Saturday, November 20, 2010

Still waiting on that 'movement' towards a government in Iraq

Yesterday a roadside bombing targeted Iraqiya's Mohammed al-Khalidi. John Leland and Khalid D. Ali (New York Times) report it was three Members of Parliament who were targeted (with, as known yesterday, one bodyguard killed and two others injured), that the bombing took place between two military checkpoints and that "police issued a warrant for two soldiers at the checkpoints, who then fled their post, heir weapons behind, said Atheel al-Najafi, the governor of Nineveh Province, who is a brother of the speaker." Parliament meets on Sunday and we're all supposed to pretend Jalal Talabani will 'just now' be naming a prime minister-delegate.

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, thirteen days and counting.

Again, the Parliament is scheduled to meet on Tuesday. At the start of the month, there was much "Now they're on track!" nonsense. That was due to their finally holding their second and then third session. As the month winds down, they finally get around to the fourth meeting. Feisal Amin Rasould al-Istrabadi (Today) observes, "Seven months after Iraq's national elections, the United States has publicly denied taking sides in the wrangling over who will be Prime Minister. Privately, however, the US is backing the incumbent, Mr Nouri Al Maliki. The US has applied tremendous diplomatic pressure on Iraq's Arab neighbours to get them to accept another Maliki term. Most have refused. Initially, the US backed Mr Maliki in order to keep the Sadrist bloc from gaining a share of power. However, that has now backfired, since the Sadrists are the only group other than Mr Maliki's coalition of Shia parties that supports him."

In other violence, Reuters notes an armed Mosul clash in which one child was injured, Mosul notes a 1 army col was shot dead, a Shirqat bombing claimed the life of the wife of a police officer and left their child injured, a Shirqat sticky bombing injured two security guards and, dropping back to Friday, 1 suspect was shot dead by Iraqi forces in Mosul. On the Shirqat bombing targeting a police officer's home, Xiong Tong (Xinhua)quotes an unnamed police source who states that the bomb was planted inside the house.

Tuesday's snapshot included the following:

Meanwhile Ahmad Al Akabi apparently took his own life last night. Australia's ABC reports that he was among many immigrants at Sydney's Villawood detention center and that he had been attempting to receive asylum in Australia and that efforts were being made to expel him from Australia and send him back to Iraq: "Mr Al Akabi came to Australia by boat 12 months ago. He was a teacher and a truck driver in Karbala in southern Iraq. His fellow asylum seekers say his bid to stay in Australia was based on claims of persecution from the Shia Mahdi Army." AFP adds, "Human rights supporters said the man who had hanged himself in a bathroom on Tuesday was an Iraqi in his 40s who had left a wife and four children behind in Iraq, and arrived in Australia on a boat about a year ago."

Tuesday, the Christmas Island Detention Center was the site of protests for the late Ahmad Al Akabi. Australia's ABC reports that at least 10 people attempting to seek asylumn "have sewn their lips together" and that "180 other detainees are engaged in a peaceful protest in a common area at the centre." An unknown number are refusing food. Padraig Collins (Irish Times) adds, "The Social Justice Network, a refugee advocacy group, said about 250 asylum seekers on Christmas Island had been on hunger strike since Wednesday. The detainees, who are from Iran, Iraq, Algeria and Palestine, declared a hunger strike after they heard about the suicide of an Iraqi detainee, Ahmad al Akabi, in Sydney's Villawood detention centre earlier this week." AP informs, "The detainees are demanding reviews of their rejected refugee applications and speedier processing. Some have been housed in detention centers for more than a year." SBS presents Australia's Minister of Immigration Chris Bowen's position which is 'we don't negotiate with detainees' ("distressing" situation but it will have no impact).

In the US, whistle blowers continue to be targeted. We'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "Non-Violent Response Urged to Oppose U.S. Aggression" (Scoop):

People the world over must find non-violent ways to oppose American military force lest they suffer the fate of the Iraqis---hundreds of thousands dead and a nation in ruins.

Given the growing menace of the American war machine, non-violent soul force should be considered as a response in international conflicts just as it was used nationally by Mahatma Gandhi in India and by the Reverend Martin Luther King in America.

During the Sixties, the Urban League's Whitney Young Jr. said of American blacks, “We can't win a shooting war.” He was right. He and other black civil rights leaders supported Dr. King's approach. The success of their non-violent movement made America a better nation in which to live.

Today, in response to U.S. arrogance and aggression, non-violent "soul force" must be seriously considered, particularly by small nations of the sort the U.S. has a history of overthrowing or attacking. It will require courage and restraint by the threatened nations but they will earn the sympathy and support of the world by displaying these traits.

Nations faced with illegal assault by the U.S.---here Iran is an example as the U.S. has criminally threatened it with nuclear war---could announce they will not fire back or oppose an invasion.

If this seems like a lot to ask, consider the alternative: the futility of stopping a sophisticated U.S. war machine funded with $800-billion a year. (Did you know the Pentagon spends more for war than all 50 American states spend for peaceful purposes?)

Does a small nation with a $5- or $10-billion defense budget think it can “win” against USA? Does it think it will not suffer horrendous casualties if it fights back?

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