Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Ignoring the obvious (corruption, Sinjar, bombings)

In yesterday's snapshot we noted Here & Now (NPR, link is audio) anchor Peter O'Dowd speaking with McClatchy Newspapers Mitchell Prothero.  Excerpt.

Peter O'Dowd: Is the deteriorating infrastructure in Iraq a bigger threat than ISIS is?

Mitchell Prothero:  Well let's put it this way: one of the things whenever I speak with people who live in ISIS areas, the first thing they say is that immediately the public utilities and things get more efficient.  In a lot of cases, there isn't electricity because the government controls that.  But the trash gets picked up, water, bread, all this stuff comes out. You know, what people need to accept in the post-US invasion environment, the Iraqis have yet to put together a government that's, you know, anything vaguely closely to competent.  The infrastructure in Baghdad has never been improved, billions have been spent, mostly stolen and so, when you do get a spike, because 115, 118 degrees, that's not completely unusual this time of year, but when it pops up to 125 or so and you've basically lost the largest oil refinery in Iraq -- destroyed in fighting, and then you throw in that the government's bankrupt and fighting wars on  several different fronts, the whole thing just comes apart. 

"Billions have been spent, mostly stolen" and "the government's bankrupt."

Today, Al Arabiya News reports:

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Affairs, Bahaa al-Aaraji, said the former government of Nouri al-Maliki has wasted around $1 trillion of public funds.
“The former government (of Maliki) has wasted around $1 trillion. $800 billion came from Iraq’s oil budget since 2004 till 2014 while $200 billion came from donations and aid,” Aaraji told reporters on Friday according to a report by Asharq al-Awsat.

Nouri is a thug.  And he needs to be held accountable for all the money he fleeced.

But it's doubtful he will be.

Despite receiving applause for supposedly attempting to address corruption, new prime minister Haider al-Abadi has done damn little.

Address it?  He can't even answer a basic question.

This was obvious last April when Der Spiegel's Susanne Koelbl interviewed him:

SPIEGEL: Iraq is at war, but it is not the only crisis affecting the country. Many residents of Baghdad use the word "thieves" when they talk about your politicians. How corrupt is your government?

Al-Abadi: We have problems and the way I am dealing with them is to start by admitting them. Corruption is a huge issue. It has to do with the society, which has changed -- both during the times of Saddam Hussein's regime and after. Also, the sanctions had an adverse effect on society in nurturing this culture of corruption. During the 1960s or 1970s, bribery was very rare in Iraq. The number of government employees was very small and usually they were the elite. But then they incorporated millions of people into the government -- not to better run the state, but to control the people. We are in the process of implementing a number of processes and procedures that aim to curb the extent of corruption.

SPIEGEL: One of your first actions after you took office was to close the office of your predecessor's son, who is said to have provided huge government contracts to people who were ready to pay the most for them. Young college graduates claim they had to pay officials $10,000 to $20,000 in order to obtain government jobs. Why should Iraqis have any faith in this government?

Al-Abadi: We need to flip the system. Four years ago, the government tried to stop the corruption at the Passport Office, where people pay $400 to $500 just to get their passport issued. Every day they were arresting so many people and it did not have much of an effect. But if you ease the procedure, for instance making the document available online, it puts an end to it altogether. I don't want to fill our prisons with people who ask for petty cash while we are facing this major terrorist threat to the country. I want to keep these prisons for the actual criminals who are killing people or for people who are stealing vast amounts of money from the people. I want to change how we run the government in Iraq.

Did you notice it?  Serious talk.

Until the interviewer notes Ahmed al-Maliki, Nouri's son.

He never comments on that: "One of your first actions after you took office was to close the office of your predecessor's son, who is said to have provided huge government contracts to people who were ready to pay the most for them."

He just sidesteps it, ignores it.  He's asked "how corrupt is your government" and responds directly without any offence.  But he can't answer about Ahmed al-Maliki?

Let's stop pretending anything's changed with regards to Haider.

There's a lot of pretending going on.

For example, at The Conversation, Tyler Fisher, Muslih Mustafa, Nahro Zagros want to note a year since Mount Sinjar, when Yazidis were trapped on the mountain and being attacked, the incident that led Barack to start bombing Iraq.  The three write:

The crisis in Sinjar is subsiding, and the Peshmerga have gradually retaken some of the areas that IS had overrun. But the atrocities are still a relentless daily reality for thousands of Yazidis still in captivity, for those in precarious refugee camps and for their relatives abroad, bereaved or longing to be reunited.

Several thousand remain in the mountains, cut off from humanitarian aid – and the threat of annihilation has not abated.

Credit to the three for not pretending all Yazidis were rescued.

How sad that Barack's actions last August have still not paid off.

But there's another detail and Mitchell Prothero was noting it in his Here & Now interview yesterday.

Sinjar itself?

Still under Islamic State control all these months (12) later.

Twelve months after Barack began bombing Iraq and nothing has changed.

Sinjar remains occupied, Yazidis remain trapped.

Nothing changed.

Yet today's big news?

BBC reports:

The RAF Tornado mission against Islamic State militants in Iraq is to be extended by an extra year, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said.
The jets - due to be disbanded last March - are to be kept in service until "at least" March 2017 to continue air strikes, he said on a visit to Iraq.

No real success to point to from August 2014 to the present but the plan or 'plan' is to continue this through at least March 2017.

Anyone going to have the guts to ask: Why?

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