Iraq snapshot - April 13, 2012
Friday, April 13, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's power-grab leads to more arrests, Nouri's 'promise' not to seek a third term is ignored as a third term is pushed, pilgrims are attacked in Iraq, and more.
As a friend who covers Iraq (but isn't there currently) said of the big news today, "You could say the s**t hit the fan but it seems to do that every week now since US forces left." Since most US forces left. And that's not an argument on my part for the US to send in more troops. It is noting that both Bush and Barack bear responsibility for the problems in Iraq because both administrations supported Nouri al-Maliki. Even after his secret prisons were known, even after the torture was known, even after he consolidated control of the security forces, even after he was rejected by the voters, the White House backed him in 2010. The election results meant that Iraq could have been freed of the US-installed tyrant. But Barack Obama decided to back Nouri. Despite the will of the Iraqi voters as expressed in the March 2010 elections.
Well's it's hit the fan again. Repeatedly today. For context, let's drop back to Tuesday when UN Secretary-General's Specail Envoy Martin Kobler was telling fairy tales to the United Nations Security Council. US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice presided over the meeting.
Martin Kobler: Madam President, it goes without saying that there can be no democracy without free, fair and competative elections. This makes UNAMI's work to provide election support all the more important for consolidating democracy in Iraq. At the request of the Council of Representatives [Parliament], UNAMI has been serving as advisor and observer in the selection process of the board of commission of the Independent High Electoral Commission before the expiration of the current board's term this month. The participation of UNAMI and the NGOs in the selection process is a clear sign to ensure transparency in the process. The final vote and selection of the nine new commissioners -- which was expected by the end of this month -- is unlikely to take place. However, in order to avoid delays in the upcoming elections in the Kurdistan region in September and the provincial elections in early 2013, the Council of Representatives is encouraged to extend the mandate of the current board of commissioners to enable it to initiate preparations for the conduct of those polls.
Oh, what pretty little words. Oh, what pretty little fantasies. Dropping back to yesterday's snapshot:
In more dist[ur]bing power-grab news, Raheem Salman (ioL news) reports, "The head of Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) and one of its members were arrested by police on Thursday on corruption charges, IHED officials said, in the latest apparent move for more government control of independent bodies. Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki won a court ruling in January 2011 that put the IHED and other entities, including the central bank, under cabinet supervision, raising concern over attempts to consolidate power by the Shi'a premier."
Yes, two arrested. Two arrested who were supposed to oversee the upcoming elections in the KRG and in the rest of Iraq. These are provincial elections. The last ones were in 2009 (early 2009 for the bulk of Iraq, the summer for the KRG). And there are no new commissioners in part because UNAMI couldn't get its act together. And now Nouri's arrested two of the commissioners whose terms were supposed to carry over for these upcoming elections.
AP notes that the two are Karim al-Tamimi and the commission's chief Faraj al-Haidari. Yeah, the chief of the commission. Kind of important role, kind of an important person. He and Nouri have a history, of course. Nouri's angered pretty much everyone -- even erstwhile ally Motada al-Sadr -- in his too-long reign. Reuters observes, "Critics fear that the premier may be showing autocratic tendencies in some of his actions and view Maliki's control over key security ministries with suspicion." AFP does a service by explaining the history behind what went down, "There is bad blood between Haidari, a 64-year-old Shia Kurd, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri a-Maliki's State of Law list over his refusal to carry out a national recount after 2010 parliamentary polls, in which the premier's list came in second to rival Iyad Allawi's Iraqiya list."
For those who've forgotten the March 2010 parliamentary elections, they played out like a little psy-ops operations -- in fact, you have to wonder if the US government just provided support on that or if they actively devised the plan?
Nouri is the head of Dawa. It is the political party he belongs to. They are Shi'ites. They had all these plans for the 2010 elections but they hadn't done well enough for Nouri in 2009 (provincial elections). Nouri misread the 2009 results. Dawa wasn't the big problem. The big problem was sectarianism. Iraq's rejected it. That's why a number of sure-thing pre-election announcements were revealed as empty gas baggery once the ballots were counted and the tallies released.
But Nouri lives in a bubble where he convinces himself that he's the fairests of them all and that his enemies are evil Snow Whites. He convinced himself that Dawa was being rejected because, unlike himself, they weren't 'strong.' He was the Iraqi strong-man who had restored order and surely the people loved him for it right? No, he's never been popular with the Iraqi people. In 2006, the US imposed him on Iraq to prevent the popular choice from becoming prime minister.
Convinced that he and he alone knew the right thing to do, he refused to run with Dawa and instead invented State of Law, a political slate headed by him, a slate whose very name would trumpet his 'accomplishment' of ruling Iraq with an iron fist.
A new slate emerged to rival him: Iraqiya. Ayad Allawi is the head. He might not have been the original head. That's not meant as an insult to him, that's just noting that a number of members of Iraqiya were forbidden by Nouri al-Maliki's Justice and Accountability Commission from running. They were (prepare to shudder) terrorists!
Or that's what Nouri and his cronies insisted. Strange, some of them were members of Parliament but now were accused of being unrepetant Ba'athists plotting the return of the Ba'ath Party. Were that true (it wasn't), why not make your allegation and let the people decide?
Probably because Nouri grasped that even the Ba'ath Party was more popular in Iraq than Nouri was. Al Jazeera did their last good reporting on the political issues and divisions with regards to the February and March 2010. They probably had to. The bulk of their viewers are Arabs. Arabs around the world have been outraged by Nouri's actions -- a fact that the US press doesn't like to inform you of. Which is how you get garbage like, most recently, "The Arab League Summit in Baghdad was a huge success!" followed by the whisper of, "Except none of the leaders of major Arab states attended."
The Arab world has seen a very different war than the US has and that includes not just who gought and who died but also the political policies and witch hunts that the US press has largely ignored. The US press pretends that Arab fighters cross over into Iraq to be part of al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and they site the anti-Arab SITE (run by the discredited Ritz Katz) as 'proof' for whatever false claims they make. Soemtimes they get honest enough that a few US outlets will say "al Qaeda linked" as opposed to declaring them "al Qaeda." It's all b.s. and nonsense. Arab fighters enter Iraq, throughout the long war and ongoing occupation, for one reason only: They preceive their Arab brothers and sisters to be victimized in the 'new' Iraq.
And they have that perception because that is what has taken place and what is taking place. The US press deludes Americans into thinking something puzzling took place when what happened is the most natural and obivous reaction and, if you remove the heightened term 'al Qaeda,' you have the story of every invasion and every response to it throughout history. But they want to play dumb and pretend that something puzzling and new and never-before-seen is taking place.
No such thing is or has happened.
In fairness to Shi'ites in Iraq, they lived as an oppressed people for years. It's very rare that an oppressed people learns from the experience. (A modern exception is South Africa where, after apartheid was finally overturned, the people sought justice and not vengence, equality and not oppression.) Equally true, most Shi'ites aren't taking part in oppressing anyone. Most Shi'ites are trying to go about their daily lives without getting killed the same as the Sunnis and other groupings.
Iraq is a country of widows and orphans. The current war, the sanctions before that and the Gulf War ensured that Iraq would remain a young country because so few people would live to an old age. The median age in Iraq is approximately 20.9 years. Again, it's a very young country age wise.
So all of the past oppressions could be distant enough that the Iraqi people could work together. The thing that prevents that, the thing always prevented that, has been the exiles the US placed in charge of the country.
Too damn scared to fight Saddam Hussein, they fled the country decades ago. Lived in Iran, Syria, England, etc. while they plotted to get other countries to over throw Iraq's president Saddam Hussein.
"Saddam tried to kill me!" Nouri has whimpered when telling his life story to a few members of the press. Yeah, maybe so. But your response was to run like a coward (he'd spend 8 years in Iran alone). Your response wasn't to stand up and fight. You're response wasn't to leave with dignity by making a life another country. You fled like a coward and spent years nursing your hatred. That's what you brought back with you to Iraq. that's all Nouri brought back, a grudge he's picked and nursed for decades. What kind of idiots would ever think someone like that should run a country?
Oh, that's right. The US government.
And not by accident. We commented on Nouri's paraonia months after he became prime minister in 2006. It was obivous to the naked eye. Thanks to WikiLeaks, we now know that as early as 2007, State Dept cables were noting Nouri's paranoia. Nouri was put in charge because he was paranoid. When you install a puppet, you don't want someone with a strong, positive self-image. They're harder to control. Hugo Chavez has a healthy ego. He was not installed by the US and cannot be co-opted by the US government because he doesn't have those inner demons. Nouri does.
With Nouri, the US always knew how to appeal to his vanity, how to prey on his fears. Want something done, tell Nouri that he looks weak, tell him that the Kurds are disrespecting him, feed his inner doubts and he will act.
He haas no core strength and he no ethics or beliefs he stands by. He is nothing but id and he responds not only instinctually but also instantly. That's why he became prime minister and that's why, in 2010, the White House backed him to continue as prime minister. A psychological dossier exits on Nouri and made him the best (meaning most pliable) choice for US interests. (I dispute that conclusion/finding. He accomplishes nothing. If the US government has certain goals that they want achieved via a puppet, they need a puppet who can accomplish something. Instead Nouri's technique of stalling leads to paralysis which is why the US puppet has still not been able to deliver and oil & gas law all these years later.)
The Iraqi people were supposed to be scared of Iraqiya. Members were being purged from the election. (If you were labeled a 'terrorist,' your name was pulled from the ballots.) The political slate was scrambling to find people to run. Nouri controlled state-TV and controlled the message. It should have been a landslide victory for Nouri -- as he was insisting it would be. As Quil Lawrence (NPR) reported the Monday after the Saturday elections (when no ballot totals existed) it was.
It wasn't. The Iraqi people continued the trend of 2009. The parliamentary elections reflected the provincial elections. In most cases, Iraqis didn't want sectarian rule. They were exhausted by it, they were tired of it and they were tired of living in fear (fear being the only thing Nouri had to campaign on).. They rejected it. And they rejected Nouri's State of Law.
Which is why it came in second to Iraqiya. For some reason -- attempts to whore for the US government? -- a number of reporters feel the need to insist that Iraqiya only won a few seats more than State of Law!
So what? It had many, many more votes. Since when do we refer to the voters desires by noting seats and not vote totals?
By votes, which is how the Iraqi people expressed themselves, Iraqiya was the clear winner and the direction the country to go in. Iraqiya, headed by Shi'ite Ayad Allawi, was a mixture of various sects. It was a party that spoke to national identity. They did this by the candidates they put forward, they did it by the spokespeople they put forward. Even now, the most prominent woman in Iraqi politics is the spokesperson for Iraqiya: Maysoon al-Damluji.
State of Law is the past, always refighting old battles, always seeking revenge. Iraqiya was a way forward for the country, representing a national identity ("We are Iraqis") and representing that all were taking part, regardless of sect, regardless of belief or religion, regardless of gender. Iraqiya's message was: "We are Iraq. We are the party of all Iraqis."
And then there was Nouri with his announcements that a terrorist attack would be taking place any second -- trying to use fear the way Bully Boy Bush did in the 2004 US elections.
That's why Iraqiya won despite all the problems they faced -- losing candidates (and that includes their candidates that were murdered in February -- no one killed State of Law candidates), losing the media wars, being outspent (Nouri bribes with potable water at election time, suddenly your village has water when Nouri shows up and he tells you that you will have water after the elections -- of course that doesn't come to be but he's all about the election cycle and not the future).
Iraqiya's victory was a huge victory and the press belittled it with "they only won a few seats more." THe press belittled because the US government was backing Nouri al-Maliki. Imagine if Iraqiya had run against Saddam Hussein and had the same outcome as they did in 2010? You don't think the world press would have been all over the surprise upset? Of course, it would have. But in 2010, the press curbed itself and took a surprise out-of-no-where win and demoted it to "no big deal."
Doing that allowed Nouri to steal the election. He first dug in his heels. He then announced the results of the Supreme Court he controls. Suddenly it was learned that Nouri had brought lawsuits regarding the process oof selecting a prime minister. No one knew about those lawsuits before hand. Damned the court he controlled didn't find in his favor.
There was the issue fo the Constitution but Nouri just ignored it. And dug his heels in creating Political Stalemate I which lasted eight months. During that time, the US and Iranian governments worked together to press everyone to give Nouri a second term as prime minister. The US held no sway over Moqtada al-Sadr but Iran did. So Moqtada's announcement that he would not back Nouri was set aside. The vote Moqtada held in April 2010, where he asked his followers to pick who he should back for prime minister also got set aside. While Iran worked on a number of Shi'ites (and Iran and the US worked on Amar al-Hakim, the head of ISCI), the US worked on the Kurds and Iraqiya. It was time to move forward was the message repeated over and over.
'Look, it's just a four year term. And if you give on this, if you show you're the better person, we will make sure that you receive concessions. In fact, we'll even make sure it's put in writing.'
Hence the Erbil Agreement which ended Political Stalemate I. A document with many concessions that allowed Nouri a second term. He honored the agreement . . . long enough to be established as prime minister for a second term. Then he trashed it and refused to deliver on what had been promised to the other political blocs.
To the Kurds, the promises in the Erbil Agreement covered a number of things but most importantly, it mean the question of Kirkuk would finally be addressed. The Kurds don't consider it disputed territory, they consider it to be their land. That was made very clear by KRG President Massoud Barzani when he spoke in the US last week. And even more so when he took questions on the issue of Kirkuk and the Erbil Agreement:
President Massoud Barzani: Article 140 is a Constitutional Article and it needed a lot of discussions and talks until we have reached this. This is the best way to solve this problem. It's regarding solving the problems of the territories that have been detached from Kurdistan Region. In fact, I do not want to call it "disputed areas" because we do not have any disputes on that. For us it is very clear for that. But we have shown upmost flexibility in order to find the legal and the Constitutional solution for this problem. And in order to pave the way for the return of these areas, according to the Constitution and the basis of law and legally to the Kurdistan Region. And we have found out that there is an effort to evade and run away from this responsibility for the last six years in implementing this Constitutional Article. And I want to assure you that implementing this Constitutional Article is in the interest of Iraq and in the interest of stability. There are people who think that time would make us forget about this. They are wrong. Time would not help forget or solve the problem. These are Kurdish countries, part of Kurdistan and it has to return to Kurdistan based on the mechanism that has been stipulated in the Constitution. And at the end of the day, as the Constitution stipulates, it's going back to what the people want to determine. So there is a referendum for the people of these areas and they will decide. If the people decide to join Kurdistan Region, they're welcome and if the people decide not to, at that time, we will look at any responsibility on our shoulders so people would be held responsible for their own decisions. As far as the second part of your question, the Erbil Agreement. In fact, the agreement was not only for the sake of forming the government and forming the three presidencies -- the presidency, the Speakership of Parliament and premier. In fact, it was a package -- a package that included a number of essential items. First, to put in place a general partnership in the country. Second, commitment to the Constitution and its implementation, the issue of fedarlism, the return of balance of power and especially in all the state institutions,the establishment in [. . .] mainly in the armed forces and the security forces, the hydrocarbons law, the Article 140 of the Constitution, the status of the pesh merga. These were all part of the package that had been there. Had this Erbil Agreement been implemented, we would not have faced the situation that we are in today. Therefore, if we do not implement the Erbil Agreement then there would certainly be problems in Iraq.
The Kurds have been the US government's biggest supporter in Iraq -- that's before the invasion, during the invasion and all the time that's followed. They wrongly thought that meant the US would look out for them and ensure that the Constitution and the Erbil Agreement were honored. They were wrong and they've slowly realized that. They've grasped that the US forever bends to Nouri and that, at present, it has no desire to stop.
That realization -- one that Iraqiya appears to have reached as well -- makes the ongoing political crisis all the more dangerous. And with Nouri now going after the independent commission overseeing elections, things are going to get a lot more dangerous.
An interesting development this week, Al Mada reports that the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq is accusing State of Law of making the National Alliance less popular with the Iraqi people as a result of the war with the Kurds and Iraqiya. If someone were trying to figure out the reason for this public declaration, two spring quickly to mind. One, ISCI is speaking for others within the National Alliance and attempting to send Nouri a message that he needs to dial it back. Two, ISCI has already made a decision to replace Nouri and these statements are to prepare the public for that soon-to-emerge event. There are other possibilites, we're focusing on those two.
Why might they be concerned enough to be acting out either of the two scenarios? As Al Mada points out, Nouri sent to an independent MP with the National alliance (Ablzona al-Jawad) to the press yesterday to declare that Nouri is the only one who can lead. This is about a thrid term, as the MP makes clear. The third term's not that far away. Elections are now supposed to take place in 2014 -- though it may be 2015 or maybe Nouri will just call them off completely?
Nouri wants a third term. Nouri wants to be the New Saddam, actually. He hopes to go on and on and on in office. How else to keep his corrupts sons and cousins on the payroll? How else to fleece so much from the people of Iraq who live in poverty in an oil rich country while Nouri's own life is "palatial."
Nouri can't just run for a third term. There has to be a roll out. Because as Iraqis began protesting in January against him, against his fabeled "law and order" (they demanded to see their loved ones who'd been disappeared into the 'legal' system), against his corruption, and this took place while other leaders in the region were being challenged and overthrown. The protests in Iraq only grew in size and number. And what did Nouri do?
In March 2011, the New York Times editorial board offered "Mr. Maliki's Power Grab:"
Instead of taking responsibility, Mr. Maliki charged that the protests were organized by "terrorists." He ordered the closing of the offices of two political parties that helped lead the demonstrations.
His only concessions were vows not to seek a third term in 2014 and to cut his pay in half. That was not persuasive, especially given his many recent power grabs.
The press never followed up on the pay cut but how could they? No one knew then and no one knows now how much Nouri legally takes from the Iraqi treasury. But, as the editorial board noted, he did make a laughable claim that he wouldn't seek a third term. He made that claim to Sammy Ketz of AFP which quickly reported it. And other outlets quickly followed suit. But the day after he made that announcement, Ben Lando and Munaf Ammar (Wall St. Journal) reported that Nouri's spokesperson, Ali al-Mousawi, was declaring, "We would like to correct this article. Maliki said, 'I think that the period of eight years is adequate for the application of a successful program to the prime minister, and if he is not successful, he must vacate his place'."
From the February 7, 2011 snapshot:
Of course no one does easy, meaningless words like Nouri. Saturday, his words included the announcement that he wouldn't seek a third term. His spokesperson discussed the 'decision' and Nouri himself announced the decision to Sammy Ketz of AFP in an interview. Ketz reported him stating he won't seek a third term, that 8 years is enough and that he supports a measure to the Constitution limiting prime ministers to two terms.
Well Jalal Talabani declared he wouldn't seek a second term as President of Iraq in an interview and then . . . took a second term. Point, if you're speaking to a single journalist, it really doesn't seem to matter what you say. Did Nouri announce his decision to the people? No, Iraqhurr.org is quite clear that an advisor made an announcement and that Malliki made no "public statement" today.
In other words, a statement in an interview is the US political equivalent of "I have no plans to run for the presidency" uttered more than two years before a presidential election. That's Iraqi politicians in general. Nouri? This is the man who's never kept a promise and who is still denying the existence of secret prisons in Iraq. Deyaar Bamami (Iraqhurr.org) notes the Human Rights Watch report on the secret prisons and that they are run by forces Nouri commands.
And Nouri couldn't even make it 24 hours with his latest 'big promise.' Sunday, Ben Lando and Munaf Ammar (Wall St. Journal) reported that Nouri's spokesperson, Ali al-Mousawi, declared today, "We would like to correct this article. Maliki said, 'I think that the period of eight years is adequate for the application of a successful program to the prime minister, and if he is not successful, he must vacate his place'." Of course he's not announcing that. He's a thug. His previous four year term was an utter failure.
That's not speculation, that's not opinion. He agreed to the benchmarks that the White House set. He was supposed to achieve those in 2007. Those benchmarks, supposedly, were what would determine whether or not the US tax payer continued to foot the bill for the illegal war. But he didn't meet those benchmarks and apologists rushed forward to pretend like they weren't a year long thing and that, in fact, he had 2008 as well. Well 2008 came and went and the benchmarks were still not met. Nor were they in 2009. Nor were they in his last year in 2010.
That's failure. When you agree you will meet certain things -- such as resolving the Kirkuk issue -- and you do not, you are a failure. Not only did he fail at the benchmarks, he failed in providing Iraqis with basic services. He failed in providing them with security.
There is no grading system by which Nouri can be seen as a success.
But just as he will not admit to or own his failures from his first term as prime minister, do not expect to own or admit to his failures in his second term. In other words, Little Saddam wants to be around, and heading the Iraqi government, for a long, long time.
And, as 2011 entered its final month, Al Mada reported Nouri al-Maliki's legal advisor Fadhil Mohammad Jawad had stressed to the press that there is no law barring Nouri from a third term as prime minister. And at that moment, the trial balloon was officially floated.
Now we have it advanced even further by a Member of Parliament. And Nouri's arresting members of the electoral commission. And not a word, not a peep from the State Dept or from UANMI or from the United Nations.
It really is something how the world has destroyed Iraq.
We noted a friend at the top explaining how bad things had gotten since the bulk of US forces left Iraq. (Special Ops, 'trainers,' Marines to protect the embassy, the CIA and the FBI remain in Iraq as do thousands of contractors working for the State Dept.)
That was always going to happen, violence and power-grabs were always going to take place after most US forces left. We've argued and advocated for US forces to leave and to leave immediately. Most US forces leaving Iraq is not why you have the problems you have today. The problems you have right now go to Nouri al-Maliki and no one else in Iraq. Nouri is the cause of the problems. And the cause of Nouri is the US government.
The Bush administration demanded he be named prime minister in 2006. The Barack administration demanded he remain prime minister in 2010.
With US forces gone, Nouri no longer has to deal with the US military command. Nouri faced more calls for equality and fairness from US General Ray Odierno than he ever did from US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill. Odierno put pressure on him. And, yes, he could do that in part because he had forces Nouri needed the influence of. So those who want to say Iraq might be better off with a larger number of US forces on the ground may be right in the short term -- but that would also require having DoD in charge of them. Because Odierno did not represent the State Dept. And Barack has put the State Dept in charge of all operations in Iraq.
But possibly, for the short term, Iraq would be more peaceful right now -- at least in terms of the political process -- if a larger number of US forces were on the ground in Iraq and under DoD command. However, the struggle taking place currently would still take place at some point because US forces would have to leave at some point.
Iraq today is a story of violence inflicted upon the average Iraqi by the US government and by puppets of the US govenrment. Reuters notes an armed attack on a bush of pilgrims headed to Samarra which left 5 dead and six injured and an armed attack on pilgrims headed to Kerbala which left 2 of them dead and six more injured. Alsumaria reports that 1 soldier was shot dead today in Mosul.