Friday, November 23, 2012. Chaos and violence continues in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani wades into the latest crisis, Iraq increases crude oil exports by 1.1%, some in Iraq’s special needs community participate in a hunger strike, Iraqi women face increased harassment from fundamentalists, David Lawly-Wakelin weighs in on protesting Tony Blair, and more.
Last week at Highgate Magistrates’ Court, in answer to my interrupting Tony Blair whilst he was giving evidence at the Leveson Inquiry, I was found guilty of causing him ‘harassment, alarm or distress’, and ordered to pay a £100 fine plus £250 costs.
The Leveson Inquiry was set up specifically to look into the lies and deceit of others. Some might just scream double hypocrisy when one also considers the harassment, alarm or distress caused to the families of well over half a million lives lost as the John Hopkins Bloomberg school of public health estimated (654,965 up until 2006) let alone the harassment alarm or distress to those families still giving birth to deformed babies in Fallujah.
As a nation, just as with Hillsborough, we are being asked to turn a blind eye to what millions of us believe – that former prime minister Tony Blair, in a conspiracy with George W. Bush, deceived us into a corrupt and illegal Iraq war that took the lives of well over half a million people. Since he has left office it’s been reported that he has accumulated well over £60million on the back of his lies.
Knowing that Iraq was crippled from 10 years of sanctions, George W. Bush and Tony Blair believed the war would be over in months. No one would then care or notice, five years later, the business deals that would follow.
Last Friday, Oliver Laughland and Emine Saner (Guardian) reported
that Lawley-Wakelin was found guilty by the court and ordered to pay 250 British pounds in court costs and another 100 pounds as a fine. They quote him stating, For me to have been found guilty of causing Tony Blair harassment, alarm or distress, for calling him a war criminal while he is giving evidence in an inquiry that is looking into the lies and deceits of others is the greatest hypocrisy I’ve heard in a very long time.” From the May 29th snapshot
Suzannah Hills (Daily Mail) reports that Lawley-Wakelin appeared on James O’Brien’s LBC radio program today You go through the metal detectors, any member of the public can actually go in, and I tried to get in through the front entrance of the Leveson inquiry but was evicted as I don’t have any press accreditation. But I figured out there must be a back way in as Lord Leveson himself must have one. When I got there I was surprised to find out that there was no security at all and in fact the door to the court was wide open in the same way that Lord Leveson himself would have got in there.” The Telgraph of London quotes Leveson telling the inquiry today, “Yesterday morning a man by the name of David Lawley-Wakelin interrupted and disrupted the proceedings of this Inquiry for purposes of his own. I directed that an inquiry should take place and it has now been completed. Appropriate measures to prevent any risk of repetition have been taken.” Lawley-Wakelin appeared on Press TV (link is video and transcript) today and was asked if War Criminal Blair would ever appear before the Hague?
Lawley-Wakelin: You know, whether he ever gets to court that’s another thing. Taking on the American government, Bush and Blair and the British government it’s just an enormous thing. There are lots of websites where you can join petitions to get Blair indicated for war crimes and perhaps one day we can hope that he will be taken down to the Hague but it’s a long road and we can only hope that it will happen. There is plenty of evidence to point towards it. The sad thing is that the Chilcot Inquiry [so named after its chairman Sir John Chilcot] over here in England which is known as the Iraq Inquiry won’t be looking into any criminal activity, they’ll only be making inquiry into what went wrong in the decision-making by the politicians and the government and putting guidelines towards that but they won’t be looking at all the money that washed around at the time and that Blair is still making.
War Ciminal Tony Blair is not forgotten in England where the former prime minister remains at large and is wanted for citizens arrests as noted at Arrest Blair
. Blair, Bully Boy Bush, Gordon Brown and Barack Obama have all overseen the illegal war on Iraq. They are all responsible for the state of Iraq today but it’s apparently too gruesome for any of them to look straight-on.
So don’t look at me sideways
Don’t even look me straight on
And don’t look at my hands in my pockets, baby,
I ain’t done anything wrong
In Iraq, the political crisis on top of the political crisis continues. And it dwarfs the original one. Earlier this week, Rami Ruhayem (BBC News) described
the origins of the first political crisis this way:
Straight after the withdrawal of US troops at the end of last year, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi, the most senior Sunni politician in Iraq.
He was accused of running death squads, tried in absentia, and sentenced to death.
And Mr [Nouri al-]Maliki has kept both the defence and interior ministries under his control, refusing to hand them over to his partners within the government.
That was alarming and had led to calls for a National Conference to resolve it — calls by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi. But Nouri’s created yet another crisis and it’s so huge even some who normally stay out of the political process are wading in to try to resolve the issues. Kitabat notes
things are so fraught that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has had to weigh in to try to resolve the situation. The Grand Ayatollah is calling for the Constitution to be followed with regards to the conflict. All Iraq News notes
that Sheikh Abdul Mahdi al-Karabalai has joined the Grand Ayatollah’s call.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan warned about a sectarian and ethnic-based civil war in Iraq on Nov. 22 and pointed to energy wars as the main motivation behind it. The next day, Iraq’s Shiite-origin Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, sent a strong “Not if you trigger it” reply to Erdoğan, only to be snubbed as “delusional” by the Turkish Foreign Ministry. Almost simultaneously, al-Maliki released a photo showing the deployment of Iraqi troops to Tuzhurmatu in order to face Kurds piling up along the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) borders, despite still being part of Iraq on paper.
It is surely about energy resources. There are still untapped oil and natural gas beds in the KRG territory, for which the energy giants of the world – from Exxon and Chevron of the United States to Total of France and Gazprom of Russia (Turkish companies too) – have sealed deals with the KRG President Massoud Barzani in Arbil. Despite the strong protests of al-Maliki in Baghdad and disapproving lip service from Washington, D.C., they are not taking any steps back. Al-Maliki knows that if Kurds manage to sell their oil and gas via NATO member Turkey without interference from Arabs, Russians and Iranians, that would mean a de-facto change in Iraqi borders and sovereignty, if not de jure.
Nouri had his own response, he publicly stated that the conflict in Syria could take over Turkey, implying that the Turkish government should focus on that and not speak of Iraq. UPI notes
the response of the Turkish government, “Turkish officials labeled delusional statements by Iraqi [Prime Minister] Nouri al-Maliki warning sectarian violence in Syria could engulf Turkey. Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) reports
Nouri’s response also hinted that Erdogan would soon be ousted in Turkey. Nouri declared, “Erdogan should focus his attention on addressing Turkey’s domestic issues, which raise our concern, as Turkey heads toward civil war. [. . .] Turkish people are looking forward to changing the political situation to protect Turkey from worsening domestic and foreign problems.”
The crisis results from Nouri sending forces into the disputed areas after years of refusing to implement Article 140 of the Constitution (which states that disputed areas will be resolved via census and referendum). The Kurds see this is as an attempt by Nouri to seize the areas and claim them for the Baghdad-based area. Realizing too late that Barack Obama’s for-show trip to Asia was a mistake, the White House is scrambling to get more face-to-face diplomats into Iraq. (The trip was a joke and Barack made a fool of himself. Americans didn’t give a damn about the visit, his reception on the trip was lukewarm and Hillary Clinton seized all the news interest with her trip to the MidEast leaving Barack looking like a glorified extra on the world stage.) Reuters adds
:, “Washington intervened to end a similar standoff in August and is now again in contact with Iraqi and Kurdish officials to ease tension mounting over the formation of a new command center for Iraqi forces to operate in the disputed areas.” Iran’s Trend News Agency notes
that Iraq’s Col Dhia al-Wakeel is alleging that “Kurdish forces, backed by rocket launchers and artillery, reinforced troops already in the cities of Khaniqeen and Kirkuk on Thursday.”
Iraqi politicians are attempting to resolve the issue as well. Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi visited with KRG President Massoud Barzani Wednesday and returned to Bahgdad yesterday to meet with Nouri al-Maliki. All Iraq News notes
that they met late yesterday evening and that a statement issued by al-Nuajaif called the meeting productive.
Bit by bit, all of the political blocs are getting into the process.All Iraq News notes that the National Alliance leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari is preparing a paper on the issue. Alsumaria notes that Kurdistan Alliance MP Mahmoud Othman is calling for Nouri al-Maliki and Massoud Barzani to sit down together (this echoes Moqtada al-Sadr’s call for a working lunch between the two to be hosted by Moqtada).Kitabat reports that sources are stating Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and KRG President Massoud Barzani are discussing the option of withdrawing confidence from Nouri. Dar Addustour reports that Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi traveled to Erbil yesterday to meet with Talabani and Barzani to discuss this issue. All Iraq News says that Moqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Sadr bloc, has given the green light for such talks.
The Shia will stand by him, and the Sunnis will too since most of his officers are former Baathist Sunnis.
Then, he thinks, if everything goes according to plan, he will turn on the Kurdistan Region and what the Kurds have achieved so far. Maliki wants to show the Kurds that Kurdistan is part of Iraq, and he does not conceal this sentiment.
At this time, Kurds and their political groups have reached a unanimous conclusion that this is Maliki’s intention. In the meantime, they have admitted that they lack a united voice.
However, when the Dijla Operations Command deployed, the leader of the Change Movement (Gorran) — who had previously sided with keeping Maliki in his seat — went to Kirkuk and vehemently rejected the actions of the forces.
Judging from the tone of its media, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) is waging a full war against Maliki. The party’s secretary general, Jalal Talabani, concurs with President Barzani that Maliki is a threat to both Iraq and Kurdistan.
Territories defined as “disputed” through constitutional Article 140 include 43 percent of Kurdish land. According to international laws, when an area is considered disputed, no one side has the right to make decisions about it unilaterally. If the two sides do not trust each other, then a third force — often an international one — comes to mediate.
Yesterday, Al Mada reported
Nouri’ had announced that KRG officials may not leave Iraq without the permission of the federal government (his permission). Kitabat picks up
the story about Nouri al-Maliki declaring that Kuridstan officials could not leave the country without the federal government/s permission — that would be Nouri’s permission. It is intended to be an inflammatory insult. It has no teeth. Not unlike when Nouri was screeching that the KRG had to hand over Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and they didn’t have to do that and they didn’t do that. They will continue to do as they want. They share a border with Turkey which doesn’t take orders from Nouri. Hurriyet Daily News notes
The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement on its website today calling for the Iraqi government to “not make imaginary assumptions about the expectations of the Turkish public, but to listen to advice instead,” according to daily Hurriyet.
The statement was released Nov. 23 in response to a statement issued by the Iraqi Prime Ministry several days before that accused Turkey of “meddling with regional problems.”
In other news, the Telegram reports
that Iraq’s crude oil exports for October increased by 1.1%. According to the World Bank, Iraq’s GDP for 2010 was $82.15 billion. And yet even with increased crude oil output, Azzaman reports
, “Iraq imports 70% of its needs from foreign countries, especially neighboring states, said the head of the Iraqi Chamber of Commerce Jaafar al-Hamadani.” That’s the reality of Nouri’s Iraq where demonstrations have not vanished. Al Mada reports
that yesterday, for the third day in a row, special needs persons staged a strike outside the Kurdistan Parliament in Sulaimaniya. They are staging a hunger strike, spokesperson Iara Mohammed explained, that the money allocated to those with special needs does not meet the most basic needs. Azzaman notes
, “The wars Iraq has gone through in the last three decades have produced a nation of disabled people — six million out of a population of 30 millions.” Najaf alone has at least 120,000 people who are challenged or have special needs. Meanwhile, a strike is threatened in Babylon. Al Mada reports
that teachers in Babylon are considering going on strike for, among other reasons, a lack of protection and accountability. A school headmaster was killed and Wednesday saw demonstrations over it. It is not felt that the death is being taken seriously or being investigated as needed.
In Iraq, Parliament’s Human Rights Commission announced earlier this week that they will begin making prison inspections due to the increased reports of women being abused and treated poorly in prison, Al Mada reports
. The announcement led the Ministry of Justice to announce mid-week that they are responsible for prison interrogations. And outside of prison? Hanaa Edwar states, “Day after day, I am seeing more indicators that there is discrimination against women who choose not to wear hijab in Iraq.” Dina al-Shibeeb (Al Arabiya) speaks
with Hanaa Edwar who founded the Iraqi Women’s Network and is the General Secretary of Iraqi al-Amal Association:
Edwar, also founder of Iraqi Women’s Network, sounded the alarm about attempts to force women to wear the hijab, especially in government offices.
Head of Iraq’s Ministry of Women, Ibtihal Kasid al-Zubaidi, ordered in January that women working in government offices dress “modestly.” Zubaidi axed tight pants, short skirts and colorful clothes.
Zubaidi, who segregated genders in her ministry, was lambasted as “anti-female” and her ministry described as an “anti-women ministry.”
Edwar’s Iraqi Women Network, made up of 18 civil society organizations, protested against Zubaidi’s policy, describing it as seeking to curb women’s civil liberties.
More women are approaching Edwar to file their complaints about government institutions and even TV channels belonging to religious political which enforce strict dress code and gender segregation.
Hanaa Edwar also decries the increase in temporary marriages in Iraq. Kelly McEvers (NPR’s All Things Considered — link is audio and text) reported
on temporary marriages in October of 2010 with Robert Siegel observing in the introduction that the practice is popular in Iraq but had not been in Iraq where it was banned by Saddam Hussein. After the US invaded Iraq in 2003, things changed. Excerpt:
KELLY MCEVERS: This woman is so ashamed about what happened to her, she doesn’t want to give her name. A mother of three, she says her husband abandoned her when she found out he preferred men. She had no way to support the family.
Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken)
MCEVERS: A religious figure in her neighborhood promised to help. He brought her to his home, locked the door and had sex with her. He offered her $15.
For the man at least, it was a brief moment of muta’a, the Arabic word for pleasure and the Arabic word for temporary marriage.
Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken)
MCEVERS: The woman says the man who had sex with her worked with leading Shiite religious clerics in the Iraqi City of Najaf. It’s one of the most revered places in Shiite Islam.
We’re standing on a main street in the Holy City of Najaf. Just down some of these smaller streets are the offices of the Marjah. That’s the four top clergymen for the Shiite community in all of Iraq.
Friday, 23 November marks the International Day to End Impunity. At Transparency International we view impunity as getting away with bending the law, beating the system or escaping punishment. Impunity is anathema to the fight against corruption.
Earlier this month, activists, businesspeople, politicians, public officials, journalists, academics, youth and citizens who convened at the 15th International Anti-Corruption Conference in Brazil made it clear that transparency alone is not enough but must be accompanied by prosecution and punishment.
In a joint declaration, the gathering of 1,900 representatives from 140 countries called on political, business and community leaders everywhere “to embrace not only transparency in public life but a culture of transparency leading to a participatory society in which leaders are accountable.”
“We are watching those who act with impunity and we will not let them get away with it,” said the declaration, adopted in Brasília on 10 November.
The International Day to End Impunity is organized by IFEX, a global network that defends and promotes free expression. Events in more than 14 countries raise public awareness about what creates and sustains a culture of impunity. Transparency International supports the goals of protecting journalists and others engaged in the vitally important work of exposing corruption.
Dictionary definition of impunity im·pu·ni·ty [im-pyoo-ni-tee]
1. exemption from punishment.
2. immunity from detrimental effects, as of an action.
Many of Transparency International’s some 100 national chapters are involved in initiatives that work toward ending impunity for corruption in their country, including helping in the detection of corruption, facilitating access to the judiciary, strengthening the judiciary’s independence and capacity, or by analysing and monitoring how corruption cases are being judged.
TI’s Advocacy and Legal Advice Centres (ALACs) offer the opportunity for citizens to pursue complaints about corruption. ALACs also play an instrumental role in identifying corruption hotspots that demand reform or official action. These centres are already functioning in more than 50 countries.
Our Rwandan ALAC pursued a case of land grabbing involving a mining cooperative president who sought to renew the mine’s certificate under his name. With the help of the ALAC, an investigation was launched with the Public Prosecutor Authority; after being taken to court the cooperative president’s was sentenced to 10 years in jail and fined nearly US$3,500.
Many TI chapters have conducted election monitoring, including in Serbia, Bahrain and the Dominican Republic. In Venezuela, our chapter is part of an initiative, Alerta Electoral, which monitors electoral irregularities including potential misuse of taxpayer money by political candidates.
Several TI chapters are also working to improve whistleblower protections by advocating for strong legislation and assisting whistleblowers. These include chapters in Hungary, Lebanon and Zambia.
Our chapter in Ireland has established “Speak Up“, a free, secure helpline and online system for employees considering reporting wrongdoing. The Ireland chapter is also campaigning for the passage of a national whistleblower law that would cover all employees.
The need to fight impunity was also stressed at the closing session of the 15th International Anti-Corruption Conference, which called for the promotion of a culture of transparency leading to a participatory society in which leaders are held accountable.
Transparency International believes that ‘impunity undermines integrity everywhere’ and is proud to participate on 23 November along with citizens who are fighting to end impunity for corruption and other crimes.
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