Monday, April 18, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, three cities witness attacks on protesters today, Nouri refuses to allow Camp Ashraf to bury their 34 dead, Iraq still has no vice presidents, Iraq still has not security ministers, and more.
UPI reports approximately 700 Iraqis protested today in Mosul calling for the departure of US troops with Sunni tribal leaders among those participating. Mujbil al-Assafy informs Aswat al-Iraq, "A delegation, comprised of 76 tribal chieftains and leading personalities and religious men, has headed today (Monday) from Falluja to Mosul, to share in the peaceful sit-in demonstration in Mosul." However, they note that at least 40 people from Falluja were not allowed -- by security forces -- to enter Mosul and take part in the demonstrations. Aswat al-Iraq explains that protesters today joined protesters who had been present for the last ten days staging a sit-in. This follows a protest in other news, protesters in Sulaimaniya yesterday which turned violent when activists were fired on by Kurdish forces. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported fifty people were injured (forty-two were protesters, eight were security forces) and, "Health officials told CNN that seven protesters were hit in the legs by gunshots but all are in stable condition. The unrest in the Kurdish city, starting since February 17, has killed at least seven people and injured more than 250 health officials said." Reuters noted that seven of the security forces injured were suffering "exposure to tear gas" according to "Rekawt Hama Rasheed, general directof of the health office in Sulaimaniya." Shamal Aqrawi, Namo Abdulla, Ahmed Rasheed and Elizabeth Fullerton further add two journalists were wounded in the security's assault and quotes Hawalati's editor Rahm Gharib stating, "Journalist Chunour Mohammed was shot while trying to take a photo of a wounded protester. She got a bullet in her hand. We denounce this act by the authorities." AhlulBayt News Agency reports that, according to the director of Emergency Hospital, the number wounded is 86 -- eleven of which were Kurdish security. That was Sunday's protest. Protests continued in Sulaimaniya today. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports the protests continued with a little less than 1,500 activists demonstrating when Kurdish security forces moved in using tear gas, live bullets, and batons: "Dr. Raykot Hama Rahid, the director of the health department in the city of Sulaimaniya, said that 99 people were wounded: 66 riot police and 33 protesters. Among the wounded were 16 protesters who were shot in the legs, he said." Aswat al-Iraq had a correspondent on scene who stated, "A few minutes ago, scores of police, anti-riot squad and Asayesh forces stormed al-Saray square in central Sulaimaniya to disperse protestors, who have been staging a sit-in since February 17. A fire erupted in the stage made by the protestors to deliver speeches." Reuters notes, "Popular discontent in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region has been directed at a regional government dominated for decades by two political parties whose former guerrilla armies have been converted into security forces." Aswat al-Iraq notes protesters in Arbil today were attacked and twenty-two people were left injured. An eye witness is quoted stating, "Gunmen wearing civilian clothes clashed with the students gathered near the High Education Ministry in the city of Arbil." However, the police chief is denying that there was any clash or, for that matter, any protest.
Baghdad was slammed by bombings this morning. Among the bombings were two at the entrance to the Green Zone. BBC News notes of the 2 suicide car bombings, "A BBC correspondent in Baghdad says these are the first suicide bombings in the capital this year." CNN adds, "The casualties included Iraqi security forces and civilians, according to the ministry." AFP explains, "The bombs went off as a queue of cars was waiting to enter the area - also known as the Green Zone -- where many foreign embassies and Iraqi government offices are based." Citing security spokesperson Qassim al-Moussawi, Reuters counts 5 dead and fifteen injured and adds, "In a statement, the media office of the Iraqi parliament said one of the explosions hit the motorcade of Amjad Abdul Hameed, an adviser to parliamentary speaker Osama al-Nujaifi. Hameed was not injured but one of his bodyguards was killed and three others were wounded, the statement said." Hamid Ahmed (AP) offers, "The blasts marked the start of a violent day in the Iraqi capital, where a another bombing and a jewelry heist left two more dead and 13 wounded." Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times) adds, "The explosions began around 8 a.m., when an improvised explosive device was detonated near Baghdad University, injuring two people. Sounds of gunfire erupted throughout the city and a few minutes later a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb at the Green Zone checkpoint. Gunfire rang out again and a few minutes later another suicide bomber detonated a car bomb at the checkpoint." In addition, AFP notes, "A separate attack involving two roadside bombs in the up-scale residential neighbourhood of Jadriyah in east Baghdad left five more people wounded, three of them security force members, the interior ministry official added." Schmidt makes a silly claim regarding violence in Baghdad and you can read Dar Addustour for only way in which Schmidt's wrong. On NPR's hourly news feed, Kelly McEvers noted the Green Zone attack, that most of the wounded are said to be Iraqi security forces, that "the bombers were waiting in line" and "the blasts set many nearby buildings on fire."
Alsumaria TV reports that Osama al-Nujaifi, Speaker of Parliament, declared in a press converence today that if the government cannot resolve the current problems (corruption, imprisonment and other issues which started the protests this year) within the 100 day period . . .. "if the Cabinet fails to provide people with their rights and to deal with the services, unemployed, security and foreign relations files. . . therefore this partnership shall not last for a long time and there will be demands to hold new elections." The 100 days is supposed to end June 7th. But then again, Iraq held national elections March 7, 2010 which was supposed to create a new government; however, all these months after the election, they still have no vice presidents and no full Cabinet. Al Mada reports that attempts to renominate Iraq's current Sunni vice president Tarek al-Hashemi appear to have failed this weekend with Iraqiya failing to find the necessary support in Parliament. In addition, the National Alliance's Sami al-Askari notes the ongoing controversy regarding whether or not al-Hashemi impersonated a vice president by visiting areas as Iraq's v.p. Technically, the v.p.'s ended months ago. However, Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, with Parliament's knowledge, asked the two to stay on as vice president until Iraq could find two or three new vice presidents. Over the weekend, Alsumaria TV reported that Talabani "refused to appoint a Turkman candidate for the position of Vice President, an Iraqi Turkman MP said on Friday." Iraq still hasn't settled on their vice presidents all this time later. Three appears the number they'll be going for this time round. (They had two from 2006 until the present -- one Shi'ite, one Sunni.) Along with no vice presidents,Al Mada notes Iraq still has no security ministers. Nouri was named prime minister-designate in November and moved to prime minister in December. To make that move, per the Constitution, the designate has to propose a Cabinet and Parliament has to sign off on each nominee. Nouri was given a pass and waived through despite not having a full Cabinet. All these months later, it's fair to call that decision a political failure.
On things that still aren't resolved, there's been no national census, there's been no referendum on Kirkuk. Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution required the referendum to be held by the end of 2007. Nouri was prime minister than (as he is now) and couldn't live up to his own country's constitution then or since. Sunday Rawya Rageh filed a report for Al Jazeera:
Rawya Rageh: Jabir Karim is an Arab whose family has called Kirkuk home for generations. But now he says they're being uprooted from a city increasingly coming under Kurdish control.
Jabir Karim: We live in constant fear. The Kurdish Asayish police rounds up people with no charges. I've been detained. My son's been detained since 2006. And I don't know where he is. It's like we're being told leave or your homes will be raided, you will disappear.
Rawya Rageh: In this ethnically mixed city, tension is on the rise again. Many Arabs say Kurds who've been brutalized and replaced under Saddam Hussein for decades are actively trying to change Kirkuk's demographics in their favor. Entire brand new Kurdish neighborhoods are being built while some Arab families claim they're being intimdated into leaving ahead of a census that's supposed to help resolve the city's fate. The squabble repeatedly delaying the country's first full population count in a quarter of a century. Despite the demographic shifts that have been taking place here for years, bridges like this one are a symbolic reminder of how different groups have been trying to co-exist in Kirkuk for generations -- even if Kurds live on one side and Arabs live on the other surrounded by reminders of their common heritage. In the main market, vendors holler in the different languages of the community here. And in neighborhoods across the city, tales of unshaken attachment. Ahmed Ali is a Kurd whose family was expelled from Kirkuk three times in the 1980s under Saddam's Arabization policies. Yet, they kept coming back.
Ahmed Ali: Kirkuk is like a mother. All our life is tied to it. We were born here. Married here. It's like everything to us. How can we forfeit it? It's a part of our soul.
Rawya Rageh: It's not just about inherited birth rights to this land. At stake too is the wealth beneath it. And as long as the census keeps getting delayed so does the Constitutionally stipulated referendum to determine Kirkuk's status.
Jabir Karim: We don't care who ends up ruling us -- Arab, Kurd or Christian. All we want of him is to be just.
Ahmed Ali: If it goes to the Kurds, no problem. Arabs, no problem. Or even the Christians. The most important thing is stability.
Rawya Rageh: Hopes for normalcy for a city that's known too little of it for too long. Rawya Rageh, Al Jazeera, Kirkuk.
In news of other failures, the rationing card system. This is a federal program, not a regional one. It is supposed to come with federal oversight. Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) reported this weekend that nearly sixty million dollars (US) in cooking oil will be used to feed livestock due to the fact that it has passed the use-by date for humans. It was stored outside for three years. (It actually may not be safe for animals.) How did that happen? Iraq' current prime minister is Nouri al-Maliki and good for him that he wasn't the prime minister in 2008 because this would be on his -- Oh, wait. He's been prime minister since the spring of 2006. This is on his head. Dar Addustour reported a Parliament commission (Commission on the Truth) held a press conference with their chair Ahmed al-Alwani speaking and they declared the failure derived from people assuming that the oil was transferred to stores and distributed to citizens when it wasn't. Al Rafidayn reminded that the country has seen waves of protests in the last months over a number of issues including the deterioration in services with the rationing program specifically mentioned. Ahmed al-Alwani tells the paper that the Ministry of Commerce has been served with a large fine. In other news of Parliament, Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News) reports that Osama al-Nufaifi announced today that the long promised cuts in "pay and benefits of top officials" will finally be discussed in Parliament April 26th with the next being to "pass one law or three separate ones". The proposed cuts are in response to the ongoing protests.
Saturday David Ali (Al Mada) reported that "political sources close to the decision-making report Baghdad and Washington have agreed to extend the US military presence in Iraq until after the end of 2001. The Iraqi parties are now said to be seeking a way to save face when presenting this to the Iraqi people." Today Reuters notes, "Some Iraqi soldiers are worried about the U.S. troops' withdrawal from Iraq at the end of the year and say the country's security forces need more training to use the modern tanks and jets it has brought." The editorial board of the Albany-Times Union notes today, "The envelopes, please. More than eight years after the United States went to war in Iraq, and heavens knows how many more months -- or, perish the thought, years -- before the last of the troops come home, there are some awards to be given out." Use link to find out about the 'honors' being handed out.
Back to the violence today, in news from outside Baghdad and Mosul and Sulaimaniya, Reuters notes that a Falluja sticky bombing left four people and, dropping back to yesterday, 2 Ramadi roadside bombings resulted in three people being left injured.
The Tehran Times reports that Ali Larijani, Speaker of Parliament, delivered a speech to the legislative body including, "The US had better not make a further mockery of its hollow slogan of supporting human rights by pressuring Iraq over its clampdown on the members of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO)." Following the US invasion, the US made these MEK residents of Camp Ashraf -- Iranian refuees who had been in Iraq for decades -- surrender weapons and also put them under US protection. They also extracted a 'promise' from Nouri that he would not move against them. July 28, 2009 the world saw what Nouri's word was actually worth. Since that Nouri-ordered assault in which at least 11 residents died, he's continued to bully the residents. April 4th, Iran's Fars News Agency reported that the Iraqi military denied allegations that it entered the camp and assaulted residents. Specifically, Camp Ashraf residents state, "The forces of Iraq's Fifth Division invaded Camp Ashraf with columns of armored vehicles, occupying areas inside the camp, since midnight on Saturday." Friday April 8th saw another attack which the Iraqi government again denied. Thursday April 14th, the United Nations confirmed that 34 people were killed in the April 8th assault on Camp Ashraf. Barbara Grady (San Jose Mercury News) reports that the dead included journalist Asieh Rakhshani who has family in California. Reporters Without Borders noted that she and journalist Saba Haftbaradaran were both killed. The UN News Center reported over the weekend, "The United Nations mission in Iraq today voiced its deep concern at the recent events that led to the deaths of 34 people at a camp housing Iranian exiles, noting that it has repeatedly urged the Government to refrain from the use of force. The Iraqi military operation on 8 April at Camp Ashraf, located north of Baghdad, also left dozens of people injured. UNAMI (the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq) issued the following statement:
UNAMI reiterates that efforts are needed to stop violence and aim at peacefully resolving all issues. UNAMI calls for restraint and respect for humanitarian and human rights and urges the Iraqi authorities to provide humanitarian assistance in this regard and access to medical services. UNAMI's mandate includes the promotion of human rights in Iraq, and the Mission's Human Rights Office regularly assesses the situation in and around the camp. The UN continues to advocate that Camp Ashraf residents be protected from forcible deportation, expulsion or repatriation contrary to the non-refoulement principle. Over the past few years the UNAMI and the High Commissioner on Human Rights have been closely monitoring the situation in Camp Ashraf, exploring possible assistance in reaching a resolution that is consistent with Iraq's sovereignty rights, and international law. UNAMI is committed to continue monitoring the situation in the Camp.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also issued statements concerning the attack and the continued threats on Camp Ashraf. By contrast, Fars News Agency reports, "A senior Iranian military official voiced Iran's pleasure in Iraq's confrontation against the terrorist Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO), and urged Baghdad to expel the terrorist group from Iraq's soil as soon as possible." 34 unarmed residents killed and that's something to applaud? And Iran wonders why no one takes it seriously on the international stage. Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) observes, "The United States, which is reluctant to publicly criticize Iraqi authorities, has said it is 'concerned' by the report of the deaths." Meanwhile what is Camp Ashraf supposed to do with their dead? AFP reports, "Iraq-based Iranian rebels who lost 34 members in a clash with the Iraqi army this month were barred from burying the dead at a cemetery inside their base, spokesmen for both sides said on Sunday. The People's Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI) wanted to bury the bodies at a graveyard within Camp Ashraf, which houses around 3,500 opponents of the clerical regime in Tehran, but were prevented from doing so by Iraqi soldiers responsible for securing the camp." Today former US Attorney General Michael Mukasey and former FBI director Louis J. Freeh (at Time) call out the response from the White House:
On both occasions, the U.S. has lamented the violence but has failed to take effective action, perhaps in its haste to leave Iraq. Until recently, there was a U.S. military forward operating base called FOB Grizzly adjoining Camp Ashraf. But it has been closed, and this also brought the withdrawal of the U.N.'s observation mission. In the most recent assault, American soldiers were in or near the camp shortly before the attack but happened to withdraw before Iraqi forces proceeded. And sadly, in each case, President Obama and the Secretaries of State and Defense have responded lamely after these violations of humanitarian law by the Iraqi regime. A State Department statement acknowledged that the "crisis and the loss of life was initiated by the government of Iraq and the Iraqi military" but said that the U.S. government has done nothing more than "urge" the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki "to avoid violence and show restraint." Mark Toner, the State Department's acting deputy spokesman, helpfully added on April 12 that "we do need to be mindful that this is a sovereign matter for the government of Iraq" -- a posture of deference that will hardly shake the al-Maliki government to its senses.
Thursday US Senator John Kerry, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued this statement, "United Nations confirmation of the scope of last week's tragedy at Camp Ashraf is deeply disturbing and the Iraqi military action is simply unacceptable. Corrective action is imperative. First, the Iraqis must stop the bleeding and refrain from any further military action against Camp Ashraf. Second, the Iraqi government has announced a full investigation into the massacre and it must be thorough and serious. The investigation must hold accountable the responsible parties and ensure that there will be no sequel to these horrific events. Third, the current situation at the camp is untenable. The United States must redouble efforts with all the relevant parties – including the Iraqi government, the United Nations, the European Union, and the Mujahedin-e Khalq itself – to seek a peaceful and durable solution, and to find permanent homes for the residents of Camp Ashraf."
"It's a far cry from the Bush years, when hundreds of thousands or millions marched against the war," David Boaz, executive vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute, writes on the Britannica website. He asks the same question: Whatever happened to the anti-war movement?
In the post, he points out that American protests against wars seemed to stop the moment Barack Obama was elected president in 2008. "Maybe anti-war organizers assumed that they had elected the man who would stop the war," he observes.
But the wars have continued. More than two-thirds of Americans have opposed military intervention in Libya, Boaz reports, and nearly two-thirds of Americans -- a number that is up dramatically since early 2010 -- believe the war in Afghanistan hasn't been worth fighting. "Where are their leaders?" Boaz wants to know. "Where are the senators pushing for withdrawal? Where are the organizations?"
He concludes that the anti-war activity in the United States -- and around the world -- a few years ago "was driven as much by antipathy to George W. Bush as by actual opposition to war and intervention."
To buttress his assertions, Boaz cites a recently published study of anti-war protesters. The research was conducted by Michael Heaney of the University of Michigan and Fabio Rojas of Indiana University. It concludes that the anti-war movement in America evaporated because Democrats -- inspired to protest by their anti-Republican feelings -- stopped protesting once the Democratic Party achieved success in Congress in 2006 and then in the White House in 2008.
"As president, Obama has maintained the occupation of Iraq and escalated the war in Afghanistan," Heaney, an assistant professor of organizational studies and political science, said in a news release. "The anti-war movement should have been furious at Obama's 'betrayal' and reinvigorated its protest activity."
Instead, Heaney continued, "attendance at anti-war rallies declined precipitously and financial resources available to the movement have dissipated. The election of Obama appeared to be a demobilizing force on the anti-war movement, even in the face of his pro-war decisions."
All of this could have been avoided if Obama had just followed through on a few of his campaign promises. But now it's too late. He may think that he can win-back his former supporters by throwing them a bone in the last year of his term, but it will work. The damage is done. No amount of posturing or grandiloquence will close Guantanamo, stop the killing of women and children in Afghanistan, bring the troops home from Iraq, provide due process for terror suspects, or end the spying on American citizens. I'm not saying Obama is a bad man, but he is thoroughly unprincipled. And because that matters to many of his supporters, his chances for reelection are pretty slim.
Of the many people I know who voted for Obama, every one of them is disappointed, disgusted or angry. My wife -- who was an enthusiastic supporter during the campaign and who cried on the day he was elected -- now rushes to turn off the television whenever he appears on the screen. She won't listen to him on the radio either. Just the sound of his voice drives her crazy. Can you blame her? She says she won't make the same mistake again and I believe her.
In sentencing news, Faleh Hassan Al-Maleki has received a sentence. Lisa Halverstadt (Arizona Republic) reports the 50-year-old Iraqi American was sentenced to 34 and one-half years by Judge Roland Steinie following Al-Maliki's murder of his daughter.
In the US, Noor Faleh Almaleki has died. The 20-year-old Iraqi woman was intentionally run over October 20th (see the October 21st snapshot) while she and Amal Edan Khalaf were running errands (the latter is the mother of Noor's boyfriend and she was left injured in the assault). Police suspected Noor's father, Faleh Hassan Almaleki, of the assault and stated the probable motive was that he felt Noor had become "too westernized." As noted in the October 30th snapshot, Faleh Hassan Almaleki was finally arrested after going on the lamb -- first to Mexico, then flying to London where British authorities refused him entry and he was sent back to the US and arrested in Atlanta. Karan Olson and CNN note that the judge has set the man's bail at $5 million. Philippe Naughton (Times of London) adds, "Noor died yesterday, having failed to recover consciousness after the attack. The other woman, Amal Khalaf, was also seriously injured but is expected to survive. "
Later, when Steinle spoke, he said the sentencing was one of the most difficult in his six years as a judge. Noor Al-Maleki's murder was without honor, Steinle said. She was like any other 20-year-old woman whose desire for independence caused tension with her parents. Her father reacted with hatred rather than understanding, Steinle said. He recounted lessons from Buddhism, Islam and Christianity, which preach forgiveness and compassion. "For someone to say this crime was committed to restore someone's honor, they really do not understand what religion is all about," Steinle said.