Saturday, August 14, 2010

Targeting of police continues as does the political stalemate

Violence continues in Iraq and the primary target, as with last weekend, appears to be police officers. CNN reports 4 police officers and 1 Sahwa assassinated in Baghdad today. Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two of the police officers, after they were killed, were set on fire inside their police car and that a Baghdad sticky bombing injured another police officer and one civilian and that a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded three people. Reuters drops back to Friday to note a Samarra roadside bombing which injured six police officers and a Hawija bicycle bombing which injured one police officer and one bystander.

As the violence continues, so does the political stalemate. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 7 days.

Nouri al-Maliki met last Sunday with KRG President Massoud Barzani. As noted then, rumors would run rampant as to what sort of deal Nouri was attempting to make with most assuming it was Kirkuk that was being bargained away. Salah Bayaziddi (Kurdish Globe) reports:

When Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki--at a joint press conference last week with Massoud Barzani, President of Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil--called for the implementation of Article 140 of the Constitution on the status of the city of Kirkuk and other disputed territories, it created a mixed feeling among the Kurds. While forming an alliance between Kurds and Maliki is still uncertain, this sudden visit has produced different reactions and interpretations among Iraqi politicians and policymakers in the region. Nevertheless, it seems one thing is for certain: When most political observers have argued that Maliki has agreed to most of the Kurdish demands--especially the implementation of Article 140--in return for Kurds' support for his premiership, after seven years scrambling over these contentious issues, one short sentence should be enough: It is little too late for him.

Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution demands a referendum on the issue of Kirkuk. Kirkuk is oil rich and it is disputed territory. Kurds state that it is historically Kurdish territory and want it to be part of the Kurdistan Regional Government. The census and the referendum were supposed to take place long ago. Nouri has delayed the census (that's a national census, by the way, not just a Kirkuk census) offering one excuse after another. In 2007, the Kirkuk referendum was supposed to have taken place; however, Nouri began using the lack of a national census as an excuse for stalling on the referendum.

On the issue of the meetings between Nouri and the KRG President, Iran's Press TV feels differently: "The latest intense round of talks between former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who heads the Rule of Law coalition, and Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, took place within the same framework of political consultation. The meeting is deemed a great step forward in resolving Iraq's current political impasse, provided that other leaders also accelerate talks aimed at forming a national unity government. "

Bobby Gibbs, White House plus-size spokesmodel, was attacking US citizens who dared to compare Barack Obama to George W. Bush. As Julian E. Zelizer (Washington Post) observes, the comparison isn't without merit:

Early in the Obama presidency, Jack Goldsmith, a former lawyer for the Bush administration who had become a vocal critic of its counterterrorism policies, criticized Cheney for exaggerating the differences between the two White Houses. "The new administration," Goldsmith wrote in the New Republic, "has copied most of the Bush program, has expanded some of it, and has narrowed only a bit."

And in a blistering report on the administration's national security record released last month, the American Civil Liberties Union warned of the "very real danger that the Obama administration will enshrine permanently within the law policies and practices that were widely considered extreme and unlawful during the Bush administration. There is a real danger, in other words, that the Obama administration will preside over the creation of a 'new normal.' "

The report praised Obama's decisions to release the Bush administration's "torture memos" and to outlaw secret CIA prisons overseas, as well as his prohibition of torture, but criticized the administration for, among other things, failing to eliminate military commission trials and targeted killings of terrorism suspects. ACLU Director Anthony Romero declared himself "disgusted" with the president's policies.

Nor, in a practical sense, has the Obama administration distanced itself from the Bush administration's third legacy, its wars for regime change. After the 2001 attacks, Bush defended a vision of foreign policy that sought to remove terrorist-friendly governments from power and rebuild their countries' civilian and security institutions. These principles underpinned the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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