Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Iraq realities and rumors

"The decision to continue doing business with Louis Berger has fueled criticism that the Obama administration is willing to overlook criminal allegations in its zeal to rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq," Marisa Taylor (Miami Herald) reports on Barack's decision to hand over a $490 million contract to Louis Berger Group which is currently under federal investigation due to allegations of fraud. Meanwhile, in Iraq, Leila Fadel (Washington Post) writes of children from forced marriages (and rape?), whose fathers were al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and forced their way into Iraqi women's lives. Lacking the official paperwork required, the children don't exist, don't even have Iraqi citizenship. Ahmed Jassim warns, "It's dangerous because in the future they might hurt the society that hurt them."

In other news, Alsumaria TV reports, "Al Iraqiya List senior official Vice President Tareq Al Hashemi announced that Al Iraqiya is set on the priority of achieving its electoral program consisting of change and reform for the coming four years regardless of the positions presently in debate."

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "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 six months and fourteen days with no government formed.

Yesterday Kelly McEvers (NPR's All Things Considered) reported on the stalemate and talk that Nouri is "shoring up support" to remain as Prime Minister.

Kelly McEvers: Parsing out what's happening in Iraqi politics is like reading between the lines of an Iraqi play. [Play heard in the background.] In this performance, the title of which translates roughly to laughter, playfulness, seriousness and love, a member of Parliament gives a speech with grammatical errors. The implication is that politicians are illiterate and stupid. Later he appears to be shocked to hear that an Iraqi family only gets a few hours of electricity a day. The underlying meaning? Politicians are disconnected from the people.

McEvers goes on to quote a member of Nouri's group who, no surprise, says the wind is at Nouri's back and he will remain as prime minister. Might the US object? Of course not. The White House wants Nouri. The White House has backed Nouri, has proposed ignoring the Constitution to keep Nouri (by creating a new position to throw out to Iraqiya as sop). "Privately though they've long been pushing for Maliki to stay in the job," McEvers states of the US. Nouri has stated he will renegotiate the SOFA and that's been more than enough to get the support of the White House. Alsumaria TV reports this morning, "The National Alliance including the State of Law Coalition and Iraqi National Coalition plan to name Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki for a second term, a source from the national coalition told Alsumaria News."

The same government that couldn't set an example to the Iraqis on how to handle prisoners is the one which now teaches that the laws and the Iraqi Constitution are to be ignored. And they laughably claim that they're promoting 'democracy' in Iraq.

Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing has injured four people, a second one has wounded four more and a Kirkuk roadside bombing has claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers and injured another.

And we'll close with this from Senator Daniel Akaka's office (Akaka is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee):


WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Military Family Association presented U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) with a 2010 Support of Military Families Award tonight on Capitol Hill for his career of advocacy and recent success in passing the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act.

“The honor that comes with military service belongs not just with our troops and veterans, but also with the spouses, children and parents who sacrifice for them and support them. I thank the National Military Family Association for this privilege, and for their commitment to our servicemembers and their families,” said Akaka.

The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act was signed into law by President Obama on May 5, 2010. The law includes provisions to establish an unprecedented permanent program to support the caregivers of wounded warriors, improve health care for veterans in rural areas, help VA adapt to the needs of women veterans, and expand support services for homeless veterans.

Senator Akaka is Chairman of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and a member of the Committee on Armed Services.

For more on the National Military Family Association, visit http://www.militaryfamily.org


Kawika Riley

Communications Director and Legislative Assistant

U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman


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