Sunday, September 26, 2021

The threat of peace breaking out alarms some

Friday, in the Kurdistan Region of northern Iraq, a number of Iraqis attended a conference  and they called for a normalization of the relationship between Iraq and Israel.  Aaron Boxerman and Lazar Berman (TIMES OF ISRAEL) called it "an unprecedented plea for regional reconciliation" and noted that the call came from "over 300 prominent Iraqis."  They explained: 

At Friday’s conference in the Kurdistan region, Iraqi participants called on their country’s leaders to end the state of war and join the so-called Abraham Accords. The agreements, formulated by the administration of former US President Donald Trump, were signed on the White House lawn in September 2020 between Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Morocco and Sudan signed normalization agreements with Israel in the ensuing months.

Iraq's response?  The Iraqi government is outraged and off the chain.  Aaron Boxerman reports:

Iraqi authorities announced on Sunday that they had issued warrants for the arrest of two Iraqis who addressed a conference calling for their country to make peace with Israel. The authorities said they would arrest all 300-plus participants once they have established who they are.

The over 300 Iraqis gathered on Friday in Erbil, in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, to issue statements backing normalization with Israel. The conference was organized by the Center for Peace Communications, a New York-based group that advocates closer ties between Israel and the Arab world.

“Israel today, as you know, is a strong country and an inseparable part of the world and the United Nations. Iraq cannot neglect this fact and live in isolation from the world,” Sahar al-Ta’i, a senior official in Iraq’s Culture Ministry, told the attendees.

“This is the manner in which the United Arab Emirates looked toward future generations and the greater good, and entered into the Abraham Accords,” al-Ta’i said, referring to the recent normalization deals between Israel and four Arab states, including the Emirates.

On Sunday, a Baghdad court issued a warrant for al-Ta’i’s arrest, as well as for the detention of tribal leader Wisam al-Hardan. The latter, who also participated in the peace conference, called for reconciliation with Israel in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published on Friday.

RUDAW adds:

The conference was condemned by Baghdad and Erbil. Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi called it “illegal” and said ties with Israel are constitutionally rejected. Spokesperson for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Jotiar Adil said the conference was held “without our approval or knowledge” and does “not reflect the views and policies of the KRG.”

Aloosi, a former parliamentarian, told Rudaw that the conference called for “balanced relations between Iraq and the Israeli state,” but he himself was not in attendance.

A conference is "illegal"?  Remember that because this is not just the prime minister of Iraq, this is the person who believes he deserves a second term as prime minister.  And this is how he responds to free, public speech.  By insisting it's illegal and by backing calls for arresting participants.

Jack Khoury (HAARETZ) notes:

The announcement states that the administration intends to issue additional arrest warrants as soon as details of other participants at the conference emerge. Iraqi law makes it possible to impose the death penalty on anyone convicted of supporting, aiding and abetting ideas that support Zionism, as well as against anyone suspected of being part of Zionist institutions.

The AFP news agency quoted a statement read by Atta at the conference, which said "We demand to be included in the Abrahamic agreements," a reference to the Abraham Accords. Atta said that they too wanted the diplomatic relations with Israel that these agreements led to with other Arab states. "No force, local or not, has the right to prevent this call," he added.

Mina Aldroub and Sinan Mahmoud (THE NATIONAL) notes:

The Iraqi Supreme Judiciary Council said the meeting was a “crime”.

“The same legal measures will be taken against other participants once receiving their full names,” it said.

Parliamentary Speaker Mohamed Al Halbousi and one of his deputies also rejected the meeting, along with Iraqi President Barham Salih.

Heaven forbid peace breakout.  Heaven forbid dialogues begin.  War, war, war, that's what the leaders want, right?  War and more war.  And where there is the possibility of peace, you'll always find a trembling United States government.  Which is why Khazan Jangiz (RUDAW) reports:

The US-led International Coalition for Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) on Sunday said it had “no prior knowledge” of a conference held in Erbil that called for the normalization of ties with Israel that has fueled threats of attacks from militia groups.

OIR spokesperson Colonel Wayne Marotto said in a tweet on Sunday that the coalition had “just been made aware of announcements” by the Kurdish and Iraqi governments “relating to the recent conference held in Erbil to discuss the normalization of ties with Israel.”

He added that The Global Coalition “had no prior knowledge of the event” or “any affiliation with its participants.”

No real leaders, just a bunch of cowards threatened by peace.  And they think they deserve to hold onto their elected offices.  Halkawt Aziz (RUDAW) reports:

On Baghdad’s famed literary street al-Mutanabbi, most Iraqis polled in an informal survey said they will not be voting in the October 10 parliamentary election. 

“I won’t vote because we live in a corrupt system,” said labourer Mohammed Jabir.

“From 2003 until now, the political elite in power in Iraq has not done anything for the people,” said poet Abu Sa’d Iraqi.

Eighty people participated in the poll. There was a clear trend towards not voting, but some said it is their civic duty to get out on election day. 

“We should all work towards change. Change will come through the ballot box,” said civil servant Sana Naqqash.

Polls have predicted a record-low turnout of about 30 percent in an environment where armed militias operate with impunity outside of government control, Islamic State (ISIS) militants carry out frequent attacks, and fears of electoral fraud coupled with disillusionment over the political system are threatening to keep many voters away.

The early elections are only taking place because of the brave protesters. The October Revolution  kicked off protests in the fall of 2019 and forced the prime minister to step down and early elections to be announced.  As ARAB WEEKLY notes, "Tens of thousands of Iraqi youths took to the streets to decry rampant corruption, poor services and unemployment. Hundreds died as security forces used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse crowds."  This is what forced the resignation of one prime minister and has led to national elections which are supposed to take place October 10th.  (Members of the Iraqi military will vote October 8thTwo election simulations have been carried out by the IEC and the third and final one will take place September 22nd.)    that the candidates for Parliament include 951 women ("close to 30% of the total number of candidates") who are running for the 329 seats.  Halgurd Sherwani (KURDISTAN 24) has reported Jeanine Hannis-Plasschaert, the Special Representiative in Iraq to the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, declared that Iraq's "Female candidates face increasing levels of hate speech, violence, and blackmail intended to force them to withdraw their candidacy." 

Sinan Mahmoud (THE NATIONAL) counts 3,249 people in all seeking seats in Parliament  BROOKINGS notes this is a huge drop from 2018 when 7,178 candidates ran for office.   RUDAW is among those noting perceived voter apathy, "Turnout for Iraq’s October 10 parliamentary election is expected to be a record low, with a recent poll predicting just 29 percent of eligible voters will cast ballots." Human Rights Watch has identified another factor which may impact voter turnout, "People with disabilities in Iraq are facing significant obstacles to participating in upcoming parliamentary elections on October 10, 2021, due to discriminatory legislation and inaccessible polling places, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Without urgent changes, hundreds of thousands of people may not be able to vote.  The 36-page report, “‘No One Represents Us’: Lack of Access to Political Participation for People with Disabilities in Iraq,” documents that Iraqi authorities have failed to secure electoral rights for Iraqis with disabilities. People with disabilities are often effectively denied their right to vote due to discriminatory legislation and inaccessible polling places and significant legislative and political obstacles to running for office."  Another obstacle is getting the word out on a campaign.  Political posters are being torn down throughout Iraq.  Halgurd Sherwani  (KURDiSTAN 24) observes, "Under Article 35 of the election law, anyone caught ripping apart or vandalizing an electoral candidate's billboard could be punished with imprisonment for at least a month but no longer than a year, Joumana Ghalad, the spokesperson for the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), told a press conference on Wednesday."  And there's also the battles in getting out word of your campaign online.  THE NEW ARAB reported weeks ago, "Facebook is restricting advertisements for Iraqi political parties and candidates in the run-up to the country's parliamentary elections, an official has told The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site."

THE WASHINGTON POST's Louisa Loveluck Tweeted: of how "chromic mistrust in [the] country's political class" might also lower voter turnout.  Mina Aldroubi (THE NATIONAL) also notes, "Experts are predicting low turnout in October due to distrust of the country’s electoral system and believe that it will not deliver the much needed changes they were promised since 2003."  Mistrust would describe the feelings of some members of The October Revolution.  Mustafa Saadoun (AL-MONITOR) notes some of their leaders, at the recent  Opposition Forces Gathering conference announced their intent to boycott the elections because they "lack integrity, fairness and equal opportunities."  Distrust is all around.  Halkawt Aziz  (RUDAW) reported on how, " In Sadr City, people are disheartened after nearly two decades of empty promises from politicians." 

After the election, there will be a scramble for who has dibs on the post of prime minister.  Murat Sofuoglu (TRT) observes, "The walls of Baghdad are covered with posters of Iraq’s former leaders, especially Nouri al Maliki and Haidar al Abadi, as the country moves toward its early elections on October 10. Both men however were forced out of power for their incompetence, and yet they are leading in the country’s two powerful Shia blocks."  Outside of Baghdad?  THE NEW ARAB explains, "However, in the provinces of Anbar, Saladin, Diyala, Nineveh, Kirkuk, Babel and the Baghdad belt, candidates have focussed on the issue of the disappeared and promised to attempt to find out what happened to them."

Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has 90 candidates in his bloc running for seats in the Parliament and one of those, Hassan Faleh, has insisted to RUDAW, "The position of the next prime minister is the least that the Sadrist movement deserves, and we are certain that we will be the largest and strongest coalition in the next stage."  Others are also claiming the post should go to their bloc such as the al-Fatah Alliance -- the political wing of the Badr Organization (sometimes considered a militia, sometimes considered a terrorist group).  ARAB WEEKLY reported, "Al-Fateh Alliance parliament member Naim Al-Aboudi said that Hadi al-Amiri is a frontrunner to head the next government, a position that can only be held by a Shia, according to Iraq’s power-sharing agreement."  Some also insist the prime minister should be the head of the State of Law bloc, two-time prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki.  Moqtada al-Sadr's supporters do not agree and have the feeling/consensus that,  "Nouri al-Maliki has reached the age of political menopause and we do not consider him to be our rival because he has lost the luster that he once had so it is time for him to retire."

In one surprising development, Dilan Sirwan (RUDAW) has reported: "Iraq’s electoral commission aims to announce the results of the upcoming parliamentary elections on October 10 within 24 hours, they announced on Thursday following a voting simulation."

Kat's "Kat's Korner: Here's what happened when artist Laura Nyro auditioned for two pigs"  went up earlier today.  The following sites updated: