam Dagher and Margaret Coker (Wall St. Journal) confirm the phone call via two sources and state Allawi will take the post -- newly created -- of chair of the National Council On Higher Policy: "Mr. Obama, in his phone call to Mr. Allawi on Thursday, promised to throw U.S. weight behind the process and guarantee that the council would retain meaningful and legal power, according to the two officials with knowledge of the phone call."  So all is well and good and . . . Ooops!!!! Lando, Dagher and Coker file an update, Iraqiya wasn't happy and walked out of the session.  Prashant Rao (AFP) reports that "a dispute erupted in the Council of Representatives chamber when the mostly Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc argued that the agreement they had signed on to was not being honoured, prompting the bloc's MPs to storm out. [. . .] Specifically, Iraqiya had called for three of their lawmakers, barred for their alleged ties to Saddam Hussein's Baath party, to be reinstated before voting for a president."  As The Economist noted earlier today, "An actual government is not yet in place; last-minute hiccups may yet occur."  AP notes, "A parliament vote on the government could still take several weeks, as the factions work out the details of who gets what posts."  According to Suadad al-Salhy and Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters), the Parliament today elected Jalal Talabani to the presidency, voted Osama al-Nujaifi Speaker and "Talabani then nominated Maliki to form a new government."  They had to vote, first, on Speaker.  That was al-Nujaifi and the two deputies -- Qusay al-Suhail and Aref Tayfoor. Nujaifi or Nejefi or Najafi is the brother of Nineveh Province Governor Atheel Nejefi who is part of al-Hadba Party.   

That's what happened.

I don't why AFP is such a coward.

I don't know why they want to lie about what's in the public record.

Maybe they're trying to sell war on Iran?  Maybe that's why they lie and distort.

But the public record is clear on when the stalemate ended and how: The Erbil Agreement ended the stalemate -- the US-brokered Erbil Agreement ended the stalemate.

It ended the stalemate but it brought on the violence.

Al Jazeera counts at least 62 violent deaths.

We'll focus on the violence with regards to voting.  NINA reports a Khanaqin suicide bomber took his own life and the lives of 18 other people "near the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in Khanaqin northeast of Baquba," 1 "gunmen attacked a polling center in Kirkuk" (he was arrested), 2 military personnel were killed and four police members injured when a Habbaniyah bombing went off as they "were heading to a polling station," Iraqi soldier Mohammad Qasim was killed at a Hawija voting center by a suicide bomber, 3 suicide bombers were killed by the Iraqi military at a Ramadi polling station, a Tuz Khurmatu suicide bombing targeting a polling station left 3 police members dead and seven more injured, a suicide bomber at a Mansour polling station left 6 police members dead and nineteen more injured, a roadside bombing "near a polling station in eastern Mosul" left five Iraqi soldiers injured, a suicide bomber attacking a central Mosul polling station today left 1 officer and 1 soldier injured, a suicide bomber attacked a Bab Laksh polling station leaving six police members injured, a suicide bomber attacking an al-Hairi school with a polling station killed 7 police members and left twenty-one more injured,  a suicide bomber detonated near a Jawsaq polling station injured four security forces attempting to vote, and a Wasti school in south Kirkuk with a polling station was attacked by a suicide bomber leaving six police dead and nine more injured.

Baghdad Operations Command announced Nouri's forces were in charge of the polling stations as of Saturday.

They do not appear to be 'in charge' at present.

All Iraq News notes Iraq's President Jalal Talabani voted today.

December 2012,  Iraqi President 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.

And Germany's where he cast his vote today. The New York Times posted the video of the vote (or alleged vote) here.  Absentee voting for the absentee president.

AFP notes a Khanaqin suicide bomber killed 30 people and left fifty injured and that they were present "to celebrate the release of a video purportedly showing the ailing Talabani, a Kurdish leader, voting in Germany."  BBC News adds:

People at the rally had gathered to watch television footage of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, casting his vote in Germany.
Mr Talabani suffered a stroke in December 2012 and has been receiving treatment in Germany.
"The attacker snuck among the crowds near the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan's [Mr Talabani's party] headquarters and blew himself up, causing a tragic massacre," a police officer told Reuters news agency.

While Khanaqin saw intended violence, AFP notes that gunfire in Sulaimaniyah was celebratory:

Car horns blared, people shouted and waved flags of Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party while hanging out of car windows, and some fired off celebratory gunshots in Sulaimaniyah, located in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region.
One man shot a pistol through the open sunroof of his SUV, while a taxi driver held a Kalashnikov assault rifle out the window, firing as he drove past a PUK office where a crowd of revellers had gathered, according to an AFP journalist.

Celebratory or not, Rudaw reports that "11 people among them a woman and a child have been wounded by stray bullets" from the celebratory gunfire -- or funfire -- in Sulaimani.

Jalal wasn't the only Iraqi voting from outside Iraq.  Yesterday, CIHAN noted that Iraqi refugees in many countries will be voting, "About 800 thousand Iraq citizens living in 19 foreign countries will vote during upcoming two days at the embassies of the country across the world."  Refugees in Syria won't be allowed to vote.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Agnes Merza (Morton Grove Village in Illinois) voted Sunday and was eager to be the first in line.  Emily Siner (Nashville Public Radio's WPLN) reports Nashville is one of the nine cities in the United States where Iraqi refugees can vote and she quotes Husam Alsawad explaining, "This is one of the great things about freedom.  You get to choose whoever you want.  It means future for Iraq.  I mean, this is a democratic process and we have to participate."

Zerya Shakely (Rudaw) reports Iraqis in Austria voted Sunday and Monday in the parliamentary elections with 850 voting Sunday alone and Shakely quotes Aram Saleh Osman ("head of the local Electoral Commission [who] came to Vienna from Erbil") declaring, "Iraqi citizens abroad can vote from 20 coutnries around the world.  There are polling centres for example in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Iran, Turkey, Sweden and Germany."

All Iraq News reported Iraqi refugees in New Zealand completed voting, approximately 23,000 voted in Jordan, voting started in Egypt where 30,000 Iraqis are expected to vote over two days, and voting started in the United Kingdom. National Iraqi News Agency notes that Sunday's vote in Iran was extended by two hours.  Ali Hashem (Al Monitor) examines the Iran vote:

Iraqis in Iran are either native Iraqis who fled during the Saddam era, or Iraqis of Iranian origins who were asked to leave the country. Abu Mohammad Taqi is one of the latter, though his story is a bit different. "When I left Iraq I went to Syria. I worked there for years. I was in Kfarbatna but because of the war, I went to Iran." Abu Mohammed said he chose to go to Iran because of its stability and because many of his cousins are here.
The competition over votes from Iran is among Shiite factions, as most of the Iraqis in Iran are from Shiite areas. Maliki and former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari are the most popular here, while Ammar al-Hakim and his bloc come third.
The main reason behind the support of Maliki is his crackdown on radical groups and his support of defiant Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

It's a little pathetic and a little telling about the lack of fairness in human beings that the same Shi'ites in Iraq who refuse to move forward with their lives but instead want to grudge f**k the past over their being marginalized despite being in the majority while at the same time they root for Bashar al-Aasad in Syria's civil war because they don't want to see  the majority Sunni population in Syria power.  That's an observation of hypocrisy, it is not my supporting either side in Syria and it is certainly not my attempt to call for a US war on Syria.  It is simply noting that some Shi'ites in Iraq and especially Iraqi Shi'ites in Iran are the worst to let go of the past when they weren't allowed majority-rule while at the same time they don't want to see majority-rule in any Middle Eastern country where Sunnis are the majority.  This hypocrisy is not exclusive to some Middle Eastern Shi'ites.  In the United States, for example, you can find a lot of Democrats who were opposed to The Drone War and illegal spying when Bully Boy Bush was in the White House but are silent on the topics now that a Democrat, Barack Obama, is in the White House.

Sarah Kneezle (Al Jazeera) notes the views of "Douglas Ollivant, the former Director for Iraq on the National Security Council under both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, and Nussaibah Younis, a research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s International Security Program" and we'll include Younis take:

Younis, who is affiliated with the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, disagreed with Ollivant’s assessment, claiming that the political outlook was more positive during the last election, in 2010.
“You had possibly the most stable period that Iraq has ever experienced since the invasion back in 2010,” she said. “And you had two big coalitions that both had sizeable representation of both Sunnis and Shias — and they we reusing nationalist slogans and were encouraging Iraqis to think of themselves as Iraqi first and of whatever sect second.”

Ayad Allawi Tweeted the following today:

Parliamentary elections were last held in 2010.

Allawi surprised many in the western press by leading Iraqiya to victory.

The press learned nothing.  They wasted the lead up to the 2010 elections with horse racing and handicapping and they called the race wrong.  Instead of trying to predict winners, they might try just reporting on who's running.

Though the western media has ignored it, major comments were made over the weekend. Alsumaria reports cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr gave a televised speech today where he stated this election was the last chance to make a change. He called on the United Nations and other bodies to be neutral, to monitor the process closely and not choose sides in the election.  He called on the country's Electoral Commission to be independent as well.

al arabiya news