Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, January 24, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, Baghdad is slammed with bombings, Nouri goes after Turkey (again), the political crisis continues, executions in Iraq continue, and more.
Today bombs slammed Baghdad.  Aswat al-Iraq states, "These explosions remind the people of the 2006-2007 events."   Alsumaria TV quotes an unidentified police source stating of the aftermath of a Sadr City car bombing, "Ambulance cars rushed to the incident site and transported wounded to a nearby hospital for treatment and the corpse to the department of forensic medicine."  Yasir Ghazi and Duraid Adnan (New York Times) quote bombing victim Emad Jasim asking, "Where are my legs? Tell me where my legs are. Why are they not there?"  Peter Cave (Australia's ABC News) notes that in addition to the bombing in the Sadr City section of Baghdad, the capital saw three other bombings and quotes Ahmed Ali on the Sadr City bombing, "We were all standing waiting to earn our living and all of a sudden it was like a black storm and I felt myself thrown on the ground. I fainted for a while then I woke up and hurried to one of the cars to take me to the hospital." Press TV notes two Sadr City bombings, the first targeting workers, like Ahmed Ali, the second "outside a bakery half an hour later." Of the other two bombings in Baghdad, Al Manar explains that a Shula car bombing claimed 2 lives and left sixteen people dead and a Al-Hurriya bombing claimed 1 life and left thirteen people injured. BBC News adds, "Officials said a roadside bomb also exploded on the Muthanna airport road in central Baghdad, wounding at least six people."

In all of the Baghdad bombings, the Telegraph of London counts 14 dead. AP counts 11 dead in Sadr City. Sadr City is a Shi'ite neighborhood of Baghdad, often referred to by the press as "a slum," inhabited by followers of Moqtada al-Sadr. Reportedly approximately one million people live in Sadr City (Iraq has not had a census in decades). Reuters notes 14 dead and seventy-six injured.  Dan Morse and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) report that there was also a home invasion in the Abu Ghraib section of Baghdad, police Captain Hassan Abdulla al-Timinimi was killed and so was "his family."
Outside of Baghdad, Reuters notes a Ramadi roadside bombing which claimed 2 lives and left three people injured, a Shirqat roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left another person injured, 1 person was shot dead in a barber shop and the owner was left injured, 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul, a Mosul roadside bombing injured one person, a Kirkuk sticky bombing left two police officers injured and, dropping back to last night for the rest, a Jalawla sticky bombing left one police officer injured, a Baquba mortar attack injured one child and a Tuz Khurmto sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 Sahwa.
This and other recent violence is said to have spoiled plans for Iraq to be a heavy point in tonight's State of the Union address so Sir Talks A Lot will have to find something else to spin.  But not everyone's silent on Iraq. "Far from being 'too soon'," argues Phyllis Bennis, "the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq came more than eight years too late -- and still, the war isn't over.  This war should never have been launched, so it can't be ended soon enough."  Bennis was part of Monday's Debate Club at US News & World Report. Michele Dunne argues that the US military left too soon (the US military remains in Iraq, Marines with the State Dept, soldiers as 'trainers,' Special Ops, etc.).  She insists that the country was not stable enough for the US to leave, "Knowing that Americans would expect Iraq to become a success within a few years -- and that this most likely would not happen -- was one reason why I was not in favor of the 2003 invasion.  But invade we did, and the question at hand now is whether US forces staying longer than eight years would have made a difference in how stable, peaceful, and democratic Iraq ultimately will be."  Also arguing yes is Helle Dale:  "For the Iraqi people, the consequences of the premature American withdrawal will be instability, resurgence of terrorism and an uncertain future for Iraq's fledgling democracy.  On December 22, a wave of violent, coordinated attacks killed at least 57 people, and just days after the December 15th withdrawal ceremony, the dominantly Shiite government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki purged many Sunni Arab leaders. Political instability is sure to follow.  The Iraqi army and air force training will suffer as will air operations, the Iraqi air force having few helicopters and planes."  Danielle Pletka is another on the it was a mistake to pull troops, "Here's what success in Iraq looks like: democratic elections, sectarian comity, independence in foreign policy, al Qaeda stymied, cooperating with the United States, and self-sufficiency.  Iraq didn't look completely like that in early 2011, but it was headed in the right direction.  Here's what Iraq looks like now: en route to Shia autocracy, sectarian fighting, substantial and rising Iranian influence, al Qaeda resurgent, and an almost certain economic downturn rooted in instability."  Like Bennis, Christopher Preble argues the US should have left sooner (and argues the US should never have invaded),  "No amount of additional sacrifice by our brave men and women in uniform would change the final fundamental truth about Iraq: The Iraqis wanted their country back. Now they have it. I wish them well."  US House Rep Dennis Kucinich agrees with Bennis and Preble and Kucinich notes the financial costs and the costs in lives (including over a million Iraqis killed) before concluding with this, "The war was supposed to last only a few months. Nearly nine years later, it still isn't over, as weapons are now wielded by a different agency and private contractors. Because there has been no accountability for the lies that killed millions, it is now easier than ever for America to start wars for spurious reasons. The war in Iraq should never have happened." That's six arguments -- three for, three against -- and the Debate features 12 arguments.  You can also vote on your favorite argument.  Currently Phyllis Bennis is at number one with 42 votes in favor of her argument.  (All women making arguments were feature in the above excerpts.  This isn't NPR where they disappear women from their live primary coverage. Had there been six women, as a tonic to NPR, the six excerpted would have all been women.)  Congratulations to US News & World Reports for hosting a serious discussion on the Iraq War.
Back to Iraq and back to violence, Navi Pillay, the United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights registered her dismay today over learning that Thursday, January 19th, Iraq executed 32 men and 2 women.  She stated, "Even if the most scrupulous fair trial standards were observed, this would be a terrifying number of executions to take place in a single day.  Given the lack of transparency in court proceedings, major concerns about due process and fairness of trials, and the very wide range of offences for which the death penalty can be imposed in Iraq, it is a truly shocking figure."  The UN notes that in the last seven years, Iraq is thought to have executed 1,200 people. Pillay stated, "Most disturbingly, we do not have a single report of anyone on death row being pardoned, despite the fact there are well documented cases of confessions being extracted under duress.  I call on the Government of Iraq to implement an immediate moratorium on the institution of death penalty."  Iraq is among a number of other countries that carry out executions.  (The United States also carries out executions.)  Amnesty International notes, "The worldwide trend towards abolition of the death penalty recorded further progress in 2010.  One more country, Gabon, abolished the death penalty for all crimes and the President of Mongolia established an official moratorium on executions. For the third time, the UN General Assembly adopted with more support than ever before a resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.  In 2010, 23 countries carried out executions and 67 imposed death sentences in 2010.  Methods of execution in 2010 included beheading, electrocution, hanging, lethal injection and shooting.  Countries that retain the death penalty defended their position by claiming that their use of the death penalty is consistent with international human rights law.  Their actions blatantly contradicted these claims."
You might think violence like the above would get Nouri focused on nominating people to head the security ministries or addressing the political crisis, but you would be wrong.  When violence rises in Iraq, Nouri sees the answer as attacking neighbors.  Nouri's again creating problems with Turkey.
Again? From the January 13th snapshot:

In Iraq, the political crisis continues. Nouri started it and now he wants to expand it, apparently, to go beyond Iraq's borders. How else to explain his attacks today on the Prime Minister of Turkey? Today's Zaman reports, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has harshly criticized Turkey for its what he said 'surprise interference' in his country's internal affair, claiming that Turkey's role could bring disaster and civil war to the region -- something Turkey will itself suffer." Interfere? Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cautioned that the political crisis could lead to a civil war in Iraq and has called on parties to start a real dialogue to resolve the issues. That's really not "interfering." But what has Nouri so ticked off is that Erdogan also stated the very plain fact that Nouri started the political crisis. It's a fact, Nouri doesn't like facts, but that doesn't change the status. AFP quotes Nouri stating, "Recently, we noticed their surprise interventions with statements, as if Iraq is controlled or run by them. Their latest statements interfered in domestic Iraqi affairs . . . and we do not allow that absolutely. If it is acceptable to talk about our judicial authority, then we can talk about theirs, and if they talk about our disputes, we can talk about theirs. Turkey is playing a role that might bring disaster and civil war to the region, and Turkey itself will suffer because it has different sects and ethnicities." It's always funny when Nouri unleashes his crazy in public. That was what bothered the French government the most about the White House backing Nouri in 2010, that Nouri was clearly unstable and that's who Barack wanted to rule Iraq? Crazy Nouri. KUNA reports Nouri and Erdogan were on the phone Thursday discussing the situation in Iraq. And now, today, Nouri's parading the crazy. At this rate, the bullet to the head so many observers feel is in Nouri's immediate future just may come from his own gun.
While Nouri was showing the world how unhinged he is, the Turkish Press reports that Erdogan was speaking on the phone with US Vice President Joe Biden about Iraq: "Reportedly, Erdogan said to Biden that if Iraq distances itself from the culture of democracy, efforts previously exerted for peace and stability will be wasted. Sources added that Erdogan and Biden also indicated that authoritarian and sectarian policies will never benefit Iraq and that Turkey and the US consider benefit in holding dialogue and consultations regarding the developments in Iraq."
The war of words continued. From January 15th:

Not content at lashing out at politicians in his own country, Nouri appears determined to expand the political crisis into the entire region. Al Mada notes that Nouri is stating the remarks of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will cause a catastrophe. Hyperbole's always been a part of Nouri's make up. Kitabat also notes Nouri's attack on Erdogan and how he accuses Erdogan's call for Iraq to resolve the political crisis as Turkey interfering in Iraq's domestic affairs. You've heard of a pep squad? Well Nouri has a thug squad. And Al Mada reports that State of Law, on Saturday, joined Nouri in attacking Edrogan and the country of Turkey.

Following days of those public and bullying remarks, Nouri's thugs decided to grab the rocket launchers.   Wednesday the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad was attacked. Though Nouri could and did bully, he had no public remarks to make on the embassy being attacked.
World Bulletin explains Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared today, "The idea that 'Turkey is interfering in our domestic affairs' is a very ugly and unfortunate one.  Mr. Maliki should know very well that if you initiate a period of clashes in Iraq based on sectarian strife, it is impossible for us to remain silent."  He also stated, "We expect the administration in Iraq to display a responsible stance that will stem sectarian clashes." Thus began today's call in response, what AGI terms the "war of words."  Jonathon Birch (Reuters) quotes Nouri's official statement, "This is not acceptable in the dealings between officials or different states and especially from heads of state.  Mr. Erdogan has to be more careful in handling the usual protocols in internationl relations."  Catherine Cheney (World Politics Review) offers, "According to Henri Barkey, a Turkey expert at Lehigh University, the recent escalation in tensions is simply the latest and most pointed in a series of diplomatic divergences between Turkey and Iraq, which have found themselves on opposite sides of a growing number of issues since the beginning of the Arab Spring."
Sammy Ketz (AFP) reminds, "At the weekend, Iraq said that Turkey, Iran and unnamed Arab countries were trying to 'intervene' in Baghdad's month-long political crisis and not respecting its sovereignty."  Saturday, Saud al-Zahid (Al Arabiya) reported, "Commander of Iraqn's Quds Force, Brig. Gen. Qasem Soleimani has said that the Islamic Republic controls 'one way or another' over Iraq and south Lebanon and that Tehran is capable of influencing the advent of Islamist governments in order to fight 'arrogant' powers, ISNA student agency reported on Thursday." Following that announcement, there were four responses. Alsumaria TV reported, "Iraqi Sadr Movement headed by Cleric Sayyed Muqtada Al Sadr rebuked, on Friday, Iranian Quds Forces Commander Qassim Suleimani for declaring that Iraq is subject to Iran's will and that there is a potential to form an Islamic government in Iraq. These statements are unacceptable, Sadr Movement argued assuring that it doesn't allow any pretext to interfere in Iraqi internal affairs." KUNA noted that Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari released a statement which includes, "Iraq has not and will never be affiliated to anyone and will not be a toy in others' game or a place to settle scores between different parties." Alsumaria TV also noted Kurdistan Alliance MP Mahmoud Othman objecting to the statements and terming them "a blatant interference in the affairs of Iraq." And Aswat al-Iraq reported: the Iraqiya's spokesperson Maysoon al-Damalouji condemned the statement and called for the Iraqi government to officially respond to it.  But Nouri had no statement on Saturday or since.  However, he has managed to pick a fight with Turkey repeatedly in the last two weeks.
The United States Institute of Peace released "Iraq, It's Neighbors, and the United States: Competition, Crisis, and the Reordering of Power."  Among other things, it notes the increased trade between Turkey and Iraq, how Iraqi oil will likely influence the relations between Iraq and Turkey (and Iraq and Syria and Iraq and Jordan), and that water issues "complicate Iraq's ties with Iran, Syria, and Turkey for the forseeable future."
Again Baghdad was slammed with bombings today and Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observes, "The latest attacks raised concerns among ordinary people about the ability of Iraqi security forces to ensure security in this country, particularly after the United States withdrew troops by the end of 2011. However, Iraqi people are more concerned now about the political crisis." The ongoing political crisis was started by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who demanded that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post and that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi be arrested for terrorism. al-Mutlaq and al-Hashemi both belong to Iraqiya which came in first in the March 2010 elections (Nouri's State of Law came in second). The two men are also Sunnis. Nouri appears to be targeting both Sunnis and Iraqiya as evidenced by several arrests last week. (Iraqiya is a political slate made up of Shi'ites -- such as leader Ayad Allawi, Sunnis and others. It's success in the 2010 elections echoed the main thread of the 2009 provincial elections which was that Iraqi voters wanted to move away from sectarian politics.) Along with arresting various politicians, Nouri's also decided that he can toss out members of his Cabinet who are members of Iraqiya. He's decided he can do that even though the Constitution is clear that a prime minister can only remove a member of the Cabinet with the approval of Parliament. Parliament's held no vote but Nouri insists he's removed members.

The chief task of the prime minister is building a strong Cabinet. That's why when the president of Iraq names a prime minister-designate they have 30 days to name their Cabinet (propose nominees and have Parliament vote on them). If, per the Constitution, they're not able to do that within 30 days, then the president is supposed to select another prime minister-designate. In November 2010, Nouri was named prime minister-designate. As December 2010 drew to a close, he was illegally moved to prime minister. He had not proposed a full Cabinet. Most noticeable, the security ministries (Ministry of Interior, Ministry of National Security and Ministry of Defense) were empty. The US press rushed to assure it was only a matter of weeks (as if the 30 day deadline in the Constitution didn't matter?) while his critics declared Nouri would not name anyone to the posts, that this was a power-grab on Nouri's part and he intended to control the ministries by refusing to name real ministers. (His so-called 'acting' ministers are not real ministers. They have not been approved by Parliament for those positions so they have no real power and are merely rubber stamps for Nouri.)

It's one year and a month later and Nouri still hasn't managed to name people to those posts. His inability to do so speaks to his failure as a leader and underscores that the Constitution had a 30 day requirement for a reason. One who is so indecisive and laid back to security should not be put in charge of a country that has seen violence inflicted by foreigners as well as by native persons.

The Constitution does not allow a prime minister to -- all on their own -- remove a minister and that's because they're supposed to have used their best judgment when proposing the Cabinet. If they didn't, it's up to the prime minister to persuade the Parliament to strip a minister of his/her post.

Nouri's repeated violations of the Constitution are setting a very dangerous pattern should Iraq ever, under the current system, get a new prime minister. If the Constitution's not going to be the supreme law of the land, then there are no checks and balances on the three branches of government. The only thing more appalling than Nouri's failure to follow the Constitution is the US press refusing to call out these violations.

Since mid-December, President Jalal Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi have been calling for a national conference to address the the political crisis. Two Sundays ago, there were a meet-up of major blocs to outline some aspects of the conference. Last Sunday was supposed to see a second meeting that would firm up the details; however, Talabani had to go to Germany for spinal surgery so the meeting was postponed. Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports the National Alliance is of differing views on the issues and that Nouri held a meeting yesterday with a few invited players where he insisted that (a) "political crisis" not be used (the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq rebuked the notion that the situation should not be described as a "crisis"), (b) that it not be called a "national conference" and other details to obscure reality of the mess he caused.

The political crisis has been building for months. The March 2010 elections were followed by eight months of Nouri refusing to surrender the prime minister post or allow Iraqiya the first shot at forming a coalition government. Nouri had the White House's backing or he wouldn't have survived those eight months. To end the stalemate, the US government helped broker an agreement known as the Erbil Agreement in which Nouri was allowed to remain prime minister but he would need to create an independent security commission headed by Allawi and he would need to honor the Constitution's requirement for a referendum on Kirkuk (per the Constitution, that was supposed to have taken place by the end of 2007 but Nouri ignored it in his first term).

Nouri used the Erbil Agreement to become prime minister -- it can be argued the Erbil Agreement was why he was moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister even though he failed to meet the Constitutional requirement -- and then trashed it. These days, Nouri and his sycophants (including those who pass themselves off as 'independent analysts' but are really just part of the Nir Rosen Locker Room) insist the Erbil Agreement is unconstitutional. If that's the opinion that will prevail then Jalal Talabani needs to explain Nouri was illegal and unconstitutionally moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister.

Al Sabaah notes that Nouri also spoke with Ibrahim al-Jaafari yesterday. The two are political rivals so that should have been interesting. (al-Jaafari was the choice in 2006 to be prime minister, to, in fact, continue as prime minister -- but the White House overruled the Parliament and insisted on Nouri.) al-Jaafari's office issued a statement stating that they had discussed ways to address the country's national priorities. Meanwhile Bahaa al-Araji of the Sadr bloc met with Iraqiya members and they addressed the issue of the charges against Tareq al-Hashemi agreeing that politicians should not be making charges in the media -- Nouri -- and that the matter should be left up to the judiciary. Alsumaria reports that Tareq al-Hashemi has referred to Nouri's nonsense statements a few weeks back as a "joke" and not believable.   Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Here's Nouri" illustrated that moment -- Nouri whining, "Wah! They made me go after Tareq al-Hashemi!"  When even Nouri realized he'd gone too far and was ticking off Iraqis -- regardless of their sect or ethnicity -- he began insisting to the press that he didn't want to arrest Tareq al-Hashemi but the judiciary insisted he do so or he would be arrested himself! (If that's true -- no, it's not true -- then shouldn't the judiciary have arrested Nouri by now? Not only is al-Hashemi a guest of President Jalal Talabani's and not arrested but Nouri waited until after al-Hashemi left Baghdad to issue the warrant. So shouldn't Nouri be arrested?)
Trend reports that the "Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu criticized Iraqi internal policy, saying that the events in Iraq show that the country's stability is threatened and Turkey excludes the possibility of Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi's involvement in terrorist acts in the country."

In the United States, a film is about to get its NYC debut.  David Zeiger directed the award winning documentary Sir! No Sir! about resistance within the ranks during Vietnam. His new documentary is This Is Where We Take Our Stand about the 2008 Winter Soldier hearings. Iraq Veterans Against the Wars notes a benefit screening ($15 a ticket) in NYC on February 1st, 7:00 pm, at the IFC Center and:

The film will also air on PBS around the country, thanks to generous support from the National Educational Television Association. Due to the controversial nature of the film, many local PBS stations will relegate 'This is Where We Take Our Stand' to their smaller and less widely available affiliates. We urge you to contact your local PBS station and encourage them to air the film on their major channel. http://thisiswherewetakeourstand.com/?p=376