Thursday, July 19, 2012

Iraq's future threatened?

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon states that the turmoil in Syria has negatively effected Iraq, Al Mada reports, and that the political crisis has prevented Baghdad and Erbil from addressing Iraq's internal problems.  The political crisis, Ban Ki-moon stated, has prevented efforts to resolve outstanding issues and, without these issue being resolved, the future of Iraq is threatened.

The political crisis has already seen two stalemates.  The first one lasted over eight months and followed the March 7, 2010 elections.  Nouri's political slate State of Law came in second to Iraqiya (headed by Ayad Allawi) but Nouri didn't want to follow the Constitution and demanded a second term as prime minister.  The White House backed Nouri and not the Iraqi people, their votes, democracy or the Constitution.  So the US government brokered a contract between the political blocs, the Erbil Agreement, which gave Nouri a second term if he agreed to various concessions (implementing the Constitution's Article 140, creating an independent security commission, etc.).  Nouri used the Erbil Agreement (November 2010) to get his second term and then refused to follow the Erbil Agreement.  Once this became obvious, the second political stalemate had started.  By summer 2011, the Kurds, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr were calling for a return to the Erbil Agreement.  This is the current and ongoing political stalemate.

Al Mada reports that Iraqiya is hopeful that one of their own might be nominated to head one of the security ministries and the names Jawad al-Bolani, Mustafa al-Hiti and Salah al-Jubouri are among those being tossed out (by Iraqiya).  An unnamed State of Law official seems skeptical about that happening.  al-Jubouri currently serves on the notorious Justice and Accountability Commission. al-Hiti is a member of Parliament and has unofficially served as an Iraqiya parliamentary spokesperson since 2010.  He is a member of Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq's National Dialogue Front.  In 2009, Jawad al-Bolani wrote a column for the Washington Post which you can read here.  Jawad al-Bolani served as Minister of the Interior in Nouri's first Cabinet.  It was during that time that the Ministry of the Interior became synomous with terrorism and power struggles.  You can refer to the Los Angeles Times archives for many reports on that and you should probably start with this July 2007 report by Ned Parker:

This is Iraq's Ministry of Interior -- the balkanized command center for the nation's police and mirror of the deadly factions that have caused the government here to grind nearly to a halt.
The very language that Americans use to describe government -- ministries, departments, agencies -- belies the reality here of militias that kill under cover of police uniform and remain above the law. Until recently, one or two Interior Ministry police officers were assassinated each week while arriving or leaving the building, probably by fellow officers, senior police officials say.
That killing has been reduced, but Western diplomats still describe the Interior Ministry building as a "federation of oligarchs." Those who work in the building, like the colonel, liken departments to hostile countries. Survival depends on keeping abreast of shifting factional alliances and turf.
On the second floor is Gen. Mahdi Gharrawi, a former national police commander. Last year, U.S. and Iraqi troops found 1,400 prisoners, mostly Sunnis, at a base he controlled in east Baghdad. Many showed signs of torture. The interior minister blocked an arrest warrant against the general this year, senior Iraqi officials confirmed.
The third- and fifth-floor administrative departments are the domain of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party, a Shiite group.
The sixth, home to border enforcement and the major crimes unit, belongs to the Badr Organization militia. Its leader, Deputy Minister Ahmed Khafaji, is lauded by some Western officials as an efficient administrator and suspected by others of running secret prisons.
The seventh floor is intelligence, where the Badr Organization and armed Kurdish groups struggle for control.
The ninth floor is shared by the department's inspector general and general counsel, religious Shiites. Their offices have been at the center of efforts to purge the department's remaining Sunni employees. The counsel's predecessor, a Sunni, was killed a year ago.

For any who are confused, per the Constitution, yes, Nouri was supposed to have named heads to the security ministries back in November 2010.  His failure to do so was supposed to mean that he did not advance from prime minister-designate to prime minister and that, instead, a new person was named prime minister-designate and given 30 days to come up with a Cabinet.  The US-backed Erbil Agreement 'trumped' the Iraqi Constitution.

All Iraq News reports Iraqiya's Salem Dali notes that the move to question Nouri before Parliament continues and that this is necessary because public funds are being wasted and due to large numbers of Constitutional violations.  He doesn't need to list reasons, the Constitution gives the Parliament the right to question Nouri.  It's good that there are reasons but Nouri's continued refusal to appear before Parliament is just another example of how he refuses to follow the Constitution.  Nasiriyah reports that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq is calling for calm and dialgoue.  Anybody remember how Nouri's Reform Commission was supposed to meet and finalize things this week?  Yeah, what happened to that?  Has his diversion already been dropped?  There's not been any coverage of it all week. However, All Iraq News reports that Allawi is supposed to meet with Moqtada al-Sadr shortly.

One thing the Parliament is putting time into is funding their own personal purchase of firearms.  Al Mada reports the plan to spend five billion dinars is going through and that the Parliament has even turned down the Ministry of Interior's offer to provide them with firearms. To be clear, these guns will only be for the Parliament and they're not passing any laws to provide Iraqi citizens with guns.  Despite the fact that the bulk of them live outside of Iraq and that they frequently can't show up for sessions or actually earn their big salaries, they feel that they need guns and that the Iraqi people should foot the bill.

While the Baghdad-based government is happy to arm the Parliament -- which, for the record, has no security area to patrol -- they appear to balk at funding security forces.  Specifically, Al Mada reports that the Minister of the Peshmerga in the KRG is stating that it appears Baghdad will not fund the arming of the Peshmerga (Kurdish security forces) and that the KRG will have to foot that bill.  It's seen as part of the ongoing distance between Baghdad and Erbil.  

In other spending news, the Minister of Justice, Hassan al-Shammari, announced yesterday that Iraq's 27,000 detainees are costing his ministry $20 million per month (it says "dollars," not "dinars" so I won't bother to do a conversion).  Despite this large figure, Iraqi prisoners are not receiving health care, the minister notes.  Where's the money going?  The only big item listed is electricity.  Due to international standards, Iraq provides (or attempts to provide) electricity to prisons 24 hours, 7 days a week. Kitabat quotes Minister Hassan al-Shammari declaring that the expenses are food and maintaining/meeting international standards.   Meanwhile Alsumaria reports that the Ministry of Interior released a statement stating that Nouri must launch an investigation into the death of prisoner Saddam Mukhlif while in a Baghdad prison.  The cry for an investigation comes as Alsumaria also reports the Ministry of Justice is insisting they've stopped a plan by 16 death row prisoners to escape.

On the topic of electricity,  Nasiriyah reports that in an effort to try to reach 12 hours of electricity a month for the holy month of Ramadan, Iraqi is increasing energy imports from Iran.

On the topic of oil, Reuters reports that for the third straight month, Iraq's exports have fallen "below 2.4 million barrels per day".  Trade Arabia notes, "Chevron Corp is buying into blocks in Iraq's Kurdistan, according to two oil executives involved in the region, as the second-largest U.S. oil company follows Exxon Mobil Corp into an area where oil rights are a subject of fierce dispute.
Chevron is purchasing 80 per cent of the Sarta and Rovi blocks from India's Reliance Industries, according to the two executives, who requested anonymity." If that rumor is true, that would be a big blow to Nouri.  Remember Antony Blinken's meeting with Nouri yesterday?  (Blinken is US Vice President Joe Biden's National Security Adviser.)  Supposedly Blinken made time to press Nouri on ExxonMobil -- Nouri wants the deal cancelled -- but didn't press him on Ali Mussa Daqduq.  If true, that's really embarrassing.  Remember that first a US official insisted they were already pressing Iraq to extradite Daqduq to the US and then Nouri's spokesperson made clear that no such request had been made.  And then a US official said they were 'about to' make the request.

They still haven't.  And those US officials mentioned -- they were both Antony Blinken.

In other news, Al Mada reports that the spokesperson for Camp Ashraf declared yesterday that it was impossible to continue the transfer of residents of Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty, stating that it's impossible to meet the basic human needs at Camp Liberty due to the conditions there.  Camp Ashraf is where Iranian dissidents have lived for decades in Iraq.  After the US invaded and started the ongoing Iraq War, the newly empowered exile government in Baghdad began making announcements that the dissidents would be removed from the country.  The US government gave the residents protected persons status but has refused to honor that status under President Barack Obama who apparently doesn't understand the way international law works.  Of the estimated 3,400 to 3,500 residents, two thousand have been moved to Camp Liberty.

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