Saturday, March 31, 2018

Iraq's upcoming elections

Only in Iraq a candidate for the upcoming Iraqi parliamentary elections, distributing sandwiches in the Kurdish city of Kirkuk and asks people to vote for him.

I thought campaigning wasn't allowed to begin yet in Iraq?  I know Hayder al-Abadi's been using his position as prime minister of Iraq to campaign for months now.

But I thought the other candidates were limited by the law?

That's right, they are limited.  Not only is there the law, there's also the charter each candidate was required to sign which says that they cannot start campaigning until April 10th.  So if that is campaigning, in the photos above, that's a problem.

May 12th, Iraq is set to hold parliamentary elections and no one's been bothered by the fact that Ramadan takes place from May 15th to June 14th.   Past elections in Iraq have resulted in many delays -- in the case of the 2010 parliamentary elections, many months -- to settle.  If the post-election process goes even 1/4 as poorly as it did in 2010, Ramadan will only compound that.  Holding the election three days before Ramadan was very poor planning.

Hayder al-Abadi staked his future on the premature claim that he vanquished ISIS in Iraq.  That, of course, hasn't proven to be the case.   ISIS was supposed to be Hayder's big claim to fame.

Nouri al-Maliki was ousted by Barack Obama in 2014 because ISIS had seized Mosul and other spots.  Otherwise, the US would have kept installing Nouri every four years as Bully Boy Bush and Barack had already done.  It's that 'stability' that Cordesman is arguing for.  Forget that Nouri was running secret prisons and torture sites, forget that this had been exposed in the press, forget that he was disappearing people, forget that he was having the military use tanks to circle the homes of members of Parliament that he didn't like, none of that mattered.  Nor did his attacks on journalism and journalists.  His forces kidnapped reporters who covered the protests.  Even after both NPR and THE WASHINGTON POST reported that, Nouri was still given a pass by Barack.

The passes would have continued were it not for the rise of ISIS.

Hayder was installed by Barack to to get rid of ISIS.

He hasn't.

Christopher Reuter (DER SPIEGEL) reports:

The days are clear and bright. As long as you have a wide-open view, it's safe, they insist. As long as you can see the contours of the rows of trees at the edge of the village, the bushes between the last fields and the edge of the desert.
But in wintertime, the days are short. As soon as darkness falls following a brief dusk and all outlines, colors and movements are swallowed up by the uniform blackness -- that is when the fear begins. That's what the residents of Gharib say, and urgently request that you start your journey in time, that you leave their village, that you leave the region.
Because at night, the horror returns.
Sometimes, the villagers say, the dogs sound the alarm. On occasion, tracks can be seen the next morning. And frequently, it is possible to hear the voices of the men who return at night to taunt, to threaten and to kill those who have officially been freed of the yoke of Islamic State (IS).
In early October, the Iraqi army rolled through the terrorist group's last significant stronghold in the country, the Hawija district, located southwest of Kirkuk. After just a couple of days and a few brief skirmishes, the government declared that IS had been defeated, driven away. Destroyed.
But that wasn't true then and it still isn't true today. At least not for the more than 100 villages in the fertile region, crisscrossed with rivers and irrigation canals. Even though the Hawija battle was supposed to be a fight that IS stood no chance of winning. Mosul had been retaken by the Iraqi army in the summer after months of bitter fighting, as was the city of Tal Afar. Aside from a couple of desert areas, Hawija was all that IS had left -- the same region where the series of IS triumphs, which began quietly at first, got its start back in 2013.

In addition, Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Susannah George (AP) report:

Iraq declared victory over IS in December after driving the militants from the last territory under their control, but in recent months the group has resumed insurgent-style attacks in northern Iraq.
Iraqi security officials say between 150 and 200 members of the security forces have been killed in IS attacks across the country in the past few months. The security officials, and the policeman in the taxi, spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to brief the media.
“There are empty spaces between the federal forces and the peshmerga,” said Kirkuk Gov. Rakan al-Jibouri, referring to the Kurdish forces who have been locked in a months-long standoff with Baghdad.
He said he has repeatedly asked the central government for additional forces to secure the area, but has been ignored. “This issue is not taken sufficiently seriously despite the many incidents,” he said.
Nope, ISIS isn't gone.

Hayder hasn't been very effective eliminating corruption either.  MEM reported last week, "Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi yesterday ordered an immediate investigation into allegations that fake jobs in the public sector were being offered to citizens by political parties in order to win votes in the country’s upcoming general elections.ALSUMARIA reports today that the Badr Organization's Hadi al-Amiri stated they would eliminate corruption.  He stated that they would create needed jobs and punish those who had stolen Iraq's wealth.  Hadi is a militia thug and he's also one of the corrupt -- most infamously, he ordered a plane  to remain on the runway and wait for his spoiled son Mahdi to make the flight but the plane left Lebanon without Mahdi on board so al-Amiri, then-Minister of Transportation in Iraq, refused to allow the plane to land.  It caused quite an uproar -- as CNN noted in real time.

Go to NIQASH for in depth coverage of the upcoming elections.

The election will require a get-out the vote program.  The United Nations Development Program's David Aasen recently spoke with Nawal Hussein Khaled who heads Iraq's Electoral Commission's Electoral Media and Public Outreach Department.

UNDP: How did you get started at the Electoral Commission?

Nawal Hussein: I applied when the electoral organization was first established in 2004. I had completed my Master’s degree and had experience in the Ministry of Planning and in television. I am now completing a PhD in fine arts, with a focus on graphics. There was a good match between my experience and electoral work. I have worked in several departments, but since 2006 I have been in Public Outreach. Last year I was appointed Chief of the Electoral Media Section. Now, of course, we are fully engaged in the Governorate Council Elections.

UNDP: What does Electoral Media do?

NH: This Section establishes and implements the electoral media plans—for the National Office and for each of the Governorate Electoral Offices (GEOs). We oversee the production of TV/radio spots based on the key messages we provide, and coordinate with the Graphics Unit to design and print the materials.
These are the booklets, posters, banners distributed in the meetings with voters and displayed nationwide during each phase of the campaigns. The Electoral Commission has just completed the Voter Registration Update stage of the Governorate Council Elections. The next phase will focus on the concept of ‘get out the vote’, which is part of the polling phase. We also organize the production of promotional materials and place official notices of procedures, like registration of candidates, in the press.

UNDP: How have electoral media campaigns changed since the first elections of the political transition?

NH: In the first elections, the UN was responsible for the whole media campaign. We have been trained by the UN and now we’re doing the job. The campaign is being carried out by Iraqi hands.
We learn from our mistakes in each campaign and take measures to avoid them in the future. Some activities can be a challenge but we adapt to meet the needs of the GEOs. We can call on the UN for advice. They help us to accelerate certain actions; like UNDP placing banners on Yahoo! sites for this campaign. (The website banners, illustrated by ‘Abu Mutar’ (Father of Rain), a popular cartoon character created by the Electoral Commission artists, appear in Yahoo! mail accounts in Iraq. Abu Mutar’s captions clarify electoral information.)

DA: We know that the media plan identifies “target groups” to reach during this campaign: first-time or young voters and the community of people living with disabilities. How are you reaching these groups?

NH: We have designed TV advertisements, calendars, booklets which all feature voters from these groups. Our TV spots to support voter registration ran on 24 satellite stations. Our Public Outreach has organized meetings for students and civil society to inform target groups. In some GEOs they held sports events and poetry events to involve young people.

UNDP: We noticed that your new TV spots and electoral graphics had a clean, contemporary look. There were images of youth and voters living with disabilities.

NH: If we’re doing a good job reaching all Iraqi voters in the mass media, we’ll reach these groups with our main messages: required documentation, where to vote, motivation, and how to cast your ballot. If we reach women in the campaign they will be the first in line to vote.

UNDP: Going into this election, we note that more than 25 percent of the Governorate Council candidates – 2,210 – are women. At IHEC, female professionals are managing Sections, are on the Board of Commissioners and have launched a Gender Task Force. These are positive steps; what do you think needs to be done to promote women’s participation in the democratic process?

NH: I think that women in government need to be empowered and have a real team supporting them. If women in the Council of Representatives were seen by the media going down to the street to deal with the real problems of Iraqi women and men, that would have an impact. Deeds are stronger than words. They need to defend the rights of Iraqi women who are suffering from violence, family and societal pressures.
We need to undertake special outreach efforts to female university students using social media. We had an ‘Appeal to Iraqi Youth’ to register to vote on Facebook which was popular.

(The Electoral Commission is using its website at, Call Centre #5777, Facebook and YouTube to update voters.)

UNDP: How can students emulate your career path?

NH: Electoral procedures aren’t taught at the university, only political science. Internship programmes for Iraqi students interested in democratic development aren’t well organized yet. Even so, I would encourage qualified graduates to get involved and apply to the Electoral Commission if they’re interested.

UNDP: What would you like to try in the future?

NH: The University has asked me several times to return as a lecturer. But I feel this electoral institution is my home, I want to keep doing this work for the Iraqi voters.

Journalists cover elections.  This go round in Iraq, a number are also running for office.

A record 30 Iraqi journalists and media figures have entered the political arena and presented their candidacies for the May 12 parliamentary elections, joining a variety of blocs and lists.
Though not all the candidates have yet announced their participation publicly, the High Electoral Commission lists has revealed the list of registered names, which include some women working in journalism. They all aspire to join parliamentarian Sarwa Abdul Wahid of the Change Party, who once worked for the American AlHurra TV.
Many of these candidates will be listed as independents.
Manal Almotasim is one journalist who aspires to reach the Iraqi parliament. Almotasim, who has worked for a decade in the Iraqi media and has presented various political TV programs, decided to brave the political world and join the Qarar al-Iraqi coalition headed by Sunni businessman Khamis al-Khanjar.
Almotasim has a good number of fans thanks to her work in the media and her presence on the screen. She told Al-Monitor, “Those who like me as a journalist might not want me in the political world that they are so fed up with. … At the same time, my audience might get me to the parliament.”
She added, “If I do not succeed, it would not mean that I will stop pursuing my career in media. It would be an experience like any other.”


Prime Minister Abadi has announced his plan to lead a coalition of mostly Shia parties and independent Sunni figures under the framework of his Victory (Nasr) Alliance. In launching his own coalition, Abadi is competing with Vice President and former prime minister Nouri al Maliki, who, like Abadi, is a leading member of the Dawa Party. Maliki’s State of Law alliance has been critical of Abadi’s leadership, and some State of Law members are vocal opponents of Iraq’s security partnership with the United States. Several former leaders of the Popular Mobilization Force (PMF) militias organized to help fight the Islamic State are participating in the elections as candidates under the rubric of the Fatah Alliance (see textbox below).
Other prominent Iraqi figures have organized coalitions and lists to contest the election, including a largely Sunni list led by Vice President Osama al Nujayfi and the National Alliance jointly led by Vice President Iyad Allawi, COR Speaker Salim al Juburi, and former deputy Prime Minister Salih al Mutlaq. Among Shia leaders, Ammar al Hakim’s Wisdom (Hikma) movement has formally withdrawn from the Prime Minister’s coalition, but Hakim reportedly intends to coordinate with Abadi during government formation negotiations after the election. Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr is directing his followers to support the multiparty, anti-corruption oriented Sa’irun coalition. Sadr has criticized the participation of PMF leaders in the election and is campaigning on a populist reform and anti-corruption platform.

The 2005 election was decided by the US government (Bully Boy Bush installed Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister in May of 2006).  The March 2010 election was decided by the US government (President Barack Obama had The Erbil Agreement negotiated to give Nouri a second term after he lost the election).  The 2014 election was decided by the US government (Barack, now tired of Nouri, installed Hayder al-Abadi).

This time around Iraqis will get to decide?

Former prime minister and forever thug Nouri wants to be prime minister again despite his flunkies repeatedly insisting that is not the case.  ALSUMARIA reported last week that Nouri has insisted Iraq is passing through a serious, make-it-or-break-it period.  Naturally, Nouri believes he's the one who can save the country -- despite nearly destroying it in 2014..  Last week, ALSUMARIA noted that he's saying Iraq needs someone who can lead the country in construction and progress.  Others who would like to become prime minister include Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr who has teamed up with five other groups -- including the Iraqi Communist Party -- for this election cycle.  Two others who'd like to become prime minister, Ammar al-Hakim and Ayad Allawi, have done joint photo-ops.  

 Ayad Allawi should have been prime minister per the 2010 elections.  But Nouri refused to step down for eight months and brought the country to a stalemate.  Let's review, Barack Obama, then president, refused to back the winner of the election and instead brokered The Erbil Agreement which, in November of 2010, gave Nouri a second term as prime minister -- in effect, nullifying the election results and overturning the will of the Iraqi people.

March 7, 2010, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August 2010, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 

November 10, 2010, The Erbil Agreement is signed.  November 11, 2010, the Iraqi Parliament has their first real session in over eight months and finally declares a president, a Speaker of Parliament and Nouri as prime minister-designate -- all the things that were supposed to happen in April of 2010 but didn't.  Again, it wasn't smart to schedule elections right before Ramadan.

Friday, the US Defense Dept announced:

Strikes in Iraq
There were no reported strikes in Iraq March 28-29.
On March 27, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of two engagements against ISIS targets near Ramadi. The strike destroyed an ISIS tunnel system.
On March 26, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of one engagement against ISIS targets near Qayyarah. The strike destroyed three ISIS tunnels.
On March 25, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of one engagement against ISIS targets near Qayyarah. The strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed an ISIS watercraft.
There were no reported strikes in Iraq on March 24.
On March 23, coalition military forces conducted a strike consisting of one engagement against ISIS targets near Rutbah. The strike destroyed an ISIS vehicle.

Eric Bradach (COLUMBIA CHRONICLE) has an important piece on Iraq which includes the following:

While those are important stories, reflections on a costly American war seemed to have been absent in headlines last month. March 20 marked the 15-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion in Iraq.
Think about that: People who were born after the war are going to start learning how to drive a car. Even those who have just become eligible to vote probably can’t remember a time before American and allied forces toppled the Saddam Hussein regime.
There seems to be no sign of the war ending in the near future. The Department of Defense’s budget was recently raised to $700 billion, more than what the Trump administration initially requested.
It’s a sad state when citizens are demanding Medicare for everyone and free tuition at public colleges and universities and are ignored in favor of more military spending. Along with the Afghanistan War, the longest in the nation’s history, which began in 2001, the Iraq War has triggered an unfortunate steady flow of forgotten human and financial costs.
$805 billion has been spent on the war in Iraq as of September 2016, according to the Cost of Wars project at Brown University. That doesn’t include the medical and psychological treatment for veterans as well as other future costs, such as the interest taxpayers will need to fork over to pay for the money borrowed to finance the war. There have also been almost 4,500 American soldiers killed in the war, according to the Defense Department, as well as nearly 203,000 Iraqi civilians killed, according to the Iraq Body Count project.
So why aren’t these numbers provoking more outrage and demands for the war’s end? Because war has been ingrained into the American consciousness.

The following community sites -- plus DISSIDENT VOICE and Jody Watley -- updated:

  • Iraqi Christians

    Church bells to ring once more this Easter in Iraq

    Imran Khan (ALJAZEERA) reports:

    Hidden away behind a huge concrete blast wall and a heavily armed police checkpoint in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad is a beautiful little Chaldean church.
    In the garden, a statue of the Virgin Mary is tucked away into a little man-made cave and inside the word of God is written in English, Arabic and Aramaic.
    The priest shows us in the Chaldean Church of the Virgin Mary, which dates back to 1960s.
    The Christian community in Iraq is said to be one of the oldest continuously existing communities in the world. They have had a presence in this land as far back as Mesopotamia. 

    Iraqi Christians hold masses thru-out Iraq, from Basra to Baghdad to Nineveh Plains. In Middle East Christian cultures everything else shuts down in the communities during the weekend, as all prepare and gather to celebrate the most important days of the year.

    On NPR's WEEKEND UPDATE today, Scott Simon explored Iraq and Easter with a guest.

    Beautiful. Now that ISIS has been defeated, thousands of Christian families have returned to the Iraqi town of Qaraqosh to celebrate Palm Sunday for the first time in 4 years.

    From Easter until Pentecost we are raising donations for Iraqi Christians still displaced w/in Iraq, and for Iraqi/Syrian Christian refugees in Lebanon & Jordan. The President of will be delivering the aid in-person. You can help at:

    1. Mart Shmoni Chuch in , , was completely destroyed by ISIS; incl'd its 800-yr-old altar (1st 2 pics of church post-ISIS). Thrilled to learn that just put the Cross back on the dome of Mart Shmoni Church.

    2. Surreal moment to hold the images of my grandmother, Rabi Lileh Taimoorazy and my great uncle, Freydoon bet-Abram Atouraya over the Plains of Nineveh. Two of my heroes who dedicated their lives to the Assyrian cause. Nineveh Press,

    1. After mass, take up the cross and carry it, in complete darkness, through our historic town of , . were converted by St. Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. Pics by Eduard Prolis.

    1. Very touching pics from Sunday's masses in . These are from the Ashti displacement camp in Erbil, where these have been displaced from their homes & living in very small caravans for the past 3.5 years. Yet their faith is untouchable.

    2. Rare pics of Iraqi Jewish cemetery containing 4,000+ graves in Sadr City (formerly known as Al-Thawra); a suburb of , . Pics from the group - Iraqi Jews (Jews of Babylon).

    3. Zina Rose Kiryakos, Iraqi-American Attorney & head of Iraqi Christian HRC , meets with State Department officials regarding the plight of Iraqi Christians. Standing here in front of the State Department’s mural.