Thursday, October 29, 2009

Arrests in Iraq, election bill still waits

Iraq has arrested some 60 security forces over the weekend twin bombings which targeted government buildings in Baghdad, killing up to 153 people.
Army spokesman General Qasim Atta said the suspects were arrested on Thursday, saying that those arrested were deployed in the Salhiya section of the capital at the time of the blasts.

The above is from Press TV's "Iraq arrests 60 security forces over blasts." The Sentinel states the 60 were compoes of "11 army officers and 50 security officials". Xinhua adds, "The arrested were in charge of providing security for a downtown Baghdad district which was hit by the deadly suicide attacks that targeted government buildings, Major General Qassim Atta said." BBC News notes, "The BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse in Baghdad says it is not clear whether those arrested are accused of negligence or collusion. However, he added, it seems to confirm what many people have suspected - that the security forces are susceptible to infiltration by insurgents or are just not up to the job." Reuters reports Qassim al-Moussawi, spokesperson for Baghdad security, "said that officers, foot soldiers and police in areas where attacks happen would be arrested in the future and placed under investigation." The death toll for the Sunday bombings is at least 155 and does include children. Mohammed Jamjoom (CNN)reports:

The force of the blast threw Rawnaq against the wall of her office at the Ministry of Justice. She instantly thought of her two children in the day care center just two floors below.
"I rushed downstairs and found all the children under the rubble," says Rawnaq, "My daughter Tabarak was standing near the stairs. My son Hamoodi outside. Me and a colleague took them out, running. A police car drove us to the hospital."
Both children were injured, 3-year-old Tabarak much more so than her 2-year-old brother. Severe head and back injuries have left the little girl needing extensive surgery and unable to sleep due to unceasing pain. She is also deeply afraid.

For more on the bombing, click here for Michael Ware's CNN report. Sami Moubayed shares observations on the attacks in "A turkey hunt in Iraq" (Asia Times):

August 19 was Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's turkey day.
Rather than "finding his turkey" and arresting those who had struck at government buildings in the Green Zone - killing 100 people - Maliki began searching for a political scapegoat to protect his own neck, fearing that the attacks would cost him his job at the parliamentary elections scheduled for January.
Rather than ordering a manhunt to bring the real criminals to justice, Maliki only encouraged them to strike again by looking in the opposite direction - showing the terrorists that he is vulnerable, weak; "unable to restore his turkey". Seeing that they had struck once - and gotten away with it - the terrorists struck yet again on October 25, this time killing about 150 people and injuring more than 500.
The aftershocks of the latest attacks are still reverberating throughout Baghdad. Apparently, among the victims were 25 children who were at a daycare center near the targeted Ministry of Justice. Corpses are still being collected from neighboring buildings, including the Ministry of Social Affairs, which was badly damaged by the attack.
The deputy governor of Baghdad was wounded in the twin bombings, and so was Muna al-Douri, a parliamentarian, whose two bodyguards were killed. According to the Iraqi daily al-Zaman, men and women buried below the massive chunks of concrete are still alive, desperately calling their families on their cellular phones - unable to speak yet painfully groaning, to show them that they have not yet died.
Families of the victims are frantic with the state-run rescue operations, accusing them of being slow and ineffective. While most Western media are concentrating on the death toll (which varies between 132 and 155 people), few have been talking about the 500 injured or the 200 missing because of the blasts over the past four days.
What's amazing are the uniform statements being heard from top officials in Baghdad, blaming al-Qaeda and former Ba'athists. Not a single official is taking responsibility for the attacks or admitting that the only reason they happened, less than three months after the six bombings on August 19, is because the Iraqi system is disunited, weak and corrupt.

"If it doesn't make a deal before this weekend, Iraq will run out of time to organize an election before Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's term expires," Renee Montagne observes on today's Morning Edition (NPR).

Renee Montagne: What, Quil, is at stake with the delay of this election law?

Quil Lawrence: Well, as you say, the Iraqi prime minister and his government's term run out on January 31st so the election commission here has said they need 90 days to organize a legitimate poll and Parliament is deadlocked on over a dozen or so complicated issues regarding the election. They may vote on it today. If the elections are delayed or if they are rushed, there's a risk that Iraq's government could be deemed illegitimate and then a whole Pandora's Box of problems can open up -- issues of legitimacy of the government, maybe even a crisis like we've seen in Afghanistan. One big question is whether the US has done enough to push it through, especially since their plan to pull out 70,000 troops by August can't really start until the elections are done.

Renee Montagne: Well six years on the ground in Baghdad, hasn't the American embassy there worked up a fair amount of what you might call institutional knowledge regarding Iraqi politics?

Quil Lawrence: Well the problem is it took the Obama administration four months to get an ambassador confirmed and out here and that's taken that ambassador another couple of months to assemble a new political team. So he's got a good number of people with expertise in the region -- a good number of Arabic speakers -- but they've never been to Iraq before, many of them. So before they can have much influence, they need to learn who the players are and build these personal relationships with them and that could take months and years.

Renee Montagne: Although haven't American diplomats been, in a sense, pressing the flesh at the Parliament.

Quil Lawrence: There's been as many as six of them at a time over at the Parliament but it's sometimes curious who they're meeting with or not meeting with on the Iraqi side. And like I said, they're just getting up to speed so it's possible they could walk right past a very important Iraqi politician in the halls of Parliament and not even know him by face.

Okay, on the above. On pulling out troops can't start until after the election?

Yesterday, the KRG swore in their prime minister's cabinet. Yesterday. Elections were held in July. In December 2005, Iraq last held the national elections. Nouri comes along in April as the US-installed prime minister (after the US rejected the Iraqis first choice). In May, he announces his cabinet. Point? The counting of the votes, the verifying and assorted other issues mean the elections are not 'over' in January even if held then. As for a vote happening as early as today, CNN reports that as well but notes, "The Kurdish bloc in the Iraqi parliament intends to boycott the vote on a proposed election law if the oil-rich province of Kirkuk is banned from voting in next year's national elections, two Kurdish lawmakers say."

Jeremy Scahill's "Pentagon Investigation Iraq Electrocution Death" (The Nation) reports on the latest developments:

The Department of Defense has confirmed that the US Army Criminal Investigation Command has launched a formal investigation into the electrocution death of 25-year-old Adam Hermanson, a US Air Force veteran-turned private security contractor who died in a shower at the compound of his employer, Triple Canopy, at Camp Olympia inside Baghdad's Green Zone on September 1, 2009. The State Department's Regional Security Office is also investigating.
The DoD appears to be placing responsibility for the deadly incident squarely on Triple Canopy. "As part of the terms and conditions of the JCC-I/A contract, Triple Canopy is solely responsible for providing billeting, showers, latrines and other life support activities to its employees at Camp Olympia," according to Under Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter. Hermanson is the nineteenth US soldier or contractor to die from electrocution in Iraq since 2003.

In England, Peter Walker (Guardian) reports that the inquiry into the Iraq War will hear evidence starting November 24th and that former Prime Minister Tony Blair will be offering public testimony. We'll try to include more on that in today's snapshot but we need to wind down.

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