Tuesday, November 23, 2010

NPR airs Predictions -- bad ones

After eight months under an interim caretaker -- the longest period between election and formation for any parliamentary government in history -- a recent deal finalized the next Iraqi government. The delay, and the convoluted deal that finally broke the stalemate, reflect the reality of Iraq's political landscape: divided as ever more than seven years after the U.S. invasion.
The government is far from ideal from the U.S. perspective. Its power block is extremely close to Iran and even President Obama's unseemly attempts to dictate terms related to who should be included in the government and in what capacity were largely ignored. Still, the government is what it is, and it is time for the Obama Administration to finally fulfill its campaign promise (albeit belatedly) and use this relative stability to get out of Iraq while the getting is good.
Efforts to secure a more U.S.-friendly government in Iraq have roundly failed. The pro-U.S. Iraqiya bloc, despite winning the largest plurality in the election, wound up only a minor player while long-standing U.S. critic Moqtada al-Sadr's faction wound up with enormous political clout. Ayad Allawi will not, despite President Obama's last minute phone calls, be President of Iraq.

The above is from Jason C. Ditz' "U.S. should leave Iraq before it blows up again" (Summit Daily) and, as you read it, wonder why Ditz isn't the one on NPR? This morning on NPR, Steve Inskeep (Morning Edition) speaks with Tehran psychic Nir Rosen and Rosen insists that certain things can't happen. Really? I guess all the foundation money in the world can't buy a solid education -- especially for one who started so late in life. There are a few laws of science. Nir Rosen isn't speaking of those. But he's doing what he's always has -- conveying what's in the best interest of Iran. Pretending that Iran and Iraq are one and the same, conflating the two. This is the man who has a career notable only for his hostility to Sunni Arabs -- that is the overwhelming thrust of his work. Discussing a 'study,' he went off the reservation and got cut loose by an organization because the point of the study was never that Sunni exiles have it easy, but that is how he portrayed the study to the press. Today NPR brings Nir on to discuss the political situation -- as though he hasn't been pulling for Nouri all along. As though he hasn't repeatedly made one argument after another as to why Nouri should be prime minister.

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, sixteen days and counting.

There's no government yet. Nir can't tell you that because he's too vested in Nouri. Asharq al-Awsat interviewed Jalal Talabani over the weekend.

Asharq Al Awsat: It took eight months until you agreed to distribut the responsibilities to the various parties. Do we have to wait for another eight months for the government to see the light?

Jalal Talabani: We expect the government to see the light within one month, God willing. In fact, we did not wait for eight months but for five months. The first three months were spent on the court's ratification of the legislative elections and other legal measures. But the reason why it took so long is because we are determined to form a national partnership government. We could have formed a majority government but we insisted on a national unity government and the Kurdistan Alliance insisted that the Al-Iraqiya List should be present in the government. That is the formation faltered. Now, however, there is a consensus among the parties on a national unity government. What remains is agreeing on the distribution of the ministerial portfolios.

Jalal loves to jabber but notice that Asharq al-Awsat could do what so many US outlets couldn't: State the fact that there is no government. The prime minister is the post that controls it all. There is no prime minister. In fact, as Jalal tries to fudge the rules, there's not even currently a prime minister-delegate. That will, supposedly, come Thursday.

Some people deal with what is, Nir Rosens deal in passing fiction off as fact which is how he can ignore every government report on Nouri's corruption and brutality. To hear Nir talk up Nouri is to hear the hormonal ravings of an overgrown teenager.

Dion & the Belmonts, explain to us, please, why must Nir be a teenager in love?

"Stable in the sense that the new order cannot be overthrown by any internal power," declares Nir and, no, that's not what smart people do. Smart people don't make statements like that because any order can be overthrown by an internal power. Bur remember, Nir didn't have a real education and is forever playing catch up.

Not only is it a possibility within any government, it's actually more likely in Iraq today than ever. You had Shi'ites who boycotted the elections because they felt the government didn't represent them and that their turnout in 2005 -- huge turnout -- had been in vain. You have people who voted for Iraqiya this time and saw their votes nullified following a process that was anything but fair itself. When a people begin to doubt their power at the ballot box, making change through violence becomes much more likely. That's not a predicition of what will happen, it is noting that the conditions are more likely for an internal overthrow right now than at any other time in post-invasion Iraq.

These are the people Jackson Browne describes in "Live in the Balance" (from the album of the same name), "the people who finally can't take any more/ and they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone."

Nir Rosen has developed a very nasty repuation in the Arab-American community and you'd think someone so dependent upon charity (grants) to pay the bills would have grasped the danger in that.

Meanwhile Clark Brooks (Greenville News) reports Senator Lindsey Graham is stating US forces should remain in Iraq after 2011. Lindsey is a Republican and many will provide a simplistic reading on his comments -- such as "I think having a military presence to do training and to help provide internal security past 2011 would be a good investment. Bases should be on the table, but a couple of brigades at least to stay behind to help train and build up capacity." -- but the reality is that there's no Republican senator closer to the White House than Lindsey and he's actually closer to Barack than many Democratic senators.

David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award.
and we'll close with this from his "The People of Watsonville 1 -- Picking the Colonizers' Vegetables" (Indybay Media):

The California coast, from Davenport south through Santa Cruz, Watsonville and Castroville, is brussels sprouts country. Most of this vegetable in north America comes from these fields, although a growing harvest now takes place in Baja California, in northern Mexico.

In both California and Baja California, the vast majority of the people who harvest brussels sprouts, like those who pick other crops, are Mexican. In Baja they're migrants from the states of southern Mexico. In California, they're immigrant workers who've crossed the border to labor in these fields. On a cold November day, this crew of Mexican migrant workers picks brussels sprouts on a ranch outside of Watsonville.

Many people love this vegetable, and serve it for dinner on the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. Native people in the U.S. point out that Thanksgiving celebrates the beginning of the European colonization of north America, which drove them from the lands where they lived historically. The brussels sprouts came with the colonizers. While the Romans probably grew and ate them, the first plants came to this continent with the French to the colonies of Quebec and the Atlantic seaboard.

Today the people picking in this field may be immigrants to the U.S., but in a longer historical view, they are the descendents of indigenous people whose presence in north America predated Columbus and the arrival of the brussels sprouts by thousands of years. Now they cross the border between Mexico and the U.S. as migrant workers, many speaking indigenous languages as old, or even older, than those of the colonizers - Mixteco, Triqui or Nahuatl. In the soft conversations among the workers of this picking crew, and other crews harvesting the sprouts, you can hear those languages mixed with that of the Spaniards.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.