Friday, June 21, 2013

Iraq: Protests, arrests, violence, broken promises

It's Friday in Iraq which means protests.   Demonstrators turned out in Jalawla, in Falluja, in Ramadi,  in Kirkuk and in BaghdadThey're declaring Monday "The Day of the Detainee."  In the Iraq 'legal' system, people charged with crimes but not convicted disappear for years in jail as do people who have never been charged with a crime but were rounded up and tossed in a prison.  National Iraqi News Agency notes that the security was beefed up throughout Anbar Province around sit-in areas.  They did this in Diyala Province as well and "Shahab-Badri, Vice-Chairman of the Committee of Religious Scholars of Iraq, demanded security forces to take responsibility by ensuring access to worshipers to prayers yards , calling on the Iraqi government to meet the constitutional and legitimate usurped rights that the demonstrators claimed since more than six months."

NINA also reports, "A security source in Kirkuk province, said that rapid intervention special forces of Dijlah Operations Command arrested the coordinator of the Popular Committees for the mass movement in the province Sheikh Khaled Mafraji."  Alsumaria notes that the Kurdish movement -- both in Kirkuk and nationally -- is calling for the Sheikh's immediate release.

Alsumaria notes "hundreds" (probably thousands) have turned out in Kut today to protest.  This is not a part of the ongoing protests.  This is a protest that cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr called yesterday and they are demonstrating against the proposed conference in Qatar that the Taliban will be attending.  Judging by the photo with that Alsumaria report and the photo with this report on Kufa, a lot more followers of Moqtada al-Sadr turned out in Kufa to protest the Taliban being included on the Qatar Conference.

Yesterday, Anbar Province and Diyala province were finally allowed to vote (after being prevented by Nouri al-Maliki from voting in April).  Today, Iraqi News reports, "The Presidential Staff of Iraq congratulated the citizens of Anbar and Nineveh Provicnes for holding local elections."  Why the presidential staff and not the president?  Last December,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.   The fact that a statement wasn't issued in his name will lead some to question (or more loudly question) whether or not Jalal can even speak -- despite the optimistic 'reports' by his doctors.  He's now missed an eight of his term due to the stroke.

On other rumors, will Iraq ever hold a census?  Mustafa Habib (Niqash) reports that Nouri al-Maliki has been making noises about it -- but those noises were when he visited Erbil this month to try to sway Kurdistan Regional President Massoud Barzani over to his side.  As with so many of Nouri's promises, there just aren't any facts that back them up.  He's claiming that a census will be held this year.  From Habib's report:

However al-Allaq didn’t think a census would be held in 2013. "The federal government didn’t allocate any funds to hold a census in this year’s budget so we won’t be holding one until next year,” he explained.

There are other reasons why holding a census may not be the most desirable step at present. Many of Iraq’s political and economic problems are very connected with demographic issues like ethnicity and sectarianism. A census would impact on things like the distribution of resources to different parts of the country and accurate electoral rolls.

There has also been plenty of criticism of the electoral process in Iraq. After all, because there’s been no census it is hard to know exactly how many voters there should be or how old they are.

As Faraj al-Haydari, former head of Iraq's all important Independent High Electoral Commission, or IHEC, told NIQASH, “a census is fundamental for the success of any election. Unfortunately the lack of census has disadvantaged the democratic system in this country. Since 2004, IHEC has used the Ministry of Commerce’s figures which are obviously not accurate.”

The lack of accurate figures has also meant that it’s not been possible to hold district elections – after all, nobody knows how many people are living in each district.

In other news, All Iraq News notes a Baghdad bombing has claimed 1 life and left seven more people injured.  On the topic of violence, Ian Johnston (NBC News) has a very strong report about what's been happening in Iraq.  Excerpt:

Ken Pollack, a former military analyst with the CIA who specialized on Iraq and Iran, said there was a real danger that a full-scale, Syria-style civil war would break out along that fault line in the next year.
“I think anyone would be a fool to bet against it,” he said. “What’s interesting to me is Iraq hasn’t gone down that route already or isn’t further along. By any definition, what’s going on in Iraq is a civil war.”
Pollack, now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, said the country might “go off a cliff” or suffer a “longer period of more gradual security decline.”
“The one sure thing is Iraq is not going to get better,” he added.
Hamit Dardagan, principal analyst with Iraq Body Count, which has been documenting civilian casualties since the war began, said the death toll was alarming, but still some way off the mass slaughter of 2006-07 when several thousand people died on a monthly basis.
He said the death toll had dropped dramatically from mid-2008 to a plateau of a few hundred a month.
“This year is the first time we’ve seen a really steady trend that’s reversed the direction on 2008,” Dardagan said. “It’s been a steady, low-level war. It’s just that recently … it’s actually started to worsen in a way that’s not just a single-month blip. It seems to be a continuous trend."

Lastly, tomorrow in NYC, there will be an action against Barack's ongoing Drone War:

when: Saturday, June 22, 11 to 1:00 p.m.
where:  the Cube at Astor Place

contact: Jill Godmilow (212) 226-2462,, or Jonathan Langer (716) 544-8237,

(video documentation available) 

On Saturday, June 22, at Astor Place, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., a group of men and women will create a Drone Zone similar to those where the U.S. is terrorizing small villages in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, etc.

"Crossing Guards", 15 or so (women and men), each with a white, crossing guard diagonal sash, will be staged about 10 paces apart around a small area of Astor Place at Lafayette, next to The Cube... to produce "the zone." They stand silent, as cautionary figures... looking much like crossing guards might if so instructed. The guards are holding upright and steady 8 foot PVC poles. On each pole is a sign that reads: "DRONE ALERT!  YOU HAVE ENTERED A DRONE ZONE. PLEASE BE PREPARED TO TAKE SHELTER QUICKLY."  On top of each pole is mounted a mini-speaker emitting a low audio track of a drone continuously buzzing (as drones do flying over a Pakistani village), sourced from iPods or smart phones in their pockets.

If questioned by citizens, each crossing guard will have pink 4 x 6 cards to hand out. On one side is a brief description of life in Yemeni, Pakistani, Somali, Afghani village that suffers the tremendous stress and trauma from 24-hour drone surveillance, as well as potential strikes or crashes. On the other side of the card is a brief description of the CODE PINK Drone Theatre Project itself. Also, a list of on-line sites for more information about armed drone surveillance, targeted killings, and drone proliferation.

This action will be repeated again and again in New York City and elsewhere throughout the summer

NB: There will be video documentation of the project for use for television and online sites and other press locations..

Joan Wile, leader of Grandmothers Against the War, has stated "This project – silent street theatre – asks passersby to reflect on the condition of drone tormented and threatened populations. Perhaps it will also project the blowback of drones ultimately aimed at us."

when: Saturday, June 22, 11 to 1:00 p.m.

where: the Cube at Astor Place

contact: Jill Godmilow (212) 226-2462,, or Jonathan Langer (716) 544-8237,

admission: none

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