Wednesday, April 23, 2014. Chaos and violence continue, campaigning continues, USAID calls out War Crimes (but not in Iraq, of course), Stephen Beecroft may be leaving Iraq, today’s is the one-year anniversary of Nouri’s assault on the protesters in Hawija, War Criminal Tony Blair still thinks the world needs him, and much more.
Seven days from now, Iraq is supposed to hold parliamentary elections. NINA notes that today US Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Beecroft declared that elections would be taking place April 30th. Osama al-Khafaji and Ghassan Hamid (Alsumaria) have noted that there are 9032 candidates competing for 328 seats. Reidar Visser (Gulf Analysis) examines the candidates who aren’t running because they were disqualified:
Firstly there are lists of those excluded, around 400 names, which appeared in four separate batches released by the de-Baathification committee in early February . Second, there is a list of those excluded with reference to criminal charges (the first three batches along with the criminal charges list is here; the separate fourth list is here). Thirdly, there is a list of those who were reinstated from the first two batches of de-Baathification subsequent to the appeals process (in some sources this has erroneously been described as a fifth exclusion batch). Importantly, the lists of those subject to de-Baathification give candidate names only, not list affiliation. It is therefore very difficult to pin down their party affiliation, especially so since many of them are not very prominent figures. Advanced name searches on them on Google in Arabic will rarely return any hits at all, even if a liberal number of name combinations is attempted. However, there remains a key to establishing some links between individual candidates and lists for at least a part of the material. This relates to the 52 reinstated candidates, who appear in the final list of election candidates and can therefore be identified by party affiliation. Also, although no list of those reinstated in cases not relating to de-Baathification has been published, for the smaller number of reinstated candidates who were initially excluded with reference to the “good reputation” requirement it is possible to search through the final candidate list with the names of everyone who had been reported as excluded. It is noteworthy though, that in both categories – de-Baathification and “good reputation” – a large number of reinstated candidates appear to have opted to remain off the list, despite having regained the right to stand as candidates. One possible explanation, especially for candidate far down on the list, is that their lists may have deemed them to be more of a burden than an asset following the suspicions unleashed by their initial disqualifications.
As has been the case with every provincial election and every parliamentary election since the illegal war allegedly ‘liberated’ Iraq, campaign season means politicians get targeted. Today? Alsumaria reports four homes were blown up in Sulaiman Bek, including one belonging to a candidate with Ayad Allawi’s coaltion. All Iraq News notes an attack on “some cars carrying leaflets [. . .] for Deputy Premier, Salih al-Mutleq” in Tikrit.
While violence has become an expected occurrence at election time, this year’s elections will see a new development. This election, Iraq is debuting electronic voter cards and not the ration cards that they used in past elections. Monday Duraid Salman and Tarek Ammar (Alsumaria) reported that the Independent High Electoral Commission notes that 85% of the new electronic cards that will be required for voting have been distributed. The elections are next Wednesday and they still haven’t distributed all the cards? You can’t vote without the card this go-round.
US Ambassador Beecroft met today with Sarbast Rashid Mustafa who chairs the Independent High Electoral Commission. The US Embassy in Baghdad released the following:
Ambassador Beecroft Praises IHEC’s Efforts in Preparation for National Elections
April 23, 2014
U.S. Ambassador Stephen Beecroft and U.S. Embassy staff met on Tuesday April 22 with Mr. Sarbast Rashid Mustafa, the Chairman of the Independent Higher Electoral Commission (IHEC) and Mr. Muqdad Alsharify, the Chief Electoral Officer of IHEC.
Chairman Mustafa and CEO Alsharify outlined for the Ambassador the extensive plan that IHEC has in place for the national election on April 30. The Ambassador emphasized his appreciation for the professionalism and thoroughness of IHEC’s work under often very difficult circumstances and offered his condolences for IHEC employees who have been killed or injured as a result of this essential work.
The Ambassador expressed the expectation of the United States that the electoral process would reflect the will of the Iraqi people and that the Government of Iraq would take every measure to ensure that Iraqi citizens would be able to exercise their right to vote in a secure and fair environment. He relayed that he is confident that IHEC would succeed in its mission of achieving a result that would be credible and represent the democratic decision of the Iraqi people.
The United States has consistently emphasized with Iraqi officials from across the political spectrum of the importance for the election to take place on time and has fully supported the independence of IHEC as defined in the Iraqi constitution.
Chairman Mustafa extended his appreciation for the technical support provided by the U.S. Government for conducting transparent and credible elections in Iraq.
On the topic of Stephen Beecroft, Laura Rozen (Backchannel) reports the word is Beecroft will be nominated to be the US Ambassador to Egypt shortly.
That would be a deeply stupid move. So it’s probably going to happen. If it does, we’ll go into how stupid it is. Until then, we’ll just note the rumor.
Barbara Slavin can be a real idiot. If her recent ridiculous piece hadn’t been at the Voice of America, I would have linked to it. I wouldn’t have called her the names that many Americans would have — I would have just called her stupid and grossly insensitive (her piece was ‘get over it, America, Iran can pick whomever they want for an ambassador). She’s a stupid woman and a deeply troubled one whose personal demons effect her work. At Al-Monitor, she writes an embarrassing and vapid piece following her soft-ball interview with Iraq’s Ambassador to the US Lukman Faily. We’ll note this from the article:
After the 2010 elections, it took Iraqis nine months to form a new government and this could happen again, with Maliki serving in an acting capacity, said the ambassador, who comes from Maliki’s Dawa Party. “The key challenge is that most of the political blocs don’t have clear red lines, which creates confusion and misreading of each other,” he said. “You may have prolonged government formation after. Historically it wasn’t quick. But the concept of time is not as crucial for us as in the Western concept.”
Among the tough decisions on hold until after elections: agreement on how much of their oil Kurds can export through Turkey and how much revenue they will get from the central government. Faily said the Kurds are not the only ones who are looking for more resources from Iraq’s oil wealth. “We get more calls from the governor of Basra than from the KRG on this issue,” he said.
At the same time, Faily said that oil remains the “gel” for society and could keep Iraq from fragmenting into three or more pieces. “There is enough oil there for everybody to be prosperous,” he said.
Slavin’s a disaster as a reporter. She can take dictation, that’s about all she can do. That and normalize the notion that months is acceptable for forming a government. No, it’s not. The process is supposed to take mere weeks for a prime minister-designate to be named and then he or she has 30 days to form a Cabinet.
It is a sign of failure of the democratic process that the government is unable to do their damn job. This actually happened in 2006 as well.
That’s a detail a reporter would know, Babs. Parliamentary elections took place in December 2005. Nouri is named prime minister-designate in April of 2006 and becomes prime minister at the end of May 2006.
She also doesn’t question Faily’s claim that, “There is enough oil there for everybody to be prosperous” when the reality is that vast numbers of Iraqis live in poverty.
At The Hill, the European Parliament’s Delegations for Relations with Iraq’s President Struan Stevenson explains:
The election is being held while he is the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces and all military and security forces are under his personal command without any legal check. For more than four years he has directly controlled the ministries of Interior, Defence, Security and Communications, in total breach of the Erbil Agreement; he has filled all key posts with his own men, and through influencing the judiciary has trampled on its independence and brought Iraqi judges under direct political control. In a similarly contemptuous and illegal move he has repeatedly refused requests to appear before the elected parliament and provide explanations for his authoritarian behaviour.
Last year, the Iraqi parliament adopted a resolution whereby none of the three key posts of prime minister, president and speaker of parliament, could be occupied by any one person for more than two consecutive 4-year terms. However, through influencing the judicial system, he declared this law unconstitutional, despite the fact that the constitution does not bestow such authority on the judicial system.
The prime minister emphasized Shia dominance in state institutions and has changed the dynamics of Shia politics. In his second term, Maliki took advantage of deficits in power-sharing agreements. Using the powerful patronage available to him as chief executive, he pursued a policy of “divide and rule” in dealing with other parties. He filled vacant positions in the military and administration with his loyalists and augmented the powers of his office and of networks related to him personally, thereby creating a kind of “shadow state” within the government. He gave more influence to independent commissions such as the de-Baathification committee, the Communication and Media Commission, the Iraqi Media Network, the Central Bank of Iraq, and the Commission of Integrity. He managed to greatly subjugate the federal court and forge an alliance with its chief that helped him encircle his opponents and weaken their ability to check his power through the parliament. The fact that Iraq is a rentier state and the Iraqi economy is largely dependent on oil revenue has also tended to empower the executive branch and those forces that seek to establish a more centralized state.
Maliki’s ability to consolidate power sent warning signals to his Shia rivals and forced Ammar al-Hakim, the leader of the ISCI, and Sadr to overcome the traditional competition between their families and work together to face Maliki. Sadr has become a fierce critic of the prime minister and described Maliki’s actions as “dictatorial.” In 2012, Sadr expressed unusual defiance when he aligned with the Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani and Sunni forces to initiate a move to unseat Maliki through a vote of no confidence. However, even then, Sadr kept within the communal power-sharing framework by announcing that Kurds and Sunni Arabs accepted that the new prime minister should also come from the Shia alliance.3 Although the move to force Maliki out of power was aborted due to Iranian opposition and the reluctance of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to support it, Sadr continued his criticism of the Shia prime minister and promised his followers that he would not support the prime minister’s efforts to win a third term.
Over on the right is neocon Kimberly Kagan’s Institute For The Study Of War and, writing for them, Ahmed Ali argues:
Maliki’s State of Law Alliance (SLA) did not fare well in the provincial elections in 2013, causing Maliki to re-think his 2014 campaign. SLA member Salman al-Musawi stated on March 10, 2014 that the SLA is not dependent on political blocs in order to secure Maliki a third term, but rather is dependent on his popularity among voters.1 This message demonstrates a broader trend of targeting local communities for votes in the 2014 elections. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s SLA will again compete internally for Iraqi Shi‘a votes with the Citizens’ Bloc of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) and the Ahrar Alliance, representing the Sadrists. This internal Shi‘a competition may cause the national elections to serve as a referendum on Maliki’s continued rule.
That’s not about the campaign per se but in the US the left — or the hustler left — doesn’t give a damn about Iraq. I’m left, I care about Iraq, but supposedly The Progressive, The Nation, blah blah blah are left and they can’t be bothered with Iraq. (If Joel Wing or Reidar Visser see themselves as left, my apologies to them. Although both have bent to Nouri’s will too often for my tastes, I don’t see them as right or left but more centrist analysts.) But Petras’ remarks are about the election in that he’s focusing on the state of Iraq at a time when parliamentary elections are just around the corner.
The Middle East Institute’s Fanar Haddad has published a paper today entitled “Sectarian Relations and Sunni Identity in Post-Civil War Iraq.”
For example, many have fairly asked why Iraqi state television, namely Al Iraqiya, airs the confessions of dozens of (Sunni) terrorists but never of a (Shi‘i) militia commander? For that matter, why are diﬀerent terms applied to Sunni and Shi‘i militant groups, namely terrorists and militias, if not to deny any moral equivalence between them? A remarkable example of double standards is how the state deals with the Mahdi Army and other Shi‘i militant groups: why is it that an organization heavily involved in the civil war, and parts of which are responsible for atrocious crimes, is allowed to hold public events and rallies with state approval? And why is the extension of similar courtesies to any Sunni militants unthinkable? Such questions reinforce the con-viction that the new Iraq directly or otherwise targets Sunni Arabs. Te depth of Sunni feelings of encirclement is perhaps best illustrated in the claim made by some that they had personally seen banners in Baghdad on 9 April 2003 displaying the slogan “No Sunnis after today.”
The above is especially worth noting when Nouri continues to target Iraq’s Sunni population.
For example, it was exactly one year ago that the April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija took place with Nouri al-Maliki’s federal forces storming in on the peaceful protesters. Alsumaria noted Kirkuk’s Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk) announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault. AFP reported the death toll eventually (as some wounded died) rose to 53 dead. UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).
While the State Dept refused to confront Nouri or even call him out after the massacre, the BRussells Tribunal carried a translation of one activist who was an eye-witness to what went down:
I have five daughters and one son. My son’s name is Mohammed Thamer. I am no different to any other Iraqi citizen. I love what is good for my people and would like to see an end to the injustice in my country.
When we heard about the peaceful protests in Al-Hawija, taking place at ‘dignity and honor square’, I began attending with my son to reclaim our usurped rights. We attended the protests every day, but last Friday the area of protest was besieged before my son and I could leave; just like all the other protestors there.
Food and drink were forbidden to be brought into the area….
On the day of the massacre (Tuesday 23 April 2013) we were caught by surprise when Al-Maliki forces started to raid the area. They began by spraying boiling water on the protestors, followed by heavy helicopter shelling. My little son stood beside me. We were both injured due to the shelling.
My son, who stood next to my wheelchair, refused to leave me alone. He told me that he was afraid and that we needed to get out of the area. We tried to leave. My son pushed my wheelchair and all around us, people were falling to the ground.
Shortly after that, two men dressed in military uniforms approached us. One of them spoke to us in Persian; therefore we didn’t understand what he said. His partner then translated. It was nothing but insults and curses. He then asked me “Handicapped, what do you want?” I did not reply. Finally I said to him, “Kill me, but please spare my son”. My son interrupted me and said, “No, kill me but spare my father”. Again I told him “Please, spare my son. His mother is waiting for him and I am just a tired, disabled man. Kill me, but please leave my son”. The man replied “No, I will kill your son first and then you. This will serve you as a lesson.” He then took my son and killed him right in front of my eyes. He fired bullets into his chest and then fired more rounds. I can’t recall anything after that. I lost consciousness and only woke up in the hospital, where I underwent surgery as my intestines were hanging out of my body as a result of the shot.
After all of what has happened to me and my little son – my only son, the son who I was waiting for to grow up so he could help me – after all that, I was surprised to hear Ali Ghaidan (Lieutenant General, Commander of all Iraqi Army Ground Forces) saying on television, “We killed terrorists” and displaying a list of names, among them my name: Thamer Hussein Mousa.
I ask you by the name of God, I appeal to everyone who has a shred of humanity. Is it reasonable to label me a terrorist while I am in this situation, with this arm, and with this paralyzed leg and a blind eye?
I ask you by the name of God, is it reasonable to label me a terrorist? I appeal to all civil society and human rights organizations, the League of Arab States and the Conference of Islamic States to consider my situation; all alone with my five baby daughters, with no one to support us but God. I was waiting for my son to grow up and he was killed in this horrifying way.
I hold Obama responsible for this act because he is the one who gave them these weapons. The weapons and aircrafts they used and fired upon us were American weapons. I also hold the United States of America responsible for this criminal act, above all, Obama.
A ridiculous official made a ridiculous statement today. USAID’s Nancy Lindborg declared on tonight’s NewsHour (PBS) that the Sudanese government is “targeting women and children. That’s a War Crime.”
Is that a War Crime?
What about the above, Nance? Huh? UNICEF counts 8 children dead. What about that?
Or how about the targeting of civilians in Falluja. It’s been going on for months now, Nouri’s ordered residential neighborhoods in Falluja bombed. NINA notes that today’s bombings left five civilians injured. Is that not a War Crime because it meets the legal definition of a War Crime.
Whores like Nancy always want to scream “War Crime!” if it’ll help them start a war.
But to scream it about Iraq?
Useless Nancy knows if the government admits it’s a War Crime, the US government, all aid to Nouri’s thuggish government ceases and that’s the real point that USAID doesn’t want to talk about.
In other violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports security sources say they killed 9 suspects in Saqlawiyah, Baghdad Operations Command announced they killed 5 suspects, a Mada’ain sticky bombing killed 1 person, a Mosul car bombing left 8 people dead and forty-five injured, 1 Sahwa was shot dead in Arab Jabour, Joint Operations Command announced they killed 39 suspects, a Mosul roadside bombing left 3 police members dead, a Muqdadiyah attack left Ahmed al-Harbi dead (he was a member of Diyalal Provincial Council and a member of Iraqiya) and four of his bodyguards injured, 5 people were kidnapped in Haditha and a Dorah roadside bombing killed 1 person and left two more people injured. Alsumaria reports an attack on a Sulaiman Bek police station left seven police members injured, All Iraq News notes 1 police member was shot dead in Tikrit and a Dijail bombing left 1 boy dead and four other people injured. WG Dunlop (AFP) notes, “Bomb targets Iraq minister’s convoy as attacks kill three people http://yhoo.it/1mEmvrr
I wanted to begin this piece with the sentence “Tony Blair is back”. But, of course, our former prime minister has never really been away. Not for him a quiet life of self-portraits and coin tosses. Blair, unlike his ol’ partner-in-crime George W. Bush, has spent his ‘retirement’ agitating for military action against Syria, calling for regime change in Iran, dodging citizen’s arrests over his illegal invasion of Iraq and making the case for Tory-style austerity at home. Oh, and don’t get me started on all those awkward rumours about the former PM and the former Mrs Murdoch.
This morning, the ex-Labour-leader-turned-Middle-East-peace envoy turned up at Bloomberg’s HQ in London to deliver a keynote speech on the threat from Islamist extremism. It was a classic from the Blair-as-liberal-hawk meets Blair-as-expert-on-Islam genre; a collection of half-truths, belligerent threats, sweeping statements and ill-informed generalisations.
Iraq War supporter John McTernan squealed at the Guardian and jizzed in his pants as he pictured Tony dominating the world — or at least dominating John McTernan. Remember, John, agree to a safe word first.
AP briefly covers the speech and notes, “Blair’s political legacy in Britain is tarnished by his decision to lead the country into the divisive invasion of Iraq in 2003.” No he can’t escape the past. He seems to think the world has forgotten or is so in need of his help that they’ll overlook his past. Kounteya Sinha (TNN) notes Blair called for the United Kingdom and the United States to join with Russia to combat what he termed “radical Islam.” Cedric’s “Tony Blair and Radical Islam: A dialogue” and Wally’s “THIS JUST IN! THE TONY BLAIR-RADICAL ISLAM DIALOGUES!” this morning offered:
TODAY, WAR CRIMINAL TONY BLAIR DECLARED RADICAL ISLAM TO BE THE BIGGEST THREAT TO THE WORLD.
RADICAL ISLAM REPLIED, “YOU’VE NOTCHED AN IMPRESSIVE BODY COUNT YOURSELF, BIG BOY.”
Seumas Milne (Guardian) offers:
The neocons are back. That toxic blend of messianic warmongering abroad and McCarthyite witch-hunting at home – which gave us Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo and the London bombings – is coursing through our public life again. Yesterday the liberal interventionists’ hero, Tony Blair, was once more demanding military action against the “threat of radical Islam”.
Reprising the theme that guided him and George Bush through the deceit and carnage of the “war on terror”, the former prime minister took his crusade against “Islamism” on to a new plane. The west should, he demanded, make common cause with Russia and China to support those with a “modern” view against the tide of political Islam.
Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) explains the Royal United Services Institute has issued a study, “In a passage with added piquancy given Tony Blair’s appeal to western leaders on Wednesday to counter more vigorously the threat of Islamic extremism, the study says there is no longer any serious disagreement over the fact that Britain’s involvement in the invasion of Iraq served to channel and increase the radicalisation of young British Muslims.”
The Daily Mail states, “Tony Blair today admitted that his military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan has made the West less inclined to tackle radical Islam.”
In his speech, he did mention Iraq — four times.
1) “We have been through painful engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
2) “But wherever you look – from Iraq to Libya to Egypt to Yemen to Lebanon to Syria and then further afield to Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan – this is the essential battle.”
3) “We change the regimes in Afghanistan and in Iraq, put soldiers on the ground in order to help build the country, a process which a majority of people in both countries immediately participated in, through the elections. But that proved immensely difficult and bloody.”
4) “In saying this, it does not mean that we have to repeat the enormous commitment of Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Four times and nothing of value. Four times and no accountability. He felt the need to offer his overview on
five countries specifically but Iraq wasn’t one of them. Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Iran, Blair wanted to discuss. Iraq? He wasn’t so keen on the topic.
That’s strange because he could have talked about Iraq and noted today’s one year anniversary.
It was exactly one year ago that the April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija took place with Nouri al-Maliki’s federal forces storming in on the peaceful protesters. Alsumaria noted Kirkuk’s Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk) announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault. AFP reported the death toll eventually (as some wounded died) rose to 53 dead. UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).
That bloodbath captures modern Iraq where, if you speak out, Nouri will have you killed. If your parents speak out — as 8 children learned last year — Nouri will have you killed.
That’s the state of Iraq where thug Nouri is attempting to go for a third term as prime minister.
Again, Tony Blair didn’t reflect on Iraq. He chose five countries and Iraq wasn’t one of them.
He had nothing to say that the world needed to hear. But his yacking may have been intended to serve as a distraction, preventing people from focusing on other things. Jack Sommers (Huffington Post) reports:
A former minister in Tony Blair’s government has said the report of the official inquiry into the Iraq War must be published immediately, after prolonged delays.
Former MP Lord Morris, who served as attorney general between 1997 and 1999, said the delays in publishing the findings of the Chilcot Inquiry were “a national scandal” and said there was “a real danger” it would still not be public by the 2015 general election.
Matt Chorley (Daily Mail) adds:
Mr Brown launched the inquiry by Sir John Chilcot in June 2009, soon after becoming Prime Minister.
The inquiry last took evidence from a witness three years ago.
There is mounting speculation that the process of declassifying documents, including Mr Blair’s correspondence with President George W Bush before the war, has stalled.
Blair appeared on Sky News today (link is text and video) and insisted to Sarah Hewson that he had nothing to do with the delay and stated, “It is the responsibility of the people who run the inquiry.” Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) observes:
If you unpick the central allegation that is implicit in blaming Blair for the delay, it is that he is using his influence to encourage the Cabinet Office to block disclosure of what he said and wrote to George Bush. He is entitled to take the view that such disclosure is not going to happen and that in failing to move on, the Inquiry is respsonsible for the delay. Therefore the question “are you responsible” is always going to result in a denial that is worthless. No-one has actually asked him whether he is encouraging the Cabinet Office to suppress certain documents.
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