Saturday, November 27, 2010

Historical amnesia when it comes to Nouri

Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reports on a press conference Nouri al-Maliki, thug of the occupation, held today and doesn't appear alarmed by his remarks. Possibly that's due to the questions he was asked -- which aren't included. Without them, the readers are left with Nouri exclaiming that Iraq will descend into chaos if formation of the government takes too much longer. That can be read as, "I will form a cabinet and get each minister voted on in the 30 day requirement." And his remarks tend to indicate that; however, his wording also indicates that he may be carving out room for himself if he can't meet the deadline at which point he would then insist that he must be given more time and that it would take longer for the Constitution to be followed and a new prime minister-designate to be named.

Fadel quotes him stating, "The Iraqi army, the Iraqi police and the Iraqi security services are capable of controlling the security situation, and therefore the security agreement will stay. I do not feel that there is a need for the presence of any other international forces to assist the Iraqis in controlling the security situation." The context missing?

How about Iraq has no air force? How about the fact that officiers in the Iraqi army have stated they can't protect their external borders and will need help with that after 2011?

How about Nouri's pattern?

This is the same Nouri who blustered that foreign forces wouldn't be needed after 2006 and then went and renewed the United Nations mandate for the occupation outraging the Iraqi Parliament. To tamp down on their outrage, Nouri insisted that it would not happen again without their signing off on it. 2007 is winding down and, guess what, Nouri renews the mandate again -- without their input.

Nouri's public record is one long pattern of claiming US forces are not needed in Iraq -- making that claim publicly while doing something different behind the scenes. Or does no one remember that the Iraqi people were supposed to vote on the SOFA -- a vote that was supposed to have taken place in July 2009 and never did?

Printing Nouri's quote on US forces remaining in Iraq demands that Nouri's past history be noted or else just distributing talking points. Was he asked any questions after he made that statement? March 4th of this year, he was telling Arwa Damon (CNN) that he might ask for an extension ("depends on the future"). That was before the long and ongoing political stalemate. Exactly what's changed since March? They still don't have a government.

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "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. November 10th a power sharing deal resulted in the Parliament meeting for the second time and voting in a Speaker. And then Iraqiya felt double crossed on the deal and the bulk of their members stormed out of the Parliament. David Ignatius (Washington Post) explains, "The fragility of the coalition was dramatically obvious Thursday as members of the Iraqiya party, which represents Sunnis, walked out of Parliament, claiming that they were already being double-crossed by Maliki. Iraqi politics is always an exercise in brinkmanship, and the compromises unfortunately remain of the save-your-neck variety, rather than reflecting a deeper accord. " After that, Jalal Talabani was voted President of Iraq. Talabani then named Nouri as the prime minister-delegate. If Nouri can meet the conditions outlined in Article 76 of the Constitution (basically nominate ministers for each council and have Parliament vote to approve each one with a minimum of 163 votes each time and to vote for his council program) within thirty days, he becomes the prime minister. If not, Talabani must name another prime minister-delegate. . In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister-delegate. It took eight months and two days to name Nouri as prime minister-delegate. His first go-round, on April 22, 2006, his thirty day limit kicked in. May 20, 2006, he announced his cabinet -- sort of. Sort of because he didn't nominate a Minister of Defense, a Minister of Interior and a Minister of a Natioanl Security. This was accomplished, John F. Burns wrote in "For Some, a Last, Best Hope for U.S. Efforts in Iraq" (New York Times), only with "muscular" assistance from the Bush White House. Nouri declared he would be the Interior Ministry temporarily. Temporarily lasted until June 8, 2006. This was when the US was able to strong-arm, when they'd knocked out the other choice for prime minister (Ibrahim al-Jaafari) to install puppet Nouri and when they had over 100,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. Nouri had no competition. That's very different from today. The Constitution is very clear and it is doubtful his opponents -- including within his own alliance -- will look the other way if he can't fill all the posts in 30 days. As Leila Fadel (Washington Post) observes, "With the three top slots resolved, Maliki will now begin to distribute ministries and other top jobs, a process that has the potential to be as divisive as the initial phase of government formation." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) points out, "Maliki now has 30 days to decide on cabinet posts - some of which will likely go to Iraqiya - and put together a full government. His governing coalition owes part of its existence to followers of hard-line cleric Muqtada al Sadr, leading Sunnis and others to believe that his government will be indebted to Iran." The stalemate ends when the country has a prime minister. It is now eight months, twenty days and counting. Thursday November 25th, Nouri was finally 'officially' named prime minister-designate. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) explained, "In 30 days, he is to present his cabinet to parliament or lose the nomination." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) added, "Even if Mr. Maliki meets the 30-day deadline in late December -- which is not a certainty, given the chronic disregard for legal deadlines in Iraqi politics -- the country will have spent more than nine months under a caretaker government without a functioning legislature. Many of Iraq's most critical needs -- from basic services to investment -- have remained unaddressed throughout the impasse." Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera) offered, "He has an extremely difficult task ahed of him, these next 30 days are going to be a very tough sell for all of these parties that all want something very important in this government. It took a record eight months to actually come up with this coalition, but now what al-Maliki has to do is put all those people in the competing positins that backed him into slots in the government and he has a month to day that from today."

Reuters notes today's violence includes a Mosuls ticky bombing which claimed the lives of 12-year-old boy and his father, 1 person shot dead in Mosul when assailants invaded a shop, a Mosul roadside bombing which injured two Iraqi soliders, another Iraqi roadside bombing which injured one person, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured four people (including two police officers) and 2 adult males shot dead in Tuz Khurmato.

Sgt. David J. Luff Jr. of Ohio died last Sunday in Tikrit as a result of enemy fire. Jacob Shafer (Maui Time) observes:

Happy Christmas (War Isn't Over)
The Iraq war may be over, but don't tell the 800 Hawaii-based troops who are being deployed there this week. The soldiers, stationed at Oahu's Schofield Barracks, will join almost 4,000 members of Hawaii's 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team currently carrying out "Operation New Dawn."
Granted, thousands of U.S. forces have left Iraq and the ones still there are supposedly focused on "non-combat" duties. But five members of Stryker Brigade have been killed since September, including Sgt. David Luff, Jr., who died this week "of wounds sustained from enemy small-arms fire" during "advisory operations" in Tikrit, according to a military release.
So when will the war really be over? By the end of 2011—maybe. That's the date the Obama Administration has set, but earlier this month Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he'd be "open to discussing" a longer stay if Iraqi forces aren't ready to take the reins. Calls to mind the words of Aristotle: "It is more difficult to organize a peace than to win a war."

Jack Healy (New York Times' At War blog) notes:

Sergeant Luff was out on the kind of operation that has become increasingly common to the United States’ changing mission in Iraq — a meeting between American military officials and local leaders from Tikrit. Sergeant Luff was helping to provide security, positioned in the gun tower of his heavily armored vehicle, when a sniper’s bullet struck him down. He was the third American soldier to die by enemy fire since the combat mission in Iraq officially ended in the summer.
"All three in my brigade," said Col. Malcolm Frost, the commanding officer of the Second Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division, which is arrayed across much of the two provinces immediately north and northeast of Baghdad. "Iraq is still a dangerous place."

Healy has an article on refugees that we'll try to note tomorrow. CORRECTION: The article on refugees is written by John Leland. My apologies.

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