Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Iraq's continued political crisis

Iraq continues to be seized by a political crisis. Jim Muir (BBC News) explains, "Iraq's most senior Sunni Arab politician, Tariq al-Hashemi, is effectively a fugitive. While he hides out under Kurdish protection in the north, the entire al-Iraqiyya political bloc to which he belongs has pulled out of both parliament and the cabinet." (Jim Muir offers a detailed analysis here.) Al Rafidayn reports that Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister and chief thug of Iraq, has held a press conference in Baghdad today insisting that Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi leave the KRG and come to Baghdad to stand trial for charges (brought by Nouri) of terrorism. Nouri says that Tareq al-Hashemi must not leave the country and that he should not fear a trial because Saddam Hussein was given a trial. It was fair, Nouri insists. Fair? That's in dispute. The outcome is not. Saddam Hussein was put to death. As noted in yesterday's snapshot, the sentence for the charges (Article IV terrorism) if found guilty are either life in prison or execution. As Anne Barker (AM, Australia's ABC, link is text and audio) explains, "The charges were made by Iraq's Interior ministry, which comes under the control of the Shiite prime minister and al Hashemi's long-time rival Nouri al-Maliki." The charges were made by the ministry -- not the minister because there is no Minister of Interior. Nouri refused to nominate someone to Parliament. So Nouri retains (illegal) control over the ministry.

HDS Greenway (GlobalPost) argues the current events can be seen through the prism of the war itself, "What the invasion of Iraq did do was unleash all the pent-up rivalries that had been suppressed, Sunni versus Shia, and Kurds against the rest. And despite almost a decade of occupation, none of these issues have been resolved. Sunnis still long for their lost ascendency. Shiites want to consolidate their new-found power, and the Kurds still want to be masters of their own region without interference from Baghdad. The current accusations against Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi are a case in point. Either he did organize death squads, as charged, or the case against him is trumped up to intimidate Sunnis. Either way Iraq’s fragile power-sharing arrangements suffer."

Iran's Fars News Agency notes, "Commander of Baghdad Police Operations Brigadier General Qassem Ata called on the security officials of the Iraqi Kurdistan region to extradite the country's Vice-President, Tariq al-Hashimi, to Baghdad to be tried for accusations of masterminding the recent bomb attacks on a number of parliamentarians."

Al Mada notes that the Parliament is calling for a meeting with Nouri's Cabinet. In addition to going after Tareq al-Hashemi, Nouri is also targeting Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq. Both al-Hashemi and al-Mutlaq are Sunnis and members of the Iraqiya political slate. The Telegraph of London notes, "Legislators are also due to consider a call from Maliki to sack Sunni Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak, who has decried the Shiite-led national unity government as a 'dictatorship'." Al Mada reports that Parliament decided Monday that they would not consider Nouri's motion to dismiss al-Mutlaq until after the next year. Al Mada quotes Iraqiya head Ayad Allawi pointing out the al-Mutlaq's position was part of the power sharing agreement and that attempts to remove him besmirch the agreement. Dar Addustour reports there is now a move to request that confidence be withdrawn from Nouri. Yesterday, the White House released the following statement:

The White House
Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release December 20, 2011 Readout of Vice President Biden's Calls to Iraqi Leaders
The Vice President today spoke on the phone with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and separately with Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi to discuss the current political climate in Baghdad. The Vice President told both leaders that the United States is monitoring events in Iraq closely. He emphasized the United States' commitment to a long-term strategic partnership with Iraq, our support for an inclusive partnership government and the importance of acting in a manner consistent with the rule of law and Iraq's constitution. The Vice President also stressed the urgent need for the Prime Minister and the leaders of the other major blocs to meet and work through their differences together.

Like Marcia, we'll note Roy Gutman, Lesley Clark, Sahar Issa and Laith Hammoudi's McClatchy Newspapers report the latest on the Iraq crisis that finds Nouri targeting political enemies:

However, U.S. officials were aware of at least one previous attempt by Iraqi security forces to coerce confessions that implicated Hashimi, a longtime Maliki critic. A November 2006 diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks reported a meeting between U.S. officials in Iraq and a former Iraqi prisoner named Ahmed Mohammed Sami, who said he'd been tortured with electric shocks and other methods while in Iraqi army custody in Diyala province.
"In total he counted seven times that he lost consciousness during episodes of torture in which he was told to agree to statements implicating Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi ... and Deputy Governor of Diyala Auwf Rahoumi al-Rabai ... in terrorist activities," the cable reports. The cable didn't specify U.S. officials' reaction to the comments.

If the White House -- under either administration -- had given a damn about Iraqis, they wouldn't have backed Nouri for a second term. Especially after knowing he was repeatedly torturing and running secret prisons. The article also notes that Nouri elected to air the 'confessions' on Iraqiya TV (that's not related to the Iraqiya political slate -- it's Nouri's own personal channel, as it demonstrated in the 2010 parliamentary campaigns).

For analysis of the current situation, see Patrick Markey and Rainia El Gamal (Reuters) and Jamie Tarabay (National Journal).

Holiday schedule? Today and Thursday are normal schedule (though things may run later than usual -- but three entries today, four tomorrow). Friday two in the morning (late morning) and most likely a snapshot (if necessary due to the news cycle that day and I have a feeling it's going to be necessary). Saturday two entries -- maybe earlier than usual. Sunday at least one (it's Christmas and we also have to do new content at Third). Monday -- very late entries in the 'morning.' (Maybe noon.) I am hopeful that I can carve out time to play the piano Sunday after "And the war drags on . . ." If so, I'll be playing for four to eight hours. At which point I'll crash. Tuesday will be normal schedule. (Monday may have a snapshot or may not -- depending on the news out of Iraq and I'm really going to be leaning towards 'no.')

Others? I know Third, that's it. Wait, Mike will post Friday and Monday. He always posts his regular days. Other than that, I don't know. As always there will be a schedule in the gina & krista round-robin but for those who want to know right now and for visitors, that's the planned schedule here.

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